And so, when I read Marc Prensky's Teaching Digital Natives this summer, I was sold. Provide students with a framework of open-ended, interesting driving questions, and let them loose. Let them figure out the answers by leveraging various tools, technological and traditional, to do so. Guide them as they exercise their critical thinking skills and their creativity in ways that are both natural to them (technology, multi-tasking) and foreign to them (having them integrated with their school lives; being held accountable for the quality of their technology use) and ways that are increasingly critical in the 21st century work place.
Sounded amazing. Until I walked back into the classroom. Prensky's philosophy is exciting, but I'm beginning to think, requires revolutionary means - flexible scheduling, cross-curricular projects, and a completely different mindset by students and teachers alike. In an ideal world, students would be accustomed to and comfortable taking charge of their thinking in self-directed way. In an ideal world, teachers (I'm currently struggling with this one) would be comfortable giving up control, comfortable not knowing all the answers, comfortable with the unkown. In an ideal world, the system would not be giving teachers 130+ students per day for 50 minute time periods in single-subject classrooms created to prepare students for the Industrial world of the 1900's.
But here we stand. And my Driving Questions have turned into Daily/Weekly Objectives, not so driving or exciting anymore. And without the right tools (see earlier posts for details on the deal with iPads) the Prensky plan doesn't get much play these days.
And I'm here to change that. My current solution is not to take an all-of-nothing approach to this experiment. Prensky may not be practical in my 4 daily preps without iPads leaving the room, and with persistent import/export issues, BUT, that doesn't mean I can't try it on a more limited basis, part-time Prensky.
In walks the Sophomore English poetry project. After making sure they know the poetic devices, can identify them independently, and can evaluate their effect, I'm going to pull a Prensky. I need to do some more thinking about this, but here are my thought so far:
As a class, reexamine the poetic devices, identify the non-negotiable qualities of poetry (classification and evaluation). Then, have students create original "poetry" in a non-traditional format (creation) while demonstrating that it meets the criteria for "poetry" (application). We'll brainstorm the "verbs," or tools, as Prensky calls them, and them, we'll go...
And the shrinking big picture, alas, will not wither away to nothingness; it will just display a little humility.