I was asked yesterday while in the security line at the Atlanta Airport what was the one thing that I took away from NECC this year. I would have to say that what hit me the most was making it personal.
Let me explain. It all relates to School 2.0 and Web 2.0. With the Web 2.0 you are able to be part of a huge community, and yet be an individual. In the past, in before the Internet and other tools really got involved in education, all students were taught the same. Each student sat in a desk, in a row and were taught in the same manner. Slowly things evolved and we realized that many students needed differentiated instruction. I'm even curious if there are some students out there that are not truly Learning Disabled, but in need of a differentiated instruction program. Anyway, with cooperative learning and differentiated instruction, we started to see some changes. Then we introduced the computer and things became even more individualized. Unfortunately the beginning (and still just a wee bit) marked us using canned programs with no outside interaction. Thirty students came to the lab, sat down, worked on the computer for about 30 minutes and then went back to the classroom with no more use of technology unless it was the Television.
But with technology today, we really learned how to differentiate the programs. We use PhotoStory, iMovie, Inspiration, and other great programs. Through Web 2.0 we have started using blogs, wikis and podcasting. And actually, to give even more credit to the Web 2.0 movement, we as educators have formed communities to learn from each other. Educators, as David Warlick pointed out, are becoming even more mature and responsible for their professional growth. Communities such as School 2.0 in Ning, Inspiration's Community, and Discovery Educator Network have provided teachers with more outlets to learn and grow than schools were ever able to offer. The blogs from NECC all point to the most treasured event was the Bloggers Cafe (I wish I had gotten to more and even up there. Maybe then I too would understand Twitter and become an addict.) Through the meetings at the Bloggers Cafe, educators learned from each other and grew even more.
Twenty-first Century learning was showcased, and I personally loved the "R U 21" shirts from netTrekker. A few people look at netTrekker and they don't realize the value the program has. The ELL Channel, the new 21st Century Channel, the readability, the saved searches, the read aloud - well it empowers the students. Plus it's a safe all in one package.
Oh, and creative! Oh so creative! The arts are coming back in their own way. Through video creating, using the paint and art tools in creative ways . I wish I had made it to the Creative pre-conference with Tech4Learning. I love their products and kept hearing how great they are whenever I went around. By being creative you are allowing your students to be an individual.
So what do I take away? Through Web 2.0 and School 2.0, teachers are learning to make connections with each other - no matter what bounderies are in the way. They are sharing and empowering themselves and not waiting for their administrators to empower them. Through Web 2.0 and School 2.0, teachers are learning to individualized lessons and meet each students needs through creative means. We are learning to be creative with 1:1 computing (when available) in the 21st Century and we are making it personal and allowing our students to be individuals.
What did you take away?