Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Will's Big Shifts: Why are they important to the educational process

I just finished reading Will Richardson's book: "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms." My goal in reading the book was to find a book that the teachers in our new Global Communications program could use as a reference when they are starting to build content for their classes and how to work collaboratively with the other teachers in the program and the students they will be teaching. The first part of the book was what I suspected, it had a lot of great information on content creation and how to use some of the ancillary tools of the 'Read/Write Web.' The strength of the book is in the last 15 pages. When Will perfectly describes 10 'Big Shifts' that will occur in education over the next few years and how the educational dynamic will change.

What are these 'Big Shifts' and how will they change the educational process?
  1. Open Content: Open content means that all of the resources on the Internet are availble to students. In the past, in depth access to resources was limited to having access to a library or other repository of information. Typically, students needed another individual to assist them in this search (Librarian). This is no longer the case.
  2. Many, many teachers, and 24/7 Learning: Students learn from many different sources, not just teachers. They learn by reading different authors or 'editors' on the Internet based on their own interests. As teachers we become facilitators of the available content, not the sole source of it.
  3. The Social, Collaborative Construction of Meaningful Knowledge: The Internet is a social system, it was designed that way when Tim Berners-Lee envisioned it, but it has taken the last 17 years for that vision to be truly realized. Look at the use of cell phones on campus and the number of 'myspace' accounts and you have enough proof that the Internet is a 'social system.' Our job is to bring the innate, social structure of the Internet into our classrooms and beyond, by teaching students to use the tools available to them in socially acceptable and ethical ways. Once this happens, students will use the tools to collaborate and innovate with their peers and beyond.
  4. Teaching Is Conversation, not Lecture: What are the strengths of study groups? To me the strength of study groups was the ability to have a conversation about the course content to assist me in constructing the content in my own way. Lecture constructs the content in one way, conversation allows each individual to construct the content in their own way.
  5. Know 'Where' Learning: For several years I have been telling my students that the most valuable commodity in our society is information. It isn't possessing information that is important, it is the ability to find and access that information and put it to use quickly and effectively that holds the most value in our society.
  6. Readers Are No Longer Just Readers: Students are quick to question their peers, but less willing to question something they read on the Internet. Part of what we should be teaching is the ability to constructively question the material they read from all sources and the skills to validate everything they read.
  7. The Web as Notebook: Blogging, wikis, message boards, collaborative video tools (YouTube), still picture tools (Flickr), podcasting, online slideshows (YouRock). The list goes on and on, teachers and students need to be ready to embrace these tools and use them to become effective communicators. (ESLR reference here!)
  8. Writing Is No Longer Limited to Text: Writing takes on many different forms, whether that be in a blog, a wiki, a podcast, a video, an audio file, an annotated slideshow, etc. The forms of student and teacher content creation are limitless. The best part of this is that many of the ways students can create content and post their work on the Internet are free. Blogger, PBWiki, Wetpaint, YouTube, RockYou, etc. This may be the beginnings of School 2.0, a play on the Web 2.0 theme that the Internet is now a tw0-way communication tool. The synthesis of this is articulated in the Educause article, "Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?"
  9. Mastery Is The Product, Not the Test: What is the greater measurement of mastery? Scoring 70%+ on a standardized test or applying the material learned in class in some useful way. There have been many educational models that have emphasized application of skill to real-world situations, but many have not had the chance to be fully realized because of bureaucratic roadblocks put in place by the local and state boards of education. One of these models is the 'Rigor / Relevance Framework' set forth by William Daggett.
  10. Contribution, Not Competition, as the Ultimate Goal: Cooperative learning, project based learning and many other collaborative educational strategies have been making the rounds through the educational circles for several years now with mixed success. Why? There are always issues surrounding assessment of individual student work in a cooperative / collaborative setting. Some students have difficulties working with others that may / may not be part of their peer group and therefore work to their ability. A new framework for cooperative learning using technology is attempting to work through some of these issues. This is part of what we need to teach students is the ability to work with others from any ethnic or socio-economic group and find the talents in each individual and work to those strengths. This is exactly what the read/write web allows students to do. Students can do this with peers they share the same classroom with, but they can do it as easily with students that are several contenents away. This is the strength of the read/write web, sometimes referred to as Web 2.0, because it allows students to expand their circle of influence and it makes time and location no longer relevant.
Many of these issues will become more and more relevant as time goes on and it is our duty to seek out many of these tools to assist us in preparing our students for the cooperative and collaborative world they will live in the future. Just think, the students that are entering high school this fall, if they work until the present retirement age of 65, will retire in 2055. Do you think they will need some of the skills I have just outlined?


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