I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for this year. I’m in a new position (21st Century Literacy Specialist – cool title, huh?), in a new school (International School Bangkok), in a new country (Thailand), working with a new age group (elementary instead of middle), based out of a new resource area (the library instead of a lab).
Of course, with this exciting new title comes the daunting task of truly defining the role within the school community… At this point I think there are three main pieces to my position:
Puzzle Piece #1: The Students
My first goal is to bring globally collaborative projects to our students and teachers. Until last year, ISB did not have a tech facilitator, so whatever teachers did in their classes, they did on their own. Enter, the fabulous Justin Medved and this year I’ve arrived to teachers maintaining class blogs, using the Smart Board, and looking for ways to bring a new perspective into their classroom.
To me, the logical next step and the most crucial aspect of 21st Century Literacy is taking classroom learning global. It doesn’t matter which tools we use, as long as we are communicating with a wider audience and learning from our peers around the world. Our students need to learn how to learn with new technology tools, so that they can be self-directed learners as technology continues to change.
This year I want to make sure I successfully implement one globally collaborative project at each grade level in our elementary school. I want our students to realize that there are other means of communication, of learning, of collaborating. I want them to feel the authenticity of learning from someone just like them on the other side of the planet. I want them to understand that they are contributors to global knowledge – equally as able to share what they know as anyone else. I want them to realize that they are in charge of their own learning, and that they can do this anytime, anywhere, with anyone. I want them to feel as connected to the world around them as I do.
We may live here in Thailand, but our day-to-day life is very similar to what most people would experience back in their home country. Our students, although they may be very well traveled, are still just as isolated in their classrooms as students who have never left their home country. For me, utilizing technological tools is a way to connect, to find my personal space, my network, my colleagues. I may be spending every work day with a group of people at school, but I spend more time learning and reflecting at home. Why shouldn’t our students have the same kinds of connections?
Puzzle Piece #2: The Teachers
So many of our teachers are so excited about using technology in the classroom. They’ve just gotten started over the course of the last year with Justin and they’re itching for more, but as of yet, not all of them have had a shift in mindset to learning in a globally networked environment. Over the last week or so I’ve had teachers tell me, “The kids aren’t ready for that yet” or “I don’t think the kids can handle it.” One teacher told me that she doesn’t believe that our kids are hypercommunicators, multitaskers or goal oriented, that instead they must take things linearly, one at a time, and focus on each task separately. Clearly, part of my job will be to find ways to get teachers to set aside some of our stereotypes about the students, and let our 21st century students demonstrate just what they’re capable of, and what they’re comfortable with…
One stepping stone in this sea of differing opinions, ability levels, and stages of adoption will be routine after school professional development sessions. Justin started these last year and I’ve already benefited from attending his. Now it’s time to add my two cents. An even more in-depth form of professional development is actually co-teaching on a project with another teacher – being that “security blanket” for those new to the game and providing a model for how to best work with technology in the classroom.
Another focus is our technology team leaders who are working together to come up with a set of best practice expectations when utilizing technology as a tool for learning. The first issue that came up in our introductory meeting was that all teachers need to accept that “we are not these learners” (meaning we do not learn like they learn) and adopt a mindset of facilitation and flexibility in the classroom, and a willingness to be open-minded about how we use technology tools for learning. One more option is to bring new ideas and inspiration to team meetings – a good way to get teachers thinking about how technology can enhance and support their curricular goals.
Puzzle Piece #3: The Parents
I wrote about this piece last week when I had several interesting conversations with some more traditional parents. One informed me that he grew up without the internet and he turned out OK, so why should his child use it? An easy question for me to answer, but a very hard concept for many parents to grasp. So, I’m going to start with bi-weekly training sessions for our parents. The PTA has graciously offered to provide us with coffee, and of course we have the perfect place to meet. These sessions will be open dialogue, initiated by some form of multimedia ice-breaker or “hook” at the beginning. I’m planning to show the new “Shift Happens” at our first meeting. I’m sure that will start an interesting discussion…
What other pieces am I missing?
Image 1: http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/img/missing_piece_puzzle.jpg
Image 2: http://www.tourismtrade.org.uk/Images/Wales%20-%20stepping%20stones_tcm12-12554.jpg