Friday, September 26, 2008

What does the Classroom of the Future look like?

This is a question that comes up all the time. As we purchase classroom tools and design professional development and rewrite curriculum, are we moving in the right direction? This is a tough question.

In my mind, there are two main philosophies about the Classroom of the Future: Instructional and Educational.

Instructional means the tools that allow teachers to instruct in more engaging, interactive ways. This might include a Smartboard, document camera, projector, soundfield, any other tool that the teacher uses predominantly to deliver instruction. These are powerful tools, but they are limited by the fact that it is mostly the teacher who uses them. Many of our teachers are working hard to design lessons using these tools that are more interactive, including students in the lesson more. I have seen how effective these tools can be in engaging students of all ages.

Educational means tools that allow students to construct their own learning. The most obvious example would be student computers, but others include handheld devices like PDA's, cellphones, ipods, etc... Video and digital cameras are another example of tools that allow students to create products that demonstrate their learning. But what about robotics, sims, video games?

All of this leads to discussions about what we teach, how we teach, and what needs to change. I invite you to join me in this discussion as we explore what is the best way for us to prepare our students for their future rather than ours. What are the challenges? What excites you about these changes? Where would you like to see us go first? Please take a moment to join the conversation. Click on the Comments link below. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

What’s All the Buzz About Web 2.0?

We have been talking a lot recently about Web 2.0 tools. There are many new classes being offered that focus on Web 2.0 tools. Why? What's the big deal?

Web 2.0 tools are web based tools that allow users to both read the content AND participate in the creation of the content. For this reason, they are often referred to as the Read/Write Web. These are powerful tools that allow users to author to a truly global audience, receive feedback from the public, collaborate with colleagues without regard for time or space, and access works in progress from anywhere they have an Internet connection. In addition, many Web 2.0 tools offer up to the moment information on a variety of topics.

For all of these reasons, Web 2.0 tools have an important impact on education. They allow teachers to collaborate with other teachers around the world. They allow teachers to quickly and easily collect information that is relevant to their classroom. They allow students to write in meaningful ways and share their work with audiences other than just the teacher.

While these tools are incredibly powerful and teach students how to be digitally literate, they are not without their challenges. Protecting our students from spam, advertising, and online strangers is a reality that we must consider. Finding accurate information among throngs of information is another challenge for students (not to mention us.) For more information about this, I highly recommend reading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki or Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. We must TEACH our students how to function in a society that is inundated with information. We must redefine what literacy means to include accessing information, evaluating information, and using social networks responsibly and efficiently to deliver and receive information.

To begin your foray into Web 2.0 tools, here are some great places to start: