Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Week in the World of Google

This week Chris Penny and I had held a Google workshop for educators. We had students from education, accounting and even government. Despite the variety of fields, Google tools could be used to increase productivity, improve collaboration, and support student learning. What makes web 2.0 tools like Google apps so valuable? There is:
                         1. Nothing to install.
                         2. Nothing to buy.
                         3. Access from any connected device.

Students were introduced to Google Drive as a place to create and store documents in the cloud and collaborate effortlessly and paperlessly. They also learned the vast number of ways to refine their Google search to yield better results. The week ended with students using the tools they used throughout the week to create their own Google site for their classroom. Using a project-based approach, the students became the teachers demonstrating tools and their application in the classroom.

This week was also my introduction to the Nexus 7 tablet, the Android tablet created by Google. This small, lightweight tablet was excellent for managing Google tools from anywhere with an Internet connection. This device has potential as a contender for mobile computing in education.

What amazed me most about this week is how quickly teachers can embrace and apply technology with the right support and encouragement. Many of our students had little experience using Google tools and by the end of the week, many of them integrated multiple tools to complete their final projects. This is encouraging for the future of technology integration if teachers are provided with, and take advantage of, training but more importantly, support from administration and fellow teachers. Creating supportive learning environments allows teachers to work collaboratively and see each other as resources.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letting Students Fail

Photo by John Liu 
At the ISTE conference in June, Chris Tully presented on the motivated and engaged classroom. He said that as teachers we need to "let students learn by failing." The idea of allowing my students to fail made me very uncomfortable. I had always believed that the mission of education was to help students succeed and to me that meant preventing failure at all costs. As a teacher, it is hard for me to watch my students fail especially when my intervention could prevent that failure. Since that day I have been wrestling with how helpful is "too helpful." I began to wonder if my continual need to step in was helping my students or ultimately hurting them. As I wrestled with the idea of allowing students to fail, I reflected on my own experience as a learner. Many of the things that I struggled with the most were the ones that I worked the hardest at and learned the most from.

In his blog post on resisting being helpful, Dan Rockwell suggests that there are benefits to failure:
         1. Struggle strengthens.
         2. Failure humbles.
         3. Defeat opens hearts and minds.

What I had failed to realize is that failure can teach students just as much (if not more) as success. What brought me a moment of clarity is when Rockwell states: "The simple question is, 'Will pulling back [or stepping in] aid development?'" At the end of the day, what I want is to aid in my students' cognitive, academic, and social development. There will be times when stepping in will be the way to go and times when stepping back would be better. 

What are your thoughts on allowing students to fail?