Friday, April 24, 2009

Simply the best?

I love this blog post response to a leading news publication that states the following:

You Call These The “Best”?

A writer at CNET offers Five tools for the world’s best teacher, calling them “five teachers’ aids that stand out from the rest”.

  1. Blackboard
  2. Classroom 2.0
  3. Engrade
  4. MyGradeBook
  5. TeacherTube


First of all, numbers three and four are both gradebooks. To me that falls under the category of classroom management, not teaching tools.

While Classroom 2.0 is a wonderful community, it’s about professional development and not for use with the kids.

TeacherTube is also excellent, a great place for both teachers and their students to share their work.

And then we come to Blackboard.

This “technology columnist who has written about everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems” either has a huge grudge against teachers or is clueless to make that his first choice.

Or include it on any instructional “best of” list at all.

I absolutely agree with Tim. Some of the best teaching tools should cause kids to think critically, problem solve, analyze and access information, etc. One of my favorite excerpts from the book, The Global Achievement Gap, is...

“It should be obvious that there is no way to teach the competencies of critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication and accessing and analyzing information, and so on without also teaching academic content. Subject-content material is what you think and write about, and problem solving is initially best understood and practiced as a part of the study of math, science and social studies.”
(Pg. 265. The Global Achievement Gab)

The tools that teachers use and the instructional strategies that rank "the best," should cause student to:

Competencies for the Twenty-First Century

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Collaboration across Networks
• Agility and Adaptability
• Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
• Effective Oral and Written Communication
• Accessing and Analyzing Information
• Curiosity and Imagination

So what are the best teaching tools?
1. The teacher
2. Content that causes kids to think critically, access information and collaborate (Inspiration, Nettrekker, Adobe software, Apple iLife tools, Ti nspire calculator and resources, and I'm sure you can come up with a lot more than grade books and a course shell.

Regarding Classroom 2.0, I am a big promonent of this community, but it is a community. I think it's a great place for educators to collaborate and engage in instructional interactions / conversations. While there are great links, resources, videos, etc., it's not the instructional tool that teachers use with their students in the classroom.

It's great to read the responses to the original post as many of the folks comment don't agree or share their favorites:

Others that were shared;
Mediawiki, YouTube, SlideShare, Google Docs, MindMeister, Moodle, MS Office workspace, gCast, SchoolTube, etc.

I recently started working for a company, CompassLearning, and while many folks may consider this to be a legacy offering, I have been amazed at the new development and the high school content that has so many engaging elements that gives students the opportunity to think cricically, engage and interact in a way that is based on brain research. I don't want to use this post as a plug to promote the organization I just joined, but I will say that 21st Century Skills can not happen if they don't have core foundation of skill or knowledge from which to biuld upon. I would love to engage in a conversation with edubloggers out there who are embracing social media & web 2.0 tools and ask them to kick the tires around to see how they would use core content or learning objects tied to these tools. I think it's not any one tool that is "the best," but how the teacher moves through the various recoures at his/her figertips to engage the learner.

Please comment or send me a note. (jcostilla - Twitter)

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