Content before cool stuff

I began class yesterday by asking the kids what they felt was really cool to do in technology class. This question was prompted by an email from one of my students. In the email the student asked if he could create a video game using software received from a camp he attended this summer. So, to begin class yesterday, I asked this student if he wouldn’t mind sharing his idea with the class about creating a video game. Post student explanation, the entire class wanted to make a game and I was totally cool with it! Before they can make the game, I had to explain how I view learning.

I view learning as having two essential tools and the two are dependent upon one another. The first tool is content. Content cannot be ignored or pushed to the side. Without content, or what is being taught, getting to the product can’t happen. Teaching content doesn’t have to be boring. Boring is standing in front of the class with the teacher talking, students listening and taking notes. One method of contextual learning that I am a big fan of is Project Based Learning (PBL). The Buck Institute for Education says this:

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking).

Before I move on, another good resource for PBL is edutopia. You will find resources to help plan for and implement project based learning. The other tool a student needs are the products to demonstrate learning. The products are the cool part of what I do because kids can get online and create some really cool stuff, but they can’t create the product without the content, so the two are married.

Play with tech, don’t teach it

I couldn’t agree more with the tweet from Matthew Weld; (@Matthew Weld) district technology coach & elementary computer teacher)! He tweets

I’ve found that kids don’t need to be taught the tool – just that it exists. Many teachers find this unbelievable #1to1techat

He says what I have been thinking for quite some time. In the winter/spring semester at BBHMS I taught computer technology to 6th and 8th graders and noticed they would tune me out if I tried teaching them how to use web technology. The look the class gave me with eyes glazed over was, “Seriously Mr. K, you don’t have to teach us this stuff. We’ll just play with it and figure it out.” Learned it they did and all while messing around with it. This experience gave me a brand new perspective on how kids learn, and not just technology.

Kids today were born into a digital age. While it may not mean much, it does mean the kids are comfortable around technology and are willing to play with it without worrying it will break which is in such contrast to older people who worry about breaking a computer. So, kids play and when they play with the technology they learn more about it because they are problem solving. The problem solving is a matter of how they can get the web-ware (web software) to do what they want it to do. Because computer software and web-ware use similar terms and methods of organization, kids are automatically looking for the modifying action in drop-down menus and icons. This automatic transference makes them potent web-ware learners (Internet in general) which means I have to do very little to teach the tech.

What does this mean for me as a the building tech coach, and am I still valuable to the district as a teacher? YES! My value as a teacher doesn’t diminish in the slightest. I add more value to the kids learning process because I offer knowledge of technology and facilitate the process of learning. Instead of being the focal point of all knowledge, I become the facilitator who helps kids make a jump in their learning broadening their understanding and use of Web 2.0 technology AND how to think about using it. Isn’t this the real point of education? It is helping kids move from one point of thinking to another expanding and deepening process and content. Love it!

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.