Monday, January 21, 2013

Three Take-Aways from Alan November's (@globalearner) TCIS Visit

Over the weekend Ben Summerton (@bensummerton), Steve Katz (@stevekatz), and I (@tsbray) had a chance to go to TCIS and listen to Alan November (@globalearner) talk about education. Many of the thoughts and tools that Alan shared weren't new to me, but it was great to hear a noted speaker and educational guru confirm what we are doing at KIS. The three main take-aways for me were -- the importance of having students ask their own questions, the importance of effective and efficient searching, and the importance of authentic global audience. I'd like to thank Joseph Fambro (@krea_frobro747) and all the teachers who helped from GSIS and TCIS to make the Alan November event happen... And of course, I'd like to thank Alan November.

The importance of asking questions: 
Students certainly don't need us to spoon feed them answers to questions, what they need to be doing is generating their own questions and finding answers to those questions. Innovation and creativity will never truly develop, if questions aren't asked. Sadly it is difficult for many students to ask their own questions, because they have never been taught how; or, they have had the fear of not being correct forced down their throats. Learning is about asking questions and learning how to find answers to those questions. In order to compete in the modern world, students will need to understand how to learn and that won't happen unless they know how to question. The people in my generation were expected to change careers seven times during our life times -- that involves learning new skills. Students from the current generation will change careers even more, because in the future many current jobs simply will not exist. If you can't learn new skills, you won't have work.

The importance of effective and efficient searching:
Just Googling it isn't quite good enough anymore. If you have seen Eli Pariser's TED Talk about how search engines are tailoring your searches, then you will understand why this issue is major in education. If you haven't watched it -- YOU MUST! Seriously, go watch it now and if it doesn't scare the life out of you in some way, then you have some major character flaws. Students are going to need to know how to trick search engines and luckily Google allows us to do this by using Search Operators. The operators help you better define exactly what you are looking for and who you are getting it from.

The importance of authentic global audience:
I've been a huge proponent of this idea for years, but Alan turned me on to something I hadn't really thought about -- the importance of anonymity as well as audience. His example is the website FanFiction, which has thousands of contributors who all use anonymous identities to share their writing. One example we looked at showed a list of people who had written short stories in the style of J.K. Rowling  (famous for the Harry Potter series). There were thousands of stories by hundreds of writers and some were 400,000 or more words in length... 400,000 words! When was the last time one of your English students wrote something that long? I bet the answer is never. I'm right, right? No one is getting paid; everyone is anonymous -- so why? These people are simply sharing their love of writing with each other for pleasure, but they do it anonymously, because that way the critique is about the writing, not about them as a person. I remember working in Turkey our English department would trade (or share) grading of exams -- that way students didn't feel that one teacher was grading too easy or too hard, because their exam was graded by everyone. This trading allows someone completely objective to view the work and the students don't take the comments personal, because they don't know that person. This allows the regular teacher to help the students understand the critique without emotions getting in the way as much; furthermore, it doesn't make difficulties in the student-teacher relationship.