Focusing the Digital Brain

-from Educational Leadership/September 2009/Marilee Sprenger p. 34-39

Some startling statistics:

1.  On average, students spend six hours a day digitally connected, often to several devices simultaneously.

2.  On average, a person spends two seconds on each Web site when searching for information.

Sprenger reminds the reader what we teachers already knew–kids who call themselves multitasking–using the pc to play games, send email, exchange instant messages, as well as video conferencing simultaneously–are indeed NOT! The brain can only attend to one thing at a time.  Students who attempt this multitasking “are putting themselves into a state of partial attention” (Sprenger 36).  Thus, students make a cursory wave of learning and never really reflect and absorb their learning, nor “are they able to recognize other people’s emotions and to use emotional intelligence to help make decisions, cooperate, and even understand themselves.”  (Sprenger 38). 

We teachers must help students “disconnect” from the digital age for a moment.  This requires logging off Gmail and putting down the Blackberry.  This requires using an old fashion journal to reflect on one’s learning–did I absorb it? This requires opportunities for students to interact face to face, to look one another in the eye, to shake hands, to tell one’s story in front of others, to listen, and to understand how another “feels.”  Sprenger calls this “mindfulness, a deliberate inner awareness of what one is thinking, feeling, and experiencing.”  This occassional disconnect from the digital age can lead to a healthy balance of technological & human gifts–producing a student who can find the answers to life’s questions at the stroke of a key, but also a student who recognizes another’s humanity.

Meeting with my Fellows…

Wednesday night’s class was awesome!  It is so rare that we teachers get the opportunity to have adult conversations, freely exchange ideas, and come away with new methods & a newfound zeal for changing the face of our classrooms.  The “Save the Last Word for Me” discussion over the PLC article was challenging because it forced a rather verbose group of “intellectuals” to follow a prescribed pattern of speaking–“What do you mean I am not allowed to interject?!”  LOL!  I’m thinking I may have to save this idea for later in the year when I have conditioned my angels a little more.  The “Cocktail Party” format was very engaging–allowing the student an opportunity to defend his/her thinking over a particular line of text.  I am thinking I can use this idea with our novel study (Steinbeck’s The Pearl).  There are so many good lines to analyze.  It will easily foster understanding of motif and theme.  It looks like I have lots of homework this week.  So siked that Holly is my new blogging partner!  I cannot think of anyone whose ideas, passion, and verbosity equal my own–other than Holly.  Awww…look how giddy I am!

The 21st Century Skills Movement  (Video is only 5.36 min)

*A great discussion on how we need to change from a classroom system to a community system.  Ways we can make this transition include fostering creativity & synthesis, utilizing NASA & MIT on-line resources, as well as other tools for global connections.  Through global connections, teachers can swap “ingredients” for “cooking” 21st century skills. We have to understand that a 21st century classroom does not have walls–it is not your traditional brick and mortar building.  It is a virtual world of possibilities! 

The 21st Century Skills Movement (a synthesis of the article published in Educational Leadership)

In her article P. Johnson gives an overview of four(4) core components to a 21st Century framework. This framework is the result of a consensus among various stakeholders. 

*Core subjects and 21st century themes (such as language arts, mathematics, science, global awareness, and financial literacy).

*Learning and innovation skills (such as creativity and innovation and critical thinking and problem solving).

*Information, media, and technology skills.

*Life and career skills (such as initiative and self-direction).

To provide educators with concrete solutions from the field, the partnership collaborated with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for Geographic Education to craft core subject maps that show how to infuse 21st century skills into core classes. By combining skills and knowledge, Johnson reminds the reader that educators can impart the expertise students need to succeed in work and in life.

I must do more research to determine exactly what those 21st century skills are and how they apply to my specific discipline of English Language Arts.  I think I will take a look at NCTE…

The Realities of a 21st century classroom…Arhhhh!!!

I suppose the rain has gotten me down today, maybe because my 91 year old “saintly” grandmother passed away just last Tuesday (I loved her dearly), maybe because I discovered another gray eyelash, or maybe because I am beyond frustrated with my lack of technological tools  in my 21st Century Classroom.  Here are my realities…

It’s week 5 and to date, I have not been able to utilize the seven(7) computers my students depend upon for learning and for which I depend upon for teaching.  I never realized what an integral part of my job the computers were until they were gone.  Numerous work orders, various emails, broken promises, and a general lack of priority from those who c0uld get the computers up and running has only added more stress than I have been able to handle.  Forget that it keeps me up at night or that it demoralizes me as a professional.  Public school teachers have rarely gotten the respect they deserve.  This is just another reminder.  Don’t laugh, but “to print” I am forced to email the document to myself, then when I have a free period, I have to go the Media Center to print.  I know, I know…a teacher and students being able to print from their classroom is just way too 21st Century!  I guess it’s good, that as a rule of thumb, sound theories and best practices rarely mingle in public education.  They certainly do not in my 21st Century Classroom.  I wonder if the same holds true for my my private school counterparts…