I’ve been reading a lot about the use of technology in education, about the connectivity of (and between) teachers and students. Ewan McIntosh and Alan November are responsible in part; I heard both of them speak at the BLC Conference in Boston in ’08. But a whole network of educators online have been steering my reading material in recent months. The Teach Paperless blog has been especially interesting and thought provoking.
So I’ve been reflecting about how teaching is done in general, and thinking about my teaching in particular. I think this is healthy and important to do. With a few years of experience, I think I’ve gotten better at reaching individual students and diversifying my approach to material; I’m certainly more comfortable leading and coaching than I was when just starting out. I am a better teacher. But I still teach in basically the same ways: provide a framework for the content, make it interesting, set up projects and assignments that allow students to engage with the material, have them learn from primary resources and from their partners, get them to think.
But I have a goal of integrating technology more into what I do in the classroom. Are there ways that technology can improve how kids learn, and improve how we assess what they are learning? Can we use computers for things other than word processing and fact retrieval? What if students build a class wiki or website for a project, use Google Docs to share information with partners, create video tutorials to share skills and content, participate in real time during class on Twitter, blog their creative writing instead of handing in paper? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” I’ve done several of these things in my class (student-created website on photosynthesis, Google Docs, video tutorials), and I’m looking to see if any others might also fit.
That much said, there are several decidedly low-tech aspects of my class that I have no plans to change. My students spend time outside in the woods to learn about classification and ecology, we make sourdough bread from a wild starter to appreciate the beneficial role of bacteria, and we’re planning to plant a small garden this spring. Those units (and others like them) aren’t going away. The experiential nature of those projects provides hands-on opportunities for learning that can’t be replicated by software. So any change or experiment with technology needs to be done with the goal to improve and facilitate student learning. It can’t be just for novelty’s sake.
I’ve been happy to connect with many educators on Twitter. They share ideas for projects, software, current events. It’s a large, vibrant, interactive community. I found many teachers via the Twitter4Teachers wiki; you can add a brief line about what you teach, as well as links to your website, blog, or Twitter account. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been reading (thanks to many folks online):
Dangerously Irrelevant: http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/
Ewan McIntosh edu.blogs.com http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/
Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/
Teach Paperless: http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/
The Technology Sandbox: http://nccstechinitiatives.blogspot.com/
Twitter 4 Teachers wiki: http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/
As this post is also about connectivity, I’m curious to hear what sites and projects have been helpful to you and your class.