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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Report from EduBloggerCon at ISTE10: Trends and Tools

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

I arrived at ISTE for the second half of EduBloggerCon, and already the room was buzzing with creativity and innovation. Presenters were showing some useful (and fun!) new tech tools. I've added a summary of those at the end of this post.

But once the afternoon sessions got underway, three main themes started to emerge:

Student-to-Student Teaching

Teachers have been transitioning from "sage on the stage" to more of a mentor/facilitator role in recent years. What struck me yesterday was all the talk of teachers helping students to teach other students.

In a panel that was presented by students, they talked about ways they're collaborating with other students and a teacher mentor to learn about other cultures. Not only can kids more easily understand (and learn from) each other -- as was suggested by a student presenter -- but they can learn valuable collaboration skills when each student is instructed to learn something different, and they all must share their knowledge to accomplish something together. Listening, asking questions, critiquing and sharing expertise are all skills that can be developed in these types of situations. This is happening in the classroom, as well as online in sites like School2school and Students20.com, two global communities of students and mentors interested in learning from each other.

Students are also increasingly taking their wisdom to YouTube in the form of video instruction, like this robotics tutorial. With good mentorship, these DIY teaching experiences hold a wealth of learning!

Web 3.0: Relationships

Web 3.0 seems to have arrived, finally, and it refers to the networked web, or the "relationship" web (eg social media) where our online experience is largely shaped by the people we choose to have in our network. There is a resounding agreement that the networked web is here to stay and that students are, indeed, already there.

So how do we leverage this for education? This is where the discussion gets interesting! There is of course a huge opportunity to create a PLN from our own networks, and build and collaborate and aggregate resources together with like-minded teachers. There is also the frustration that many teachers feel that these sites are blocked by their schools and this powerful networking opportunity goes underground among students, rather than having it in the open and engaging them in school. There was a suggestion that using a tool like Edmodo is a way to start showing the value of a network and help mitigate the fears that lead to blocking.

Many teachers are excited about the ability to create a group on Facebook as a private way of interacting with their students in ways that a) not only meet the students where they already are and integrate their lives into the classroom more holistically, but also b) shows that school can be a lot cooler than the students thought by being on Facebook in the first place. Nobody seemed to be too concerned about Facebook's most recent privacy policy hijinks which, I must admit, I found a little surprising. But I do see profound benefits to embracing Web 3.0, particularly if part of the discussion includes the relationship between a network platform provider and its users.

The key takeaway here is that social media is here to stay, and the more literate we all are with information, relationships and networks, the more agile we'll be as things change. (Which they will.)

Parent Involvement

Parent involvement -- constructive parent involvement, that is -- continues to be a challenge despite all the technology that is facilitating so many other relationships. Those teachers and parents who are on social media are using it to stay connected, but most teachers still have to work around the fact that many parents don't know how to be involved, or don't want to, or have long work hours, or have language barriers.

One teacher noted that way more parents come out for talent shows than they do for parent nights, and maybe there's a way to make parent nights more engaging. Kids could demonstrate their skills as experts in something more fun (computer art, debate, etc) and THEN have the parent talks. This could also double as a tech instruction session for parents who are less technically fluent, too, and give the kids, teachers and parents an opportunity to collaborate.

Another had a great idea for addressing technophobic parents who were uncomfortable with their kids' use of social media. This teacher had a summit of sorts - she invited all the parents to her classroom and had them stand on one side. The kids stood on the other. She brokered a discussion between the two groups, letting one speak first, then the other, where the parents shared their concerns, and the kids shared the benefits of what they were learning.

I'm sure more thought-provoking ideas will unfold as the days go on. There are a gazillion passionate, brilliant and innovating educators here, and I'm very excited to hear more.

Some of the Super Cool Resources Demoed at EduBloggerCon's "Smackdown":

Sweet Search: A search engine for students which pulls only from sites vetted by research experts.

Metamark: A URL shortener, like Bit.ly, where the namespace is still fairly wide open and you can still get some good names.

Read it Later: How many times do you have a gazillion browser windows open because you want to read them later? Read it Later is a sanity-saving, one-time bookmarking tool that works with all the major browsers. Want.

Edmodo: Beautifully designed and free social networking platform customized for the needs of teachers and students. Private, collaborative, awesome.

LetMeGoogleThatForYou.com: Every so often, someone asks a relatively dumb question that they could just have easily Googled on their own. This tool is to help you help them. But beware; it's snarky, and best used very sparingly!

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