Friday, February 24, 2012

Redefining Awesome...Connected Learning

Last September, Will Richardson challenged our faculty to "Redefine Awesome" in what learning looked like in our district. The last few weeks, have seen some great connected learning opportunities happening at Valley View Middle School that get at what Will was talking about. 
Project Lead the Way
Tim Berendt, a teacher in our Project Lead the Way program, began using Twitter this year as a way for his students to share the work they are doing with the outside world, and also as a tool for formative assessment.  Students tweet out what they hope to accomplish at the beginning of the class period, and then tweet what they completed at the end. In many cases, students have received feedback and encouragement from people outside the district, such as this exchange from Autodesk, the company that makes the software the students use! 
Berndt did a great job at the start reminding students to follow our Web 2.0 Code of Ethics, and how they could use hashtags to label their work. Students label their tweets with #edinapltw, #STEM and #EduWin to share with different audiences. He was recently contacted by our local ABC affiliate KSTP-Channel 5 for a story about his use of social media in the classroom! Tim is seeing first hand the engagement and motivation his students get, when creating for an authentic audience! 

9th Grade Government
Students in Erik Anderson's government class recently had a debate with students in New Brighton, Pennsylvania via Skype! Erik had connected with Brian Pasquale, a fellow government teacher on Twitter during a weekly chat called #sschat. They realized that they had a similar curriculum, and thought they would try this as an experiment. It took a lot of work and planning the first time through, but as Pasquale noted on his blog :
The most interesting thing to me was how much they (the students) completed outside of class.  Numerous students told me about tweeting, texting, and googling outside of class and into the evening hours.  This was something I was hoping would happen (naturally) and was glad to see in some cases that it did.  In the workforce projects are no longer just completed by people in one office building; the some of its parts come from all over the world and the students need to be prepared to effectively engage in that environment.  I believe they already are, they just needed to apply their social life to their academic/vocational life.
The students met each other briefly via Skype on Monday, collaborated on Google Docs throughout the week, and then presented on Friday. Anderson noted that the students were totally engaged in the Cover-It-Live backchannel, which allowed the teachers and select students to moderate the discussion. They were also able to post poll questions to gather feedback. Several students brought their own devices and Anderson used the computer lab so all could be engaged. 

During Richardson's talk last fall, he mentioned how the National Council of Teachers of English defined literacy for students today. They need to be able to:

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology  
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally  
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes  
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information  
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts  
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

I would venture to say that Berndt and Anderson have done a masterful job of taking the leap and meeting these standards! Not bad for a social studies and engineering teacher!

If you would like to learn more about how you can use Twitter and other social media tools to engage your students and enrich your learning, I will be hosting a Webinar on Tuesday, March 20 from 4-4:30, CST. Details to follow.
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