Your Epitaph is Yours to Earn, Your Legacy is Yours to Make

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This is Not a Telling Classroom, This is a Partnership

As I sit and read Marc Prensky’s Teaching Digital Natives I am in absolute awe. I have done a lot of 21st century ED reading this summer but nothing has floored me the way that Prensky has. This book is written with such ease and exactness that it gives me hope that any educator that reads it will undoubtably begin to take the crucial steps to create a partnership in their classroom, not a dictatorship. I must tell you that I am only 30 pages in but from page one my only wish was that I could read faster and remember every single word! Prensky argues that a partnership must be made in the classroom in order for students to excel in a globally connected, every changing world and if this does not occur we are not only doing our students a disservice, we are doing the world a disservice. It truly is that big of a deal. Prensky lays out the basics of what must be consistent in the partnering classroom for this to occur. He describes partnering as “letting students focus on the part of the learning process that they can do best, and letting teachers focus on the part of the learning process that they can do best” (pg. 13). Simple enough, right? He then goes on to outline what responsibilities both the student and teacher must take on within this partnership. Students are responsible for 1. Finding and following their passion 2. Using whatever technology is avaliable 3. Researching and finding information 4. Answering questions and sharing their thoughts and opinions 5. Practicing when properly motivated 6. Creating presentations in text and multimedia. Teachers are then responsible for 1. Creating and asking students the right questions 2.Giving students guidance 3. Putting material in context 4.Explaining one-on-one 5. Creating rigor 6. Ensuring quality. 

Presnky is by no means saying that this switch is easy, especially for teachers who came into the field being taught that telling is teaching, however he is arguing that it is necessary. By creating a classroom community that is focused on an equal balance of teacher and student responsibility where passion, questions, quality, and creative innovating are at the core we are ensuring that we are giving our students a place to grow into the best possible citizens they can be. Citizens that value education, individuality, and equality. Citizens that can adapt, create, and problem solve. Citizens that can communicate through any portal with any person because they are pepared and willing to do so. This is not another education theory or reform push that never gets the fuel it needs to ignite lasting change, it is what is already happening and what must continue to happen in order for our students to be life ready, not just life eligable. 

As I read Digital Natives I couldn’t help but think of how the use of Schoology in my classroom is going to support the partnership of teacher and student in multiple ways in my classroom. I  cannot emphasize enough how lucky I am to be an educator with 1:1 macbooks in my classroom, and I know that this makes embedding purposeful technology use into my classroom much easier, but I still truly believe I would find a way to include it in whatever way possible even if I was not so lucky. At ISTE 2011 I had several converations with educators who were doing all sorts of amazing things through BYOD (bring your own device) programs, and making due with what computers and mobile devices  they had available to them. I was also recently inspired by a fellow new teacher via twitter who holds my same passion and excitement for Schoology, and was in disbelief when I found out he only had access to three computers but was still planning on using Schoology in his room in as may ways as I do. By developing a quality question and posting it on Schoology through the discussion choice I saw my students bloom. I was reading indepth, thought provoking responses from shy students who barely spoke during class discussions, I was seeing students chat in real time about critical topics. I read along as students voiced their opinions, and backed them up. I quickly realized that I could enhance formative assessment feedback through Schoology discussions and began jumping in the conversation with the students, commenting on their posts during class, and watching them respond back immediately to me and their fellow classmates, and it didn’t stop there. Once class was over, I could go back and read through the whole discussion, comment on students I missed, and keep the discussion open for them to come back and respond at their own accord. I also had all of my data saved online within the Schoology course. No more stacks of paper, or wasting time organizing alphabetically and tediously handwriting feedback, it was all there! Often I would read a couple of the students comments from the day before to get the vocal dicussion going the next day so that we could build and continue learning, but also so the students voice’s that were not as vocal were equally heard. The discussion aspect of Schoology is what truly hooked me and once we got comfortable with that, we jumped into the several other equally effective aspects that Schoology offers.I have been planning like a crazy person all summer to ensure I use more quality questions in my classroom this upcoming school year and Schoology is central to giving my students an equal responsibility in their learning, as well as, providing them a virtual outlet to prepare for life outside of the classroom.

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