A New Year, A New List of Trends

As has been said elsewhere, it’s list season, and being that I am working through some serious writing muscle atrophy, I’ll use this opportunity to join the fray.

Each year, we dig up what we’ve thought a lot about over the course of the past year, what we noticed, and what we feel will make the most impact on our lives, and our schools in the new year.  In looking through so many of the posts that have been written on this subject, I can find none better, in both honesty and clarity, than Larry Cuban’s, which you can read here.  Larry’s honesty about what is coming down the pike is refreshing amid all the talk about the demise of American public schools.

There are myriad pitfalls we run into when we jump too soon into the latest and greatest when it comes to educational technology.   Someone  finds the hottest item out there, the idea catches fire and before we know it, we now have it in our schools.  Oftentimes, sadly, very little thought is given to how well that gadget will impact student learning, or if our staff/IT Department/infrastructure is ready to leverage the gadget to really impact the outcomes we are looking for.  

Larry points out two in his post:
  • Digital Texts
  • Online Courses
both of which are incredibly interesting to me, and both can easily be wrapped up into one package.  Last year, I worked with a social science teacher to produce an online textbook for United States History I, and what we found was that it became inherently easier to have the students writing where they were reading, and not having the students reading their material online, and writing their responses/reactions to the reading on paper to hand in.  Housing the reading and responses in the same place led to the type of dialogue around primary and secondary sources that we wanted to see.  We ended up using Moodle, but this could have been done using so many different, free platforms.
Also, what we found was similar to what Audrey Watters wrote about over at Edutopia a while back.  By moving away from the traditional textbook for the work we were doing, we had the opportunity to pull in multiple points of view on subjects without abandoning the commitment to the content.  We also had the ability to draw from other talented teachers who had taken the leap to create their own textbooks (we relied pretty heavily on Hippocampus, but also looked at Flexbooks, and some of the content in places like Shmoop and OER).
We have talented staff members in each of our districts who are more than capable of producing digital texts and courses for our students and for students in other schools.  Let’s hope this year is one in which we all begin to leverage that ability.


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