Teaching with NETs

I thought more about David Warlick’s blog in which he proposed a modified, digital, capstone project that would demonstrate what students had learned though application. It sounds initially like a useful model in that it could synchronize Understanding by Design planning, NETs, and the mission statement of each, unique school. This could also be a goal around which a school could design an technology integration model, with different groups taking part. Each department and grade level could be assigned tasks that would prepare students for the capstone project.

It would answer the important question of who will teach the NETs standards. We all would. We already meet many standards when we plan and teach units. For example:

–Safe, legal and responsible use of information includes using bibliographies, footnotes, and citations and understanding how these principles apply to digital information and images.

–Using models and identifying trends are standards already used in the sciences.

–Standard 3:  Research and information fluency list the fundamental skills taught from Junior School through High School that are evident in authentic report writing.

The next step is to continue these fundamental skills into the digital learning environment. Trista Meisner’s blog post on how they approached this at ISB was a valuable overview.

The value of the NETS standards is that they are a good starting point for digital scope and sequence planning, which would be required to prepare students for David Warlick’s digital capstone project. King George County (Virginia, USA) offers a good example. For this to be successful, it must be a school-wide conversation. Guided by UbD, teachers should agree on the principles and general form of the digital capstone project and participate by preparing students at each grade level with the necessary skills and experiences. This also would help the school remain true to its mission statement as the learning moves further into the 1:1 model and, probably, becomes increasingly project-based.

At ISSH, we use what could be thought of as a version of the just in time approach which has been modified to technology teaching. The philosophy has been that each teacher incorporates the hardware or software needed as they become available and meet instructional needs. It allows for flexibility and, as long as each department is checking back at intervals with the TIS or Curriculum Coordinator to demonstrate that NETs guidelines are being met, then it works as a grassroots-driven model. This can work well in an international school environment because new teachers will introduce or emphasize different applications depending on their training and teaching experiences. How well teachers are meeting NETs can be tracked with curriculum mapping tools and regular department and curricular.

This week my Theory of Knowledge students are working on a virtual museum in which they will tell the story of human history by selecting and grouping objects within a virtual museum plan as part of the History and Areas of Knowledge unit. This was based on the a review that I read in the American Historical Review. Students knew how to use either PowerPoint or Google Presentations, so I suggested that as the software. One of my suggestions was to create a hyperlink to a exhibit explanation card. The students who did not know how to do this could learn quickly. When my students created Digital Family History stories in Grade 10, I suggested using Garage Band or iMovie as the tool. Everything they needed to learn to achieve their own goals or incorporate my suggestions they could learn quickly.

We cannot assume that this will always be easy. Some skills, such as using and synthesizing diverse resources, may be better taught using traditional or digital tools. In other cases, there may be strong disagreement and the lines between professional opinions could also be seen as generational, with younger teachers or those with more recent training advocating more digital tools. The expectations related to tools like laptops, Smartboards, and Web 2.0 applications in the classroom (NETs 6.a, b, c) will need to be navigated with respect for both groups of teachers. This is essential in order to retain effective, experienced faculty, and sustain professional relations in the future.

As long as we are all contributing, and trying to incorporate NETs in our teaching, it should matter less which way we take to meet the goals as long as the approach works for our learning community.

Garry Leroy Baker

5 thoughts on “Teaching with NETs

  1. Garry – great post. I’d read David Warlock’s post on the Coetail meet so it was interesting to see how you’re relating it to what is going on at ISSH. My greatest concern with the just-in-time approach is what if something falls through the net? What if a core skill doesn’t get taught – do you run the risk of having a class of students with a vast array of digital skills, based on who has taught them in the past? You’d have to have very good channels of communication to ensure the ICT Coordinator knows exactly what is going on and where.

    We just did a similar project with our G11 ToK class. It’s amazing how some students can produce digital work that’s all singing and all dancing whilst others still struggle with tables. I’m not suggesting that might be more or less likely to happen with or without a set technology curriculum, I just thought it was interesting.

    • Adam, thanks for writing. You are right, gaps would be a risk with this approach.

      After further reflection, I realized that at ISSH we have more of a hybrid approach. Mitch Norris has done a great job of preparing the junior school students with a mix of basic tools, like word processing, and newer ones, like video editing and publishing tools. When they enter the middle school, they have a good foundation.

      What do you do when you find that some students are not as prepared to work on the projects that you have planned?

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you that each department needs to check with Technology Coach and Curriculum Coordinator how NETs guidelines are being met in the curriculum. As you mentioned, as long as we are all trying to incorporate NETs in our teaching and the approach works for our school, we should not worry which way each teachers take to meet the goals.

  3. I think the issue that Adam raises about gaps is a valid one, and one that we will always face. Perhaps part of the answer is being aware that such gaps exist, as well as being able to be an effective “producer” behind the scenes. Students are exceptionally adept at learning how to do things, but not always why to do them in certain ways. Your experience can help guide them toward producing excellent products that exemplify the kind of work you want them to create, without actually telling them how to do it. What do you think?

  4. At CAJ we sometimes have the problem that teachers expect students to produce digital works, but have never themselves tried to do it. So it is difficult for the teacher to know how much time is involved to create such a project or what are the problems a student will face when we haven’t moved to a 1 to 1 environment yet, and sometimes the computers at school don’t have the proper software or hardware to complete the task successfully. There are glitches unless the teacher talks to the technology coordinator before trying to start the assignment to help problem-solve through the issues, like trying to use iMovie from a network rather than the computer’s own hard drive. It is very slow and can cause the iMovie to start to freeze up and slow down the computer to the point that the student can’t even work. I think it helps if teachers try to make a sample project themselves first just to get a little idea of what they are asking their students to do.

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