While I was reading Why School?, I felt excited about the possibility of change that the universal connection and the digital world will have on our teaching profession. As Richardson was describing his son’s ability to teach himself how to play Minecraft I felt an immediate connection. Last year, one of my students began to shine when he was exposed to the world of coding. He learned to write code for online video games in one hour, the timing was probably closer to 20 minutes. He chose to continue on with coding (even after we had finished with it in class)- the program allows for you to code at your level and increase difficulty as often as you like. He was able to show his ability to find problems, create solutions and work collaboratively with his peers, something that in the ‘traditional’ sense of learning he was not able to do. That digital connection allowed him to make a very strong connection to his own learning and to his peers.
There were some keywords that sparked an interest in my mind- digital literacy, online ethical behaviour, the idea of a digital identity (many of our students have had them for years), ‘connected’ students, and the idea of reform. What will reform look like? In 20 years, will our schools be completely technology and digitally dependent? No pens, paper, books? Will the ‘connected’ student have the ability to work with people in a social setting- one that isn’t screen dependent?
In my professional practice I would like to explore integration of the use of social media into the classroom and library. I would like to see more online project based learning. I really like the idea of students having a voice and sharing (in a safe manner) with their peers worldwide. Creating lessons and units with project based learning opportunities allows for a new form of learning. Students are able to use their skills (researching, analysing, sharing data) to learn in their own way. The shift towards self directed learning is quite evident, especially in the last couple of years and I find this very cool. In a real world setting it won’t matter if you remember 100 facts about ancient Egypt from Grade 7, it will matter if you are able to find information, analyse multiple sources, navigate the vast amount knowledge found online without becoming overwhelmed. With a shift towards digital learning and online connections I think that students will become more prepared for their futures, whatever they decide to do.
I will be teaching from the new curriculum this year in the areas of Social Studies and Science. Getting the opportunity to give my students choice and freedom in their learning will help to create an engaged classroom. Last year, I was able to create a Social Studies unit that allowed my students to use computers, smart phones, the internet and a variety of websites to create their own blogs. I wasn’t sure how the class would take it, but the idea of writing down their ideas and sharing them with their peers in the form of a blog was really exciting for my students. The assignment was to blog from the point of view of an anthropologist travelling the path of early humans on their migration out of Africa. I knew that this project had hooked them when I got an email from a parent who was feeling very proud of her son. He was the kind of student who came home from school and when asked what he had done that day said, “Nothing”. He came home and requested that he use the home computer to search important places around the globe that were related to early human migration. He was able to explore and share information with his mother, his peers and me. Through his research he was able to find valuable information that I had not known. That was really amazing. This project got me jazzed on the possibilities of our new curriculum and the opportunities it will give students to share their knowledge-and search for knowledge!
I am very interested in all of the topics mentioned. However, Digital Literacy, ethical online behaviour, and collaborative publishing, interest me most. I am interested in learning more about Google Docs and how they work. I was thinking how amazing it would be to do a pen-pal type project connecting two schools in our district, with all of the correspondence done through an online resource like Google Docs. It would be a very cool way for students to share and record and collaborate.
This year I will only be ‘teaching’ in a classroom three days a week but I will be in the library 5 days a week. I am interested in bringing digital technologies into the library and create a teaching library. I would like my library to be seen as another place for learning and exploration to happen. Oh, the possibilities!!