The last few weeks have been very motivating for me as an educator. I have had the opportunity to learn from Will Richardson as well as network with many other technology-minded educators here in Ontario and I just feel so inspired! It is so amazing to meet other teachers who feel as I do about technology and are dealing with some of the same issues that I face in trying to incorporate technology into the classroom.
I feel really strongly that integrating technology into the classroom is good pedagogical practice as our students already live in a wired world and will be then working in a wired world. We need to be teaching them how to navigate cyberspace as well as how to be strong collaborators and critical thinkers. Too often I think we are focussing on rote memorization where that skill is going to be useless in the future (and in my opinion already is!) instead of teaching them to take their phone out of their pocket and use it to find the facts (as Will Richardson says).
Another aspect we need to be considering is the idea of allowing our students to use their cell phones in the classroom. Last week I observed a girl in my class collaborating on a task with others take out her cell phone, send a text and go right back to work. Cell phone use is banned in our school board; however, I think we need to revisit that policy. I believe that if I had reprimanded that girl for having her cell phone out, she would have gotten distracted from her original task and not been as engaged as she was for the rest of the class. I am also skeptical of this policy as I myself don’t particularly text that much; however, I am an avid Twitterer. I often have Tweetdeck running while I am working and frequently check the incoming tweets as well as send out some of my own while doing other work. How can I justify disciplining her behaviour when I see my own behaviour mirroring hers? I try to avoid running a hypocritical classroom and even though the students might be unaware of my Twitter habit, I still feel that it’s important for me to maintain freedom from cognitive dissonance.
Finally, I just wanted to post a 21st century task my students have created for the eInstruction Classroom Makeover Contest. The contest requires students to take an existing song and make a parody of it while demonstrating the use of technology in the classroom. I teach in a rural school board so a Taylor Swift parody was a perfectly engaging challenge for them. The beauty of this creation is that the students displayed such 21st century skills as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and synthesizing. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in my students for their awesome product!