Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why Bother?

I am delighted to be in London, staying near St John's Wood, in the north, in a hotel room that overlooks the Lord Howe (I think) cricket field(the one with the strange space-capsule can tell I do not follow cricket), overlooks Regent Park and looks down a street where a multitude of red double-decker buses go up and down! London!

I am here for the ECIS IT conference, this happens every 2 years. last one was in Dusseldorf. This is a small but fertile event, a meeting of excellent IT minds and passionate educators. I am looking forward to what the next few days will bring.

This morning, however, I just finished a Skype call with Jeff Plaman at International School Beijing. Jeff and his colleagues are running a PD course for their teachers and today/this week the topic is collaboration. I blogged in preparation for this a while ago at Collaboration: Concept, Power and Magic. During the call I was asked a couple of questions that I want to blog briefly about now.

First of all, Why Bother? was a question that came after talking about quantity and quality of online work and how educators need to monitor this in global collaborative projects. This all sounds like a lot of work of course, and a good follow-up question that everyone wants to ask is, Why Bother?
I believe we have a responsibility to bring real-world projects using emerging technologies into our classrooms. We owe it to our students to bother! We owe it to ourselves to bother! We owe it to our administration and our governing bodies (including the systems that bind us to an exam-focused outcome) to bother! Change can happen, change can be good. Implementing real-world, authentic global projects into the classroom will start to change what you do, how you do it and how you view your role as an educator. Yes, I know it is good to collaborate within a school....and if you are doing that you are ahead of the majority of schools in the world already, however, to then extend or 'flatten' the walls of your classroom to include external classrooms makes this a richer experience. Everyday I hear amazing stories of success, of confidence gains, of enhanced understanding of the world, from teachers who have put their classes into global projects and have never looked back in terms of what they do positively for the students.
Do we have a choice? I say Why not bother?

Anothere question that came up, and has come up often at my school, Qatar Academy, in recent months, is What about the Content?
OK, I am a little left of centre on this. Content is not king, content is important, essential even, but it is not king. It is time teachers and administrators decided that content is subservient to higher order educational objectives and ran their schools accordingly. It is time teachers stopped being so precious and protective of 'their' content area.
As I mentioned on the Skype call, what is the good of content if we do not DO SOMETHING with it? For example, what is the good of learning about the Iraq invasion if we are not able to discuss this with someone living int eh Middle East who may have a different perspective. What is the good of knowing facts and figures and writing about them just for one teacher, one examiner and perhaps a fwe classmates? How will this change the world? How will this foster cultura understanding and start to provide solutions to global problems? How are we going to teach our students that they must co-exist in the world and be able to problem-solve and collaborate if we keep telling them content is king?

OK, enough ranting.......the sun is out! the day here in London is starting...I am off to meet colleague Chris Chater from the American School of Paris, and we will discuss, amongst other things, how to get a music-based global project off the ground...something we have been wanting to do for months now.

Parting message: Do find the time to is important for you, the students, and the world in general.
I look forward to your responses to this post.

1 comment:

sinikka said...

Hi Julie

What a great post that reflects my thoughts exactly! As a teacher of EFL I often fall into the trap of letting curricular and national test requirements get in the way of actually letting students develop valuable language skills for life. Natural use of the language and communication then become secondary to ‘content’ in the form of learning grammar rules or memorizing highly specialized vocabulary in total isolation. Put these students into English communication situations and many of them are still the silent and uncommunicative Finns that earlier generations were criticized for. Try and put them into situations that call for intercultural communication skills, essential in today’s world, and many are totally lost with their ethnocentric attitudes.

Breaking old educational beliefs and practice is hard, though. Too often I am asked, by administrators, the media or colleagues, for proof that the international online projects I work with have resulted in students’ improved scores in the written, academic, totally unauthentic national final exams. Of course I can show no positive link there, after which nobody is interested in hearing what else the students may have learned instead.

Why do I still bother? Because, as you, I passionately believe in what I do.
Thank you, Julie, for being such an inspiration to so many educators around the world!