Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Learners of the 21st Century

This Tuesday I was invited to a special documentary reception by PBS on educational technology at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum. It was amazing! I loved going because it reminded me why I love education and technology. If you have some time, click here to watch a preview of the documentary. At the reception I was able to meet the president of PBS in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Director of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education. After meeting the president of the PBS station in Minneapolis/St. Paul I was bold enough to ask him to take a picture with us. My friend Lindsey was very encouraging and helped me navigate the metro to get there. Some of the major takeaways I had from this experience are:
  • It is irresponsible of teachers to ignore digital media.
  • As adults, we try to control what kids are passionate about, but we should just allow them to be passionate because it is their passion that teaches them how to learn. Every kid has an interest and we just need to facilitate their growth and passion for that interest.
  • DYN- Digital Youth Network is a hybrid digital literacy program
  • There is a need for passionate and competent educators.
  • The need to prepare for an uncertain future and the need to help students survive and interdependent globally connected world.
  • The need to give students credit for learning they do outside of school and to help them integrate their outside life with their school life into one.
  • The role of families- Families benefit from their students learning technologies. Some families facilitate the funding of technologies for their students by participating in a leasing program where they pay and they are able to take the tools home with them.
  • The need to create smart systems that enable families (narrative based report cards, systems that foster longitudinal connectivity)
  • Parents need to be taught the value of technology. If parents know what tech can do, they will do what it takes to make it happen for their students.
  • Parents, teachers and students need to be considered one community, not separately.
  • The need to give students freedom to be creative and make their contribution right now. Going from consumption to production to participation. To give students a voice to tell their stories. There is also a need to explicitly teach digital citizenship.
  • Teachers should begin by asking students "So... what do you think?" and listen to their answer, then create.
  • Schools are wired for technology so they should be open to the public after school for the community to benefit from them.
  • We need to let our students know that who they are and what they can create matters now, not later when they get out of college, but now.
  • Different mediums allow students with different learning preferences to learn.
  • When kids learn technology, they share it with other kids, then they begin sharing it with their families, later they begin sharing it in their communities.
  • The criteria for the use of technology is: ubiquitous, necessary, invisible.
Some of the example assignments that were discussed using technology were scavenger hunts with the use of phones to allow students to take pictures of their findings and create scavenger hunts for other students. Texting was used in these scavenger hunts to give students hints. There was a metaphor assignment in a science classroom that asked students to create a metaphor for a scientific process using digital visual representations. The What If assignment. What if Martin Luther King had not spoken up? What if World War II hadn't happened? Teachers talked about the importance of digitizing all artifacts and making them public and sharable.

The thing that really spoke to me about this presentation was the motivation, happiness, love, passion, and creativity of the teachers. It reminded me of when I was teaching middle school and high school and how much I loved my students and all the fun I had teaching them and learning from them. Working with middle school and high school kids is tough, but if done correctly, it can provide a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.