16 August 2010

You've Heard of the 3R's, How About The 6C's?

I've been thinking and reading a lot this summer about different learning theories and how they affect pedagogy.  My three favorites are constructivism, communal constructivism, and connectivism.  Aspects of each of these three theories really inform my teaching and should be the basis for any attempt of innovative teaching in the 21st century context.  So, what does that mean for pedagogy and how do we apply it?  Certainly, we have all heard of the 3R's (reading, writing and arithmetic).  While these should form the basis of any good educational skillset, we know that they are not enough in the context of the needs of 21st century learners and what the theories mentioned above propose.  Therefore, I have developed my own framework that I hope to employ this school year in the development of my lessons, my teaching, and assessment of my students.

I call this the "6C's" or the "C-6 Framework."  The 6C's are "Choice, Construction, Connection, Collaboration, Creation, and Consideration."  Here is what each of these mean:
  1. Choice - Learners will have the opportunity to choose what, how, and when to learn.
  2. Construction - Learners will conduct research and inquiry to construct their own understanding of the world around them.
  3. Connection - Learners will discover and build the connections between ideas, events, and people in different times and places.
  4. Collaboration - Learners will develop the skills to effectively collaborate with their facilitators and peers.
  5. Creation - Learners will strive to become producers of new knowledge using their skills and imagination to create new understanding.
  6. Consideration - Learners will reflect and consider what they have learned, how they learned it, and how they can improve their learning in the future.
I'm not proposing that any of this is particularly new or radical.  For we are only "standing on the shoulders of giants" when it comes to learning theory and its practice in the classroom.  But, I find this a useful framework to remind myself of where are focus should be.  I have developed it with the social studies classroom in mind, but a simple variation in some of the language of each explanation could work in any and all subject matter.  I plan on sharing this framework with my students and parents in setting the proper tone in what I hope to develop in my students this school year.

03 August 2010

Smartphones Make Smart Learners

Yes, it has been a while since I have posted to my blog.  End of the school year, a trip to Japan with my students, some graduate classes, and a few relaxing weeks later, I am ready to start putting some of my ideas out into the ether again.  I had originally intended this post to be about some of the things I've been working on for the upcoming school year (I will post on that later this week), but todays Edchat on Twitter got me thinking in a new direction.

The discussion focused on the use of smartphones in the classroom.  There were many views on how to best implement such programs, the benefits and drawbacks, and how curriculum would need to be adapted.  Some really great discussions developed during the hour over these issues and more and it was awesome to see educators thinking about, discussing, and debating their craft.  As a result, I also came across some great resources at http://cellularlearning.org/http://www.cellphonesinlearning.com/ and http://chrismayoh.blogspot.com/.

Now, I come to my personal situation.  Last year, I allowed a limited number of students to use their smartphones, iPhones, and iPod Touches (wifi-enabled) to do research work in our class.  For this, we usually go to the lab or use the class set of wifi-enabled netbooks.  But, the lab isn't always available and we only have about a dozen netbooks (getting a few more this year), so we needed more ways of connecting online.  This was generally pretty successful.  Getting the right to use their mobile devices in the classroom (something they are not usually allowed to do during school hours) gave students a sense of empowerment and responsibility.  As far as I could tell, no one abused the privilege by texting their friends or visiting inappropriate sites (things they likely do anyway when teachers aren't looking).  The students were treated as adults, and they became better learners as a result.

This year I am planning on challenging my school to rethink mobile device use in the classroom.  This needs to involve a reevaluation of our phone and mobile device policy.  Also, it needs to involve teachers who are willing to pilot the use of such devices in the classroom (I plan on expanding my use of it, but one voice can get drowned out pretty easily).  I will post more on this effort as it develops in the coming weeks.  These devices are here, and they are here to stay.  We should learn to make use of their enormous educational potential instead of treating them like a dangerous and unwelcome item.