Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What does 1:1 Mean to You?

Recently, we began discussing (in our district) the possibility of going to a 1:1 program.  The discussion has evolved from conversations, tech sessions, and our observations of what other schools are doing.  For the past several years, I have watched as a neighboring district implemented a 1:1 program for their 4th grade students via MLDs (aka Mobile Learning Devices) and soon after, our district did the same.  Both districts have expanded their program and now, we are considering how the evolution of this technology will impact our current 5th graders (who all have a device) if we don't change how we operate in the high school classroom.

So this is where we are... how do we prepare to teach a different type of student?  The 'Networked Student' (see video below)?  We have been saying for years that students' needs are different today than they were 5 or 10 years ago.  So how do (or should) we as educators adjust and change to meet the needs of these 21st Century students?

Going 1:1 (putting a device in the hands of all students) is not the solution.  This new tool can certainly be used in the process, almost as a vehicle for getting us to a 21st Century classroom.  But it is in no means the end-all, be-all.  21st Century classrooms must teach students how to collaborate, how to innovate, how to communicate (digitally and otherwise), how to investigate, how to research, how to use every tool at their disposal in order to problem solve.

In a discussion with a group of teachers recently, the issue came up as to whether or not we were degrading the basic skills by using too much technology.  Making students memorize facts that they can Google isn't educating them.  Teaching students how to find information and then evaluate, synthesize, and analyze that information in order to solve a problem or create a solution is educating them.

In a recent conversation with my good friend and teacher @SNewco, we were discussing a math problem he had given his students.  He had expected them to have to use paper and pencil to come up with the answer.  One student, however, used Google and some other intuitive internet research on his MLD to arrive at the correct answer.  While stunned, @SNewco couldn't have been happier with his student's ability to find the correct answer.  This is 21st Century Learning!  We have to change how we question and teach our students, knowing full well that they have the ability to 'Google' the answer!

To me, going 1:1 next school year is no different than it probably was to give every student a book 100 years ago.  Sure its the next big thing, but it is becoming a standard item.  I would be willing to predict that within 5 years, the word 1:1 will be nearly obsolete.  A learning device (i.e. smart phone, iPad, netbook, ipod, etc.) will be the standard, not the anomaly.  In reality, long before my career is over, a student device with be as standard as a 3-ring binder or a calculator is today.

So the question isn't should we or shouldn't we go 1:1... the real question is will we be ready when the students are?

Check out my 1:1 resources at: http://goo.gl/Lx5yV

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What are 21st Century Skills Anyway?

In our school district, the latest and greatest buzz phrase is 21st Century Skills (you might have noticed this is a tag on every one of my posts!).  Recently, I had a teacher ask me if we could talk more about these 21st Century Skills at a future faculty meeting.  Loaded question...  and one that we will address at a future faculty meeting (more to come soon!).  One of my typical responses to this question is that students are different today... their learning styles and educational needs are different.  They walk into our classrooms used to being engaged in technology and digital media (my 5-year-old loves the iPad!).

My boys are 2 & 5 and are already learning to use a laptop and iPad.  For a while, I was worried that my 5-year-old might need a desktop at home so he could 'get used to using the mouse'.  But last night, he asked me to "Log onto Playhouse Disney" (his words!) to play some games.  His intuitive use of the touchpad mouse amazed me.  I only had to tell him once to 'click' with the left button.  My kids are 21st Century Learners.  I don't think they will have textbooks when they go to school.  I don't think they will use much paper.  I may never need to buy them a pencil...

But 21st Century Learning is more than just technology...

I sit here, typing this blog post from a conference that I think is addressing some of those 21st Century Skills (Free Tech 2011), getting ready to present on blogging (I would like to think blogging is a 21st Century Skill), surrounded by hundreds of other fantastic educators interested in learning more about these same skills.  Many times, I think that we get these skills mixed up with technology -- i.e. 21st Century Skills = Using a computer/mobile phone/iPad, etc.  While tech is an important skill for students today, it is not the end all, be all.

In my opinion, 21st Century Skills extend beyond the standard 3Rs and other core content.  Today's students are going to need more.  We are preparing them for jobs that don't yet exist in a global market that extends beyond our small community.  So in my mind, its all about teaching students life & career skills, communication, problem solving, and collaboration all with an undertone of technology and media literacy.  Its not about flash and dazzle.  Sure, we have to entertain students to keep their attention, but more importantly, we need to ENGAGE the students in their own learning.

I just had a conversation with a group of teachers yesterday that centered around student interest in their particular content.  We all eventually came to an agreement that we would only be able to capture their attention if the content became important and valuable to the students in some way.  THIS is 21st Century Learning -- its education that matters to the student.  Not because its on the test, or because 'I told you its important'.  Learning that means something (personally) to the student that they are engaged in is 21st Century Learning.

What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is This Internet Thing Anyway?

Watch this video from the Today show in 1994...
My how far we have come!  Imagine where we might be 15 years from now.  When we talk about students being different today than they were 5 or 10 years ago and having different learning needs, we must take this into consideration.  21st Century Skills have become the big buzz phrase, but is it out of the question to think that these skills will be standard practice and commonplace 15 years from now in the year 2025?  Or maybe (hopefully) even sooner.

Nick Sauer from the 1 to 1 Schools blog recently stated "Schools sit­ting around mak­ing min­i­mal changes while wait­ing for that per­fect reform take oppor­tu­ni­ties away from many of their students."  I couldn't agree more.  We must move forward with what is best for kids, not what is cheapest, easiest, or most comfortable for teachers/administrators.

So what is best for students when it comes to 21st Century Skills?  How can we change what we do in classrooms and schools in order to prepare our students for the global world they are about to enter or for the job they will have 5 years from now that doesn't even exist today?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tweeting in Prime Time

As if we needed any more evidence that social media and technology has permeated our world completely, I found two references to 'tweeting' in prime time television and one instance of an Interactive White Board (IWB).  Grey's Anatomy gets the award for best use of Twitter in prime time this week (see video below).  For those of us that have delved into the world of Twitter from a PD perspective, this was a Twitter dream come true!  Doctors were using this collaborative tool to learn, develop, connect, and get advice.  It might have been a bit of a stretch, but in this episode, Twitter actually saved a life!

So is it possible that Twitter could save education in America?  Or maybe even in your school?  Again, maybe a stretch, but use your imagination.  As a principal, I read many Twitter feeds.  I started seriously Tweeting about 2 months ago at the suggestion of my good friend @SNewco.  My first thought... "No one wants to know what I am having for dinner... and I don't care what they are doing right now either!".  But I gave it a shot anyway -- I went out on a limb.  It has changed the way I think about education.

Can you remember when commercials would simply give a web address?  Now companies just tell you to find them on Facebook and Twitter.  How many schools, classrooms, or teachers can say "follow me on Twitter"?  Why is it that education seems to be the last to adopt the latest innovations?  Let's face it... our world is different.  We have to keep up if we want to keep our students' attention!

So, where can YOU start?
Follow me on Twitter!  Or follow @SNewco.  Or read one of the resources on Tweeting found here.  Then start Tweeting!