Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Flattening of the Educational Community

Second Life... wow, has this been fascinating to watch. After much encouragement by Ryan Bretag, I stumbled around Second Life once or twice. Frankly, I haven't had the time or energy to visit very much...hopefully soon. It has struck me, though, how people I know, in Real Life, are now conversing regularly with educational gurus Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, David Warlick and the like. I'm struck by the fact that the degrees of separations have decreased dramatically. It's incredible how new tools like Second Life facilitate the ease with which great educators, nationally know or not, get to learn from each other, run ideas by one another, discuss, debate... For the lover of educational philosophy and practice this flattening of the educational community is an incredible opportunity and experience. This new realm of informal learning is a wonder to behold!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Art of Teaching

David Warlick speaks to the art of teaching in a recent blog when he asks:

Thinking of those great teachers that you had who truly influenced who you are
today. What percentage of what those teachers did do you think might be
effectively measured by scientific research, and what percent do you think is
not measurable?

When I last checked, the responses overwhelmingly indicated that the influence of those great teachers was largely immeasurable....and I wholeheartedly agree. The first people who popped into my mind? Mr. Mark - choir director I had for less than one year before his life was tragically ended in a car accident; Mr. Dieckhoff - PE and health teacher who help me have confidence and encouraged me to become a Jr/Sr Leader and thus led me to my first foray into "teaching"; Mr. Dionesotes - photography teacher who inspired a lifelong shutterbug; Mr. White - English teacher who made me think about every word I wrote- "Diction, diction, diction"; Mr. Hicks - physics teacher, a gentle man who made physics more real, fun and understandable than I would have thought possible. Not a lot of "measurablility" there in my descriptions, huh? Yes, I did well on standardized tests. Yes, I was in on the hyper-college-prep race track. But what stuck with me? Photography, kindness, the art of writing (perhaps not evidenced here but it's still in there somewhere) and fun.

I hear people comment about the "art" rather than the science of teaching. So many people seem to think that technology interferes with the art of teaching. I have to admit I have fallen in that trap in the past, too. I struggle at times with the intensity with which I work with technology. I'm really "low-tech Lisa"; I always say I should have grown up in the 40's listening to Glenn Miller sipping a soda at the fountain. But, I'm here in the 21st century and I love teaching. And I love teaching people who teach. And I truly see how the tools we have at GBS can allow teachers to better implement so many fundamentally sound instructional practices that it is ridiculous to think that the tools interfere with the art. But, the secret is choosing the tool. A sculptor doesn't use watercolors and a painter doesn't use a chisel. Likewise, not every technology tool is a good fit for every teacher. I think we make a mistake when we say "you must use this tool..." I do however believe that it behooves every teacher to investigate tools to see which ones are a good fit, will enhance or enliven curriculum, will help their students, etc.

Technology tools don't diminish the art of teaching; the refusal to investigate them might...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Educational Technology Vocabulary

Ryan Bretag and I have been discussing our approach to our "Technology Trainer" positions in our district. Our mission is to work with teachers to help "integrate technology in the classroom". One of the issues we are addressing is the vocabulary of our "technology training". There are so many titles for what we do out there (see THE Journal) and they all mean different things.

What terminology issues have you faced over the years and how have you addressed the ever-changing technology positions in your schools with vocabulary? For instance, instead of a technology trainer do you have an "educational technology specialist"? Instead of training are you "facilitating"? Instead of integration technology are you....well, I still need a word to describe the more natural....infusion?...of technology in our curriculum.

I think changing the vocabulary we and our colleagues use can, in some small way, help us focus on our real mission here and facilitate changes in our classrooms, curriculum and how we approach education and technology. What do you think?