Archive for December, 2009


21st Century or just Digital?

On vacation this week in Orlando and of course, this is near Tiger Woods home. Tiger has been THE story since the beginning of the month and along with that has been the controversy of “do we drop the Tiger association” by companies because of bad press?

So what does Tiger Woods and his issues have to do with education or technology much less the two put together? I know, taking advantage of the story of the moment…read on tech types.

Recently there has been some “less than favorable” press regarding the coalition for 21st century skills and if perhaps there might be some things that have not been above board. Say it’s not so! A group of individuals who form an organization that seeks to guide a common purpose and they come under scutiny with someone funding a fault. Hmmm. That’s unusual he write’s sarcastically.

I have been thinking about something however before the issue arose that something may be amiss at the organization. Do we really need to continue to call technologically filled classrooms “21st century classrooms” or the ability to use technologies “21st century skills” anymore? I am not trying to ditch the moniker at the first sign of trouble, we are after all 10 years into the 21st century.

Here’s my thought, rather than using the 21st century name as if it represents the Holy Grail of education, how about we just call them “digital classrooms” and/or “digital skills?” Maybe even “current” skills? Current might be reaching since the skill set required to be current changes so frequently that even digital native and Twittermaster Ashton Kutcher might not even be able to keep up.

I welcome your thoughts and hope all have a great holiday.

Mike

After my last post regarding something a bit more philosophical when it comes to a 21st Century Classroom, I thought about more of what it might look like–what it might physically look like.  I have actually been thinking about it for as long as I can remember.  I thought I might focus more on the tools and perhaps take it one at a time.

In a classroom that includes 21st Century tools (21C) computers or even netbooks would be obvious.  Whiteboards would be obvious. Data Projectors would be obvious.  Document cameras are becoming more obvious.  Digital still and video cameras (sometimes in the same piece of equipment) are obvious.  Important none-the-less, but still obvious pieces of 21C tools.  I want to get to those later. 

A year ago, I had the opportunity to put some less-than-conventional tech into classrooms in schools in my district.  I thought of our reading program that supports those who need a little extra help.  That program had been in place for years with the same teacher doing the same things year after year after year.  Nothing really wrong with the method, nothing really wrong with the teacher–she was very good at her job and did still make modest gains.  The issue was that the program was not forward thinking–it was not as engaging for the kids that teacher served.  I thought that this program didn’t need an overhaul, just some updating. 

With that in mind, I went for a couple items that I knew have value.  I turned to Leapfrog.  My now 3rd grade sons have had Leapsters since they were 3 years old.  This was probably the most valuable investment that we have made in a piece of technology for them.  They walked into Pre-K with the knowledge of letters, numbers, colors and shapes.  I credit the endless play on the leapster for a part of that.  It reinforced what we had been teaching them at home.  It was (is) engaging for them.  I ordered a set of 6 for the program with a multitude of cartridges. 

The second piece I came across was the TAG reading system.  This is a pen that connects to the computer, has software loaded into it for specific books and interacts with the special books that you can order to go with the program.  OK, so what is so special?  Students learn to read high interest reading material with a little bit of help at their own pace.  Kids use the pen with the loaded software for that book, as they read the story there are multiple methods of help.  Don’t know the word?  Touch it with the pen and HEAR it read to you. Can’t put together the words in the sentence?  Run the pen over the top of the entire sentence and HEAR it read it to you.  When kids have problems with phonics, this is the tool to assist.  I bought 10 pens and 10 sets of 8 books.  Our district’s Special Needs coordinator ordered 10 as well.  that program is flourishing under the tutelage of the teacher I selected to take over the program after the previous teacher retired.

The idea behind this was to “seed” a couple schools (of our 17) with something different.  To put out there some new tools that would engage kids to learning without really knowing that they are learning.  This is the difference in an updated classroom today.  Several years ago, Marc Prensky gave his talk about digital natives vs. digital immigrants and our kids (the natives) kept telling us and continue to tell us, “engage me or enrage me!”  Engagement is a key to these new classrooms and her are just two of the tools to get there. 

Have a great evening and I welcome your comments.

Mike

21st Century Classrooms

I had a great talk today with one of our school based Ed Techs regarding 21st century classrooms.  This school would like to set up a room that is the “model” to follow bringing teachers and students in to use the current technology for a lesson–cotaught with the ET.  The idea then is that the teacher returns to their own classroom with more confidence in using the technology.  I think there can be major agreement that kids don’t necessarily need confidence in using the technology, rather some of us do. 

A recent article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership entitled “The Principal as a Parachute” discussed how individuals who are true learners are not afraid to fail as they learn from their mistakes.  There are those of us (educators) out there who don’t take those risks as we want to be successful in our endevours.  This limits our growth.

As I digressed there for a moment, the point is that in order to develop 21st century classrooms, it will take more than tools to get us there–it will take risks by those who teach to get our kids there.

My question to you is, “what does a 21st century classroom look like?”

Have a good evening.

Mike