Digital footprint, or digital detritus?

Hmmmm….. not sure I am quite as savvy as it would lead you to believe. Here’s the link to the quiz.  I had some ‘once-in-a-whiles’ that probably got me more credit than I deserve. Some aspects of technology have definitely become normalized in my classroom. A teacher-on-call that had been in for me last month commented on the integration of technology in my room. I had to ask her what she meant. Over the course of the day, she had handed out ipods, sent students to the lab to retrieve work off my websites, showed a video on YouTube, and had students surfing the net for news items. I suppose the fact that I barely notice it as unique means that it is integrated and working. Nothing here is forced.

When I try to force some new Web 2.0 tool, it is abandoned, or not as useful as I had hoped.

I am still working on the production side of technology integration, as opposed to the delivery side. That is, how students show their work digitally is still fairly limited. They might do a glogster, or create a comic. They might hand in work to me via email. They might create a video. However, it still feels a little contrived because many of these products are lost in cyberspace as the years go on. I suppose that instead of creating a digital footprint, they are creating digital detritus. I think the idea of a blog or some other type of e-portfolio, where they show-case or at least collect their work is the answer.

This is something to work on, for sure, but again, it needs to make sense.

Death of the textbook?

Last week, I decided that I should probably dust of the textbook for my Humanities 8 course and help the students develop some skills for handling that style of text.

I must confess I was feeling somewhat…guilty…for neglecting the book. Isn’t it supposed to be the backbone of the classroom? Was I just avoiding, like a coward, the groans of dismay and inevitable behaviour problems that would ensue when I said, “Open your textbooks to Chapter 1″? Was I not creating a rigorous enough environment? Students were learning the content, but….

I am working with a group of students that is very reticent to read. I want them to LOVE history. I want them to get it. However, they do need to learn how to read a textbook, don’t they?

These days, in all my classes, I find myself turning to the wealth of digital resources avialable from iTunes, Discovery Streaming, YouTube and the internet in general. I would also be making use of CBC, but I am having some problems streaming it into the building. I also enjoy using general interest books that have shorter blurbs of information and a lot of visuals.I also create my own ‘texts’ because often the language and vocabulary of most textbooks and websites are not accessible to my students.

Certainly, I have used small sections of the textbook for the Humanities course. However, it has only been used two or three times in the 6 months we have been tackling the Middle Ages.

These diverse texts, orchstrated by the ebb and flow of my classroom, become my real-time textbooks, never to be created in the same way again. Honestly, this is exactly as it should be, because next year, my students will be different, new content will be avialable, and different current events and issues will be intersecting with what we are doing as a class.

One main exception – BC First Nations Studies 12; there is a Provincial Exam for the course that is based on that text, so I do put the students through it, albeit with a lot of other supplementary material.

One idea I have yet to try is getting students creating their own digital textbook through wikispaces or some other host, in concert with other students. I love this concept and have seen some good examples.

Today, on Twitter, the #edchat was all about the textbook – do we need them, where is the digital textbook going, what are some alternatives?

Perfect….just what I needed to think and talk about. I do love Twitter! I got some great links and articles to read. Of course, my transformation as a teacher is not taking place in a vacuum, and I find many educators out there way ahead of me.

I have to confess that my main concern is that some very big companies are gearing up to cash in on some very lucrative contracts. Has it happened in BC already? This article, Apple and the Digital Textbook Counter-Revolution, from Hack Education (Audry Watters) says it all and contains several links to other articles. Here is an exerpt that sums up the concern:

I would dearly love to know if our students are being sold to the lowest bidder, or even the highest. This is money that could go to technology so that all students, (even those without iPads) and teachers can access, share, analyse and learn from the vast resources available from both commercial and OER (open educational resources) sources.

I am not against textbooks. Our students need exposure to a wide variety of texts. I just want us to stop sinking all our cash into one static document, even if it is flashy and ‘interactive’.

Here’s another link I ran into today, although I haven’t looked to carefully:

Resources to Replace Textbooks, blog called Educational Technology Guy, David Andrade.

Twilight of the lecture

It would be worth the time for all involved in the education system to read the article from Harvard Magazine, Twilight of the Lecture.

There is a lot to write about here.

The topic works with what I have been thinking a lot about today. I teach Geography 12. I was mentioning to a colleague today that I was struggling with my desire to get students working on self-directed, project based curriculum. However, I also think they have to do the systematic learning of the language and concepts of Geography 12. They have to work through the text and learn information before they can apply it.

I had some reinforcement for that struggle today.

Here are some ideas I gleaned from my reading today – some of the ideas are from the article, some of what I write is my own spin or extention:

1. Application of knowledge, and the synthesis and transformation of thinking must be the goal. If the curriculum is too large, students and educators will not have time to get to the crucial steps.

2. Learning is social. For the best results, students need to be together in the room, talking to each other. The teachers are the ones who will learn. They all need to be teachers. From the article:

3. They need to be together in the room for best results, because then the educator is able to circulate, pick up on misconceptions, extend thinking, and react to ‘teachable moments’. It is also how a teacher figures out what to teach next. Yes, DL is a reality. However, students and teachers together is optimal. I know; some digital formats can help educators and students connect with each other.

4. Students are still required to study the lecture notes. They have to tackle the information on their own and come to class with questions. We have to ensure students have the skills to approach text on their own. It must be taught. We also have to recognize, in my school anyway, that many students won’t do homework, or can’t do homework, don’t have access to the internet. Finding some strategies for this is critical.

5. Students need access to assistive technology of all kinds. One of the upsides of lectures is that people who struggle with reading can still have access to the information.

6. We can expect resistance from students (and parents). This will take some weaning and convincing. From the article, below:

7. We have to know an artist when we see one, as I previously blogged.

There are some seriously good teaching strategies in this Harvard Magazine article. Please go read it!

Ask about quality education

Today, I read an article by the Globe and Mail titled, Canadian schools falling behind in online learning, report says. I work in a small rural town where providing access to a variety of senior courses is challenging. We are asking a lot of questions and working toward a variety of options for quality programming for our students. Money is often the problem. We can’t run a class for 5 students. They still should have the right to an education in this small town.

Technology offers an array of exciting options where they wouldn’t otherwise exist. But technology is just a tool. In our rush to join the 21st century, we can’t forget the importance of relationships between teachers and students, that we learn best when we learn together, that educators need to understand where students come from. I worry politicians think that technology will make education more cost-effective. I think the 21st Century education that we really need will take more educators supporting fewer students whether that is online or not. While smart phones can be helpful, what we really need in every school is a sophisticated media lab or two and a fast internet connection. I don’t see more funding pouring into schools.

Students have a right to public, funded, quality education that will prepare them for the 21st Century. Are we falling behind on that?