Well WDL listeners/readers, I have emerged. I really have not been in hiding or in some witness protection program, just over extended and have so many good ideas to share that I didn't know where to start.
Well today (too rainy to go apple picking with the family) I stumbled across a very interesting presentation by a woman named Heidi Hayes Jacobs who runs Curriculum21.com. In short, it blew my mind. In a very straight-forward --some might call it unforgiving-- tone she goes on to explain how her thinking has changed when it has come to her topic "Education in a Global Age" (see vid below).
She touches on many topics: curriculum development, how students learn, good teaching. But, her point about technology really pushed my thinking. I had come to the same conclusion many teachers had come to that "it's not about technology, it's about the teaching and learning, with the technology fit around it". She presents the idea that technology itself has become a genre/skill/content area that cannot be ignored or politely placed around the learning, but it's necessary to use the forms of technology (blogs, podcasts, videos) as genres within our own traditional content areas. Blogging and podcasting shouldn't be novel treats for some students, but should be taught alongside the essay, poem or research paper format. What makes a good blog to inform the reader? To persuade? Do we even know? Have we done them ourselves?
In her words, "What do we cut, keep and create" when we develop curriculum? It involves actively thinking about how to fit technology in as integral, not to supplement the content area. It means letting go of some sacred cows (she skewers the oral report here) in favor of the modern/digital alternative (in this case a podcast or Skype call). We cannot limit our teaching of the next generation's skill set based on our own educational experience. What we learned for our jobs is likely only sufficient to bring kids as far as 1985-1991 in most schools, she quips. We have to engage, and be willing to learn with and from our students.
She also gives suggestions on how professional development experiences can be made more relevant by administrators embracing the technology in or as opposed to staff meetings. Why not share links at the first three minutes of the meeting? Why not have a back channel to further promote discussion and develop ideas?
This shift in technology integration got me thinking about often colleagues simply say "well, the kids know how to do the technology, so they must not need me to teach it". Not true. The techniques of writing that helped define good organization, purpose, word choice, inference, supporting details, and yes even good grammar come into play in these new forms as well. Along with other skills like production value, SEO, tagging, cross linking, and promotion that we haven't even begun to consider teaching students. We cannot expect most of our students to learn it well without outside guidance. In most cases, they will find others to mentor them through this learning. Will we have an answer for them? A resource? Or will we simply say, "That's great that you have a blog, but please finish your sonnet assignment?"