Before my mind slips and I forget all the thoughts that ran through my head on Friday I thought I'd write a little summary of some take aways from our Professional Development day. My mind was certainly stretched and collectively I think the day was incredibly thought provoking. I'm left with a the following thoughts:
Creative Class and Creative Work that Uses Critical Thinking
The opening of part one detailing the changing economic structure brought by globalization was another reminder of how the world our graduates face is fundamentally different than that of the previous generation. The disappearance of tasks that require low skill repetitive work in our American economy is no secret. If the American wage premium is to stay this will be tied primarily to the growth of jobs in the creative / critical thinking section of the economy. Trades and local based skill jobs will always be in demand as well but a large sector of jobs providing a middle class existence for generations are disappearing. The question then becomes how as schools do we prepare our students for the new landscape. I think we do this in primarily three ways: 1. Information and Digital Literacy 2. Fostering of critical thinking / problem solving skills through authentic assessment and 3. Driving home that in an ever changing world the changeless values and virtues of our Faith become even more relevant and guiding. Accomplishing these objectives is where our work and energy should rest.
Breadth vs. Depth in the Digital Age
This issue came up in all three of the break out sessions in the afternoon. There was a general sense that the value of collaborative projects with real world applications is understood but how to implement these structures without eating up large amounts of class time. The concern seems to be coverage would suffer. This risk seemed to resonate with a number of staff members. I'd like to provide my own humble opinion on this issue I could be wrong I could be right. I've enjoyed being back in the classroom this spring to test some of this out. In terms of project based learning the success is in the set up. If we assign 24 individual students 24 individual projects we''re going to burn a tremendous amount of class time witnessing demonstrations of learning. What is we grouped the students into groups of 4-5 students and when they present they have five minutes each. I'd argue some times a series of smaller projects may be better than a two to three huge ones. I've tried to tinker with this in personal finance and its too early to say whether it is successful or not. Here's a link to weekly mini projects that students embed their presentations right to the wiki page. Keep in mind it's early. These will get better as time progresses. BTW these students are juniors and seniors who haven't had our tech app course. They figured out how to post to a wiki and collaborate with google docs in under 24 hours. If you dont' know how to do these tasks don't worry they do and if they don't they'll look up on youtube how to do it. Nothing to turn in - no thumb drives to try to load strange versions of powerpoint on to. I'm still fidgeting with the rubric for the projects and the reflection rubric that follows each session.
The other concept that came out of yesterday's session is the whole idea of what could be termed the "homework-class time flip". In secondary schools in general we use the class time to introduce the material and assign the problems or thinking activities for homework. What if we flipped it? Make the homework to listen to a world class lecture from academic earth and spend the class time moderating the discussion and using your expert knowledge to solve problems. Radical maybe but if the world of Web 2.0 puts world class resources a click away and someone else has a rockin presentation on a topic in your course sacrificing a little pride might go a long way.
Control and Risk
A fundamental shift in effective 1:1 instruction is turning over more ownership for the learning to the students. Giving some freedom. Some 1:1 schools report that when the rubrics are too structured and too defined the creativity is crushed and the project / paper / assignment fails to engage. Engagement should lead to student empowerment not an excuse to let the children do whatever they want. There is still base knowledge that needs to be accumulated. Before you can exercise critical thinking skills you need to have some knowledge to think critically about. That being said we need though to take a hard look at our own assessments. Do we fit the typical high school mold where 85% of what we ask students to do on assessments is rote recall? For the information age that ratio certainly has to change.
Good teachers are good thieves and it's always been that way
You don't have to invent the wheel you just need to steel it. The world of Google reader and creating your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) to see what other leading educators are doing in their classrooms is a profound tool. On Friday there was a lot of willingness to do these things but a sense of - show me how. Creating your own PLN and seeing from other content specific instructors is more valuable than any course or conference. The PD focus in the building will soon focus on doing just that.
From the Students Perspective
Our students are in for a change. Let's be hones a good number are fairly comfortable being passive learners. The play the game well and enjoy it. Change is difficult for everyone but shifting to pedagogies that move away from sit and get, worksheet, factual recall, scantron model of instruction will only serve them better in the long run. To ignore this fact when we've been empowered with a better picture of what our students will need to do is not only a professional error but a moral one as well.
Below is the video Did You Know 4.0 that Dr. McLeod shared with us on January 15.