Education Rant - The Presentations that Cause Confusion

One of the common mistakes I believe teachers and tech presenters make is to show the cool tools of what the internet or the latest technology can do before asking the most fundamental question: what do you want your students to learn? 

I think the most important step - the first step - is to brainstorm the necessary skills you want to develop among your students. I break my classroom down to one goal: to help my students learn how to read, write, and think critically and independently. I then structure my class around this fundamental goal. 

I structure my units and individual lessons around this central tenant and adapt my lessons from there. For example during the election unit I created the outcomes I wanted before looking at the technology. The skills and classroom ideas come before tech and too often people try to accomplish this in reverse. My election unit was structured around helping students read about the candidates, issues, and the election process. This concept of reading is more than just reading articles but also reading visuals and data. Students then needed to be able to write about their opinions and articulate their understanding of key concepts from the party system to the Electoral College. And in the end I wanted my students to think for themselves - to synthesize the information they had read and written to critically and independently think for themselves. 

An example of this common mistake often occurs when I present a website I created that hosts a wide array of internet tools is Stealing and Explaining Technology Sites (https://sites.google.com/site/stealingexplainingtechsites/) - to best utilize the site it is important for teachers to come up with what they want students to do - create an animated story, create a list of books to read, to investigate history, to create a timeline, etc and then consult the site and there will be something available. But too often during the presentations teachers first look at the site for the start of their lesson - the Internet is an amazing tool that opens the possibilities that are in teachers but the Internet is just that a tool to be used by the craftsman: the teacher.

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