This book is for educators, parents, and community partners!

Resources, ideas, examples, for both beginners and experts.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making the Connection to Digital Learning

The Perils of Outdated Classrooms

At one time, classrooms were isolated and separated from the world—students listening to teachers, taking notes, hoping to remember tidbits to regurgitate later on exams and pop-quizzes. Their will to succeed, or perhaps their fear, kept them awake, not their engagement in the learning activity. Educators who cling to the old ways do so at the peril of the students they teach.

We are, like a speeding bullet or train, heading into a digital world that is no longer simply "emerging," it is blooming every day: new tools, new sites, new social media strategies. It's easy to say, "I don't have time for that," or, "I don't want my kids lurking around the Internet, it's too dangerous." While both of those statements are true in some way, K-12 teachers who ignore the world in which their students live, leave them to fend for themselves.

Yes, it's important to connect students to S.T.E.M. career resources and awareness, but it's just as important to train them in the effective use of the digital tools and social media sites that could be utilized in the classroom.

Several years ago I heard Ian Jukes speak at an education conference. His passion filled the room. I thought, "Is this guy on something?" I later decided that he is one of those rare people who are doing what they are meant to do, and doing it with gusto. He is a champion for 21st century learning, so to speak. To this end he is a prolific speaker and blogger and author. I recommend his blog: The Commited Sardine. You can commit too by visiting the blog and subscribing.

Do you know about flipped classrooms? Would you like to learn more about global classrooms, gaming for learning, and learning with handhelds? If you want to spend a little time catching up, understanding digital kids, subscribe to his blog. No, I'm not working for the guy, I never met him. I beleive he is someone who can help anyone who wants to get onboard the train and help guide the kids who are using digital tools to play, to use those tools to learn. The peril is in becoming irrelevant.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adapting to New Tools in the Classroom

Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized and directed.
-John Dewey

There are universal roadblocks to adopting and adapting to new tools and new strategies for teaching and learning: access, training, time, money, and resistance. If we don't accept the challenge, the consequences of leaving kids behind in a world that's rapidly changing and evolving are critical.

We are sliding into the digital age faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. We who were born and raised in a different environment may never catch up. What we can do is listen to and learn from the young people who were born into a technology-rich world, who have had radically different experiences. It is our challenge to guide these kids, our students, with our own unique knowledge and experiences. We have the wisdom of the past to share with the world citizens of the future.

Education will look different in ten years, so will the marketplace into which they will go. Building relationships with professionals who work in S.T.E.M. fields will help prepare students by broadening their view of the possibilities, by seeding the fertile soil of their passions and their imaginations. The emerging digital tools have the power to connect K-12 students to people, to ideas, and dialogue that informs them about the world.

The key to success is having an open mind and to be willing to explore the possibilities, often on one's own time. The results will be new relationships between teachers and students...learning and adapting across generations and across cultures.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Social Media in the Classroom

picture by ivanpw
More and more, classroom teachers are making use of social media in the classroom. At first, there was great resistance from teachers, administrators, and IT staff.  Teachers had to take time out of already overtaxed schedules to learn the technology (we can all relate) and then to learn how to use it effectively for instruction. Administrators had to make decisions that could come back to haunt them. Someone might lose their job or their credibility. For IT staff, it meant more work in terms of support and also in terms of the safety of their network where critical data is utilized and stored. Ultimately, they had to open the floodgate (ports on the firewall) and let the "wild rumpus" start. Eventually, as we have observed with the emergence of desktop and instructional technology in the classroom since the mid 1980s, technology as a part of our culture and therefore part of learning cannot be denied. From the time the computer was made available to the individual and the Internet became accessible to all, there was no turning back.

When I first began writing Connecting Students to S.T.E.M. Careers, Social Networking Strategies, one of the top issues barring the integration of social media in the classroom was the blocking of blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media by school district firewalls, by the people making those decisions. But Zeitgeist can't be denied. Everyone was using it at home and businesses had incorporated social networking seemingly overnight, as soon as the hundredth monkey discovered its value as a no-cost marketing and communication tool. Educators in the know wrote articles and presented workshops. "We have to deal with it," said education writer Patrick J. McCloskey in the 2009 Teacher Magazine article. "Locking out the sites and tools of this new world our kids live in will render us irrelevant and useless when our students need us most...many of our students know how to reach a larger audience more quickly than any school district memo could ever hope to...our students need our help to make them understand how powerful that is....We can build the 24/7/365 school if we embrace the technologies our students are already using."

This sentiment and thousands like it flooded the education media highway and before you could say Jack Sprat could eat no fat, kids were bringing their cell phones, lap tops and iPads into the classroom. One report in early 2011 listed, for the month of February, 550,000,000 Facebook users; 95,800,000 had joined Twitter, and over 42 million people were using Nings such as Classroom 2.0 and Flat Classroom. The vanguard now has instant data.

Today it's safe to say that we've wandered far enough into the woods that there's no going back. Perhaps it's time to review why use social media in the classroom. Here are a few suggestions related to the Career book:
  • learn about careers in fields like environmental science from the professionals in those fields 
  • ...prepare for the future workplace
  • be proficient in digital technology skills including teamwork/collaboration
  • learn how to use the tools effectively, safely and legally
  • be able to evaluate and share content
  • learn what's real and what's a scam
  • discover how many ways science, technology and art are a part of the way we live and work
  • motivate students by allowing them to engage in and direct their learning based on personal passions
  • help students discover they, too, can achieve anything
  • tap students' imaginations about their futures and their personal potential
  • provide them with an up-close look at the world without having to leave the classroom
  • allow space for young people to begin to imagine a future outside the realm of their own experiences
We have always known that people learn better in context. With careful guidance by teachers and parents, young people can harness what they do for fun on the Internet to build a community of professional partners in the classroom.

Please join the blog and share how your students are using social media in the classroom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Career and Job Predictions

Kids in classrooms are using technology to explore career options. It would seem they can't really go wrong by pursuing careers in any one of the S.T.E.M. fields. If they aren't so inclined, if they have a passion for the arts, I believe it's important to follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell pointed out. Happiness is an element of success often left out of the equation by well-meaning educational policy-makers and parents who worry about the security of their childrens' futures.

And what is it that we know about the future in terms of the job market right now? I read an interesting article on the Internet yesterday published by Monster dot com. It was actually two articles, one listed jobs that died in 2011 and the other the "The Best Careers for Right Now." Both lists were somewhat predictable: Real estate agents might hang up their hats; if you deliver the mail, find a new day job; if you stand behind the counter in a video store you might not have seen a customer for a while; newspaper reporters can keep on writing, just not at their old desk at the newspaper office. Fifty percent of the secure jobs for the future as predicted in this article, posted on Comcast, are in the S.T.E.M. fields, particularly in the area of health care and information technology.

While encouraging young people to keep their compass on their passions and their dreams, let's include in that directive the importance of watching the world as it evolves, and also keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror. By understanding the past, and staying awake in the present, we might be ready for the future.