Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Zen of NETP; Being the NETP

Let's explore some ways we are going to make the very aggressive tech savvy plan of the Office of Educational Technology a reality? We constantly hear how more tech savvy our scholars are than we are. So let's be zen about it. Use that power to help them not to fight them and we will see and have far more success and be less stressful. Let the force of their tech savviness be with you, not against you. Here are some schools in which we found promising uses of the technology as proposed by NETP.

At a recent morning session at the ASCD annual conference a speaker reiterated what has to happen in our schools. We need to embrace the Net Generation, not turn them away or off with our continued educational methods. We need to incorporate their tools, their websites, and their ways of learning into our schools and not continue with our last century ways. Those methods aren't working; we are seeing the dropout rise, not drop; and the Net Generation is learning without us. We need to embrace the technology, make our classes more project based, and be more collaborative on all levels. We need to pay more attention to how they learn, how they produce and how they use the technology to learn in our schools. The speaker was of course being zen. He was saying we need to use the force of each of our scholars to help them learn and not fight that force. They have their technology and we need to adapt to them, not the other way around because they are the future which is one of our pedagogical mantras. It is about choosing your battles and their technology is not a battle you want to fight, because you will lose. Mark Prensky and others have been writing about this for years as it pertains to gaming and letting the scholars go with the technology to see what happens. I can attest to the power of this from my years doing CyberEnglish.

In Rhode Island, middle schools are working with teachers to teach the tech in a program called Waytogo. It is a career path identifier and guide. The teachers acknowledge that the students are way more tech savvy and the first group to learn the software split up and go to other classes to teach other scholars who in turn help others. It is a good example of collaboration, peer teaching, and using the technology to disseminate the information more quickly and more efficiently. As the scholars said, they roam about in a series of pages to find their way to a goal. This cannot be accomplished in a class without the technology. It is a form of play, game oriented. The scholars have choice and they must make decisions and follow that path to a conclusion. This is vital in learning, choices made by the learner, by the scholar in order for learning and acceptance to happen. This is a good example of how NETP can be realized in a very zen way.

A model for the kind of schools we need to see in order to be NETP, is seen in the ASCD's Vision in Action award. The Iowa lab school collaborates with the University of Northern Iowa's College of Education. The whole child approach uses lots of choice. I didn't read about how technology is used, but that doesn't matter. The concept of the school is collaboration and that is important as we need to learn as teachers how to collaborate in our classrooms that once were our domain and will now have to be shared. It is the zen thing to do.

I'm interested in how the online tests in Hawaii will work and serve as an example of assessment for NETP. The use of technology is crucial because it is cost effective and provides the teachers with immediate feedback so that it will help inform them about instruction. Another interesting aspect is that the tests are adaptive. Will the test be only a part of final assessment as will happen in Florida? Will it be more than multiple choice and true/false? More needs to be researched, but the effort is good as a future possibility in NETP. The environment is certainly more scholar friendly and has zen aspects.

Yong Zhao has been writing about the use of technology in our schools from a more global perspective. He advocates the use of technology as a way to satisfy the needs of the curiosity aspect of our scholars. Let them wander, let them roam and eventually they will find their way. This is not available in the traditional classroom, but is in the technology rich classroom as seen in the above mentioned Rhode Island school and schools that are more zen.

Massachusetts has begun a plan to create Readiness Centers where teachers can go to learn how to collaborate. The uniqueness of these centers is that they are virtual and will be incorporating the very technology they will need in their work in schools. The program is part of the Race to the Top, but will be very useful in making NETP work for them and is very zen.

I'm still tickled by stories about how technology is not the teacher. I tap my forehead and chuckle. Of course the technology is not the teacher, but this is a huge stumbling block many teachers have to get over. The work in Oregon is a good example of how teachers have come to embrace the technology and not to shun it. I hope we get beyond this notion and realize that technology is our friend and it will make us better teachers and better humans. It is zen when we let the technology flow around us while we control what we can and let what we can't somehow work in unison with us.

Another school in Indiana hopes to be a model for other schools in the state as it incorporates many of the aspects of the NETP in its classrooms. The classes are using group work in project based lessons. They are incorporating the technology the scholars know. Again a key element is choice and letting go. This is another very zen approach.

An Alabama school has added technology to enhance learning.

Everywhere around us we see more zen approaches to using technology in our schools. Some common elements I see are choice by the scholars, letting go by the teachers, and the zen of scholar tech savviness. These elements are that paradigm shift.

The American Center for Educators at the National Constitution Center offers online resources to teachers to gain more knowledge about teaching tech savvy students as well as a plethora of online courses to advance teachers in the digital age.

A recent survey of teachers at the recent ASCD conference indicated they believe textbooks will be digital very soon. Teachers will find many of the resources they need are online already. My entire CyberEnglish curriculum is built from online resources. I have access to all the literature I need from public domain sites including audio readings of poems and short stories and videos. I also have digital access to current news from the news media that include newspapers, magazines, and journals. Digits are far easier to maintain than atoms and it is so zen.

Another trend is advancing the use of social media. This one may a bit more dicey as it could be dangerous and an application that may not be as useful in the classroom as we may think. It can be useful in some respects as it could augment other technology we use, but I'm not sure about its usefulness as a major technology. It does take a zen approach, but I'm still undecided about its need before other technologies, especially as getting off task is just too easy. Perhaps we leave the social networking stuff to the scholars on their own time and not poach this area. I've seen too many teachers get in trouble themselves on some of these social networks. Are they really for the classroom when we have so many other fine web tools?

We can't forget the need for leadership that understands collaborative efforts of the teachers and encourages them to be collaborative themselves. We will need to see more horizontal leadership and less vertical leadership in the school and the classroom, in order to see NETP work and thrive in our schools. The lone wolf, the dictatorial leader or teacher is a character of the past. Teaching is not cooking, too many teachers do not spoil the scholar, just the opposite, the more the better. There is no "i" in team, unless we spell it "teim." The new teacher is more zen.

The rewriting of NCLB is next.

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