Saturday Morning Social Media

As I drink coffee and check out my Twitter stream, Google Reader, Google+ Communities, etc., which is pretty typical for me to do on an early Saturday morning, I am reminded of the abundance of learning opportunities the web gives us on any given day. I know it’s there all the time whenever we need it, but this morning I caught so many glimpses of fellow educators learning in such a short amount of time, that it made me give extra pause for reflection.

In about a ten minute span of time, I observed the following:

1. Administrators and teachers participating in #satchat, which was happening live from the #NASSP13 conference.

2. A tweet from Steve Dembo sharing a great blog post and video titled, “Learning Through the Eyes of a Third Grader”.

3. Teachers gearing up for a day of face to face, free, relevant learning at #edcampSEMO.

4. Live streams being shared of speakers at various other conferences happening.

This is, of course, just a small sample of how the web now affords us with countless learning opportunities. We aren’t leveraging these more in school with students why? We aren’t counting this as just-in-time, relevant professional development why?

I have always liked Google’s tag line at the end of their videos: “The web is what you make of it.” It’s exciting to see so many teachers making it something worthwhile on a Saturday morning…and every other day of the week too.

For More Than a Grade

This post is cross-posted at the Smart Blog on Education.

My thoughts around this post started with this retweet:

Consumption vs. Contribution RT @baldy7: Digital Immigrants Unite! goo.gl/FMBQI lovely piece by @plugusin. #edchat

— Kyle Pace (@kylepace) January 20, 2013

While that entire post from Bill was great (all of Bill’s posts are and if you don’t follow his blog you should), it was probably this bit towards the end that led me to add my two cents at the beginning of that retweet:

It’s OUR job to help kids to realize how to leverage technology for something more than keeping themselves entertained.

Yes of course I want students (including my own two children) to realize technology’s potential for their lives beyond the entertainment value. For some time now I have said that students are much better at consuming via technology than creating via technology. We want the output to equal or exceed the input yes? But is it enough to have our students creating with technology just for a grade? Is that where we want their creativity to stop? A “one and done” style project that they never give a second glance to again?

Our students have the affordances to not only create, but also to contribute. Is it enough for students to create a presentation or to post to a blog or produce a video? What about having students make things (technology related or not) that contribute to the betterment of another human being? To their fellow students, or their community, or even the world? It’s happened before. Not that it’s always purposeful, but just think how things might not have changed had Martha not published her writing for a global audience. Or if a filmmaker named Nirvan hadn’t decided to introduce the world to Caine.

Not only does this make for a more challenging learning experience for our students, but also makes for a more challenging teaching experience for us teachers too. It means we have to look beyond having students make something for a grade. We have to look beyond the test. We have to change how we teach. Helping students become positive contributors, through whatever the medium, can give our students (and teachers) a much richer learning experience and much richer life experiences (in my opinion). Lifelong experiences that will carry into future grade levels, schools, communities, relationships, workplaces, etc.

While the following quote has been used many times in education circles, I feel it an appropriate reminder to all of us:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mahatma Ghandi

There are so many places in our world we want to see change. Educators have the power to properly equip those that can. Shouldn’t we start with the people who will be taking us into the future?

The Wheel Is There

The Green Wheel at Roskilde Festival 2009photo © 2009 Stig Nygaard | more info (via: Wylio)

Have you ever said this phrase: “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” For me it’s always been a phrase to remind me to quit over-thinking something. That I was making something too difficult. That I was trying to recreate something that has already been created. Perhaps a reminder for me to just put my own unique spin on something.

I find myself saying this to teachers when working with them to integrate technology. Not in a negative way, but just as a reminder to not let the idea of students using more technology seem so daunting and like they have to reinvent their teaching. I’d rather them think more on the “why” in regards to using technology than the “what”. Focus on the skills not the tools as my friend Bill Ferriter has said. Now, does that mean teaching practices won’t change? I hope they do change. I’d think that by making technology use more of a priority, working to get it more commonplace, our teaching methods would change for the better. I’m not talking about what we’re teaching (content is content), I’m talking about how we’re teaching.

If you’re thinking of trying a new technology tool/idea/website to bring to your classroom for the 2011-2012 school year, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Think about how it’s going to enhance what you’re already teaching, how it will make you a better teacher. How it will get your students having meaningful conversations about what they’re learning. How it will get students creating and sharing their learning in new ways.

Don’t feel like you have to try technology tools X,Y, and Z all during first semester. Or even the whole year! Pick one, stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, and be sure to involve students in the conversation about how it went. Get their feedback. Listen to them.

The wheel is there. Think more on the learning and where you can take your students.