Snow Days off Anymore?

For the past few days Mother Nature, via a blizzard and then the snow version of a left hook a few days later, has provided everyone in Maryland an opportunity to pause and many, many opportunities to shovel. While I have had no choice but do the latter, I have gone beyond the pause to learn from many educators through Twitter and online conferences. In jumping from one blog to another, I came across the above video and my thoughts turned to, of all things, my summer vacation plans and the school grant I hope to get to study more on the video's topic.

I love this mash-up video by Punya Mishra for several reasons, but what is most interesting to me is that it confirms one side of an argument that I am having with myself (it's usually the only chance I ever have of winning one) while at the same time confirming the other side of the same argument!

On one side is the incorporation of one aspect of technology (in this case a video of a lecture but it could be a Powerpoint presentation, etc.) into education. More teachers are putting more content online for students to reference. This is A great use of the technology but not THE use. The idea is that students use technology and they will flock to our learning because it is on the computer. I don't think it takes long for them to realize that it is the same as handouts except in a different form. But it is a form that should be used just as writing and recording tools have developed over time. It's just not healthy to confuse storage and retrieval methods with learning.

On the other hand, a video of a lecture (or lesson) does provide 24/7 and repeated access to the delivery of an idea. If the student did not understand the lesson, maybe another viewing (or more) will help. The video pokes fun at the fact that a lecture is still a lecture, no matter what form. I agree, but a digital version becomes a lecture that is not only portable but also one that can be commented on, annotated, and even mashed-up. The possibilities are endless.

But it should not stop there. If a teacher is explaining a topic to a student who does not understand, they usually try another approach. Can this be replicated online? Should other students create explanations of the same ideas ("this is how I figured it out") to add to the list for students to choose from? These can be kept from year to year and even "rated" like the comments and reviews given to movies and books online ("was this helpful?"). This is just a beginning to the front end of learning and technology can provide so many avenues.

While it's not surprising that winter storms would lead me to thoughts of summer, it was not always the case that my learning continued and was inspired on snow days. This time it helped me to begin my summer studies on what technology will work best for my students and my colleagues. Step one seems to be looking at the content and turning it into a virtual file cabinet. The next step for me is to examine the many ways my students can learn and teach others using this technology. Ultimately, the video shows one power of technology while putting down a "lesser" power of the same technology. The good news is that there is room for both. Just as there is room for several snow days to learn, think, and write.

P.S. As I was writing this post, I received a message from Christian Long through Twitter containing this link to a video by Christina Jenkins. Its relevance to my post and timing couldn't have been more perfect.


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