With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren't possible a decade ago.
Education has always been a reflection of broader cultural values. As such, the roles of teachers and students have evolved as our models of education have moved from one iteration to another. Teachers who once traveled to town to instruct a heterogeneous room full of passive learners on matters of rote memorization have come to adopt new roles and philosophies toward learning. As these new models have emerged, educators have been required to hone their skills and adapt to ever changing sets of priorities, needs and expectations.
I was reading the book The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley and couldn't help wondering what our schools would be like today if we were forced to teach without the technology (including copy machines). She describes three school settings in South Korea, Finland and Poland as being devoid of the technology U.S. teachers take for granted, and how, especially in math and science, their best students outperform our best students by a wide margin. I agree with the premise of her book: good teaching and high expectations make the difference, and technology is icing on the cake. My concern is that we are at a point where our students spend more time using technology and less time actually learning.
By voice, I mean the ability to recognize their own beliefs, practice articulating them in a variety of forms, and then find the confidence -- and the platform -- to express them.
The platforms part can go a long way toward serving the confidence part. Introverted students (who may be gifted with self-reflection) might find the openness of a social media channel like Twitter intimidating, but they might also love the idea of long-form blogging, or even communicating indirectly through the creation of mini-documentaries, podcasts or music videos.
Although students are evermore connected to the social web, many of these networks remain out-of-class digital playgrounds where students congregate. In a recent survey of 1,000 teachers, just one in five said they use social media regularly with students.
Increasingly, educators are acknowledging and welcoming the relative advantages of social media into the teaching and learning process. From creating school Facebook pages to connecting students with experts via Twitter, social media has taken root as a legitimate classroom learning and communication tool. The highly linguistic nature of social media allows us to create and consume ideas and information unlike ever before. Much attention has been given to composing an articulate blog post and condensing our messages to 140 characters or less. However, effective use of this 21st century technology requires that we not only become proficient in textual communication, but also in our ability to express ourselves and interpret others' ideas through visual literacy.
You might recall the events last year when the University of Pennsylvania's Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership (@MCDPEL) traveled to Finland to study the schools through the lenses of students, teachers, parents and leaders. The team's use of social media during that trip (including Edutopia's live Global Penn-Finn Edu Conversation) has made its way back to campus.
Since September, the innovative school leadership program has hosted a global conversation around various leadership topics using the #pennedchat hashtag. This weekend, the program at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education (@PennGSE) will partner with the largest ongoing weekend education conversation in existence -- #Satchat.
Feeling outdated, not connected, or even totally lost in the digital age? Well, let me assure you, droning on and on about grammatical structures is a surefire way to quickly lose student interest in the world language classroom. Instead, embrace something which truly interests the millennial student: social media. Utilizing it in the classroom will give your students practical, engaging ways to communicate in the language you teach. The 21st century learner is not wired to memorize; instead, her or she is inclined to create, connect and collaborate. Social media is the perfect medium for us, their teachers, to reach them.
It's hard work to parent a teen. In a recent New York Magazine article, Jennifer Senior writes, "It's dicey business, being someone's prefrontal cortex by proxy. Yet modern culture tells us that that's one of the primary responsibilities of being a parent of a teen."
Of course, it's no surprise that the last thing teens want is to have a parent looking too closely into their lives. It's a constant push-pull phenomenon for parents and for teens. One minute, a teenager can descend into grumpiness, isolation and solitude, and in the same breath, that teen wants a hug, affection and a laugh.