Help!

Help!

As research and projects are moving forward in my 8th grade tech classes, I am finding students have a hard time asking for help from a content expert. I think, in part, it is being shy, but I also think this has to do with not thinking in this kind of way before and doing asking. I’ll be honest, I have a hard time with this too because I am not used to reaching out to ask another person for help with the Web as the resource. Somehow it is taboo. As I am helping my students get comfortable reaching out to others who can help them, I am getting used to the idea too.

The Web is filled with all kinds of folks who are good and bad – no secret there. I cannot be afraid of all of the bad otherwise I negate the good that can come from using people resources there. This is what I am trying to teach my students. The good that can be found outweighs the bad.

Something else I noticed today was how ill practiced students are at real world – professional if you will – working. One of the girls was going to write an email to Dr. Joel Haber who started the respectu website for anti-bullying. She had a really difficult time remembering and using normal letter format. As we went step by step through the process of writing this email, it dawned on me that students know full well how to write a letter in class having practiced it but have difficulty applying it in a real world context.

This is the crux of what I am trying to teach – real world learning and working.

Threading

As the proliferation of web technology grows, and increasingly gets into the hands of students and teachers, there will be an explosion of educational products to learn from. As it is right now, there is a vast amount of information to choose from, and as mobile devices get into the hands of more people, there will more to learn than we can possibly imagine. How can I have students create original products that show they have curated the content for what they needed? How will kids be able to choose the right web tools to show their understanding? As a technology integration specialist, I grapple with these kinds of questions to help teachers and students make the right choices that accurately portray what was learned. My students today registered for VoiceThread accounts to help them generate authentic products with voice and images as they learn. VoiceThread is one of many web applications that can transform learning.

The typical model in U.S. schools is for the teacher to download what she knows to the student who is supposed to recall, study, and regurgitate information back in almost the original form. Add to this the use of worksheets and the pump is primed for low level, unsustainable learning in the form of factoids that mean nothing. Maybe I went a little overboard there. The question for me as a technology integration specialist is how can tech be put to use to create original works that show a high level of thinking while maintaining the attraction value students love. Using a Web 2.0 app like VoiceThread helps myself and the teacher I work with to energize kids to learn.

Threading is not only about VoiceThread and working to create an authentic product that threads images, voice and video together, but also about the multi-step and multiple pathways that converge and diverge within student thinking. We call it thinking. We may want to call it threading.