We’ve all heard it: “I don’t have enough classtime to…” Hobby teaching and veiled blame arguments on standardized testing aside, here are a few thoughts on ways to recover your “classtime” as inspired, in part, by some great conversations Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation.
First and foremost, internalize the following:
- The focus should be on learning, not the dispensation of information.
- If you are “teaching stuff ” that should be quickly recalled with no real connections, your role has been replaced by Google, Wikipedia, WolframAlpha, and myriad web-based tools.
- Time is actually the variable in learning.
- If you didn’t already believe this on some level, you would never assign homework.
- Your classroom’s walls are permeable (thanks David Jakes).
- The simple fact is human beings look for connections everywhere and the internet has made this abundantly possible. Your kids are doing it already. It’s time to tap that vast resource.
- Textbooks do not equal curricula. Curricula is the means by which we facilitate learning.
- If your principal told you all the textbooks in your school were being recalled and would never be replaced, what would that do to your lesson planning and, as a result your classes? Also, textbooks, in many cases, are a waste of money especially if you only “cover” and/or use 25%-40% of the material in them. at $80-$100 a book, that’s lots of waste. While we are on the topic of “coverage,” stop using that way of thinking. We are not applying coats of paint here. That kind of thinking leads us back to the for
- Technology is an essential tool for your work and student learning, not the point of learning.
- We don’t talk about book, paper, or whiteboard-infused/based/integrated lessons. Stop talking about technology-infused/based/integrated lessons. Seriously. Stop…Stop saying that you did a PowerPoint lesson. You don’t say you did a whiteboard/chalkboard lesson.
- You don’t (and can’t) know it all. You are a learner in all this.
- We expect that our kids will be life-long learners we should be too. While you may be an “expert” in your area, you can’t know it all. -Sorry to bruise your ego.
- Leverage the power of the connected learning world by building a personal/professional learning network and find those people who are doing what you do and can make you better.
- Since each of us can’t know it all, it makes sense to connect with others who have something to contribute.
Now, with that said, just because time is the variable for your classroom does not mean that you have to be on duty all the time. In fact, many of these suggestions are ways for you to clone parts of yourself so you can be in multiple places at multiple times. We’ve long dreamed (even in jest) of that technology, but it is here. It has been in multiple forms for some time now.
- Stop going over your class policies and procedures, rules and regulations, etc. and put them on the web. It doesn’t matter the tool you use (email, Google Docs, a wiki, EtherPad, a blog, -whatever). Make an agreement with your kids that you won’t read the policies if they’ll read them themselves. You can invent whatever way to document and record that they and their parents have read it. At worst have them email you -give them the format of the email response if you want and have them reply to you.
- Estimated time recovered: 1-2 class periods.
- Post your PowerPoints online, especially if you find yourself turning your back to your kids and reading the stupid thing.
- Clone yourself on the Internet and record and post your lectures/content delivery.
- Assign that as your kids’ “homework” and do the work you’ve always wanted to do with your kids in your classroom. You’ll be able to differentiate and work with kids individually, in small groups, or as a large group as needed.
- If kids don’t have computer/Internet access, have them download it to their phones, iPods, or put it on a DVD.
- Here’s some examples from a couple of teachers in Woodland Park, Colorado.
- Estimated time recovered: Any class period you do this.
- Outsource yourself to the Internet.
- Use the quality free/open resources available
- YouTube (and it’s EduClones), MIT (yes, *that* MIT), SAS CurriculumPathways, The National Repository for Online Courses, iTunes University, Prezi just announced and Education Exchange …There’s tons of other resources. Add yours to the comments below.
- Estimated time recovered: Any class period you do this.
The few, not exhaustive, ideas are just some ways to get you thinking about ways you can recover classtime. I’d wager that if you decide to turn your kids loose with many of these tools, you’ll find the entire nature of your class and the learning you and your students experience will fundamentally change.
Connections and reconnections. That sums up my EduCon experience today.
After @NancyW (Nancy White) and I made our bus connection to SLA, I connected with @bhwilkoff (Ben Wilkoff) and @hdiblasi (Howie DiBlasi) and later with @mwacker (Michael Wacker). During the SLA tour, guided by two SLA students, I found my way into several classrooms and posted a few tweets during the process.
On a tour at SLA, now in @mrchase English class. Lesson about Jackson’s The Lottery. #educon
What!? What kind of heresy is this? Laptops right next to lab equipment and kids entering experiment data?! #educon
Now kids reading their poems from their laptops! Not a piece of paper to be found! Who do these people think they are?! #educon
Overheard: You dont want to be on your cell phone in class. You might miss something… #educon
I know the non-educator friends in Facebook (and maybe even some of educator friends) sometimes get a little annoyed by my constant tweets that update my Facebook page. Some of them comment and leave me special sentiments. Like the kids we teach, they engage at different ranges consistent with their areas of interest and/or if they think they can beat someone else to a humorous reply.
Later I found myself in Zac Chase‘s (@mrchase) regular classroom having a conversation about a range of education topics with @bhwilkoff (Ben Wilkoff), @mwacker (Michael Wacker), @shareski (Dean Shareski), @thecleversheep (Rodd Lucier), @jasonmkern (Jason Kern), and several others. I didn’t say much, which, for those of you who know me will probably find that hard to believe. I was there for my own learning and while I wasn’t verbally participating, I found myself making mental connections to some of my own prior learning and working it into this new knowledge. Not everything bore immediate fruit, but as is common for me, I planted seeds from the conversations of others.
Downstairs in the commons and feeling the pressure to steal a few minutes of work, I turned my laptop on for the first time. I didn’t get much work done; there were too many conversations making too many connections for me. @mwacker (Michael Wacker) and I talked a little shop with @akamrt (Gregory Thompson).
I met SLA teacher @dlaufenberg (Diana Laufenberg) and got to hear about some of the internal workings of SLA over a Mediterranean lunch with several people from during the day. Some of that conversation connected to some of the earlier conversations that connected back to another book I’m currently reading.
Afterword, we again found ourselves (with several others from earlier) in Zac Chase‘s (@mrchase) regular classroom, only this time populated with his students. I listened as kids read their sentences attempting to use some of the vocabulary taped to the wall. Later, I was again content to be an observer, but one of @shareski‘s and one of my tweets sums it up:
@MrChase likes being a teacher.
Mr. Chase drafted us to help kids with some of the struggles they were having in working through an assignment where they were using blogs. I didn’t know much about the assignment, so I found myself asking lots of questions to understand. The students were very gracious in their responses, but through the whole process I saw that one of them was listening to the group’s responses and was working them into the 10 items Mr. Chase asked them to work on. There, I made another re-connection: questions are important. It’s soooo easy to fall back on our “Curse of Knowledge” as Dean Shareski made reference to earlier (which also triggered a connection to a book I recently read, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath who also made reference throughout to the Curse of Knowledge).
@bhwilkoff (Ben Wilkoff), @mwacker (Michael Wacker), and I made an unremarkable trip and back to a tweetup before attending the Friday Night Panel Discussion. Now that made lots of connections for lots of people. The Twitter hashtag #educon made it as one of the trending topics in Philadelphia. Managing the conversations on stage and via Twitter proved to be hyper-engaging for me, not really a pacifier as one panelist alluded to regarding technology. I may have gotten a little snarky once or twice.
I followed the crowd out and ended up riding a conversational wave that included connections from @thecleversheep (Rodd Lucier), @shareski (Dean Shareski), @jonbecker, (Jonathan Becker, whom I long tweeted with and finally met in person), @courosa (Alec Couros who, by the way, went around the group of 13 people, introduced by both in-world and twitter names, only missing one who was new to him. That was amazing and shows the power of connections on people.), @bhwilkoff (Ben Wilkoff), @lizbdavis (Liz Davis), @aforgrave (Andrew Forgrave), @msjweir (Jamie Reaburn Weir), @zbpipe (Zoe Branigan-Pipe), and @crafty184 (Chris Craft). My memory isn’t as good as @courosa (Alec Couros) because I’ve left two people out. I apologize.
After the good conversations from the day, I knew I wasn’t going to be going to sleep anytime soon. That stinks because the conversations of the day start early tomorrow (er, later this morning).
Oh yeah, I decided to change my Twitter picture so I can help with putting a name to a face when meeting in-world. Thanks for the suggestion.
For the past two years, I’ve watched as educators far and wide visited SLA for both a conference and conversations at EduCon. This year I’m attending EduCon 2.2, the third iteration. I know, I know, it took me a few minutes to figure out they started with 2.0, but after that it all clicked. I’m better now.
Anyway, I did what many dutiful conference goers do, I started planning out the sessions conversations I wanted to participate in and I came down with a bad case of decision paralysis. See, even though I know the sessions will be archived and I can access them when I want/need to, the reality is I may not get to the ones I don’t attend and many of them can fit with the pieces of my own professional/personal/educational Erector set. (That’s probably not a very good 21st century-related metaphor especially since no one actually makes “Erector” sets any more, but hey, it works for me and this is my blog ;-)
Almost every scheduled conversation at EduCon has something that intersects with my slice of the education biz. So…I have to choose while I’m here and I’ve come to the conclusion that while I (we) love having choices, I (we) hate having to choose. It would just be much easier if someone would just give me the formula and I could just plug it in and be off and running. Deep down, I know that cannot and will not work, never has -really, never. That, however, hasn’t stopped educrats from trying their own formulas and continuing to propose new ones for us all. (No, there won’t be any hyperlinks there, all you have to do is pick up or logon to any current educational publication and see the edu-mandates du jour.)
So, I have some things that are heating up and are in need of some serious exchange of ideas. Those will be where my conversations start, and, definitely not, where they’ll end.
I got to this tag cloud site, Wordle, from Chris Lehmann’s blog. It’s a Java-based site that allows you to customize the layout, font, and color of the word cloud you create. I have to warn you, though, it can evaporate your time as you constantly rework the layout and font. I had an idea of how I hoped some of the words would arrange themselves. I got pretty much what I wanted with Clayton Christensen’s article from the Hoover Institution, How Do We Transform Our Schools?, I’ve also started reading his book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. More on that later this summer.
You can view the larger cloud at the Wordle site also. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Seen at a school information night.
Any information parents want to give the school which would be helpful for the student’s educational placement, needs to be addressed to the grade level counselor, and received no later than…
I wonder if I should submit a response like this…
My child needs active, engaging, teachers who work with technology as a platform for instruction, extension, investigation, revelation, inspiration, engagement, collaboration, innovation, authentic experience creation, and connection to the world. He needs teachers who won’t assume that learning results from assigning worksheets and who use homework as a leveraged investment in the educational process. He should be placed with teachers who hold themselves to the same standards they hold their students. He should be placed with teachers who have high standards without being rigid. He should be placed with teachers who have figured out that they teach kids, not subjects. He should have teachers who have been given the freedom to do all of these things by their leaders and have chosen to do so even though it may not necessarily be easy or convenient. He should be placed with teachers who value and engage in professional collaboration for the good of their kids. He should be placed with teachers who will never call themselves digital immigrants or him a digital native. He should be placed with teachers who have been given the resources they need to accomplish all this. And, he should be placed with teachers who get paid enough not to have to choose between gas and groceries.
So there I was reading John Milton’s Of Education (why is probably another post) from one of my college books and I read the following line that had a notation reference at the end.
“At the same time, some other hour of the day, might be taught them the rules of arithmetic, and soon after the elements of geometry, even playing, as the old manner was.”
When I looked up the reference at the back of the book it said
“Both Plato…and Quintilian recommend the use of games as pedagogical tools.”
Pedagogical tools from Plato and Quintilian? I just had to find out what in the ancient world they were talking about. And since it had been a very long time that I engaged with any of the classical authors, I consulted Google and via The Perseus Digital Libray at Tufts University, here’s what I found from Plato (emphasis added)…
“What I assert is that every man who is going to be good at any pursuit must practice that special pursuit from infancy, by using all the implements of his pursuit both in his play and in his work. For example, the man who is to make a good builder must play at building toy houses, and to make a good farmer he must play at tilling land; and those who are rearing them must provide each child with toy tools modelled on real ones. Besides this, they ought to have elementary instruction in all the necessary subjects,-the carpenter, for instance, being taught in play the use of rule and measure, the soldier taught riding or some similar accomplishment. So, by means of their games, we should endeavor to turn the tastes and desires of the children in the direction of that object which forms their ultimate goal. First and foremost, education, we say, consists in that right nurture which most strongly draws the soul of the child when at play to a love for that pursuit of which, when he becomes a man, he must possess a perfect mastery” Plato, Laws, Book 1, 643b-d.
“There are some kinds of amusement, too, not unserviceable for sharpening the wits of boys, as when they contend with each other by proposing all sorts of questions in turn” Quintilian Institutio Oratoria Book 1, Chapter 3, line 11.
It seems that the Greeks were talking about games in education in the 340’s BC and the Romans in the 1st Century AD. We’re still talking about them today. Now they are framed within the context of video games or edugames. Both David Warlick and Gary Stager have offered their (mostly) differing opinions. The comments on David’s post have some interesting takes as well. Whether it’s Gary Stager’s ignorance arguments, or David Warlick’s thoughts about counter-pedagogies or the approaches that gaming might take in schools from the people over at The Games, Learning, and Society Group, we still have a long way to go in this gaming discussion. Just a couple of days ago, Scott McLeod wrote his latest entry about games and cited a stat about only 15% of “teachers have a more difficult time seeing how platforms generally associated with entertainment -i.e., video games, MP3 players, and cell phones -can be used as educational tools” (slide 15). Definitely a long way to go.
Just how much video games will influence (or not) our current systems of education remains to be seen. However, gaming is pushing its way in and it is having rippling effects, seen and unseen. Perhaps that’s what concerns some now just as it concerned Plato 2400-ish years ago “that those children who innovate in their games grow up into men different from their fathers; and being thus different themselves, they seek a different mode of life, and having sought this, they come to desire other institutions and laws” Plato, Laws, Book 7, 798c.
Today, as part of some ongoing staff development, our district is hosting David Warlick who will be doing a keynote and several roundtable sessions. Pardon the writing as I took notes during the presentation.
From the keynote…
One of the things I appreciated immediately was that he set up a blog entry with some links that he would be referencing through his keynote. During the keynote, David Warlick brought all the tech down to the level of students and teachers. That’s his mission, passion, and purpose. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about making meaning and making education meaningful.
- http://www.landmark-project.com/ -David’s site that has more resources I never knew I needed
- http://davidwarlick.com/wordpress/?p=257 -Warlick’s blog post about today. My friend and amazing teacher Michael is next to me in the red shirt.
- http://davidwarlick.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OutlineForRLPresentation -Handouts
- http://davidwarlick.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RedefiningLiteracyForThe21stCentury -Slides
Items of Note
- Information has changed. What it looks like and what you can do with it and how we interact with it.
- We’re spending too much time teaching our kids to use paper.
- We’re preparing our kids for the future they are going to invent. We know almost nothing about the future we are preparing them for. “For the first time in history our jobs as educators is to prepare our children for a future that we cannot clearly describe.”
- We should stop integrating teachnology and integrate literacy. Being suspicious about the information they find. Investigate and become a digital detective.
- If all we have taught our kids is how to read, are they literate or dangerous? Adults were taught to read what was handed to us. Our kids are not reading this way. They are reading in a global electronic environment.
- We can’t rely on the gatekeepers to be the sentries of information. It must become a personal skill.
- Find information, decode it, critically evaluate it, organize it into personal libraries.
- We should not just develop literacy skills, but literacy habits.
- We should not just develop lifelong learning, but a learning lifestyle.
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic expand our notions of what it means to be literate by
- Exposing what is true
- Employing information
- Expressing ideas compellingly
- Ethics -The thread that weaves all of them together
A compelling quote, “We will have achieved educational reform when no teacher believes they can teach the same thing the same way every time.”
I’m ready to learn more in the roundtable sessions…
The science assignment, in all its wrinkled, photocopied paperness, emerged from the depths of my 5th grader’s backpack. It contained, smacking of “parental involvement,” directions about how to display the results of the experiment on a tri-fold posterboard…due the next day.
The parental involvement I don’t mind, but when it comes to tri-fold poster displays, it becomes less about parental involvement and more about uh, parental guidance -and I don’t mean Mike Parent’s blog. (Although a blog does eventually play a part in this tale -read on, Digital Reader).
I dispise tri-fold poster displays and their inbred cousins, construction paper cut outs and foam display boards. They’re the so analog, so last-century, remnants of ancient business presentation expectations that have infiltrated our classrooms and science fairs. They’re very useful for the static displays of parental creativity and competition in gymnasiums converted to exhibition halls. Some may publicly look down their noses at the neatly arranged, heavily parent-influenced items on the tri-fold, but secretly covet the blue ribbon hanging on the corner of the board. And that’s where it starts. The pitiful tri-folds find themselves stuffed in the far less-traveled corners, assuming they even make it out of the classroom. So, in an effort to help our kids present themselves in a positive light, we parents make suggestions that turn into directives that turn into maddening scrambles and searches for mom’s special scrapbooking scissors that add some flare to this border. I wonder how many Sunday nights have ended with parents meticulously gluing display doodads while the kid is off in the other room playing video games. Nobody else? Must just be my house.
No longer, I resolved this time. (Plus, all the craft stores were closed and we were fresh out of foam board having used it all up on a quite beautiful State of Ohio display, which, by the way resides behind a door in the spare room downstairs as a monument to a maniacal frenzy of parental involvement.) It was time to take a chance with our kid’s education. Risky, I know, but I just didn’t have it in me to top the Ohio display.
About then I made a crazy Web 2.0pian decision and suggested that we put the required pieces of the assignment on a blog. Since this would be my son’s first foray into the blogosphere, I would set the blog up for him and give him a basic how-to after he had recorded all the required elements in a Word document. I wanted the initial blog experience to be more about the learning and less about the technical manipulation.
So he proceeded with his experiment, recording the materials and his hypothesis and the procedures and and the data and taking pictures as required. I set his blog up so he could copy and paste his text from the laptop. I made sure to make his blog viewable by invitation only because I knew I’d have to convince the hand-wringing, Internet fear mongers that this wasn’t a digital terrorism plot or would jeopardize his safety on the Internet. The really radical part was that we had several discussions about safe online behavior and what to include on the blog. We spoke about the type and amount of pictures he would be using and what he hoped to communicate with them. We talked about design and formatting and how each of those could help his audience understand him more clearly. We had more meaningful conversations that connected more of his past, current, and future learning to what he was doing just then. Certainly much better than the strained interactions of previous display-type projects. We’ll have more of the same conversations, I’m sure -and that’s just great.
With the entry edited and posted, I turned my attention to the science teacher and the district. This was going to be a surprise for the science teacher and I didn’t much appreciate those when I taught. I figured, more hoped, it was worth a shot. Just in case, I made a PDF of the blog post and emailed it to her after the blog invitation. She was able to see the blog from home and later on at school. She made some meaningful comments with questions and my son responded with thoughtful answers. I thought their exchanges were much better than a grade written on the back of the poster. Even more, she was very encouraging with the next assignment asking him to make another post.
For us and the teacher, it’s a dynamic resource easily accessible, not shoved in a corner or behind a door. We can look at the difference between the two entries and see the improvement -although he didn’t initially proof his spelling and mechanics on the second one, but we’ll work on that. His teacher shared it with some of his other teachers, who asked us to invite them so they could view it and we did. I was glad to see his excitement and his teacher’s. When the time came for the second assignment on the blog, he needed very little direction in the creation and organization. In fact he planned from the beginning how he was going to use the digital tools to accomplish his task. Score one for the Web 2.0pians.
The TxDLA has wrapped up but not before Gary Stager called himself a crackpot and gave a thought provoking presentation. The crackpot reference to himself came in the context of one who proffered so-called “crazy” ideas. I don’t know about crazy, but he definitely has some serious upstream opinions. He gave us a serious drink from the Stager firehose. In fact I’m still processing some of those ideas and deciding where I land. People like Gary Stager are like that, though. One minute I’m nodding my head in complete agreement and the next I’ve got the mental brakes pressed to the floor. Regardless, he’s a passionate educator who will leave you thinking.
Here’s some ideas from his presentation as they are filtered through my processing and frenetic note-taking. I have added the categories above the bullets for reflection more than anything else.
Stager cites a quote from Daniel Hillis’ Pattern on the Stone book [extended slightly for context]: “The computer…is a device that accelerates and extends our process of thought. It is an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we could ever have taken them on our own.”
If your classroom questions can be answered with a Google search, then let them.
Learning occurs in a community of practice where expertise is distributed.
Eliminate self serving and schizophrenic practices and policies.
We shouldn’t think of education as a competition.
Be open to emerging technologies and decentralizing tools.
The tools don’t matter unless they get in the way.
Collaboration begins at home.
We have operated on the SDSU curriculum for too long (Sit Down and Shut Up).
He routine meets kids who have never had a meaning conversation with an adult.
For faculty, collect the experts you want to study with.
Create a community of practice.
We should use technology to create authentic experiences in more domains in ways never possible before.
Stager doesn’t really care for Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and wrote an article called The Worst Book of the 21st Century – a review.
It would seem to be a little incongruous for me to have a few posts ranting against the corporate influences in our school and then write so much about a business book. Essentially, I think we must look beyond the rigid structure of American education and begin the discussions that will take us there. That’s the take-away of Pink’s book for me even though Pink never intended this book for education.
ISTE should take a stand on how computers should work.
He said something like this very quickly and got a smattering of applause. I’m not sure where he was going with this, but to generally discount the efforts of ISTE leaves me cold.
An educational revolution will not result from web 2.0.
Maybe not completely, but it certainly could provide the spark. Indeed, many have suggested it already has.
Also, I think he may have thrown a backhanded insult at those of us who consider ourselves bloggers for education, saying we are standing outside the circle of expertise. He seemed to contradict himself when he asserted that a way to join the community of practice was to learn from our [experienced] elders and emulate their behavior and practices. I’m not sure what to do with that. Maybe I should ask Karl Fisch, Wes Fryer, Alan November, George Siemens, David Thornburg, Dave Warlick, or any of the other educational leaders that write on The Pulse blog.
There’s nothing new about 21st Century Skills. They are simply the skills that rich people wanted their kids to have in the 20th century.
I would like to see a little more from him here than a simple dismissive attack.
Every course should be taught as liberal art.
He didn’t spend enough time here to give me a good picture and I’d like to know more.
More about Gary Stager so you can check it out for yourself…