Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bridging the Gap…Is This Where I Fit?

So a week after Prensky I sat at home reflecting on my trip, and one thing kept coming up time and time again – we need to teach them how. At first I was a little confused about what I was thinking. Prensky came to Wartburg and the Cedar Valley in Iowa and said some really awesome things about the transformation that needs to happen in education and some very broad ideas – like that we need to start integrating more technology into the curriculum in more effective manners or my favorite idea from him, that cell phones should be used in the classroom.

Prensky had some awesome things to say, and I really admire him for exactly what he is doing and what he writes. However, I struggle with taking what he says and making it personal. How am I realistically going to take his ideas and apply them to the curriculum? How am I going to effectively start integrating technology into the curriculum? What does that look like? Who does that affect and in what ways? What are the specific ways that this needs to happen in the future?

So at the question and answer portion at his keynote speech last week one of the questions from a fellow student teacher was how or if cell phones should be used in the classroom. Of course Prensky said that they needed to be and then he went on to actually explain some broad ways to do that, like poll students, use them to access the Internet, give projects to them that demonstrates their higher order thinking, etc. Nothing wrong with those answers, really, it is just those are good answers, but not exactly practical for tomorrow in class.

This is my big issue with Prensky, and others like him, that and also a large majority of conferences, meetings, trainings, and other events – that they leave you inspired and excited to go out and make a difference, but then you arrive to the class on Monday morning or the next day and really want to integrate what you learned into the curriculum, but you just do not see a practical application. How do I actually do that in my classroom? What does that look like? It is a problem that I, as an educator and novice conference attendee, have run into multiple times. How do I bring this back to my classroom?

So what if someone created a conference where the information was relevant, that actually started the conversation, the most important part of the learning, and allowed people to actually talk about and figure out real life applications to their learning’s? I think that Karl Fisch, Bud Hunt, Mike Porter and others have done this with the Colorado Conversation Learning 2.0 conference that they started a few years ago. However, not everyone can attend the conference so how do we take that idea and farm it out to a whole bunch of different places?

Maybe that is where I, or someone else or a complete company of people, step in to help the education world change. What I am proposing is someone or some “it” let’s call it that has physical, real life, tried and true examples of things that have worked in the classroom and that are easy to implement and put into class on Monday? What if that person existed and could do a training session, or multiple training sessions, with faculty, staff, and educators in simple small group, one-on-one, or large group settings to help make a difference one educator, one school, and one district at a time? Topics could be effective ways to use the cell phone in class, how to actually get movie creation into your class in an effective and realistic way, how to teach in a constructivist learning style, or even better – some easy and simple ways to get students engaged in your classroom through a low tech means.

I’m not saying that this has to be me, although I basically have already started to do this in a number of places and with a number of faculty and staff. It started at Wartburg with a passion for teaching, technology, and connecting the two, led to training faculty and staff at Wartburg in that way, and spread home to help my mother out with some training in her elementary school, then back to Wartburg and training my fellow education students (because the education department was not preparing them for the future of education so I took matters into my own hands and worked some technology trainings into the class), then out here to Denver and working at Arapahoe and learning everything that I can and bringing that sense of optimism and curiosity to the classroom that allows me to really engage with the students and teach them using the tools of technology on a daily basis, then back to Waverly and working with some middle school teachers on how integrate what I am learning at Arapahoe and other places into their curriculums, and now back here to Denver where a school that I interviewed with for a possible position has asked me to come over and train a few of their teachers too. This idea and concept of teaching other people has blossomed into an opportunity to go out and help other teachers get better. Now my question is, does this continue to grow, expand, and develop into a career at some point or is this just a side thing to teaching? I guess to answer that question I will have to wait until the future.

Overall, I see a huge gap between the ideas that “we need to change the face of education in the 21st Century” and the ways, ideas, and people training others in the ways and ideas of how those changes are actually going to happen. I am talking concrete, easy to use, tried and true methods of how this will happen and can be integrated on Monday in class.
Let me give you an example…so Prensky’s answer to the cell phone question that I brought up earlier in this post, were these broad ideas that students should use them. Nothing wrong with the answer, really, it was just that the answer was not exactly practical for tomorrow in class. After the session ended I called over my friend who asked the question and told her about a website called that actually allows you to create slides where students can text in their response to a question. Really easy to set-up, easy to use, and something that could be implemented into her class the next day. She said ok and I thought that would be the end of it.

The next day at 8:52 am I received a text from my friend: “I love polleverywhere! It works great and the kids love it!!! Thank u soo much!!!”

That’s it, right there, that’s why I love telling other people about technology and equipping them to make a difference in the lives of their students.

So will this be my job in the future? I do not know. However, I do know that it is a passion of mine and something that is desperately needed in the education profession right now and into the near future.