Last semester I examined the ISTE Student Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, this semester I will start my exploration of the ISTE Teacher Standards. In an effort to learn the difference between the various sets of ISTE Standards (student, teacher, coach, administrator and computer science educator), I scoured the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) website to find the following description: “The family of ISTE Standards works in concert to support students, educators and leaders with clear guidelines for the skills, knowledge and approaches they need to succeed in the digital age” (“ISTE Standards,” 2015). I was excited to find this short video produced by ISTE that gives a short overview of the purpose behind the standards and why they are important to successfully implementing technology into education.
While I am still processing the difference between the many sets of standards, I am approaching my exploration this semester from the perspective of a librarian who is there to serve both students and teachers in order to take their learning and teaching to the next level. This week, I was given the following question and asked to explore it in a way that it could be embedded into my own professional practice:
“How can teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments?”
This question is taken directly from the first ISTE Teacher Standard – Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. After ruminating on this question, I developed a question of my own:
What role do librarians play in facilitating an inquiry-based project that enables students to connect with professionals in the field (interviewing scientists via Skype, chatting with authors via Twitter, ect.)?
As I mentioned earlier, my focus as a school librarian is to enhance what is already happening in the classroom. In the past I have facilitated projects where students created stop-motion animation videos to demonstrate their understanding of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, made book trailers for titles they read during a classroom reading challenge, and written tweets to their favorite authors to ask burning questions. All of these experiences were mere add-ons to the great things that were already happening in the classroom. After looking at the first ISTE Standard for Teachers, I realized that I want to find ways to enrich my fifth graders’ inquiry-based projects. I have created several resource pages through our school LibGuide site, but what if I could take that exploration to the next level? What if students had the opportunity to consult with professionals in the field? Ask them questions about their topic and start a discussion that leads them further and further into discovery?
In conducting my research I found that Skype is, hands down, the most commonly cited digital tool to facilitate interviews with outside consultants. Educator, Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell has compiled a list of ways to use Skype in the classroom, ranging from interviewing astronauts to collaborating with fellow teachers on the other side of the world. Skype has actually developed its own branch of educational resources to promote global citizenship, Skype in the Classroom hosts a directory of professionals that teachers can “invite” into their classroom to talk with students. Skype also urges authors and schools to connect, listing available authors and illustrators directly on their site. This is an area I explored in-depth in an earlier blog post and while I think this is an excellent opportunity, I would like to see other professionals practicing the same openness and transparency.
The idea of consulting with professionals is not a new one. One of my distinct memories of sixth grade was being given the task of interviewing a member of the community as part of a local history unit. A meaningful experience that clearly left a lasting impression, but these were already people that I interacted with on a regular basis. Our students are expected to be global citizens, to step into the world comfortable and confident in making connections with people from all walks of life. Technology Integration Specialist, A.J. Juliani found, as a new teacher, that “the type of teaching I had been exposed to and grew up with […] was quickly becoming a past practice” (2014). It’s not enough to interview people within the same zip code anymore, students need to be given the opportunity to connect with people regardless of their geographic location. And it’s our job, as educators, to provide them with that experience.
By inviting professionals into our classroom, we not only flatten the walls, but also bring to life the proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. Imagine a classroom where you, as a student, learn about what is important to you and your teachers include: an astronaut, an artist, a medieval historian, an organic farmer, a novelist, and a baker. If you’re exploring a topic that those professionals cannot help you dive into, you’re welcome to contact consultants from around the world. What an amazing educational experience, it sounds like a dream. Fortunately, technology has made this dream a reality. These experts can be invited into our classrooms, allowing students to delve into their passions and follow their interests. As this dream classroom comes to life, the “sage on the stage” model is quickly shattered. Juliani explains, “Today’s learners can find out what a professor at MIT thinks about the future of robots… And [educators] have to be ok that his/her answer [is] most likely much better than ours ever would be” (2014). If we can let go of the control and the expert status that teachers of the past depended on, we can provide our students with amazing opportunities.
Things to Think About
- The goal of this experience is for students to take ownership of their own learning, with students finding the expert, making contact with them and inviting them “into” the classroom to share their knowledge. With that being said, these are learned skills that should be modeled to students in the initial stages. One sub-section of the first ISTE Teacher Standard states that educators should “model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments” (ISTE, 2008). It is important to be incredibly transparent with students when locating and connecting with outside consultants, demonstrating the processes, successes and challenges.
- These are professionals we are inviting into our classrooms and libraries, it is imperative that the students understand this and are prepared in how to conduct themselves. Librarian and frequent Skyper, Shannon McClintock Miller shared that behavioral challenges can be alleviated by being prepared: “When [the class] started out, we practiced Skyping into each others’ rooms. I would read from my library office to the kids down the hall over Skype. We were then able to teach them about Skype, how to behave, that it was just an “extension” of their classroom. All those silly behaviors that we see at first when kids are put in front of a camera can be talked about and addressed” (Lazar, 2014).
- While I did not explore this area in-depth, Twitter can be another great tool for students to connect with outsiders. Not only is it a great way to reach professionals, but it also requires students to hone in on what they want to ask and express their thoughts in a succinct way. One possibility for launching this activity is by having students use a 140-character template, such as the following:
I opened this post by asking, “What role do librarians play in facilitating an inquiry-based project that enables students to connect with professionals in the field (interviewing scientists via Skype, chatting with authors via Twitter, ect.)?” Why are librarians in a position to facilitate these connections? Anyone in education is well-aware that there are simply not enough hours in the day. While these experiences are undoubtedly meaningful, the lengthly amount of time to make them happen cannot always be justified in the schedule. My job description is to enhance what is happening in the classroom. To open the world and help to develop passionate, lifelong learners. What a great way to bring that responsibility to fruition.
- Have you tried connecting with professionals? If so, how did you interact with them? (Skype, Twitter, ect.)
- Did you connect as an entire class or did students communicate one-on-one?
- What was the outcome? Short-term? Long-term?
- What advice do you have for us newbies?
- If you haven’t, is this something you would be interested in doing in the future? How do you envision it going? What are your concerns?
- I would love your thoughts, I encourage you to use the comment section below to reach out.
Global schoolnet: linking kids around the world. (2011). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.globalschoolnet.org/
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2015). ISTE standards. Retrieved April 9, 2015, from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards
ISTE. (2015, January 9). ISTE standards: preparing students for the digital age [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Beb45Q4dsig
Juliani, A. (2014, January). 10 commandments of innovative teaching [Blog post]. Retrieved from AJ Juliani: Teach Different website: http://ajjuliani.com/10-commandments-innovative-teaching/
Lazar, T. (2014, January 27). Students, authors and Skype: believe the hype. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) website: http://taralazar.com/2014/01/27/students-authors-and-skype-believe-the-hype/
Messner, K. (2014). The Skyping renaissance. School Library Journal, 60(11), 27. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2014/11/technology/the-skyping-renaissance/#_
Noonoo, S. (2014, March 26). Global collaboration projects that go way beyond Skype. THE Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/03/26/global-collaboration-projects-that-go-way-beyond-skype.aspx
Sharp, A. (2014, November 21). Quad City students Skype with children’s book authors. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from WQAD 8 Quad Cities website: http://wqad.com/2014/11/21/quad-city-students-skype-with-childrens-book-authors/
Skype in the classroom. (2015). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from https://education.skype.com/
Stewart-Mitchell, J. (n.d.). Skype in the classroom. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://teachingwithtechnologyhub.weebly.com/skype-in-the-classroom.html