Wednesday, March 2, 2011

There Must 50 Ways To Spell Gadhafi or Qadhafi or...

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Note for first time visitors: this style of post is a bit different than what you will typically find here on Free Technology for Teachers where I generally stick to reviewing free resources for teaching. 

As some readers may remember, about four weeks ago I started teaching a new Global Studies course for 11th and 12th grade students. On the first day of class we started to hear news of protests in Egypt. Not being an expert on Egypt (I knew the basic timeline of 20th century Egypt), I turned the class into a collaborative on-going exploration of Egypt. You can read about how we've shared information using Google Docs here.

Last week my school was on winter break while protests erupted in Libya. Sure enough one of my students emailed me to ask if we would discuss Libya when we got back to school. My response was "of course we are." Today was the first day back and we spent the class meeting discussing and researching together the history of Libya and the current events. Again, I knew the basic timeline of Libya in the 20th Century, but I am not an expert on it so this is again a collaborative learning opportunity for me and my students. One of the fun things that we talked about today was how are we as a class going to spell Gadhafi. As one of my students pointed out, there are more than 50 ways to spell Qaddaffi.

In education reform circles and in educational technology circles (yes, the two often are the same) we often hear teachers say we need to the "guide on the side instead of the sage on a stage." I'm really living that right now in my classroom and I have to say, it is great! Yes, it takes a bit of time to accept that you aren't the "expert" on the content area, but it's such a great feeling to be working with my students for all our benefit. So you might be wondering what is he doing in the classroom if he's not the content expert? My role in the classroom is truly to act as a guide and offer advice. While I'm not an expert on current events in Libya and Egypt (who is? I'd argue that most news anchors aren't), I am well versed in teaching students how to discern good information and how to use that information to create meaning and understanding for themselves. That's my job now and I love it.