Recently, I opened Twitter to see Wesley Fryer, Clay Burell and Ryan Bretag talking about using web2.0 tools in a web 1.0 way. I tweeted them the link to my blog about Collaboration or Parallel Play and that began an interesting spate of responses, both on the blog and on twitter. Clay’s tweets always intrigue me, and his response to my blog was no different. Both Ryan’s response about how we set up collaboration in our classrooms and Angela Stockman’s thinking about our student’s engagement in the tasks we bring to the table have had me thinking pretty much all day. Then, Will Richardson shared his blog, where he quotes Ira Socol (whom I happen to think is one of THE most brilliant thinkers I know!) I’m currently reading “Schooling By Design” in preparation for Edustat and being the official tweeter during Jay McTighe‘s keynote.
So here goes my mashup of their thinking and mine. . .
One of the things that so engages me with my PLN is that I have connected with people who are interested in some of the same things I am. I have connected with people who make me think and I have connected with significant others who may NOT have common interests, but who are passionate–and I have CHOSEN these people to be part of my PLN by following them on Twitter. Some have chosen to follow me back, some haven’t, but that doesn’t matter to me. I can still engage with the tweets, blogs and thinking though the conversations I have over Twitter.
The important piece here is that I have connected through MY interests, through MY passions, and through MY need to learn/engage/think/share/collaborate. When we set up collaborative ventures for kids, do they get to choose topics/activities of their interest, their passions, their need to learn/engage/think/share/collaborate? I think not.
Ira says, “Educators often think that school is the point, when it needs to be the path.”
WOW! How many of us ever think of school–or our classes as a path to something else? We have our grade level curriculum we have to “cover” and we have those end of year tests on which our students have to be proficient. In our PLCs, (just as the DuFours tell us to) we look at how kids do on the most recent assessment and we remediate those who need it so they can indeed pass the make up test. PLC work (as cited on the Solution Tree site) is all about “collaborative teamwork and interdependence among teachers and administrators is a great way to continuously improve your school or district.” It’s about the adults and their learning/teamwork/interdependence. What do the kids learn? Well, they usually, in this case, learn “school.”
We DO teach kids to “play school.” WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you EVER raise your hand to talk? Can we not teach kids conversational turn taking? WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you EVER walk in a straight line silently? Can we not teach kids they need to be respectful in the hall without a straight line? WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD does everyone in a group get punished (everyone put your heads down on your desk/recess is shorter today because we wasted 5 minutes getting quiet in the hall) because of the behavior of a few? WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD do you need permission to eat, get a drink of water or go to the bathroom?
Ryan brings up how we often put pedagogy aside when we bring a new tech tool into the classroom-we are so consumed with integrating the new tool that we don’t use what we know about cooperation and collaboration. Angela speaks to how she’s been thinking about passion and interest and how that engages students in learning. Will cites Ira’s statement “Educators often think that school is the point, when it needs to be the path.” Jay McTighe (and the other authors in Schooling by Design) talk about basing school experiences around enduring intellectual accomplishments, and teaching so that children SEE the connections between what they are doing and important work. EVERYONE knows we need to infuse and use technology in our classrooms, but do we do it thoughtfully, or do we grab onto those new websites/gadgets/tools and bring them in so that students use them, but don’t necessarily learn in deep and meaningful ways? When I was talking with Becky Fisher about what I was reading in Schooling By Design, her comment back to me was something like, “For me, it’s not about the curriculum. It’s what teachers DO with the curriculum and how they approach it.”
How do we make our classrooms, our learning environments, our learning activities utilize the tools kids have at their hands today in ways that allow them to pursue THEIR passions, THEIR interests, THEIR needs, yet learn the state mandated curriculum at the same time? How do we use the pedagogy we know to leverage the tools of today for deep learning? How do we make our learning activities more than just an activity? And how do we incite passion in our students, even in the face of that mandated curriculum?
I think we begin by looking at OUR work as the path. . . NOT to the end of year tests, but to supporting students being lifelong learners, learning habits of mind and dispositions that allow them to access information, apply that knowledge in real and meaningful ways, study some more and transfer that knowledge to a situation that is novel and that gives them a chance to use their skills and knowledge to create, to synthesize, to make a difference. That means making our work with students more open, more collaborative and connected, and, as Angela said, involving the students in work that incites their passions and interests.
Brilliant thoughts by lots of others. . . helping me along a path to more learning and deeper understanding. Let’s do that for our kids as well by allowing and supporting THEM to connect, collaborate and create, just as we do.