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Teacher of the Year teaches with Facebook

I hope the news – of President Obama honoring 2010 Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling at the White House – strengthens support for the amazing tech educators I know and love. “In reciting Wessling’s qualifications for the award,” the Boston Globe reports, “Obama said her students ‘don’t just write five-paragraph essays, but they write songs, public service announcements, film, storyboards, even grant proposals for their own not-for-profit organizations’.” This is what many great educators, especially those who use 21st-century teaching tools, do: engage students in learning all subjects (not just technology or “computers”) using the social (aka participatory, interactive, digital) media and technologies which are so compelling to their students that they use them all the time outside of school (see this). [The contrast between students’ in-school and extracurricular use of participatory tech and media is so great, they’re learning and information-gathering so much outside of school, and their engagement in traditional education is so low that our society is seeing a “decoupling” of education and school, blogged educator Will Richardson recently.]

I’ve had the fun of talking with students during classtime via videochat and in virtual-world classrooms at ReactionGrid and Teen Second Life, as my avatar Anny Appletor, and exploring the 7 social commitments of educational virtual world QuestAtlantis designed by the Indiana University School of Education (see teacher Marianne Malmstrom’s page on it for more) – and the students were just as animated as I was (not just because they were avatars too, but because they were learning in-world). Being in-world is exciting, freeing in a way; it collapses brick-‘n’-mortar walls and silences school bells, not just because it’s immersive but because it pulls students out of themselves (shyness, social struggles, etc.) as well as out of the confines of a physical classroom (see, for example, “Bringing Literature to (Second) Life”). Marianne Malmstrom (mentioned above) taught her N.J. middle school students media literacy (not to mention a little Greek mythology) in an election year by having her students produce their own political ads (see “Young practitioners of social media literacy”). See also this compelling project: students raising awareness about human trafficking by writing, acting in, and producing machinima (in-world video – click on the video on the left on this page at in New York). Then, for education inspiration, watch these students of teacher Peggy Sheehy in Suffern, NY, and this talk by Philadelphia principal Chris Lehmann. [BTW, my headline might’ve begged the question, “How does Ms. Wessling use Facebook in class?” That wasn’t covered in the news yesterday, so stay tuned.]

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