Monday, November 24, 2008

What if we don't?

I have been having a lot of conversations recently about all the things that could and do go wrong with technology. It is true that technology is imperfect and often frustrating. However, I believe that if we focus on the opportunities afforded by technology and less on the obstacles, our brain tends to notice the frustrating aspects less and less. There are too many wonderful things that can be learned from technology to let the everpresent nagging issues stand in the way of taking advantage of these opportunities.

So I ask you, do you focus on the opportunities or the obstacles? Do you say What If or What if we don't...?

What are the consequences of not doing something? Is there a bigger risk to our students if we don't give them these opportunities?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Itch that Scratch!

I spent quite a bit of time this week working with fifth graders using Scratch. I had a great time, and so, it seems, did they. Ms. Arvig's class decided to blog about it in fact. Their comments are overwhelmingly positive. The amazing thing to me is that while they clearly had fun, they also learned some important skills like logical reasoning, problem solving, and creative thinking. As they get better at using Scratch, it can be a tool for math (program your sprite to create a shape or to follow a pattern), language arts (recreate a scene from a story, write your own story), social studies (create a scene from history), art, music, technology, and more. I hope to continue working with classes on this, and I hope teachers will continue to bring their students to the lab to work on projects like this.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The World Beyond Google Images

Thanks to Grumpy Old Teacher and Cool Cat Teacher for some great alternatives to Google Images. I especially like Flickr Storm for the ability to search strictly those images that are legal to use. I also recommend Creative Commons Search Page. Let's be good models for our students and use images that are legal. Remember, just attributing the source isn't always enough. Be responsible. Use sites that help you find images that don't violate copyright laws. Even better, tell your students you are doing it and help them do the same!!

“Highly Educated Useless People”

This is a quote from Ted McCain's Teaching for Tomorrow. It is a powerful term. For me, it means questioning what I teach to ensure that everything I teach is preparing my students for life. Further, it means prioritizing what I teach to place a greater value on teaching the MOST important skills for success in the future. As I think about what students have learned from me, I have to be honest. At least some of what they learned was how to take a test, how to remember trivial information that could be found almost instantly, and other relatively meaningless skills. The most powerful learning that took place in my classroom involved students creating, thinking, problem solving, collaborating, and sharing their learning in effective ways.

As teachers, we need to ask the question, "What is the purpose of this?", often. But furthermore, we need to ask, "Is there a MORE valuable lesson here?" What have you done recently to change from preparing highly educated useless people to preparing highly educated useful people?