I am trying to shift my teaching, make inquiry the centerpiece, and have my students be the leaders in their learning. The biggest challenge I face is that my students have no idea how to work together. As teachers we need to steal back the time necessary to make community-building a priority in our classrooms.
I recently blogged about the importance of cultivating a culture where our students are expected to fail sometimes — it’s part of taking risks. We need to do this as teachers too. The first step, of course, is to create a culture of trust and support among teachers, and that’s hard in the midst of high-stakes testing and the publishing of teacher and school rankings. The only way this will happen is if we’re honest.
I’ll go first.
“This year I’ve decided to teach solely through a Project-Based Writing approach,” wrote Heather Wolpert-Gawron last September. “I’m defining PBW as a series of constructed units built around authentic assessment, authentic audience, and authentic learning that incorporates the multiple writing genres. It’s all about blurring the lines between school life and the real world.” That happened in a big way when her 8th graders were invited to present at the 100-Year Starship Symposium. The best part? “Finding out I don’t always have to be the expert; I can model learning as we explore this new content together.”
If we’re going to help our students develop the focus they need to think deeply about things — to acquire Howard Rheingold’s “Infotention” — then I think most schools will need some ground rules, made in collaboration with students after lots of conversations around these important topics.
As a teacher-librarian it became obvious to me that systemic change was necessary to enable all our students to benefit from the opportunities created by technology and connectedness. Over the past year, the team I work with has been leading change in our school, working to expand our understandings about 21st century information fluency and help our students grow as digital citizens. A dedicated blogging platform, ePortfolios and information fluency certificates are helping us do that.
With information being ubiquitous, I believe that teachers can (and should) take control of their courses by creating their own interactive textbooks. It might seem like a daunting task, but the availability of quality materials online and the power of tapping into personal learning networks should make this a worthwhile learning journey. In this post I will explain the process of creating a digital textbook, tools for each step of the process, and strategies for involving students in its development.