Preparing for the Future

This morning, I found out that one ideas that  I planted last spring emerged and took root. At that point in time, I was brainstorming about unit ideas for one of our senior history electives, US Government. The teacher and I thought it would be interesting to have the students to begin to brainstorm and create contingency plans for a prolonged school shutdown due to a natural or man-made disaster, such as a tornado or earthquake. This teacher, who spent 20+ years in the Naval reserves was excited, as this approach fit his natural approach to problem solving.

On Friday of last week, he shared a memo that he had requesting for the opportunity for the group of students to present their findings to groups of adults in charge. He passed it along to me saying that he wanted to follow up more today.

This morning, he came into my office. During our conversation, we talked about how the students should model the approach that they were suggesting in their small group work and use one of the collaborative tools to construct their presentation, such as a wiki, Google Presentation, or Google Docs. I shared the strengths and weaknesses of each of the tools with him. I also asked if I could come into his class and share my thoughts. He agreed and asked if I could come the last period today.

He dropped off their research papers and drafts of their solutions. I scanned through the solutions that they were proposing and I was very impressed with their work. They suggested solutions employing either Web 2.0 solutions or other distance learning environments, such as YouTube, Second Life, or Moodle to facilitate education in case of a long term shutdown. They suggested the creation of a series of recorded content from teachers that could be posted. A few also suggested the use of conferencing tools such as Elluminate in order to have groups come together in virtual space at the same time to conduct their learning.

In meeting with the class, it was interesting to note that other than using a wiki for either their US History class or AP US History class, that many of them did not know about Skype, uStream, or collaborative applications such as Google Docs or Presentations which may provide the ability to solutions to the problems they were examining. Modeling the use, I showed them how to create a uStream broadcast which Arvind Grover was kind enough to join in. I would post it, but I accidentally deleted the file rather than save it. But my message was heard.

I spoke about the challenges of making sure that all faculty and students have tools (computers and Internet access) so that they could use the tools. I talked about how it was important to have a way to communicate to where people should go  in case of such a closure. We talked about creating a solution that would be flexible to adapt to upgrades in software and be scalable. I also spoke about the need to teach both students and faculty how to use the tools. We also talked about the need to create both synchronous and asynchronous solutions, to allow for a blended learning environment.

Underlying their papers and my conversation was how would teachers adapt to the new media. Having created a presentation for the K12 Online Conference last fall, I am personally aware of the challenges of creating an asynchronous . We didn’t talk about the fact that these shifts are those which are currently beginning to support teaching and learning for tomorrow, without the need of a extended closure to shift us today.

I look forward to seeing what happens as they complete the project over the next week. I am glad that I am allowed to be part of the process and I look forward to continuing to provide expertise and guidance if needed.

For those interested, I have included my Google Presentation that I created for the class.

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