Monday, June 28, 2010

What Natives Need - ISTE 2010 Day 1

David Warlick always documents his sessions well and this one is no exception:
David started by showing a video of a 13 year old entrepreneur and asked "Why is he different than I was?" He worked through many questions and concluded that the student has no ceiling. The information environment he lives in ignores behaviors, empowers accomplishments, allows manipulation of abundant information and has gateways to find others. It's an environment that is difficult to contain. David asks:
"If their information experience cannot be walled in, what is school to our students?"
David described Millennials as having a culture of communication, collaboration and information. However, he says that video games, cell phone and social networking don't need to come into the classroom for students to invest in school. Instead, schools need to leverage what those things do that meets student need. They are where are student's friends are. He says if we can crack the code of what these things are offering, we can get to what students want (links in his list are to my previous blog posts on related subjects):
I have seen David present before in Saskatoon, and have shared some of his thinking about literacy with others in the division. Documenting one of his sessions is never as good as being there. He makes a point and then use a variety of examples to illustrate the point. Often his stories, or the morals of them, connect to stories of my own. One of David storied points:
We want our students to be the students we want to teach, instead of teaching the students they are.... How much time do we have before we figure out what questions we are going to ask on our texts with Google in their pockets?
I think that Google question is an interesting one and it's one I never answer the way my fellow teachers wish that I would. One of women I worked with has figured out that an iPod Touch can access the Internet, and when her students are "listening to music" they could be getting answers. She asked me what to do. I replied they could be listening to answers they recorded to tapes back when they had walkmans. She asked what we could do now that they could get answers instantaneously, short of taking their phones away or blocking them. I said: "Starting asking questions that are too high level to be answered using Google alone."

Then we talked about my To Kill a Mockingbird exam I gave last year. I don't give many exams other than required finals. My exam is open book, and you are encourage to work with others. But the questions are things like:
Using research-based criteria and examples from the novel, establish Atticus' strength and weakness as a parent.
What's more, I even gave them the questions from the year before, and three examples of student responses that we scored collectively. Confused, she asked what I am testing if I am not testing knowledge of what happened in the book. I have never taught literature for that reason, and actually she doesn't either. She is a great English teacher. I replied that on this test, students need to think critically, skim for theme and context, assess something against criteria, build an argument, write use persuasive techniques etc. Those are skills that matter (and are curricular outcomes), but simply knowing what Atticus' response to the mad dog  is worth nothing beyond the class. Leveraging what our students do well to help them do meaningful work is what really maters for teachers, but sometimes the fact that we are not digital thinkers leads us to be trapped into thinking which is actually inconstant with our epistemology.

I am not convinced that the needs David articulates are really digital traits, although many researchers agree with him. In my mind, these traits have always been the hallmarks of the best learning. They are just a lot easier now that technology facilitates them. I do agree that students expect them more than they used to. I think that's a real opportunity to hack the code of traditional schooling and rewrite it to do what elegant code always does - meets the need in the most effective way possible.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way you link personal classroom experience with theory, so many bloggers talk about theory because it is flashy and fun. I will use your idea for critical thinking open book exams