Filed Under (Internet, technology) by Lee Kolbert on 13-11-2010

Also posted here on Huffington Post

This video by Bill Genereux greatly illustrates the potential risks of leaving digital literacy up to chance by allowing our children to explore technology within a walled-garden. “I’m not techy,” is frequently heard among clusters of adults whose primary responsibilities include supervising children/students. Do parents have a responsibility to learn their way around technology as it relates to what their children are required to do? Does it really matter? After all, our kids can do a lot of things we can’t.

Although this video is aimed at parents, it could just as easily target today’s teachers. Are we educating ourselves in such a way so that we can guide our students in the safe and effective use of technology? Or are we leaving it up to the kids to learn on their own while we maintain the status-quo in our classrooms?

Thanks to Martha Thornburgh for bringing this to my attention.

Crossposted on Huffington Post

The term “21st Century student” or “21st Century Classroom” sure gets thrown around a lot. We’re so used to hearing and supporting our pedagogy with it, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? There are many qualities that make up a 21st Century student. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning.

The new taxonomy supports the idea that not all learning objectives and outcomes are, nor should be, have equal in value. Effective teachers frequently refer to this taxonomy to design their instruction to emphasize important learned capabilities (more useful for adults in the workforce) rather than, for example, to emphasize memorization of facts (which makes for easier testing).

With expectations of the future workforce and the proliferation of inexpensive and readily available technology, a new and revised taxonomy (2001) emerged. It plays down the consumer-emphasized, single-player-sport idea of “educational objectives” (in Bloom’s original title) and points to a more interactive idea of what an effective curriculum provides.

Notice that “remembering” although certainly a necessary component to learning, sits at the bottom of this pyramid to higher-level thought processes required for true learning to occur.

Even with today’s emphasis on testing, it’s more important than ever to push our students to achieve higher level thinking. What are some ways that can be done today?

  • First and foremost, parents/families must be involved in a positive way. Students must learn that their parents value their learning beyond the grades achieved on report cards. Parents who engage in competitive conversations regarding which schools their children attend, what page they are on, or what grades they received, might be better off focusing their energy on the learning outcomes of their child’s achievement or lack of. Even with a poor grade on a test or report card, for example, parents can ask, “What did you learn from this?” or “What can you/we do better next time?” rather than, “Why did you get this grade?” The cartoon below from Daryl Cagle had me wondering how I am supporting my own children through their educational journey.
  • Understand and accept the fact that although it pains us (teachers) to reduce children to a grade or score, it’s currently how our system functions and there are many ways to deemphasize grades and focus on the whole child.
  • Effective teachers are harnessing the Internet, specifically the power of blogging, to provide students with opportunities that simply weren’t available even a few years ago.
    • I have my class blog and more importantly, my students have their own blogs where their writing brings them attention, global conversation and motivation for writing more effectively. Check out Lily’s post on bullying, Caroline’s post on Tourettes and Joey’s post on his Karate test. Don’t just read the posts, but also read the relevant and encouraging comments from readers, near and far.
    • Marie Knee, kindergarten teacher, uses video and blogs and interactive sites to create an enriching and transparent classroom where her young students can share their learning with their families and the world.
    • Check out Kathy Cassidy, first grade teacher, for how she shares her students with the world. Teachers, like me, learn daily from these teachers who so generously provide those insights so that we can model our own instruction after theirs.
    • Dan Meyer, high school math teacher, makes math relevant to our real world.
    • George Couros (school principal) blogs regularly. His insights as a school principal create a ripple effect where other school administrators, teachers and students regularly engage in conversation and benefit from his transparent offers to share.
    • There are many, many more examples that you can explore. Scott McLeod’s compilation of exemplary blogs is a good place to start.

So what does all of this mean for you, your classroom and your children? That’s what I’d like to hear from you.

  • What are children able to do today that you have yet to learn (or even understand)? Does that make you feel inferior or empowered to engage in conversations with your children and allow them to teach you (and perhaps move forward in your goals towards success)?
  • What characteristics do the successful adults in your life (family, friends, coworkers) have that make them so successful? Are your children on their way to learning those strategies? What are you doing to help foster this?
  • In your opinion, what ineffective methods are being used with children who would be better served by engaging in flexible grouping, collaborative projects or simply being able take an active part in their own learning?

I look forward to your comments.

Filed Under (holidays, Internet) by Lee Kolbert on 24-12-2009

This is an email I sent to my students’ parents today.
Feel free to copy it and share with your students.

Dear Parents,

Track Santa Online!

Even for those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, this is an amazing experience for your child.

Every year on Dec. 24, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) opens up their special site so people can track Santa in real time. It’s not just a “Oh, there he is on the map” sort of thing. Once you see where Santa is on the map, you can see the sparkle trails of where he’s been already, and click on the video icons to see videos and explore more. There are Wikipedia articles and beautiful photos at almost every location. According to Google, almost 8 million people used the site last year.

As of this writing, Santa is in Aparri, Philippines but in 3 minutes he will be in Zamboanga, Philippines.

Too bad this wasn’t available when my boys were young.

For more information, here is how the whole thing started. (Sometimes, mistakes lead to amazing ideas!)

Just so you know, they take the site down every year right after Christmas Day, so bookmarking it for later won’t do a thing. (I tried it.)

I hope you’ll share this with your children. No work for you… just give them the link and let them explore. Believe me, they will figure it out.

Mrs. Kolbert

Filed Under (Collaboration, Internet) by Lee Kolbert on 19-10-2009

Screen shot 2009-10-19 at 9.25.01 PMOur class is beginning a new venture this week. My students will meet and interact with two college students, Jonie and Michael, from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Although we’d love to pack our snowsuits, hats and gloves and travel , all of this will happen online, of course.

Facilitating this exciting project is Dean Shareski, a Digital Learning Consultant, and good friend of mine. He works for the Prairie South Schools in Moose Jaw, SK. As part of this college class he teaches, he has gathered together about 50 educators from around the world to work with and mentor his approximately 30 students. His goal is to give them a chance to experience a classroom where the teacher engages the students with technology. Additionally, these college students have the benefit of virtually traveling around the world to interact with children in truly diverse settings.

The benefit to my students is that they will get to know and learn from Jonie and Michael. It’s not everyday that such young students as mine get the opportunity to learn in a virtual environment. This experience should be something they will remember for a long time.

Our first order of business is to host a video conference with these folks so that my students can have an opportunity to see and speak with them. We will do that in class using video conferencing software provided by our school district. Some other activities “in the works” include having Jonie and Michael comment on our class blog (here), write posts for it (guest bloggers), participate in some lessons and otherwise engage my students based on future lessons and individual needs. Upon hearing that we were studying our constitution, Jonie created this “Glogster” that does a great job of showing some differences between the U.S. and Canadian government. Both Jonie and Michael mention in their videos their coordinates, so that my students can plot their locations on maps (another skill we’ve mastered).

I’m honored to be able to participate as one of these teachers with whom Dean’s students will work. Here are Jonie and Michael:

Filed Under (Collaboration, Internet) by Lee Kolbert on 26-09-2009

Ever wonder why some teachers feel strongly about using technology with their students? Ever wonder why what is so popular today is “so yesterday” tomorrow? There’s a huge shift going on in today’s world. It’s not the world our parents grew up in and it’s not even the world it was 5 years ago. Preparing our students to live in tomorrow’s world today is everyone’s responsibility. The video below is 4:46 long. I recommend that everyone who has children, teaches children or lives in today’s world watches it.

Original presentation of “Did You Know” by Karl Fisch, remixed by Scott Mcloed. More information and sources can be found here.