Sunday, January 13, 2008

Focusing on Connections

This morning, after enjoying a few moments with the Sunday paper, I started doing a little cleaning out of my home office space and came upon a piece of paper from probably last year some time. I had drawn a web called Social Software and as I looked it over, trying to recall my thinking at the time, it occurred to me that this might be useful for some work I'm doing right now so I recreated it in Inspiration. After that, I set it aside on my desk, opened up my computer and signed in to Twitter, my email, iChat and Skype. As I read through Twitter I noticed that David Warlick had posted a new article to his blog - "Is Pedagogy Getting in the Way of Learning?". Catchy title...not sure what my focus is for to see what others are thinking early in the morning...why not?...let's go see what's up with David this morning.

As I read through this blog article and the comments, a few things started brewing. First of all, those involved in these "social technologies" such as Twitter, Skype, UStream and whatever else, are strong advocates for their use. After all, they connect us with others, they help us make connections between our knowledge and the knowledge of others, they connect us in ways that are new and exciting and weren't in existence when most of us were in school. These technologies really reflect a lot of what you might read about in books by Eric Jensen about the brain and learning. So, therein, lies my connection between David's post and the piece of paper I found while cleaning. This web that I drew was my attempt to begin understanding how the social technologies intersect with what we know about the learning process. As advocates of social technologies, how many are considering the way that learning takes place and how many are considering that kids, even though they take to these tools easily, really deeply understand the learning aspect of the tools? Are we as educators, being explicit enough about the learning when we advocate for or use these tools with students?

I'm finding, even at the elementary level, that these technologies [and the learning skills they support] need to be taught and the best ways to teach them will only come as a result of good pedagogical practices of teachers. I'm not so sure that technology is the platform as David suggests. We may be thinking about technology in a very limited scope here. When you mention technology to any teacher, I'm sure that the picture in their brains is a computer but computers are not the only technology we possess for helping our students to learn.

The definition that I'm working with right now is this: technology is an innovation that brings about a desired change. [Of course, as educators, that desired change is an improvement in student learning.] With that definition in mind then, pedagogical practices are a technology as are certain instructional strategies, cooperative learning structures, Bloom's taxonomy, habits of mind and many others. As a teacher whose title is "instructional technology specialist", this definition suits me right now. It allows me to approach my role in a different way. Instead of being the one who can figure how ways to use a computer in a lesson, it puts me in a position of being able to work with ALL of the technologies of instruction, seeking to find connections between and among them and helping teachers to understand where the use of a certain computer technology intersects with a particular pedagogical technology to improve student learning. the way, here's the web that I found and recreated in Inspiration. Now that these connections born from Twitter and the blogosphere have me a little better focused for the morning, I guess I'd better get to work!