Monday, November 16, 2009

Prensky says make school less boring

One of Mark Prensky's "Principles for Principals reads:  " Make it your business to eliminate boredom from your school—make 100 percent engagement the goal. Poll students as to which of their teachers and classes are engaging and which are boring and why. Investigate and take action."

I felt this needed some clarification: 

We can make school less boring, but not by making it more entertaining or less demanding. (Some teachers achieve it at the expense of learning, by entertaining at a higher and higher level trying to emulate Bill Nye, which probably cost $400K per show.) It’s about working the students very hard, but on something that has meaning and a real audience, in other words, on real work, instead of work for the teacher. It’s not about inordinate obeisance to their immature subculture, which we enabled when we created schools.  Its also not as dependent on technology as Prensky's article suggests.  The coolness factor is temporary.  I like this little video, which I think deals with the hype quite well:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yeah but...

I agree that we need to change teaching and learning, and that this involves proper use of technology in education, and teachers need to be aware of and fluent in new technologies.
A strong self image is worth a million retweets.
The ability to work with others and achieve a goal is worth at least 256,000 electronic "friends."
A weak work ethic is still a greater liability than never having posted on youtube.

Much of what happens between teachers and students is intrinsically valuable. Building character is still a primary goal of what we do. What I am asking for folks, is balance.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Are full sized laptops necessary for content creation?

I had an interesting conversation this week about "netbooks," and their suitability for content creation. It was suggested that these small devices are better suited to "consumption," rather than creation of media. Leaving aside the obvious question of creating in words (writing,) I thought this did not fully reflect what is happening in the visual media of journalism, (with YouTube, etc.) In an effort to learn more, I stumbled on this post from Kirk Mastin, a photojournalist who explains it better than I can. As Kirk illustrates well, the old paradigm has shifted, at least as it applies to journalism. Equipment type is no longer a barrier to content creation. If your journalism students have netbooks, or smart phones, for that matter, they can create!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Say Yes to global connections

I once facilitated a live videoconference between a group of forth graders in central Maine and one in Belem, Brazil, on the Amazon. There were wild episodes of hand waving, amid sessions of question and answer. For example:
“What kinds of animals do you have?”
“Moose, porcupines, skunks.”
“Snakes and monkeys.”
“What kind of snakes?”
“Anacondas and Boas…”
I especially remember one boy whose eyes really bugged out at the thought he was talking to kids who had to worry about Anacondas. The hour passed quickly and the kids were certainly engaged on both sides. As it ended, this boy asked a simple question: “We could email them, couldn’t we?” And the teachers said, “yes, let’s look into that.”
I’d like to tell you this story ended well, but unfortunately it ended like so many others in our system, where the demands of standards and NCLB and the pressures to do “instruction” often get in the way of the potential for transformational learning. The actual answer was... “We’d like to, but there won’t be time.” The irony is that saying “yes” is actually a well-researched strategy for improving literacy levels as measured by standardized tests, and good teachers have known this for years.
I write this because in Maine we have a new opportunity in the partnership with ePaLs, and I’d like to challenge teachers to take the plunge. I just checked today, and found dozens of classrooms in countries all over the world, looking for English speaking classes to partner with. I know there is some uncertainty, some pedagogical risk, some inconvenience and messiness in getting involved with global connections, but I believe it’s better to say yes, and… (if it becomes the normal classroom culture, instead of a special event,) it will improve literacy levels.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hear from a Co-author of Disrupting Class...

This webinar by co-author Michael Horne was the culminating feature of a book discussion for ISTE's administrator's group. It's a great help in fleshing out the book if you've read it, or especially if you haven't and are looking to get the gist. I am not a fan of futurists, and don't often promote their books, so many of which seem to be merely capitalizing on the (mostly obvious) changes around us. Naisbitt's "Megatrends" was an exception to that for me in the 80s, I think because he developed his ideas using very sound studies of newspaper clippings. Christensen's book is an exception, also. Disrupting Class deserves our attention. Its most intriguing assertion is that on-line courses will represent 50% of all 9-12 courses by 2018. (By on-line, he doesn't mean "distance," and it's an important distinction.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One-one laptops

In the wake of Governor Baldacci's speech this evening, I wanted to voice support for Maine's goal of a one-one ratio of laptops for grades 7-12. I understand the costs and difficulties, but I think it's the only answer to the question: "how many computers should a school have?" There's simply no other equitable way to get to where you can assign, collect, provide, share, collaborate or otherwise have students participate in a technology immersed world. It's true that our core efforts should be for "any century skills" such as character, work habits, etc., but we do need to incorporate practical, relevant activities to prepare students for today's adult work and study environments. We need to model strategies for coping with the "information storm," keeping safe on-line, and evaluating what we find there. So yes, in spite of the technical headaches and the need for additional support staff (which we must be honest about) it's important for all students to have a computing device, especially at secondary level.
I am an old English teacher, so I'll use an example from my own field: let's say I have a class today in journalism. There's a lot I can teach about cogent writing, and it's valuable, but if I don't include something about the blogging phenomenon, the new copyright issues, etc., I am negligent. And... how do I do that if they don't all have computers handy? And how do they put together their publication, which is on-line? And how do they post the material from their beats (which consist of digital text and images?) And how do they communicate with their sources, especially the ones in other countries, especially right now, as the news is breaking? Today, teaching in most subjects just doesn't work well without computers, because, working in most fields doesn't either.