So we had our last tablet PC pilot training group today, and I’m incredibly happy to say it was every bit as good as the one last week, if not better. The 15 teachers in the room were really doing serious brainwork, thinking about how the tablet can change their practice, and they shared all sorts of great ideas. And like last week, I learned a great deal and saw even more potential in the tool. Makes me really yearn for the classroom, I must say.
The cool thing was how the tablet once again prodded them to think much more deeply about the potential of digital content. The more I think about it, the more I’m coming to realize that I’ve been missing an important step in this whole rant about implementing Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom, and it’s the step that really gets teachers to get their brains around how different content is in bytes than in paper. I spent a good deal of time again today talking about the power of links, about how documents and presentation need not be flat and one dimensional but can be layered with other linked content of all different types. And once they got that, they really became receptive to the publishing part, because, obviously, to make those links meaningful, you have to share them.
For instance, the AP Environmental Studies teacher wanted his students to view “The Lorax” and then read an alternative view of the timber industry in a booklet put out by the, uh, timber industry called “The Truax”. Now the teacher had the really great idea of having students create “The Centralax” (our school name is Hunterdon Central) which would be a story about environmental issues in our area. Our discussion centered around first making the story hypertext, linking to pictures and research and other relevant content, things that could make the story richer and more interactive. Then, once we all saw the potential of doing that, it was a very small leap to sharing that story online with local middle school classes, or with inner city classes whose environmental issues would be much different from our own. And those steps could lead to really interesting online discussions with more links to pictures and graphs and experiments and…you get the idea. They got it. I think they really, finally, started to see why the ability to publish digital content to wider audiences can be truly powerful. (Or maybe it was just me…)
Point is, I’ve been wanting them to make the leap from regular paper to publishing digital content without giving them a true appreciation for digital paper. At least that what it felt like today. Bottom line, I saw a lot of head nodding and wheels turning when we dug into the potential. I know we’ve got a couple of podcast projects, a few blog ideas, and even some video creation happening with this group. And I really think because the tablet immerses them in digital content in ways no desktop can.
Two weeks until they start taking all they’ve learned into their classrooms…