Rebecca McLelland-Crawley: Creating an authentic learning experience through digital technology
The following guest blog post comes from Rebecca McLelland-Crawley of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She is the K-12 Science Supervisor at West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District.
Ms.McLelland-Crawley is one in a group of experts who will be blogging for High School Soup every Thursday as part of the Alliance for Excellent Education's Project 24 series. Learn more about Project 24 and how your school district can get involved and connected with the resources needed to plan for progress in a digital transformation here.
Consider my request.
Close your eyes and follow a hypothetical middle school or high school student for her entire school day. How many minutes is she sitting down? How often is she in a group discussing a misconception versus simply hearing her responses are incorrect? Was she allowed to connect to the Internet to research why her response was incorrect? How many times was she told that she can be a digital detective, a blogger, or a software engineer?
I envision a different kind of classroom with very different pedagogical ideas. I dream of a classroom where children are empowered to succeed leveraging technology in a way that maximizes the learning experience for all stakeholders in the community.
I was a biological science teacher for 15 years and was able to design a classroom that supported my vision for students using technology to become producers of knowledge and not mere consumers. It was not simply motivated by my selfish desire to have a paperless classroom but by a dream for a classroom that allowed my students the choice of how they wanted to teach others about what they were learning.
My greatest purpose in the classroom was to provide the proper scaffolding for my students to communicate the understandings we co-created. My urban students composed musical podcasts, blogs, tweets, and video lab reports. They had a global audience, and they met each challenge with increased success as the year progressed.
One of my greatest compliments from a student came in the form of a tweet: "In marine bio on YouTube, Twitter, and making a podcast about watersheds. #winning". Now in a supervisory position, I find ways to provide learning opportunities to support my staff as they look for ways to transform their classrooms as well.
I want kids to be engaged and use the tools they have right in their pockets to do so. I want school districts to encourage and provide sustained learning opportunities for teachers so they understand that the digital natives – students - in their classrooms learn differently now.
Instead of traditional professional development offerings, I see consortia of school districts hosting frequent "unconferences,” like edcamps and padcamps, where teachers and even students as co-presenters can learn from each other on how to leverage technology to reach all of their students.
Schools should be the place where teachers encourage students to take out their phones and take a picture of something they are doing in class and share it with their peers. Why can't a student use their own device to record a video of their lab as it happens so they can go home to make sense of it all?
As a parent, I know how excited I would be for my own children if they sparked up dinner conversation on the tools they used in school to create educational products. What if schools partnered with local businesses and corporations for mentoring opportunities and technology support? How strong could a community become if everyone was on board with the same vision?
I envision a time when teachers and administrators embrace technology and teach students what it means to leave a responsible digital footprint. Is there a better example of collaboration than students researching a topic with their peers in another country on a group project?
Learning knows no boundaries and schools should seek out opportunities for authentic global awareness leveraging technology. I imagine a day when students in different parts of the world co-author a digital textbook for their class and co-create educational videos at the same time in different locations. My ideal classroom encourages video conferences as a way of communicating across the sea.
There are so many doors that can be opened when we recognize the value of authentic learning experiences. For example, students at all grade levels can study a component of their watershed and produce information on how to better care for their environment. Virtual partnerships can easily be established with other schools in different watersheds and the students can exchange data and discuss their observations. The students can catalog native and invasive plants in their community and create QR codes to inform the public. High school students can teleconference with university professors about their findings and create videos to share on the school website about the scientific research they are conducting. Students can "flip" their own classrooms right along with their teachers by finding and making educational videos to share their knowledge.
As instructional tools change, educational leaders need to find creative ways to engage students. Learning should be active. After all, it is not a spectator sport!
Rebecca McLelland-Crawley is a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She is the K-12 Science Supervisor at West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District. Ms.McLelland-Crawley is one in a group of experts who will be blogging for High School Soup every Thursday as part of the Alliance for Excellent Education's Project 24 series. Learn more about Project 24 and how your school district can get involved and connected with the resources needed to plan for progress in a digital transformation here.