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Digital Worksheets

I did a survey with my students on the first day of class. In this, I asked students if they had used specific programs or apps in school before. I excluded the six students I had from last year. Here were my results:
  • Four percent had used Google documents
  • Three percent had used presentation software
  • Two percent had recorded audio, though none of them had edited it or posted the audio to a podcast or a blog. 
  • Two percent had used Edmodo to interact online. 
  • None had  edited video, created a blog, used a concept mapping program, worked on Scratch (or any other programming), developed a simulation or analyzed information on a spreadsheet. 
However, an even more disturbing trend emerged:
  • Sixty-seven percent had used Jamestown Reading Intervention
  • Forty percent had used Study Island
  • Thirty-five percent had used Success Maker
  • Twenty-six percent had used Accelerated Reader 
I see a general trend toward digital worksheets rather than creative and collaborative technology. Sadly, schools are buying these digital worksheets in the name of personalized learning. The idea is that an algorithm-based programmed content can reach students so they are at their appropriate skill level. Interest doesn't matter. Collaboration doesn't need happen.  

Personalized learning should be about interdependence instead of isolation. It should be about creativity instead of compliance. It should involve student interest. I want to see kids doing the programming instead of being programmed by the machine.

photo credit: jin.thai via photopin cc
Professor. Author. Speaker. Maker.
I want to see kids embrace creativity. As a teacher, this has meant murals, documentaries, STEM camps, and coding projects. As a dad, this has meant quirky pillow forts and home-made pinball machines. This is why I co-wrote Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and co-founded Write About. I am convinced that design thinking can thrive in every content area, which is why I am launching the free design thinking course this summer.


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