Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No excuses - ISTE 2010 Day 2

I enjoyed the second keynote of ISTE this morning, particularly the student panelist. The message from all 4 members was around what we need to do to help our students achieve the NETS and become global citizens. A number of the suggestions from the panel were solid:
  • Have your class investigate the way we can solve global issues now (environmental, economic, social, depending on the class)
  • Connect to others, especially classes from other cultures and experts, so students can collaborate beyond their own world views
  • Focus your classroom on the outcomes for students rather than what you are teaching. Lecture less and have students work in isolation less.
  • Become a global citizen yourself. Build a social network online, watch TED talks, expose yourself to cultures other than European and American ones so you can model global prospectives in your own thinking and action
  • Listen to your students - each student whose voice finds a place in your classroom will be yours (the student said, "If you listen to me, you have me.")
In the question section at then end, educators seemed inspired but raised the three standard concerns we always do:
  1. How can I do this with limited resources? I would say, by the end of next year, you will have a teacher laptop, sets of minis in your school, wireless access, reduced filtering, access to computer labs and access to data projectors. If you are doing something really remarkable and need more, apply for grants, call educational technologists downtown for support and resources, or ask the kids to bring things. The only way to change limited resources is to keep advocating for more until you have such a good case that it cannot be denied. Work with what you have, it is the best way to make a case for what you need.
  2. I have to teach to the standardized test - how can I cover these other things? The standardized test we face in Saskatchewan isn't high stakes (like teacher firings for lack of progress in the US) and is directly aligned with new curricular documents.  While it would be nice if it tested higher order skills more across all subjects, tests don't really do that well. That's what your classroom assessment is for. Plus you don't want to cover curriculum, you want your students to be learning by doing and thinking for themselves.
  3. The curriculum is so full I don't have time to teach deep things. What can I do? First, how you teach is much more important than what you teach in terms of getting to deep learning. If your students are focused on doing the NETS type skills to cover the curriculum, both are happening. Second, renewed curricula are actually focused directly on these types of skills. If you are ensuring your students meet the outcomes using the indicators, deep is built in. All our renewed documents have as their foundation three goals: building lifelong learners, building a sense of self and community and building engaged citizens. These goals are the exact things the panel thought schools should strive toward, and they underpin all renewed documents. The documents are also build around the inquiry process, where meaningful question drive the learning. There is no curriculum or powerful learning - they are the same thing.
As a teacher, I always think about how I meet my student's needs to the best of my ability given the circumstances I am working in. When I can't meet a student's need, I fight to change what other supports I can offer that student. We are working with young people, and there are no excuses for not doing everything we can to help them learn. The student on the panel today said the one thing he wished the school system had taught him was how to learn - he said all he knows to do is listen to the authority or read Wikipedia. I think teachers can easily help students learn to question, research, collaborate and experiment, and I know many great teachers who do this every day with the resources they have, using the curriculum they teach. Education has never been great at change and can be very institutional. If I wait for all barriers to go away before I believe I am responsible for my students learn to learn, I can never really be a teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Facing the Future offers many service learning ideas (http://tinyurl.com/Climate-Change-Project and http://tinyurl.com/Action-Projects), that will allow students to have a hands-on experience in mitigating global issues.