Why We Need The Edge-ucators Way
In the old-fashioned, teacher-directed classroom, three main strategies seemed to dominate: direct instruction, group activities and research projects. They often go by their more telling names: chalk and talk, slacker’s delight and copy/paste masterpieces. When students have access to digital technologies, these pretty ineffective approaches get even more pointless: if students have the tools to pursue their own learning, why get told what to do and with such cognitively meagre outcomes?
One reason is we may not know what else to do. This is understandable because schools and classroom activities haven’t changed much in the last century. The Edge-ucators Way is a set of three learning activities that can form the core of what students and teachers do in an ICT enhanced classroom. They are not meant to represent the only things to do, but are definitely superior replacements for the “old school” approaches. The Edge-ucators Way provides a framework for whole schools to shift our notion of the curriculum from calendar-based topics that are “covered” or “taught” to learning-focused inquiries where students uncover meaning and build knowledge in a spirit that honors the personal joy of learning. Before getting into what each of the three is and how to use it, let’s take the big picture view that includes the pedagogies unpinning them. As you can see in the image below, each of the three stages of The Edge-ucators Way is founded on pedagogical principals, each of them based on research with the focus of building learners’ knowledge, skills and understandings as they progressively move toward the sophistication and wisdom that we can all recognize as a truly “educated” person.
Classroom Learning Activities – Easy as 1, 2, 3
By mixing rich technologies with effective pedagogy, you could come up with hundreds of interesting things to do with your students. The trouble is, you already have hundreds of other things to do with your students. This is why The Edge-ucators Way was designed: to give busy “Cutting Edge-ucators” some smart learning activities that target the core areas of critical thinking and intrinsic motivation.
1 – Daily Activities: Look to Learn
What we do each day – or at least a few times a week – has the best chance to become a positive habit. Two habits worth developing in learners of every age are the sensitivity and inclination to engage in critical and creative thinking. In addition, by supporting learner autonomy and competence within a caring and engaging culture, we set a foundation for intrinsic motivation. These two goals of Thinking and Motivation are supported through Look to Learn activities. In brief, Look to Learn activities combine rich media stimulus with Thinking Routines so that the entire class can explore them together. This allows for slowing down the rapidly clicking fingers so that inquiring minds have a chance to look carefully and in looking, analyze, interpret and hypothesize. View the stream of Look to Learn activities or the thumbnail archive.
2 – Weekly Activities: ClassPortals
Instead of using group activities to achieve little tasks or practice with new learning, how about letting students to work as members of ongoing teams focused on building knowledge and contributing back to the global learning community? This is not only possible, but the purpose of ClassPortals. To truly develop skills and exercise Habits of Mind we need to engage in focused and meaningful work regularly. For such experiences to become something we do regularly, it helps to build a process into weekly routines of the classroom. By setting up a ClassPortal, educators equip their learners with abundant opportunities to engage in related content while also extending topics in the directions of their own personal interests. The most effective way to achieve this collection of resources and communication tools is to set up an online space just for your students. This is easily done using blogs or private social networks. Developing such a space is worth the effort when you see how it can alter the life of the classroom.
3 – Long-term Projects: WebQuests
Research reports are a staple of many courses and subjects. They don’t need to be copy/paste masterpieces – they can promote the kind of knowledge-building and meaning-making that we all want, but our simple “step-and-fetch-it” assignments fail to produce. WebQuests have been around since the early days of the Web and simply give shape to the Problem-based Learning that people like but don’t always know how to construct. Part of what makes the Internet such an amazing learning environment is the opportunity for students to engage with rich resources relevant to their interests and contributing authentic benefits to the real world. A few examples are Some Crazy Cliff and Freedom Fighters or Terrorists. purposes for people to participate in projects that expand the walls of classrooms to truly global dimensions.
The essential truth that schools — not necessarily teachers — have forgotten is that “everyone loves to learn.” The visceral experience of truly learning is a joy and the birthright of humanity. Every school has at least a few teachers who do amazing and creative things to leverage the power of technology to make learning for students more Real, Rich and Relevant. The problem is that these experiences don’t reach every student, every day.
The Edge-ucators Way provides a comprehensive approach that every member of a school’s teaching staff can use to reclaim this joyous experience of learning. This can be done. In fact, it must be done if schools are to make the transition from the 20th Century’s Industrial Model of Schooling to the 21st Century’s Digital Era. Why? Because it works better and feels great. Isn’t this what we want for our schools, for our children?