Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Reflections on Teams, Learning, and your Digital Footprint
By Barbara Bray    September 23, 2009 -- 12:18 PM

I always tell myself to stop, think, reflect on your day. I haven't done that as much reflecting as I would like. Today, I decided to share my reflections on what I think about school today and what learning means to me.

I work at home. All of our eCoaches either work at home or after their regular jobs. That's what's so cool about working online. You can do this anywhere at anytime. Schools are still designed around the agricultural model and we seem to be stuck with it just like we're stuck with the QWERTY keyboard. I type fast. I'm used to this keyboard but it was created in the late 1800s to keep the keys from sticking together. I'm not sure I'd be happy if they changed the way we type.

I'm used to it. That's what I was taught. Let's not change it if it's working. Have you heard these comments before? I'm repeating them about the keyboard. Yikes!

Change is tough especially if the future is unknown and you hear terrible things if this happens or that happens.  This is especially tough when you consider the debates on health care and how some of the issues are blown way out of proportion. I'm sure you are on one side or the other. I'm not going to debate that here. But the same thing is happening about schools.

Why change schools if our test scores are high? School worked for me. Why change it? I want my children to have the same education I had.  I've heard and read these comments from parents and teachers.

Our children are different than we were 30 years ago. In fact, they are different than even 5 years ago. One example is video games. My husband and I bought a Wii. We've been playing Mario Cart. (Okay - so we're living our second childhood) We were getting really good at it, we thought. Until we played our son-in-law who had not raced that race before. He beat us.  I've been trying to compete with teams online on Weboggle and Scrabble. I'm really good at these face-to-face, but they were beating me - really bad. I couldn't figure it out until I messaged one or two of them to ask them how they were doing so well. They told me that they work in teams.

I started to grumble, "that's not fair." Then I stopped and thought about it. Teams? Actually, that's cool.

So I asked them again. Are the people on your teams working in the same physical place? All of them answered "No, we are all online and many of us don't even know each other." That was interesting. I asked them how they found each other. One of them mentioned that when they played the game, they saw others who were at their level and asked to join them as a team.

So schools in the US are not tracking anymore, but kids are. They are looking for people not even at the same age but at the same level as they are. Why? Could it be they like to win?  If they find others like themselves, no matter where they live, then they have a better chance of winning. They probably play against each other to push each other farther. Is it winning or building skills?

Right now schools test individuals. Teamwork is rare. Teachers are not taught how to group students and when they do it is with different levels. That could be cool, but many students are told who they can group with. Guess that's like work. What if teachers set up projects where students self-selected their teams no matter what age, what classroom, and they based it on ability or each others' strengths? That's back to tracking or ability-grouping. We're not supposed to do that. mmmmmmm...

I decided to revisit self-organized learning where students of any age organize how they learn around what they need to do to meet their learning goals. A teacher, adviser, coach, parent, or tutor helps guide them to meet their goals. Starting as a toddler, their parents could start an ePortfolio by collecting evidence of growth. It could be in the form of pictures, videos, or audio files. Many parents are doing this already by uploading pictures to FlickR and videos to Facebook.

This could be the start of their digital footprint: an ePortfolio using social networking tools.

What if we worked with students as early as Pre-school to work in teams so each of the members of the team were their to support each other and spur each other on to do well. We could teach teachers Pre-K through University level to work with students on their ePortfolios and to monitor their progress in developing their digital footprint. This could be the beginning of really caring about each other. What a thought!

Categories: "Teams" "Learning" "Digital Footprint" "Eportfolios" "Schools" "Change" "Social Networking" "Groups"

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