Ready to leverage Web 2.0 tools as a powerful learning strategy?

Already shifting your classroom practice but feel the need for more speed?

Either way, you’re a prime candidate for PLP’s highly praised 21st Century-ize Your Curriculum e-course, offered twice this spring (5 weeks beginning February 6 or March 26) and led by one of the nation’s top classroom experts on shifted teaching and learning.

In 2003, Kevin Jarrett left a first career as a corporate IT project manager & consultant to become the K-4 Technology Facilitator at Northfield Community School in Northfield, NJ. In this role he’s responsible for technology instruction in a lab setting for the entire elementary student body (520+ students). Rather than just “teaching computer class,” Kevin delivers engaging, challenging and enjoyable lessons that integrate with content being taught by his classroom-teacher peers. Kevin also partners with fellow teachers to help shift their classroom practice by leveraging state-of-the-art Web 2.0 tools and social media technologies.

Kevin has designed & led technology integration workshops in his district and state and around the USA. A Google Certified Teacher, Kevin was named Northfield’s Teacher of the Year in 2008-2009. He also received the International Society for Technology in Education’s “Making It Happen” Award in 2008 in recognition of his efforts supporting ISTE’s presence in Second Life. Kevin is a co-founder of the EdCamp movement and a firm believer in the value of social networks for professional learning. No surprise that he is very visible on Twitter. He’s also an active member of the New Jersey Education Association and has taken a leadership role in planning and organizing the NJEA Convention’s “High Tech Hall” since its inception in 2009.

In this interview with PLP, Kevin describes just what you can expect from his interactive e-course. He even pokes some fun at the course title!

1. Give us a short description of your e-course. What does it mean to “21st Century-ize Your Curriculum”?

“21st Century” is one of the most overused terms in education today. Anyone teaching today is a “21st Century Teacher.” The question is how is their teaching practice today different from last year? Three years ago? Five? Ten? We’ve all heard the joke about the teacher who retired after 30 years, having taught the same lessons every year, 30 times in a row. Clearly that’s an exaggeration, but the point is still relevant: the world has changed. How about your lessons?

Integrating technology into instruction in a meaningful way — one that challenges and excites students — involves a lot more than just shoehorning some gee-gaw technology into a tired, stale lesson. It requires the ability to look at learning goals — what you want students to know and be able to do — through a new teaching lens made possible by technologies that didn’t even exist a few years ago. It requires a risk-taking attitude. It requires knowledge of the available tools. It requires an understanding of best teaching practices as you APPLY those tools in a classroom. Finally, making this shift will require considerable extra effort, way, way, waaaaaaay beyond your contractually provided “prep time.”

This course is all about giving teachers the chance to see, explore, use and understand five relatively new technologies. It’s about trying hard and failing well and trying some more. It’s about helping yourself while you help others. It’s about finding ways to take old lessons (or lesson objectives) and revitalize them with several exciting, free, readily-available technologies. It’s about the student learning that results when you hit the mark.

2. What grade levels or subject areas will benefit most from this course? 

The course is designed with all K-12 teachers in mind. All subjects can benefit — language arts, math and science, social studies, health & physical education, world languages, drama, art — you name it. In our sessions we strive to dream up engaging, practical, scalable lessons. To be honest, since I teach elementary, my bias is towards grades K-4/5. But we’ve had teachers across the K-12 spectrum join in and collaborate successfully.

3. We know some folks will take your course because they can’t wait to find out about cool tools and ways to use them in the classroom. But others may be a little intimidated by your resume and think it’s just going to be too much, too fast, and pretty geeky. What would you say to them?

The course does move pretty fast — one tool/technology per week — but that week is spent reading, researching, discussing, exploring, dreaming and contemplating. It culminates in a webinar that is “hands on,” not “talking head.” We’ve “flipped” the classroom so the lecture and reading happens BEFORE the live session, where we all come together and do stuff. This means people work at their own pace to prepare for the group session — with me offering support via the virtual learning community and email if needed. As a result, our time together in the weekly webinar is productive, fun and rewarding.

4. Given that reassurance, what are some of the coolest things you’ll be sharing?

Actually, I have no idea, because the coolest things we’ve typically seen in the course will come from the participants — the EXAMPLES of how the tools we will cover are being or can be used in the classroom. Here’s what I mean: When you see a teacher share their excitement about how Voicethread engaged their social studies class in real conversation — outside of the physical classroom environment with all its attendant pressures — that’s exciting.

That said, it’s true that we’ll be exploring some of the most exciting Web 2.0 tools available today — blogs & Twitter; wikis; digital video; Google Apps and Voicethread. The links, resources and pedagogical examples we’ll present, dissect and discuss will be the very coolest thing. Participants leave this course with the very latest in practical knowledge about these tools. THAT is cool!

5. How do you plan to structure the 5-week course? Will participants be applying what they learn as the course unfolds?

Yes, as I explained above, it’s flipped. Here is the actual schedule. The week starts with me posting a series of messages in the discussion forum. Students then take time to review the materials and dive into online discussions before the webinar, as their schedules permit. That way, when we meet, we focus on helping everyone assimilate the knowledge, with hands-on experiences (we build stuff together right in the webinar), answer questions, get people’s creative juices flowing.

Week 1 – Blogs & Microblogging (Twitter)
Week 2 – Wikis
Week 3 – Digital Video
Week 4 – Google Apps
Week 5 – Voicethread

6. In addition to teachers, who else might benefit from joining in the fun? School instructional and/or technology coaches? Principals interested in Leadership 2.0? Others?

This course is clearly best for teachers, practitioners — but tech coaches have participated in the past and loved it, and, we’ve had supervisors in too. It’s all about understanding the potential and seeing it happen in your district, either with your own students, some other teacher’s students, or those who work for you.

7. What else would be great for participants to know about 21st Century-ize Your Curriculum?

I’d like them to hear from people who took the course already — we have a few great sound bites already — these folks are the “satisfied customers” whose testimonials will convince people to take this course.

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Read comments from former participants and learn how to sign up here!

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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