The personal learning network for educators
First ... this is my first Blog. I'm not a "newbie" at this technology stuff. I've been on the cutting (and sometimes bleeding) edge of technology since I first started teaching with a Radio Shack computer in my first physics and biology classes in 1977! I was one of the first to use computers in my school for grades, the first to have students graph and do statistical analysis of data in my normal classes, the first to have students actively use the internet for research and downloading of data, the first to use probe ware for data collection, the first to add robotics to the curriculum, and one of the first to start doing professional development via Twitter.
But I've been hesitant to start blogging. I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in education, just because I'm older than dirt and have been teaching for 36 years! After that many years, I have to know at least a few things!! Of course you know the definition of an expert: X is an "unknown quantity", and spurt is a "drip under pressure." As an unknown drip under pressure, I'm not always sure that what I say or know is that unique or earth-changing.
But this past week, I ran across the following statement by Chris Hedges: "The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers."
Wow! That statement hit me like a 2 by 4 in the head! For the last couple of years, I have participated in all kinds of on-line chats about the new waves in education revolving around technology. My Twitter account is full of tweets about the latest apps, ipads, and/or smart phones and how they are changing education today. Just this past week I participated in an on-line chat about the latest presentation software, and the discussion was lively, as others commented about first this software and that app and how the technology helped kids present awesome presentations. As per most chats, some espoused the advantages of one brand over the other, while others gave disaster stories of how certain presentation apps just didn't cut it.
As I "lurked" I suddenly became aware that almost all the discussion centered around the apps/software. I quickly began a quick running list and realized that although we were talking about presentations, there were almost NO comments about helping students actually "communicate" or present in a logical, compelling way. We had gotten so caught up in the technology that we were ignoring the actual communication/thinking that made a presentation excellent. Although I am sure some who were chatting did know the pedagogy behind the chat, I'm sure there were others who just were so enamored by the software that they thought by just using it, the presentations by their students would be awesome!
As the chat ended, I began to think about other chats/talks I have had recently. I have had on-line discussions about story-telling software, but as I thought back, we didn't discuss the best way to help kids learn about metaphor or components of a good story. I've had several discussions and gone to some on-line presentations that encourage all of us to help our kids think critically and/or creatively, yet few discussions have involved how that actually looks, or for that matter, what the actual difference is between critical and creative thinking. Chats have centered around learning styles, yet many have only looked at visual/auditory/tactile learning and most have assumed that the participants understand all of these and what they look like in the classroom. Yet there is so much more ... both physical and cognitive styles ... many of which teachers have never seen.
As I have talked with the younger teachers around me in my own district, department, and on-line, I have realized that although many teachers are using the correct "buzz words", they often really don't have a good understanding of the pedagogy behind them or what they look like when practiced in the classroom.
It's no one's fault. But as a "wiley veteran" it is important that I make sure that I make sure "youngsters" aren't just teaching so a kid can do a good presentation or spit back answers on a test. I need to be sure they teach students to produce an engaging, thought-provoking, memorable presentation that will communicate in such a way that participants/observers are changed or forced to follow up with further research. We need to teach more than just technology, or with technology. We need to teach kids to think, apply concepts to real life, or demonstrate wisdom in choices. We need to be developing minds, not just careers.
I need to do that with my students. I'm not perfect yet, but I'm getting there. So perhaps I may have more to offer in a blog than I previously thought. That remains to be seen. But that is why I'm starting. Hopefully some will find helpful hints here to take that cutting edge technology and turn it into cutting edge teaching!