Sunday, January 22, 2017

Make Learning Non-Googleable

We are in a strange time in education. Teachers are gaining more access to technology, but are not all changing the way they teach. This transition has been happening for a decade or so in K12 education in America. When you are using 21st century technology but teaching in a 20th century model, you run into problems.

The internet provides a world of information from any web-connected device. I can find the answer to any question with a simple Google search. This has presented a challenge for school librarians as their role continues to shift away from information gatekeeper to digital curator. This has created a problem for teachers because many of their assignments are now Googleable. This has increased the workload of administrators as more and more students use technology to cheat.

Cheating has always been around. I remember having a Science teacher in middle school that was so disengaged that a student could be talking to him at his desk and copying answers from someone else and the teacher didn't even notice. The movies make cheating look cool: write answers on your body, your shoes, back of your sunglasses. Students haven't changed. Their desire to cheat hasn't changed. Their ability to cheat has just become high tech.

My now seventeen year old daughter came to me with a dilemma back in junior high. She and her friends found an answer key to a worksheet a teacher had assigned by just completing a Google search. This was a great teachable moment for her. Just because they can find the answers online does not mean students should use it. Cheating is wrong. But one has to consider why a teacher assigns a worksheet that can easily be found online by the students.

As technology changes the way our students access and use information, we, educators, have to step up our game. We have to design instruction that incorporates the technology, but not rely on technology to manage the students. Teach them appropriate technology use, teach them cheating is wrong, but don't hand out an assignment that is found for free online and complain they cheated. It's like telling someone trying to lose weight that chocolate cake will make you fat then offering them chocolate cake. Not fair! Create authentic learning opportunities that use technology and then students can't search for the answers online.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tech Integration: Start With Why

I recently became aware of the work of Simon Sinek after watching his TEDTalk, "Start With Why". It is based on the book of the same name he write in 2009. See the TEDTalk below:

Ironically, I presented a session at a regional school board conference a few years ago named "Tech Integration: Forget What. Let's Talk Why and How" without ever having heard of his work.

Although my name and contact information has changed, the sentiment of the session still rings true. Districts can get so hung up in the "What are we going to buy?" that they miss "Why is it important?" and "How will we use it?"

We have all been there. You go to a conference and see something wicked cool. Maybe it is in a session or the exhibit hall, but you just have to have it for your school. You find the money or get a grant to buy it. This new shiny thing arrives, and now what?

More than likely, if you have not put the work in the "why" and "how", getting that shiny new thing will not change the way you teach or how the students learn. Effective technology integration requires forethought and planning before the "what" is ever decided.