Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Planning Collaboration Virtually

About a month ago I started working on a presentation for the PA Governor's Institute STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Some of my fellow Keystones and CFF coaches gathered on a conference call to begin discussions about how to present 21st century skills to this audience. We broke off into 3 groups: elementary, middle, and high school. I had the pleasure of working with Jeff Rothenberger on the elementary portion of the presentation. We brainstormed, shared information, created a wikispace, and developed a Keynote presentation without any face to face meetings. We met today, for the first time, and gave our presentation.

A year ago, I would never have envisioned that this would be possible! Our early correspondence consisted of email in order to exchange skype names. Later we used video skype in order to share ideas. We each built our part of the project on a collaborative wikispace then moved into a Keynote presentation. (It occurred to me today that we could've used Google Presentations as well!) Jeff created the template for the presentation as well as his slides. He uploaded it to my .mac idisc. I downloaded it from there and added to it. We continued to revise up to and including the day of the presentation.

The implications for education are tremedous! Even though the digital divide is still a reality, many people in my area are migrating to the local libraries to obtain internet access. This virtual collaboration could make group work more feasible! Where was this when I was in college?!?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's All About Learning

Having worked with teachers, helping them to embrace technology as a tool to enhance learning, several good questions keep arising.

1. How can I do all of these new things and still teach all of my content?

2. What about preparing kids for PSSAs? (PA accountability testing as part of NCLB.)

Here is how I address these questions:

Learning and technology are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Technology is a wonderful tool to have in our tool belt when helping learners learn. Does that mean technology should be infused in every lesson? No. My rule of thumb is if technology can help to ENHANCE instruction, then use it.

I have found that varying instructional strategies is also essential. While I grew tired of continual lecture as a student, or classes where all I did was participate in cooperative learning, my guess is that students might tire of the integration of the same technology techniques if they were used all of the time. I think the key is to know your content, know your learners and their needs, know how what technology tools are available, and then blend them together.

So, I guess I am trying to say that LEARNING is at the heart of everything we do. Technology is a wonderful tool to help engage learners but it is not all about the technology, it is about the LEARNING.

This might muddy the waters, but here are some references that I go to when developing lessons:

The Needs, Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences of your Learners
Rigor & Relevance (making activities relevant and rigorous, higher level thinking)
Understanding By Design (keeping the "main thing" the main thing, starting with a main concept, not all of the details) - awesome book that I studied in grad. school and is still being discussed and practiced today
21st Century Skills (skills that our children will need in an ever changing world)
State Standards (our curriculum)

Just remember..... it's all about the learning.