Thursday, April 29, 2010

Making Connections

I was invited to Ms. Alexander's Science class last week. Her fifth grade class was being taught a science lesson involving energy and simple machines by a guest instructor at Carolina Biological in Burlington. All week her classes had the opportunity to watch and interact with this scientist via videoconference.

And as I watched the students ask and answer questions of Mike, as he performed experiments, created simple machines and quizzed the kids on the results, I thought of a memorable quote by Will Richardson.

"We as educators need to reconsider our roles in students' lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second."

The quote appeared in Edutopia as well as on a picture on flickr by Dean Shareski (see below). I've used this quote for some time in presentations during technology integration sessions. The picture from flickr provides that visual for "teachers as connectors" I like to use. And I like that "technology" is not mentioned. Technology is a great vehicle for the connections, but it's still about the teachers and students.

Technology has the most potential in classrooms where teachers, like Ms. Alexander, embrace the idea of becoming a connector. And for technology to make the biggest impact, it needs to be used as a tool for transforming instruction not an "add-on" to the current instruction in the classroom. Ms. Alexander wasn't showing videoconferencing to her students, but instead allowing videoconferencing to show her class a guest instructor. And I think the important distinction to make is that she was utilizing technology to create an educational experience rather than just using technology.

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