An important roll of an educational technologist is to convey the mission of technology integration to a wide variety of stakeholders. When asked by people not associated in education or technology, I often keep my message to three bullet points in how technology impacts our students and teachers in the classroom. While there are other important points to convey such as operational efficiencies and skills building, I often focus on the following broader three points: Content Delivery, Content Creation, and Data Capturing. From those categories, I then bring up 21st century skills and other benefits of technology integration.
Delivering Content – Technology has changed the way students/teachers engage with educational content that traditional textbooks could never do.
With the advancement of interactive technologies, educational content is being delivered to students in engaging new ways. Software companies are creating content to differentiate, personalize, visualize, and interact with topics never seen before. Content is now being delivered through video streaming, open content, webinars, interactive whiteboards, flash, games, images, social media, and crowd-sourced wikis.
Creating Content – Technology gives our student/teachers opportunities to be content creators, rather than passive learners.
The rise of web 2.0 technologies enabled our students and teachers to become active participants in content creation. Students and teachers are self-publishing podcasts, videos, wikis, newspapers, blogs, slideshows, presentations, and ebooks. Creating content on the web has definitely changed the way students are learning in the 21st century.
Data Capturing – Technology gives students/teachers efficient data capturing/analyzing tools to help inform/drive instruction and learning.
While web 2.0 content creation tools are the “cool” technology, the foundation of quality education starts with good data to inform instruction. There are a host of technologies available to capture data such as polls, surveys, gradebooks, rubrics, informal/formal assessments, online quizzes/tests/benchmarks and student response systems.
Integrating 21st century skills of critical, collaborative, and creative thinking is another important component of a quality education model. While these skills should be embedded in the overall curriculum, building structured learning lab time is essential to providing learning opportunities and authentic assessments of 21st century skills. Using open source and web 2.0 technologies, students and staff can engage in 21st century learning in a regular basis. Below are some ideas I have used in the past and recommend to structure critical, collaborative, and creative thinking lessons and projects.
The focus technologies to structure critical thinking and problem solving will be the use of computer programming software. Introducing the engineering design process at an early stage will help develop the skill of critical thinking and problem solving. Students can engage in design theory, mathematics, troubleshooting, quality assurance, and the scientific method while working on computer programming software. During the learning lab time, students can be using computer programming software developed specifically for K12 environment. Programs such as Scratch, Alice, Kodu Labs, and Google Sketchup can all be used to structure critical thinking and problem solving in a 21st century scientific/math environment. Engineering Design Tools for K12
There are host of web 2.0 technologies available to engage students in collaborative thinking. For example, lessons can be structured where students develop presentations, canvases, documents, spreadsheets, and wikis to share, edit, and collect information. One of the free tools available today is the private communication platform called Edmodo. Edmodo can be the secure private platform for students to social network and engage in online collaborative learning. Students can share docs & presentations, start threaded discussion, embed videos, and create polls to engage in open collaborative 21st century learning. This collaborative thinking platform can focus on writing, research, and presentation skills of students.
Developing and nurturing creative and innovative expression is a vital component of 21st century learning. Fortunately, the technology environment we live in today gives our students the ability to create and publish without investing heavily in expensive studios. There are many open source applications that will engage our students in multimedia editing and publishing. For example, our students can create podcasts and videos using Avidmux, and create posters using Glogster. The tools are easily accessible allowing our students a platform to engage in creative expression in its fullest potential. This creative thinking platform can focus on artistic, global, and ethical skills of students. Here is a list of open source software that can replace expensive Adobe multimedia software: K12 Technology Solutions on a Budget
According to Wikipedia, “The Socratic Method (or Method of Elenchus or Socratic Debate), named after the Classical Greek philosopherSocrates, is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate rational thinking and to illuminate ideas.”
When using this classical method of teaching, the student takes initiative to drive the conversation to stimulate divergent thoughts on various topics. In my classrooms, I often use the Socratic Method to create a safe forum for students to bring out their ideas through guided questioning. When I present an idea or question, I typically stay out of the conversation and simply take notes without expressing any approval or disapproval. Often when teachers intervene in conversation, the student ends up following the thoughts of the teacher authority (soldier mentality). One of the natural outcomes of the Socratic Method is to encourage risk taking, critical thinking, and problem solving. All skills in developing leaders, not soldiers (the paper pushing worksheet teacher). The students are situated in a circle with me deliberately sitting outside it. I simply state my thought or question, and then the students take over. Obviously, it requires scaffolding and modeling at first, but when the students understand the Socratic process, the conversations go beyond any textbook, video or worksheet on the same topic. I have always preached the Apple motto of “Think Different,” and have based most of my teaching with that in mind.
Then the idea came to me that fit naturally together, the marriage between classical learning of Socrates and the collaborative real time environment of web 2.0. Hence, my name Socratech on Twitter. I began thinking how my traditional classroom setup using the Socratic Method can be integrated using educational technologies. A flurry of ideas came to me when thinking how web 2.0 is the 21st century version of the Socratic Method, where we encourage risk taking, divergent ideas, and an open forum to express our thoughts. Now I just needed to implement a lesson with middle school students that exemplifies the almost eerie similarities between Socrates and web 2.0.
One such example that has successfully remixed the Socratic Method with web 2.0 is when I hold virtual Socratic Seminars in Edmodo. Edmodo is a private social communication platform where I allow my students to converse on various topics guided by me or another student. The beauty of Edmodo is that the conversation provides real time threading with multimedia capabilities to enhance the experience. I held a Socratic Seminar using the Did You Know YouTube video. I guided the conversation by asking questions related to video that stimulated debate and other questions about technology and the Internet. The ideas expressed was beyond any teacher lead discussion on the same subject.
Its no wonder why History was my favorite subject in school. Now it is making sense…
*It is important to note that academic language is strictly enforced in any online or oral Socratic Seminar to mirror the scholarly language of classical Greece. I tell my students to use starter sentences such as “I agree” or “contrary” backing it up with always a support (because) statement.
For more information on the Socratech Seminar Method of learning, feel free to contact me.
It was over six months ago when an idea came to me while shopping for air filters at Home Depot; how can we evolve the Accelerated Reader idea into a web 2.0 environment? I write this in hopes Accelerated Reader decides to move to this environment. Otherwise, I have the alternative solution to the reading quiz phenomenon. For those who are not familiar with Accelerated Reader, it essentially is an independent reading program where students read books and take quizzes based on reading levels. It helps teachers monitor independent reading where students earn points for successfully taking quizzes on the books they read.
With web 2.0 technologies now readily available, I have come up with a free solution for those schools unable to afford the Accelerated Reader software. I came across a free quiz making program called MyStudiyo and I finally created my first quiz on it. I remember being on the phone with my good friend Gilbert, telling him what if there was a crowd sourcing solution to creating quizzes of children’s literature. Now it is still a raw solution and doesn’t provide the full analysis of an Accelerated Reader, however, the potential is there for a community of teachers who contribute to quizzes on MyStudiyo. I can envision an “Accelerated Reader” like community of quizzes on this site with ratings of the best quizzes. Now, if MyStudiyo can create “Accelerated Reader” like metrics, students can login to this website and take quizzes for free. I can see the traffic exponentially grow for this website if they could add the features. If MyStudiyo is reading this blog, feel free to contact me about this novel idea.
Best yet, you can embed your quizzes to private communication platforms such as Edmodo. Here is an example of my embedded quiz on Edmodo. As powerful as Accelerated Reader has become in the education world, I can see a web 2.0 version becoming bigger because we are relying on the power of the teacher population instead of so-called “experts” who create these AR quizzes.
I write this giving away my idea that I proposed months ago, but I have no capacity to create such a website. I just hope I get mentioned for the company who does make this happen. “Accelerated Reader 2.0”