ISTE Day 1 Reflections

My first full day at ISTE was spent in three pretty diverse sessions. The morning was spent in a constructivist consortium with Dr. Gary Stager. It was a wonderful experience and I was happy to get to play in the sandbox with Microworlds and Animationish. Super awesome programs that encourage us to allow students to actually CREATE instead of just having them snap photos, drop them in a prefabbed program and record a script. This is more like programming and students get to have much more ownership and creativity.   

However, after Dr. Stager presented, two otherwise wonderful presenters casually referred to using these software programs to “sneak curriculum” to the students.  I found myself wondering why it has to be snuck in? It smacks of  Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook where you hide the pureed veggies in things like pancakes. The thing is pureed veggies are for babies. Our students aren’t babies and they can see right through this type of sham.  Why can’t learning be delicious on it’s own? Why does having students create a meaningful animated autobiography have to be viewed as “snuck in learning”?

Another thing both presenters did is talk about how these programs will help the at-risk learners. Why is there so much discussion about at risk learners vs. gifted/bright learners?  Who is deciding how these kids are classified? Viewing kids up front as at risk just adds an overlay of negativity. If we have to use the term “at risk” we should be honest and admit that EVERY child is at risk.  At risk of being bored or classified in a way that limits their potential. At risk of spending 8 hours a day non-engaged and not reaching their full potential.  At risk of drowning in a sea of worksheets, meaningless quizzes and tests. At risk of never encountering a teacher who inspires them by designing meaningful, creative projects….What I learned today is that more educators need to TRUST that a heck of a lot of learning will take place when kids are given great tasks and when the teachers step back and coach, when they prompt, question and clarify instead of directing every step that a child must take to be “learning” in the eyes of the teacher. 

Okay, I’m blabbering and on a soapbox but it seems like we are STILL trying to get people to understand that tasks must be redesigned in order to engage students. Oh and don’t get me started about all the time we are wasting on developing standards. I had to leave the room when that conversation started at my table. Come on people! 

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