Google is a Gateway Tool
I said it. Google is a Gateway Tool!
For a lot of teachers who are reluctant to try integrating technology or using devices, Google is simply a stepping stone, like a gateway tool if you will. It’s easily addictive and can lead to more confidence with digital tools. But that’s all it takes–simply a taste of what the wonderful twenty-first century has to offer and you can see the light turn on.
Yes, you probably know that I talk a lot about the awesomeness of Google and the G Suite for Education tools. In fact, I bet a lot of you just clicked on the link to this post because Google was in the title.
The truth is that there are hundreds of amazing digital tools that can help teachers design dynamic learning experiences for students.
But you have to admit, Google did change the game. Digital tools, like G Suite, that are available 24/7 and give us easy access to communicate, collaborate, create, and demonstrate thinking and learning (Was the the 4 C’s? I think it was!) have shown us how to move past using digital tools as substitutes for pen, paper, textbooks, and worksheets.
An Opportunity for Dynamic Learning
Don’t misunderstand me. Technology is not a panacea to our educational woes, but it has opened the doors for a new kind of learning. If guided with purpose toward the learning goals, we can use all of the tools at our disposal (technical or not) to maximize learning in our classrooms and help prepare students for an ever-changing postmodern world.
There are no silver bullets, no magic formulas, no acronyms that work for every teacher in every classroom. Teaching is much more of an art form. A one-size-fits-all education doesn’t work for today’s world. We have to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible and let go of static, one-and-done, activities and assignments.
But what technology can offer is an opportunity–an opportunity often missed time and time again. Technology gives us new ways to communicate, collaborate, personalize, adapt, differentiate, and share our thinking, and it has opened the door for Dynamic Learning!
Dynamic Learning is simply a way to think differently about learning, a way to help us plan and implement meaningful learning experiences for our students. Every lesson will not bring about innovation. Every lesson will not magically integrate every standard and all of the four c’s. But the Dynamic Learning Framework can help us to see the bigger picture, to find balance, and give our classroom metabolism a boost!
What is Dynamic Learning?
Dynamic learning is characterized by constant change and activity. This learning takes place organically, growing and evolving through more unconventional means, with the learner collaborating, creating, and communicating to demonstrate progress and mastery. Dynamic Learning also extends beyond the boundaries of a traditional school day, beyond the physical location of the classroom, beyond using tools as digital substitutes, or even the traditional notion of hard-and-fast due dates.
Dynamic Learning Tools?
Nope! If you were hoping for some pretty infographic with a list of tools that are going to magically turn your lessons into dynamic lessons, you missed the point.
You will never see me publish an infographic of dynamic learning tools. A digital tool is not inherently dynamic. It is the student’s use of tools and the ways it’s used to create and demonstrate learning that is dynamic. Dynamic learning might include the use of digital tools, or it might not. Technology is not a requirement for dynamic learning, but it can make dynamic learning possible.
Rethinking Assignments – To PDF or Not to PDF
A common question I receive is about how to upload PDFs to the cloud and annotate or fill them out digitally. Now, I want you to contemplate this carefully. There is always a little gray area, so I try not to immediately assume what the end goal might be. I always follow up with questions of my own to see what type of PDF document they want to use with students.
More often than not, teachers want to convert their worksheets to digital worksheets, which is not dynamic at all. This is using new tools to do old things. It’s like using twentieth-century logic in twenty-first-century situations. Again, there’s a bit of a mindset shift that must take place as you begin to think more dynamically. There may be valuable questions on that PDF, but is it worth giving up the ability to collaborate and create? Can you still integrate any of the Four Cs— critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and/or creativity?
We must think differently about the assignments. As I said, there is always some gray area. I’m sure someone reading this is getting upset about now. That’s okay. There are always exceptions. As a reading teacher, I know marking up text is an important skill and even a required skill for some assessments. I’m not saying all PDFs are bad. I just want you to ask yourself a few questions before you decide:
- What is the end goal?
- What are the learning targets?
- Is this the ONLY approach to teaching this skill or content?
- Are there any ways to integrate the Four Cs?
Rethinking Assignments – Don’t Blame the Tools.
I received a question from a teacher on social media that really illustrated to me the purpose in rethinking assignments. To protect the innocent, I will summarize the question:
“In the past, I’ve had students create Google Slides presentations and share them with me for a project. This week I assigned the same project and have several students who are showing signs they are probably copying work from former students. How can we prevent this from happening?”
The first few answers from followers were revealing. Everyone was focused on the cheating. Cheating was the culprit, the problem. Someone even suggested the teacher stop using tools like Google Slides, where it’s so easy to share and copy and paste.
They were focused on the wrong issue. Yes, cheating can be a problem, but the problem here was the assignment. The teacher was taking an old assignment, used year after year, something that originated in PowerPoint and blaming students for copied responses.
My response was to think differently about the assignment because it was as flat as West Texas.
If it’s something that can be easily duplicated, we need to consider more original product types, incorporate choice of topic and/or tool, and require reflection where they explain their ideas and reflect on learning.
Now, if you are reading this and shaking your head yes in agreement, you are a member of the choir. You get it. Unfortunately, many teachers have no idea that learning has changed or that they can stop delivering lectures and packets every day. Are you doing your part to reach the educators who don’t get it?
A lot of you may have assumed that I would write a book about Google, but you are wrong. I wrote a book about learning, in fact, a guide to help teachers Shake Up Learning!
The ideas shared above all come from my new book, Shake Up Learning: Practical Ideas to Move Learning From Static to Dynamic.
- Is it a book about technology? In some ways, yes!
- Is it a book about good pedagogy? Definitely, yes!
- Is it a book filled with tips and ideas that any teacher can use? YES, YES, YES!
- Is this a book for new teachers? Yes!
- Is this a book for seasoned teachers? Yes!
- Is this a book for super tech-savvy? Yes!
- Is this a book for the technophobe? Yes!
Pre-Order Shake Up Learning, Get The Dynamic Learning Workshop For FREE! ($99 Value)
If you pre-order between now and April 3, 2018, you can get FREE access to the companion course for the book, The Dynamic Learning Workshop. Don’t just read the book, experience Shake Up Learning and bring the learning to life.
Here’s how to claim your FREE Gift!
- Pre-Order the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
- Forward your receipt to presale[at]shakeuplearning.com.
- On April 4th, when the book and course are released, you will receive an email with information on how to access the workshop. (**All receipts must be received no later than 4/14/18)
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