Making Curriculum Pop

Connect the Minds (CTM)

I think a lot of teachers, myself included, struggle to find ways to make class less like this:
and more like this:
A lot of folks, especially those working in policy, will tell you that the easiest way to make classes more individualized and differentiated is through technology (see the Edutopia article these images were pulled from and the accompanying book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns)

While technology can be very helpful in creating more individualized and differentiated learning experiences, most of us do not find ourselves living the Little Dipper School quite yet:

I worked at a high school in the South Bronx for the last four years - it wasn't until my last year there (2009) that we had a room we could dedicate as a computer lab.  I know a lot of teachers in middle class schools that need to sign up for computer lab time in the summer to make sure they have technology access.  Presently, I work in post-secondary environments where it is virtually impossible to get my whole class on computers.  I'm sure many of you face similar challenges.

When we talk about technology "solving" the "education crisis" (as defined by those who define such things) it might be instructive to check this prescient image image that British teacher/researcher David Buckingham uses to open his book Beyond Technology: Children's Learning in the Age of Digital Culture...

I tend to agree with Buckingham's middle of the road approach to technology in the classroom.  While I use and love the wonderful tools technology has created for us I don't believe technology will ever completely supersede creative, carefully crafted, collaborative and highly differentiated learning experiences designed by teachers.  

Even when a learning experience involves technology - successful teachers tend to carefully scaffold around the technology in ways that allow a wide range of students to engage with and be metacognitive about their learning.  

Don't believe me?  Take your class to a computer lab.  Don't give them careful instructions - just ask them to find a mildly obscure piece of data using Google and Bing.  Let me know what percentage of these "digital natives" can find the information.

Not only is technology itself not a panacea, but we're often faced with situations where we can't always use the technology we want when we want it. Given this reality, what is a teacher to do?

The theme of the December of 2009 issue of The Journal of Media Literacy is "School 2.0: Transforming 21st Century Education Through New Media Literacies" They asked contributors questions like, "How will schools need to change to keep up with the growth of new media? We now have Web 2.0 - what will School 2.0 look like?"

I was fortunate enough to have an article selected for that issue answering that question for those who don't have the luxury of fancy technologies at their fingertips.

Noting that there is more to technology than simply using the software and hardware in our highly interconnected culture, I created an activity called Connect the Minds (CTM).

CTM embraces the "messages" of new media using low-tech tools like butcher paper, markers and sticky notes.  CTM is an attempt to make learning more meaningful, interactive, kinesthetic and CONNECTED.

I think you'll enjoy this addition to the playlist.  Hopefully, you'll find it to be as flexible and adaptable and as something like the KWL - In fact, I like to think of CTM as a 21st Century KWL.  

The friendly people at the National Telemedium Council have allowed me to share the article below as a PDF. If your not familiar with this Wisconsin based organization do consider subscribing to the JML and checking out the work they've been doing with new media and educators since the 1950's!

The article has some theoretical bookends that I think are important to understanding WHY one might use CTM.  That being said, if you just want to breeze to the sample activities (the models are for a staff development and biology class activity) go to pages 34-37.

There are lots of low-tech ways to "mix it up" (aka differentiate) in your classroom - everyone has cool things they use.  I've been collecting some of my favorite "teaching tunes" in the MC POP playlist.  Of all the cool "tracks" you'll find at the playlist CTM is one of my favorite creations!

I hope you enjoy the article (attached below as a PDF).  If you have done this in one of my classes or want to comment on what you've read please feel free to share your thoughts below!

Connect the Dots!


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My pleasure, be sure to share your writings on the Ning!!
I was promised imaginary bonus points if I uploaded some pix of my kiddies Connecting Their Minds.

They did a great job!
OMG - tons of imaginary bonus points to you :) Did they enjoy it / get engaged? I think the floor has magic properties!



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