I don't mind talking educational theory with people. That's an important step in innovation. I don't mind the occasional "preach to the choir" moments when we all nod our heads and agree with what the speaker or tweeter just said. However, I want -- nay, I thrive on -- is to see what's really happening and working in the real world. That's what this session was all about.
The three teachers we visited we of different grade levels and curricular disciplines, and we covered a lot of ground in those classrooms. Here are some takeaways.
- I'm a project-based kind of teacher, so it was great to see Leah LaCrosse (@llacrosse) using her iPads for PBL. When she first got the iPads, she asked, "What apps do the same thing I've always done?" That's a great place to start.
- A good app will have multiple ways to share work.
- Write grants. Mrs. LaCrosse and I have started tweeting (I think I sent her my first tweet while she was sharing with us in Columbus) and she told me she writes 5-7 grants a year and wins 1-3. However, with all that work, she has gotten her hands on a class set of iPads and Lego Mindstorm software, among other things.
- Students love using Minecraft to learn. Mike Pennington (@professormike1) is using Minecraft as a way for students to build a Medieval world -- learning about the Middle Ages. Get this... Minecraft is blocked at their school. Students are voluntarily doing this at home. That's awesome!
- Mr. Pennington works closely with two other teachers (one across the hall, the other in another district). They Skype just about every evening, create flipped classrooms together, and even have their students collaborate together. It's common for kids to communicate with students in the other school just like they are collaborating with a group member sitting next to them.
- Students use Weebly to create their own sites and keep information there.
- "I can't possibly be an expert on it all." More and more, I see that the teacher can't pretend to be the source of knowledge. We have to point students to other sources when we don't know it.
- Jim Harmon (@jimharmon) simulates Twitter so students can tweet Shakespeare. This puts students in the character and causes them to digest what the characters are thinking and feeling.
- "Subtext is an eReader on steroids." Mr. Harmon uses Subtext with students in small, flexible groups as they read.
- All three classes were highly collaborative. Cooperative learning was a major theme in the session. Teachers may have used some direct instruction, but there was a lot of student interaction.
Here are other apps/software referenced during the session that I may not have mentioned above:
- CargoBot: Teaches students how to write code.
- Tinkerbox: An app that enables kids to explore the laws of Physics.
- Google Docs
- Todaysmeet: A great backchannel site where students can pose questions or submit responses.
Thanks to each of these teachers for sharing their work with us and contributing to helping us be excellent.