Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

This framework was helpful to me but I also have some reservations about the implications it raises about the use of technology in the classroom. I think as we integrate technology in the classroom it is necessary to be systematic about it and make sure that the technology lines up with sound educational theories and systematic evaluation.

Technological fluency is increasingly valuable and we need to make sure that the way we are using technology in the classroom fits with our other (research based) educational objectives. To this end it was helpful to see how technology in general and specific tools meshed with Bloom's Taxonomy. On the flip side, it was hard for me to read through and process everything with so many lists, categories and technical terms. The rubrics helped but overall it was easy to get lost within the specialized jargon of Bloom's Taxonomy. I think as I actually get into a classroom and go back and look at things like this it will all make more sense.

As I've commented before in this class, I think technological fluency represents not only an invaluable skill set for students, but provides an interesting hook to get them engaged in the material. Technology is transforming the way we work but also perhaps the way we think and process information. By engaging students with technology we may also be differentiating and accommodating a new learning style.

My reservation is that when reading the Digital Taxonomy (and all the rubrics, etc.) I found myself wondering, "Wait, in incorporating these ideas/tools will I be teaching English or Technology?" I guess I worry that the focus on technology could overshadow the actual content (here I may be contradicting things I've said in other postings, but I am still working out these issues for myself...). As teachers we just need to make sure that we strike a balance and integrate the technology in an authentic way, emphasizing our content objectives first and foremost.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning supports 21st century skills in the way that it values critical thinking, interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. The world is no longer structured (as Ken Robinson points out) according to the industrial model, which emphasized linear processes and uniformity of disciplines. The world of work has changed drastically (in large part because of technology). Students need to be able to think and communicate creatively. Additionally, it is increasingly likely that the students of today will have more than one career. As such, they must be adept at navigating within several different vocational fields, which will require that they transfer existing skill sets to novel environments. Moreover, in many work environments, collaboration with peers and effective presentation and communication skills are essential. Project-based learning often encompasses all of the above.

In a Language Arts/English classroom, while working through a unit on American Literature, I might engage students in a project about American culture. I would ask the students to brainstorm a list of American cultural ideas/values present in the works we have read. (Examples could include: self-reliance, independence, manifest destiny, democracy, materialism, progress, etc.) Based on topic preference, I would divide them into small groups. In their groups they would explore the cultural value/idea as it is presented in texts read in class and then they would be asked to find examples of the idea in contemporary American culture (politics, pop culture, advertising). They would conduct research, utilizing google docs and social bookmarking tools to foster collaboration. The project would culminate in a final presentation to the class in which they chart a “history” of their value/idea from the texts read in class to present day. They would have a choice of presenting their work with the assistance of technology such as a Prezi presentation, a podcast (in the vein of an NPR style piece of radio journalism), a video, etc.

This project would support peer collaboration and the use of new technologies. Students would be asked to utilize both print-based literacy and traditional tools for analyzing literature while also being asked to develop new literacies as they examined contemporary culture (advertising, political branding, music videos, etc.). Their final presentation would help to hone both technology and communication skills. Additionally, they would see how the critical thinking skills used in analyzing English literature aid them in investigating the contemporary world. This project would help them to understand the nature of persuasion and propaganda. As such, they would learn how to investigate the world to make real decisions, such as political and consumer choices.

Obviously this is a large and involved project and there could be many pitfalls along the way. It might be difficult to keep students on task, especially since the project has multiple components and requirements. It would also involve a lot of time, which might be hard to squeeze in with all other curriculum requirements. Lastly, the technology aspects would be dictated by the resources available in your school as well as what the students have access to at home.