Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Dwarfs vs. The Supreme Court

A recently released poll on pop culture indicated that three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White’s dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices. What does that mean for how we teach?

When working with new teachers and mentor teachers– one of the key questions I ask is “How are the students today different from students when you were in school?” I am sure you can run through the list of answers in your head. Perhaps I should start following that question with “What are we going to do about it?”

At the High School’s New Face conference in Ellicottville this July, I was fortunate to be surrounded by fabulous teachers from our region. Everyone was learning and reflecting on their classroom. Richard Strong and Harvey Silver spoke to one group about engaging students – one of the most powerful things I think everyone took away from that workshop was “Call them by their name.” How many of us take the time to make that personal connection with our students? It doesn’t take long – a couple of seconds – to recognize the children that are entrusted to us. But do we do it?

It’s made me think a great deal about my classroom and what I did well and what I could have done much, much better. I took great pride in learning student names and in learning what interested them, so that I could “hook” them into American History. I’ve started to think about how that information can transfer over into the realm of education I find myself in now: professional development and facilitating curriculum conversations. Having blogged once – I have found the power of communicating with others as I ponder these heady issues and so I have started a second blog for those who were in that session with me – as well as those who are interested in engaging their students and the work of Silver and Strong. We learn from what we are interested in and we learn best from our peers – think about joining in and commenting on my blog or better yet, creating your own!!

Another group at the conference met with Will Richardson and worked on the role that technology plays in “connecting” the 21st century teen. That group came out incredibly excited about what they have learned and I have been following two of them closely. Kim Moritz is a local principal and has been very open and honest in her blog about education and leadership. A great and thought provoking read!!

Pat Aroune is a local social studies educator with great passion for the subject and I have recently peeked in on what he plans to do with his students next year using this new technology. Pat already experimented with blogging this summer and here is what one of his students wrote, “It was great to be able to write about what I want; one would be amazed at how much one writes when discussing a topic of great interest. It was much more fun to learn the chapter keywords in a context that we ourselves understand, rather than simply trying to understand the textbook-given example. Also, I feel that synthesizing information and context is learning on a much higher level than simple "copy-it-out-of-the-textbook" busy-work.”

Or how about this one: “This was challenging for me because I am used to traditional and boring route of education. I have become a robot in school, just doing what is asked and creativity is rarely involved. With this new way of comprehending economics, I was forced to look beyond tradition school work and thinking process, and actually think a little.” Great job, Pat!!

So much excitement, so much to learn – and yet when I look back at a recent Will Richardson post and the comments I realize we need to slow down and ponder what is “best practice” in this new, flat world we live in. While Will’s post, and those of many others that I have been following, speak explicitly about the best practices in using blogs, wikis, and podcasts in education – aren’t we still talking about the best practice in educating our youth? How do we prepare our students for the ever changing world in which we live in? One that has “fragile” cease fires? Where you can no longer bring toothpaste or water on an airplane? Where information (and mis-information) flows faster than ever before? If we don’t use technology, the same technology our students use, we will lose them!!

But we still run across educators who downplay the role that technology plays in education, those that feel that by using technology – we are somehow caving into the outside world and not providing a “real education.” Get on board!! Or as Ewan McIntosh said much more eloquently:

“The arguments that new technologies are just a fad, a cherry on the cake, an added extra, a bolt-on, a treat, something we can pass by, nothing that a good PowerPoint can't supercede, nothing that a textbook hasn't achieved until now, nothing that our best exam factory schools can't do without... all of this is is just keich. The teachers touting this must wake up to the fact that they are not engaging their kids unless they do use these technologies, the ones the kids use. Moreover, they're not really preparing them how to cope with the information being passed over to them unless they teach how to manipulate and analyse that information with these tools.”

1 comment:

Mrs. Kondrick said...

AMEN to Evan's comment "Moreover, they're not really preparing them how to cope with the information being passed over to them unless they teach how to manipulate and analyse that information with these tools.” It is our job as educators to raise the bar for our students expecting them to analyse and synthsize the information we help them discover. Passing off technology as a keich or "extras" we can't afford to spend time on is an excuse, one we use when we don't understand new things, or are too comfortable with the statis quo. Using technology asks us to grow, manipulate and analyse as teachers!