Monday, March 29, 2010

Thing 23: Teachers - Reflecting on Practice

I've been thinking a lot about this Web 2.0 journey, and the resources that are available to teachers and students. There is so much to access, which can feel overwhelming with the choices--but using the lens of 21st Century Skills, it's less about knowing what all or most of the tools are out there. The students can help in that area. I'm thinking it's all about how as educators we use and teach 21st Century skills to our students.

Communication and Collaboration come to mind as a vehicle to getting rolling. Learning new ideas and creativity can grow from exchanging ideas and working together to discover new perspectives. I attended a Dell Computers sponsored event where the topic was on how do we support student learning. Consider that this is a Dell event without a sales presentation. Instead, the presenter Adam Garry, who has lengthy experience as an educator and user of instructional technology, facilitated a conversation about what best supports student learning based on the kid culture in the cyberverse: Connected. Participants were encouraged, sometimes prompted, to share their opinions, stories, and resources. By the end of the session, no Dell products were sold, yet Dell as a business that gets the important message that teachers need to focus on academic achievement, and Dell is committed to involve themselves in understanding this focus, and thereby intelligently share how their tools will help academic learning. Engagement is no longer acceptable as "the" reason to have technology. Here's Adam Garry's presentation slides from Connected:

From the presentation, I left with some great instructional tools and a deeper understanding of how kids through their online world connect with learning, collaborate, communicate, create, work independently, problem solve, --oh, and are engaged.

  • Back Channel
    Example: Todays Meet
    During instructional talk or video viewing, participants post comments and resource links on a website as a way to allow learning and conversation to be non-linear. It's a back channel to the main conversation. Have you ever been to a session where the speaker sparks an idea or mentions an article or resource? You look for it and then post it along with your thoughts for the benefit of the other participants.
  • Trailer Mashups
    Create a trailer using snippets of a movie to present it as a different genre. How does this lend itself to study the power of media, changing voice, or organization and details? Many possibilities...
    --Shinning (Classic Horror) presented as a Romantic Comedy

    --Lord of the Rings (Fantasy) using Transformers (Science Fiction)

    --Avatar (Science Fiction) using Pocahontas (History+Disney)

  • Google Features
    Google has a number of tools and features that are best explored than for me to go into a lot of detail. Suffice to say that these tools can lead to assignments that allow students to spend more time with critical thinking and collaboration, because the fact organization is done. Think of the possibilities. Explore at your pleasure:
    Timeline - DipityGeneral - News
  • Wolfram Alpha
    Ever have a student who struggles with understanding a concept. Abstract explanations just do not work. This site takes such ideas as Math concepts and breaks down answers in a way to show the steps and mechanics. Opens possibilities on how to help students understand what their learning, and not just "do it" without lasting comprehension.
  • Pageflakes
    Create your own portal for where information comes to you. Include sites and information you'd like to have your students get resources. If students have their own Pageflake, they could RSS your Blog or Wiki or news sites or school resources. iGoogle is another one that does the same. Here's an example.
  • Google Wave
    This will be a great innovative tool for collaboration and development of resources with all tools at your finger tips. Great for student teams in a classroom, multiple classrooms in the building, across district, across the state, country, or internationally.
These ideas for the classroom were sparked by the opening of doors of RESA 23 Things. 21st Century Skills are necessary for everyone to navigate the constantly expanding realm of information, knowledge creation, and collaboration. Kids and adults are already using the networking tools out there for personal use. How we help students harness the experience and navigate the information flow and creativity is critical to their success...and ours.