Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If it's that easy to cheat...

why do we care?

Thanks to a colleague for passing this along to me. I'm not supporting students having no regard for the rules in school. However, I think we need to ask the question, "If it is so easy to find the information online or through their social network, then what is the value of memorizing it in the first place? If we carry cellphones with us all the time and they are capable of connecting us to the information we need that readily, then maybe schools should be teaching students how to cheat. I know that when I am at work and I'm stumped, I either Google it or Twitter it. In other words, look online or ask my personal learning network. What are we doing to teach students how to effectively search for reliable information? What are we doing to help students develop a personal learning network so they can be learning from people around the world everyday?

Cellphone Cheating in Schools
This Kappan “Highlighted and Underlined” item quotes a Common Sense Media poll on the use of cell phone and the Internet by students:
- Almost two-thirds of students with cell phones use them during school, regardless of school policies against such use.
- Teens send an average of 440 text messages a week, of which 110 are sent by students while they are in the classroom.
- 48 percent of teens say they call or text friends to warn about pop quizzes.
- 52 percent admit to some form of cheating involving the Internet.
- 38 percent have copied material from a website and turned it in as their own work.
- 35 percent of teens with cell phones admit using them to find an answer to a test.
- Of those who use their phones this way:
• 26 percent say they store information on their phones for use during a test.
• 25 percent text friends about answers during an exam.
• 17 percent take pictures of a test to send to friends.
• 20 percent use their phones to search the Internet during an exam.
- 76 percent of parents say they believe some type of cellphone cheating happens in their children’s school, but only 3 percent believe their own child has cheated using a cellphone.

“Using Technology to Cheat” in Phi Delta Kappan, October 2009 (Vol. 91, #2, p. 6)

*Photo credit: http://www.textually.org/picturephoning/archives/get_image.jpeg

Friday, October 23, 2009

How are Teachers Like Rubber Bands?


Resiliency: The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy. (from http://www.thefreedictionary.com)

More and more, I see resiliency as a key skill for teachers. As change comes at us more and more quickly, we must recover from change. By recover of course I mean adapt to it, integrate it, prepare for the next upcoming change. There is no question that every new initiative, tool, standard, idea, philosophy, or concept brings about a series of important steps to handle this change.

1. Unlearning: A key part of resiliency is the ability to unlearn what you have previously thought of as an absolute truth. Many longstanding truths are being called into question due to rapid changes in our profession. For example, skills like cursive writing, alphabetical order, or interpreting paper maps have been staples in teaching for years. Today, however, they have become significantly less important. Tomorrow, they may go away altogether. We must be ready to question the relevance of what we teach and how we teach regularly.

2. Relearning: It is not enough to throw out old ways of thinking, we need to learn about new tools, new skills, new ways of doing things, and we have to do it in a very limited amount of time. The key to this is constant ongoing learning. Using tools like RSS aggregators and social networking tools, we must have a daily diet of reading and practicing new ideas.

3. Adapting: Once we have learned about these new ideas, we have to integrate them into our teaching. Too often, we talk about new ideas in the theoretical. They become cool, pie in the sky concepts that never make it into our classrooms. We must operate with a willingness to constantly try new things. We must become comfortable learning on the fly, understanding that there will be chaos and things will go wrong. It is from those mistakes that we will learn how to adapt these new ideas.

4. Restlessness: Finally, we must have a constant thirst for knowledge. We can not sit back and congratulate ourselves for setting up our first blog or posting our first YouTube video. We must simply consider these steps on an infinite staircase. Progress is constant and unending.

In the classroom, it was always apparent which kids were not resilient. They put their heads down if they got a problem wrong. They complained that things were too hard rather than trying it and seeing what happened. They gave up, checked out, and lost hope. We can not allow ourselves to become like those students. The rapid changes in technology and in our classrooms are simply like the math problems that feel slightly out of reach. Like we would say to our students: "Keep trying! I know you can do it!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wired for Thinking


We know that kids are wired for technology. We use terms like Digital Native and Net Generation to describe that technology is natural to them. You won't get any argument from me on this. But my question is, " Are we using technology to engage students for the right reasons?" I have been a big proponent of SmartBoards in our district as well as student response systems. Their potential for engaging, interactive learning is powerful. But at the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves, for what purpose are we using these tools?

If these tools simply become another way to fill students up with knowledge that they spit back out, we are not changing anything. On the other hand, if we use them to engage students in learning that gets them thinking creatively, inventively, flexibly, collaborartively, then they are powerful tools. All this technology is about much more than engaging our students. It is about what we do with them once they are engaged.

I have observed the excitement that students exhibit when they get to use technology in their classroom. I have also observed what happens when the novelty wears off if students see that nothing else has changed. They are more than wired for technology. They are wired for thinking. Their future success depends on their ability to solve problems, work collaboratively, and continue learning beyond school. Let's take advantage of their curiosity, creativity, and social nature and let them use the technology to learn how to master these skills, not just learn facts.

*Image thanks to: http://school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images/thinkingcapwhoa_color.gif

Friday, October 2, 2009

Frontline: Digital Nation

If you haven't seen any of the videos at Frontline: Digital Nation, I highly recommend that you check them out. The clips are generally short and to the point, but they address everything from Korean preschoolers learning netiquette to Arne Duncan's view of the Class of the Future to how video games are changing education. Check it out!