Wired for Sound

This video has certainly made the rounds in the last couple years with over 3 million views to date. It’s posted over at TED, however, it is from the  2009 World Science Festival. Take 3 minutes and give it a watch. The video features Bobby McFerrin. You might remember him from this video (but don’t watch that one right now, watch the one below…unless you really want to).

Interesting and entertaining at the same time isn’t it? Over at TED the title of the video is, “Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music”. He shows that by creating a “common chorus”, or finding something we’re all commonly connected by (in this case music), we can tap into the ways we’re naturally wired to produce something great.

What if we took more time to learn how to do this for our students? That is, finding commonalities that give deeper connections to learning for everyone, that tap into those ways we’re naturally wired; rather than trying to re-wire (back to a previous time period many times).  Is this just another way to say “differentiated instruction”? Or is it more than that? Will Richardson calls this “Beyond Differentiation” in his latest piece over at ASCD called Preparing Students to Learn Without Us, where he states:

For schools and teachers, it means connecting our expectations to students’ passions and interests as learners. That is both a challenge and an opportunity for educators working with 20 or 30 students in a classroom. The reality is that despite having talked about personalized learning for more than a decade, most schools and teachers have been slow to discover its potential through the use of the social web, interactive games, and mobile devices.

Would you agree that our students are coming to us being naturally wired this way? All of this technology (social networking, devices, etc.) is not just part of, or an add-on in our students’ world. It IS our students’ world. A world we as educators need to catch up to.

I had the pleasure of being invited to keynote TeachMeet Georgia a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, where I talked about a new responsibility we (teachers) have to our students: the ability to Connect, Collect, Curate, and Create. Most of the time I was working on that presentation, in my head I kept referring to these as “skills”. I was then reminded of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection 101″ , where Dr. Rheingold conveys the importance of this not just being a skill, but a literacy. We should want all our students to have these new literacies to truly empower them with the tech and devices that is their world, the “wiring” that they come to school with if you will. It must be more than consumption of information. It needs to be creating, investigating, criticizing (constructively), and sharing.

However, these literacies start with us. Teachers, Administrators, Librarians, and Parents.  We must model them and refine them. Regularly.

Which is harder: to change how we’re wired or how they’re wired?

Create, Create, Create!

I have had many a conversation about students’ ability to consume digital content vs. creating digital content.  Which do you think students are better at? I’ve always leaned toward consumption over creation. They use Google, social media, and other online places to intake great amounts of information, but how often are students actually contributing something back for others to benefit from? How many times do we ask students to go grab this or that bit of information from the web or go to YouTube and watch this video or that video? Is it possible that we’re proverbially “stuck” in our education system because we don’t give our students enough opportunities to create and in turn share their creation? I’m not saying that students creating “stuff” is going to be the magic that fixes everything, but what if it could be? Should there be more of a conscious effort to give plenty of choices for our students to be creative with that information they find for this project (homework, assignment, etc.) or that project?

There’s certainly no shortage of information that’s produced for you and I and our students to learn from. We teach our children, students, and each other to “pay it forward” in face to face spaces, but should we do the same in online spaces too?

These are just some thoughts I had bouncing around after coming across this video: 29 Ways to Stay Creative. It’s certainly not exclusive to the digital world, it even reminds us to step away from all things digital from time to time. It just reminded me that we need to have our students see the value in creating something not only as a way to express ourselves, but possibly to the benefit of others as well.

Thank you for reading.

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Telling Search Stories with Google

Yesterday, my district hosted a day of professional development for teachers and staff that are involved with the e-learning program at three area districts (including mine).  It was a great day for teachers to collaborate and learn with each other about best practices and hopefully get some new ideas for teaching online.

In the afternoon, we had a good ol’ tech tools smackdown where folks from each respective district went back and forth sharing a favorite tool they have used or think students would enjoy using in an online course. I decided to share the Google Search Story Creator.  If you’ve never created a Google Search Story, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to quickly share a search experience. Since the search story creator is kind of hard to find (it’s located towards the bottom of this page and says YouTube is making a new, permanent home for it), I also made a custom link that was easier to share with others. Please feel free to pass this along: http://bit.ly/searchstorycreator.

I wanted the teachers to see a relevant example first before I explained how to create one. I only had about 4 minutes total during the smackdown so the first 35 seconds was sharing an example of a finished search story. One of the online courses in my district (American Government), students have an assignment to create a short commercial for a political candidate. I thought this would be a great way for students to chronicle locating information about a specific candidate. So I created this search story:

I picked the first candidate that came to mind and it very briefly shows how I located information on a particular subject. Students would have a great time creating these and I’m sure would do a much better job than my example (as I alluded to in a conversation later that day).

Then I went on to explain how the search story creator works. You plug-in your search terms, define the type of Google search to be completed on each of those terms (web, images, maps, news, blog, product, or books), add some music and upload to your YouTube account. As you can see in the above example, YouTube (Google) packages it all together in a nice little video to share with classmates or make it a nice addition to an overall assignment.

Click for a larger preview

When you’re creating one, definitely take advantage of the preview area as you plug-in your search terms and define the kind of search you want to perform. This comes in handy for checking out the kind of results that are going to appear in your video before you finalize it.

Have fun creating your search story!