One of my all-time favorite conference speakers is Alan November, so I’m sitting in a huge ballroom right now, with hundreds of other educators, waiting to learn from his Empathy: The 21st Century Skill spotlight session.
Question: Where is that sense of urgency in American classrooms to connect children via the Internet? And the need to expose students to the human side of the Internet? – as is currently the case in many classrooms across Asia. When will American teachers realize the Internet is about relationship building of people to people … It’s not about students doing Google searches in order to type a research paper.
Worries: Alan expressed concerns about the US economic downturn. The only way we can get out of debt is by selling outside USA – so why aren’t we focused on globalizing the curriculum? Globalization should start in kindergarten! Every single teacher should be working with children all over the world. We need “audacious goals.” All kids should graduate with knowledge, skills, and a network of people they can tap into. Skills and knowledge in a global economy are not enough!
Top skill students need: Empathy – the most important skill students can have in global economy is the ability to hold different points of view at same time. But Americans are not good at this. Africans and Europeans, for instance, are educated to learn different languages, cultures, etc.
Sobering reality: In the US, K12 education might not be at the leading edge of thinking about technology in a global economy. We need to be teaching students to seek multiple perspectives. For example, to understand the background and impact of Turkey’s application to join European Union being turned down, students need to research from both a US perspective and a Turkish perspective. In a global economy, you have to see issues from the other point of view – you have to have empathy.
Googling for multiple perspectives: Getting “country codes,” for instance, influences the “basic grammar of the web.” A search for country codes will bring up the two-letter combination for any country. Now add site: to the country code. Check it out – the difference between Googling European Union +Turkey as opposed to European Union site:tr is in the perspective. Potentially a huge difference! Other samples shared:
To examine the American Revolution from both the American and British perspective, Google site:sch.uk”American Revolution”. This search will not only bring up the opposing point of view, but could bring students in contact with classrooms in the UK, also studying the Revolution. It’s not enough to read about the American Revolution – students need to approach it from different perspectives.
How about a unit on Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. For a Danish perspective on the Nazi occupation, Google “Number the stars” site:dk. And why not take it a step further: find a classroom in Denmark and collaboratively start the process for creating a trailer for the book, via a Google Doc.
A bit of irony: Public schools were put in place for democracy. How ironic that the very skills/tools to become our nation’s president (Twitter, Facebook) are blocked in so many U.S. schools.
Need more convincing on the need to teach students to manage global relationships? Check out some of the podcasts on the November Learning website. You might start with An Interview with Rahaf Harfoush, a member of Barack Obama’s Social Media Team. Her viewpoint: If you want to become President, you have to build and manage relationships.
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that students, not their teachers, should own the learning that’s happening in classrooms. But how do we make that shift? Alan November has a list of “jobs” that will help transfer contol to the learners:
Screencasting – Put students in charge of producing tutorials for other children. With the research to show that a different voice explaining a concept can have an impact, why not ask our students to produce tutorials across the curriculum. Free screencasting tools such as Jing make this job very accessible to students. Example: Eric Marcos’ 6th graders’ math tutorials.
Google Custom Search Engine – I’ve been meaning to explore this tool, so I just started a custom search for the Change Writers’ project, an on-going collaborative community of 4th grade readers and writers. I loved Alan’s suggestion that teachers organize a “search engine design team.” My only concern in enlisting students to contribute is Googles’ 18 years or older requirement for using their tools. But what kid wouldn’t love sharing the rotating task of “question answerer”?!
Goggle Docs Class Scribes- Research show that kids who take notes “live” do better than kids who take notes “written.” Assign three class scribes per week, who are in charge of producting “perfect notes.” Teacher structures by creating the headings and then assigning students to specific headings. Example: Daren Kurapatwa’s Pre-Cal 405– features a daily scribe to share learning journey into pre calculus.
Ultimate Job = Contributing to the world – We need to teach kids there’s a larger world!
KIVA.org – “Loans that Change Lives” – Based on the concept of micro-lending, KIVA.org shows entrepreneurship around the world. Teacher contributes a one-time, recyclable $25. Students then research and decide which village to fund. Teaches kids to actually invest in, for instance, the rain forest. Tons of content and topics for students interested in making a difference. Check out the wiki – http://www.kivapedia.org/index.php/Main_Page.
Teach children to find work of other children – Challenge your students to be curriculum researchers, which will ultimately leade to their owning whatever the assingment is. Thomas Friedman has a recent piece about American kids being at a deficit because they can’t see work other children around the world are doing.Fifth graders, for instance, reading Number the Stars, if allowed to search YouTube, would find projects such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbXWZCBqQjY.
An essential piece in shifting to student ownership is promoting the life-long learning piece…
What a great final session to NECC 2009! Time to head to the airport.
Alan opened the session with a look at where technology is going in the future, via a TED session – Oh my, in mass production of “wearable tech” won’t cost more than a cell phone.
Ideas for designing rigorous and globally connected assignments:
Suggestion 1 – Teach students ethics of content development – have students create code of ethics. Critical piece – teaching kids how to behave when they’re not in school.
Suggestion 2 – Think about and question what skills can we teach today that will outlast any technology? The real revolution is not technology, it’s information and global communication Implication: what’s flowing through wires is more important than the wires. But teachers need to ask what information do we need and what relationships.
Suggestion 3 – Globalize the curriculum. Question: Are there any points in the curriculum for students to think globally? (ie, Teaching American Revolution – only from American point of view? or ask students to find sources in England that deal with the American Revolution. But teach them how to find pieces written from a British perspective. Tech Tip: Try Google trick: site:ac.uk “General Gage” “American Revolution”. Coming up with some “404 Not Found”s? No problem. Head to the wayback machine to get archived articles. Alan used the Wayback Machine to bring up article on General Gage written in 2006 by Thomas Ash. When you show students a different point of view they are more engaged. Nothing like a little dissonance to enliven the research process!
Suggestion 4 – Design assignments where you cannot plagiarize – No more “go to the Internet and get a source”; instead “find 5 different university viewpoints that differ from textbook.” Pedagogy trumps technology. Assignment design should be built into staff development.
Suggestion 5 – Every department should find assignments that require a global view. For example, what if assignments were so compelling that students would even work on them beyond the school day? Student News/Action Network – started by group of kids at Washington International School. We need to give kids environments that are so globally connected that they will want to keep going back – even after the school year.
Session Gem: Ownership of learning needs to shift to students. How about starting the school year by identifying 10 most difficult concepts to teach in your subject area. Ask students to come up with the solutions. Oh, wow, so simple, so powerful – and would work across the curriculum!!