5 Ideas for Teaching in a Digital World

have the courage to be less helpful

Life’s become an “open-book” test. So what does that mean for schools?

Last week I gave the keynote at 5th Annual Ed Tech Summit on the beautiful Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland, Oregon. I offered 5 suggestions for teaching in the digital world.

My talk begins at the 7:45 mark after introductions. (Approximate timestamps) 

  • The analog classroom (10:30)
  • The digital world (13:40)
  • We need to teach a new digital literacy (15:35)
  • It’s not the screen, it’s the choice and creativity (20:00)
  • Learning is social (24:00)
  • Ask better questions (33:24)
  • Have the courage to be less helpful (47:30)

View my keynote on UStream

Classroom Tech: When Less is More

I recently was a guest on the UP Tech Talk Podcast produced by University of Portland’s Academic Technology Services and hosted by Maria Erb (Instructional Designer) and Sam Williams (Dir of Academic Tech Services). Kudos for the great ATS podcast studio!

We had a lively 18 minute discussion about my UP social studies methods class and technology’s role in instructional design – it opened like this …

What’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done?

Maria: Peter, so glad to have you on the podcast. We just had a great conversation … you managed to rattle off probably half a dozen Web 2.0 tools that you’re using just like you were a fish swimming in water; it just seems so easy and natural for you. I’m just wondering, how do you go about choosing which tools you’re going to use for these great projects that you’re working on? What piques your interest?

Peter: I think it really begins with seeing yourself as a designer of a learning experience. You work with the tools you have and with the setting you have. You’ve got X number of students; you’re meeting once a week; you’ve got three hours with them. You think about the instructional goals that you want to achieve, and then from there, you say, okay, so what kind of tools are out there. For example, there was a situation where I wanted them to collaborate and design some lessons. I wanted them to be able to share their work with one another and be able to comment on it. I also think it’s important that there always be a public product, because I think we find our students producing content for their instructor as opposed to … which is kind of a ritualized thing as opposed to real-world content.

And ended with this exchange …

Sam: Are there any words of wisdom around it’s not about the technology that you could leave us at the end of this podcast?

Peter: I would say the big question is what’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done. Taking something and making it prettier by putting it on a white board when you could have written it up on the chalk board really doesn’t get you anywhere. I think that the transformative part of technology is getting it in the hands of the students so that they can research and create and produce in ways you couldn’t do without it. For me, those are the essential elements that I’m looking at, not simply just something that’s a bright shiny object.

Text transcript (word file) | Show notes and links | Podcast at iTunes: #12

The University of Portland uses the SmartEval system to gather student feedback on courses and faculty. Here’s a few comments from my UP students that are relevant to this podcast:

  • Peter challenged us to think and be designers of curriculum, instead of just lecturers. We learned how to get students working and thinking critically in the classroom.
  • I liked that the focus of the class was on making a product.
  • He also showed us how to move from the lecture mode to engaging students as architects in their own learning process.
  • Very well connected with other educators on Twitter. He has promoted every student in the class using his connections to help us build professional connections and build a professional online presence.

Get the Word Out: A Social Media Case Study

Police Dog Tess I teach future teachers – secondary social studies teachers. The course has three goals:

  1. Learn to think like a historian. 
  2. Become a skillful instructional designer.
  3. Develop skills for reflection, growth and professional networking.

They begin the course by doing self-audits of their social media use for professional networking – a good starting point to reflect on their expanding professional learning networks. Along the way we use load of tech tools to achieve our course goals. Every activity results in a public product for their growing professional portfolio.

Rather than tell them what to do, I prefer to model it. Here’s a brief Storify that illustrates how to fuse our three course goals and produce content to share with the world. Here’s our first set of student posts. Take a look and leave a comment.

Image credit: Police Dog Tess, 29/1/35 by Sam Hood
State Library of New South Wales

#edcampPDX Back2School Edition: Twitter Archive

edcampPDX8-16-featured

We just completed our 10th edcampPDX – a chance to get pumped up for the new school year, network and share new ideas with our colleagues. Here’s our Storify Twitter archive. Check back for updates as attendees have time to reflect and tweet on the awesomeness we shared.
Our Shared #EdCampPDX Notes | Our Wiki here
Many thanks to our host @seani and Riverdale Grade School 11733 SW Breyman, Portland, OR 97219

Boston Bombings: Close Reading A Media Frenzy

Suspects Together- High ResHere’s a suggestion for high school teachers. Postpone a lesson you had planned for next week and use the time to explore the cacophonous infosphere spawned by the apprehension of the suspects in the Boston bombings. If that media circus tells us anything, it’s that we need a lesson in digital hygiene and responsible use.

It’s also a good chance for students to hone their close reading skills. The events should be fresh in everyone’s mind. Ask students to reflect back on network news and social media coverage of the manhunt using these three critical thinking prompts:

  • What did it say?
  • How did it say it?
  • What’s it mean to me?

To kick off the discussion, you might ask students to read James Gleick’s powerful New York Magazine piece “Total Noise,” Only Louder. He observes:

The Boston bombings, shootings, car chase, and manhunt found the ecosystem of information in a strange and unstable state: Twitter on the rise, cable TV in disarray, Internet vigilantes bleeding into the FBI’s staggeringly complex (and triumphant) crash program of forensic video analysis. If there ever was a dividing line between cyberspace and what we used to call the “real world,” it vanished last week. … We need to get smarter about the vectors of time and information flow. … It starts to feel as though we’re Pavlov’s dogs—subjects in a vast experiment in operant conditioning. The craving for information leads to behaviors that are alternately rewarded and punished. If instantaneity is what we want, television cannot compete with cyberspace. Nor does the hive mind wait for officialdom. While the FBI watched and tagged and coded thousands of images from surveillance cameras and cell phones, users on Reddit and 4chan went to work, too, marking up photos with yellow arrows and red circles: “1: ALONE 2: BROWN 3: Black backpack 4: Not watching.” Virtually everything these sleuths discovered was wrong. Their best customer was the New York Post, which fronted a giant photo of two “Bag Men”—who, of course, turned out to be a high-school kid and his friend, guilty of nothing but brown skin. If the watchword Wednesday was crowd-source, by Thursday it was witchhunt. Total Noise.

If anyone asks you why you’re deviating from your lesson plans, tell them you’re getting a head start on Common Core Standards such as:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Image source / FBI

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