Every Saturday morning at 9AM (US EST), a group of dedicated educators come together for a Twitter chat called #catholicedchat. It was interesting to see them all greet each other by name, as if they were all old friends. It was apparent from the beginning that this was a tight-knit group of people. I chose this chat because I was interested in what the Catholic community had to say about education, and what exactly was meant by “Catholic community” in the first place. While I can’t answer that last part just yet, I have been able to gain some insight as to what these people think about education.
The theme to the chat was Catholic administrators and student podcasts. The podcasts can either be made for the sake of the students, or the students can actually create a podcast. It’s becoming more commonplace for students to reflect on what they’ve learned by posting a podcast to the web. There is a resource called @AudioBoo which allows students (or anyone with Internet access) to make podcasts for free from anywhere in the world. The podcasts are sorted by hashtag attachments, which makes this a practical tool for teachers trying to get students involved.
In terms of listening to pre-created podcasts, there is an overwhelming supply of educational podcasts available online. iTunes U is one of the biggest databases, and the educators said it was easy to get overwhelmed and lost by the vast amount of podcasts available.
The question was raised whether there were any positive Catholic podcasts for teens. Sure enough, one of the educators was able to recommend a site called Lifeteen, which has all its podcasts available on iTunes.
From there, the chat switched gears to rubrics, creativity, and convergent/divergent thinking. Primarily, how can rubrics help avoid blind spots in student projects? Most of the teachers agreed that they didn’t like putting “creativity” on a rubric, as the students should be creative no matter what. Furthermore, “creativity” can be rather subjective and hard to grade.
They seemed to agree that the purpose of a rubric was much like the purpose of a picture on the front of a puzzle box: it should help you formulate your thoughts towards a specific kind of end product. However, a puzzle only has one correct answer while student projects can vary widely while still being equally valid.
One last topic was something called Techspiration. If you’re interested in the official parameters, click here to visit the Center of Urban Education’s summary. If you’re like me and would rather me just cut to the chase, here’s the main idea: The US government is funding a massive grant to weave together education and technology. The grant puts technology (computers, ipads) into the hands of students while funding the educational programs and apps that make the technology worthwhile. Ideally, students will learn to network and make learning more social to prepare them for real-life work and provide them with valuable skills. The funding was commenced in 2012 and will remain intact for a total of 5 years. At the end, we will see what differences technology makes in teaching, whether for the better or the worse.
I have begun following the following people as a result of this Twitter chat:
-A Catholic Educator from VA who is certified in Google Apps
-A techie Jesuit educator from Indianapolis
-A teacher who is the host of the flipped network learning podcast
-A Catholic school teacher who organizes these chats
-A principal from PA beginning to 1:1 iPad teaching project