Monday, July 23, 2007

Construct Knowledge or Consult an Expert?

After reading about everything the participants did at the High Schools New Face conference with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on the TechLearning blog, I hope I get the chance to experience something like that! I'm doing okay trying to teach myself everything, but it sure would be easier to involve myself in intensive, guided exploration of the tools available to me. I want to be taught - I want an expert there!

Hmmm. Is that the result of years of schooling? I don't know. Having an introduction to a topic by an expert is not counterproductive - it helps focus my beginner floundering-around to a few useful paths. So yes, seeking experts is still one method of learning. I guess the seeking is the important part, versus having an expert forced on me by some class I was required to take. 21st Century learning seems to emphasize the responsibility of learning being on the learner; of letting people (children) choose to learn what interests them. Constructivism - that's the ism I'm thinking about now. I could construct my own knowledge of 21st century tools (and I am), but it sure would go faster if I received a little pointed guidance during my early explorations! That's where this thought is leading me; pure constructivism is frustrating and time-consuming, and many students don't have the time or inclination to follow learning through to the end, to become experts themselves. Teachers have to provide a basic introduction, a direction, some tools and how to use them, generate some excitement and energy for what could be discovered or learned, before students can take off and build on that foundation.

While cruising through the rest of my feeds, I found a perfect example of the kind of learning I'm trying to describe. Will Richardson, writing about the learning at BLC that occurred outside of the sessions, said

"...and then he took literally two minutes to show me how to begin to play. Not how to take a certain picture in a certain way. Not how to prepare for every shot. But how to play and experiment and take a picture, look at it, make an adjustment, try it again, reflect, reshoot, etc. until I finally got what I wanted...I learned just enough to teach myself. Pretty cool."

Yeah, that's it - teach our kids just enough of a new concept for them to begin teaching themselves. In science, introduce a tool, dabble in using it, brainstorm how the tool could be used to explore a personal topic of interest, research the tool's use by others, design an experiment to use this tool within your topic, and publish the results on a wiki/vidcast/blog...I picture students using these tools and the science surrounding them to analyze aspects of their personal interests - horses, hockey, painting, video games, underwater basket weaving.

Doable? For me? It's a huge stretch. I'm a traditional learner, struggling to create nontraditional ways of learning. Part of me is excited to get into a classroom and start experimenting, and part of me just wants someone else (an expert!) to figure it all out and tell me what to do ;-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Teacher Growth: Ask the Students and Use RSS

Scott McLeod's Leadership Day Summary led me down an interesting path today. These are my reflections on some of the things I read...

Sylvia Martinez reminds me that the students are an untapped resource. I'm racking my brains, trying to think of ways I can use 21st century technology to improve learning. I don't have to do this alone! I can and will ask my students for creative ideas on how these web 2.0 tools can be used to enhance and demonstrate learning. Do a quick lesson on the tools available to us, give them the objectives for the current unit, and have them brainstorm ways to use the web in their learning.

I have to agree with Jamie, that the best place to start teachers and administrators down the road of embracing technology is to get them an RSS feed and teach them to use it. It is addictive, for one thing - because deep down, most teachers love learning. It is also easier than rigorous study, because readers get info in little bites (bytes?). I feel like I don't have the time to sit down and read a book about web 2.0, or the knowledge to find my own resources online. RSS feeds allow me to learn and explore one or two small topics at time, and most bloggers link to additional information which broadens my exposure to that topic. Ah, Steve Poling comments on the appeal of blog reading for administrators, as well.

I would also recommend allowing time to pass, after introducing RSS, for teachers to just read and "lurk." I was not ready to join the conversation until I'd read for several months. I felt I'd nothing to say until I had a better grasp of the concepts and their possible applications in my life. I wasn't convinced that web 2.0 could help me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The First Post!

I’m a brand-new thirtysomething mother-of-four secondary science teacher. I have no idea what I’m going write about here or how this blog will develop over the next few years. After half a year of lurking and learning, I’m ready to join the conversation…even if I’m just talking to myself for awhile!

Too Much Time Online?

I am having a terrible attack of the endless weblinks. SO much to learn, see, hear, read…I love my Google Reader, and I do think it helps narrow my experiences online to a manageable level. But lately I’ve been exploring Second Life in education, and one link leads to another which leads to another! I feel guilty spending hours online, and yet I AM learning, I AM trying to become a better-informed educator…I could be reading books (and I do), and that takes just as much time. Why does it feel wrong to spend that research time online?

I think it may be my generation’s view that computers are toys rather than tools! Holding a book for two solid hours “looks” more professional and educational than staring at a computer screen for two hours. The assumption when viewing myself doing the former is I’m learning; the assumption for the latter is that I’m playing or wasting time. I do serious work and learning here; I’m not being fair to myself. I need to change my assumptions, and I’m sure many other educators need to as well.

Another question I have for myself - is the steep learning curve worth it? I am already overwhelmed with the content and pedagogies I haven’t mastered yet within my discipline (science), and here I am trying to wrap my head around Web 2.0 innovations. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t first focus on “the basics” before I try to expand my technological knowledge base. But if I can figure out efficient and effective ways to help my future students learn science by using these tools, won’t that make me a better and more savvy educator?