Digital Learning

The future ain’t what it used to be

04/01/2012  |  Larry Biddle [email protected]

So observed the 20th century philosopher Yogi Berra, with his unusual prescience concerning societal forces. His assessment could be accurately applied to all of our schools and communities. Insight from a recent morning blog — Spout & Scout — from Seth Godin enables us to contemplate what technology has meant to the virtual classroom across our nation. His comments on social media alone have significant implications for our entire school communities. “Social media has amplified two basic human needs so much that they have been transformed into entirely new behaviors. Sites have encouraged and rewarded us to spout, to talk about what we’re up to and what we care about. And they’ve mirrored that by making it easy to scout, to see what others are spouting about. Please understand that just a decade ago, both were private, non-commercial activities. Now, they represent the future of media, and thus the future of what we do all day.”

Teaching and Learning is a constant daily ritual...How can we harness the power of digital learning so that it keeps young America focused on preparing themselves for a successful future for jobs, self-employment, starting enterprises or learning to become investors? At Jostens Renaissance we have always believed: “All students are gifted — they just don’t open their packages at the same time!” Time and again, this truism continues to be proved on many fronts. This single tenet led us to create lots of “niches” for lots of students — centered on their interests and passions. We continue to maintain that it is not the boardrooms of America but our classrooms that drive global competitive advantage. The traditional four walls of the classroom have morphed into the virtual classroom where teaching and learning jumps from static to dynamic, from one place to every place, from a scheduled time to constantly.

Preparing Students to Learn Without Us

Author and educator Will Richardson believes that “personalized learning” must also be a personal experience for students. “The truly personal, self-directed learning that we can now pursue in online networks and communities differs substantially from the ‘personalized’ opportunities that some schools are opening up to students. Although it might be an important first step in putting students on a path to a more self-directed, passionate, relevant learning life, it may not bring about the true transformation that many see as the potential of this moment.

February 1, 2012 was Digital Learning Day, a nationwide promotion by the Alliance for Excellence in Education to highlight the use of technology in schools. More than 10,000 teachers and 1.5 million students have endorsed the celebration of innovative teachers and the movement toward more personalized learning for all students.

At the ISTE Conference in 2011, Adam S. Bellows introduced his Golden Rules of Technology in Schools:

  • Don’t Trap Technology in a Room
    Technology should be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible – according to Chris Lehmann, the founding principal of Science Leadership Academy.
  • Technology is Worthless Without Professional Development
    Professional staff development must go beyond an hour-long “how-to” session. There is a world of professional development on YouTube and Twitter.
  • Mobile Technology Stretches a Long Way
    You can get much more out of mobile tech than out of most other technology. Cell phones can replace most expensive reference books.
  • The New “F Word” is Fear
    Not Facebook or the other expletive. Rather than handcuffing everyone, we need to teach students good digital citizenship -- kids have access to every kind of information at any time.
  • Tech Tools Are Not Just a Passing Fad
    We are lifelong learners. We must invest the time to figure out the potential purposes of the many tools we have at our fingertips rather than simply using them for a single purpose.
  • Money is Not The Problem
    There are thousands of free web tools. Don’t be afraid to dive in!
  • Invite Every Stakeholder to the Conversation
    Who’s at the table? Mostly administrators and some teachers. Why not invite student, parents, and other members of the community as well?

    From the beginning, Jostens Renaissance has included parents, students, teachers, staff and administrators (staffulty), as well as a broad cross-section of the entire school community.

Real honors for REEL Kids

At a recognition ceremony in May 2012, Horry Telephone Cooperative — in Horry County, South Carolina — will highlight students who have beaten the odds. Over the past 11 years, almost 600 youths have been recognized as REEL Kids — Recognizing Extraordinary Examples of Leadership Kids. The program honors students who have proven themselves through scholastic, athletic, and community achievements, in the face of obstacles or extenuating circumstances and have been recognized by their schools as winners. Each student is nominated by a guidance counselor within each of the 50 Horry County schools.

“When we receive these nominations from the schools and read about the trials these young people have endured, we are humbled. These REEL Kids have struggled through physical disabilities, learning disabilities, loss of loved ones, disease, emotional problems, abuse, abandonment and so much more,” said HTC Chief Executive Officer Mike Haag, who placed a REEL Kids medallion around the neck of each student in May 2011.

The guest performer and keynote speaker was Scott MacIntyre, the first blind finalist on American Idol in 2009, shortly after a kidney transplant. The highly accomplished performer stated that he went on American Idol to show that someone less than perfect in the world’s eyes could actually be on the show and make a difference in another’s life.

This is a superb example of business and education working together to broaden student recognition in children and enhancing our communities.

Senior Farewells

At many Jostens Renaissance schools, as seniors’ thoughts turn to graduation, class members are encouraged to recognize and celebrate anyone within the school system who has inspired them during their educational journey by writing a personal note to the person. During the last weeks of school, the students deliver the farewells to the appropriate individual. Jostens Renaissance maintains that recognition is vital throughout the entire school community.

Something to believe in.

July 13-15, 2012 at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida

The Jostens Renaissance® National Conference is nearly three full days of

nationally known speakers, presentations on tried and true recognition ideas, case studies of improving school culture, and exchanging best practices.

For additional information, you may contact me at [email protected].

Larry Biddle is considered the founder of Jostens Renaissance. He has been a student of the impact of recognition on individual achievement for two decades. He served as vice-chairman of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, as well as a member of the Coastal Education Foundation at CCU. Dr. Biddle currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Coastal Carolina University.
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