Earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet with 8 high school students from my school division; 3 are from my own classroom. Together they form a team of student journalists who will report, in real time, the events of the Rural Education Conference being held in Saskatoon at the end of March. Between now and then we have several meetings to become a cohesive team who can collaborate and synthesize high quality digital products, under pressure, against a deadline — all the skills I’ve been teaching my students for the past year will be put to the test.
Following brief introductions, I provided a overview of the conference and our job. It took a bit for them to figure out what our role in the conference really is. I wonder if it’s because students have so few “real world” roles where their school skills really matter. We need to change that. But as they grappled with the idea, it became clear.
After establishing our role, we got to work. The first thing we did? Created a google doc, of course. This comes naturally to my students, and is what happens when students become digitally fluent. They know which tool is the right one for the task and will maximize their productivity. Consequently, the tool fades into the background and the learning, collaborating, and creating take center stage.
To begin with, we’ve created a blog, titled Your Geek Squad, that will be populated with bios of presenters, commercial-like video highlight reels of the concurrent sessions that will be presented throughout the conference, pictures, interviews, and blog entries. All of these will be created and collated by my students. We also created a twitter account and hashtag for the conference, a QR code that will lead all participants to our blog, and a flickr feed.
One of the novelties of the conference will be a working QR code built out of Lego that participants can scan. It will sit in the lobby throughout the conference. In truth, some participants may not know what to do with it, but it’s one way to introduce educators to the use of QR codes in the classroom. We’re also going to have team shirts, which say YourGeekSquad on the front, and have our QR code on the back. The QR code on the shirt should work too.
For the first time, the student journalism team will be completely paperless. In the past, a daily newsletter was created. Here’s the thing, I rarely use paper in my classroom; something about the thought of creating a newsletter that will quickly be tossed in the garbage goes against pretty much everything my students and I believe. Instead, throughout the conference we’re going to keep a running tab of how many trees we’ve saved, which will be updated on our blog. How will participants know how to find us? At each place setting on the tables will be a small QR code — that’s the extent of our paper use for the conference.
Secondly, it’s all going to be done with mobile, BYOD tech. We have a couple of iPads, a couple of laptops, and a whack load of phones. This is the way I like to work. It’s how we do things in my classroom. We use what we have, and it works well. While I don’t have a problem with 1:1 classrooms, I’m not sure it’s the most authentic learning environment. I think 1:1 classrooms are perfect for schools who are trying to bridge economic gaps and provide access to students who don’t have tech at home. However, my students love BYOD
I think this is the future of education: authentic tasks, embedded, mobile, BYOD technology. I’m excited about this opportunity for our students because, at this point, they’re so few and far between in education. We need to change this. While my province has a work exploration class, in many instances the tasks our students do are menial or simply observing. And while I wouldn’t want a 17 year-old performing a root canal on me, they are competent to do much more than they’re allowed.
For me, this is the “exam” I’ve been preparing my students for. What my students can memorize and spew back on a Biology or English final has no ability to tell me how my students will perform in a high pressure situation like this. But I think they’re up for the task.