Monday, March 8, 2010

Reflections on Delivering a Keynote (Second Draft)

**Second Draft Info is added below**

I was fortunate enough to have delivered a keynote address about 21st Century Learning and Teaching at Duxbury High School (MA) on Friday as part of their professional development day. The experience of being able to share ideas with an entire staff of high school teachers was outstanding. The feedback that I have recieved so far has been positive and negative, and I left at the end of the day feeling that I inspired teachers to make that first and often scary step into technology integration.

I also took more away from the day than I expected and realized possible. Fielding questions from the staff and responding to their questions, concerns and thoughts made me truly examine why I am so passionate about moving my classroom into the 21st century and sharing these ideas with other educators.

There were three questions in particular that stood out. During my morning presentation, when I was talking about building a PLN and being involved on Twitter, Nings & reading blogs, a member of the staff expressed concern about managing time is for family and balancing the two, a valid concern. I clearly remember when I first started to build my PLN.  I spent too much time at home at night reading tweets, blogs and Ning forums. The message I tried to relay back to the concerned teacher, everything in moderation. We have to keep a balance between our lives outside of school & our desire to stay cutting edge. My thought, the tweets will keep coming & the blog entries aren't going away...don't worry if you don't feel like reading them every night, week or even month. Just check in when it is time for inspiration. 

The next question that stuck with me after I left was: How do you decide when it is appropriate to teach with technology?  Another great question, that was challenging to answer and I had honestly not truly considered.  This is my sixth year teaching world studies and at this point I am comfortable with the content I teach every year.  At this point, I want to keep my experience in the classroom interesting and motivating, for myself and for my students (the question still isn't answered).  So, how do I make the final decision to have my students create a project, hand in an assignment or integrate technology into a unit of study?  A quick checklist will do:
1. Are the curriculum standards going to be met?
2. Will the project demonstrate that the standards are met?
3. Will the students be motivated / engaged?
4. Are the students learning an important 21st century skill?
5. Will the students still authentically learn and understand the key concepts?
6. Am I using technology for the sake of technology?

Upon developing this list, I feel confident that the question has helped me as an educator to determine when and when not to integrate technology in my classroom.

The final question that is worth addressing revolved around the word "discussion."  I often use Edmodo with my classes and refer to the interaction online as discussion.  A member of the staff made an interesting point when he stated that "discussion" is face to face, human interaction.  I never once considered the implication of referring to online discussions in the same light as face to face discussions.  They are, of course not the same and require a different set of skills to be able to succesfully participate in either.  I am not interested in overlooking the required skill of human interaction, face to face discussion and being able to look someone in the eye / read body language.  However, if we want to move our students into the 21st century, and provide them the skills necessary to succeed in that environment, we have to expose them to online discussions.  The skill set is different, the interaction is somewhat anonymous, but I am confident that our students need to be able to engage in both to be successful in the 21st century.

Upon recieving feedback from the staff at Duxbury, further reflection is needed.  Going into this presentation I had a concept / vision in mind.  I wanted the ideas to come quickly and be somewhat overwhelming.  Whether that was the right avenue to take with this staff is yet to be answered, and may never be conclusively.  However, I know that when I sit in an audience and listen to someone speak about teaching, learning and/or education, I want to be inspired, overwhelmed and left feeling slightly uncomfortable with the idea that I haven't tried or heard of that particular idea.  That was my whole mindset for how I developed this particular presentation.  Did it go over well with some, yes.  Were there staff that disagreed with some particular points in my presentation, absolutely.  As a presenter in the future, I need to understand that not everyone wants to feel overwhelmed, or be told that they have to change to adapt to a 21st century classroom.  Possibly, what teachers need to hear is that there are tools available to them that can enhance their teaching, expand their impact on students and at the same time prepare their students for a world that we can't even begin to understand.

I hope everyone in Duxbury learned as much as I did from the presentation. 

Here is the presentation I used in the morning. Unfortunately, some video is missing & it might be a bit difficult to follow.

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