Last Friday was such a busy day, as I mentioned earlier I had the chance to take part in three different PD sessions which I found useful and stimulating, a rare enough occurrence sometimes. The last of my session last week was the one with Dr. Ross J. Todd of Rutger’s University Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Besides being a very affable and polite gentleman Dr. Todd had much to tell us on the role of the library in the school, much of which, for me at least, was especially important because it reminded me of many of the things that I discussed with my colleagues over the last few years as a ‘front of the classroom’ teacher. One of the problems that we discussed endlessly, besides a lack of ability to access technology when we really wanted to, was the fact that we often felt much of the work that we did with the library simply did not seem to meet our goals as educators. We wanted our students to complete assignments that had eduactional value and that would also help them meet our curricular goals and many times those goals and that idea simply were not met. What Dr. Todd pointed out was that many of the things that he and his colleagues had observed when they looked at library based projects was that they were simply not good at getting students to transpose their knowledge, instead they tended to stick to the concept of stockpiling knowledge. As my colleagues and I discussed it last year we certainly felt that way, infact because of that we often limited our students exposure to technology and the library because, quite frankly, if we wanted the students to stockpile knowledge it was far more efficient for us to do that from the front of the class (classical lecture style). I am not necessairly proud of this, but I have to admit that it, and I think in many respects that’s where many teachers find themselves today. How can we possibly make the learning for our students more about transforming their knowledge than about transporting it. Dr. Todd also went through some of the web 2.0 tools that I have already mentioned but it’s a reminder of the power of the technology that we currently have on our desktops, and in our hands and on our laps. I will update this some more in the future as I go back over the notes I have from that day.
Update (December 12) One of the things that Dr. Todd talked about, in his discussion of web 2.0 technologies, was to be careful of the idea of blogging, not that it doesn’t work, but just that we should be careful when using it. He had a wonderful expression which I think totally fit this blog: never has so much been said by so many to so few! A great reminder that while we may generate the content using web 2.0, if no one is there to look at it, what benefit is there to it.
Just one more thing, today I read this post by Dean Shareski, and while certainly not new, it did present a good reminder of what it takes to make a shift in teaching. For me it also caused me to think about the students I deal with, maybe if I can somehow begin the shift of teachers from telling the students what they need to learn to helping the students learn what they want we can increase retentions because students will develop a passion. That sounds really simplistic, but I encourage you to follow the link because it made me think.
Post-script: last week I learned about Google Wheel and today I introduced it to students for the first time. I have students who need to complete research papers and one of the most difficult things for students to do is to narrow down their research question sufficiently to be able to tackle it. Google Wheel does an amazing job of that, if students are interested in World War II for instance this can help them generate a much more precise subject to talk about.