Transforming learning through global collaboration
Everyone knows we are in an era of technology. We have the world at our fingertips. Parents are adamant that their kids learn how to use technology and schools are just as anxious to prove that we are teaching that technology. In many schools, technology is readily available. There seems to be a good, general awareness that kids need to be taught how to sort through and find valuable information since, even for parents, the word "Google" has become a verb. But what about the act of creation? How are we doing on the higher end of Bloom's Taxonomy in the areas of analyzing, synthesizing, and creating? I think, in general, not very well.
I see a disheartening lack of depth when I look at products created by students, whether they be an Internet collection of best projects, presentations of technology use at the culmination of year-long teacher tech trainings, or student products in my own school. We have let students think that a 'click' and a 'paste' and an 'insert here' is good work because it includes technology. When a student can type in a keyword in order to find a fact, then paste the fact into a technological presentation, there is no requirement to learn or process that fact. Just as there were boring, shallow country reports before the advent of technology, there are now boring, shallow country reports on PowerPoint or Prezi or PhotoStory.
There are three things I see that seem to promote deeper thinking during the creation of a technology project, but I highly encourage - no, I implore- any readers to comment and share ideas that are working in their schools.
1) The teachers I see getting the most creative work out of their students are the teachers that model what they want students to do. These teachers don't just model a technology process, they model a whole project and they model thinking as students go through their own research and creation. It is so much more powerful to see how an effective, well chosen photo gives a stronger message over a list of phrases than it is to just be told wordiness makes a boring visual presentation.
2) Detailed rubrics let students know what we expect. Although rubrics have such a simple look, good rubrics are difficult to make. They take a lot of thought. A rubric requirement of "visually pleasing" is very different from specifying "not more than 3 colors with a font size of 18," for example. Thinking through these rubric requirements takes time. When we start our backward planning and realize the goal is to have students persuade others to take political action, the elements of persuasion need to be spelled out in the rubric.
3) The third element is one that I suspect will meet resistance from some at almost every school in my country. The third necessary element is time! Over and over again, I have seen students given two class periods to create a quality project. Since it doesn't take longer than that to 'click' and 'paste' and 'insert,' surely that should be enough time to create a good project. NOT! A large number of teachers seem to feel under continuous stress to "cover the material," but the majority of that pressure is self-inflicted. For every time I have asked a teacher why they can't take longer to go into depth on a project and received that answer, I have asked countless administrators who have unanimously said they would prefer greater depth, better thinking, and less 'material.'
Let's support each other more in giving ourselves permission to take time with our students to make projects more meaningful. When we use collaborative networks of deep thinkers like the Flat Classroom, we can take advantage of our collaborative teaching brain power and excite our students about using their endless creativity along with their computers. Let's continue challenging ourselves and the other teachers within our own buildings to persevere and not give in to the "boring, shallow, country report" of the technology era.