Is playing games a waste of time?

It seems like every week I get fixated on some topic and it seems to pop up everywhere.  This week it was games.  It started on Tuesday when our staff was having a math lunch.  We try and meet once every month or two and watch some of the Math Makes Sense Video series and have math related discussions.  This week our discussion centered around the role of games in math and the games that were available at the back of the Math Makes Sense Pro Guide.  Teachers would like to use them, see value in using them, but were lacking the time to make them.  We came up with a couple of possible solutions for that problem…but my thinking stayed with the topic of games.

In our division our filtering system tags anything to do with games and gaming and blocks it from our use.  I have been frustrated by this the odd time when I am trying to find a quick little game that might add to the program of one of my learning support students.  There is always the constant debate about whether playing games at school is valuable use of time.  I guess it depends on how you define game playing and what skills you think children can get out of playing games.

I was reading a paper on digital learning and media this week published by Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others.  It is called, “Confronting Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century”.  The paper described what they thought were the 11 skills one needed to have to participate within the new media culture, a “participatory culture”, they called it.  It was aimed at education and gave many valuable ideas about projects and activities that fit with each skill area.  One of the core media literacy skills discussed was play.

I really never thought of play being a media literacy skill.  It has long been proven that play is important for children and it helps them figure out their bodies, worlds, social systems, etc.  My idea of  play seems to start with playing house or playing cars, not really playing video games.  Can children learn valuable skills from playing video games?

One of the reasons that children learn from play is because games set them up  to take risks and role play in situations that do not have real life consequences.  They can take chances and still turn around and fix their mistakes or they have the option to start over.  I think one could still argue whether that was good or bad.  Could this teach children to ignore real life consequences? What happens when there is no starting over?

I am not a fan of video games, mainly because I am not very good at them and sometimes I cannot tolerate the movement within the game due  to motion sickness. I have trouble watching my son play when he wants to show me something he thinks is sweet.   I do observe lots of gaming going on in my household though… from afar.   The author of this paper would argue, “Games follow something akin to the scientific process.  Player are asked to make their own discoveries and then apply what they learn to new contexts.  No sooner does a player enter a game than he or she begins by identifying core conditions and looking for problems that must be addressed.” If this is the case, then maybe video games do play a valuable role.

According to Don Tapscott ,in his book, “Grown-up digital”, I am slugging through right now,  ” A recent nationwide survey of 2500 U.S. business professionals  searched for differences between those who grew up playing video games and those who did not.  Professionals who grew up playing video games were more serious about achievement, more loyal to their company and their coworkers, more flexible and persistent problem-solvers, and more willing to take on the risks that make sense…net geners have a desire to win collaboratively…” (p. 171)  Once again, it would seem that these would be worthwhile skills for children to learn.

He goes on to say, “To be a guild master in a game like World of  Warcraft, you need to be able to create a vision, find recruits and give them a platform on which to learn, and orchestrate the groups strategy.  To me [Don Tapscott], it sounds a lot like the skills a corporate executive needs, doesn’t it?” To me it sounded a lot like what a teacher must do every day.  We need to create a plan as to what learning outcomes we are targeting, get the students involved, decide what strategies we are going to use and pull it all together.  These sound like skills that could be related to a number of different situations. Come to think of it…perhaps I should of played more video games!

Well, if you look at it like that, it does seem that game playing in school might be valuable.  Now, I am not saying we should plug them in and let them play video games all day, even though some of them would be pretty keen on that.  I just wonder if we are losing some of the value  to be gained from finding a place for games in education such as  the engagement factor, the need for  collaboration and the thinking involved in some gaming situations.  As a learning support teacher, I can’t argue the engagement level of my students goes up when I say we are going to grab a laptop and add to our learning by playing a little game.  Even drill and practice games can be valuable and engaging to students.

The funny thing is… that was not the last thing about games that came my way this week.  When visiting an interesting blog site called PrincipalsPage. Very funny writer!  I linked to a video on the importance of play for adults.  Now I know that I am jumbling together a bunch of  different, unrelated ideas about play. I have jumped  from childhood play, to math games ,to video games and adult play, but I guess my point is…play is important-and should not automatically be dismissed as a waste of time or a dangerous activity .  Even video games in some format can play a role in the school day.

Of course I see the importance of all kinds of play, in school and out.  Just like everything else in school, it has to be done with purpose and reason.

Catch you on the playing field!

Can we make learning authentic?

I seem to be talking about technology no matter where I go these days.  Last night I was lucky enough to get an invitation to the Farmer’s Appreciation Night sponsored by the Estevan Board of Commerce and Tourism.  It was an excellent roast beef supper followed by a speaker and ending with entertainment by a comedian.   I sat and listened to the presenter speak about world trends in agriculture and the rapid technological  changes happening in  the industry because of the influence of young people with digital expectations coming back to agriculture  and the necessity of the agricultural industry to keep up.  The speaker started out with giving everyone his cell phone number, so that we could text him with questions that he would answer during the presentation.  There were no laptops in the room-of course and this was the next best alternative. Among other things,  he described a system that was being developed using digital tracking  to allow consumers to trace the origin of fruits and vegetables back to the actual farm where they were produced.  The farmer then will provide information about pesticide and herbicide use in production.

So what does all of this have to do with technology in schools?

As I listened to the presentation, I was struck, once again, with the reality that  we are not doing a very good job of preparing our students for their future world.  There is not a part of their world that is not be affected by technology, and yet the education system is lagging behind and we are not meeting the needs of this generation of learners.

I am reading the book, “Grown up digital” by Don TapscottProbably many of you have read it.  It is very interesting and paint a picture of what he refers to as the “net generation”.  In the chapter dedicated to “the net generation as learners”, Mr. Tapscott says the following:

“Net Geners are not content to sit quietly and listen to a teacher lecture.  Kids who have grown up digital expect to talk back, to have a conversation.  They want a choice in their education, in terms of what they learn, when they learn it, where, and how.  They want their education to be relevant to the real world, the one they live in.  They want it to be interesting, even fun.  Educators may still think the old fashioned lecture is important, but the kids don’t, futurist Marc Prensky told me recently.  He remembers one Australian principal who put it this way: ‘The teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge: the Internet is.'” (p. 126)

So what is holding us back?  When my professor for ECI 832, Marnie McMillan posed the following question… I had to try and consider this carefully.

How could schools implement computer-supported learning in ways that authentically transform teaching and learning?

The problem is not technology.  I think most schools have access to technology, but putting computers and internet access into schools does not mean that authentic learning is taking place.  I found an interesting blog post at coolcatteacher that was aimed at administrators, called Dear Administrator: Focus. The tone, unless I misunderstood it, was one of frustration based on lack of action by administrators  and she seemed unwilling to take any excuses.  I have to agree with her… no excuses should be accepted.  The blog post gives 8 practical and to the point, considerations for administrators of school districts/divisions and schools to use to help make technology use and learning more authentic in our schools. I would like to comment on 3 of them.

1.  Strong technical leadership– this is where the problem begins, I think.  It does not really matter whether we feel we are technologically challenged or gifted, we have a responsibility to be leaders in our schools and promote and demand authenticity in our classrooms.  I strongly believe that the administration in a school sets the tone for the school.  My experience has been that what the administrators see as a priority, becomes a priority and the attitude of the administration in a school affects the attitude within the school. I also agree with coolcat when she states, ” It is often not how the technology works as much as how people feel about how the technology works.”  Administrators, and I include myself in this, need to step up and start showing leadership in this area if we want things to change.

2.  Benefiting the student– that is what is supposed to be all about, right?  It is important for students to stay the focus at all times.  What would benefit the students in my school?  I often get frustrated by school division policies that prevent me from doing what I feel are logical things with my students that would benefit learning.  Using I-pods would be a good example of this.  We can’t use them in our school and students or teachers, for that matter,  cannot get on to WiFi with their own personal devices.  I understand the need for caution, but I hate some of the things we do out of control. Most of my students have this excellent learning tool in their pockets, but we are cut off from using it because of fear.   “Don’t let IT rule just because they are using terms you don’t know.  IT should not have complete control over the sites used on campus – that is often better decided by curriculum.” Coolcat is right… we should not be intimidated by outside forces, when it comes to deciding what is right for our students in our school.

3.  Harness the power of those you have. How true again!  We have lots of talent right around us, but we don’t often take advantage of it.  Having conversations with people, taking advantage of their talents and letting them shine in areas where they have never had the opportunity to before is paramount to change.  Setting teachers up in situations using technology in authentic ways and allowing them to be successful, breeds confidence and that confidence is shared with other teachers.

All this led me back to the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) under the adminstrator and visionary leadership.  This is the one area that I did not feel we did a very good job of in our school.   Perhaps this is where the problem starts and we need to get working on our visionary leadership.  This in turn will have an affect on teachers and students.

  • inspire and facilitate a shared vision of purposeful change
  • engage in an on-going process to develop, implement and communicate technology-infused strategic plans
  • advocate on a local and provincial level for funding to support implementation

I can get frustrated by the fact that we seem stuck where we are and can’t seem to make the jump to using all the technology we have available to us for authentic learning and teaching experiences.  I think that it is the responsibility of administrators, at all levels, to have a plan and make this happen.  When I say all administrators, I guess that also means me- I need to start advocating for my own sandbox and sharing it with others so that we can start playing together to benefit students.

Digital Booktalks-Do they motivate reluctant readers?

I spent a great deal of  today playing in the digital sandbox.  I was trying to find a music video remix appropriate to show to middle years students-I now realize that is almost an impossible task!  As I was waiting for music videos to load on my computer I took the opportunity to read an article titled, “Digital Booktalk: Digital Media for Reluctant Readers”, but Glenda Gunter and Robert Kenny.

I am always in pursuit of anything that will motivate reluctant readers, as most teachers are.  The idea presented in the article is really not a new one, as it was written in 2008, but an idea that should not  be dismissed either.  It is a good question to ask and test as to whether or not digital book talks could be a motivating tool for the reluctant reader.

I am sure that most of you are aware of the push on differentiated instruction that is going on in the province right now-in our school division the push is hard.  Don’t get me wrong…I agree with it whole heartedly, except I hate when it is touted as the magical answer to all  classroom teacher frustrations.

The previously mentioned article states, “…tying literacy to intelligence can result in a mischaracterization  of  a person’s actual abilities.  It may be more correct to recognize the fact that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.  Intelligence may be more accurately defined as having a skill in a particular medium…”.  The idea fits into differentiated instruction and finding the best way for each student to show what they know.

We might not all agree with that, but I am sure we would all agree with the need to get more involved  connecting our students to their digital worlds and start acknowledging that in our classrooms.  Maybe we are not using the correct instructional strategies to motivate our digital students toward reading and writing.  The most common thing to do when trying to improve reading levels in students is to find out what their weaknesses are and teach to them, as a learning support teacher I have followed this strategy many times.  The article got me thinking…

If we focused on students strengths, rather than their weaknesses, would we get some new insight on what would help motivate them to read?

The premise behind the digital book talk is to try to motivate children to read by having them make or watch book “trailers”  as a motivational tool to encourage reading of a particular book, just as they would see a movie trailer and be motivated to see a particular  movie.  The technology adds a hook to gain student’s attention and gives them the opportunity to participate in a curriculum outcome related activity without having to worry about their vocabulary or grammar level.  It also opens up the opportunity for collaboration and there are many places on-line where digital book talks can be published.

This is not an alternative for reading a book, but rather a motivating factor to prelude reading or conclude reading.  According to T. Hicks (2006, as quoted in the article), “It is not so much about the point that we can make a digital story; it is more to the point that we can make a story digitally.” (p.4)

I looked around for some of the information available on-line and found many different sites full of ready-made, digital booktalks such as digital from the University of Central Florida, as mentioned in the article  and MPL Teenspace You Tube Digital Book Reviews.

There would be never-ending tools that could be used for digital book talks, such as Microsoft’s PhotoStory and at least 50 others listed at Alan Levine’s Cogdogroo wiki.  I also liked the idea of using a podcast as a quicker, less time-consuming alternative.  In my search I did find another useful educational blog called The Edutainers posted by David Widener, on which he describes a booktalk project, but also countless other ideas and projects mainly geared at middle year’s students.  Check it out if you get a chance.

I am not sure if it will actually motivate the reluctant reader, but it  might be another interesting way to get students connected.

832 Project Proposal

I finally sat down and put all my random thoughts into something concrete for my project for 832.  I spent a lot of time last semester begging my principal to put me back in the classroom because I wanted to be able to try some of the things I was learning with a classroom of students without having to beg other teachers to help me.  This semester I decided to try a new outlook on life and come up with an idea that fit into my learning support position. This is what I came up with:

Let’s Get Social

(Just a start)

  1. 1. What is my question for inquiry/exploration?

How can I use digital tools and resources to actively engage middle year’s students with autism in learning about social skills and connecting to their future?

Can I offer educational assistants working with these autistic students the opportunity for on-line professional development through the use of digital tools and resources?

  1. 2. Why I am interested in this exploration?

I have three reasons for wanting to explore this possibility:

  • I am a learning support teacher and often find it difficult to find ways to engage students with technology, because I do not have a classroom of students to work with.  I decided to try and find a way to try to integrate technology into my present position.
  • I struggle with ways to integrate social skills training into the schedule of middle years students with autism.  They often do not engage with traditional methods of social stories and working through pen and paper activities.  Students with autism struggle with reading social cues and knowing how to handle, even simple, social situations. These students also have difficulty thinking about their futures and as I am trying to get them ready to transition into a large and overwhelming comprehensive school it is necessary to spend a lot of time with transition planning.
  • These middle year’s students all have educational assistants that are working with them.  They need help sometimes, but they do not need someone leaning over their shoulder watching their every move.  They are definitely at the age when they seek independence.  Another area I find difficult, as a learning support teacher, is finding ways to offer professional development opportunities to my educational assistants.  The school division only offers 1 professional development day a year.  I was hoping to set up some on-line professional development that they could engage in while their students are working on their activities.  They would be there to offer assistance, but would not need to hover.
  1. 1. Nets for Students

I am trying to consider the Nets for students in my project in the following categories:

  • Communication and collaboration– I hope to try and set my students up with some opportunity to communicate with people of like interests through blogs and other learning communities. Students with autism have difficulty with communication, so even more than other students, they will have to be taught appropriate on-line communication skills.  For example: I have one student who is very interested in art and cartooning.  I hope to connect him with other people of like interests and help him to communicate with them.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving– I hope to involve them in social skills training by using resources on-line such as videos about social skills that are available on Youtube, google, etc. and take advantage of other resources that are free and available to get them thinking and explaining how they would handle different social situations.  For example: eating in the cafeteria or making a phone call.
  • Technology operations– I have many opportunities for involving new technology into their learning and exploring.  A few of them are:

  • Creativity and innovation:

There are many, many opportunities for my students to learn about social skills and to create their own examples to show understanding.  I hope to also incorporate the use of Flip Video and digital cameras to help them with their projects.  For example: they can make their own cartoon as to how they might handle making plans for Friday night.  They can use the still digital camera to make take pictures and produce their own slide show about different facial expressions or what some of our idioms that can be difficult for students with autism to understand.  There is opportunity to involve peers in these projects which allows for collaboration and provides real life social skills training.

I hope my idea works.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I would be happy to hear from you.  Good luck with your projects.

Back to the sandbox…

Excited or scared to death?

I do a lot of thinking every day about technology integration in the classroom.  I am not a PAA teacher or an IT teacher, but I have taken on the unexpected role, as part of my administrative position, to promote and encourage technology in my school.  I took on the role because it is a passion of mine, but the weird part is…I struggle with technology just as much as any one else-probably more than some.  I have already written of some of  my frustrations with memorization, rote learning and many of the other things we like to hang on to in the classrooms, while ignoring the technological opportunities at our finger tips.  I wanted to reflect on some of the other aspects of technology our professor Marnie McMillan wanted us to think about this week in ECI 832 as we play around in the sandbox.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with excitement when I discover the possibilities that are available to us and to our students that I have trouble sleeping at night.  At the same time, these discoveries can be frightening and make me want to curl into a fetal position under my desk and hope that they will go away.

As I was reading how our technological world helps us respond in an emergency situation, I was in awe.  It was almost a paradox (I think), how worldwide technology was used to bring aid and comfort in many ways to the country of Haiti.  A country too poor to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary for a lot of the technology that was used.  It is almost too much to wrap my head around, as I read about twitter and Skype feeds used to find relatives, Google’s Facebook finder and social networking technologies used to raise millions of dollars for victims.  The first images to reach the rest of the world were sent from cell phones.  At the risk of sounding like my grandparents…I can’t keep up with all of the changes.  I remember when we only had black and white television and did not have a telephone in our home and had to use the neighbor’s phone.  Okay…there were phones… we just didn’t have one.

Our family recently had a tragic loss, when my husband’s young cousin was killed in an avalanche in BC while snowmobiling.  The news of the accident spread faster than we could even imagin.  Within 24 hours someone had set up a memorial Facebook page for Chad and there were hundreds of stories about his life and messages of comfort for his family.  I am sure that it was a huge comfort  to his parents and brother, and how fantastic it was for all of those people who posted to be able to have a way to express the grief that they were feeling.

What a better way for a politician to get their message out and get votes than to give people a social networking opportunity and in doing so they give people a voice.  That is the best thing about  social networking is that everyone has a voice.  Everyone who wants to, can be heard.

Even though the constant changes in our technological world sometimes scare me, to our students, they are part of their lives.  Last fall I started a blogging project with the grades 4/5 students in my school.  They were so excited and motivated to be writing on- line.  It was a bit of a struggle when we first started.  They didn’t know what to write about and they didn’t always want to take the time to  think about their writing and what they wanted to say before they posted.  I was up early the other morning reading some of their posts.  I was so impressed by their progress- they have improved on their writing, they are writing more, they are linking and tagging and inserting pictures and trying to make interesting , conversation provoking comments on each others posts.  The thing that has impressed me the most about these kids though… is their confidence with the medium which they are working .  They do not share my fears or my self doubts.  They see the automatic possibilities and do not wait for me to show them the next step.  They reach out and try to figure it out on their own.  They only need me to help them once in a while which  is as it should be.

I am excited to spend some time now playing in the sand, because I think that I am starting to understand what web 2.0 is and what that should mean to my students.  It is not about having the technology available… it is all about learning to use the technology to connect, discover, think and build.

I wonder what I will discover next?

Technology and theory-am I stuck?

My first thoughts on this topic were… “I am a constructivist of course.”  Most of my learning beliefs are based on the constructivist theory.  Learning is  making connections to what we already know.  I learned this in some of the first teaching training courses that I took… start by finding out what they know and build from there… set a learning context for them before you start…expand on their prior knowledge, etc.

I strongly believe that we need to connect before they are willing to buy in.  They need  to see a reason  to learn something… connect it to something they already know, so they can build on that and create their own meaning.

As I was thinking about learning theories this week and how they relate to what I know and think, I realized I am a constructivist by heart, but at the same time it is difficult, or maybe even impossible, not to acknowledge the influence other theories have on me  as well.

As a learning support teacher I am very interested in brain research and am constantly reworking and reorganizing my ideas about learning, so that I might help my teachers differentiate for students  requiring unique learning opportunities.  There is a big movement in our school division towards differentiated instruction and it is being presented as the answer to everything .  It is not a new theory, just a new name given to something that teachers do in their classrooms every day.

Our new Saskatchewan curriculum supports the idea of student centered, constructivist learning, but does not steer far from the behaviorist theory with its organizational structure of  outcomes, broken into smaller components that are measurable and standardized.  The question and struggle for teachers is how to organize student driven learning, but still make sure outcomes are met.  How do we give students opportunities to go off in their own directions, building on things they already know and moving toward what they want to learn, and  be in control of learning outcomes at the same time?

I spent most of my teaching career teaching in a small rural school in southwest Manitoba. When I moved to Estevan I really had my eyes opened to the real world and the reality that students were dealing with many other things in their lives besides the curriculum outcomes that I was trying to get them to meet.  I spend a great deal of my time dealing with students that are having learning difficulties partly  because they have other things going on in their lives.  There is often an underlying factor that can cause children to have difficulty learning or behaving in an acceptable manner.  I do not think we can ignore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in our daily quest for student learning.  Sometimes it may not matter what things we are doing to engage them or what learning theories we are using in our classrooms…if their basic needs are not met…they are not going to learn.

So, how can I connect this all to technology? I think about technology use in the classroom so much, it seems to me that I should have it all figured out. I feel as though I am stuck between my theory and practice.   Why am I still struggling with how we use technology?  During  my school day Friday, I observed the grade 4 class working on an internet scavenger hunt while learning about electricity.  I spent 45 minutes blogging with the grades 4/5 students, helping them communicate their ideas, tag and make links.  Later in the day, I went into the grades 5/6 classroom to watch a student  presentation using Smart Board technology and the grade 8 teacher showed me some video her students had taken while they were explaining their math learning,  using the Flip Video cameras we bought to use in a project called, “Flipping Over Math”.

As I reflected on my day and the technology use I observed, I still can’t help but wonder how many of these activities were student driven and how many were teacher driven.  This is where I still struggle.  I looked back to my reflection using the LoTi framework to see that I originally thought most of our digital resources and tools used by students in our school were used to carry out teacher directed tasks.  So I guess I need help figuring this all out and making that step into practicing what I believe and preach.

How do I help teachers in my school, including myself to move beyond this point, where we are allowing our students to use technology tools, but we are directing how, when, where and what, instead of teaching them to ask good questions and look to various types of technologies for use in answering those questions?

This whole idea takes me back to one of the first activities we did in ECI  832, when we were asked to read the article, “The Song Remains the Same: Looking Back to the Future of Educational Technology”, by Punya Mishra, Matthew J. Koehler and Kristen Kereluik.  If we keep thinking about change, but not doing anything about it and in some cases resisiting, the song will remain the same. In the article it states,  “…the power and potential of educational technology much be acknowledged to reside within educators and not within objects.”  It is not good enough to bring the tools in to the classroom , it is to teach them to understand the power of the tools.

I decided to check out,  “Teach Paperless” by Shelly Blake-Plock, and in her post about 21 century learning, she said…   That’s not to say that technology should dictate content, but rather that the method of delivering the content should be of the connected variety. I think what both of these authors is trying to say  is we sometimes get the order of things mixed up.  It is not good enough to have computers and wireless hook-up in the classroom, if we do not understand the power of using it for content delivery.  We need to connect out students to the right tools so they can answer their questions and be learning the necessary content while they are doing it.  That is the key for me- as an educator I need to take chances and be willing to learn along with my students.

So where do I go from here?  Again, as I reflect on my day Friday- it was a busy, but good day.  To be able to witness as much technology use going on around me as I did was wonderful. I have to be proud of the teachers in my school and be content that  we are making progress into  helping our students not be satisfied with memorizing information but have the desire and confidence to question  and learn.  In think we are starting to get unstuck…

Are we powering up?

On Saturday I decided to work on ECI 832, but block 4 was not posted yet.  It all worked out,  because I took the opportunity to start my on-line professional development.  One of my favorite things to is surf the web and stop wherever something catches my eye.  I rarely get time to do this, as I am sure many of you can relate to.  I ended up at the K-12 Online Conference 2009 site waiting for a video to load,  and was led to a presentation by Michael Wesch titled, “A Portal to Media Literacy”, that he presented at the University of Manitoba in 2008.  It is about an hour long, but it was well worth the time I spent.  I am very familiar with Michael Wesch’s work and am a bit of a groupie of his.  He said that his classes at Kansas State University are always full and can be hard to get in to, and I am not at all surprised.

One of the topics that I visit often in my thoughts and rants is our seeming,  inability to embrace technology use and welcome it into our classrooms.  I have stated before that I think most teachers have the desire to do so, but many do not feel like they have the time, support or expertise to do so.  As Mr. Wesch described the typical classroom at the Kansas State University, that was set up to house 200+ students, all seated in rows with the professor feeding them lectures from the front, I couldn’t help but think about many of our public school classrooms today.  Were they so different?  Of course, thankfully, we do not have 200+ students in front of us at one time, but, often, they are seated in desks, placed in rows and we are delivering a message to them in our traditional fashion.  We may use computers to word process and research an assigned topic and we may even use a projector and Smart Board in our classroom to help us deliver our intended message.  Our students have learned to accept that we are the authority on many topics and it is their job to trust our authority and travel along to whatever destination we have pre-planned into their travel documents.

I have heard Mr. Wesch speak of moving our students from just having knowledge-memorizing, knowing and recalling – to the point where they are knowledge-able– which would include such things such as sorting, analyzing, sharing, discussing, critiquing and creating with knowledge.

I have also been involved in many conversations about today’s students… they want to be entertained, they play too many video games, they spend hours on face book and texting, they can’t concentrate, they are not motivated to learn, etc., etc., etc.  All of these things are probably true, but they do not give us an excuse as educators to stay inside our classroom boxes and ignore our responsibility to help them find things that are real and relevant  to them.  Many students struggle to make any connections between their real lives and what they are learning in the classroom.  Now, I know we were saying the same thing when we were in school…”when am I ever going to use this in the real world?”  It is our job to help students find things that are real and relevant to them.  We need to give them reasons to turn off their technologies and focus on their learning.  Do you think that we may be afraid to let some of the technologies in, because we know that we can’t compete with them without changing what we are doing and how we are doing it?

Mr. Wesch has a post called,” The vision of students today (and what teachers must do)”, at the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog Site. He was prompted to make huge changes in his classroom delivery, after doing a project with his students that culminated in a short video that most of you are probably familiar with called, “A vision of students today”. He feels that texting, web-surfing and ipods are new versions of passing notes in class.  Having them in the classroom will not prevent students from being distracted by them.  “Welcome technologies not as distractions, but as powerful learning technologies.”
When I started my masters program, I had the idea, rightfully or not, that the course work would not be relevant to what I was doing on a daily basis.  I thought that the reason I was taking my masters degree was to move me forward in my career and perhaps open up jobs in the future.  I have been pleasantly shocked and surprised by the level of relevance of all the courses I have taken so far.  It struck me, as I was listening to Mr. Wesch speak, that I have learned so much from my course work  because it was relevant to my daily life, but most of all, because I was sent out to explore and discover things on my own.  The questions and answers are not given to me- I need to ask my own questions and work at finding my own answers, so I am able to be in charge of my own learning, for the most part.

Isn’t that the difference between aquiring information and learning?

Mr. Wesch described three ways to create significance for our students:

1.  Provide relevance and context for learning- provide the big picture.

2.  Create a learning environment that values and leverages the learners themselves-give personal meaning.

3.  Do both in a way that realizes/leverages existing media environment in the same way our students do.

“We don’t have to tear the walls down, we just need to stop pretending the walls separate us from the world.”

There are many teachers who already do a fantastic job of looking beyond the walls, for the rest of us-let’s take a chance on powering up, I think we might be pleasantly surprised by what we discover…