In today’s presentation George Couros spoke to us via a skype feed on the innovations he has made in his school using IT and the Internet. This was a real eye opener, because he has really seized on the advantages IT and the Internet can bring to the classroom. He mentioned that just today his school had given out laptops to all his 5th and 6th graders, so obviously computers play an important role in his school. One of the main advantages that he pointed out to us was the ‘anywhere, anytime classroom’ that is available through blogs, message board discussions, etc because they are online. Not only does this give students the chance to extend their learning past the classroom, but it also helps parents and teachers to track student learning and have more of a hand in encouraging and assisting that learning.
The line that stuck out the most to me was when he mentioned something to the effect of “the world has been constantly changing, but our schools have remained relatively unchanged.” I thought that was a really great point. In my teaching placements, I’ve noticed that computers are in the classrooms now and students do get to use them, but there are only a handful of computers (rough 1 computer for every 5 or 6 students), there is no connection between the classroom (mostly due to all the social networks being blocked out (including email), and teachers seem to think that IT integration means spending a few minutes a week online... and mostly just using the computer as a word processor. When I think about how much the world has changed in the last 10-15 years it seems absurd that we wouldn’t be striving to reflect that change more in our classrooms. After all, isn’t the point of education to prepare students for the world?
Mr. Couros made a good point about the hype-concern over students being online as themselves. He made a nice parallel to the park where kids play and yell out each others’ names and how that is a much bigger danger than posting something online with their real name. And yet you never hear a mother tell her son not to use his name at the park. I thought that was a really good point. Plus if we want kids to be good online citizens, they have to learn to actually be online and that includes managing the risks and learning the ways to protect themselves.
It seems clear that schools are moving to a more online-centric classroom. Mr. Couros has his school at the forefront of this movement, and - to me - it looks like a very good place for the rest of us to catch up to.