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Syncronicity Regarding the Future of Learning: Are you a Sherpa or a Jazz Musician?

Yesterday, Sara Swenson, Edina High School Librarian (She prefers that term!) shared the following video with me via e-mail that she found on an NCTE Web site.

I thought that the video crystallized for me the potential for educational technology integration, 21st Century learning and learning beyond the classroom walls. It is something we are working on with our Community of Practice. That isn't to say that there won't be road blocks to navigate, or crevasses to traverse! We know they exist now! I was intrigued to see the teacher's role defined in such creative ways!! When people ask you what you do for a living, do you respond as "teacher", "educator", "instructor", facilitator", or are you a "Connected Learning Incubator" or are you still "Keeper of All Knowledge Which Is Good?" Hmmm...

Then this morning, I checked my Twitter feed and Will Richardson had posted about a conference on the Future of Education he attended at Microsoft.
I saw a strong connection between his post and the video, and commented on the blog. When I read the post over again, this quote certainly sounded familiar:
As would be expected, much of the conversation was spent on the barriers to change, and at some point I found myself amazed at how deeply woven the reasons why not are ingrained in our conversations. At one conversation, someone said that many of her teachers didn’t feel like they needed to teach with technology at all since their students were doing just fine passing the tests without it. And I wanted to scream (but instead politely said) ‘then we gotta change the assessments.” Nothing in these conversations changed my view that to really change what we do in schools we have to first change our understanding of what it means to teach in this moment. That doesn’t mean than we throw out all of the good pedagogy that we’ve developed over the years and make everything about technology. But it does mean, I think, that technology has to be a part of the way we do our learning business these days.
I remember in my interview for my current job stating that "a pencil is technology, and if a task is done more efficiently with a pencil than a computer, then use the pencil! "(Of course we don't have a class in pencil either, that's why we need to integrate!!) However, if by having a student blog about a poem, allows them to have an authentic interaction with the poet he/she is writing about, then perhaps the pedagogy should change.

I arrived at work, and there was an update from our local teacher's union with this quote from Education Minnesota Edina President Van Anderson:
We do not know from day to day, or even hour by hour, what we will encounter among our students. Of course, we get to know them (and data can help us do so), and that knowledge helps us plan suitable lessons, but sometimes even the best laid plans veer from the path we thought our students might be able to follow. Then we, like good jazz musicians, improvise.
Later, again in my Twitter Feed, was a post by Dean Shareski , a Digital Learning Consultant from Moose Jaw, SK responding to Richardson with the following quote:
My own experience with meeting people at conferences and having great conversations outside of the formal sessions reaffirm that face to face is good and necessary and in many ways real reason and value of a physical place where people gather. I believe it was Kevin Honeycutt who said, “it was the first time I’d met someone’s brain before I met their face”. Being together is really what my class is about. But the richness of conversations and willingness to be open and transparent is difficult to foster in 3 hours a week where much of that learning is teacher directed. I think the model developed by Jonathon Bergmann and Aaron Samms is one we’ll likely see more of in the future. Coming to school to do homework and learning with others.
I had actually attended a Webinar presented by Jonathon and Aaron, and blogged about it here. Their model is one that I see having great potential in a one to one learning environment. I believe the ability for students to connect beyond the walls of the classroom with experts, expert content, and each other will allow for richer learning opportunities in the classroom.

These connections don't have to happen virtually, either.
Last week I was in AP Environmental Science teacher Eric Burfeind's classroom while he had guest lecturer, Phil Miller from the Conservation Breeding Specialists Group using computer modeling software to look at animal populations.

As I have been making and sharing these connections this morning, I hope I am modeling what it would look like for a connected student as well. I've talked before about having a Personal Learning Network, and Sara, Will, Dean, Jonathan, Aaron, and Eric certainly are members, (whether they know it or not!) and so are you! Join me as we climb the "Mount Everest" that is the future of education, I'll be the Sherpa carrying a few tools (rope, ladder, oxygen, wireless laptop) to help along the way!

What are your thoughts? Are you ready to be a Concierge, or a Sherpa, or a Jazz Musician?
What would training for such roles look like? I look forward to your comments!


farmingpow said…
Cool. However, I am wondering where the student learned to use all the technology involved in his class? As a teacher of younger students, the lessons would be more focus on using the tech, rather than a means to an end. How does the prof. manage the class?

I am a fixer not a fixture!
Unknown said…
Thanks for the comment!
I was talking to my Elementary Tech Integrationist colleague about this and told her that I think the technology students learn in elementary school, such as manipulating a SMART board, or posting on start the process. With integration, students are learning the tech skills as they learn the content along the way. When kids learn to make a birdhouse, they need to learn how to use a hammer, table saw, drill, etc., and they learn those things as they build the bird house. It's the same thing with something demonstrating their learning with a Web 2.0 tool. In the process, they learn how to use a headset microphone, upload images to a Web site, write a script, and synthesize their learning. Management involves giving them the steps to accomplish the task, suggesting connections (Why don't you call/e-mail the person?),differentiating, monitoring and adjusting, just like any other instruction.
bf said…
Watching your blogging presentation at TIES. I used a lot of resources from the Tempered Radical Blog. They were very helpful in developing blogging and commenting with students in the classroom

Here is a link to my blog.

Traci said…
I think that teaching seamlessly like this requires a longer road. You, first, need to be familiar with all of the different components. That can happen with a personal quest (go, Google it or get started with a colleague's advice, and get acquainted with blogs, RSS, etc), then go and see what is out there, how teachers are using the tools in projects, and start small. Another way to get started is to take a class where you personally learn through this methodology. Either way, you will need to make the process your own before you use it with kids.

If you are an intermediate to high school teacher, your students will also be able to help with the technical side. The first thing I do if there is a tech question I don't know immediately how to answer, I say, "Does anyone know how to..." And if no one does, I say, "Does anyone want to investigate how to..." And then I can keep working with kids and get the problem solved.

For me, I have the interest/passion and have spent countless hours (yes, late and night when my kids are snuggled soundly in their beds) exploring the possibilities. I don't know how else it works, the group of teachers in my school that is most into this pretty much spends their late nights doing this. Oh yes, and it is nice to find a group of educators, through online communities or in your own district, to bounce ideas off of.

It is a very worthy path. I am a better teacher because of the journey I have taken in technology. I know that because of the feedback I receive from my students, the growth in their thinking, and their motivation to be writers.
Unknown said…
Thanks for your comment. I think the line that sticks with me the most is "you will need to make the process your own before you use it with kids" is true.
Hopefully we can design professional development opportunities where we help teachers make connections that they can model for their students.
I didn't catch the reference to a jazz musician but since the essence of jazz is improvisation, I can see the connection. A teacher would not be able to have more than a general idea of what the students might discover. This sounds like a lot of fun as well as a lot of work. I appreciate starting with articles and a core of knowledge. At our level, helping the students read and understand what they find would be a major task, especially if they are finding a variety of articles at many reading levels. I can see this more for older students. Many of my middle school students wouldn't bother to wade through a lot of articles to develop their own core knowledge. This would require a lot of computer access. Social studies has such a mass of concepts and facts students are required to know, I'm not sure we have the time to devote to this process. Cathy
Wendy DG said…
Thank you so much for sharing the video. You offer excellent food for thought. There are also great comments. I think we have to be careful not to assume that so called "digital natives" know how to use technology, especially to learn. Most of my students are very good with a cell phone. However, I actually had to teach them the skills needed for this project. BUT, they did learn very quickly. I just broke down the components and addressed each one as a separate lesson (e.g. power searching, blogging, RSS, setting up Reader, etc.) Management was no different than it would be for any complex class project. Milestones were developed, rubrics provided for the students, and high expectations were set. Planning is important, but flexibility is more important for when things don't go as planned. Isn't that the reality of most aspects of life?

Regarding younger students, I believe we have to create networked learning opportunities that are age appropriate. I teach high school now, but I used to teach third grade. In order to provide a foundation for networked learning, the students need solid digital literacy skills. I believe digital literacy (online reading, writing, analyzing resources) should be the focus in the lower grades with many opportunities to network with other classrooms around the world.

From the teachers perspective, there is some work required to organize the lessons related to building the PLN. But, that's because no one was doing that in the earlier grades. Imagine the powerful learning that could take place if students came to us equipped with these skills. I know teachers are worried about extra work. I am, too. But, shouldn't the kids be the ones doing the work instead of the all-knowing fountain of knowledge at the front of the room? We truly become learning guides when we change our mindset and put the bulk of learning responsibility where it belongs...on the learner.
Unknown said…
Thanks for the insight into your project. I think staff right now are overwhelmed with all on that is on their "plate", and it scares them to add the tech piece at the expense of their curriculum and lower test scores. My thinking is that the staff development we design needs to also be participant directed, so that we model what it will be like teaching in that pedagogy. Unfortunately, it's hard when we haven't grown up learning that way. I've tried getting my group to use Diigo to annotate and share, but to do so, I had to deliver a lot of direct instruction! We'll keep plugging along!

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