Random Thoughts

A Week of Teaching and Learning

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It’s been a whirlwind of a couple weeks and I find myself…yet again out of balance spending more time on work and “projects” and less time ‘disconnected’ with friends, family, my guitar, and just plain down time.

Kim and I have just finished up the first of five course we’re running here at our school for a Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. Kim has a great post on the course we just finished as Chad Bates and I currently work on putting the next one together.

The feedback has been positive on our first course. When we first introduced the 40+ staff members to wikis, blogs, RSS, Google Docs, and Skype all in 2 weeks (not recommended) there was system overload. To much to fast….but some things just need to be done. By the end of the course most of the participants are feeling more confident and those that just a few weeks ago were ready to throw their laptops out the window are writing me e-mails looking forward to the next course.

What excites me is our next course will not focus on the tools…we’ve already covered that, but we will now focus on why and how these tools change the teaching and learning landscape.

One question that came up in the final day of our last session was one of balance and how do you keep from getting sucked into always being online and connected.

The problem is that Kim, Julie Lindsay (who Skyped in), and myself are not the best examples to talk about balance. It is something I think we all struggle with in life. Technology or not, balancing work and life has been a battle through the ages.

I was talking with Chrissy about this the other day and I think one thing that helps is arriving at a point were the technology works for you instead of you feeling like you are working for the technology.

I feel like I can make technology do what I want, but I have a skill set that allows me to do that. I can pick the right tool, set up a site, send this here, that there, and be more productive with the tools. The tools work for me…I don’t work for them.

How do you get to this point? I think it’s just using the tools. It’s much like anything…practice, practice, practice.

I think about playing the guitar which I’m slowly learning (part of my disconnect time). I practice, and practice, and then one day….it actually sounds like a song. Not sure when it happened, or what I did, but my fingers all of sudden land on the right strings, and the struam finds the right pattern. It just clicks.

I think the same happens for many of us…we use tools, we practice with them, we explore them and then one day….they are working for you instead of you working for them.

Digital Immigrant vs Digital Native

As part of our course we had the teachers read about Digital Immigrant, Digital Native (Marc Prensky) for class. Love it or hate it, it always makes for great discussion. 🙂

Today I was running a session with 4th graders on using Excel to create reading logs as they track their reading at home and at school.

I started thinking about these 10 year olds who were born in 1999 or 2000. What does the world look like to them? They will never know a time without the Internet, cell phones, Skype, Google, and TVs that get 100s of stations. They’ll never know what it feels like to sit in a car for hours without a GameBoy, a DVD player, an iPod, or searching constantly for a radio station as you drive cross country.

They had already accumulated 1000s of hours of screen time before I stepped into there class today (Not saying this is right or wrong…just fact).

Only half the class said they had used Excel in the pass. As we worked through the lesson covering math terms such as column, row, cell, average, sum, and graph, we created a nice little Reading Log that will auto sum their reading time for the rest of the year. As well as continue to average out the time they read at home, school and total minutes read. A fun little activity.

At the end of the lesson the teacher asked them how many in the class felt as though they could do the whole lesson again on their own. All but three students raised their hands.

And that is where I think these kids are different. I do think that they’re brains are wired differently to learn and understand screens and manipulate this learning space because they have been learning and using these tools for years. They have a skill set through their experiences that allow them to learn and adapt quickly to this learning landscape.

Now I know they are fourth graders and not all of them would be able to reproduce the lesson again….but I also know if I was to do this same lesson with adult learners, those that Prensky would say are digital immigrants, that a week from now I would be back in their rooms walking them through the same steps….again my own experience.

This would be an interesting study. But it’s my hunch that kids just retain this type of lesson, this type of learning in this landscape better. I could be wrong…..

It’s been fun watching the teachers at our school get excited about these tools and this learning landscape. You can view some of their final thoughts on the course on their blogs here. I’m looking forward to the next course which focuses on 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. We’ll be talking about copyright, mass collaboration, privacy, digital profiles, and a host of other issues that are raised once we move into this new landscape for learning. It’s a five course certificate so we have a ways to go and more to learn and think about, but by the time this program is over at the end of next year, I think we’ll have a ground swell of people at ISB ready to take teaching and learning to a whole new level.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  2. Single trial learning, teachers love it! Is it because of student interest – or abilities we are just starting to realize they have? Thanks for sharing Jeff

  3. I think I agree with you about teaching the lesson to kids and adults and finding out who would retain the info better or reproduce the lesson on their own. I wonder, though, if that would apply to students who don’t have a computer at home, or don’t have the technology skills that your students seem to have. Would the result be different? I wonder.

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