Monday, February 02, 2009

The Power of the Web

I feel like I always tell my students about what a different world they live in and how amazing the web is at helping them learn. Over this past weekend, starting on Friday and working through today, I was able to prove it.

I had assigned a project to my seniors where they were looking into future careers that they were interested in pursuing in college. They were to select 2-3 people whom they could interview about all aspects of their profession. My hope was that the students would learn a little bit more about the profession they would like to pursue, get some questions answered, learn something new, gain insight, and possibly make some future contacts. The students were then to take that information, post their interviews and results on their wiki, and then compose a summary response paper about all they learned.

Most of the students really enjoyed the project where they were able to learn more and extend what they thought about the career. Interestingly, others discussed during the debriefing how it was challenging being a teenager making contacts with the professionals. Some wouldn’t talk with the kids, some wouldn’t return information after initial contacts were made, and some couldn’t get anyone to talk with them at all. To me, this doesn’t say much about us as adults or human beings if we can’t help out kids!

A few kids expressed how challenging it was to contact people out of the blue without knowing people in their chosen profession. This led to a good discussion about life skills and introducing yourself to someone especially when you are pursuing jobs. I think one thing I would spend more time on next year is creating a network of contacts for the kids so that they have a starting place. We discussed interview questions, but the questions aren’t going to help if they can’t find people to talk to.

Towards the end of the debriefing, one student let on that she couldn’t get anyone in her chosen profession to contact her. She didn’t know anyone in the profession and was really struggling with the whole assignment trying to get something turned in versus her best work turned in. This assignment hadn’t even been meaningful for her but rather a HUGE struggle. That didn’t fit into the goals of the assignment at all. So, what’s a teacher to do with a struggling student?

Once I found out that my student wanted to move into the FBI or secret service, I went to my computer and got on Twitter putting out a tweet looking for connections to these professions. From my tweet, two other friends (cgfaulkner and karlfisch) retweeted my request putting this student’s interest out into a much wider audience. Before I knew it, tweets were coming in from all over, emails were being feed to her and I by all sorts of people willing to help her in her quest for knowledge. I can’t tell you what that meant to me other than to say, it is good to know that all of you are out there. Thanks for showing me and my students the power of the web. Rather than walking away from a learning struggle, I hope she learns that the web can make learning possible- the web connects us. Thanks to all who assisted in this learning adventure and thanks for reaching out to not only me, but to my students as well.

1 comment:

Wm Chamberlain said...

As powerful a lesson this was for your classroom, it is an even more powerful lesson for teachers. We no longer have the option of telling our students that we don't know something and we can't find the answers. This is powerful learning for the professional educator!