I have just spent two days with George Couros (@gcouros, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/) and I really hope he isn’t offended by my playful addition to his name! Because he is really curious, always learning and seeking to learn, to understand. He is an engaging speaker, an innovative educational leader. Despite managing to implement massive changes in his school district in Canada he always positions himself as a co-learner and that is one reason you leave his presentations thinking “anything is possible”. He says he is not a “technology” expert but an educator interested in innovative practice. Practice that leverages technology for exciting learning. He says relationships are the foundation of good schools and learning and technologies help us build these relationships.
I found myself nodding so much I looked like one of those dog toys you see on people’s dashboards or rear windows in cars.
At a CEGSA talk I gave in 2010, called “Get me on the net” I talked about how my students had produced amazing videos with a fantastic environmental message. And while we invited the broader community in to view them – we had government ministers and guest expert speakers- there was very little available to me to get their work out to a global audience. I wanted to bring the world into the classroom and take my classroom out to the world, but it was so difficult finding free tools that were not filtered and I had to work my way through the labyrinthine red tape of permissions and risk management of using social media with children under 13. So I played at the edges until I thought, well I would drop at least a hundred dollars on teaching resources at a local bookstore – why not pay for a blog that lets me upload video and communicate directly with my parent community? I did that, but it still didn’t quite have the participatory effect I really wanted.
Now DECD has social media guidelines, high-speed Internet and new tools are being created every minute of every day! The task just got much easier. I want to leverage the tools that are out there to make learning AMAZING. I want my students to be active, aware global digital citizens. So here are my top ten changes I’d like to work towards making with the parents and colleagues in my school community.
- Go Paperless – I am never printing another handout. Last time I printed handouts a participant complained that the screen grabs weren’t large enough despite looking at the identical screen on a massive projected image! Going paperless creates the necessity to engage with information online. And once you are online you are in a global learning place.
- BYOD– When I return to my classroom I am having a serious conversation with parents and my leaders about allowing students to use their own devices. We will never have the budget to provide one to one devices so why not let the kids access the wireless and be able to engage in connections with real learning with a global audicnce.
- Crowd Source Solutions – Next time I want to know a really good way to approach something I am going to send out a tweet to my peeps and ask for help. If I am always relying on my own brain I will never have that creative innovative learning place that I envisage. My first question? How are people suing iPads to innovatively teach mathematics in the middle school? or What are some really great problem based tasks to set mathematics students in the middle school and how can I leverage mobile devices to support them? And if my meagre 100 followers can’t help I will go to #edchat or #mathchat and ask again.
- Teach Digital Citizenship – I have always taught year 6 students to be careful online, but I have always been really nervous about letting them into those global spaces. This is despite the fact that they laugh every time I say “You’re on facebook? But don’t you have to be 13?” But instead of being overly cautious I would run whole day workshops on how to behave in online places and how to manage your digital footprint.
- Invite the Parents – to be learners in these spaces too. I would get them in, give them an iPad and teach them about digital citizenship and learning in online spaces with really cool tools and ask them – how do you want to see learning happen for your kids right now? I would also create a Facebook Page and Twitter feed that parents can access to see what is happening in our class and the cool exciting learning that is going on. I’d also ask for their help – the parents are all experts in something, we can source their expertise and get real answers for real problems.
- Leverage Social Media – I would set up an Edmodo class so that students can interact outside of school hours and they would also be able to access all those paperless assignments as well as share their really cool discoveries with each other.
- Vlog – I would set up my own YouTube channel so that kids could get real feedback for their work and share their learning with a global audience. They could ask real astronauts questions about Space, or an electrical engineer about solar power or an author about plot lines.
- Blog – I would blog regularly, so that learning is shared – my learning, the students’ learning and the parents ideas too. I would also write about my spectacular failures as well as successes! I would get kids to set up their own Blogs so that they can develop an e-portfolio that goes with them wherever they go.
- Mange my online “selves” – I will install Hoot Suite, to keep track of my social media accounts, as they are growing exponentially and I can’t seem to marry the personal and the professional – so until I do I need help with a gazillion usernames and passwords.
- Collaborate – Use Google apps for education or Google Docs to get student feedback and opinion on learning in our class. I’d create open documents for parent and student contribution.
Engaging in media environments is really important for learners today, as Mike Wesch says It’s this idea that media are environments, media are not just tools, , media are not just means of communication , that media mediate our conversations and that when media change, our conversations change and because our conversations dictate who can say what, when, where and how…that means we are looking at broad cultural changes.
I think these changes would make learning in room 34 really exciting and I cannot wait to try them out. But more importantly I want to invite my students into this global conversation, where they can be powerful, responsible leaders. What do you think?