True confessions time–when I was little, I used to play teacher.(also used to play librarian, geologist and nurse!) Playing teacher involved reading the instructions from a reading test booklet aloud, standing in the front of the bedroom explaining things, calling out spelling words, and the like.
Wouldn’t it be incredible if five or ten years from now the way that children play teacher would be by putting their dolls in groups to work together, or by wearing a toy headphone and pretending to talk to students from around the world, or by saying “students, let’s create something together?”
Clarence Fisher’s truly incredible keynote for the K12 Online conference(which I’m sure I won’t do justice to) illustrates what Classroom 2.0 can be. He lives in a small town in Canada, and begins the podcast by saying, education used to be about training people to work here, where they live. But now students can live and work wherever they want, so he believes that educating them needs to help them meet the world head on.
As he writes on his blog, Remote Access, “I live in a small rural community and think geography is irrelevent on our hyperconnected globe. This leads to the tagline of my blog: ‘Even From Here.’ ”
His comments about attitude are profound: that if we redefine what classrooms are, and see them in a new light, then it changes what is possible, it changes scheduling, it changes what activities are permitted, it changes everything.
I think another change that we need to think about is the idea of content. AP students cram down content for the AP test, students studying for our state’s TAKS test do the same, but it seems to me there needs to be a shift away from content, and it also strikes me that this is an incredibly hard change to make in our thinking and in our educational structure as it exists today.
As Clarence points out, our very relationship with information is changing. We, and our students can be prosumers, can consume as well as produce content. We aren’t passive recipients any longer. So what does this mean for our relationship with the content in our classes?
I’m a person who believes there is almost always a “third way”–a way to work within the system we have, while incorporating evolving ways of interacting with students. As Clarence so deftly illustrates by embedding the idea of networking into his first day of his classroom, (he has students start setting up blogs the first day of class and Skype with another class the first week), we can create an atmosphere where networking is an expected part of the learning process, just by modeling that in our classrooms.
Our students will, no matter what we want to believe, end up in a much more connected and networked world than we have now. There will come great gains in that, and also losses. But if we’re going to teach them, we have to start believing that world exists. And we have to believe that world has validity and value.
Because don’t we want to be right there with them, learning, exploring and guiding them into that networked world, into that future, whatever it will look like? Don’t we want to be there, helping them make good choices, helping them detect bias and prejudice, helping them learn how to communicate well, helping them learn how to collaborate across time and across geographic lines?
I sure do, and I feel just as excited putting on a headphone as I ever did, years ago, reading the instruction manual to a test booklet aloud.
As he says in the presentation, ‘It isn’t about us waiting to be told how to do things. It’s about us. It’s about change, about us figuring out what we need to do to make sure kids are prepared to meet that future head-on.’
He’s right. It is about all of us.
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Image credit: Flickr acpl, lwatebuddy