Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Building Bridges of Learning

In “There’s Nothing Like” Thinking, Bill Ferriter mentions following a conversation between some others where “…neither completely buys the idea that technology is having a positive impact on teaching and learning, instead wondering whether or not technology is reducing the number of "real-world" experiences that our students have or decreasing our commitment to human relationships and the natural world.”

Immediately I thought of some of the collaboration happening between students from around the world. I am reading about projects where students from different countries and cultures are using Wikispaces, Ning, and Skype to communicate with each other in the Horizon Project 2008. Christine Southard and Lisa Parisi used wikispaces for collaboration between their class in New York and another class in New Zealand to compare the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere in Comparing Hemispheres. As I get excited thinking about the possibilities, I wonder how anyone could think technology reduces the number of “real-world” experiences. I believe it could open up the world for our students and with the right teacher (with administrative support of course) the opportunities and possibilities are endless.

Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) talks about what she Overheard today: “We don’t live in tents!”:
“One of my extremely excited and talented assistant project managers for Horizon Project has set up an appointment to instant message the project manager in Doha, Qatar today. They had an appointment for 8 am and 12:30 noon! (Uhm -- we got out at noon for spring break!).As they made their intros and said hello, first she exclaimed to the class:
"Hey, guys -- they go to school on Sunday through Thursday."Another one of my students didn't "get" what she was saying and said, "Let them just TRY to make ME go to school on Sunday.""No, you don't understand, she said, their weekend is Friday and Saturday."
Now this is interesting because I had told my students this... in fact, I have told them multiple times, however, it was this exchange that got their attention. It was this exchange that TAUGHT them!”

Personally, I have connected with other educators in the “real world” through blogging and Twitter. These have led me to live online professional development sessions that I wouldn’t have had if I had not been using technology. Through my own professional learning network, I have found tools that can connect teachers with teachers, classrooms to classrooms, students to other students, and cultures to cultures. Maybe this is the first step towards world peace. I feel a lot of hatred and intolerance is due to ignorance and what better way to get beyond that by connecting with other cultures and learning about the real people in these worlds.

I truly believe that technology is definitely increasing our commitment to human relationships and the natural world. Like anything else in our world, if abused or not used right, it can be a negative thing but as teachers, I feel it is up to us to show our students how to use it to build bridges to the rest of the world. I believe our students can be successful in building the bridges to learning!

Photo credits:
Misty bridge by Ron Layters
Brooklyn Bridge by Simply Schmoopie
Sydney Harbour Bridge by Ben Harris Roxas


Clix said...

People said the same thing about literacy before it became a social norm. "Book-larnin'" and "real life" were thought to be mutually exclusive in many cases.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. At first I wasn't sure about kids and technology, but I have watched my grandsons, and they include so many activities in a day. Technology is just part of what they do. I think technology helps them learn in new ways, but they still enjoy a good book and romp in the park.

loonyhiker said...

Clix: whenever something comes about, I think people are suspicious. Probably thought the same thing about the automobile. :)

loonyhiker said...

Betty: Balance is important. Too much of anything is not good.

Anonymous said...

You've made some excellent points, especially about opening up the world for our students - what better way to educate our students about lands they may never travel to than by communicating with the people who live there? I think one of the most valuable things I have gained from my online collaboration is actually the lessening of my US-centric views. In the past I hardly thought out of my state, much less country, now when I write posts and plan collaborations, I immediately think of time zones and different cultural holidays and customs. How could this possibly lessen human relationships?

loonyhiker said...

kate: I have to admit that I was US-centric too until I expanded my own professional/personal learning network. We need to teach students how to do this too. I find it so exciting and can imagine that students would too.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post, Pat----but I wonder whether technology will ever make inroads into the classroom considering how many people don't see the same value in digital relationships that you and I do.

Digital relationships seem normal to me. I don't feel any less connected to people in my digital network than I do to people in my face-to-face network. They're helpful peers.

But I'm the exception to the rule in my building! And I think that reality will remain for another decade---until kids who've grown up with digital friends become classroom teachers.

Does that make any sense? Do you think there are ways to speed up the adoption/transition process?