Here were the big ideas that stuck around with me after the week.
- We need to allow students and teachers to be social. People are social and the Internet is a social tool. We can't expect students to turn off their social side once they enter the classroom because we as teachers are not comfortable with it. Instead we need to find ways to embrace that collaboration and connectivity to make the classroom more like their real lives.
- We need to allow students time to master a skill with a new tool before assessing content. This was an idea I'd never really thought of before but it makes sense that we can't put a new tool in front of kids and immediately expect mastery simply because they're digital natives. They need time to learn the tool before we can grade them on the product they're creating with that tool.
- We need to allow students to use the tools they use to communicate. This example came out loud and clear simply because students use Instagram, Facebook, and other apps and sites to communicate in their non-school life. We need to find ways to integrate tools that are either the same or similar in order to create lines of communication that students want to be a part of. One presenter said to simply ask kids what they're using and use that tool. For example a lot of kids use Instagram so one teacher opened a class Instagram page and students would take pictures that had to do with the content they were currently studying, and in turn that content became the starter for the next day's lesson.
- We need to allow kids space to make mistakes early so they don’t make them later. This one seems hard because but we need to allow kids to fail. No one ever gets better at anything or learns anything from only receiving positive criticism or feedback that isn't challenging. One idea is to give kids some time to play with a tool and let them explore what it does before you jump into using for its intended use. Google Classroom has a chat feature that students love to use but it can get in the way of normal class. Give the students ten minutes to chat it up, let them get their fill, then turn it off and move on to what you want to do. The other big idea here is that younger kids need to learn that their digital profile is important even if they can't see why now. Allowing them a space to learn that is important so when they become older they aren't as likely to make the dumb mistakes that could cost them a job or a relationship. Use their mistakes to start conversations rather than punish and ban them.
- We need to allow students to have an authentic audience. A quote from Grant Wiggins that I like was, "An authentic audience give students a specific purpose and provides clarity about the goal. It also affords the incentive that the work they're producing is not just for the teacher or a grade." The world today has so many good avenues for an authentic audience like blogs, YouTube, social networks, etc. As educators we need to stretch our kids to extend the reach of their work to a global audience and create a larger reach. One presenter said that kids who have been in the same class together for a long time know who the "smart kid" is and the "lazy kid." But once their audience is not their peers or parents it wipes away those labels and provides the kids with a huge digital refrigerator on which to pin their best work and their sometimes smudged finger paintings that make up learning.