Friday, March 06, 2009

Keep it Simple

This is from a discussion with a reader over on my Classroom 2.0 discussion page...

Reader, concerning ed tech:

Our middle school students get caught up in the "bells and whistles" and rarely get to the content. Time is the classroom teacher's enemy. Finding enough hours in the day to teach the technological "how-to's" in addition to the instructional component is overwhelming. I fight the battle weekly with my gifted students- can't image trying to do some of the same activities with regular ed and still covering the curriculum. At great solution would be after school and summer enrichment programs to acclimate students to web 2.0 tools. Maybe we should apply for some of that stimulus money ;).

My reply:

I disagree. It's a matter of streamlining. Keep it simple. Don't let them get caught up in the 'bells and whistles'; you are the teacher.

Summertime is for getting outside and running around, not being trained on a computer.

There is no reason you can't get the students set up with individual blogs and each class together on a wiki in two or three days' time max during the beginning of the school year. For example, this past October I did a job getting over 225 high school seniors up and running with Web 2.0 for Senior Project digital portfolios. I met with groups of 40 or so for twenty minutes each morning for a few days and by the end of the week, they were all trained.

I'd imagine you'd need a different set-up for Middle School, but, not knowing exactly what your situation is, I imagine you could work something out. Think of it this way: don't 'teach Web 2.0 skills', rather use Web 2.0 skills to help you teach.

We're a 1:1 computing school and for three days at the beginning of each academic year, we have a 'Freshmen only' computer camp. Here we teach them the 'survival skills' they'll need to handle the computing situation at school. Our biggest problem is that we tend to finish the training lessons much more quickly than all the time we allot for them.

Anyway, once you and the kids are online, you actually save a load of time (single button publishing apps rock) which gives ample opportunity to do all kinds of fun and creative stuff. Though my students turn in all of their work online and are always connected in class, I tend to use a modified-Socratic approach that I've blended with practical tech work and we actually spend most of our classtime in discussions.

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