What's your focus teaching or learning?

So many times we use the phrase “Teaching & Learning” but really we need to be asking ourselves: Are we focusing on teaching or learning? This came up in a discussion with Kim earlier today, (BTW….the two of us in a room for longer than 10 minutes is enough deep conversation to keep me going the rest of the day) that what we are focusing on is not necessary student learning, but instead teachers teaching. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take our eye off of what we’re really here for. As we continue to support teachers using technology tools in their classrooms we need to realize that teachers’ use of technology is not the same as supporting teachers teaching with technology. In these early days I’ve been supporting the use of technology. Answering questions about SmartBoards, Entourage, Office 2008, OSX 10.5, etc. Although it’s important to support teachers in the use of technology it’s much different then supporting teachers teaching with technology. Supporting the use of technolgy Supporting the use of technology focuses on the tool itself. Not on the learning or the students. When we support teachers by helping them with a SmartBoard Notebook file, or teaching them some new trick in Office, we are supporting their use of the tool, not their use of that tool for learning. One can easily get sucked into supporting the use of technology full time (such as I have lately) and not make a true impact with technology in the classroom as a learning engine. As long as we continue to think of technology as a tool for learning we are going to get caught in this circle of supporting teachers use of the tools, rather than focusing on student learning. Technology as a tool worked when the impact on learning was small. I think of the use of Word or any Office application for that matter. It was a tool that we used to replace a way we had/have always done things. Technology for Learning is Bigger than the Tool! Technology for learning is about connecting students to information and using applications that allow students to manipulate data, ask questions and interact with information. I think of the use of Google Earth…not to study the Earth being round (using the tool like a globe) but instead using Google Earth with an overlay of migration patterns...

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What's your connection speed?

A recent comment about Mac or PC in schools has cut my sleeping short the past two nights. That sounds like a great help to your colleagues. Our school has all macs – the entire district actually. Some of the people that have come from industry have brought up the point that by using macs we are not preparing our students for the workforce (even though there are so many neat applications on them). What do you think? (N.D.) What do I think? I think if we are worried about the OS of the machine we’re focusing on the wrong part! If we are teaching kids an OS and specific software and not skills then that is the disservice to our students! Example: We teach students how to create and compose audio files. We teach elements of sounds and communication via audio and how to share that recording with a global audience. Can you name the software that was used to meet this outcome? Does it matter? Or will the students be able to take that skill and apply it to other audio software in the future? I cannot count the number of times I have been asked if I’m a PC guy or a Mac guy. My answer: neither or both, it doesn’t matter! Computers are just the gateway to information. Before computers it was the newspaper and magazine, before that town hall meetings and town squares, and before that the camp fire and story telling ceremonies. It’s not the actual place that brought people together; it was the people there that brought people together. You go there (or went there) because that’s where people were giving out information. You get a newspaper because that’s where information is given. You watch (or watched) the 6:00 news because that’s where information is (was) given. You get on a computer because that allows you to access information. My 7th grader two years ago said it best “What did you all do with computers if the Internet wasn’t around yet?” If schools are still wondering if they should be PC or Mac…..my answer is to just be something! Just make sure it connects to the Internet! Computers today more than anytime before are the gateway to the real information of the world. We go there because that is where the people are who have the information. We go there because that’s...

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Can you become Creative?

A great article out of the New York Times entitled: Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? Has had me thinking today about creating creative cultures in our schools. David Warlick wrote a post recently that looked at the top 25 economic cities in the U.S. and how a “creative class” played a role in the rankings. What I found interesting was the Bob Cook, who evaluated the cities factored in the portion of the population (that) were in the creative class. This includes scientists, engineers, artists, and teachers. The belief is, and this is consistent with Richard Florida’s writings, the creative class benefits the economic prosperity of a community as well as culture. So perhaps one of the challenges of communities today is, “How do we attract creative people?” “How do we convince our creative children to stay?” Or another question: How do we create creative people? The authors and researchers quoted in the article has some interesting things to say. “The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners. Do we encourage our students to wonder? I see it all the time in Kindergarten classrooms, see it a lot in 2nd grade, not so much in 5th grade and by 8th grade? I don’t think I’ve ever hear a middle school or high school teacher say “I wonder…….” Instead we ask students to make decisions. We as them to decide between this answer and that answer. We ask them to decide between fact and opinion. “But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.” So by asking students to make decisions rather than wonder about possibilities we’re fitting students into the box of what we believe to be right or wrong. The article goes on to talk about brain research and how habits play a role in our creative nature. …brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks. Now that’s cool. I’m sitting here with my legs up on my desk...

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Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? My version

(Full Disclosure: It comes on right after American Idol on our TV so watch it by default….I’m in China our choices are limited! 🙂 ) 1) Grab your laptop and go to Google.com 2) When a question is asked see how long it takes you to find the answer. 3) Think about all the useless content we teach students 1-5 grade. What does this say about what we’re teaching? How much of the content that we teach in grades 1-5 is useless to us in the “real world” Think like a 5th grader today: “Why should I learn this stuff when I can find it on google faster and when I need...

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