Let’s see now…it’s been almost a year since I decided to take the plunge and do this speaking/consulting thing full time. And in that time I’ve done 71 events of various types a number which, in itself, boggles my mind. But what’s really mind boggling is the number of students I’ve seen at those sessions throughout the year.
I started thinking about this because of the students who have been commenting on this blog of late. George Mayo’s students have been chiming in on their experiences with self-publishing at Lulu, and Diane Albanese’s kids have been commenting on their work with wikis in her classroom. (Btw, I love what IanE says: “The kids that work on this page take this like itâ€™s their life. You see them taking the pictures and writing comments and pages during classes just because they care about it so much.”) Personally, I love hearing their voices.
But here’s the thing. In the past year, I’ve maybe seen a total of 25 students who were attending the events I’ve been at to be a part of the conversation, not just to showcase the work they are doing in the classroom. I think those showcases are great, mind you, but I wonder why we aren’t inviting kids to these conferences or workshops as a way to keep the presenters (myself included) honest, number one, but also to help teachers understand the realities of their worlds. Alan November has been saying this for years, btw…
One of the moments in my presentations that always amazes me is when I point out that upwards of 55% of kids are using social networking sites, and then I ask how many teachers in the room have one. It’s rare to get over 5%. That’s just one sign of the disconnect, one that I think having students in the room could really help to assuage.
(Photo “final exam” by dcJohn)
AJ Cann says
How many of those events have been during times when kids would have been in school or unable to travel Will? Not that I suspect that that’s the major reason, but it could be one factor.
Brandt Schneider says
Reading Prensky, et.al. about engaging students in decision making led me to think much mroe about school leadership.
Many schools don’t even include teachers in their own professional development planning. But imagine if we leapfrogged that paradigm and went straight to a paradigm where students choose the workshops their teachers went to. Not a perfect world, but it does put the emphasis where it should be–in the classroom.
On the same note, if 1/4 of conference attendees were students and they “voted with their feet” it might seriously change the content of these conferences. Would the focus truly return to the student?
Luke Walsh says
Will, does this mean that you will start marketing your talks to students? Perhaps you could encourage teachers to bring a student or two by offering free passes for students who attend with their teacher. Furthermore, do you have any stats about parents showing up to your talks? There are so many individuals involved in the education circle and the internet appears to the medium to connect everyone, parents, teacher, administration, politicians, and community. Therefore, may your talks be exposed to individuals from each area of the expansive education system.
Tim Thompson says
I had some interesting experience with college students of late. I set up blogs and wikis for class use and try to prime it with required weekly entries, I tried to use BaseCamp for an interdisciplinary project, the college provides both eCollege and another CMS type system… None of it seems to take off. Then I look at what is going on with them on MySpace, and especially on Facebook. They have really formed community, and interesting little groups keep popping up like “Vaughan-Williams’ music is underappreciated.” (Mine are music majors). They comment on their classes, professors, concert and recital preparations, share photos of same, etc, and actually have some pretty interesting discussions. Not as fully integrated into supporting the classroom learning as I would like, but it’s natural and organic. It’s not the technology that is the problem, it’s something more like meeting them where they live…
Mike Radday says
Including students in professional development makes a tremendous difference. It’s an important lesson we learned here as a result of your presentation. The disconnect between kids and adults continues to grow. This is truly the new digital divide – and likely a much tougher one to fix than the traditional digital divide of access to technology.
I am interested in the discussion about the students but at the moment another part of the entry caught my attention. Will you say….
“One of the moments in my presentations that always amazes me is when I point out that upwards of 55% of kids are using social networking sites, and then I ask how many teachers in the room have one. Itâ€™s rare to get over 5%. Thatâ€™s just one sign of the disconnect, one that I think having students in the room could really help to assuage”
So I am wondering what role you see for social networking for educators. Various blogs have been talking recently about the Ning site Classroom 2.0 which Steve started and some are seeing no point in it…why not just stick with blogs they ask…. Maybe we still just don’t get what the students get…which is all the more reason to spend time over there.
Will Richardson says
Barbara: I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that, and I think the point is that very few teachers understand any of the social applications of the Web right now. And that’s why more and more I’m less interested (but not uninterested) in the uses of these tools in classrooms as much as I am about the uses of these tools in educators’ personal learning. I think Classroom 2.0 can provide a valuable introduction for those who have no experience or context for this discussion. For me, and for others who have been swimming in these waters for a while, the small pieces model is more comfortable somehow, and so the converged environment of Classroom 2.0 isn’t as appealing. But that in no way diminishes the potential effectiveness of it for people who don’t use the tools already. And the other piece is that students don’t think about this as much as we do, they just realize they can make connections using these tools and they do. It’s very different from what we’re used to.
Arthus Erea says
We, the students, are certainly ready to participate in the discussion and you would be surprised by how many students have great ideas. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. One major reason that we students don’t participate in these discussions as much is because school times severely limit our ability to attend them. Additionally, I don’t see people sending out invitations to students very much. Then again, living in a tiny state like Vermont is also limiting in the fact that all the events are too far away. That’s why I feel that we should be doing far more web-based events. They can be setup with video conferencing and are extremely usable/interactive. Just an idea!
Andrew Pass says
Will, When I do PD workshops in schools I always ask the principal, or my contact, to invite students into the workshop. Typically 1/2 the day, the morning, is spent with just teachers and the afternoon is spent with teachers and students. (Each teacher invites one student to join them.) I have found that in this way teachers and students can work together to develop collaborative projects.
My response to Tim Thompson and Barbara regarding student and teacher use of social networking for educational goals is liability.
On Facebook, if students mess up or post what they want and it gets edgy, no one cares. If they do so on an ‘official’ group site, they have to worry about consequences for their grades or their reputation with the professor or their academic career. I know people who were sent to alt. ed. schools for relatively minor things in high school…they make things work, but it’s a major obstacle towards completing your classes and achieving what would otherwise be more within reach.
If teachers mess up in a social networking setting, they could lose their jobs, or get a mark on their name forever.
A little bit of it it all is that not every student and teacher is active on social networking sites in the way that you’d like them to be active on educational group sites. A little bit is that it’s a hassle to do one more login and check one more site. A little is that they’re both drained by boring lectures read directly from PowerPoint. But nobody trusts anyone to make sensible decisions about consequences if something goes wrong.
Sylvia Martinez says
I can tell you from personal experience that bringing students to conferences is tough, but worth it. We also have a number of schools send students to PD. They swear by it.
There are always logistics issues, and conferences don’t make it easy either. I’d love your help trying to make it easier and more commonplace.
By the way, we had a guest student blogger last week. She was fabulous — articulate, reflective and honest.
beth Lepper says
It would be very interesting to have students present in one of your presentations and to get their perspective about how technology is being used. I am sure that there would be some very creative suggestions made from the students. Can any of us remember when we were younger and our imaginations ran wild. As adults we are so ingrained with the yay buts….of why and idea won’t work.
Just this morning I heard on the news how they are discussing the tunnels being developed under the English channel and the possibility of a tunnel from Siberia to Alaska and how it would take 20 years to create and what the possibilities would be. Does anyone remember the
Alaskan oil pipeline and the undaunting task that it was to create…I am not saying that it was a good thing or a bad thing…just that it took imagination and a great deal of problem solving and creativity. This type of thinking is what we need to make solutions to be developed for a new way of learner for us as educators and for our students.
David Jakes says
Where are the kids? They are in the 6X5 grid you have pictured in your post…
Two of our students will be presenting on their work on wikis at TechForum Chicago. They’ve been planning their presentation on the wiki and here is a comment I found striking, and it is related to your last line about having students in the room could help to assuage (great word) the disconnect. The comment from the 9th grader:
Some teachers would’nt be able to do this [use wikis] because they don’t know much about computers. We would have to teach them to teach us.
Here is another question. Where are all the teachers? The district I work with only invited Technology Facilitators and Media Coordinators to attend the local technology conference. Principals don’t want to pay for subs and a conference fee. They also don’t want teachers out of the classroom.
Luckily, I was able to bring 4 teachers as part of my outreach program. They were like kids in a candy store. On the way home one of them told me she was so excited about the new things she had learned that was was going to have a hard time sleeping that night.
AJ and Arthus are absolutely right. Students are busy in school during these conferences. I invited my daughter, a sophmore in high school to attend a local technology conference. She wanted to attend some of the sessions on digital photography but had to attend school. I even reminded her it was Take Your Child to Work day and she would have been given a lawful excuse but she had to take some important tests.
I would have to agree with Dottie — and wonder where the “teachers” are. At the last 4 conferences I have attended, the population has mostly been content users of tech who want to expand their knowledge — rather than teachers who want to learn what we are chatting about.
As for students — though I do think we would be glad to see them, I bet most of them would be bored to tears to hear our triumphs on skills they think are simplistic. However, I still would love to see them a part.
Kern Kelley says
Great question Will, I have been wondering this exact thing. Where are the students in all of our 2.0 conversations? Not as a topic or show pieces, but as participants. Last year our district ponied up the money to send a student with me to Alan November’s conference (He met you there actually.) This year we plan to send a couple students and Alan asked me to have them interview everyone there they can and create something from the audio.
The student came back last year and presented to our faculty. The perspective he gave to what was covered at BLC06 was so much easier for the staff to handle coming from one of their students, than from another adult. In all of our tech PD we have students as mentors for teachers as a matter of course. That way, when the day is over, they know they have a student close by for more support whenever they need it. And (more importantly) the students learn the content better than they ever would by any exam, they have to teach it.