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Path to the Students March 15, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Students.

students1   I sometimes wonder if my colleagues and I who work on a daily basis with educational technology are really at the cutting edge or, as some of my colleagues like to say, at the bleeding edge. Sometimes I wonder if we are just picking up some of the more useful trash that has fallen off the large research and development corporation’s trucks and seeing if we can apply at to the classroom.

I wonder, also, what aspects of technology will really inspire student learning and ignite lifelong interests in subjects and careers long after school ends. Today I looked at a photograph from NASA, that showed a frame from a fly through of a Martian Valley. The database, the sheer number of numbers, required to create such a fly through was enormous. The amount of time it took to create such a fly through was similarly enormous. But once a student has flown through this Martian Valley, what will they walk away from the experience with? Will they understand Mars any more? I am not so sure that that is the case.

When my students open Google earth, they don’t fly through valleys of places they’ve never visited, although with the right guide explaining things along the way they may find it very interesting. My students are more interested in seeing their house. They want to see where their friends live. They want to see where their school is. They want to see where their stores are. They want to see the route they took to get to
Disneyland. They want to see their network.

When text messaging and instant messaging started to make an appearance in schools, students were not using that tool to write to their teachers. They were using the tool to write to each other. They were using the tool to enhance and extend their network beyond the classroom.

Experienced teachers used this knowledge of their students’ needs to build a pathway to the subject matter for them. The best teachers found ways to make Romeo and Juliet come alive. The best teachers made the circulatory system come alive by connecting the experience of a student almost blacking out with the function of the heart. The best teachers made sure the students were not simply regurgitating facts or learning formulas but instead were mastering skills that would help them on the street, in their network, in the stores, and business situations, and in their lives.



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