Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Students need Technology and Teachers

I had the good fortune to be invited to the staff professional development (PD) day (Nov. 26) at Gleneagle Secondary School as a speaker (you can view my presentation here).  More importantly though, I was able to sit in on the student panel session.  Five grade 12 students were asked to speak about their use of personal technology at school and in class, in particular cell and smart phones.  Their use ranged from addiction (yes, really) to indifferent.

This school staff had recently been debating the use of cell phone technology in class (see blog post here by @bryanjack).  I am impressed that they included student voice in their PD day.  The back and forth between the students and their teachers (and vice principals) was very open, honest, and authentic.  Teachers had an opportunity to “drill” them on how teacher policies (ban, allow, or…) for personal technology affected them.  One student admitted to being very capable of covert texting…  Overall, the key message was that cell/mobile tech was valuable when used purposefully.  E.g., as a calculator, a google tool for information, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and if a more sophisticated device (iphone), specific apps were deemed helpful.  The parties seemed to agree that there is a time and place for this technology and there was interest in trying to work to find that balance.  They talked about respect for a speaker or teacher and how texting or BBMing (blackberry messenger) is disrespectful to a speaker.  Note that all felt it wasn’t appropriate to use during physical education… <a joke>…

I visited Gleneagle earlier that week to sit in on some classes to observe students and teachers using technology and to talk to them about what they were using, why, and what they liked or didn’t like, how it supported their learning or didn’t, etc.  One class, the #Talons grade 9/10 gifted group, were discussing how to make an open Internet, open book test on the American Revolution work effectively (for the next day).  Students would be given a quote or question just before the test and they were allowed to choose pretty much any tool or method to research and demonstrate their learning for the quote or question.  Some created a prezi, others a bubbl.us, and others a blog post – check out the exemplars here.  This was an innovative way to write a short essay answer to a test question. 

Donya talks about prep for open Internet test
Donya shares how she would prepare for and undertake this test.

From my other class visits I was able to capture more student voices about how technology impacts them and how they use it to complete class assignments. 

Walden speaks up about critical thinking
This student, in an AP 12 economics class spoke to me about the importance of critical thinking in this digital era and how important the role of teachers is in helping students be critical thinkers.  Two other students shared how they
Andrew and David share their process for this assignment
are using technology to complete an English 12 assignment to compare and contrast George Orwell’s 1984, the Minority Report (movie), and current world events.

Similarly, Kyri shares how she is researching and recording notes and links for

Kyri shares her approach to research and collaboration
her English 12 (a different class from above example) Orwell 1984 team project where she is on the Ministry of Plenty team.  Students use the class wiki for collaboration within their my43 virtual classroom.

It is amazing how articulate students are about their projects, how they prepare, their approach, what technology they use and why. Technology really does play a significant role in their lives both personally and for learning.  imageThe key is they need great teachers to support them, create the opportunities for them to use technology in purposeful ways, to teach them to think, and to connect them to content knowledge in interesting ways.

(slide included courtesy of Dean Shareski)