I spent the day at Holy Cross College with fellow Newton Public School colleagues at MASSCUE’s Leading, Learning the Future Conference.
Michael Mino (Contact: michaelmino.com) gave a comprehensive overview of the many types of 21st century learning environments including social learning environments such as Ted Ed, mentormob, skillshare and instructables; open source learning management systems such as Moodle and Khan Academy Lite; cloud based environments such as Google Apps; and the ever-growing MOOCs (massive open online courses) such as those on Coursera, Edx, and Venture Lab. As more and more mobile devices populate K-12 classrooms, especially with the increased interest in the adoption of BYOD models, the question burns even as our eyes burn trying out so many different applications to find the right “fit” for our classrooms, schools, or districts: What will be the impact on K-12 learning at home, at school…or anywhere across the community?
I also enjoyed the keynote at lunch by Tom Daccord, co-founder of EdTechTeacher. He spoke about the impact of mobile devices, particularly the iPad, in the classroom and the challenges and affordances of a BYOD model. He emphasized the need for anyone implementing a mobile device model to stop focusing on the apps and start focusing on the activities! Educators should stop listing apps and searching for the “silver bullet” app that teaches a specific subject. Instead, use the creative and collaborative apps to enable your students to share and show their knowledge of a subject, and assess their creations to find gaps in their understanding. I especially connected with this appeal given my experiences rolling out a set of iPads to special education teachers for the first time at an elementary school. It took some time for them to accept that there was no one “silver bullet” app for math, or ela, or science, and only in year 2 when the second ipad came our and had a camera, did we see the creative apps come out and get easier to use and collaborate with. A big challenge too was helping teachers plan activities that would work on these devices for a variety of subjects and students. So when he acknowledge a major challenge in a BYOD model for teachers is to ask them to plan activities that would work on a VARIETY of devices to ensure equity, I realized the possible intimidating and overwhelming feelings some teachers may indeed have! He showed us Inkling: a digital textbook creator…that actually turns the textbook into a social learning environment. How many educators are able and willing to take the time and know the materials to make their own digital textbooks that can be shared and manipulated like this, instead of the publishing companies digitizing and owning them, which could mean that students and teachers would lose the ability to manipulate the content…just like a textbook?! Tom ended with a buzzing reflection on a recent publication called Hacking Your Education, by UnCollege founder, Dale Stephens. With guidance as to the right resources and tools, anyone can create his or her own courses, to take and learn from. This would be the ultimate personalized and customized education that puts ownership more (almost 100%) on the learner, and less on the teacher! Now, isn’t that what educators have been yearning for? I do think I felt the audience sway a little on this thought!