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Learning target
Session outcomes: by the end of the session, participants will have a better understanding of how learning environments need to change in order to better prepare students for tomorrow’s world.

Bill Ferriter is a 6th grade teacher in North Carolina who was invited to present at the conference. Bill teaches English Language Arts and Social Studies.

The Dumbest Generation was the title of this session, and it was framed as a rebuttal, or refutation in part, of a work written by Mark Bauerlain. In this work, Mark Bauerlain suggests that kids today have more resources, more information, more tools, and more opportunity than any previous generation, and yet they are not outperforming the previous generations. Therefor, they must be the dumbest generation.

Bill agrees that kids are not outperforming previous generations, but Bill Ferriter says that we cannot blame the children. Ferriter says that students can be inspired by technology to ponder, imagine, reflect, analyze, memorize, recite and create- but only after we build a bridge between what they know about these new tools and what we know about good teaching. We can provide access to technology and resources, but we must also provide structures for use that a conducive to what we want kids to learn.

One of the ways that Bill builds this bridge is through the use of a micro lending site called, Kiva. His students get to help entrepreneurs in developing nations by providing them with small loans. Along the way his kids learn about developing countries and the people who live there, they work on their writing and presentations skills, and they learn to evaluate ideas, all in a collaborative environment.

The key to this learning opportunity, this bridge, is that his students are real participants in real world decisions.

Bill used to give assignments to kids that were good, but that failed to address the need to participate. He would have them write a persuasive paper about a favorite book, or about a movie. Those assignments were fine, but they didn’t engage kids the way his assignments do now, when kids are participants. Now, they write about why people should support someone in the developing world, but first they have to learn about the person, the idea, the country. They are now doing authentic evaluation repeatedly. Also, the students work in groups, but each group can only select one loan per unit, so they have to persuade one another…just like real life.

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