Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
Recently a group of high school students visited Microsoft Research in California. I was part of a visit by a group of high school students to the Microsoft Technology Center in Waltham MA. I've heard of other field trips to other Microsoft facilities, all organized locally, around the country over the last year.
Supporting teachers by setting up field trips is something that I think is a good way to help support teachers. I've become a lot more of a fan of field trips in recent years by seeing the value to students that come from them. A lot of teachers have told me that their students don't always completely believe their teachers when they talk about how industry works. When students visit an actual work site and talk to actual professionals they generally find out that their teacher actually does know what they are talking about.
But of course they also learn more than just reinforcement of what their teacher says. They get to see that the industry is made up of real people, solving real problems that matter in the real world. Very often in visits to hi-tech companies they get to see bleeding edge technology that will not make it to their schools for years to come. This builds some excitement about the field and often increases the desire to be a part of it.
Yes it is a lot of work to set up a field trip. There are busses to arrange, paper work to process, release forms to track down and more. But I think the work is worth it. If there are hi-tech companies in your area try to find someone who can help you set up a field trip there. Failing that see if you can get someone from industry to talk to your class. A lot of professionals are happy to share information about a career that they love. But either way some exposure to professionals can be a great addition to a course.
I’ve reviewed books on blogging for business, for casual bloggers and today- teachers. Will Richardson has written a book that does a great job of introducing blogs, wikis, podcasts and related software for use by classroom teachers. This is a book by a teacher based on actual classroom experience which makes it a lot more then just theory.
Teachers need a good reason to adopt new technology and Will spends some time in this book giving examples of best practices as well as explaining “why” teachers should use these new tools. But there is not a lot of serious research out yet so this book is mostly a “How to.” That’s not a bad thing though. Teachers can really benefit from a book that has been written in there own language.
I’ve been amazed at how slow teachers have been to learn and use new technology in their classrooms. Stories to idle computers in classrooms are common and I have seen more than a few teachers resist computerized grading and attendance systems. Even when they do start using technology they often straggle to learn more then the basics. I see this a lot email lists for teachers when teachers seem not to know how to properly use such lists. They reply all when they mean to reply to an individual or they ignore clear instructions at the bottom of each email on how to remove themselves from the list and instead send a message to the whole list asking to be removed. Generally this is because no one has spent any time with them to explain what is going on. Teacher training on technology is in short supply even when you can get teachers to go for it. Books like Will’s are one of the answers.
Our students are way a head of most teachers in using social computing software. This is a very bad situation for several reasons. One is that teachers lose credibility with their students when they are ignorant of tools that students take for granted. Another is that teachers, like most people, tend to react out of fear of things they do not understand and that has serious negative consequences for the educational process. Also teachers by not incorporating new technologies miss valuable tools to teach students in new ways that better match the way modern students learn.
We need more books by teachers for teacher to help explain technology and how it fits into pedagogy. We don’t need technology for their own sake but for how they can improve the way we teach and the ways students learn.
I didn’t learn a whole lot that was new to me other than some details about how Flickr (something I haven’t had time to play with myself) works and can be used. But it was very helpful to me to have someone who had actually used blogs in the classroom reinforce the ideas I had come to on my own about how they might work. So I plan to pass this book around in hopes that people who might not listen to me might take Will seriously.
BTW I bought this book with my own money and it was worth it to me. Will Richardson blogs at http://weblogg-ed.com/.
Cross posted from http://spaces.msn.com/act2/blog/cns!9A87F3A86CB0AA3E!1584.entry