While coming to Edjewcon last year got me thinking about the role of the teacher in the class room, this year think I will take more concrete skills away. Learning about Diigo makes me think about not only how I organize information gathered online for myself, but also the importance of teaching students how colaborate on information curation.
For most of my teaching career my method of affecting teaching and learning around technology has been focused on using my own classroom as an example and an experiment. I have tried to lead by example by taking risks in my own classroom, learning lessons and talking and showing collegues the things I have tried in my class. I think now as a vetern teacher of over ten years the focus is changing from not just using my classroom as a labatory to bieng more involved in the conversations with other teachers on how we teach and how we can integrate such skills into our classes.
Gann has been a great boon to this as it is a school that authenically values teacher development and really pushes its teachers to approach teaching from a more reflective point of view and I hope to have the same types of conversations about 21st centuary skills in the coming years as i have the last few years about teaching group skills and approaching a diverse set of learners. I think bieng part oif the 21st centuary skills initiative is part of that and i think the fact that this group is broadinging beyound just the math and science departments is key to making this work. In bieng a teacher how has experimented with technology for the past 10+ years I hope my own experience can be usefull in guiding others and helping the path by easier.
I also find conferences like this key in helping me recalibrate my perspective. the skills and forums present now are different than they were 15 years ago when i was in grad school, not just in name but fundementally in how informations is acceseed, what can be accessed and how our student approach ifnormation and value it.
Disseminating information is not simple and is on many levels. One way is still what I do in my own classroom. In one hour I am already plotting on traing the kids to use Diigo for their disaster presnetations and I am sure there will be more I will incorperate, but I think what is more important is something my Colluegue Sarah has said about last years conference. That what it does is a fundemental sift in how you think about teaching/learning
Yesterday, my son and I were walking on a bridge over a river. He kept throwing rocks in and exclaiming over the number of circles – ripples his rock had created. After a few throws, he asked if I wanted to know why he was so interested in creating ripples. I did. He told me, “When I throw the rock and make the ripples, I am making a difference on the world, I am doing something and I can see the beginning of it in the ripples. Who knows where those ripples might go? Maybe those ripples will make their way to a pirhana about to eat a fish, and that ripple will push the pirhana just enough so that the fish could get away. Maybe I saved a life with my rock!” While this was unlikely, as we were on the Charles River in Newton, Massachusetts, this was not important. What he was telling me was that he wanted to make a difference in the world, to be a part of it and make his mark. This is what Curriculum21 and 21st century education is about.
Twenty first century skills, if we can still use that term, as we are currently in (and more than 10% through) the twenty first century, have nothing to do with the technology itself. We can call them “Right Now” skills, since they are skills students need now and going forward. The technologies are tools with which to learn, demonstrate and use those skills. Both the ideas of the “Right Now” skills, and the integration of technology to support them are exciting to me, and should be to everyone in education. It is the beginning of a revolution! Really, for students and teachers in Jewish schools, the skills are not so new.
What are these “Right Now” skills? Everyone who spoke with us had a different way of framing them. They all used “the five C’s,” but to which words these referred varied. This is not to say the ideas varied: collaboration, communication, creation, critical thinking, connection (around the world), culture, creativity, all these and more are the skills that students must acquire to be global citizens. This is, after all, what we are building them to be. This is a different paradigm than “How long should the periods or blocks be?” “How many pages should this essay be?” “How should the desks be arranged?” While each teacher can update his or her curriculum, really to be effective, a whole school needs to change. After all, how can a Language Arts teacher, a science teacher, a social studies teacher and an art teacher have students work together on a global ecosystem problem if they never work together or communicate with one another in real time or in digital space? Yet in the real world, for which we are preparing the students, a team working to solve an ecosystem problem would most assuredly use all the skills from all those areas and more – probably finance as well – and communicate with scholars on the subject all over the world in real time. We don’t live or work compartmentalized, why should students?
The tools that can help make “right now learning” are here. They will continue to evolve; in fact we are preparing students for a world of which we have not yet conceived. I am in the middle of my teaching career, but I remember when my high school library got its first computers for the library. When I went to college I got a very high tech “luggable” computer – portable in the same way a fifty pound suitcase is. When I went to graduate school, I got a laptop computer. I remember when email started, I remember what the internet looked like without pictures. Now, I communicate with people all over the world about information that is relevant and current. I take videos with the iPad, integrate them into presentations with other content, and collaborate with teachers, I connect and consult on Facebook with people in Israel, California, England and Australia. Learning happens best collaboratively. I assist student in finding resources all over the world – a student came in asking for information about technology in Israel and I didn’t take him to the bookshelf, I connected him with Technion Institute in Israel. I told him that any books I had would be outdated, because new technologies are always coming out, and they were a good place to start. I hope that he connects with learners all over the globe to learn about and discuss his questions. (I can facilitate that.) When he is done, I hope he creates a digital portfolio or presentation of what he learned that can be shared with the other students here, and other learners all over the world. His learning matters; not just for a grade or personal information (although both are important) but in a global way.
So: to me, the question is not why do the students need access to iPads and other technology, but how could we possibly prepare them for the skills they need without the tools they will use once they have them? To quote Heidi Hayes Jacobs, we can prepare them for the skills they need right now and the adaptablitity they need for the future, or not. We can learn with them and facilitate their production of a video teaching others about an experiment they performed and its potential impact in the world, and post it to Youtube to get feedback from the world, or we can have them write a paper that only the teacher and student will ever see. Students need to feel they have a place in the world and can have an impact. We can help them understand that their learning matters and is valuable enough to be shared, or not.
Finally, the beginning of this blog referred to these skills not being new to Jewish students at a day school, and here is why: our students are already in conversation with scholars from over 2000 years ago, from the other side of the world. They have participated in discussions throughout history and argued with Rashi, Rambam, Nechama Leibovitz, Nachum Sarna, ibn Ezra, and more. Our students know how to be part of a global conversation, they have some of these skills, they must be allowed to apply them to the world in which we live Right Now, and the world in which they will live in the future. They need the tools to acquire the skills Right Now. The need to participate in the global conversations, and make their marks on the world. They need to be able to make ripples in the water that can save lives.
I am resting out the whole blogging thing right now. I can defiantly see how it can be in my classes, particularly natural disasters where i have wanted to do a running blog where I and the students can put posts on disasters as they happen.
lets see what I can get in here now
A hyperlink to a tornadoe
Picture of a volcano
Thing I have not been able to do is place a file that someone can download. This is an issue for me, particularly for kmz files, so you can show a location and a student can click on the kmz to show it in google earth.
That is it for now.
Here at Gann Academy, I am thrilled to NOT be the lone voice in the forest for technology integration. While there are lots of challenges and ideas, we are moving forward thoughtfully, if slowly. In the past, I have been the lone champion and grant writer for integrating technology. Here at Gann Academy, many have been bitten by the technology bug, and we have a wonderful technology department to support us. One of our “issues” is getting everyone to come together so that we may move forward together.
It is a new experience for me to need to coordinate movement forward in technology integration with others, and I am excited to be a part of the team. The challenges are different, and the stakes are higher. No longer am I the crazy librarian getting a laptop lab and teaching the tenth grade social studies class how to use wikispaces while the rest of the school is only pencils and books. No longer am I teaching seniors how to change the font in the word processing program for their college essays, as they have not learned or needed this skill in that school before. No longer am I scheduling the one television and DVD player that work down to the minute so two different classes can show audiovisual materials.
My conversations now are on which device to present ebooks, which databases to add to our digital collection, and what the alternatives are to encoding AV materials so that they can be used from the teachers’ laptops and projection systems in each classroom. Still, despite being farther down the technology integration path, impasses remain, challenges present themselves, and collaboration and agreement can be momentarily elusive. There are still gaps – between those who are made nervous by the thought of technology integration and those who would conduct virtual classrooms, between those who would like to go iPad and those who would like to stay Windows, between those who would bring the school quickly forward in this process and those who proceed slowly, responsibly, carefully, creating pilpul about every decision so that it may be examined thoroughly.
Here I sit in the library, with all these decisions and issues swimming around me. I am happy to help when people ask, I am happy to adopt when we are ready, and I am happy to participate in all the discussions. It is very exciting. Coming to this conference to collaborate and see how others are doing their integration process is valuable and timely, and I am thrilled to be a part of it!