Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Piloting Your Own Plane

"Students must be encouraged to become 'pilots',
not 'passengers' in their educational journey."
~Kevin Kearney

Look, let's be clear; I don't have all the answers. And as I continue down this road with Megan and her wonderfully curious, always brilliant students, some thoughts are beginning to crystallize; but as so often happens in life, these thoughts are followed by more questions.

Take for instance this thought:

Wow, put these iTouches in the hands of kids and they have almost instantaneous access to information. That's what we want. Information is no longer locked away in a library. It was so unbelievably cool to watch those children explore the weather app and Google Maps and the clock feature. They were fascinated by the ability to use their geography skills to locate the most recent weather report for a specific location and they found their homes using Google Earth. One student said he woke up that morning excited because they were going to use the iTouches. Very cool.

Later, much later, though, little thoughts started niggling at my brain. What do we want our children to be doing in a 21st Century classroom? How can we be sure that they're learning something they couldn't learn without the technology? Are they merely consuming information or does the technology allow them to produce content? Are they engaging in authentic tasks that mirror real life situations? Because that's what a 21st Century classroom should look like...at least to me.

So, I think...I think... that the answer to whether or not the iTouch is the right tool needs to be observed from this lens. And just in case I start running out of questions (doubtful), here are some others to help keep me grounded in what is most important:

~Does this tool promote deeper learning?
~Is it worth the money?
~Is there another tool that will help students learn better?
~What exactly changes when the students have access to these tools?

Yep, I definitely don't have all the answers. But I do know one thing for sure; as we explore this uncharted territory, we must never lose sight of who should own the learning. In doing so, in making them pilots instead of passengers as Kevin Kearney so eloquently stated, we will better prepare them for a future not yet articulated...not yet known.


lovellbr said...

Very nicely stated Cary. We do not know where education or life is headed, but with forward thinking people like yourself we will continue to give our students tools to connect and power to achieve.

I believe that it is very important we all step back and realize that, as you have stated many a time, learning is messy! As long as we continue to move forward and understand what are students need to be successful in life we will always be doing the right thing. Lets not get lazy...lets be messy!

Cary Harrod said...

Thanks, Brad. You're right, we don't know where education is headed but we do have some insights into how it is changing and what that means to the way in which we educate children. One thing is certain; continuing to teach the way we've been teaching for the last 100 years will not work. Nor, I might add, will simply placing a piece of electronic equipment in the hands of kids. It will require re-imagining what it means to learn and what it means to teach.

Mstacey said...

I'm knee deep and loving it. Being a pioneer is often looking down an unknown path and taking risks. Celebrating mistakes is the best way to climb the incredibly steep, insurmountable learning curve.
Teaching problem solving has been the best way to make knowledge accessible. In 2 years, this tool could easily be replaced by a newer generation of hand held learning tools. The question I ask myself, "Is this knowledge transferrable?"
The 21st century learner will be able to apply and access these opportunity from a variety of yet to be invented tools. Transformational teaching...I'm not sure if I'll ever even be on the cusp, but I will continue to strive for it.