Guest Post | Three Starting Points for Thinking Differently About Learning – NYTimes.com

Guest Post | Three Starting Points for Thinking Differently About Learning – NYTimes.com. Events of this past month have me thinking about re-thinking schools.  As an advocate for mobile devices in the classroom and having experienced the power of a Personal Learning Network first hand today’s post is about my dreams for the future of education.

Starting with my friend Kevin Honeycutt and his adventure with students designing schools on Mars, I was inspired by their creativity at the same time I was painfully reminded of how student’s creativity is repressed.  Watching the videos Kevin posted on his youtube channel I wanted so much to join them in their creativity, excitement and courage to dream.  If I was a child in that workshop I would envision school to be an encouraging atmosphere where no idea is impossible, it’s understood that the more you put into your education the more you’ll get out of it and collaboration is required.  Those experiences, for me, happened recently.  I have this phenomenal network of educators, tech integrationists, administrators and friends who encourage me to think different, try out new technologies and new experiences and give me the luxury of failing.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them.  Some of them I’ve met face to face, but most of them are people I’ll never meet.  They all offer me insight, skills and opportunities that I’d never experience without the internet, the convenience of mobile devices and social networking.  That’s the learning experience our students need.

At the beginning of the month I facilitated a workshop on web 2.0 tools.  Starting off that workshop I told the participants that since they were all at different levels of technology integration I wouldn’t go through the tools step-by-step, instead I’d give a basic overview and then let them click on things and ask questions when they came up, I told them I expected them to take their learning into their own hands.  The first 3 groups did just that and it went beautifully.  Great question were asked, a couple of misconceptions were straightened out and I know that several teachers were going to try at least one of those tools with their class.  The last group was different.  In the last group were three teachers who had the reputation of being tech integration savvy teachers so I was more hands off with that group encouraging the others to ask the three questions instead of me.  My intention was to build a learning network within the school.  That’s not what happened.  The three teachers I anticipated would be happy to help their peers were, to put it nicely, stand-offish and unapproachable.  The few people who did ask questions were new to the district and the answers they received were short and cut off when they wanted more. A couple of days later I met with the administrator who hired me to get feedback on the workshop and found that the three tech savvy teachers gave me terrible reviews.  As I reflected on those reviews I discovered that those teachers were good with web 2.0 tools, but that they expected to be spoon fed information and skills to meet their needs.  That’s not learning!  That’s what the industrial age  and standardized testing did to our creativity and curiosity.  The above article’s Step 3: Be transparent is what I expected and what all great teachers should be.  Modeling the kind of learning, collaboration and reaching out is what our students need to see and experience.

Today we have everything we need to make learning relevant, fun and prepare out students for their future.  The only thing holding schools back is attitude.  Our students need teachers who not only see the value of collaboration, but model it in their own learning and expect it in their students.  Our students need administrators who model and expect transparency.  Our students need policy makers who regularly visit the classroom, converse with them as well as parents and know what it’s like out in the real world of work.  We are all in this together and when people are repressed their best can’t be seen!  I’m out to find the best in everyone I meet and I challenge you to do the same!

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