The TechCHAT series invites teachers, media specialists and other educators from across the country and around the world to share how they’re using technology to enhance instruction and student learning. Contact us about sharing your classroom tech ideas and lessons learned.
Susan Wells, President of the ISTE’s (International Society for Technology in Education) Mobile Learning Special Interest Group (SIGML), has 29 years of experience working as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, behavioral specialist, technology coordinator, public speaker, adjunct professor, mobile educational content developer and consultant. She also works on advisory boards for Shodor, a national resource for computational science education, and LitWorld, a nonprofit literacy organization.
Wells breathes education. She lives tech.
1. How are online/virtual learning platforms transforming the classroom experience?
There are so many online/virtual learning platforms for students and for staff. Everyone has the opportunity now to build his/her own PLN (Personal Learning Network) and personal learning preferences. There are MOOCs (massive open online courses), webinars, Twitter chats, online schools and courses, Youtube, iTunes U, and the list goes on. And the vast majority of these are mobile, so they are available anytime, anywhere. These courses and videos and chats allow learners to actively participate in areas of individual interest.
Students no longer sit back as receptacles of information. Instead, an online classroom becomes a conversation. The classroom is transformed. All students can choose what they want to learn, how they can best learn it, when it works best for them, and where they’d prefer to participate in their learning.
2. What are some tech activities that even tech-reluctant educators can (and will want to) implement?
[When it comes] to tech-related [exercises], educators need to recognize the need to let go of control. [With] reference to question one, this is true for students of all ages, not just secondary. I sat with an 8-year-old yesterday making iMovies. He explained that when he doesn’t know how to do something, he just goes to YouTube and finds a video to teach him. If he can't find it there, he goes next to iTunes U.
This rising second-grader is already building his PLN. For activities, begin to use Twitter. There are wonderful Twitter chats for staff and students. Try out a hashtag for posting critical classroom information. Choose five tools first semester for your own learning, and then use them each day. Ask your students what they’re using and see if there’s a match. If you have interactive white boards in your classroom, use them collaboratively with your students. Use GoogleApps if you have access. Shared docs [are great] for student collaboration… If you’re not using Skype yet, go for it and bring the world into your classroom. Use an image-clipper site (Pinterest is great, but might be blocked). Try Educlipper free… [It’s] made just for education. And this year, instead of PowerPoint, try Prezi—you’ll love the interactive presentations.
3. Do we focus too much on teaching practical use of tech, to the exclusion of teaching tech ethics?
Joel Cohen, criminal defense attorney, described classroom ethics instruction:
“It’s important to present ethics ideas to youngsters at a stage when they are still young enough to entertain the idea that they could do something wrong—and not be too embarrassed to admit it.”
Tech ethics are no different. To find balance with tech use and tech ethics, we need to use technology authentically with purpose, and then we need to have conversations in the classroom—real conversations. None of us need to stand on tall podiums with claims of infallibility. Instead, we need to admit that the ground is shifting and changing under us. We need to say to the young people in our charge that we are working to honor the property and thinking of those whose words we’re using to make our own work clearer. We then need to make certain we are having clear conversations with students about online communications, electronic files, advertising, social media and email. Without those very specific conversations, students will not have the information they need to be safe in the tech world.