It’s been more than a week since Clarence Fisher delivered his K-12 Online Conference keynote about web-based tools and their potential impact on relationships, pedagogy, curriculum, and information access in the classroom.
Arguing that “technology is not about skills, it’s about connections,” Fisher concludes his presentation by calling for reform of technology assessments that are too narrowly focused on the acquisition and demonstration of skills. Fisher says that what is needed instead is a tool for generating “education informatics.” This application would allow teachers to track students’ actions and activities on the Internet and to monitor and assess their progress as they build out virtual networks.
I’ve been thinking on this for several days. Now, as I am currently immersed in the Professional Learning Networks strand of the K-12 Online Conference, the concept of education informatics is growing more relevant and urgent.
By all accounts, the old model of “sit and get” professional development delivered by high-priced outside experts is on the way out. Like student learning, teacher professional development has the potential to become more personalized and self-directed within the new Web landscape.
And, as with students, education informatics for teachers could provide invaluable feedback and transparency about the breadth and depth of their online learning.
In my community the local school system recently reduced the number of systemwide professional development days and tripled the number of hours (from 6 to 18) that teachers must document unscheduled inservice learning. There is a tremendous opportunity here for teachers to set aside time for unstructured experimentation with the many cutting-edge, web-based tools and receive credit for their effort!
But how many of our administrators are equipped or even willing to acknowledge learning pursued via wikis, webcasts, chats, forum discussions, and so on? I think documentation and accountability would be huge issues to overcome, unless they had access to a state-of-the-art technology assessment such as Fisher describes.
If teachers are to be the models of lifelong learning, we must be willing to allow others to examine that learning under the microscope of education informatics.
And that’s what I think.