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Thursday, September 1, 2011

21st Century Learning

What a start to the school year! As most schools do, we have faculty workshops at the beginning of each year. Some years are better than others. I would count today's as a huge success. We have a IT director at our school who is incredibly engaged in professional development and the struggle to bring technology into the classroom. For our workshop today she booked Tom Daccord (www.edtechteacher.org) to speak to us about the 21st century classroom. The premise of his talk was based around the principle that we need to train our students higher learning functions (i.e. complex communication and expert problem solving). The reason being that manual jobs are either being outsourced or replaced with technology. He goes on to say that creativity becomes pivotal in our students learning. As a teacher in the arts I couldn't be more pleased to hear this. He spoke about contacting students on multiple levels of communication on any given project. While these ideas are, in and of themselves, nothing new...like all good workshops, while he showed example after example of class projects that included technology, elements of drama, history, and various other subjects, my mind began to fly with the possibilities.
Perhaps the best gift any class can give is that of being engaged and excited. I certainly was today, and have several ideas now on taking the next step. I have been struggling this summer to pick a play for this spring. I am compiling a list of pieces that I want to do in the future and have six or seven shows lined up, but none really speak to me for this year. It is the school's centennial. Perhaps this is the chance I have been looking for to devise a piece with the students. There are two rules I am trying to work by this year. You can expect this list to get considerably longer as fall turns to winter, I am sure.... But here's the start:

1) Don't do anything I'm not invested in. If I'm not engaged how could I possibly expect the kids to be. Really....is anything worse than a teacher who is bored?!

2) No matter the project the kids must own it. This was a major lesson for me from last year. We had a year of extreme successes and frustrations last year. If I could chart the quality and quantity of student engagement and ownership alongside levels of success you'd have identical charts.

So here is my thought. I will facilitate the creation of a show written by all the students in the middle school ( on a voluntary basis, and web based). This play will be centered around 1912 New Haven. This will allow the kids to own the show, learn about the world their school was created in, and engage a larger portion of the community in the storytelling tradition theatre has to offer our specific community.

Well, then, here we go...

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