Monday, January 18, 2010

Shining the Light

"Do not be excited by the light of technology.
Instead, be excited by what we can shine light on,
with and because of technology."
David Warlick

Along with the work I'm doing with Megan, I will be working with three high school teachers who submitted proposals for our "Re-imagining the 21st Century Classroom" project. Tricia Buck, English teacher; Sherry Amorocho, Spanish teacher; and David Lunn, English teacher will each receive 30 netbooks to use with their students. The purpose of this initiative is to begin to look more deeply at how technology can be used to support and enhance student learning, as well as prepare them for a rapidly changing future. Lofty goals? You bet and it's about time!

Last week, David and I had our second meeting to try to wrap our brains around a completely unknown process. One of the most important qualities David possesses, in my opinion, is his openness to change. He has been teaching for three years and describes teaching as "trial by fire". Yep...that's for sure. But the rewards are so incredibly rich and transformative.

I shared the names of some blogs by other high school English teachers and he set up an RSS feed reader to capture his learning and build his personal learning network. We talked about many things throughout our hour together. If there is any message I'm trying to get out to the teachers I work with in my district, it's to never start with the technology when designing experiences; rather start with the students, the content, the objectives.

David started a blog, and in his post, David reflects on our conversation:

"Yesterday I met with Cary Harrod. Something that she said really stuck with me. This is a loose quotation. "Don't think about how you will use technology, but think about the content goals first and then find ways in which technology can enhance it." Or something like that. I don't want the use of technology in my classroom to be just for the sake of it. I want real collaboration to take place. I want real creativity to take place. I want real thinking to take place. I want real learning to take place."

I would give anything to hear those words from all teachers. Often, we become so enamored with the technology, we forget about the important "stuff" and end up with projects that lack substance and meaning. Carolyn Foote says, "It isn't about the tools, but is is about what stories inside of our students that the tools can unleash." I love that.

We need to ask ourselves if we even know our students' stories. Does the work we give our students require them to find connections to who they are and the content we're introducing in class? Do they have opportunities to share those stories with their classmates, as well as others from around the world? And if not, why not?

Needless to say, I am looking forward to making this journey with David, as well as Tricia and Sherry. I've got high hopes that we'll learn a great deal from each other, as well as the folks in our growing PLNs. To be a teacher in today's world is challenging and full of messy potholes. What advice do you have for these three people who dare to re-imagine what it means to learn in the 21st Century? How can they best use technology to shine a light on learning?