Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tools. Let's give them the tools to increase the skills. Edtechnology for Students.

In this decade of digital communication including texting, collaboration, social learning, presentations, wikis, rss feeds and blogs we must now make available to students and teachers tools that promote and enhance a style of teaching and learning that promote the development of skills.  This style moves beyond the facts into explaining differences, seeing similarities, thinking creatively, working creatively with others, implementing innovations, reasoning effectively, making judgments and decisions, solving problems, communicating across cultural and country lines through collaboration with others.  It includes hyperlinked writing, digital citizenship, publishing, commenting, sharing, networking and much more.

We pay a lot of lip service to “teaching students to be life long learners.” Where we fail is not making a shift from content driven curriculum and learning, to process driven curriculum and learning.

A few examples that could be accomplished.  Wow, how cool is this.

Sue has missed three days of classes due to illness.  At home she knows that the teacher has placed all worksheets, objectives and lessons online.  Sue uses the teachers' tutorials to learn.  Downloads all required work and digitally sends the work to the teacher finishing the required work before returning to school.   Wow how cool is that.

Dave checks into his schools' online learning community where his teacher has posted a discussion on the similarities between socialism and capitalism.  Dave adds his perspective and does all this from his Ipod touch.  He writes a comment that the teacher sees is brilliant on how mixing the two could be the best.  After prompting Dave writes a letter to his state senator who takes his suggestion and creates a bill on how to change the structure of health insurance.  Wow, how cool is that.

Mrs. Smith has assigned a writing journal about the book her students are reading in class.  Students use their phones to text their thoughts into the online journal, their home computer to add more content and the schools computers to complete what they had started.  Students then respond to other students comments, taking the level of learning and conversations to new levels that Mrs. Smith could only dream about.  Wow, how cool is that.

Karen is a high achiever.  The fact is that she needs to be challenged with additional concepts allowing her to learn more, share more, produce more, create more and in general become a great citizen. Karen after research, using her online library, writes a blog about how to make the school use energy more efficiently.  In two years the school district saves $200,000 using her suggestions from her blog posts.  Wow, how cool is that.

Joe has a brother in Iraq, a soldier that he talks daily with on Skype.  Joe brings his laptop in the classroom, hooks it up to the rooms projector, providing an opportunity for his classmates to learn first hand about what is happening in the war against terror.  Wow, how cool is that.

Mr. Hall has done 15 projects in his class each semester where students meet learning standards.  He has noticed that he is holding back some students that could be doing 20 to 30 projects.  He creates a self paced learning environment, were he acts as a facilitator and guide to the students learning.  He uses technology including online tutorials, online course management tool, wikis and blogs.  A year later he finds that all students due to engagement and interest, are finishing 20 projects with some students getting more than 30 projects completed, but more importantly the amount of learning has increased.  Wow, how cool is that.

Mr. Glass's students already spend tremendous amounts of time at night in AOL Instant Messenger, so he thinks that this technology could be great for learning too.  Once a week each group engaged in an AIM conversation (outside of the classroom) which revolved around three seed questions he provided. The group then emailed the transcript of the dialog to him. Wow, how cool is that.

These scenarios could be reality if we take steps to implement a culture of using technology to learn.  What are these technology tools that teachers and students should be using? Without listing specifics brands or names, these tools should be available.

A tool to display student work/samples, creating authentic audiences.
A tool to allow teachers to post PDFs for downloading.
A blog tool for class and school announcements or general updates.
A tool to provide a calendar of scheduled events.
A blog or web page or management system used to post remedial and enhance learning assignments.
A school-wide standard for submitting papers. (submission via email, moodle, blog, etc.)
A tool to allow videos to be posted and viewed.
A tool for students to submit work for teachers that is accessible from home that allows teachers to add comments. (ideally to reduce the need for printing)
A tool to publish student work for a larger audience, when desired (parents, grandparents, peers, other teachers, etc.)
A tool to allow online discussion between students in a class.
A tool to allow collaboration between students (peer responses to work)
A tool to display student journals online.
A tool to create video tutorials.
A tool to communicate across cultural, country lines.
A tool to create a library of resources, for students to use as resources to create and write.
A tool to bring the newest information to the student without spending hours searching.
A tool for surveying thoughts and gathering information.
A tool for student email (student email accounts)

These tools are more available than ever. Most without major cost to districts.  By aligning and providing an email account, these tools can be accessed and used both in school and home, by teachers and students.  Let's move to place this great tools into the students hands.

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