Friday, August 15, 2008

New School Year - Beginning with a Bang!

August 14, 2008 - the Tech Facilitators from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County met for an all day meeting to hear changes and preview new systems we will use this year. The meeting began with an introduction of David Warlick speaking on the Flat Classroom. You can find his handouts and learn many of his widely shared techniques on his webpages. One of the new things I learned was "Knitter" on his site. It acts like Twitter, but brings all of the comments together on a wiki so you get the messages and thoughts from many on the same stream of communication like a chat room.

He broached 3 converging conditions: (1) preparing children for a future we don't know, (2) networked students, and (3) new information landscape. It is true that schools do seem to have the 19th century set-up and that seems to confer acceptance and "comfortableness" (is that a word?) to parents as it is a situation they understand and have experiences with themselves. But it is not the world we now live in. Students are wired - they do have mp3 players, use chat rooms, cell phones, text messages, make movies and videos - then come to the standard classroom and find the learning teacher oriented. Our students have mastered many of the devices themselves - self-learners and with others, cooperative learners - as they adapt to these new technologies. THese are some of the skills they will need for their future. We do not know what jobs and technologies they will need or use in their careers as many have not been developed yet. Taking David Warlick's look at schools and Howard Gardner's book Five Minds for the Future, you know that changes need to be made in traditional schooling.

David talked about personal learning systems, using RSS feeds to have the information you are interested in come to you automatically, Twitter to have instant feedback from friends who have similar interests, Technorati and netvibes. He demonstrated using these to bring a narrow quick search for teachers to present info to students. I have to admit that I can use some of these efficiently and others need to refine to make their possibilities easily fit my needs. I guess instruction sometimes means PRACTICE!

The ethics question was a topic and covered well by Marlo Gaddis in a discussion of the book Digital Citizenship.

The technology team has done a fantastic job updating our resources to help us do our jobs at our individual schools. Thanks to all!

The most important connection, to me personally, was David Warlick's overall message of concrete ways to use technologies to reach our students in today's world and Howard Gardner's book Five Minds for the Future as a goal for students developing into learners for the future. I feel these two are hand in hand for our children's future and give a basic strategy or guide for making positive changes to help our students prepare for their adult life as learners, adapters, and thinkers as they create new technologies, systems, in disciplined, respectful, and ethical ways.

I first heard David Warlick in 1998 or 1999 in an 079 (tech facilitator) summer class at NC State. His first book was our text and I've heard him in conferences around the state since. He is a great speaker/teacher/learner and always has something new to share.

I love learning something new and this day was a jump-start for the school year!