Back to School List

Yes it’s that time of year again and teachers are sending home the list of things needed to start the year. You know the list, it often includes pen, pencils, erasers and a 3 ring binder. Perhaps a teacher might ask for a 4GB Flash drive if they’re a bit cutting edge. So in 2011 are these the tools that are going to make a successful learner? Are they the tools of the 21st century thinker?

While at ISTE this past June I listened to Will Richardson talk about what students should be asked to bring to school this September. None of them were physical. He said all you need are 3 things. A Gmail account, a Diigo account and a Twitter account following all the greatest minds out there.

The Gmail account gives you a place for all your writing, presentations and photos. No more lost homework. A Diigo account replaces your text books. Now reading articles becomes social. The Twitter account, following the greatest minds out there, allows students to connect with real world experts in real time.

Learning is social, not an isolated act. Real learning, as James Britton put it, “floats on a sea of talk”.

A couple of things need to be in place for this to happen, some small, some huge. Your school needs a robust and ubiquitous wireless. These tools aren’t nearly as good if you’re tethered to a blue Ethernet cable. These tools require a teacher that understands how to leverage social media in a rich and differentiated learning environment. This would also require a supportive and connected administrator and parent community.

That’s it. Spend the first 20 days working on norms of networked etiquette and having your students learn about themselves as learners. After that let the hardware trickle in from home. iPods, phones, netbooks, digital cameras, Nintendo DS, what have you. What can’t be supplied from home gets supplemented by the school.

There, now that’s in place the teacher can get rolling with a Challenge Based Learning program taught through an inquiry lens. Then the teacher facilitates the classroom being flipped while providing heavy doses of effective descriptive feedback. There we go. Not a 3 ring binder in sight.


2 Comments on “Back to School List”

  1. Royan Lee says:

    I love this list, and can’t bare the other consumerism involved in back to school. Great to see you blogging again, my friend.

  2. Great post!

    The “professional email account” is key. I encourage my elementary students to create an account that they will want when they apply for a first job – most likely a babysitting one 🙂 Beebsrulz1999@ will not stand the test of time. Their interest will wane when their their title becomes uncool. Generic professional titles like Andrewsandassociates@….. Royanseduconglomerate@… Topoftheworldenterprises@.. or just a creative use of their name are fun to develop; the students will feel professional and classy. I hope that when they use this account they will be less likely to sign up to sketchy sites and will treat classmates with e-respect in order to maintain their reputation.


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