The ISTEs and Me

As I read the documentation surrounding the iste.nets, I was inspired and encouraged to become a better teacher by embedding technology into my subject area that will result in more practical, authentic and effective learning experiences for my students. This seems like a big task but the iste.nets gave me a clear framework to follow in order to achieve my goal

1. Work together as a staff

I am one of five staff members from my school participating in the COETAIL course this year. It has been wonderful to have the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and collaborate on small projects as well as our final project for course 1 of COETAIL. My goal for this year is to continue to work with this group to educate the staff at our school in order to enable a common language and thinking when it comes to digital technologies. I have always believed that all teachers are teachers of numeracy and literacy; I now see the value and importance of adding digital literacy to the list.

2. Use it for higher order thinking tasks and collaboration rather than word processing and simple research

In the past I have been skeptical of technology in the classroom. I have failed to see any value added to a task or activity and was almost always left thinking that the same could have been achieved with a pen and paper or whiteboard and whiteboard marker only without the 10 minutes at the start of waiting for the computers to start or organizing a room swap. Thanks to the COETAIL course and the wonderful educators I have met, I now see that the key to creating higher order thinking tasks is to add connections and collaboration to a task and that digital technology is a very useful tool to make this happen.

3. Explicitly teach the skills first

I have always thought that reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are crucial to any genuine learning and that the introduction of technology into the learning process, while it might make some of these processes easier, certainly does not replace or supersede the need for basic literacy. I now see that there are a whole lot of digital illiteracies that are of equal importance. My goal for this year is to explicitly teach digital citizenship with a focus on appropriate usage, rights, responsibilities and etiquette.

4.  Promote digital citizenship by modeling it

In the past I have been lazy about modeling digital citizenship practices. The COETAIL course has taught me a lot about managing online information and searching for appropriate content. I am looking forward to Course Two where we will learn even more about the legalities of using online content. My goal this year is to have more discussion with my students about appropriate usage but to also model these things at all times.

5.  Continue to learn (we are all ICT teachers)

To be able to model appropriate usage, I will need to continue to learn about it. The COETAIL course has taught me a lot already and I aim to pass this on to my students and colleagues and continue to learn from them.

6. Have a clear goal/learning outcome in mind

While I will endeavor to embed technology into the curriculum, I will aim to only do so if it will assist in achieving the learning outcomes. It is very tempting to use technology but will try to avoid using technology for technology’s sake.

To be Everywhere is to be Nowhere

When I was learning to drive, I used my ability to do things automatically as my gauge to measure how well I was driving. When I could change gear without thinking about it, do a hill start without panicking and change lanes without saying a prayer, I knew that I had learned how to drive.

As I was reading the literature for week two, my definition of learning was challenged however I maintain the view that learning in the classroom occurs in much the same way as learning to drive. I believe that a student has learned something once they can demonstrate an ability to do it automatically or, in terms of knowledge, they understand something well enough to apply their knowledge to create something else.

The article Connectivism – A Learning Theory for the Digital Age advocates that actual knowledge is not as important as learning the skills required to source, organize and connect information; therefore learning occurs when we are able to connect various information sets.

So how does this definition fit in with my philosophy and indeed the Bloom’s Taxonomy? Is connecting the same as learning? I think not! In my opinion learning is evidenced by a deep understanding that has been crafted with layer upon layer of experiences and explanations. To say that learning is a matter of finding something out is selling the experience short. That is not to say that there is no value in teaching students where and how to search for information in this knowledge rich world, that should certainly be a part of our role.

In his article ‘Does the Internet Make you Dumber?’, Nicholas Carr argues that “a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the Net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is also turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers.

To me, this seems the exact opposite of learning, which leaves me with more than a few questions. As we move away from the constructivist approach to learning, will students feel more removed from things having not experienced them for themselves, instead relying on making a connection to something or someone that has? Will life-long learning cease to exist? Will we produce a generation of people who know nothing but know how to find everything out? What about the joy in learning, the struggle and then the satisfaction when the penny drops? Are we robbing students of a fundamental part of learning, that of understanding? Or am I being too dramatic?

To Transform the Classroom is to Transform the Curriculum

The message that I am getting from the readings this week is that schools are failing to utilize the enormous potential for learning that computer technology has to offer. Schools are frowning upon ‘hanging out’ or failing to teach students to make the connections necessary for ‘geeking out’. (Living and Learning with New Media)
I agree with this summation however my view is that the curriculum should drive this transformation rather than technology. The article ‘Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education Is the Future’ seems to suggest that technology is the answer to a transformed classroom. “Employing a disruptive approach presents a promising path toward at long last realizing the vision of a transformed classroom.”
Unfortunately, the article fails to discuss or even acknowledge the curriculum that will be the catalyst, in my view, of this transformation. The curriculum is the all-important framework on which everything else hangs. How can we have a discussion about technology without first purposefully and rigorously identifying our objectives, scope and sequence?  Surely technology is a means to an end rather than an end in itself.Once the end has been clearly defined, debated and decided then, and only then, can technology be implemented where it is appropriate.  I too agree that schools should embrace technology but this comes with a lot of challenges. I believe that the following (amongst many others) need to be explicitly taught by instructors rather than connectors before any life-long learning can take place:
  • The basic skills of reading and writing
  • The art of purposeful communication
  • How to manage and secure digital identities
  • How to critically evaluate sources
  • How to correctly acknowledge sources

I think it is a mistake to think that students can learn these things with teachers as facilitators. Some things need to be taught explicitly and a thoughtful, purposeful, rigorous, integrated and challenging curriculum is essential for any of this to follow.