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What Students Need From Teachers

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Lest there's any doubt that educators are a crucial part of learning -- with or without tech tools -- here's sixth-grade teacher Heidi Siwak's recent discovery.

My Students Need Me After All

By Heidi Siwak
My students no longer need me to teach content. Everything they might wish to learn is freely available on the Internet. Even MIT provides free and open access to all lectures online. What, then, is my role?
  1. My job is to teach thinking.
  2. My job is to help them learn to think critically about the information they are encountering.
  3. My job is to teach them to check the credentials of media producers to determine the validity of the information they are viewing.
  4. My job is to help them recognize the impact and consequences of decisions in this rapidly changing world.
  5. My job is to help them articulate ideas fluently so they can be effective participants in this global conversation.
  6. My job is to help them learn to use modern forms of communication - search engines, databases, blogs, videos, Websites, social media, Web 2.0 and the rapidly evolving 3.0.
  7. My job is to ask probing questions that require them to think deeply about important ideas and develop a personal critical stance.
  8. My job is to help them recognize bias, to see how social media is structured to promote certain behaviors, to recognize when and how they are being manipulated.
  9. My job is to ensure that they have a strong foundation in math, science and technology as these skills are fundamental to our evolving world.
  10. My job is to help them develop strategies for learning.
  11. My job is to provide them with opportunities to explore ideas through the arts in order to create meaning and understanding.
  12. My job is to provide them with opportunities to develop collaborative skills.
  13. My job is to help them understand that even at the age of 10,  when they are online, they are building a public profile.
  14. My job is to encourage flexibility, creativity, resourcefulness and self-direction so that can they can continually adapt to a rapidly changing world.
  15. My job is to provide my students with real-world opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the development of our global society.
  16. My job is still to call home when the work is not being done, to identify students who are struggling and provide them with support and to collect money for field trips and pizza days.

My job has become interesting again. Having survived the standardized test years, when my students sat bored to death while we used our pink, blue and yellow highlighters to write a five-line response showing our restatement, evidence from the text and personal opinion in a formulaic answer on a topic we cared nothing about so that we could bump up our test scores, I have to say, "hooray"!


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