I really like the discussions taking place on Jeff Utecht’s and Clarence Fisher‘s blogs where they (and others) are discussing the value of teaching how to use specific proprietary software packages versus allowing students to find whatever works for their specific need.
I am a technology mentor, but consider myself a “classroom” teacher (although I am beginning to redefine the word classroom). My role is to help teachers find ways to utilize the technology to benefit student learning. This may seem simple, but it often involves nudging (forcing?) change in the way teacher’s “teach” and student “learn”.
A recent example of what Jeff and Clarence are discussing. I had a classroom teacher who wanted to do a Social Studies project in French who asked me for some advice/assistance. She wanted to use PowerPoint as a platform for a final project presentation. Frankly, I have been PowerPointed to death the past three years. In fact, I think most of this type of software is limiting and stifles creativity.
Instead, I encouraged her to give her students the opportunity to use whatever tools they might choose. These might include on board software or web 2.0 tools. I gave them a few examples. What is resulting (the project is still underway) is nothing short of amazing. Some students are staying with traditional platforms, others are blowing me away! SIMS movies, web pages (piczo et al), videos edited on-line…you name it! It’s been amazing to see the variety (an education for the students in and of itself) and quality (the result of student choice and buy-in).
So…do we need proprietary software. No. If it’s available, allow students to use it, if not, no biggie!
What students really need is permission. Permission to create. Permission to step out. Permission to learn.