Image via WikipediaRichard, a Stanford University undergraduate student, has joined the Future of Education, a professional learning network, and asks for advice about technology support for teachers. Richard is one of four Stanford students who have formed a group (class project?) to develop useful technology tools for teachers. Ric Barline and other teachers have responded to Richard's request for assistance. I am excited to see this distributed collaboration draw on complementary knowledge, skills and experience, so I add to the discussion:
I second Ric Barline's recommendations and appreciate the thought he has given to the broad range of Best Practice Strategies. I especially value his endorsement of project-based learning:
Project-Based LearningI work as the iTeams Advisor in a middle school that has been part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative since its inception (Seven years of one-to-one computing for all Maine 7th and 8th grade students). While teachers may want to use such strategies, project management can be daunting. We use strategies based in part on the TechYES and GenYES models, exemplary evidence-based programs. Boss and Krauss in Reinventing Project-Based Learning and their ReinventingPBL blog also provide useful strategies.
The benefits of in-depth investigation of real-world topics make this approach ideal for acquiring twenty-first-century skills.
• Project-based learning and technology can go hand in hand. Technology provides the perfect avenue for students to organize and deliver projects. From the research to the delivery, real-world skills can be incorporated with the use of technology. Unfortunately, the emphasis on standardized testing and state standards has caused many schools to drop their efforts to utilize technology in the classroom. Drill and practice, test preparation, direct instruction with a scripted text and pressure to meet all standards has caused teachers to abandon technology-rich projects and assignments.
At the high school level, we are using Facebook and Ning to build from students' prior social networking skills and experience to establish learning networks. But at middle school and elementary schools we are constrained by legal and community standards. There, we are investigating Elgg, an open source social network over which we can maintain better control. Unfortunately, Elgg lacks some of the features that would enhance its value for support of learning.
Finally, how can we use these ideas to improve learning for all our students? Suzie Boss describes Bill strickland's approach:
In "Passing Empowerment Down through the Arts," in the current issue of Edutopia, Bill Strickland tells me about the journey he began 40 years ago when an art teacher changed his life. He's been changing lives ever since, first in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., and now in other communities across the country (and beyond). His unique vision combines arts and mentoring to keep young people engaged in learning, plus high-powered job training so adults can lift their families out of poverty. It's a potent formula for creating hope in the neighborhoods that need it most.