The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: July 9, 2010

Participation in the Virtual Staffroom podcast – Re-thinking #edchat?

Last night @RobinThailand invited me to join a Virtual Staffroom podcast.  So I fired up Skype and accepted an invite from someone I didn’t really know before, @betchaboy.  I was following him but I don’t think we had chatted much before last night.

He runs a fantastic podcast called the Virtual Staffroom.  He describes it as, bringing a  bunch of people together to chat. Last night, the topic was open and we started with copyright law because of a question one of the people in the conversation asked. Our discussion ranged from copyright law, to creative commons, to finding sources of images, using iPods in the classroom, DRM of said iPods, whether or not the iPad is useful in education.  It was a great conversation and it felt just like we were in a staffroom discussing stuff at lunch.

The difference of course was that we had 6 people chatting from 4 different countries, representing 3 different nationalities.  A conversation about copyright law is going to be richer with such different experiences of what the law actually is, and how it affects education in our different countries.  About half of our conversation was about copyright in general, with consensus being that the current laws don’t make much sense.  If the purpose of copyright law is to protect innovation, we agreed the current laws are failing to do this.

However, aside from what we talked about, the structure for me really worked.  There were some small technical changes, but to me, this is what #edchat should be.  We have this gigantic "virtual room" full of people chatting during our weekly sessions, and while I enjoy the exchange of ideas, it has gotten too big to handle.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to handle the flow of information during this conversation.  

If our purpose is to create conversation between educators, and exchange ideas, then I think we should look at our format more closely.  Is it really achieving that?  When the actual chat is over, #edchat continues more informally and works really well but when the official chat is on, I can’t really follow the entire conversation, nor would I want to.  I likened #edchat to 500 people shouting in a room, all trying to be heard at once to a colleague, and once she tried it, she agreed.

I’d like to see #edchat continue, but I think that next time, I will try and pull off a few people from #edchat to have a more personal discussion via Skype.  Rather than trying to have a gigantic conversation with everyone, I think a weekly discussion with 4 or 5 other teachers via live audio would be far more valuable.  Anyone want to join me next week?

Why is individualization in education so important?

Tonight I was at a birthday party for a young boy; I was invited as a result of my son being about the same age as the birthday boy.  While we were dolling out the ice cream and cake for the 5 boys at the party, I was struck by the realization that there was a relationship between their choices for ice cream and cake, and how we need to look at education.

Here’s what each boy wanted for this ice cream and cake.

 

What I noticed is that each of these boys, who ranged in age from 3 to 7, chose a different style of ice cream.  Already, by the age of 3, these kids had preferences about what types of ice cream they wanted, whether or not they wanted chocolate syrup with it, and how much cake (if at all).  These boys are all very different already.

The assumption that each child’s education has to be the same irks me to no end because I know that every child is different.  Nothing is more clear to me from this simple example that these children are individuals from a very young age, and as such they need to be treated differently; they need to have their needs met.

More than at any other time in history we have the ability to personalize learning for every student, but we keep moving toward standardized curriculum, externally moderated work, and increased accountability in the minutia of what we do as educators.  It is time to recognize that our students need more than this because if keep giving them all the same education, we will keep seeing some of them choosing not to participate in our system.