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.

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Digital toolbelt

Digital literacy is knowing what technology to use for a specific purpose. This is one of the 21st century skills students and teachers should have in their tool belt. If a task is given to me I should be able to think of a numerous ways to complete it, but be able to choose the one web technology that allows me to complete the work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I said, the tool belt needs to expand for all learners. Expanding it takes a bit of perseverance and determination because trying to search for specific webware isn’t that easy. To really take full advantage of finding resources I suggest doing two things. First, get a Twitter account and follow two hashtags: #edchat and #edtech. Then, learn how to curate the Internet using something like Feedly, Pinterest, Evernote Webclipper, Zite, or Flipboard. These apps or sites allow you to aggregate RSS feeds into one place for you to read as you wish.

Using Twitter and a news aggregator, look for all of the resources that are shared. Choose the ones you feel look interesting to you. Doing this will expand your digital tool belt. With a repository of digital tools tasks like research, presentations, writing, reading, podcasting, video, and others gets to be pretty easy.

There are so many ways to demonstrate what is known. Growing up there were a few ways to make things which usually involved a great deal of time. Given the current nature of technology, and the ease of obtaining content, knocking out a piece of work that shows your true understanding doesn’t have to take that long. For you perfectionists out there, devoting more time means a well rounded product.

The 21st century learner will have a large repertoire of digital mediums to choose from and know when to use them. Put on your digital tool belt.

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