Friday, March 19, 2010

Personal Learning Networks and Professional Development

Recently, our Professional Development (PD) team spent some time discussing the future of PD classes in our district. Given the declining enrollment in traditional offerings, our conversations focused on how to create learning environments that provide relevant content to all staff. Society has changed in regards to the demands placed on individual time constraints before and after work; however, the need to continue training in new pedagogies continues.  Just how does a PD team meet these demands?

More and more teachers are discovering the benefits of life long learning through the creation of a personal learning network (PLN.)  And though the validity of these PLN's are understood, the documentation of learning through these PLN's remains somewhat a mystery to most.

A dilemna arises regarding the documentation of credit from a school district when an individual begins to submit credit for their learning via their PLN on blogs, twitter, and other social networking sites.  It's much easier for a school district to accept learning credits when an accredited university, college, or school district is doing the documenting despite the nature of the class or the learning.   And though this dilemna  is worth discussing and in need of change, it currently creates problems for school districts when these credits are being submitted for teacher relicensure requirements.

Awareness and understanding of what 21st Century Learning looks like needs to be understood and practiced by all before this chain of thought is going to change.  Just as we must change our pedagogy to adapt to teaching in the 21st Century we must also adapt our learning in the 21st Century.  As a result, professional development teams and the systems that document learning must also change.  Change by becoming more versed in understanding how to assess 21st Century learning.  Change by spending more time in PLN's so we understand what educators are doing when they speak of their own PLN.   And finally, change by embracing all aspects of 21st Century learning.

How to Create a Lifelong Learning Network: Continuing Education is Based on Need to Adapt to Societal Changes

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our Brains Think Differently

Just the other day I was writing an email and stumbled across the spelling of the word "alley."  I couldn't remember if the word was spelled ally or alley.  I looked up and asked my students.  The response was brilliant.  Here's how the conversation went.

Me:  "How do you spell alley?"
Student:  "Google it and then click on images, see what comes up."

I marveled at this brilliant response.  My brain is geared to print.  I grew up with dictionary pages and guide words.  Using google to look up unknown spellings of words is not new to me and or google searches of webpages are my normal course of action when unknown spellings arise.   After all, I'm proficient when it comes to internet searches.  But images?  This brought about a whole new understanding to how the teenage brain thinks differently than mine. 

Here's a view of what comes up had I looked up the word alley:

Here's what comes up when I click google images:
Quite a different beast I'd say.  Upon second review of this image search, I wondered how easy it might be for a teenager to get side tracked by the barrage of scantily clad photographs of women.  What surprised me was that I didn't even remember these images popping up when I was looking up the spelling of the word "alley."  To my surprise, when I did this activity for the first time, my eyes traveled directly to the image of a street alley and I went right back to my email.  Would a teenager do the same?

Regardless of the response, our brains think differently and my job is to teach the teenage brain not the adult brain.  Part of that teaching must involve knowledge of how to handle images like the above popping up when a student completes an image search because handle them they must.  Understanding what is appropriate to view and what isn't is just as important these days as spelling the word "alley."  A recent incident occurring during a news interview involving a bank employee caught on camera as he checked out pictures of naked women on his computer only emphasizes this point.  

Many adults are under the impression that students are proficient in the electronic world.  Though these students may be more proficient than most teachers, the truth of the matter is that students aren't as proficient as we may think.  The internet is a whole new ball game when it comes to information.  As teachers, we need to guide students towards the development of techniques that not only determine the credibility of information found but to determine whether or not sites are appropriate to visit  based on domain names or URLs.  We know they won't search the same way we do.  The teenage brain is truly a different beast.

Finally, more information related to teaching internet search can be found on Finding Dulcinea website and the Finding Dulcinea blog.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Which Student Project Will Most Improve Education?

As part of the project-based model of conferencing that we use for the Flat Classroom conference, we have authentic outcomes.  Through this process, participants learn HOW to design global collaborative projects but we also see the best proposals and can VOTE on which of these student-created projects most deserve to come to education.  We have a couple of people who have already spoken with us about supporting some of these ideas with their time and effort, but for now, we need your votes.  Read each of these videos and if you wish, you may read more detail on their wiki pages (by clicking on the name of their project) and then cast your vote.  Feel free to use this as a teachable experience with your college classes and students.


Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Impact: Inspirational Museum Promoting Arts by Children Through Technology

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Ah-ha: Amateurs Teaching Adults

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

When done, please vote ONCE below.  Share this with other educators.

From Cool Cat Teacher