Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wake up! This Isn't Your Mama's Classroom.

At EdCamp Birmingham, I joined a couple of discussions about the general public's view of education today. We have all been aware of the negative views of education today, but one has to wonder, "What are we doing to change that perception?" When I listened to the conversations, I started wondering what I had been doing to change the public's view of what goes on in my classroom.

When you think about what the general public sees on television, in advertisements, and in movies, there is no wonder why there is such a negative perception of what education really is today. Often, you see desks in rows with a teacher's desk in front of the students and a blackboard at the front of the room. Usually, the teacher is portrayed as one who gives out seatwork, homework, and lectures about content while the students are expected to be sponges that enthusiastically absorb all of  this content.

Is this really what a classroom of today is like? Although there are still classes like this in today's schools,  there are also many teachers who are actively learning and growing professionally to meet the distinct needs of today's learners.They are becoming a facilitator of learning, guiding their students as they design their own learning path, meeting the needs of each individual student, and fostering a student-centered, collaborative environment inside and outside the classroom walls using the resources and tools that appeal to today's learner.

With all of things that teachers have to do outside of their direct teaching responsibilities, I know many of us feel like we struggle just to keep our heads above water. So how can we begin to impact society's unfair expectations?

So I went back to my original question, "What was I doing to change that perception?"  My students direct their own learning path; they collaborate with over 300 students from across the country; and they use tech tools to support their deep, meaningful learning. We are NOT the classroom that you see in today's media, but very few people outside of our collaborative partners and the students' parents are aware of what really takes place everyday in our classroom. For me, the answer was very simple, I turned it over to the students.

They are always taking photos and tweeting about what we are doing in class. They are always creating and publishing some fabulous piece of work. They are already doing all of the work, all we have to do now is send it off to the people in our community. The students and their parents have already provided us with email addresses and names of community leaders, business owners, a local newpaper reporter, and the chamber of commerce. Now once the students complete a project, we send it off to our newfound email contacts with a brief summary of the project, what it was about and how/why it was created. All of those photos my students already take, they can just turn it into a movie or slideshow (using Animoto, PhotoStory3, Image Loop, or TripWow) and send it off as well.

Our students already have the power to make decisions about their own learning. Shouldn't they be the ones to spread the exciting things that are going on in our classrooms? Think how much more it will mean to a businessman or city councilman if this is coming from a 10 year old. They will see the learner's passion and excitement about learning from the students perspective and further widening the authentic audience for students. Our students are doing amazing things and it doesn't look anything like what everyone sees on television.  Isn't it time that society woke up and realized that learning has changed a lot since they were in school? Now is the time for a wake up call! What are YOU doing to change society's perception of education?

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