Transforming learning through global collaboration
Mark, you have hit a nerve with this discussion. I always find it difficult to approach educators who set boundaries for students. I say, let the students fly and show us what they can do! A few years ago when I taught in Bangladesh I was trying to increase our 1:1 laptop program from Gr 9-12 down to Grades 6, 7 and 8 as well....however the administration at the time blocked this saying students were too young and too small to carry laptops! How ridiculous!
Ok, so I think the main point I make is that life and learning is not a dress rehearsal, it is happening as we speak. Why 'practice' the basic skills in isolation when students can be learning 'on the job' so to speak. Yes, it takes teacher engagement, and teacher awareness of how to proceed and what to do if something does not go as planned, but look at the rich learning experiences students can participate in! 'Just in time' learning is king, 'just in case' learning is an outdated mode, let's move away from this now!
Students are ALWAYS ready....it is the teachers who are not, or the school system that blocks websites or does not educate their teachers and parents as to the benefits of global outreach and collaboration.
You can teach them the basic skills while engaging in a global project at the same time. I'd say in some ways blogs are easier than word processing. I've had far more problems when students write in Word documents than on blogs. So the first thing I'd say is "it's not a 'one or the other' situation. You can teach both at the same time'.
The second thing I would talk about is motivation. As someone who is new to the teaching of writing, I find myself scratching my head at how teachers can teach writing without the students having an audience. As I understand it, writing - any writing - exists to use for communication - and to communicate, you need an audience. Or did I miss a meeting? Students need an audience for their writing. And I can't imagine a better audience than a global one. Would I want to write more if I knew people all over the world were going to be reading it? Of course. Would I be disengaged if I knew noone was going to read my writing? For sure!
Thirdly, and this is just me, I'd ignore it and just do it anyway. Some teachers need to see the proof before they're willing to change their thinking. I've had plenty of people tell me what isn't possible, and I've just gone away and done it anyway. Some have changed their minds, but others will never see the value in global education. I think that's something we all need to accept. I've been lucky in that I've lived around the world and had various careers where you have to work with others around the world. Others haven't had those experiences. You don't have to have had those experiences to "get it", but not everyone will see the value in these sorts of things. That's a broader problem, one that needs whole school/system attention.
In short, you're right, they are short-changing them. Don't waste too much breath on those who will never be convinced. I applaud you for taking on these 'bold projects'. Keep doing what you're doing.
Thank you both for responding. I'm beginning to see some change in teachers and students I find very encouraging. The teachers most resistant to new technologies suddenly became very interested in blogging once I created blogs for every other class. They didn't want to be left out. I also just looked at all of my class blogs and the 4th graders were creating blog entries and comments from home when they were on spring break. I'm hoping these changes continue as we move forward.
I especially like Rob's comment about teaching basic skills within global projects like word processing with blogs. I'm trying to convince the teachers that blogging will make writing projects far easier to manage since every students' work is in one place and they can share their work with classmates and parents much easier. I'm researching rubrics for blog entries as I teach the students proper writing etiquette. They have been very enthusiastic with posting and comment so it's a a challenge moderating all their comments.
Great thoughts here. Sometimes people have to see what is possible to realize they can do it. Until someone runs faster, others think it isn't possible. We are the doers, we move ahead and let others follow. You're here and keep going!
I hear you! I wonder if it is because the teachers that want their students to type are missing the point of technology. The comment about motivation is two-fold for both student and teacher. The kids now have technology at their finger tips whether gaming, texting (yes 3rd grade), computers, etc. They do need to keyboard but that can be taught separately from a global project. I think it comes down to control. I know I've recently posted that comment that some teachers need more control than I do. I agree with Julie to let kids fly and see what they can do. Basic anything can be boring but if I see the outcome and want to get their I am motivated to do the basic - same with kids. It bothers me a great deal to know that my students leave my class with a great deal of knowledge of technology and then quite possibly does not get to use it again in the next grade level.
I suffer from this too. I have even been made to make them write on paper as there is a belief that they are not truly writing unless it is on paper... It is very frustrating. We just have to believe in ourselves, build strong networks and ensure we have read about topics and so are armed with details about the importance of these skills.
At a basic level, as we are taught at teacher training, learners rise to our expectations. Whatever they are. If we believe in them and empower them and expect them to - they will.