Sunday, February 15, 2009

What is eTwinning?

and other 21st Century Teaching Tools...

What follows is a discussion about eTwinning, Twitting, Tweeting, Blogging and other creative, cutting edge teaching tools. The video below highlights the mind mapping by teachers at the eTwinning conference brainstorming sessions focusing on creativity in the classroom. Creativity is where the American Spirit triumphs. We need to move beyond rote learning and competing with the Japanese for high test scores, we need to recapture that great American skill - Creating.

eTwinning is the newest European concept used by teachers to connect with other schools in Europe. The eTwinning project aims to encourage European schools to collaborate using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Being 'twinned' with a foreign school also encourages cross-cultural exchanges of knowledge, fosters students' intercultural awareness, and improves their communication skills. It's a lifelong learning concept in our new "small world."

Have a look at some other cutting edge teaching tools designed to incite creative learning in the high-tech, fast-paced internet world we live in today.

Twitter, used by Barack Obama, answers the question, “What are you doing right now”. To many people it seems like an endless stream of pointless text messages, however, if you start to follow like-minded educationalists, you can soon build a very effective personal learning network who can answer your questions, collaborate in projects and teach you all sorts of new ideas. It can also be a great tool for teachers to communicate with their students. Check out the Twitter4Teachers Wiki - and find teachers of like minds.  Give it a go, it’s addictive. Oh, and you can embed your Tweets into your blog, too.

Textspeak is the way students write simplified versions of messaging for digital texting. For example, phrases like Laugh Out Loud become LOL. (For an eye-opening shorthand list visit here.) One teacher I read about utilized this to engage students in studying Shakespeare. The challenge was to rewrite parts of Romeo and Juliet using textspeak. Very fun!

Blogging has exploded on the internet. Bloggers in fact, have been some of the first people to evaluate and publish what is actually in the stimulus package. Members of Congress, who were each only given a (unsearchable) hard copy (!) of the plan, went out to the 'blogosphere' to get the low-down on what is actually written in the plan. Teachers who are on the front lines of communicating with students need to maintain blogs chock full of information, challenges and world connections for their students. Unlike a stagnate website, blogging is two-way communication. Connectivity to the world at large is now in the DNA of the young generation - why do you think they live their lives in places like Facebook and MySpace? However, the disconnect is with the teachers. Teachers who have no understanding of technology or do not utilize it in the classroom are hard-pressed to engage their students. Setting up a blog is so easy -- I created this one in less than 5 minutes! (Since then, of course, it has taken over as my latest addiction.)

Here are a few examples of cutting-edge teaching techniques I found on the internet very quickly. One teacher in England, Tom Barrett maintains a blog entitled "ICT in my Classroom." He offers tutorials on creative ways to use your whiteboard and your pocket video camera as well as others. John Sutton also offers a great site "to provide educators and educational institutions with all the tools and knowledge they need to harness the power of blogs in school." His Top Ten Free Web Apps make great additions to teacher blogs. One of his recommendations is Teacher Tube, an educational version of You Tube. 

Fun tools also exist for students to use in writing and generating publications creatively. Stripey Design is currently creating a simple internet tool for children which allows them to create their own animated stories with a few clicks. And Comic Brush offers a fun way for students to create their own comics. Quikmaps is a Google Maps mashup that allows you to draw over the top of a Google Map. Teachers prefer this tool because it doesn't display all the community content that Google Maps does. Once you've added a location tag, you can add a photo or evn a Google video to that location: fantastic for local area studies or field trips etc.

I could go on and on - there are hundreds of thousands of fantastic supportive tools available on the internet. The resources exist worldwide - filtering them is a difficult task. Fortunately, reviews of the latest information on the use of technology and safety on the internet can be found at places like Think You Know, online.

A former principal I know shared what he had learned at a national principal conference several years ago. The point was made that if a time traveler from the 1890's stepped into today's world of technology, he would not recognize most anything. An operating room would be something unimagined. A high speed train or airplane would be mind-boggling. The tools used in business - the internet, cell phones and computers would be unbelievable. However, if that 1890's person walked into a standard classroom of today, it would look and function pretty much as it did back then with books, teacher lectures, chalkboards, pencils, papers and desks.

I would submit to you that public schools have failed to grow with and embrace technology. We have failed our children and yet we blame the children. We have failed the community and yet we blame the community. The rallying cry has been, "parental involvement is key". Why is that, anyway? Because good parents nurture relationships with their children and they use every teachable moment they see to enlighten and encourage their children.

Schools should not blame children for their failure to learn - ALL children can learn. It should happen all day long in the schools - regardless of what goes on in the homes. ALL children should be encouraged, enlightened and taught using the tools and technologies they can relate to and understand. The tools exist. Virtual travel and shared learning is possible. I implore the leadership in DeKalb county to focus their attention on implementing as much technology as possible and focusing on massive teacher training in the use of those technologies.

Simply providing the tools does not make a difference though. A paintbrush places the paint much differently in the hands of a master versus a novice. Teachers need help understanding how best to utilize these tools to inform and excite their students. My suggestion is to place someone who lives, eats and breathes technology in every school. This person does not have to go through the hoops of becoming a "certified" teacher - this person would function as an on-site technology leader and trainer - informing teachers daily about the world children live in and helping teachers utilize the tools readily available in order to excite the learning potential in each and every child. Let's not focus on catching up to other districts and states - let's focus on moving beyond them by truly embracing 21st century learning tools.

Please use the comments to add great resources for learning and to share stories about the places you see where interactive, high-tech learning is going on.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post. Teachers are trying to include more creativity into their teaching methods.

Cerebration said...

From the Ed Money Watch blog --

Although the Senate bill originally included $19.5 billion in school construction funds ($16 billion for K-12 and $3.5 billion for higher education), the adopted version does not. However, the Senate maintained $1 billion in funding for Education Technology Assistance Grants under the School Improvement section of the bill. These grants provide funding to schools and states to use technology to improve student achievement.

Additionally, the adopted Senate bill allows states to issue $10 billion in federal tax credit bonds for school construction that will save states $4.5 billion in interest payments over 10 years. Many organizations report the $4.5 billion federal cost of the credit rather than the $10 billion face value of the bonds.

Additionally, the bill allows an increase of $1.4 billion to the total value of issued Qualified Zone Academy Bonds for charter school construction.

Cerebration said...

Some comments from eTwinning "Creativity in eTwinning" seminar (Prague) = just ending yesterday...

A really interesting seminar with lots of discussion about creativity and innovation.

Key ideas included the need for freedom, for space and for the acceptance of diversity; the need to spark ideas in one another, to accept that there are no right and wrong ideas and that the best conditions for creativity can be different for each person. Here are a number of photos taken of the ideas sparked by the session. Perhaps you'd like to add your own comments.

The room was buzzing with new ideas, energy, people making new contacts and new projects being made.

From the beginning of the workshop we were pushed into interacting across nationalities by creative thinking.

The workshop was a cocktail of music, drawing on walls, using the green hat (Bono) for thinking new strategies.

The room was buzzing with new ideas, energy, people making new contacts and new projects being made.

We were divided into 7 different groups where we had to come up with ideas of "what the conditions for being creative" are. Common for all groups across nationalities was that we agreed on the following as being the most important factors:
- Motivation (the need for change)
- Energy (enthusiasm)
- Openness and freedom

This workshop proves that you have to put people in new and unknown contexts to make them create new creative ideas together. During our lunchbreak we have noticed that after this workshop the participants have been talking to the other teachers from their creativity group! The networking thereby reaches further than the workshop - which initially was the plan....

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in innovative Web 2.0 learning tools, I invite you to check out, an award-winning website where you create comics without having to draw.

You can design every aspect of your character, and move it into any pose you want. All you have to do is click-and-drag to change or reposition any part of it - the creative and artistic possibilities are endless!

Share with others, post to blog or remix comics to add your own twist. Read comics in over 40 languages, with our automatic translation by Google. Language filters, privacy settings, and flagging mechanisms help preserve a safe online environment. Sign-up is free!

Interactive web comics are a great way to engage and motivate students to learn. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Best wishes,
Creator of Pixton - Interactive Web Comics

Cerebration said...

Very fun tool Clive - thanks for sharing!! Good luck with your business!

Anonymous said...

Drive by DCSS' Bryant Center for Technology on Lawrenceville Highway on a weekday, and it's so packed with staff vehicles they park on the grass (even though there are spaces in the back). I've asked and asked BOE members what exactly they do there, and how it helps academic achievement, and have never gotten a good answer.

This post on technology in the classroom was brilliant. Technology doesn't replace sound teaching and parental involvement, but it is vital to really reach out to today's children, who have technology integrated into their daily lives like never before.

There are so many breakthroughs right now with technology and educuation. But when it comes to the DCSS Bryant Center for Technology, we are simply not getting the return on our investment.

john sutton said...

Apologies for the long delay in noticing the link! But, thanks for the link to my blog and the positive vibe. Much appreciated.