Spending the evening with a group of high achievers from the class of 1986 made me reflect on the way our kids learn today versus how we 40 somethings learned during our school days. We didn’t have Google, we had encyclopedias, we didn’t surf the web, we went on school trips, we didn’t access on-line databases, we went to the library. Ben Stein talks about today’s kids being in crisis because they don’t know simple history or geography facts or they don’t value a college degree perhaps like Generation Xers. Today’s students in middle school, high school and college find ways to gain access to facts without having to apply them, learn them, experience them; they just find them for the moment, use them to complete an assignment and they move on. Will Hunting a character from the movie Good Will Hunting was one of those students who found facts through just reading about them, but never truly experienced them as his counselor pointed out:
“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.”
One of the ways students can do more than just learn about facts without truly applying them or experiencing them is through interactive white boards such as SMART. I have had the opportunity to work with school districts in New Jersey through professional development sessions. These hands on workshops afford teachers the opportunity to develop the skills to engage students using interactive whiteboards coupled with today’s latest technology tools. One of presentations, Interactive Teaching in the 21st Century Classroom, challenges teachers to step out of the comfort zone that PowerPoint created several years ago and to find a new way to engage learners where they are today: on Facebook, on Twitter, on Club Penguin, on their cell phones, their iPhones and on Xbox. SMART Boards give teachers an opportunity to work with diverse students and provide a more interactive interface to engage them. Learners today expect content to be at their finger tips. They expect to be able to use touch screen technology, access the Internet at anytime and see images that will help them learn. They have been accessing these media for some time and teachers need to meet their students where their students live.
Universities are a good place to find professional development opportunities where technology embedded curricula can be introduced, played with and taken home to your district. Rider University through its Summer Institute for 21st Century Educators gives teachers an opportunity to be exposed to and challenged using today’s cutting edge tools.
So yesterdays high achievers are today’s leaders. We found ways to learn and this learning has served us well. What about today’s students? How can we help them be our leaders of tomorrow, today?
- Using Audio more (elearningstuff.net)
- Voice Matters-Just Ask My Kindergarteners #blog4nwp (coopcatalyst.wordpress.com)
- Learners have needs, too (uitsprofdev.wordpress.com)
- Teachers As Learners (engresearcher40.wordpress.com)