All it takes is a little imagination

Last week at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum I had the opportunity to meet Steven Ronsijn from Ghent, Belgium. clip_image002Here is Steven as he is awarded First Runner-Up in the Cutting Edge Use of Microsoft Technology for Learning category. Steven and I were partnered together on a Learning Excursion team that was visiting the Smithsonian Green Houses. During the bus ride over he commented on how lucky we Americans were with access to all this technology. I looked at him and said: “Having technology is not always the answer. Having the imagination to use the technology is.”

Well, I began thinking about that throw away sentence and the more I thought about it the more I really believed that is what we were celebrating at the Partners in Learning Global Forum. As a participant I could walk up and down every isle of displays and see amazing imagination used to bring life to classrooms all around the world.

Projects like Steven’s where he allowed the students to take the role of educator, designer and developer of movies and games designed to teach concepts and technologies to younger students. Or, like Gareth Ritter’s project from Wales whose students used Photostory, Screen Recorder, AutoCollage and the Kinect to create video tutorials to support learning of others at the school. These recordings also supported production of the school’s podcast station and resulted in an album being recorded in the school studio. clip_image004Here’s a picture of Gareth accepting his First Runner-Up award in the Innovation in Challenging Contexts category. What these two projects, like all the others, at the Global Forum have in common is the imaginative use of technology and having students using that technology to create something of worth.

I cannot begin to tell you how many classrooms I visit where a teacher claims to use technology but is really just substituting it for tired old methods. How many of you reading this can point to an educator that uses their brand new SMART Board (good grief I hate those things) as nothing more than a 21st Century blackboard. They hook up their laptop to a projector and hook that to the SMART Board (usually with your help) and then throw PowerPoint slides up and expect the students to take notes. Or, call it interactive by asking the student to come up and supply an answer using the notebook function. Yeah, they spent thousands of dollars to replace a blackboard and are doing the same tired old thing. No imagination!

While the Partners in Learning Global Forum and all the associated regional forums focus on technology and the use of it in education, what they really celebrate and encourage is imagination. Best practices that transcend borders and countries and language. Projects that can be plucked from a classroom in South Africa and dropped into a classroom in Tampa, FL and still have relevance. So when I am asked what I learned in Washington last week, it’s that. That the world’s best educators all have the imagination to use the technological tools at their disposal to create something that engages their students and allows them to be an integral part in their own education.

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Comments

  • pauline  On November 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    This reminds me of something Will Richardson said at PILGF-Students are living in a moment when they can create and share works of beauty, meaning and consequence-I think that goes for teachers too!

    • Louis Zulli Jr  On November 18, 2011 at 8:03 am

      I often tell my teachers that the two best ad campaigns that speak directly to how they should plan each lesson are the Apple “Think Different” ads that ran from 1997 – 2002 and the “Where Do You Want to Go Today?” ads that Microsoft ran in 1994. If a teacher, who is planning a lesson or project thought differently and asked where did they want to go with their lessons or projects it would spark the imagination that I am talking about.

  • Erin 'Ed' Donahue (@creepyed)  On November 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Great post! I’m so glad you have a lovely time in Washington. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it. 😦

    As a follow up post, I’d love to hear about some innovative ways to use a SMART Board. I’ve used them in high school and college and would love to hear about more ways to use them. Of course, in college we also used them to play Boomshine when we needed a break from the grind. 😀

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