Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cultivating Authenticity in Learning

A slightly altered version of this post entitled "Learning Like Never Before" is cross-posted at the Huffington Post.
Let me start off by saying that I work at an incredible school. When I came to New Milford High School in 2004 there were many amazing programs in place.  One was the Holocaust Study Tour.  This global learning endeavor provides some of our students the opportunity to travel to Europe for at least 10 days and study the Holocaust in depth. This authentic learning experience cannot be reproduced in the classroom.  For detailed information on the program please visit The New Milford Holocaust Project.
Technology now allows the students and staff at NMHS to share in the authentic learning experiences taking place in Europe (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic).  Last year we launched a blog where the students in Europe chronicled and reflected on essential questions, focusing on a dark time in human history.  Meanwhile, students and staff back on the campus of NMHS are using the blog as a catalyst for a variety of other learning experiences.  Some teachers even have their students respond to the posts each day.  The first Holocaust Study Tour 2011 blog post should be up tomorrow so be sure to check it out.
Skype has also brought a whole new element to the program. Prior to the trip, students Skyped numerous times with their guide who resides in Israel.  This year we even Skyped in a Holocaust survivor to our elective course on the topic.  I use Skype to keep in contact with my teacher while on the trip and to sometimes converse with the students about what they are learning.  We also encourage our history teachers to Skype with the study tour if the times can be worked out.  At our District Open House this Thursday, I plan to Skype the group in from Europe to kick off the event. The theme for the event is appropriately centered around what it is like to be a student in the 21st Century.
It is an exciting time to be in education. Technology has really added a whole new dimension to learning.  Schools that confine themselves to a bland curriculum, textbooks, worksheets, or learning activities that do not go beyond the walls of the brick and mortar building are really doing a disservice to their learners.  In a society that is now globally connected through easy to use and cost effective web 2.0 tools, opportunities to engage and make the process of learning meaningful to all students has quickly become a reality. Teachers now have at their fingertips many tools to add a global context to any lesson. For example, Skype in the Classroom is a free community that assists teachers in establishing connections between teachers in different countries to help their students learn.  

Unfortunately, many schools across the country block blogging tools and Skype as well as a variety of other web 2.0 technologies that foster creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills. Schools have not evolved in step with societal changes. In order to best prepare out students, we must move away from an industrial model of instruction and let go of control in order to meet the diverse needs of today’s learner. This will only happen when schools realize that technology is not the enemy and when combined with passionate teachers and visionary schools the end result for students is learning like never before.


  1. Eric,

    Great article. It's so good to see that their are administrators like you out there that are preparing students for life after high school. Technology is a tool that can promote the growth and expansion of learning at an unprecedented rate. Educators and Administrators must demonstrate and use these tools in order to provide students with a complete 21st century learning experience. I agree with you that schools who block widely used technology, especially those that provide educational value is doing their students a disservice.

  2. As Curtis Bonk says in the title of his book, "The World Is Open." I think the content fits great with what you are doing. See my summary at Keep up the good work.

  3. We love this blog post Eric.

    It fits really well the agenda of our new Teaching & Learning blog. Particularly your reference to Skype Education, as we recently celebrated their achievement of 10,000 teachers in their network.

    Would it be possible for us to cover this blog on our own please? We would credit you of course and highlight your blog address.


  4. Zeb/Douglas: Thank you for the positive feedback!

    Mr: I have no problem with you covering my blog on yours :)

  5. Eric,

    Since we are developing a program to try and bring more iPads and technology into the class room, I came across this blog while doing some research.

    I have been speaking to a number of Private and Public school Principles who are embracing our program.

    Please let me know if you would like for me present to you our program which is set up to help schools bring iPads in the classroom creating unique ways for our children to experience the world.

    Christian Chicles
    407- 257-1492

  6. looks promising.Its a nice blog.Administrators like you,will build the students with higher ambitions.Its great

  7. Great post. I'm happy to hear your students are studying the Holocaust. It's an eternal message for all of us to learn and remember.
    I also agree that this is an exciting time in education. Technology is making things so much better. I have recently built a website for students to learn about PBL and for teachers to create virtual classrooms. It's called and it's free so anyone can access it!

  8. I have enjoyed reading your many insightful posts and look forward to many more. Keep them coming! QMobile Noir A4 Price in Pakistan