Who Are Those Old People in Our Lab?

Age and technological prowess often are not synonymous, particularly in education.  Factor in the tech toys, marvels and training available at Orlando’s Full Sail University and you can imagine the dismay expressed by the student who asked, “Who are all those old people in our lab?”

It is just as easy to understand the laughter the querry evoked among the educators and professionals attending the  Apple Distinguished Educator conference. No longer were they masters of WIKIS, AVATARS, NINGS, MOODLES, MMOGS, TWEETS, BUMPS, VRE’s, and a dizzying array of professional software certifications.

It's all about being mobile

It’s all about being mobile

They were just a bunch of old people invading the sacred turf of high-tech “want to be” pros. The resulting collision and collaboration of high-tech learners and innovative practitioners produced interesting results.

Selection as an Apple Distinguished Educator involves a rigorous nomination and application process that focuses on the individual’s innovative use of technology in education.  It isn’t enough to be an enthusiastic user. To make the grade applicants must already create, author, advocate, innovate, and advise.  Once selected they receive tools, training and experiences that help them become more effective Advocates, Advisors, Authors and Ambassadors.

The ADE’s joined established alumni from around the world at Full Sail to explore not only the use of technology but new ways to make it more relevant and accessible to teachers and learners.  Each ADE was placed in a project team and joined by select Full Sail students to experience Challenge Based Learning first hand.

Apple’s Challenge Based Learning process,  “begins with a big idea and cascades to the following: an essential question, a challenge, guiding questions, activities, resources, determining and articulating the solution, taking action by implementing the solution, reflection, assessment, and publishing.”

The whole concept leverages what we know about teaching, learning and creativity. It then adds Web 2.0 technology and collaborative environments to personal and group approaches to problem solving.

It is multi-disciplinary, active, and hands on.  It challenges students to actually use their native technology to combine what they know about a subject, acquire what they do not know and engage others in their school, community, and even the world in a collaborative manner to address specific real world questions.

It goes a couple of steps further.  Once a solution or course of action is determined, students must then implement the solution, reflect on the outcome, assess the effectiveness and publish the results.

The real depth and beauty of the process is that it is personal.

Students, with guidance, select the big idea, choose an underlying question, create the solution, implement it, assess it and publish the results.

There are challenges for teachers.  How do I keep the process on track? How do I meet state mandated standards?  How do I assign a grade for an individual when much of the work is collaborative?  How do I change my role from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side?”

When many teachers are confronted by this style of teaching and learning, the self-defeating questions/objections start flying. The bottom line is that much of the time those “objections” are little more than excuses for not stepping out of an individual comfort zone for the good of the students.

The ADE  Conference reaffirmed that there are many ways to change paradigms.  There are teachers all over the world who are doing great and innovative things for students.  They are willing to share and collaborate.

Most of all I was reminded that I wasn’t alone on an island.  I can be a force for change.  I have the support of amazing people and companies.  I can support someone else, and our educational landscape is only as bleak as I allow it to be.  There are no excuses.

The CBL White paper reports and research are available at: Challenge Based Learning white paper