(I thought I published this weeks ago, but found it in my drafts!)
Whew. I just finished three intense days with the new Technology & Learning Cohort – a group 10 really smart, fun, and insightful colleagues of mine brought together by our interest in and pursuit of good teaching practice. The teachers are from a variety of grade levels from Early Childhood to 12th grade. There are four math teachers from Upper and Middle School, a spanish teacher (upper/middle), science teacher We spent the three days learning tools, discussing pedagogy, watching TED talks, discussing tools, and collaborating on projects.
To prepare for our year together, each member received an iPad to play with over the summer and we all read, The New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, which served as a backdrop to our conversations over the the three days. In addition, seven of us went to EdCampKeene in August and that help get our ideas bubbling.
On our first meeting day, we began with some iPad app sharing. Lots of good interesting apps came out of it, Puppet Pals, sync pad, iChirp, owl pellets, and many, many more. We came to the conclusion that Syncpad would be a good app to invest in to help create interactive whiteboard functionality with the ipad. So much potential for kids to interact with each other and the teacher. Another app we decided to invest in is Pages. We were still drawn to a document creating app and that one seem to work the best in our desktop/laptop world.
That sharing lasted for at least an hour so we decided to put down the electronics and move outside to have a discussion about the book, A New Culture of Learning and what we hoped to get out of our year together. There was a lot of talk about being given some dedicated time for experimenting with technology, thoughtfully planning for technology, and having support through adopting technology. The other theme that popped up in this conversation and in a few that followed, was the tension of changing your curriculum to be more project-based, group-oriented, etc. while teaching at a “college prep” school in which the parents and students expect the kids to do well on college board tests, get “good grades”, and get into a good college. At a private school, you don’t have to worry about the “standards” and state tests, but you do have more pressure in preparing kids for college.
After a yummy potluck lunch and birthday cake, we watched Michael Wesch’s TEDxNYED talk from March 2010. I really enjoyed the talk for two reasons: 1. he stresses that technology changes us and we have no choice in it; we change, like it or not. 2. We need to work on helping kids be “knowledge-able” not just knowledgable. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:
The end of the first day, I introduced the group to some tools to help them cultivate their learning community or PLN – Twitter, blogs, Diigo. We easily tied this in to the book and in our discussion about how to keep up with all of the resources and learning. It was a great first day – there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I went home really excited to be working with this group for the year.