Teach Less, Learn More?

I was recently lamenting about August 1 coming and the end of summer fast approaching.  Now I am already racing into September and my mind is whirling with thoughts about how we can make this year the best year it can be.  I keep coming back in my mind to the idea of “Teach Less, Learn More”.  I have decided that it will be my mantra this year.  I want to base my first year as principal of my school on that idea.

I am immersed in two of Will Richardson’s books right now: Personal Learning Networks and Learning on the Blog.  I am a huge fan of Will Richardson.  He writes about his children’s education a lot and will sometimes admit that he is a tough parent when it comes to the school.  I wish I had more parents like him.  Parents that would expect their children to be learning in ways that will prepare them for the future.

I feel like we have made a lot of progress as a staff and within our school moving our teaching from the traditional feeding of information to allowing our students to drive their own learning.  We have such a long way to go.  So my mind is whirling right now with the following questions:

1.  How can I keep developing my own personal learning network?

2.  How can I encourage and support my staff to develop their learning networks?

3.  How can we continue the movement toward student driven learning and get everyone to buy in but be comfortable along the journey?

4.  As a principal, how can I continue to put ideas out there and be able to support my staff without it becoming too overwhelming and people shutting down?

Any ideas for a new principal that would like her staff to “Teach less, Learn More”?

Bold or Old?

 

This week I am preparing for a job interview and have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks reflecting on my school, my staff and the things that have been accomplished in the short time I have been in the building.  I am not saying that I have accomplished these things, because that is definitely not the case.  These things have been accomplished by a team of very dedicated and forward thinking people.  Wow am I ever lucky!

I spent part of my Easter break doing some web surfing and reading and trying to reconnect with my passion for technology in education.  There really is nothing that I like to focus on more than that.  I was reading some posts on Will Richardson’s site and I came across an older post of his about bold schools and old schools.  It got me thinking about what we are trying to create here.  When I reflect back to the progress we have made in the past few years I am certain that what we have here is a bold school.  He lists 9 qualities shared by what he is terming “a bold school”.  The qualities range from learning centered to provocative.  Check out the post for the complete list.

Looking back over the three years that I have been lucky enough to be working in this school with this staff we have made much progress on becoming a bold school.  We have slowly but surely embraced technology and different teaching methods that are more authentic to the learners we are working with today.  We have survived a lot of change and struggled to make sense of new curricular outcomes and new assessment strategies.  We have stepped up and committed to action research projects that have helped us move toward embracing technology use in our classrooms in many forms and we have tried to step back and turn more of the learning happening in our classrooms over to the students.

Our next goal is to move toward project based learning, which seems the next logical step in our progression.  We are looking at our curricular outcomes and where the commonalities might lie, but right now we have many questions…

  •   How can we timetable to accommodate project based learning?
  •   How can we support each other on our continued journey from familiar to unfamiliar territory?
  •   How can we prepare and engage our students to meet the needs of the changing world they are a huge part of?
  • How can we engage our reluctant students?

Any suggestions as to how to keep moving on our journey from old to bold? 

 We are definitely bold baby and we are not going back!

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…

I Wonder?

I love  working on my learning curve again!  There is so much information out there and it is good to have a reason to allow myself the time to surf and learn.  One of the first assignments we were given in ECI 832 was to take a learning styles and multiple intelligences inventory and think about the implications our learning styles can have for us when working with our students and colleagues.

I thought it would be very easy, but I really had to think about some of my answers.  I was not at all surprised by the outcome.  I was right in the middle of being both an active and reflective learner.  I can absolutely see myself as being active, especially when it comes to technological things.  There is not better way to learn than to get your hands on it and do it yourself.  On the other hand there are other learning situations where I am very reflective, such as when planning lessons or trying to come up with solutions for my learning support students.

It was no surprise to me and would not be a surprise to any of my colleagues to find out I am a strong verbal learner and that I am a global thinker.  There is no better way for me to figure something out than to sit down a rewrite it in my own words and talk myself through it.

The next thing we  did was explore some of the ideas presented on Karl Fisch’s  blog “The Fischebowl”.  When I started looking through some of the blogs posted there, I started to feel that familiar feeling again, as I get wound up about learning or as my professor, Marnie McMillan,  would say, I was doing what “makes my learning curve go off the chart”.  When I was thinking about that idea of learning going off the chart I wondered…

Do things makes your learning curve go off the chart because they are difficult and take you far away from the familiar? Or do things make your learning curve go off the chart because we are learning something new and are enjoying that fact?

I have always been motivated by pushing myself into unfamiliar territory.  I love learning and I love proving to myself and others that I can do things that I could not do before.  That is what makes my learning curve go off the chart.

So how do these ideas affect those  around me?  Well, I am sure they do in a few ways.  Last semester I had the unbelievable good luck to take a course from Alec Couros. I was way out of my learning curve element when we started that course, but as the course progressed I was so motivated by the things that I was learning.  I was making connections daily and used the opportunity to take on an unexpected role at my school.  I wanted to share what I was learning and sometimes I would get very frustrated when other teachers  did not see the light bulbs that I was seeing.

Why were my colleagues not able to see  that we need to change our ways of teaching and our ideas about learning ?  What seemed so obvious to me, was not always received with joy from everyone that I worked with, but was that because I did not have to walk my talk on a daily basis like they did?

I can remember near the beginning of the year I presented the video,  “Shift Happens” to my staff at a staff meeting.  Everyone, along with myself, vowed to change the way we were thinking and doing things in our classroom to start meeting the needs of our students in this new learning  environment.  Even though we are continually reminded that our students are different and live in a different world then we did, it seems as if we continue to teach the same way we always have.   According to David Warlick at his blog site  2Cents Worth  “At some point, during 2010, knowledge will be doubling every 72 hours.” Yikes!  Are we ready for that?  Are our students ready for that?

I have my next video ready for my staff called “Pay Attention”.  I have included it because it emphasises the point we are discussing.

I can be frustrated and spend a lot of time thinking about  our lack of progress…

  • I wonder why we are doing things like memorizing trivial facts of information for a test, or practicing spelling words in isolation, or doing 25  repetitive math problems when 5 would have been enough.
  • I wonder why we are so worried that kids might do something wrong, so we spend more time policing them than teaching them.
  • I wonder why we want to ban them from things like Facebook, cell phones and i-pods when they could be such valuable learning tools if used correctly and are such an integral part of their world
  • I wonder why, when we never have enough time with our students, we spend so much of our time doing things that have little or no educational purpose
  • I also wonder what I need to do that would help my colleagues and I move to the next step

“If everyone taught in hopes of trying to make students think instead of telling them what to think, the world would be a better place.”

(Quote taken from a survey done by teachers and students at the end of the 1st year of staff technology development at Araphohoe High School in Centennial, Colorado)

Am I Learning New Technology or New Language?

According to our speaker last night, Stephen Downes,… what we are really needing are not 21st century skills necessarily, but 21st century languages.  Hmmm…that was some more food for thought for this already well fed brain.  Stephen went on to give a presentation that was full of somewhat complicated ideas and information.  One thought that stood out for me was “we learn by participating and creating artifacts in various languages.”  I am not sure if this is the true meaning that Stephen wanted to get across to me, but the way I interpreted it, that couldn’t be more true for me or for ECI831. I have been forced way out of my comfort zone in this course and I have made myself try new things even when I was uncomfortable doing it.  I can definitely say that I have learned by participating and I have managed to create a few artifacts.

When I watch my grades 4/5 students blogging each week, I can’t believe how comfortable they are and how excited they are to try something new.  I find myself working hard to stay caught up with them.  Most of them do not need to be taught new skills because they are so comfortable with the “language” that they are willing to explore and discover on their own.  I am trying to teach them to be willing to dialogue with people and create their posts and comments for the purpose of opening up a discussion with someone else with similar interests or ideas.

When reflecting on Stephen Downe’s lecture and trying to make some connection to it, I spent some time reading some of his other blog posts and articles.  I came across an article titled, “Seven Habits of Highly Connected People.”  It is worth checking out.  There were some excellent ideas to pass along to my grade 4/5’s.

“The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.”

What excellent advice for anyone, not just on-line.  We all need to be open to other perspectives and ideas and it never hurts to listen or live and learn as I call it.  Maybe it isn’t so bad afterall that I still get a bit frustrated with the back channel.  I may be called a lurker, but perhaps I am just listening and getting the lay of the land.

“What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.”


Another piece of excellent advice to  pass on.  It never hurts to add a little of your own voice and let people get an idea of who you are.  I am trying to teach my grade 4 and 5 students to put a little of themselves into their posts and comments and to try to use language that is engaging and creates a voice.

So as I continue to guide my students in the creation of their artifacts I hope that we all can learn the language of their future together.

Catch you on the back channel.

Copyright or copyleft?

Last week I blogged about my progress in ECI 831 and how I thought I was slowly getting a handle on some of the things that we were trying to do. That was last week… before I sat in on a class with Scott Leslie and Brian Lamb and their discussion on remixing education.  I had to re-listen to the class recording yesterday, because for part of the time, I was not even sure what they were talking about.  It isn’t that I did not realize that such things existed and, of course, I had seen countless examples of mash-ups in various places.  I just didn’t make the connection.

According to Scott Leslie, a mash-up is “taking 2 or more different things (be they content or services) and turning them into something else. I started doing some searches around the web for some ideas about mash-ups, so that I could get a better understanding.  Most of my search time was spent at the web site,  Rip! A Remix Manifesto.  I watched 8 chapters of  a documentary film about copyright and remix culture made by Brett Gaylor.  The film is done in chapters, each dealing with  different aspects of copyright vs. remix. Gregg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk,  an artist that specializes in remix music, is the main focus of the documentary. At the end of each chapter is a invitation to add to the film at Open Source Cinema and create your own version of remix, so to speak.

Now, no wonder people like me feel a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up.  I don’t know whether to give my brain a rest or keep hanging on in case I lose whatever progress I have made so far.  I am not sure how I feel about remix… Is it breaking copyright law?  Or is it necessary, so that we can be creative?  As the film points out, copyright law was originally created to promote creativity and now it seems to be trying to control it.  Is that true or does it depend on your perspective?  Should I be in favor of copyright or copyleft?

It is funny how I immediately made a connection in my own world to this whole discussion. The best part about the job that I have right now,  as learning support teacher and vice-principal, is that I have the opportunity to be in a lot of  different classrooms all the time, and observing kids doing some very cool stuff.   On Friday, I wandered in to the grade 7 classroom, mainly because I had not been able to get in there for a long time,  and got to be involved in a very interesting discussion on art and how the “idea” of art is changing.  At one point,  the teacher asked the students whether they thought that the changes in technology influence art and culture.  Inside my head I was screaming “Yes! Yes!”.  The students did think that technology does influence art, but seemed unsure as to exactly how that might happen.

Wow, is this a good time to introduce the whole remix and mash-up idea? I will forward some the the information that was discussed in our last class  to the grade 7 teacher and she can do with it as she wishes.  There is a study guide available on the Rip! A Remix Manifesto site that was put together by Adam Hodgins, a music and technology teacher at Selwyn House School in Montreal. It looked like it had some very interesting discussion questions.

I remember some aspects of this topic coming up once before earlier in the course when Jon Mott introduced the idea of creative commons and how that related to copyright.

In my search today I also came across a very interesting little mash-up video that was used as part of the last election campaign in the United States.  One of the familiar political figures was mashed into scenes from the movie, “1984” based on a novel by George Orwell written in 1949.

So, at this point I think that I will have to continue to do a  “mash-up”  in my own brain and hang on for all that I am worth.  It will only benefit me and my students.  Catch you on the back channel.

Am I starting to understand?

When I first started ECI 831 I felt a bit like I had been thrown off the side of a cruise ship and I was trying to find a life-preserver. I have enjoyed the course since day one, but  it made me reach so far out of my comfort zone  and I wondered If I would be able to do it.  I did not understand the whole social networking world and to be honest, I did not understand what people gained from it.  I have had friends who have badgered me to get on Face book and my answer has always been “I don’t have time for that stuff.” I am amazed how far I have come since day 1.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am far from knowing what I am doing and most of the things I do are still a matter of trial and error and are not really based on any confident skill.  The question I have to ask ,though, is…am I starting to understand?

It takes me forever to blog because I am a bit type A and I want things to be the way I envision them before I will publish.  At the beginning of the course I could really only fit in one blog a week and I was not commenting or responding. I want to make an apology to all of the wonderful and interesting people who commented on my posts only to have me not approve them and/or not respond.  I did not mean for it to be personal, I just did not know what I was doing.

Now I am find myself wondering if anyone has commenting on anything I have said.  I will even sneak to my blog site at work sometimes when I am supposed to be doing something else.  I have always been easily distracted…but never distracted by social networking before.  I am starting  to understand why students are always sneaking to Facebook every chance they get.

Am I making a transformation?  I can sense a change in myself as I start to figure out the social networking world and start to become familiar with some of the names and information. I am trying to pass on some of my new found, and still very green skill to others such as the teachers and students in my school.  Wow!  I think I am making progress!  If I can do it, anyone can.  I can’t wait to see what is next…

Catch you on the back channel.

Does filtering solve our problems?

Once again we had a very interesting ECI 831 class last night on the topic of understanding media literacy. I was a bit late getting back from teacher convention in Regina, but when I came in the topic of discussion was filtering or blocking websites at school.  This caught my attention immediately, because it was part of the discussion of my post last week… I have some very strong opinions on this topic. My strong opinions seem to be based on  my own frustrations of trying to offer 21st century learning and encourage other teachers to do the same, when there are often many road blocks that stand in the way.

My school division runs a blocking program that blocks social networking sites, among other things, but at the same time we can ask for sites to be unblocked if we want to use them.  Sometimes when I am operating within my own little and sometimes frustrating, world, I think that sites are blocked only out of fear and misunderstanding, but of course that it not true.  When I was at teacher’s convention I had the opportunity to ask one of our tech consultants about our web filtering process.  He was able to open my eyes a little more as to what actually happens at the division office level.  He said that for every site 6 teachers may ask to be unblocked, there are 6 other teachers that may put in a request to have the site blocked.  I don’t mean to sound as if I exist only in my own little world here, but I had never even considered the idea that teachers would actually be asking for sites to be blocked, and I’m not kidding!  Perhaps my frustrations should not be vented at the division office tech department?  Maybe I need to put my energies elsewhere… and into some more positive places

This week Alec gave us a link to the blog site “Bud the Teacher” and his post entitled, “Would you please block?” The post describes a situation where the school district attempted to open up more of the internet and the idea was not well received by many teachers.  It was met by many requests to have  sites blocked again.  When I was reading through the comments I noticed that one came from Dean Shareski, who is a tech guy in the Prairie South School Division.  I attended a conference session given by Dean not long ago and have been attracted to his blog site ever since.  He is a lot like Alec and is all about keeping things open.  I think Prairie South has a much more liberal policy on web filtering.  In one of his blog posts Dean presented information gathered when he interviewed some of his teachers about their opinions on web filtering. He also included a podcast where he interviewed Patricia Yeske, a high school teacher involved in a laptop project at Riverview Highschool in Moose Jaw,  which I tried to include, but did not have any luck.

This made me think about some interesting questions:

  • Do we let our fears hold us back and expect that filtering blocks will make our job easier?
  • Are teachers up for the task of educating our students to do their own filtering service and do we trust them to do so?
  • Are teacher prepared to justify to parents, etc. why we do not block certain sites such as Face Book?

Although Patricia was initially negative about her students having lap tops all of the time and how she would deal with this, she came up with some easy solutions to help her and her students out.

1.  Seizing every possible teaching moment. I use this strategy with parenting and have been having discussions with all three of my children about drugs, alcohol and other issue from the time they were very small.  When I would hear about a certain situation that helped me illustrate the dangers I would use it as a teachable moment and we would talk about it.

2.  Setting strong expectations from the beginning. She made it clear to her students of what was expected as far as on-task behavior and internet safety.  This is something that we try and do with our students all of the time, so I am not sure what makes this situation so different?

3.  Walking about. She felt strongly that she needed to be all around the room.  She needed to check and see what students were doing and she could not do that from her desk.  This is the same strategy that administrators use to lower anxiety by teachers in classrooms.  The more visible you are the the less likely it is that students will not be doing what they are supposed to be doing.

4.  Watching facial expressions.  Teachers are masters at knowing when students are up to something they are not supposed to be.  Depending on the project, it should be easy to see if the facial expressions match the activity.

These suggestions are not earth shattering by any means.  I guess the question really is, do we want to spend most of our energy policing children and promoting fear or do we want to spend our energy educating students on proper use of digital media?   I was shocked at the number of videos available on youtube, made by students, for the purpose of showing other students,  how to get around school division filtering programs. Our students will use digital media no matter how many filtering programs we install, perhaps we need to model and monitor instead of waiting for school division offices to do it for us.  Catch you on the back channel.

How safe is too safe?

www.freedigitalphotos.net

I recently started a blogging project with the grades 4/5 class in my school and  I was intent on protecting them and keeping them safe from the outside world.  I went to a lot of work to set up the site so all of their posts and comments run through my gmail account and right now we are closed off from the rest of the world.  In talking with the classroom teacher, we decided that we would invite another class of students in our school division to join us in our blogging project.  This would give us a slightly wider audience, but allow us to remain in our safe little environment.

The problem for me is that is seems as if something is missing from our project.  As I search around the internet checking out other student and classroom blogs, I can’t help but notice that the opportunity for comments from the outside world is an important component of what blogging is all about.  I come back to the video, “42” which describes the advantage of providing our students with a much broader and more valid audience for their writing.  So how safe is too safe?

I asked one of our school division technology people what the division policy is on blog sites.  He did not seem to think that it was a problem to open up the blog as long as:

1.  We had parental permission for them to participate

2.  The students did not give away any personal, identifying information

Greg Stark commented on my blog post about my student blogging project and  suggested that I open up our site and run all the comments through my e-mail so that I could delete any inappropriate comments.  Thanks for the suggestion.

We seem to do a lot of things to try and keep our students safe and “out of trouble”, so to speak.  Are we really trying to promote the use of technology in our classrooms?  I can’t help but wonder if we are being stifled by our own fears.  I was reading a blog post today and the teacher was describing having a “hissy fit” because a site that she had picked out to use with her students had been blocked.

Yesterday, I was helping a student who was trying to find out how many hours it would take to fly to China for one of his projects.  I was trying to give him suggestions as to where he could go to find the information, but all of the sites we found were blocked.

I am often working from home on my own laptop and preparing things for use in school, only to find that when I get to school, the sites that I wanted to use are blocked.  When I tried to use my own laptop at school, I found that this met with some roadblocks as well and that it is not allowed under our “acceptable use policy”.  Interesting… I guess I should have read that more carefully before I signed it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand why there have to be rules and why we have to be careful.  I also understand that if you find a site you want to be able to access and can’t,  you can request to have it unblocked.  The problem with the whole idea is often, in the mean time, teachers that are wanting to get into technology use within their classrooms get discouraged and can feel that the time invested is not worth it.

I was sitting in on a short inservice session last week with some math teachers in my division.  I was listening to one teacher describe a video project she was doing with her students.  They were enjoying it and had invested a lot of time and energy into the project.  When they came back to it the next day, she found that “Deep Freeze” had blocked their pictures and their project was at a standstill until a tech person could get there and help her out. I am sure I could come up with countless other examples.

Our school division has been very encouraging to teachers providing us with up to date technologies and support personal to help us out.  We also have a technology grant that teachers can apply for to promote technology projects within our schools. I still have to wonder, though, if our fears are holding us back.   Are we really doing everything we can to encourage teachers to move away from traditional teaching methods and try new technologies?  I wonder…

Catch you on the back channel!

Open Education, Are we ready or are we being left behind?

Once again, I walked away from my computer last Tuesday feeling full and over flowing with new ideas and information.  I can’t help but sharing my experiences with my staff at school, especially my principal.  We are in close quarters, so she gets to hear it whether she wants to or not.

I can’t say that I really even understood what open education was before enrolling in ECI 831.  I even voiced my negative thoughts about having to be on-line on Tuesday nights.  My idea of taking an on-line course was e-learning, where I could log on at any time and do my work in my little world.  Wow, was I wrong.  I look forward to our classes and the new information and ideas that I have been exposed to is both overwhelming and exciting, as it was on Tuesday when we were listening to Jon Mott, from Brigham Young University, present his thoughts on open education.

I thought that I was being cutting edge when I developed two internet courses, one when I still had to type in all the HTML…groan…and doesn’t that age me?  The other one was a couple of years ago.  I joined a division project to develop some senior level courses using Moodle.   I tried, at least, to include some components of group work and collaboration in both, but I would like to have the opportunity to go back and try it over again.

The one quote given by Jon Mott ,the other night, that jumped out at me and would not go away was, “If you can Google it, don’t teach it or test it,” said by Dave Wiley, also from Brigham Young UniversityJon went on to add that we instead need to see what students can do with it.  I wanted to put it on a neon sign and post it up in my office!  Why are we still so intent on shoving trivial information down our students throats and then being shocked when they cannot remember it sometimes only days later?  What point is there in the whole process?  We present a bunch of facts to our students, we expect them to study them and remember then so that they can spit them back on a test.  After the test we record their marks and  present those marks to students and parents at designated reporting periods.  What are we accomplishing by that whole process? What are we actually learning from this?

I look forward to participating in the process this afternoon when I have to study for a current events test with my son.  He already failed the test once and it is a rewrite.  I am not sure what learning outcome we are trying to meet with the whole activity, but I will support the teacher because I want to instill the value of respect  in my son. We can have a discussion about learning outcomes another time.  What kinds of things could these students actually be learning about current events if it were approached in a different way?  The possibilities are probably endless.

I watched the video by Dave Wiley on his ideas on open education and had another thought as I was listening to him discuss the Western Governor’s University.  This university offers the opportunity  for students to show what they already know without having to participate in classes, only to waste time learning the same things over again.  What a novel idea that needs to find its way down to public school classrooms.  Why are we expecting children to all complete the same number of learning activities and assessments, even though they are all at different stages in their learning?  Are some of the behavior problems in our classrooms because some of our students are bored stiff learning the same things over and over again?  Would 5 math problems would be enough to review and learn a concept, instead of 25?

I do sound crabby today, but I think that we need to get with the program, or according to David Warlick, who is a well-known writer, speaker and author in the educational technology community,  in response to an article entitled “If you can’t use technology, get out of teaching!” that was published in NZ Interface, a New Zealand education technology publication.  “I probably wouldn’t say, “If you can’t use technology get out of teaching!” But I’d gladly say, “If you’re not teaching within a contemporary information landscape (networked, digital, abundant information), you’d probably have a pretty hard time finding another profession that doesn’t. But the last thing you should be doing is preparing children for their future. Is this statement too harsh?  Can we really afford to ignore that fact that we are not preparing them for the future?

I think that we could learn from my 75-year-old father who is passionate about life long learning.  He has many worries about the ways of the world, but he believes strongly in the idea that you are never too old to learn new things.  I often send him links and ideas about the things I am learning and he does the same for me.  I think that he would agree with  Michael Wesch’s idea that we need to not just be knowledgable, we need to be knowledge-able! We all can be  knowledge-able with a little work !

Catch you on the back channel!