November asks…What’s our culture of teaching and learning?

Education technologist, Alan November, published a white-paper several years ago, and I had forgotten about it every until recently when our professional learning network began looking at how technology impacts student learning.

It is titled “Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning” and was pretty heady stuff only just a few years back.

Now, more than ever, its message is an important one to heed as we move forward with new leadership and regrouped effort by educators to recognize those drivers that impact student engagement and learning.

A couple of highlights:

Don’t teach children to use the Internet unless you’re willing to teach them to think and discriminate.

I wonder if we really even teach our children HOW to use the Internet. For the sake of reality, maybe it should be clarified a little: Unless you’re willing to teach them to think and discrimate then don’t let students use the Internet.

We, quite honestly, need to get back to basics. We still need to teach them HOW to use the Internet. Seriously. Using Google can be as ineffectual as you want it to be. When I do digital and media literacy workshops with students, I’m no longer surprised at the response when I ask students if they know about the invisible (or deep) web. Mostly blank stares. And rightly so. We haven’t done our due diligence here. Ask a student to find the ‘Advanced Search’  feautre on Google homepage. Maybe 50% can find it–while looking at the screen–in any given class.

I’m convinced we are going to have live video cameras in many classrooms. There’s no question in my mind. It’s like saying, in the early ‘90s, that we’re not going to have computers in every classroom.

As a parent and teacher, what scares me is teachers is the closed classroom door. Either its too noisy in the hallways or perhaps there is something to be hidden. I, too, think that it’ll force teachers to constantly evaluate what they’re doing, and it will change the relationships among teachers. It will promote more interaction among teachers as they look together at student work and share stories and strategies. Of course, there are two powerful voices that would fight tooth and nail against such a vision (or inevitability): the issue of privacy and the might of the unions. Not sure which is more powerful, but either one will attempt destroy this movement at all levels.

My only criticism of this profession is that we do not tell our stories well. That gets us into a lot of trouble because if we educators don’t tell our stories, there are lots of other people who think they have the story and they will tell it for us.

With his believe that teacher[s] lack a collective sense November is bang on again; and for a couple of reasons: we are still one the main professions where we work in isolation. We either forget to share what we’re doing, too embarassed to share, or simply don’t want to see or know about what our other colleagues are doing especially in a cross-curricular sort of way. I find the teaching profession to be one of the most hypocritical sort. We expect our students to grow, mature, work together, and continue to learn. Might be time to hold up that mirror, my fellow colleagues.

Create not a technology plan; but an information communication network plan. I am a member of  two technology committees (school and district) and for far too long their mandates have been driven by what November calls a “shopping list” type of operation. This focue on automation has put us several years behind the information movement; the movement of individiuals as creators of content not merely consumers.

We do need to let go of the word technology because if we don’t we’ll keep doing the same things over and over (i.e. purchasing hardware that quickly become outdated and ineffectually utilized), at the expense of not focusing on the need to build “capacity in every family for learning”. It is very difficult, and perhaps impossible, for schools to mitigate what is happening at home with respect to technology. And I never really agreed that technology would be the great equalizer, but I do agree that the more we continue to focus on ‘technology’ the greater the divide grows between those that have and those that have not.

I believe that every high school should require every student to take an entire course online because that’s where higher education is going.

Actually, so do I. But part of the problem is that November is simplifying the environment. As a teacher-librarian, I spend a few hours a week helping students in the library enrolled in online courses. Taking Foundations of Mathematics 10 (Pre-Calculus) on your own? Surely, there cannot be many students having a positive experience with that!

Yes, students can take an online course, but a huge percentage (and I’m not sure of exact values here) do not complete the course. A main reason often cited? Lack of support. Either from a parent at home or more likely this responsibility falls on the shoulders of local secondary schools which do not have in place the appropriate mechanism to be effective in guiding studens with their online learning. I appreciate his vision, but without a “information communication plan” at the school district and school levels this is always doomed to failure.

The trainer trains the students, not the teacher. If you train teachers in technology, they tend to go back and do what they always did — they will automate. What we need to do is show models of kids solving powerful problems beyond anything we’ve every done and the only way to do that is in context.

Sage advice that I need to heed and continuallybe cognizant of because while I service both teachers and students, our collective focus, as a faculty IS the student. Never lose sight of that. I often do.

Tell the teachers, “This is not about technology. It’s about understanding the impact of technology on how students learn.”

This is not about toys for teachers, its about a new understanding that must be recognized by school administrators and senior administrators. Change is exciting.

Time to revist our no technology plan again!

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