Forget the “what” and focus on the “why”.

Education Week posted an article today entitled, “It’s Not What Natives Do, It’s Why They Do It” by Ian Quillen. The article focuses on ISTE speaker David Warlick of the Landmark Project. Warlick suggests that educators should be less concerned with the type of media that digital natives use and focus more on why they use it. The “gamification” (I HATE THAT WORD!) of the classroom is a popular buzz phrase recently in the world of student engagement. Warlick rightly points out that simply including more education based games is not a silver bullet. Instead, researchers should be trying to identify the particular aspects of games that the students really enjoy. Warlick contends,

 “If we could identify some of those elements and integrate those … if we could crack the code … and then use that to hack the activities we’re doing in our classrooms, then maybe we could create more learning activities that are relevant to today’s children,” Warlick said.

 In “Stratosphere”, Fullan makes a similar argument. The technology alone does not improve student learning. Technology must be a tool for engagement and making learning easier. Good pedagogy and strong teaching must be coupled with technology for it to be truly effective. Quite frankly, gaming alone in the classroom is a cop-out. If we crack the code and apply the “hook” to different lesson activities, we have the potential to really affect student outcomes.

If we simply push more games we risk two potential problems. First, we began pandering to our students. Games simply for the sake of engagement pacifies but does not necessarily teach. Secondly, we provide a market for the big ed companies to swoop in with prepackaged platforms that do not involve any form of local feedback or input.

Educational leaders must cognizant of Warlick’s suggestions as they formulate  working plans for 21st Century Learning. The tools alone will not do the job. Tech should engage and make learning easier but it cannot substitute for teachers. Games have many lessons to teach and we should look to apply those ideas to our teaching practices. The focus should not just be on what tools they like to use but why they like to use them.


		
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Flipped Classroom – Infographic

This blog and many others make frequent reference to the piece of ed jargon known as “The Flipped Classroom”. Sal Khan of Khan Academy fame has been a major force in pushing it to prominence but he is not the originator. This cool infographic from Knewton presents both the history and the details of this disruptive change idea.

 Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Crowdsourcing a Solution

UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has established 6 goals to ensure access to education for all citizens of the world. Click on the banner to see the goals:

 

The mission is to achieve these goals by 2015. This deadline will be impossible to meet without a new and more radical course of action. Rather than relying on big money consulting groups and think-tanks, UNESCO has partnered with NOKIA and several other groups to crowdsource the cure. Individuals from around the world are invited to share their ideas for using mobile technology to provide educational opportunities for those in the most remote areas of developing countries.  You can share an idea at: www.ideasproject.com/efa.

This idea can be easily applied to a North American context as well.  There is tremendous insight and collective knowledge in the ranks of each and every school board.  This knowledge just needs to be connected and networked. The power of crowdsourcing lies in the fact that no one individual needs to have the whole answer, each member of the community adds a piece to the puzzle. We have the technology to easily operationalize the age old proverb, “Many hands make light work.” We have to shift away from viewing schools and the individuals within them as isolated entities. Networking with colleagues should not occur at some workshop once or twice a year in a situation that has no context.

Imagine relying on fellow educators to help solve problems rather than have an outside “solution” applied to particular problem.  We can put an end to  “square peg and round hole” answers to localized problems. Tapping into resources like NING, Google+, Google Groups, Facebook, Edmodo, Salesforce Chatter, etc. could easily network schools.

The greatest resource that we have in education is each other.

Bring on the Revolution…

My perspective of teaching in the digital era has been hugely influenced by the work of Don Tapscott. He values technology because of its transformative power rather than the novelty factor. As society becomes increasingly networked, traditional barriers to participation are torn done. Direct participation in government, the economy and even in education becomes easier to achieve due to tech advances which will hopefully ignite a participatory spirit in our students.

In this documentary trailer, one of the speakers offers this profound quote,

” Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when people adopt new behaviours.”

Technology is the tool to bring on these new behaviours for our students. It is the ultimate tool of engagement.

From the mouthes of babes…

As educators, we spend a lot of time dissecting the gigantic topic of “Student Engagement”. I wonder how often, we truly entertain student perspectives when we unpack this hugely important topic. Edutopia.org has been exploring Student Engagement from a variety of angles. The most powerful article came from Heather Wolpert-Gawron of www.tweenteacher.com. She surveyed 220 students regarding what motivates them to learn and stay engaged at school. She turned the student responses into a top ten list for teachers.  Not surprisingly, the top two responses were 1) working with peers and 2) working with technology. These responses underline the fact that we must adapt traditional schooling practices or risk being perceived as irrelevant in the eyes of our students.

Click the Edutopia logo to read the full article:

TCDSB Area 1 Innovators Conference

I am very excited to be participating in tomorrow’s “TCDSB Area 1 Innovator’s Day” at Msgr. Percy Johnson CSS. I want to thank Loretta Notten (Area 1 Superintendent) and Marcello Mancuso (Msgr. Percy Johnson Vice-Principal) for offering me the opportunity to present.