Welcome Published 2006-03-19

Welcome to Digital Crosswalks!

Demands on educators have always been sizable, especially today with focus on standards, testing, and a general feeling that we need to fix a failing system. Thomas Friedman, in The World is Flat, describes the deficiencies of our educational system and product. His work has stirred a great number of educators to look for reform through technology.

In this blog, I will offer my insight (or at least opinion) on various topics involving education and technology. As with any writer, I present with my own biases. My background is in both education and technology. I began my teaching in a classroom with 25 computers back in the late 80's, and thus have always viewed technology as a possible tool to enchance teaching.

I also am a constructivist. I believe that for learning to take place, the student must "experience" what they are learning. I don't suggest that to learn about the Holocaust, one needs to be interned in a concentration camp. However, to really understand the horror of the event, a student must do more than just hear a lecture on the subject. Interviewing a survivor, writing a narrative from the point of view of a child who lost her entire family, or playing the part of a Nazi in a reenactment all give the learner more understanding of the Holocaust.

I believe in the importance of formative assessment. "Assessment" can be a tool for enhancing learning, not just seeing how much a student can remember. Integral to my vision is a class culture that allows students to fail and then learn from their mistakes, a culture that encourages students to take risks and rewards students for helping each other. I have been paralyzed by fear of failing which resulted in good grades but uninspired work. I have also been in environments where I was given permission to blunder. I came away with much more understanding which was reflected in a superior work product.

Finally, I believe that great teachers work very hard at their job. Time is and will always be a scarce commodity. But time should not be an excuse for not exploring ways to improve our craft. In a conversation with a colleague, I mentioned various technologies that can be used to enhance learning. He reacted by saying that teachers don't need such technologies, they need more time. He was only interested in technology that will save teachers time. To me, that is a very short-sited view. We have (as my father has always reminded me) time to do whatever we want in this world. It is just a matter of priority. What can be of higher priority than to be better at educating our youth?

It is with these biases that I approach this blog. I hope to offer ideas on how we can use technology to expand learning and perhaps even redefine what we mean as learning.