Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
The other thought is that attention is a skill to be learned and addressed. While teachers and professors should be always exploring new strategies to keep students engaged, the act of paying attention to one task for a reasonable amount of time now seems to be the exception rather than the rule and we can help prepare students by asking them to unplug once in a while.
As I search for new ways to engage students in building collaborative learning communities online, it also occurs to me that face to face discussion and learning needs to provide a balance to all the screen time. Even as a 40-something teacher, I get frustrated when I am out and about and can't look up the name of the welsh cheese I can't seem to find anywhere in town (too cheap to pay for a smartphone data plan). I get it. The Web is an incredible, addicting information and learning tool. I go to a local pub for Quiz Nite just to remind myself that I don't actually know anything unless I can look it up online. At the same time, the skills and value of face to face communication and interaction shouldn't go the same route as cursive writing. I don't think we can afford to allow our students to go into the world lacking the real world, real time social skills us oldsters take for granted.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"1. Invisible Audiences. We are used to being able to assess the people around us when we're speaking. We adjust what we're saying to account for the audience. Social media introduces all sorts of invisible audiences. There are lurkers who are present at the moment but whom we cannot see, but there are also visitors who access our content at a later date or in a different environment than where we first produced them. As a result, we are having to present ourselves and communicate without fully understanding the potential or actual audience. The potential invisible audiences can be stifling. Of course, there's plenty of room to put your head in the sand and pretend like those people don't really exist.
2. Collapsed Contexts. Connected to this is the collapsing of contexts. In choosing what to say when, we account for both the audience and the context more generally. Some behaviors are appropriate in one context but not another, in front of one audience but not others. Social media brings all of these contexts crashing into one another and it's often difficult to figure out what's appropriate, let alone what can be understood.
The first thing that occurred to me as I was reading her article which was addressed to business leaders and tech developers was that I was really glad I was a teacher and not trying to make a living developing software. The shift from the fully finished product to consumer model to perpetual beta testing with the world as an audience is a paradigm many businesses are having trouble adjusting to - not to mention figuring out how to make money from.
The next thing I thought about was how different the experience of childhood for our students is from our own. The idea of invisible audiences, collapsing context and the blurring of public and private lives is something I can even see evidence of in the classroom. The article is yet another piece of information which tells me it is important that education not ban/ignore the latest technologies but incorporate them into a safe environment and teach about their responsible use to help better prepare our students to negotiate the waters of the future.
Actually, there are several times a year I choose to create new goals or make new resolutions. As I reflect on the waning summer, well, waning in terms of Back to School flyers already in evidence, I now remember I had quite an ambitious plan for what I would accomplish each day. And for the 20th time in my teaching career, I won some and I lost some. The time spent in professional reading has been thought provoking and the opportunity to discuss the ideas and put some into practice through online learning has been valuable but my learning and motivation comes in fits and spurts. As July passes by, I remember that I have a few more things to do before freedom from structured schedules is gone and the focus on the more immediate reality of students in the classroom is upon us.
I want to thank these people and sites for prodding me along in my efforts to become a better educator just by setting a better example and through their excitement for new ideas.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Should I feel guilty that I just made my graduate students read a book based on mutiple intelligences theory? Is all that time I spent reading about and trying to implement learning styles into my instruction a complete waste of time? My self-serving bias says "Of course not!" I found hope in that Dr. Willingham tells us to think in terms of content, rather than students in this regard. Different modalities should be match to what you want students to experience and learn from the lesson. A map or diagram should be seen; a song or poetry should be heard; and dribbling a basketball requires students to move in order to best learn the content. Admittedly, I was never one to "force fit" an intelligence into a lesson if I didn't think it was a good match. I like the idea of looking at my lessons and curriculum through the lens of learning styles and multiple intelligences instead of ensuring everyone has their intelligence or style addressed at some point but rather because students need to interact with content in a variety of ways and learn in the modality best suited for the cognitive processes of that content area.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"But say assign students to do reports on a specific country, Argentina, for instance. All the pertinent reporting about Argentina may have already been done and collected at Wikipedia. So in this case, is it more important for a student to be able to find that information and know how to evaluate it or to know how to repeat work that's already been done?" (p.60)
Wow! Does this not sum up the whole problem with new technology vs. traditional schooling? As in, if kids can cheat on a test through texting, are we asking the right questions? I have to say, that I work hard to be the best teacher I know how to be. I consider myself pretty competent in working with my students and in trying new ways to engage and differentiate for them, but this kind of pulled it all into focus for me.
An example: My 8th graders have a choice of several projects, one of which is examining the idea of leadership and learning about a specific career of their choice. I started to consider creating a class wiki to publish our work about careers to everyone and then a few questions came to mind...what about the kids who do the same career? What's the second kid who wants to learn about being a lawyer going to "do" since a significant part of our project involves gathering basic info of what a lawyer actually does in a day? If the first student already figures this out and we post it for everyone, does that mean no one else can choose "lawyer" to make sure everyone is collecting new knowledge/doing the same work? Does that mean I start a new wiki at the beginning of each term so no one can "copy"? Okay, that doesn't seem right. Duh! I need to change the assignment to better reflect the collaborative information gathering, editing, & refining process that mirrors the whole point of the read/write web. Whew! What are the implications? Well, maybe I need to have students focus their time on different things. Maybe time is better spent in teaching them to not only locate the information but spend more time deciding on its validity. Maybe, instead of answering a basic set of baseline fact-based questions, students should be sharing about their ideas, interpretations and questions about these careers. Many of my kids meet with or email with a person in their chosen field. How can these experts contribute to our class learning? Then I start to consider...in how many ways am I asking students each term to do the same basic information regurgitation assignment to give us all "common ground" from which to begin higher level/order thinking. Instead of answering basic level factual questions is there a better activity to ensure everyone understands the baseline material without asking them to copy and paste? I think we need to improve on our information hunting and gathering skills (RSS for students...another wow). It all seems so simple and so mind boggling at the same time.
Our classrooms, though now connected more and more through technology, still often operate in isolated, artificial environments, recreating what is new for the student but what others have already done. If we are truly going to prepare students to operate in the world of information, if we want our students to participate in more "real world" learning experiences, maybe we need to reconsider not only HOW students obtain information but WHAT they actually do with it. Guess I'm going to be working on some serious curriculum revision the rest of the summer LOL!