Revolutionizing Education

When I first started teaching, I had a course website, posted all my notes, assignments, answer keys, videos, etc. online and utilized a variety of technological applications in my science classroom.  We collected data using digital probes and utilized Microsoft Excel for graphing data.  My students created videos and various multimedia presentations for class assignments.  I would have considered myself to be fairly technologically literate.  I have now learned that what I was doing in my classroom was such a small portion of what could have and should have been done with today’s access to technology.  We were still consuming information and barely creating.  Or what we were creating in the classroom was never shared or published with anyone but myself and my classroom walls.  I can now see how much interaction and access my students missed out on by not utilizing these opportunities.

I have to admit, the video, “Do Digital Native Exist?” corrected some of my misconceptions.  I am not ancient, but I had started to feel like perhaps students were so good with technology that there was no use teaching them how to use it anymore.  I would be surprised if a student did not know how to embed videos in PowerPoint or create a graph using Microsoft Excel, but just assumed that they were so good with technology that they would catch on when they needed to.  I would now say that although students use various online spaces for socializing, it is clear that they need direction when it comes to moving from the personal use to professional or educational use.  This is where our role as a teacher comes into play.  We have the opportunity to model for students how to create meaningful learning within these spaces.  How to connect, curate, create, and publish content.  However, before we reach this stage, we need to develop a plan for including digital citizenship education.

Jason Ohler’s article, “Character Education for the Digital Age,” contained a paragraph that mirrored how incorporating digital citizenship

blocking
Photo Credit:  TheRamtzi.  License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

has been accomplished in our school – by blocking content or access without educating.  Rather than having a plan for digital citizenship, we instead block and prevent students from accessing social media.  Up until this course, I agreed with the stance our school took.  I now think that perhaps it is time to move towards education.  Rather than fearing what might happen, we need to develop a plan that addresses concerns and focuses on the benefits.

A few of our readings and videos really solidified for me the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools.  One specific video was “One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life,” the Ted Talk by Jon Ronson.  After watching this video, I really just wanted to share the information with my students.  In my teacher education program, we were always warned about social media use and professionalism.  I started to wonder who was warning my students.  One careless pictures, post, or tweet could also ruin their lives. I felt even stronger about this after watching the documentary on Amanda Todd.  It is tough to be a teenager and even tougher when your mistakes are forever published online.  I think this is an important message and one that requires education by not only teachers but also parents.

Most of my recent blog posts have centered on how education should/may/is changing to meet the needs of the 21th Century learner.  These contemplations stemmed mainly from the NCTE article on the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment.  I looked at many of the outcomes of this framework and started to feel like the education my students were receiving was not setting them up to be successful in the future workforce.  There was so much focus on global collaboration, sharing information, and creating knowledge as a team.  Additionally, the youtube video I watched, “Welcome to My PLE,” presented an excellent model for what this education can look like in practice.  It is fascinating and inspiring.  This made me question the direction of our curriculum.  The curriculums in the sciences are still so focused on content that teachers hardly have time for the collaboration and inquiry process to unfold in truly meaningful ways.

This week I watched the youtube video, “This Too Will Revolutionize Education.

computer
Photo Credit:  ZygMOS License: CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This video was such a great culmination to my thought processes on how education needs to change and whether or not there will be a place for teachers in the future.  In the video, the speaker, Derek Muller, summarizes whether or not teachers will be replaced by stating that “the fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver information.  It is to guide the social process of learning.”  He continues on to say that “the job of a teacher is to inspire:  to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn.”  It is a simple, but profound statement.  Rather than lamenting that the use of technology in the classroom can replace our purpose, we should take solace in the idea that it is our purpose to create these experiences where students will feel inspired to learn.  We may do this without the use of technology and also with the use of technology.  Learning is a social experience and teachers are there to create these experience to inspire learning.  We want to excite our students, open opportunities for them, guide their inquiry in meaningful ways, and provide assistance when they encounter challenges.  This is what I see as the role of a teacher in both education and in digital citizenship education.

With respect to digital citizenship, I see its inclusion as a vital component of every class.  It can build on what we are already doing by providing relevant examples and experiences for students.  When we discuss personal relationships in Health class, it is necessary to include discussions on how social media affects personal relationships.  This is the reality of how many students are communicating, so our educational experiences need to adapt.  In Psychology class, you can discuss what the implications are of online interactions on empathy.  Before you ever give students a research or presentation-type assignment, you should think about the digital citizenship skills necessary for them to complete the assignment.  Knowing how to locate reliable sources, referencing sources, and discussions of copyright vs. public domain for pictures are three key skills that students need to be aware of.  If students continue on to post their projects in online spaces, additional conversations need to be had with students regarding digital footprints.

We need to consider digital citizenship as a vital skill for learners to have when they leave school.  Digital citizenship is not about incorporating technology in the classroom, but about thinking about the technology.  We have opportunities to provide students with the skills to be able to use technology in meaningful ways.  I think that as educators we need to move away from the idea that by simply signing out the laptops or creating a lecture on the smartboard that we are “using” technology to engage our students.  The engagement truly come from allowing students to interact, research, create, and share their findings.

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