Monday, November 16, 2009

Dilbert is Not That Far Off!

While it's easy to see the intended humor in today's Dilbert strip, the message of the strip goes beyond being funny to a growing reality in the education community: in the rapidly changing educational field coupled with reduced funding sources, teachers and administrators alike must find ways to improve their knowledge and skills that go beyond formal education and training. Expecting that new and necessary strategies or instructional techniques must first be introduced through formal professional development will only ensure that schools and classroom instruction remain mired in outdated methods that no longer meet the needs of today's students.

SchoolCenter Picture

Integration of technology is a key area that requires all members of the staff to engage in extensive self-learning and discovery, not only to improve classroom instruction and student learning, but to extend one's professional learning network beyond the classroom, school and district boundaries. The speed of change in technology requires all of us to take the plunge and learn while doing. Waiting for a once or twice annual professional development opportunity is unrealistic and simply guarantees that one will fall further behind, and will find it difficult to adjust instructional techniques to adequately engage tomorrow's students in skills they will need to succeed in a global society: collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.

Every member of our instructional staff - from superintendent to para-professional - must find and organize time to inquire about and learn how to effectively use emerging Web 2.0 tools, including collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Wiki's; social networking tools like Twitter, Ning, Facebook, and Delicious; and other learning tools such as blogs and RSS aggregators. Right behind these are more potential tools that are quickly emerging such as Google Wave. There is no end in site. Web 2.0 actually infers that the web has become interactive (read-write) and thus the only real way of exploring possibilities for the classroom is by doing both: reading and writing. Listening to presentations in sterile PD sessions will merely overwhelm the learner without any real possibility of trying out the new knowledge on the spot. Setting in computer labs learning one new skill per session is time consuming and locks everyone into the same session on the same date at the same time, without regards to the level of knowledge or skills each learner already has. There are many, many easy-to-use guides on the internet and the best way to experience what is out there is to take the plunge. From there, you can join a professional learning network and branch out. At first, it may feel like taking a drink from a firehose but if you persevere, you will expand your knowledge base and teaching/leading skills at a rapid pace.

Immersing ourselves in the internet and learning to use these new tools will move us into the virtual worlds in which the current generation of students live everyday. It's hard to imagine that we can continue to reach and engage our students in the classroom if we remain on one side of the technology divide and they on the other. As time goes on, that divide will continue to grow making it unlikely that twentieth century teaching techniques will be successful with this or future generations.

100 Twitter Feeds to Make You a Better Teacher

Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher

Web 2.0 Tools in Your Classroom (slideshare presentation)

Effective Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom

Twitter

Ning: The Educator's PLN

Classroom 2.0

Ning in Education

Blogger (Google's free blogging site)

Podcasting Tools

Delicious (social bookmarking)

Flickr (photo sharing)

Wikispaces