Focus Day 2012 Musings

I spent Surrey Schools Focus Day 2012, February 10, taking in a presentation from David Warlick. It was a great opportunity to not only connect with colleagues, but to also stay on the cutting edge of IT and its role in education.

My musings about the day…

…David’s introduction was great. He talked about “Black Swans” – instantaneous transactions by computers in the stock market. I sat there thinking, “Where is he going with this?” Turns out David makes a point of sharing something at each workshop that he had just learned. He does this to illustrate that we must continue to learn – to evolve – to be master learners…not just master teachers. Such modeling is crucial if we wish our students to be life-long learners as well.

…We need to prepare students for an ever changing world – one that does not yet exist.  We need to prepare students for THEIR future, not OUR future! Got me thinking about Facebook…or Twitter…or any of these relatively new phenomena.  If you asked your students even ten years ago what they wanted to do when they got older, none would have responded, “I want to work for Facebook” because it didn’t yet exist. David also talked about ‘BG’ – before Google.  What did people do before Google?  They either sought another information source or continued to wonder!

…Social connectedness is a priority. If you work with kids, you already know this. David used an interesting analogy – he called this need to be socially connected to an “invisible alien tentacle”.  If they walk in our classes and we tell them to sit down and be quiet, we essentially prevent this connectedness and “chop off this alien tentacle”.

…His belief (and mine) -we can’t help but learn when we are connected to many other people…all the time!  Our role in this? We need to look to the edge – the cutting edge – and become “edge-dwellers”.  Our students are already there. Students today don’t have a “ceiling” or limit to information – they live in an information rich, abundant, digital, connected world…a world difficult to contain. Kids expect to access and control information. If we are going to exist there with them, we can’t expect to hold them back. Rather, we need to prepare them for the ever changing world – or as David states,  “prepare our kids with wings”.

Effective learning…inspires personal investment, provokes conversation, and promote responsiveness from the learner.

Thank you David for the countless examples of how quickly our world is changing and how seamlessly our kids are adapting to these changes. I left the session with a renewed conviction that we do our students a disservice if we disregard the pace of change, their learning preferences, and the role of social connectedness in teaching and learning.

BYOD

Georges Vanier Elementary is a wireless campus…an increasing number of students are bringing their wireless devices to school…any staff members have a keen interest in technology and how it can be effectively integrated into teaching and student learning…all the ingredients of a “perfect storm”.

BYOD – bring your own device – may have seemed a thing of the future, but after my experience a few days ago, I realize that the time for BYOD might be now!

While on supervision a few days ago, I had a conversation with a group of girls from several of our grade 5/6 classes.  I noticed one of the girls with an iPod touch in her hand. I asked her if she used her iPod in class and it was clear that she thought she was in trouble for having the device at school. Once she realized that I was genuinely interested in how the iPod could be used in class to enhance learning, the student began to share that her teacher did in fact know about the iPod and that she was permitted to listen to music during art or when class assignments had been completed.  I continued to probe. Had she used her iPod as a calculator? Had she looked up the definition of word she didn’t know? Had she gone online to answer one of the many nagging questions that spontaneously pop up everyday in the classroom? All of these activities would have been easy to do in a wireless environment, but she hadn’t yet made the leap.

Then I discovered that 6 of the 8 girls in the group I was speaking with had iPod touches. They all began to pull them out (now that they knew I wasn’t going to confiscate them :-). What did I learn?  Well, besides the interesting fact that girls like to carry their iPod touches on the inside of their boots, I learned that we may be closer to BYOD than I would have thought – close enough that it may be time to start conversations with teachers and parents regarding how they feel about opening the parameters and allowing students to openly use their own wireless devices.

Students are armed and ready. Are we?