Opportunities to Learn

Our 1-to-1 program is off to an amazing start.Our integrated units set the tone that the tablet was an educational tool and served to begin to establish a culture of learning and figuring things out together. In my mind, 1-to-1 is a terrific learning experience that is forcing us to rethink lots of things about our curriculum and our pedagogy. I asked faculty to give feedback on their individual blogs (all faculty have a blog as part of a professional development elgg site) and was pleased to have one English teacher respond with the blog post below.

Did you ever see that Simpson’s episode where Homer goes 3-D?

Going 1:1 is like that: at first one runs through a wall to find a strange world with a shocking new dimension: depth. The consequences are a mix of anxiety and fear and wonder at the possibilities. Now, in addition to the grasp of subject matter and knowing the kids, one grapples with new sets of pedagogies, new array of tools and means of students interacting, manipulating, encoding and delivering information. And there is, on top of that, not just one tool that will do the job you didn’t realize you needed (but you do), but now, perhaps 7 or 8 different programs that might work–and deciding which on will work or fit your needs best can feel like it own hole in the space-time continuum yawning wider and wider. The kids, however are the drivers in this, adapting rather shockingly well to things. I was spectacularly impressed by them while walking down the halls during the Civilizations unit, to find student after student diligently at work, solving problems as they arose–again not without some anxiety–but diligently throwing themselves into it and solving the problems, finding work-arounds: dealing. But with some squeezing and feeling pulled along, there is a growing sense that we are arriving at a new WOW. I love the interact, dyknow and onenote use that we have explored so far; my smartboard skills are not so smart yet…

One new “difficulty” is the shift back and forth between the laptop classroom and students who do not arrive with one in hand (seniors). To go out on another “metaphorical limb” that is a bit like owning one car that is an automatic and another that is manual transmission, and your spouse suddenly took the one that you are used to driving: you just can’t expect to hold your coffee the way you used to anymore; you find yourself approaching a stoplight on a hill and are suddenly overcome with unaccustomed emotions as you check the review mirror to find a patrol car rolling slowly up behind you.

I think it is more important what the faculty think than what I think. They are in the trenches using the tablets in creative ways every day. I have a group of faculty, one from each department willing to write about their perspectives on the program beginning Thursday (or today if you count my borrowing the post from my English teacher.)

Two things stand out for me in this post.

“Going 1:1 is like that: at first one runs through a wall to find a strange world with a shocking new dimension: depth.”

Going 1-to-1 offers depth. He’s certainly right on that point and I think many faculty would agree. More than a few have commented that it is harder to teach the 11th graders and not as much fun because they don’t have tablets. We recognize that there are things we want to do and we can’t because we don’t have the toolset we need when the tablets are missing.

“Now, in addition to the grasp of subject matter and knowing the kids, one grapples with new sets of pedagogies, a new array of tools and means of students interacting, manipulating, encoding and delivering information.”

This single line is exactly where we are in our use of technology. We get that technology brings new pedagogy and new tools and we’re working to develop the best, most innovative curriculum that we can. We get that it is “deep” and we get that we can now do things that we couldn’t do before; that we must do thing differently than we did before. We make these changes not because we want to include technology but because we understand that there are new skills, new literacies kids need and we can’t explore those literacies with students without harnessing the ingenuity technology affords us. This updated presentation by Dave Truss gives a visual look at this concept.

Brave New World

Implicit in the need to do things differently, is the need to continue to provide growth opportunities and to help our teachers understand and develop their own personal learning networks. There are lots of opportunities available for teachers to learn. Below are some of the opportunities that we will be participating in, and the beauty of this new shared learning landscape is that the same opportunities (except for our internal Elgg) are open to everyone who wants to get smarter!

Almost Weekly Tech Tips

Every week or so I will provide a tech tip that should help faculty learn about emerging technologies that can enhance curriculum and deepen learning. The tips are also designed to help faculty develop their own learning networks. It is imperative the teachers become engaged with the tools that will empower them to collaborate and learn across physical boundaries. Learning isn’t just for students, it is for the entire community. It is increasingly about collective wisdom that is networked and shared. We started this process with delicious as an entry point. Currently all faculty and all 9th and 10th graders have delicious accounts.

Professional Development Portfolios with Elgg –

Every faculty member has an Elgg account and is part of our internal professional development network. We are using elgg to keep our thoughts and observations on our collective and individual growth as we move forward with 1-to-1 and as we continue to invent and revise curriculum. Elgg creates a venue in which faculty can interact in a social network and have an opportunity to both blog and comment with each other. Ideally it will force us to share and learn from each other. We have already had some interesting exchanges based on someone blogging about an idea or suggesting an article to read and asking others to give their opinion. Most recently we discussed an article by a Duke Professor on the teaching of writing. Elgg is proving to be a good place for mini-lessons about teaching and for self-reflection on why we do things the way we do them and why there might be a better way.

Powerful Learning Practice (PLP)

We are fortunate to have a team participating in Sheryl Nussebaum Beach and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice Professional Development program. Our team will collaborate with teams from 20 other schools located in the US, New Zealand, and Australia to advance our understanding of teaching and learning with technology. Just read some early framing questions that Sheryl posed for the teams to wrestle with:

1. What is it we want our students to learn? What are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions we expect each student to acquire in our changing 21st C. classroom?
2. How will we know if our students are learning and growing in their understanding? What evidence will we gather and consider collectively to monitor the learning of each of our students?
3. How will we enrich and extend the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?
4. What role, if any, does emerging technology and the new literacies play in the restructuring of our classrooms?

The questions aren’t dripping with technology but with learning. The answers to the questions cannot be devoid of technology, yet, technology is not the driver. It is questions like these that force us to examine the very core of what we do and that push us to do it better- and better means different and probably means technology is central to accomplishing the goal. One of my goals within the scope of this project will be to articulate what the emerging pedagogy is, not how emerging technologies can be used. I think that is an important distinction. What is it we need to teach with respect to both skills and content and how can we best do that? For example, a science teacher might say they need to teach collaboration, how to write a lab report, how to research scholarly scientific resources, and the content of equilibrium. Content is easy, but the other pieces will require new tools and a collaboration of support people - using a wiki to write the lab collaboratively so we teach collaboration; using the library databases to get information; understanding copyright and creative commons licensing; perhaps adding a video of the lab procedure instead of just writing steps; collaborating on a google shared spreadsheet to generate and analyze the data, data being collected by students around the globe; exploring real world examples that make the content meaningful and relevant. An English teacher shouldn’t aspire to teach blogging but to understand how blogging might be a great mechanism to cultivate voice, write for an audience, and learn the art of persuasion as well as to provide a mechanism for increased feedback or peer evaluation. Bottom line, because the world is different, our pedagogy must be different.

Online Course and Conferences

There are a number of online opportunities for learning. We have selected three that are worth noting.

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge

George Siemens and Stephen Downes have paried to offer a 12 week, intensive look at connectivism. The course hase 2000+ participants all sharing ideas in online spaces. Elluinate and uStream sessions compliment the asynchrous electronic aspect of the course.We have a half dozen faculty members trying to participate and meet weekly to discuss interesting topics.

Learning 2.008

Learning 2.008 is a f2f conference in Shanghai that is attended by an international contingency of educators. It features a tremendous group of speakers. Each session will be recorded and will be available for viewing. Many sessions will be broadcast live. The site features offerings by day and by strand. The learning from Shanghai starts Thursday, Sept 18th. I’m going to ask all faculty to attend at least 1 session.

K12 Online Conference 2008- Amplifying Possibilities -

The k12 Online Conference is strictly an online conference that features an impressive, international line up of presenters. The conference runs for two weeks beginning in mid October. To help determine which sessions are most interesting and relevant to you, the presenters are posting video teasers. All sessions will be recorded and archived and can be loaded onto an ipod for listening while driving, my favorite way to get all the sessions in.All faculty will be asked to attend 2 sessions.

There are so many learning opportunities. With 1-to-1, the landscape on my campus is changing. It is indeed a Brave New World, a world in which learning is paramount and pedagogy and curriculum are changing. We are all learners and collectively we can do anything. Because of technology, you can do it with us. Care to join?




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