Reinventing Your Classroom

I taught high school for over 25 years and liked that each fall I had the chance to “reinvent” my classroom. That’s a perspective I’ll be sharing with teachers in the “opening day” workshops I’ll be giving over the few weeks. My travels will take me from Pennsylvania to Wyoming and on to Oregon. I’ll face countless teachers thinking about new students and new opportunities for teaching and learning.

A recent blog post in Techlearning Blog captured that back to school reflection. Jeff Utecht makes the point that our students are used to “free information” and asks some thought provoking questions.   He writes:

Our students believe that things should be free. They have grown up with an Internet where any information you want you can get for free. … How do we engage students who are used to information being free? …How do we get them to dig deeper and understand this free information?….We have to create an atmosphere of learning, a place that students want to come and want to learn. What do you give that is free that engages students? What is it that they come to your classroom for that they cannot get off the Internet in a faster, more visually stimulating way?  … So what are you going to do in your classroom this year that engages THESE students?… What is it that you can offer them that they cannot get anywhere else? How are you going to get them to dig deeper, to interact with knowledge rather than react from it? How are you going to engage students in the learning process and not allow them to be passive in their own learning?…This is our challenge! More

I agree with Jeff – students do expect free information. And they expect functionality – to be able to control information and customize it into something they can call their own. Their life has become an “open book test” and they get the information they want, when they want to – then they store it, catalogue it, alter it, and share it. There are few information gatekeepers in today’s world – students have become their own newscaster, librarian, and entertainment director.

This is an exciting time to be in education. There are so many interesting tools for creating learning environments. Over the next week I look forward to meeting many teachers who create classrooms where students can take on the challenge of intellectual work – rather than just look for the right answer. Teachers who want school to be more rigorous, relevant and engaging. Classrooms that give students opportunities to learn how professionals approach their work – scientist, engineer, artist, historian, mathematician, writer, and musician.

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