Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Kids We Have
“Our task is to provide an education for the kind of kids we have… Not the kind of kids we used to have… Or want to have… Or the kids that exist in our dreams.” Mary Kay Utech
In his Keynote address to the K-12 Online Conference, David Warlick
alluded to teaching "the kids we have rather than the kids we'd like to have".
To do this, I've had to take a step backwards.
Fresh from a summer of self-directed professional development, I offered the students in my Current Events class an enticing (I thought) array of options for required projects. Don't know how to produce a podcast? No problem, we'll master it together. Visual learner? Let's experiment with movies and slide shows, prior experience not necessary. I let them view student-generated content from all over the world so that they were aware of the possibilities.
To a man, they chose PowerPoint.
I've learned quite a bit about our student population through questioning and observing. Many carry cellphones ("banned" during school hours), and own MP3 players, video game systems, etc. Because of the rural location, most families only have dial-up internet service. PowerPoint is something that students routinely use in other classes. It is definitely within their comfort zone.
These are the kids we have.
So I'm working with it. We've watched examples of "old style" bulleted presentations and dynamic SlideShare shows. We've discussed the importance of photos, charts and maps that complement the commentary. There is a PowerPoint checklist and a performance rubric.
Once the class is successful within these parameters, I'll loosen the restrictions and give them more creative freedom. I want them to realize that comfort zones can be cells and being uncomfortable might be very empowering.
"Of course we all have our limits, but how can you find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done." -A. E. Hotchner