I listened to the second part of David Warlick’s interview with Holly Jobe as a podcast this morning driving into work. What an inspiring and thought provoking message! Here are a few key takeaways:

Our focus as educators and learners should be helping students become LITERATE and actual practitioners, not simply pretenders, of the content area expertise we require them to study. Learning tasks should help students authentically demonstrate their own knowledge and skills as mathematicians, scientists, writers, readers, oral communicators, and historians. Rather than completing study guides and seatwork which bores everyone, students should be challenged to work in teams (as part of project-based learning tasks) and create authentic, creative knowledge products which reflect their understandings of content and ideas in novel ways.

surprised and smiling with flowers

When we measure “success” of educational reform initiatives, we have to pay attention to the anecdotes. Teachers who self-reported that they remained in the classroom, rather than retiring from the profession as they had previously planned, to participate in their Pennsylvania school’s innovative learning initiative is a HUGE flag of impact.

Technology does not offer a panacea for the challenges which face education, but a forward looking pedagogical vision focusing on student COLLABORATION and CREATION of knowledge products WEDDED TO appropriate technologies is often transformative. When synergy develops around students’ expectations of engaging learning tasks along with teacher expectations of student learning and behavior, the results can be exciting and positive.Give a listen to what Holly shared with David. I’m inspired!

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3 Responses to Changing expectations of learning

  1. Kent Chesnut says:

    Wes,
    I listened to David’s interview with Holly late last week – and was also duly impressed. You are right, teachers deciding to put off retirement for a year is a very powerful statement.
    However, I, like you, live here in Oklahoma. Do you see (or foresee) such initiatives (as Holly spoke of) in our near future? I suppose I may be getting a little jaded, but I don’t think the schools are going to change. If we want kids (especially those in technologically underserved areas) to experience interesting, relevant, and engaging learning experiences, we may have to look outside the school system! Is there a way to set up learning centers throughout our communities where students and adults can engage in learning activities as co-learners, providing these students with powerful, engaging learning experiences that these kids are missing in school? Just thinking… always a dangerous thing to do!
    Maybe that’s being a little too negative. A more positive question… What can a parent do to try to encourage project based learning / collaboration / student choices in their children’s classes today?

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Great questions, Kent. It’s easy to get pessimistic, but I remain optimistic for several reasons. The tools we have at our disposal to remain connected and share ideas/best practices are unprecedented. Less than 10 years ago, in 1999, I remember kids at our elementary school in Lubbock, Texas, bringing audio cassette recordings of veteran oral history interviews, and NOT knowing how or being able to digitally share those relatively easily with others (safely) over the web. That reality has changed dramatically.

    Here are a few ideas and responses.

    Getting our students to participate in digital storytelling projects, like the Oklahoma World War II Veterans’ Oral History Project, is key. The kids have more potential to change the perceptions of adults about teaching and learning than anyone else, I think. Our Oklahoma Digital Centennial Project professional development workshop opportunities are tangible way to network with other teachers in Oklahoma around the banner of digital storytelling and safely sharing student voices, as well as digitally collaborating. If you can, consider joining us at the end of the month at UCO in Edmond for the 3 day workshop. I think we are going to see A LOT of positive conversations come out of this project. We do need state leaders to understand and support a broader vision for engaged educational technology use– creating and collaborating on a regular basis– so teachers and students using these tools effectively don’t remain islands of excellence. Technology can be a powerful amplifier for best practices, and that is part of the reason to get together and collaborate…

    On a parental level, I think starting a family learning blog is a good idea to help your own kids reflect on their own learning and share their ideas safely with a broader audience. I started one a few weeks ago with my kids that I titled Learning Signs. We’re just getting started, but I think we’re on the right road. In our own school district, ALL use of blogs for educational purposes are banned by the school board. I’m struggling to decide how to engage at the board/administration level on this topic. I don’t have answers yet but do have ideas.

    I think offering to share ideas for digital projects versus analog ones can help. I heard Meg Ormiston at METC last year talk about the ways she has helped as a parent volunteer to find videos that supplement instruction in the classroom. There is surely room for helping facilitate collaborative projects between classrooms as well. I think as parents we should be asking about classroom videoconferencing projects. Are students using videoconferencing technologies to share presentations and teach students in other locations? If not, why not? Most schools with which I work don’t do this now. There are a few islands of innovation, but we need more.

    What do you think? This is a great question and topic, and I want to do more thinking on it….

  3. Kent Chesnut says:

    Wes,
    Thanks for the feedback. Thinking back, I may have had a chance during the last school year to push things forward a bit and didn’t realize it. It seemed that weekly, someone in my son’s class would forget to bring home their spelling book on Monday (my own son, occasionally). I added the spelling words to my pbwiki site and I know people used it during the year. I could have used the opportunity to push for some online collaboration (or something similar), but it didn’t even cross my mind.
    What about this… create a wiki page for the class and use it to put up some artwork or stories. Get parents to look and then provide them with a password so they can get involved. Go forward from there (digital storytelling?). One advantage of this idea is that it doesn’t require one to be at the school to participate.
    Another idea is to do some type of programming class with Scratch. I’ve discussed my view of Scratch on my blog (www.g4classes.com/learningforward) – but have yet to schedule anything. I’m inclined to do this type of project in conjunction with my Church (as opposed to school), mainly because of easier access to the computer lab.
    Any comments on my idea of non-school learning type centers?
    By the way, my name is Kent.

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