Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reflection on the Mountain View GTA - One Week Later





There's just something about the Googleplex, - maybe it's all those primary colors that generally evokes wonder or what Patrick Pichette said was one of core missions of Google having that 'university lab' feeling.  It reminds me how much learning environments matter. Anyway, I had a list of take away's from the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View last week. The first was a simple truth shared by Dan Russell's, anything that can be Googled - should be. And the time spent together (think in the classroom) should be adding value to knowledge that is easily found. 

Another take away was from Jamie Casap's and his comparison of the first movies then and now. It reminded me how, when original "talkies" were filmed they mimicked live stage plays, just with a camera rolling. It wasn't until directors the realization of what this new medium allowed where you can do things with the technology that you never could on stage, rather than a prettier, more convenient version of the old way.  

Sound familiar? When the gloss of technology is layered upon existing practices, you have prettier stage plays. A Web 2.0 Flipped Customized Pedagogical Constructivist  Digital worksheet - is still a worksheet, and until our educational systems have embraced the medium, we're still making talkies.



So, what possibilities does the medium offer? In my mind, Transparency and Transferred Control

Transparency at a level never seen before in education. With cameras and devices more prevalent than ever, there's more reason to collect student work digitally, or better yet, have them do it. In fact, it can only work if students are an active part of the solution. Having students digitize and manage their work cannot be an additional step but rather the way they are asked to do business. This brings us to Control. Who owns the work? Who owns the process? Who is it for? When the teacher is the gateway, kids come to define Education as what you hand in, rather than what you do all the time. 

Total Transparency and Student Control: Two of the scariest concepts in education.  I mean, what if  _______   (I'll let you fill in the blank there, because we all have our own what if's and even if we don't, our peers, administrators and parents do.)  So here's the good news, generally speaking, the kids are already there. They're already asking Google the answer to their questions, scouring YouTube for tutorials or the latest music video and networking with their friends. 
They may have the basic mechanics of search, but are they vetting the info they find? Probably not, are we?  Are we consistently putting them in 'unGoogle-able' situations? Taking their knowledge and having them do something with it that's ultimately larger than themselves? Encouraging un-testable understanding? 

I hope so, one of my proudest moments of the GTA was having two of my students virtually present to the group. They talked about how they started  their own 'Action Plan' offering tech support to others who need it using the tools at hand. Now, these kids are awesome, but they're not unique. We all have students who can do amazing things, and if we're not asking it of them, why not?