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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm an Ed Tech Nerd -- Meeting Dr. Elliot Soloway

Somewhere around 10 or more years ago, I was in the audience at a conference at Germantown Academy when Dr. Elliot Soloway showed a video of students working in a project-based learning, constructivist style classroom. He said the noise and the seeming chaos were what was expected with this approach and it certainly did not look like a class where traditional "Classroom Management," i.e., students sitting in rows in a teacher-centered classroom and waiting to be called upon, was happening. Students were circulating, standing, sitting, moving, talking, gesturing, explaining, drawing, writing, using computers, using books. But he said -- listen to what they're talking about -- watch and consider what is really happening. We did and it was quite impressive - the students were working, collaborating, sharing, thinking, solving problems, creating together, building. It was not the 3 R's - rote, repetition, regurgitation - it was the 3 C's - collaboration, creativity, communication (3 C's are an element of 21st Century Learning per the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.)

Something clicked while I sat in that audience - I thought - this is it. This is how computers should be used with students, this is the real power they can offer, this is how students can be unleashed to their full potential, and how teaching and learning can be a mobile fluid continous process and how learning can happen in a way that engages, involves and enlightens students, in a way that emulates the most creative work in real life. I wanted to learn more about teaching this way and enrolled in a master's program at Chestnut Hill College (where I'm now an adjunct), wrote more including a book, and other things followed as well.

But it was watching Dr. Soloway and that video that was the catalyst.

So I told him the story of how seeing and hear him and viewing that video transformed my professional career and how he should know he may be touching others in an audience when he speaks as well. He hugged me - 6 times (I counted.)

This was by far the high point for me of an exciting day at the University of Michigan - Dearborn for the One-to-One Institute and Wayne RESA where I keynoted (Dr. Soloway stayed and listened!), and taught a class of middle school students from Sarah Banks Middle School in the morning and in the afternoon, and lead a panel of the students. The teachers and administrators were eager and reflective, the students were flexible, bright and creative, everyone else was helpful and kind. But meeting Dr. Soloway topped it all. I am an ed tech nerd for sure.