Tool up with a digital tool belt

tool beltIn an age when there is a call for education transformation and heightened drive to assess students knowledge, students need more than just paper and pencil to demonstrate what they know. Paper and pencil are the technology of the past. Unfortunately teachers still require students to use this deprecated technology to take notes, write, and more. I do agree students need to write as writing brings together knowledge, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation to create a composition of original thought.

We are in an age of hyperaugmentation of thoughts and ideas using technology as the tool to create personal points of content. Available to everyone, old to young, are web technologies that allow creation of video, blogs, idea maps, images, photos, wikis, and more. Impressively, webware is expanding rapidly making it difficult to keep track of every new digital tool available. While this may seem daunting, it should not dissuade teachers from curating the best webware they can find and integrate into teaching and learning.

What then should teachers be developing alongside students so they can demonstrate how they are learning and what they have learned? A digital tool belt is needed. Teachers need to shift from traditional methods of teaching to a learnership pedagogy opening up opportunities for shared learning, leadership, and technology through purposeful change. A digital tool belt are the digital tools a student thinks about, readily has access to, and uses proficiently to create bits of content knowledge for teachers, parents, and the community to see.

Shouldn’t teachers be worrying about what kids know? No. Content knowledge can be gained anywhere at anytime using a wireless device. For students who don’t have access to one, schools can provide the Internet access needed. It is more important for students to learn how to learn becoming critical curators of the Web coupled with higher order thinking skills. Students who can curate the Web, are critical of the information in a site, and use that information to create new knowledge is the new skill teachers should be teaching.

What then should teachers teach? Real world problem solving combined with content knowledge. The heavy lifting of problem solving, critical thinking, and making clear choices through inquiry learning creates a richer and deeper learning experience. From beginning to end, students are developing their own learning while teachers are exercising learnership. Project based learning affords real world learning contexts engaging students in real life decisions using technology to communicate what is being learned.

The tools in a digital tool belt is essential for students to learn and solve today’s problems.

photo credit: tokenblogger.com via photopin cc

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.

Learning Space

I find it peculiar that students get confused by working in learning spaces online. This is their first time doing so in a wiki and the interface throws them a bit, but that isn’t what I am I getting at. They simply find it odd to work together in a social context when the word school is involved. I think of many ways students might interact with each other digitally, likely in similar ways, and yet it is just odd for them to do so here. Just a reflection for the day.

The week went well and progress was made on the fronts of setting up web browsers, getting usable apps that can be used for productivity and fun, and the kids had a chance to start working together in their own learning spaces. It was a good week and I am looking forward to next.

Committed Reflection {05.09.12

Today was an interesting day as far as teaching goes. I found myself changing my lesson about a 1/2 hour before I was going to teach it and wondered why I was doing so. This really bothered me. I came to the conclusion that I have focused so much on teaching the big ideas of technology (information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy, and digital citizenship) that I forgot to include the skills that underpin learning technology. If I am being honest, this being the point of the blog, I didn’t forget about the skills, I just pushed them aside knowing I had to teach them. So, I neglected to make them apart of planning and now find myself backtracking to get the skills in before the teaching big ideas. I guess one could argue I could embed the skills into learning these big ideas but I would feel pressured to speed up teaching the skills so I can get to the stuff I really want to teach. I can only imagine what a college professor might say to me about changing the game plan just before teaching. Should I care what a professor might think?

Did you ever have a day when you were bored teaching? Yeah, that was me today, bored. The same lesson seemed to take forever having taught for it multiple periods (think middle school). I wasn’t bored with the technology, but I was bored with having to teach it so many times. Maybe this was the good kind of bored – I helped my kids create an infrastructure of apps in Google Chrome today so students can learn and apply them later. Makes sense to me.

The stuff learned today:

  • logging into Chrome why this is beneficial
  • changing settings
  • adding apps and extensions

I was satisfied with today and look forward to tomorrow.

Committed Reflection {04.09.12

I need some way of keeping myself accountable for my teaching. A natural part of what I do is to go back and take a good long think about how well I did my job – helping kids learn. Most days I am happy and some days I am not. The good days are the days when I spend no time at all thinking about my teaching leading to a pitfall down the road. The pitfall is not about ego or arrogance but the pitfall is thinking I am doing fine when I very well may not be. This status quo kind of thinking is dangerous because I am not thinking critically about what I did to help kids learn. So, thinking I hit a home run day after day leads to disingenuous thinking, learning and teaching.

The flip side of this are the not so happy days when I know my teaching was atrocious. I think back to how I explained ideas, my tone of voice, and my interactions with kids. I cringe on these days as most of us may do. The only option is get back to it and improve the next day.

Today was fairly good. I had great discussions with my 8th graders as we contemplated where the Internet might be going in the future. Ideas ranged from the Internet going completely away to an Internet that was one large neural network. I could see the thoughts behind their eyes as they freely explored and shared their ideas with their peers. As ideas were shared the other students jumped in with amazing ideas. My 6th grade classes went well today too. They are beginning to see how the Internet can improve their lives and what changes may be coming in the future.

This blog will happen daily as a way for me to hold myself accountable by sharing my reflections on my own teaching. My hope is that if you read this you may find good ideas and ideas to stay away from.