Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can Education Meet the Demands of a New Age?

I came across this video again the other day and it got me thinking.
  • What are we really doing as educators to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st Century?
  • Are we going to be able to implement 21st Century skills into our classrooms in the standards and content driven environment we are working in now?
  • Does the fact that we are still talking about "implementing" and "teaching" these skills in schools show how slow the education system is to embrace change?
  • Will educators want to work in an environment where these skills are emphasized? (more on this in a later post)

To Meet the Demands of a New Age from Steven H on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The New School Year: A "Do Over" , a "Mulligan"

I always like the beginning of the school year. Teachers and administrators are typically happier and friendlier. Coming back fresh from some R&R everyone is a little more optimistic about what the year holds. Teachers are talking about the new ideas and strategies they want to try to implement into their classes. Everything is good in the world! But is it?

Going into my 10th year of teaching, (this was a career change for me) I still love what I do. But education does offer teachers something most professions don't... the opportunity for a "do over", a "mulligan". Can we do it better this year? What worked in my classroom last year--what didn't? What kinds of new things can I try to implement this year to connect with the students? Every year teachers get to re-charge over the summer and return to the new school year with fresh new ideas, new students and opportunities.

Oh yeah, something else we have as matter how busy, no matter how much we have on our plate throughout the school year, it some how magically goes away as we walk out the door on our last day. We really do start over with a clean slate every year.

Even with a new slate, it is always the same at the beginning of the school year; teachers come into the new year upbeat and ready to take on the world and before you reach the end of October teachers are counting down the days to Thanksgiving. Why doesn't the optimistic, adventurous, and the willingness to try something new attitude last? What is it about teaching that sucks the energy out of teachers? Why is there such a shift in attitude? Could it be the "stuff outside the classroom" that is sapping the energy of the teachers. Are we expecting them to do too much other stuff? Is it the students? I'm not sure.

picture from posted by DontBblu

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Virtual Learning Environment: The Opportunity for Active Learning

This summer I've had the opportunity to participate in numerous online PD sessions as well as going to NECC 2009 for some face to face learning. I realized that I've become a huge fan of the virtual conference, webinar, and other live (and archived) online professional development opportunities that are now readily available on the web. These online professional development sessions provide teachers and others opportunities to enhance their personal learning and grow professionally in ways that until recently were not available.

I've had the opportunity to attend face to face conferences since my first year of teaching. These conferences are always productive and educational, and I always feel like I leave those face to face conferences with something good. But face to face conferences are much different than the online PD sessions I have attended.

The key difference to me, between face to face and virtual PD sessions, is the level of participation by the attendee. Typically in a face to face environment you sit and listen to someone talk and share ideas. It is not until the end of the session that you have the opportunity to ask some questions. In the online setting you almost always have the ability to participate in the conversation via a backchannel or the chat rooms. The ability to participate in the discussion makes any PD session much more meaningful. I always leave the online (at least the ones that are interactive) discussions with the sense that I have learned more because I was not a passive learner but an active learner.

With all of this said, I do not advocate that all PD take place online. I do like talking and interacting with people in a face to face setting. And there is something to be said for the energy you get from being around people at a conference. But I do like the ability to participate in online PD.

If you have not had the opportunity to participate in any of these online PD sessions, I encourage you to do so.

I would recommend joining the Classroom2.0 ning and participating in some of their Elluminate sessions on Saturday's, 12 noon eastern time (you do not need to be a member to participate). These are some excellent sessions which will give you the opportunity to experince online PD. You can just go in and listen or you can participate in the chat room. If you are on Twitter and you see that someone is streaming a session...jump on in, and see what's going on. You just might learn something.

Some good upcoming Online Conferences and Webinars:
The K12 Online Conference
Educon 2.2