I agree with author Will Richardson's perspective in "World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others" (Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009). His description of students and teachers working in a collaborative world makes for such rich and complex learning. I enjoy learning from students just as much as seeing a lightbulb click on for them. Likewise, I find it exciting when I work with a fellow educator to help another teacher learn new ways to involve students. Thanks for sharing these important insights.
Transformed by Technology: High Tech High Overview is a great Edutopia video. I visited San Diego's High Tech High in November with my educational-technology doctoral group from Pepperdine University. I think we were all impressed, especially with the project-based orientation of the school. I rely on projects and casual settings (and even a bit of chaos) to create learning situations for my own students. I was completely amazed to see situations like this at the high school level. No bells, but plenty of flexible time, teachers making important decisions, kids enjoying themselves, and a sense of rigor.
As a member of Edutopia, I recently listened to your webinar "Small World: How to Bring Your Students into the Global Classroom." The webinar emphasizes the change that we are living through about the Web connection but does not address how teachers equipped with this technology can best access and use it with their students.
I'm an architecture and design teacher, and I believe age 18 is too late to introduce design vocabulary and concepts to students. If children haven't been asked to design a car, a microwave, a garden, a home, or even a city, they will not be equipped to make the best choices about caring for these essential tools and structures as adults. Instead, they will only consume what is available.
In today's technological environment, it's easy to bring global mentors into the classroom. By opening possibilities to the imagination of our children, we enable them to engage. We also empower teachers as collaborators and inspire student-led projects.
Linda Nelson Keane
Accept No Substitutes
I will be very curious to read the responses to the Sage Advice question from the previous issue of Edutopia. In too many cases, the inclusion of art under the umbrella of integration ends with art being a secondary tool to assist learning in other areas of curriculum. That is no substitute for providing the rigor, the scope and sequence, and the building of skills and abilities through the lens of the five disciplines that guide arts education: dance, music, theater, visual, and digital.
Too many classrooms include an arts activity and say they are integrating. Playing a CD of Civil War music is not integrating music into history. Making a paper Conestoga wagon to accompany a unit in the reading series, or learning to play the recorder to improve fraction skills, is not integration.
Tear Down This Wall
Regarding Jon-Michael Poff's article "Stop Blocking Online Content" (Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009), I realize that our first responsibility as teachers is to foster a safe environment. Second, educators do understand that schools must comply with federal standards and policies. However, the restrictions imposed by technology cooperatives and school districts can result in reduced accessibility to many useful and appropriate sites. These limits give children the sense that neither teachers nor students are valued as citizens who can make informed decisions.
Ironically, schools in many cases have two networks: one for teachers and the other for students. In most schools, both networks have filters that block software needed to run streaming videos and interactive Web sites.
What good are the technology initiatives if teachers are not empowered to use interactive technology in the classroom? How long must we wait until a mended wall no longer compromises the teaching environment?
Roslyn Heights, New York
Kudos all around.
My son, a 13-year-old honor student, is very quiet and shy. But his eyes light up when he is working with a computer and a video camera. Recently, a teacher at the local high school invited him to work in the AV computer video and editing department when he enrolls there this year. This teacher went out of his way to make sure my son got something he needed. My faith in public schools is restored. Thank you to everyone who helps a child or helps a teacher help a child.