Friday, September 16, 2011

Key Components in 1:1 Classrooms

As we get into the meat of the school year, I started thinking about what are some hallmarks of great 1:1 classrooms.  Whether 1:1 or not, great classrooms may share some characteristics of best educational practice.  However, I have tried to focus on some of the characteristics that are key in 1:1 classrooms.

This statement stands on the premise that a 1:1 environment is inherently different from a traditional paper and pencil classroom.  If you don't agree with that statement then you might disagree with a lot of what I write.  The world continues to change at an accelerated rate and 21st century learning environments are different.  Not only are they different, the continue to change and transform.  So what are some major ways 1:1 classrooms are different from a traditional classroom?

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous
Ironically, although this is probably one of the most poignant changes taking place in the 21st century, it is one that seems to be one of the slowest to be recognized by all stakeholders in the educational process.  Learning is no longer limited to the 8 to 3 school day.  It isn't limited by the classroom location.  Students can learn anywhere at any given time if they have the resources to do so.  In Korea, we are blessed to have tremendously fast internet and wireless access available nearly everywhere.  We also have a plethora of mobile devices that can truly support learning for our students in a variety of modes and mediums.  With trends such as the flipped classroom and blended classrooms, education is just beginning to take advantage of asynchronous tools.  Information on the internet waits for me until I'm ready for it.

Digital Containers
The physical homework tray at the back of the room has given way to the Moodle course, wiki, or website.  Teachers in a 1:1 setting must have a digital container for their class.  This container does much more than collect student work.  It is a hub.  It links to resources.  It facilitates collaboration, dialogue, and communication.  It creates a home base that brings learning together and tracks progress.

Focus on Product
Yes, I know traditional classrooms do this too.  However, 1:1 classrooms dismally fail to achieve the very goals of being 1:1 if they do not get this philosophical pillar in place.  It is not about the laptop being a word processor or just a word processor.  It is about students creating a product so their learning is meaningful to them.  (For more on this, you might want to examine Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.)

Display Student Work
Students desperately want to have an audience.  Students may like their teacher but that isn't really the audience they are looking to please.  They want to share their work with their friends and even family.  Sometimes this is inside the school and sometimes it is outside.  High achieving 1:1 learning environments find ways to celebrate and display student work to a valued audience for the students.  It gives them pride to have their work "published"and inspires them to go above and beyond on their own.

Classroom management and common vocabulary
If a teacher has poor classroom management, it will only get worse in a 1:1 setting.  Give students engaging projects and know when it is time to close the lid and get students off the screen.  The laptop is only one tool available for learning.  It is not the sole avenue of learning.  If this is an area you are working on, I suggest developing common vocabulary across the school such as...lids down, quiet on the set, hands up (no typing), share screens, freeze...just to name some examples.  When teachers set clear expectations that are commonly known in every class, it makes it easier for both the teachers and students.

These are just some of the ideas that stuck out to me.  What is missing from my list?  Are these on the money?  What is your experience?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Value Educators

If we squash the art of teaching, we are indirectly limiting the education of the next generation to the past when they so desperately need to prepare for the future.

Have you noticed that everyone thinks they know how to educate others?  Everyone went to school so why wouldn't they be able to give sound educational advice? I've been to the doctor too but I suppose you might want to give some thought to accepting medical advice from me.  To be even more specific, I've seen way too many IVs inserted.  That doesn't mean the nurse is handing me the needle.  I've been to Starbuck's but that doesn't mean I know how to make a white chocolate mocha.  You get the point.

The world continues to change at an accelerated rate and 21st century classrooms are a different environment than what we grew up in.  Not only are our classrooms different, but they continue to change and transform at this accelerated pace.  Educators are being asked to learn new information and strategies faster than ever.  Because the amount of information and research available is greater than ever before, the pressure for teachers to be experts in their subject area is immense and more difficult than ever.  I think the tremendous amount of transparency in education plays a role in this as well.

Teachers must exemplify the same 21st century skills that we seek to instill in our students.  They must filter information, collaborate with students, and leverage information and tools for learning in an ever-changing environment.  And perhaps one of the most difficult areas to navigate is the parents that pressure teachers to be something they are not...and shouldn't be.  This does not mean that parent pressure is a bad thing.  We don't get do-overs with children so we have to get it right.  However, too often parents want the education they had because that is what they know...not the education their children need for the future.

It is in this 21st century environment that great teachers are to be prized more than ever.  Although I would argue salaries often reflect the value we place on teachers, value occurs in other ways.  I have been blessed with some outstanding colleagues at both of our schools in Korea.  Teachers, value yourselves and your work.

Parents, in this era of transparency and rapid change, respect the teachers your children have and acknowledge the future requires a different education than the past.  Teachers have a skill in creating learning environments for children.  Ask questions about what they are doing.  Seek understanding.  Be a collaborative learner with teachers and see that the art of educating students is not an easy one to master.  As you engage in this process, you may find some powerful ways to come alongside and help your child.  And like so many pieces of art, each classroom may look, feel, and smell differently.  If we squash the art of teaching, we are indirectly limiting the education of the next generation to the past when they so desperately need to prepare for the future.  I am blessed to work at schools where parents place such a high value on their teachers as so evident even in the last couple weeks.

For some thoughts on 21st century learning environments that educators are navigating, check out these blog posts by some others and the related comments on it.