Do you sprinkle or mix?

For many schools and educators, technology is like the topping or finishing touch to the curriculum or a project. It’s nice to have, looks good, adds to the overall flavor, but really when you get right down to it…it isn’t needed. For many this has been the approach of technology, fair enough….as through the 1980, ’90 and early 2000s as schools were putting computers into labs that is exactly what they were. It often was a free time, a time to play some games, or later on spend some time on the Internet. Once and awhile they added that sprinkle to a lesson. A PowerPoint to show learning, or typing your poem rather than writing it. We started with technology as the sprinkles to our curriculum and our teaching. Over the years however as these technologies have become mainstream in society our view of technology, for the most part hasn’t changed. There are very few jobs that do not require some computer literacy or typing skills. Yet many schools have yet to replace or add typing as part of the writing curriculum. We still view technology as the sprinkles or toppings rather than looking at how we can mix those sprinkles into the batter and make a whole new curriculum. What we need to do is start from scratch and think about how we build a new curriculum that includes these new skills and ideas. How do we add typing as a writing skill and e-mail as a genre any other way. Until education, educators, schools, and school leaders decide that these new literacy skills must be taught we’re just adding sprinkles. We’re left with some teachers taking time to teach these skills and some not. If technology remains the sprinkles some people will choose not to use them…no matter their color, flavor, or texture. We do not need a technology curriculum instead what we need to do is get out the blender and mix up a new batter that looks at this new digital era we now live in and decide what are the skills students need. Yes…something must give and deciding what goes is not easy. Personally I can make a case for teaching e-mail writing as a genre or typing skills within the writing curriculum. I can see global collaboration projects fitting in with social studies and science and exposing student to searching, finding, decoding skills...

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The beginning of the end?

I’ve had this e-mail sitting in my box for a couple of weeks now. I had a look at this when I first got it but took some time today to really look at the University of the People. All I can keep thinking is: Is this the beginning of the end? A university uses the power of the social web for true learning experiences and then gives you credit for learning from and with others. Shai Reshef from Israel is behind the project and in a New York Times interview he lays out what he hopes will be the future of learning. “The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.” It’s one heck of an idea and much like the idea of creating a $100 laptop pushed computer companies to think differently and create Netbooks, I wonder if this University model will have an impact on education. It might not be this university or this time….but it’s the idea that we can do something different, that there might be a better way to learn, to teach, that leads to new findings. The XO Laptop has done well for itself, but if you look at the momentum it started, the conversations it started and where computers are today at $400 and lower it was the idea that made computers cheaper for everyone. Keep your eye on this one and we’ll see where it...

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