Ask How not What

  Excerpted from the Ohio Summit 2.5,  keynote by Karl Fisch, Director of Technology and Mathematics teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. He is the creator of the YouTube hit,Did You Know? Shift Happens 2.0.

“If you put good people in a fundamentally flawed system, the system will win.”

  • The key here is that we must have systems in place that support the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity). Not only that, there must be a systemic and ongoing process for providing support, advice, encouragement, and a different perspective.
  • Often times our conversations about school reform stall because we are overcome by the entrenched factory system of doing school. Yes, school may have worked for us, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better for our students today and tomorrow. Instead of asking what we need to do differently in schools to meet the needs of today’s learner, we should ask how are we going to do things differently.

He asked a fundamental question that really piqued my interest: What does literacy mean in the 21st century?

  • This is definitely a moving target and it’s deeper than just one’s ability to read. He shared a quote by Jason Ohler that hit the nail on the head:  “Literacy means to consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • To further hammer home his point he said, “If all we teach students is the 5 paragraph essay then that’s educational malpractice.” The five paragraph essay is extremely important and a skill necessary for effective writing, but I believe his point is that literacy today is much more complex, much more diverse than it ever has been. With social media, we have to teach and model for students how to appropriately and effectively “consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • This has to include sharing content on YouTube, connecting with others globally through Twitter, Skype, and blogging. Since the audience in these venues is authentic and more public, digital citizenship is paramount.
  • An example he used was the 2008 presidential election. Observers of the debates were able to check facts in real time while watching the debate on TV. Thus, it became an interactive learning process as opposed to a passive exercise of just listening. We must use these same tools in the classroom as a means to teaching literacy.

What should students  (and their network connections) know and be able to do?

  • The first thing that came to mind was, “can my students tell me who is in their personal network? Do they even know what that means in terms of learning and collaboration?” Well, the only way I will know this is to ask them!
  •  He stressed the importance of providing opportunities for students to create globally connected learning networks.  He shared several examples of what this can look like:
  1. History- discover why buildings, streets, or communities are named the way they are by researching primary sources and conducting interviews of local residents.
  2.  American Revolution-Skype or build a wiki with schools from Great Britian about the revolution.
  3. Book Reports- create a movie trailer and post it on YouTube then create a QR code and tape it to the spine of the book found in the school’s library. Talk about a relevant and authentic project!
  4. “Wikify” Research Papers- at the end of each page, students create hyperlinks at the bottom, just like what’s found on Wikipedia.
  5.  Skype with students in another country to discuss books, war, hunger, or other social issues that impact the lives of teens. This can be taken one step further by creating reflective blogs, wikis, or Google Docs about the information shared. (Can we Skype with our current technology? I need to run this one to ground.)
  6. Skype with experts-reach out to experts in any field via Twitter or business Facebook pages and then connect with them via Skype for presentations, interviews, and discussions.
  7. Live blogging about books-instead of doing a traditional book report, have students blog about main characters, key themes, or opposing points of view then share the blogs with others.
  8. Skype with authors-self-explanatory.

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