The day before yesterday I attended a very interesting one-day conference called SVIT 05. The focus of this conference centered around students’ ability to communicate using different media and IT. The morning was filled with a broadcast from Stockholm where leaders in the field of pedagogy from Sweden discussed how emerging technologies could be used in education. Mentioned were platforms like Lunarstorm, podcasting, and blogging. After lunch, there was a very interesting panel on digital story-telling through video. Many examples were shown, all short (ca. 1 minute long) and most were produced during a class period. Due to the different hosts of this conference, one factor was stressed – a factor that should always be stressed in these meetings: The technology exists, it is not that difficult to use, it works; but you must DARE to use it. Don’t be afraid that your students know more about the new technologies than you do, they probably do. That is not what it is about anymore. These are tools to create and manipulate their world, their knowledge and how they affect their environment. The different organizers (mainly from the public sphere) also stressed that the equipment is available for use from the community and that they will help the teacher figure out how to use it, and even make suggestion on how to use it creatively. It was a great message! I feel that we are in a generation of transition (still digital immigrants) attempting to assimilate traditional pedagogical methods with digital innovations, all the while ‘preaching to the choir’ – the digital natives. Many teachers are still digging in their heels when it comes to using technology creatively in their classrooms, but it is through conferences like these, where support and solidarity are prioritized, that these teachers may find the desire to embrace new ways of teaching.
I was the final speaker at this conference, and I spoke of using blogs in the classroom and how they improve writing, reading and critical thinking skills. I spoke of the role of the teacher changing from being an encyclopedia to that of a guidebook. We are not here to teach students everything humanly possible in the shortest amount of time, succeeding only when they can spit back everything we have said. Our role as teachers is to give the students the tools (not all digital, of course) and the motivation to learn for the rest of their lives. I ended by comparing the traditional classroom to a firewall (inspired from a wonderful blog post here), stressed how the most important skill we all must foster, no matter the subject matter, is critical thinking and then challenged the teachers in the room (who ranged from wood shop teachers to language teachers) to open up their firewall, imagine the possibilities and overcome the obstacles; something indeed possible with all the help and support being offered by the organizers and participants of the conference. It was an exciting end and I hope/think that I made an impact. (have heard from several participants about their interest in using blogs in the classroom). Sometimes it does feel like we are riding on the crest of new ideas; learning how to manipulate our world so that we assimilate our physical and cyber worlds into a plethora of new information and experiences. Ok, off the soap box and back into my studies. I am taking a class on SPSS and biostatistics and it is taking everything I have to keep up with the course work.
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