Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Professional Develpment ... Optional?

I am currently working on a professional development plan to prepare our faculty for a 1:1 laptop program to be rolled out in the 09-10 school year. Next school year each month we are planning on having one 3 hour workshop. Then to supplement the workshop we are planning on having smaller sessions on a weekly basis either before or after school. The problem is that some in our school want these smaller sessions to be optional with a monetary incentive for attendance. It is of my opinion that if these sessions are not required then teacher attendance is going to be very low, even with the incentive.

The better alternative would be to make the sessions mandatory and then add an incentive for using what they have learned in the classroom. To document the use of the technology they could post the lesson plan to a school wiki, and provide examples of student work. I also think if we want to give them choices, then offer 4-6 different sessions a month and make them pick 3 or 4 of them to attend.

Teachers have enough on their plate, I know I am one, but I also know teachers are not going to come to an "optional" professional development session for a small bonus on their paycheck.

photo by edublogger on flickr.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Memorization and 21st century skills

I was sitting at our faculty in service today and our guest speaker is a prominent psychologist in our area. I was listening to him talk about strategies that we can use to help students with learning disorders be successful in our classrooms and ultimately in the "real world." Many of the strategies that he discussed were great recommendations that any good teacher should and would incorporate into their classroom.

One section of his talk did bother me. He said that memorization is a very important skill that should be taught and incorporated in all parts of the curriculum. Where does this fit into teaching students 21st century skills? He was correct in saying there is too much information for anyone to memorize, but his answer to the problem is wrong. As we are preparing our students to be successful in the 21st century, we need to get past this idea that everything needs to be memorized. As an anatomy teacher I struggle with this issue myself. We need to teach students how to access and filter the enormous amounts of information that is constantly being streamed at them. The faculty at our school was asking "How do I help my students memorize this?" The question we should be asking is "How do I teach my student to access and use the information appropriately?" We need to teach students how access the information and to use their learning network. We need to move beyond rote memorization. With technology tasks that have been traditionally left to memorization and left brain thinking can be done by a computer. We need to encourage and foster the right brain skills in order to prepare our students for the 21st century.

Teachers in the 21st Century must change and adapt to keep up with their students. The time has come for teachers to move away from rote memorization, repetitive practice, silent study without conversation, and brief exposure to topics, and instead, move closer to authentic learning.
-What Really Engages All Students?"
We need to teach students how to learn how to access the information to make informed decisions and solve real world problems.

Image from username: Natrasha

Monday, February 25, 2008

What skills do our students need?

What is the technology skill set that the graduate of a High School will need to complete their college work? To enter the work force? What tasks will be second nature for them that we are not thinking about today?

In order to compete in the 21st century global economy, students need to learn how to harness the power of technology to communicate in our increasingly flat world.

If students are to learn these skills, they may need to get very different kinds of assignments. Here's a traditional assignment: "Read the following descriptions of sites in Metropolis and, referring to the specifications, determine which site would be the best for a park." A corresponding assignment that would teach 21st-century skills might be this: "Using GPS equipment, work with students from two other schools in this city to determine the best site for a park, collaborate on a multimedia presentation, and arrange to make that presentation to the city council." In the latter assignment, students use various forms of technology (Internet, Email, GPS equipment, perhaps digital cameras, PowerPoint™), solve real-life problems, and work together to produce the desired result.

Note that the technology alone is insufficient. Good pedagogy is still good pedagogy, and that means engaging students, challenging them, encouraging them, and trusting them to do well. The trick—the goal—is incorporating technology into that pedagogy.

-The Journal/21st century Skills

Good pedagogy is still good pedagogy. This year at Educon 2.0 five guiding principals were outlined in a discussion about our schools.
  1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.
  2. Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen
  3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
  4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate
  5. Learning can — and must — be networked

We also need to consider the three essential questions from Dan Pink's, A Whole New Mind:

As teachers we need to make sure that our lessons are surrounding these questions/statements. If our students are going to be competing in a global economy then we need to take a serious look at the essential learnings and pedagogy in our classrooms. In order for change to occur we need to continue to look at 21st Century literacy skills.