Myth #1: Students will naturally acquire tech skills.
Unfortunately some educators, especially ones with limited tech skills, mistakenly believe that today’s young students will naturally acquire 21st Century Skills. They see young students with their cell phones and iPods and think that there is no reason to teach them such skills, because after all, the students probably know more about this “stuff” than they do. They are afraid that due to their own lack of such skills they will be exposed as knowing less than their students, and pass off their fear as a rally cry to keep to the status quo. After all, who’s the teacher here? The last thing they need is a subject where the teacher knows less than the student. Surely, that would lead to utter chaos in the classroom, or so they think.
In reality though, the thought that students might acquire technology skills simply by owning technology is absurd. It is like saying that there is no need to teach our students math because they already have a paper and pencil, and they should naturally acquire algebra if they just keep playing with that paper and pencil long enough. Oh, and by they way, they will also become artists, poets, and writers due to that same paper and pencil ownership.
Students owning technology does not mean that they know how to really use it. Technology does not replace the need for teachers, instead it demands it. Students need teachers to teach them how to truly use technology to do great and wonderful things — unbelievable things. Without great tech projects students simply default to game play, or as I call it, “The learning of useless skills.” Much like the paper and pencil student without instruction would just scribble and learn the useless skill of scribbling.
The paradox of students gaining 21st Century Skills lies on one hand having technology does not give our students 21st Century Skills, and on the other hand a teacher cannot teach the skills without having the technology. Imagine trying to teach a student how to play the sport of baseball without every picking up a ball, bat or glove. Sure, you could explain all about the sport; how to keep score, the rules, how bats are made, etc. But until they actually pick up a ball and try to throw it, they would never be able to learn how to play the sport. The same is true with technology. Students need hands-on time with technology while working on well designed projects.
In the Spring of 2008, I was asked by my district to test 26 netbooks in a fourth grade classroom for 12 weeks. I agreed to the experiment whole heartily, excited at the possibilities of what netbooks could do for our students. I always suspected that a once-a-week tech class was not enough time to truly give my students the 21st Century Skills that they needed.
In the true nature of an experiment I gave these students a 21st Century Skills assessment before they got their netbooks. In fact, I gave the assessment to all the students in my school, so that I could have a solid baseline to help with my experiment.
So I asked my students a number questions based on the new standards of National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) that had recently been published by International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Nothing formal, just some simple questions that I had written based on their grade-level. I then compared the results of the assessment to the amount of time the students had for technology instruction each week.
As you can see from my simple chart above that the students were lacking in basic 21st Century Skills and most students were getting less than an hour of technology instruction per week. This was very disappointing since I was their tech teacher and I thought they would have scored higher on this assessment.
The question now was, “Will students having netbooks increase their 21st Century Skills?”
Before beginning the trial, the fourth grade teacher and myself planned some projects that would take advantage of the netbooks and center the instruction around 21st Century Skills. With the students having all-day access to the netbooks, there were no limitations to the skills the teacher could teach. Take, for example, the NETS-S standard of Communication and Collaboration, the teacher used Google Docs for the students to work on the same document even though they were at different desks. This later expanded to collaborating with students in a different state. Something he could have never thought without the access to tools — in the case, netbooks.
At the end of the 12 week trial I reassessed the students in my school and found the following…
Notice the direct correlation to the spike that occurred with this fourth grade class. They had nearly 12 hours a week of hands-on time using their netbooks and in return their 21st Century Skills were nearly 100%.
One of the fundamental keys to getting our students to have 21st Century Skills is the use of integrated technology into their daily school work by using great projects.
The netbooks alone would not have given the students 21st Century Skills, neither would the projects without the netbooks — both part are needed. One cannot be done without the other.
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#edchat #edtech #elearning — Let me tell you the reason why students want to learn something new that was explained to me by Dr. Shawn Carlson (www.science-project.com) many years ago, he said, “learning follows interest and interest follows fun.” Think about that statement for a moment when you consider working with young students and technology. To prove the validity of this statement let me tell you the story of Jenny.
Jenny is a junior in high school who loves to play basketball, a sport that she is really good at. However, like many students she wasn’t always good at basketball, so how did she get to where she is today? To understand why she has put in countless hours into practicing her sport, you need to go back to the beginning of her story.
One day when Jenny was in the second grade she saw some fifth grade students playing basketball at lunch recess. The kids were laughing and smiling as they played the classic basketball game of Horse. She remembers one girl who would try the strangest shots to try and throw off her classmates. She would stand with her back to the net and flip the ball up into the air, or she would take a shot with her eyes shut. Sometimes she would even make the shot, which would result in cheers from the young spectators. The points is, Jenny perceived basketball as being fun.
Now that she thought basketball was fun, she was interested in learning more about it. That Christmas she asked her parents for a basketball, which she took to school everyday starting in the spring. At recess she would practice with her friends, soon the older students were giving her pointers. In the fourth grade she learned the rules of basketball in gym class, but by this time she was already good at dribbling and shooting. Something that her gym teacher noticed right away and encouraged here to attend a basketball camp in the summer.
By the time Jenny entered the fifth grade, she had become the girl that she has seen in the second grade. She was laughing with her friends playing Horse while making unusual shots with the younger students cheering her on.
Learning follows interest and interest follows fun.
Unbelievable tech projects should be fun. But does that mean we turn each project into a circus just so that our students are having fun? No. Fun does not mean goofing off. Fun means enjoyable. Which is why when I start to plan a new project I try to look at through the eyes of a student. For example, in second grade I need to teach how to make a digital presentation. So what would a second grader find fun with learning how to make a presentation? With a little more digging I found out that they are going to study about Ancient India in their regular classroom. After collaborating with the second grade team we came up with a great project that would allow the students to make a fun presentation about Ancient India, complete with incredible images and narration.
When I introduced the project to the students; that they would be searching the Internet for images, using Google Earth, and recording their own voices to narrate a presentation about Ancient India, they cheered. They knew they were about to do something fun and they were interested in learning more.
Learning follows interest and interest follows fun.Read More
#edtech #edchat — If you were to ask 1000 teachers what they thought the purpose of education was, no doubt you would get a lot of different answers. The reality is that there is not one singular purpose to education. Instead, there are many, and the purpose I want to focus on with my tech projects is to give students opportunities to find their passions.
If you really think about it, isn’t this what all teachers want?
If I am a math teacher, don’t I want to inspire my students in such a way that there will be a few students that find out that math is the subject they are truly passionate about? Students that had no idea that they could be a math whiz, but now with my help they have found a spark that will hopefully last a lifetime. This is how great teachers make great scientists, writers, poets, etc.
We want to give our students tastes of different subjects and materials and hope that they find the one that “fits” them.
Last year I had a student named Johnathon who signed up to be in my morning news club. As standard procedure, on the application I asked why he wanted to be part of the morning news team? His answer was that he wanted to get over his “shyness problem.”
As things developed, this shy 5th grade student ended up expanding my mind as to what I thought young students were capable of. In fact, he is the very reason for me writing this book.
Johnathon, had been trained on how to use our little elementary school’s news studio and was really getting the hang of being a newscaster. His shyness seemed to be disappearing with every chance he got to be behind the mic.
Then one Wednesday it happened. It was a cold December morning in 2009 and Johnathan had turned up at his usual time to do the morning news. His 4th grade sound tech had cued up all the sound effects, checked the mics and was now ready for the show to start at precisely 8:05 AM. Meanwhile, Johnathon had prepared the normal script, complete with the lunch recess weather forecast, the hot lunch menu, birthdays, etc.
At 8:05 AM the sound tech counted down, 5… 4… and then silently turned up the mics as her finger signaled for him to start.
What came out of this 5th graders mouth was amazing. He was off script and totally ad libbing his show, sure he was still covering the news, but he was doing it his way. As I watched his sound tech scramble to keep up, a smile grew across my face as I realized he got it, he had found something that he was really good at, and he knew it.
The show ended, he hung up his headphones, and walked out of the studio to the new shining star of our elementary school. All I could do was smile as he walked off to his first class.
It was then when I found out that the most rewarding part of teaching is when you see a child find a passion for something that they never knew they had. This is what great tech projects can do for our students. This is why I do unbelievable tech projects with my students and this is the formula that I use…
Fun + A Push + A Great Artifact + A Little Spark = A Great Tech Project
I will explain more about this formula next week.Read More