In the last week and a half, my world has been flattened faster than in the previous fifteen months of, shall I say, unabashed geekery. I helped Kim Cofino (along with 17-20 others) present in Bangkok via Google Presentations, I participated in Social Software 07 with Darren Draper and Robin Ellis (sorry I missed tonight), watched Will, Steve, and David on Weblogg-ed TV via UStream, been involved with David Warlick’s Fireside Chat on Tuesday night along with a whole slew of people worldwide, and sat in on a call with Graham Wegner, Sue Waters, and Clay Burell this morning to discuss David’s keynote a little further.
However, there are two significant events that occurred within the last 24 hours, both centering around a premise that was far less technological in its nature. After falling asleep with the boy Tuesday night at 9:00pm, I woke up at 11:00pm to put him in his bed. On the way back to my bed, I checked the computer to see what portion of my network was still functioning. There was the maiden voyage of Practical Theory TV on UStream: something I couldn’t pass up. If you are ever feeling too immersed in the tools, and you have lost sight of the real reason we are employed, grab a seat when Chris is talking, or read his blog, because his perspective never allows him to get too lost on what is cool and new, but rather always brings him back to application and pedagogy. Last night was no different.
Through the course of the 30 or so minutes I was there, Chris and the rest of the crew that were there hashed out the meaning behind a tool like UStream as it relates to student work and student understanding. Yes, very cool tool, but what would a student do with it that they couldn’t do before? How would using UStream significantly alter their understanding of the topic they are grappling with? Through trial and error, much discussion, and play, we were eventually able to pull in Dean Shareski onto the UStream channel so that he was visible and audible to the rest of the audience (through some tinkering and use of CamTwist and Skype). The driving question behind the whole broadcast was not “hey look how cool this!” but rather, what does this mean for teaching? I walked away from that with more perspective than I realized at the moment.
This afternoon, I met with a Language Arts teacher regarding a culminating project for some research they are doing on environmental issues. My role in our schools, Technology Coordinator, tends to predispose me to look for technological solutions to projects like this, and that’s what the meeting started out as. However, as I listened to Laura talk about what she was seeing in the students and their understanding of the research process, of the factors that were contributing to the worldwide environment crisis, my focus again shifted towards questions that were less centered on technology, but rather on giving the students an experience that allowed them to interconnect their converging ideas about the environment. And, unlike 90% of my meetings with teachers, we never once looked at a computer screen. What we designed made me envious of not being in the classroom full-time anymore: a summit representing all of the research angles the students took with the end goal, unbeknownst to them, to have them discover the obstacles to achieving solutions to their issues lie in human behavior.
This provided me with a glimpse into some potential that might be there for me: lesson design and creation. I’ve said it before, probably all too often, but the tools we use as teachers need not be networked in the fashion that all of us are used to now. Having students understand that “networking” can begin within the four walls of the classroom and extend beyond that is an area that perhaps needs some study.