Students co-author the learning experience

It’s so great to have a string of stories about the positive impact of student technology teams in schools.

It’s tech time at Capital High – Generation Tech lets students become ‘co-authors of learning experience’

The Olympia School District was where Generation YES founder Dr. Dennis Harper settled in about 1990 after working around the world to bring computers to schools in countries from Africa to Afghanistan. He became the technology director and found a school district that wanted to be first class in technology, but had little to start with. He dug in and got started by involving students in every aspect of the district technology – from planning, to getting out the vote for a technology bond, to putting up a district website when no one even knew what that was.

One of the teachers he immediately started to work with was Scott LeDuc at Capital High School. Today Scott is still at Capital, still working with students to make “student-centered learning” a reality. This article profiles Scott and his students who work every day to make education better.

Today’s young people have grown up in a society that revolves around technology.

Want to talk? Send them a text message on their cell phone.

Want to see who their friends are? Visit Facebook.

Want to remove photos from your digital camera and fix that annoying printer error on your computer? Give them about five minutes, and they’ll probably be able to figure out and explain everything to you.

Their teen years are so much different from those of their parents and grandparents, and that’s why students in Capital High School’s Generation Tech class are exploring ways to change their learning experiences, too.

For example, several of the students have begun serving as “technology mentors” at the school, helping teachers and other staff members become more tech-savvy, according to Career and Technical Education instructor Scott Le Duc.

“Education is not going to change fast enough for anyone,” he said. “The only way it’s going to change is if students become the co-authors of the learning experience.”

Read this article – it’s not about technology, it’s about life-long learning…

Although students have access to some of the newest high-tech bells and whistles in their classroom laboratory, much of their growth is taking place outside the class, where students are serving as information resources for others, helping to locate computer support and projects for their teachers and peers, Le Duc said.

“They blow my mind; this group of young people is just awesome,” he said. “They want to see school change, and they’re making it happen.”

Scott authored the GenYES curriculum units on student tech support based on his experiences at Capital High School and years of teaching students how to “learn how to learn” by fixing real problems. Students don’t learn by being talked at – they learn by tackling challenging problems and issues that are meaningful and DOING something about them. And of course, teachers amplify the learning when they guide students through these types of experiences with expertise.

As one of the commenters on the article said – WAY TO GO, COUGARS!

Sylvia

Syracuse here we come!

I’m heading to Syracuse, New York next week to keynote the March ITD TALK series at the Central New York Regional Information Center (CNYRIC) on March 17, 2011. We have a really special day planned for all the attendees, because after my talk, there will be presentations by students and teachers from local GenYES and TechYES schools.

So if you are in the area and want to see student technology leadership and literacy in action, be sure to register and come by! I’ll be setting it up in the morning talking about how we must expand our narrow view of technology professional development to include more than one shot, one-size-fits-all, “sit and get” sessions.

GenYES and TechYES in Action
Teachers and students from Jamesville DeWitt High School and Baldwinsville’s Ray Middle School will be on-hand to discuss their experiences with the GenYES and TechYES programs in their respective schools. GenYES is the only student-centered research-based solution for school-wide technology integration. Students work with teachers to design technology-infused lessons and provide tech support. In TechYES, students show technology literacy by creating projects that meet state and local technology proficiency requirements. As part of TechYES, a structured peer-mentoring program assists the teacher or advisor, and provides student leadership opportunities that serve to further strengthen the program and enrich the learning community.

Hope to see you there!

Sylvia

Free access – Educational Leadership: Working with Tech-Savvy Kids

Working with Tech-Savvy Kids article in Educational Leadership

ASCD’s magazine Educational Leadership has opened up our article Working with Tech-Savvy Kids for free online access. We really appreciate this!

Today’s students are increasingly savvy about the role technology plays in modern life. Yet schools are not keeping up. Students can be valuable resources in the areas of training and support. Five models have emerged that balance the benefits of service learning and leadership with the needs of schools struggling to integrate technology: students as committee members, students as trainers, students as technical support agents, students as resource developers and communicators, and students as peer mentors and leaders.

The article gives five models of student leadership that can support 21st century learning in schools, with case studies from real schools who use students as leaders, teachers, mentors, and advocates. There is lots more in the article, but here’s a quick “Getting Started” list for student leadership teams focused on technology.

Getting Started

Creating a plan that includes students in school technology decision making and implementation is just the first step. Keep the following in mind:

  • Provide student access to training, hardware, and software as needed.
  • Give students adequate time and attention to help them grow into their new roles. They will not automatically know how to participate in these opportunities. Encourage a student-led culture with real responsibility that increasingly challenges students to step up and prove themselves. Reward proven responsibility with increased trust.
  • Don’t forget your younger students. It’s never too early for authentic learning opportunities, and these students can be surprisingly helpful with concrete, well-defined tasks.
  • Plan for turnover. Continually recruit and train new students. Allow veteran student leaders to mentor new recruits.
  • Look for ways to encourage long-term student involvement. Make student involvement part of a credit-bearing class, which counts toward graduation or service-learning credits. This involvement can also take the form of independent study or an internship.
  • Create an adult advisory position. This person should have a passion for student empowerment. The advisor will monitor participation, recruit and train new members, and facilitate group activities.
  • Be sure to include school administration and staff in planning for any for-credit student tech-support classes or similar courses. School counselors need to know that these classes will have high expectations for students to participate, collaborate, and be independent thinkers and leaders. Create a plan to recruit students and persevere, even if the classes are small to begin with.
  • Don’t mistake the ease with which youth today use technology in their everyday lives for knowing how to use it in education settings. Teach them the appropriate use of technology and its role in enhancing learning.

Working with Tech-Savvy Kids article (Educational Leadership) – Enjoy!

Sylvia

Learning @ School – Keynote

I’m excited to be heading off to New Zealand next month to keynote the Learning@School 2011 conference in Rotorua (Feb 23-25). It looks like a wonderful conference, with some really interesting themes and strands.

I’ll be talking about student leadership and empowerment – and the way we can structure learning environments to offer those opportunities. Putting students into positions of responsibility for what and how other people learn teaches them that what they do matters, and gives them new insight into how they (and others learn.)

People always say, “you learn so much by teaching” – so why not have students learn AND teach. Combining this with technology, for which students today have a natural instinct and interest,  just makes sense. Students can teach other students, teach teachers, support technology professional development, help with technical set up and support, and much more. It creates natural collaboration opportunities, provides challenges at many levels, and is really useful. Giving students this kind of responsibility creates a win-win situation where students are valued for their expertise and hard work – real, needed work!

I’ll also do a follow up session to talk about the “how tos” of student technology leadership programs, and then another one about games in education.

I also hope to get some time visiting the famous geysers, boiling mud pools and thermal springs of Rotorua!

Sylvia

Get the evidence you need for your tech vision to succeed!

A back to school thought… when you are planning for technology, do you know what your stakeholders think, want, and need? It’s difficult to reach out to everyone, to include the parents who don’t come to meetings, students, and administrators who might not want to speak up.

There is a quick and painless way to gain this valuable insight – but you have to DO IT NOW!

Participate in Speak Up 2010 through Fri., Jan 21, 2011

Join with educators from across the country who use the Speak Up Surveys to identify how their students, teachers, administrators and parents want to use technology for learning, communications and collaboration. Participating in the Speak Up Surveys is free and 100% confidential.

Last year, over 5,757 schools and 1,215 districts participated in the Speak Up Surveys. All these districts got terrific customized data about how their stakeholders view technology, and how they compare to other districts. This is the data YOU need to support your technology vision, and there is no other way to get it.

It’s easy to get started, visit the Speak Up website to register your district (or school). Then encourage your students, parents, teachers and administrators to take the online survey. To help you out, check out the tools and tips on the Project Tomorrow website.

Go!

Sylvia

Finding good learning games

Often teachers ask me what kinds of games help kids learn. I know they want a list of “good” games, so they can avoid the “bad” ones. But the problem is that to answer the question, “what’s a good game for learning?” – you really have to start with, “what do you mean by learning?” Now that’s a difficult, downright philosophical question that gets tough right away. But to really talk about whether games have anything to do with learning, and if they can help, you have to ask it.

We also know that most people talking about learning games these days are talking about video games, since they seem to have extraordinary abilities to enthrall kids for long periods of time. It’s obvious that when you play video games, you learn. You learn rules, you gain experience that allows you to adjust your play for greater success, etc. So when you look at educational games, you have to decide if this translates to the kind of learning that you believe in.

There are lots of educational games that use the vocabulary and look of games to create a game-like experience, except that it’s not really fun (unless you already know the answers.) Dragging or shooting things (the correct fraction, igneous rocks, the matching chemical symbol)  is not a game, it’s a fancy worksheet. So – do you believe worksheets and flashcards are good for learning or busywork? Putting it on a screen with 3D graphics should not change your answer to that question.

Do you believe in practice? Alfie Kohn says, “…practicing doesn’t create understanding.” If you have kids who can’t multiply, or haven’t grasped the concept of fractions, will shooting at the right answers with a galactic flamethrower help?

Do you believe in chocolate-covered broccoli? Do students have to be tricked into thinking that they are doing something fun to learn something important?

So the answer to the question, “what’s a good game for learning ____” – is not so simple as a list. It has to be answered with the question – “what do I believe about learning?” leading the way.

  • Do you believe learning is about making meaning – or memorizing?
  • Do you believe that learning is natural, or that children have to be tricked and cajoled into learning?
  • Do you believe that math is a set of skills – or deeper understanding of concepts?
  • Do you believe that faster answers are better answers?
  • Do you believe history is memorizing facts – or understanding complex relationships between events?
  • Do you believe “time on task” is a good measure of learning?
  • Do you believe that vocabulary can and should be learned without context?
  • Do you believe that practice creates understanding?

Even when teachers hear this, they say, “but surely practice is good reinforcement”, “if they gain speed and automaticity on easy problems, they can tackle harder ones”,  or “some students are so far behind they really need the practice” – to which I can only quote Alfie Kohn again, “In reality, it’s the children who don’t understand the underlying concepts who most need an approach to teaching that’s geared to deep understanding.  The more they’re given algorithms and told exactly what to do, the farther behind they fall in terms of grasping these concepts.” (my emphasis)

What this says to me is that using practice to reinforce skills may actually undermine a student’s confidence in their own thought process. They may come to look at learning as a rote skill that is supposed to be automatic, not thoughtful, something that if not immediately obvious, is unreachable.

So finding good games, then, means finding games that reinforce the style of learning that you believe in. Which, in a sea of hype about the benefits of educational games, might not be as easy as it looks!

What do you believe about learning?

Sylvia

Speak Up 2010 – Get the evidence you need for your tech vision to succeed

Participate in Speak Up 2010 through Fri., Jan 21, 2011

Join with educators from across the country who use the Speak Up Surveys to identify how their students, teachers, administrators and parents want to use technology for learning, communications and collaboration. Participating in the Speak Up Surveys is free and 100% confidential.

Last year, over 5,757 schools and 1,215 districts participated in the Speak Up Surveys. All these districts got terrific customized data about how their stakeholders view technology, and how they compare to other districts. This is the data YOU need to support your technology vision, and there is no other way to get it.

It’s easy to get started, visit the Speak Up website to register your district (or school). Then encourage your students, parents, teachers and administrators to take the online survey. To help you out, check out the tools and tips on the Project Tomorrow website.

Sylvia

Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions

“Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions” – a quick Google search didn’t turn up the source for this quote, but I’ve heard it for years. It’s one of those simple yet profound statements that sums up interconnectedness, yet vast difference between teaching and learning. “Managing” these conditions on either side without the core involvement of the teacher or the student is just impossible.

In this new report, Transforming School Conditions, 14 accomplished teachers from urban districts around the country merge their own experience in high-needs schools with the best current education research, to discuss conditions that are are needed for teachers to teach all students effectively. Their recommendations for school policy and practice offer a guide to developing systems of support for meaningful and sustainable school reform.

Their recommendations highlight the need for any reforms in teaching to come with a high degree of involvement of the affected teachers — not to be delivered from the top down, outside in, or by an imaginary superhero. The changes have to come from those “at the coalface,” as they say in Australia, meaning those who are in the trenches doing the real work.

 

Bill Ferriter provides a summary and perspective on this report if you don’t have time to read the whole thing (but you should!)

Students teach teachers how to create a podcast

This video from Brett Moller (Blog: 21st Century Educator) shows a student produced tutorial about how to create a podcast using Garageband.

YouTube – Dylan Teaching the Teachers How to create a basic podcast.

If you have teachers who need help, why not let students create tutorials for them? Students have an authentic project, and teachers get help with the exact hardware or software, not some generic tutorial. This is a win-win for everyone involved.

And think about this – if you are teaching a technology applications class, or asking students to pass technology literacy standards, why not have the projects the students do actually do some good? Why not have student projects that have an authentic purpose – helping teachers (or peers, or the community, for that matter).

One of the most important parts of project-based learning is having a sense of who your audience is – and the audience for student work does not have to be one harried technology teacher.

These can be useful additions to any school’s suite of tech support tools, plus, create a climate of student ownership. Brett says, “They did a series of five this year – they’re now training next year’s group to continue! Teachers love them.”

Sylvia