From "Hand it In" to "Publish it": Re-envisioning our Classrooms--NECC 2007

Session Tag: n07s584

Description: As educators we are facing the increasingly complex reality of a world where knowledge is abundant, where collaboration is the norm, and where students can begin to build networks and communities far beyond our classroom walls. Yet, our teaching and learning spaces are still defined by the traditional ideas that knowledge is scarce and that learning is situated by time and place. That traditional classroom concept must change if we want to remain relevant to our students lives and prepare them for their futures.

This presentation will identify the important, disruptive shifts that are taking place, identify the major obstacles and roadblocks that are being put up in an attempt to contain these changes, give examples of how educators around the world are responding to them, and lay out a path for educators to re-envision what they do in their own classrooms.

The Trends are Clear:
  • Networked--learning and connecting in virtual, passion-based spaces
  • Hyperconnected--their lives will be lived in a world where connections are ubiquitous
  • Hypertransparent--their lives will be lived for everyone else to see
  • Collaborative--
  • Open--More and more of what we create we share openly, and more of the tools will be open source.

The Changes are Significant

These are hugely challenging times.

What homework and classrooms look like today:
  • Four walls
  • Content based
    • The Friday Folder
  • Dependent learners
  • Externally assessed
  • Un-collaborative

The Business World Today--Internally, IBM has 26,000 internal bloggers, 20,000 wikis with 100,000 users, and a social network that is used by over 400,000 full and part time employees. They own 50 islands in Second Life. (Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2007, as summarized here.)

The Question: Are our classrooms and our practices preparing kids for the world that they will be facing when they begin their life's work?

The "literacies" that they will require are much more complex.

external image 634302648_b1663f1a60_m.jpg Our students are entering a world where they will be expected to be:
  • Self-learners
    • The US Dept. of Education estimates that by the time they reach 38, our kids will have changed jobs over a dozen times. Source
      • Who will teach them?
    • Are we teaching them to be lifelong, continual learners?
  • Self-starters
    • Passion-based learning
    • "This is a world where if you are not doing it, someone else will." --Friedman
    • Are we teaching them to generate their own projects, to take control of their own learning? (They can, you know.)
  • Self-selectors in terms of building their own personal, perpetual learning networks
    • Who are my teachers?
    • Who or what defines an "expert"?
    • Who can I trust?
    • How do I build a learning network? (delicious network explorer)
    • What does community mean?
    • Are we teaching them to measure authority in new ways, to find other learning opportunities, to build personal learning networks?
  • Self-editors
    • More of what we consume has no traditional editor
    • Understanding the network as an editor
    • Cult of the Amateur
    • Are we helping them understand editing as a natural part of their interaction with information?
  • Self-organizers
    • Folksonomies
    • Tagging and RSS
    • Are we modeling ways to make sense of information, to archive it and recall it?
  • Self-reflectors
    • Blogging as reflection
    • Are we giving them ways to think about their learning?
  • Self-publishers
    • Can they use the tools?
    • Wikipedia--Tucker
    • Do they understand the ethics of publishing online?
  • Self-regulators
    • Are we modeling balance?
    • Are we providing strategies for making best use of online time?
  • Self-protectors

So how can we begin to bring these changes and literacies to our students?
How must our homework change?

Students need to be participants, creating real work for real purposes for real audiences, even at the youngest levels.

So what are the challenges, and how do we overcome them? What are the "Yeah, buts"?
  1. "We don't have the technology." Talk about and model the uses of these technologies in your own practice as much as you can. Start a conversation about the ways in which you can bring free and open hardware and software to your schools.
  2. "My supervisor (principal, superintendent, etc.) won't let me do this." Be a beacon for these changes in your own practice, ask for small opportunities to implement.
  3. "My parents don't want their kids 'out there.'" Teach them why it's important for their students to be using these tools, that they are using them already, that they are not going away, and that they need to understand how to use them safely, effectively and ethically.
  4. "I have to make sure my kids do well on the test." Make the case that this is not either/or, that the ends can be met through these means and at the same time, the "standards" can be met.
  5. "I don't have the time." At the end of the day, as an educator, you don't have much choice. You need to make the time, You need to understand these changes for yourselves.
  6. "I'm scared." You should be. On some level we all are.