Today’s post is part of the Leadership Day 2010 campaign, a day when bloggers post ideas about how school leaders can advance technology and 21st Century Skills for students and teachers.
A How-To Guide To Exploiting Your Teacher’s Tech Passions
I believe that one of the most effective ways to get your teachers to embed technology and 21st Century Skills into their lessons and the culture of a school is to find and exploit their technological passions.
Let me explain…
Imagine with me a beginning of the year meeting between a teacher and a principal (minus the chit-chat for brevity):
Principal: Thank you so much for meeting with me. Today I would like to talk about ideas for bringing more tech projects into our school.
Teacher: Okay, great, how can I help?
Principal: Is there anything about technology and teaching that you would like to see in our school?
Teacher: I don’t understand?
Principal: Well, is there anything that you like to do with technology, or that you have heard about other schools doing that you would like to try here at our school.
Teacher: I don’t know if this is what you are thinking… When I was in college I minored in acting and filmmaking, something I have not thought about for years, but a few months ago when I was watching a few YouTube videos I got a few ideas?
Teacher: Well, my first idea was about how bad most of the videos were — from a production and acting point of view. I thought that if only these kids had a few tips about filmmaking and acting, they could do so much better. Tricks that I learned while I was in college. Then I started to think about how my students would love to make videos and put them online, especially for units like the one I teach on the California Gold Rush.
Principal: A video about the California Gold Rush?
Teacher: I imagined that the students could do the research, write a script, and them make a short movie acting out a few scenes from the unit. I think they would have a lot more fun and learn a lot more that filling out the current worksheet.
Principal: What would you need to be able to do this?
Teacher: I think just a cheap Flip video camera and some video editing software.
Principal: Let’s give it a try, I think the students will love it. We still need to work out some details like parent permission forms and let’s make sure to cover all the 21st Century Skills in the project so we can make it a model projects for other teachers to follow next year. I can use $200 of our tech budget to buy the things that you need and you can take it from there.
Teacher: Wow! That would be great, I’ll get started on the lesson plan and rubric right away.
Voila! Happy teacher = happy principal = happy students.
This teacher will now spread his passion for this project to the other teachers in the school, within a few years there could be many great videos being made in this school.
Passion is contagious — use it.
Yesterday while I was re-reading 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel I came across a section that I had highlighted the first time I had read the book but I had forgotten.
The selection I highlighted was about how Singapore was very successful in updating and modernizing their educational system. They had chosen to focus on 21st Century Skills as the backbone to their overhaul.
The deputy director of Curriculum Policy and Pedagogy, Tay Lai Ling, is quoted as saying:
We have come a long way in changing our teaching and learning methods, but our teachers and students still have farther to go. We have a new slogan at the Ministry that will hopefully encourage further change. The new slogan is “Teach Less, Learn More.”
After reading this quote I really started thinking about their slogan. What the crud does it mean to teach less and learn more?
What it means to me is that teachers need to slide over from being just the teacher and take on more of a role as coach and trainer. Which got me really thinking about the new curriculum I have designed for my school technology class for this upcoming year. I started to look at each lesson through the eyes of teaching less — what I started to see was amazing. Soon I was scribbling notes on my lesson plans, ideas that would allow my students more freedom to direct their own learning. Less time with me lecturing and more time with me helping to “direct” their learning.
What can “Teach Less, Learn More” do for you?Read More
What I like most about PBS’s new website for teachers is how nicely it is organized. Starting at the top menu-bar you can select the grade level for the lesson plans or activities that you are looking for. Once inside you can select from different sections like Arts and Literature, Health and Fitness, Math, Science, Social Studies, Pre-K and Library Media. You will notice that many of these sources are based on the award winning programing that is broadcast on PBS stations. You will also see that many are tied back to state standards and there are recommendations on how to study a topic beyond what is shown at the site.
This website fits nicely into what I have been talking a lot about lately — blended learning, mixing the online learning with the offline (classroom) learning helps our students by allowing them to excel in both worlds. To me this is the appropriate use of school technology — to enhance what the teacher is already teaching.
The PBS Teacher Source makes finding online lessons and activities so much easier, check it out yourself.Read More
- A second grade student that blogs.
- A 9 year-old video game designer.
- A high school freshman who writes and records his own songs.
- A middle school student with her own webshow and over 5,000 followers.
This list could go on and on.
But the question that haunts me as I design new edtech projects is this, “Just because they can do it, should they do it?
I am sure that if enough time and effort was spent, we could have an eight year-old student do algebra. But why?
The same goes for teaching technology to our students — do second graders really need to know how to blog or are we just showing off?
My concern is this; There is no doubt that the Internet is a two-sided sword — being the greatest information source and also a dangerous place that is not safe for our students. As technology leaders we must be vigilant in our weighing of the risk and reward values of any school technology project we develop.
Take for example the fifth-grade movie project in my school. In this projects the student write, act, direct, and film their own movie. In pre-production the student learn a lot about Internet safety and how by putting this video on YouTube their name and face will now be seen by anyone. We spend a lot of time on ideas like this so that the students understand how to safely put projects online. Guidelines that they use as they publish and post their own future home-made projects online.
Every year when we premiere the movie at the school the younger students want to immediately start working on their own movies, they don’t understand that they have to get a little older before you can start making online movies. It is not that they are not capable, it is that they are not mature enough to deal with the online risks.
So the next time you start to develop a new tech lesson please keep in mind the balance of risk and reward with regards to the age of your students, try to make the projects with the lowest risk that offers the highest reward.
Here is the 5th grade movie from this past year…Read More
Since the 80′s many schools have thought that the more computers we put in our schools the better the test scores of our students, so we’ve spent over $60 billion on equipping our classrooms with computers and technology.
So what has been our return on investment with all this money we have spent on school technology?
American students have lower national and state test scores now than they did in 1980. But what about the computers? Why didn’t computers help these students pass the tests?
The way I see it, there are two reasons for this:
Reason 1: National and state tests do not measure 21st Century Skills. Take the first skill of “creativity and innovation” show me a standardized test that has a question that measures that? So the reality is that our students are gaining valuable 21st Century Skills that are simply not being assessed. (See my many ramblings on 21st Century assessments)
Reason 2: Schools are not using computers for instruction. Don’t get me wrong, schools are using their computers for many things (see reason 1) but very few schools are using computers for differentiated instruction, lessons that are customized to many different types of intelligence. We have got to expand the use of our computers from just doing word processing and Internet research to being tools of instruction. Luckily this part of the edtech market is expanding rapidly — mostly in math.
So the answer is not just more computers (which is important) but also a change in how we are using computers. We need to look at computers as teachers — not to replace real teachers — but to help. A real teacher cannot teach how to multiply 2-digit numbers 28 different ways to his or her 28 different students in one class period, but a computer can. As part of a demo of a new math website (paid subscription) I sat down a 5th grade student who was struggling in math to the computer and let him loose. Within a few minutes of playing some games and working on some problems the computer had tested him on a number of strands and found out that the student was struggling due to lacking a basic concept that he should have mastered in the second grade. So after 22 minutes we now knew how to help this student — WOW! This student soon mastered that concept and has not had any problems in math since.Read More