Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This just in: New 'trend' detected in classrooms

My principal just sent around an interesting article from the Sacramento Bee (free registration required to read) about a teacher, Dylan Holcomb, who is using, among other tools, Google Earth and blogs to enhance his students' learning in English class. It is worth reading, and it strikes me as one of the few news pieces which portrays these web 2.0 tools in a positive, innovative light, rather than as a warning siren of a murky online community, ripe with lurking predators.

I'm wondering, though, is there a bit of a disconnect between the innovators like Dylan and those whose charge it is to lead our school districts into the 21st Century? The article quotes one superintendent who, with a wonderful sense of ironic understatement, categorically declares: "There is definitely a trend in the educational community at large of using the Internet in the classroom." Yes. That's one way to say it. However, is that really what we're talking about here? If we want Boards of Education to fund our efforts in the classroom, we have to spread the word that 21st Century skills means more than just installing a digital projector in every classroom. Otherwise, it just becomes a different way to show a movie.

The bottom line is that the only way for such changes to become truly embedded in the educational system is for teachers, like Dylan, to take on leadership roles. The article states that he taught a packed workshop for his district's teachers, showing them digital tools, including everything "from sites to help generate surveys to free podcasts by professors at UC Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology." Numerous examples abound about teachers leading the change, including most recently by Dana, who presented to her faculty how to incorporate the use of wikis in the classroom.

I'd like to tell you all about how I, too, have been a guiding force at my school, spreading the message of the web 2.0 shift to the masses. I'd like to. I just can't. And I can't because I still haven't completely grown comfortable fully utilizing these tools in my classroom. Maybe I'm slower or less confident than some other teachers, or maybe I fear too much the overwhelmed effect too many teachers get from sitting in on professional development about the latest "new" thing. The most I can talk about are several meaningful discussions with a handful of other teachers who feel the same way I do, and who have begun to experiment with what I consider the first steps - blogs and wikis.
I'd like to start to do more. I'd like to take the lead of educators like Dylan and Dana (not to mention the rest of the all-stars in my Bloglines blogroll) and share this potential for meaningful change. Stay tuned.

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