“Stop asking questions you know the answers to and open the door to communication and collaboration.” – Norway

This post is cross published. It originally was posted in Microsoft “Daily edventures” by Anthony Salcito.

Ann Sorum Michaelsen believes deeply in the importance of teaching students how to use social media, build a personal learning network and connect with learners in different parts of the world. “Communication is the answer,” says Michaelsen. “I believe digital footprints and understanding who to trust and where to find materials is vital in this pursuit.”

Michaelsen has promoted the use of computers in schools since 2002. She was instrumental in implementing the Skillsoft Learning Management System (LMS) in her county’s 34 schools. Michaelsen’s school, Sandvika VGS High School, was Norway’s 2009 Pathfinder school in the global Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forums, and Michaelsen presented at the same event in South Africa in 2010. In fact, Michaelsen recently took four students to Lesotho to deliver laptops and Internet. They now Skype on a regular basis.

Michaelsen is also is an active writer of the blog Teaching English Using Web 2.0 where she offers advice to fellow educators. Today, she gives us her thoughts on personalized learning, and how she sees trends like the flipped classroom fitting into a high-quality education.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

My greatest professional achievements have been the yearly conferences we have at our school. By inviting world-class educators I have been able to spread some of my ideas and what I have learned to other educators in Norway.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

It is difficult to pinpoint exact results. But our school is one of the leading schools in Norway regarding use of technology with students. Students have great expectations when it comes to using laptops in class and our school is among the most popular in our district. We need to constantly seek opportunities and learn from others. We will never be able to say that this is it, we are done with innovation!

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

It is a challenge to change a system, especially in schools. Teachers become teachers because they love books and love to learn. When you introduce laptops for every student it is scary and difficult. If the teachers insist on continuing lecturing we have a problem. I think school leaders need to lead by example. That is why I love to teach as well.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I use my blog to share ideas, with my students and other educators. I use OneNote to make a textbook my class shares and uses during tests and exams. We use audio programs to make radio shows and all my students have their own blogs. They are linked to my blog and I often ask other educators to comment. I love Skype and we use it a lot, too.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

We are lucky in Norway; our government provides books and laptops for all students in high school. It is the way the laptop is used that is the biggest obstacle.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

I’m excited that our country initiated a trial with the use of Internet during exams. See more here: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/05/for-exams-is-using-the-internet-considered-cheating/

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

I would open the possibility for more student choices. I think we are cramming too much into the curricula and require too many courses to graduate. We talk about innovation and creativity, but deliver the same content to all our students at the same pace. What if we opened up for more individual choices? Personalized learning is another buzzword I’ve been reading about. I think it is difficult to accomplish that if we do not change the system radically. To quote Chris Lehman from ISTE in June: “Personalization can’t mean we do the same stuff at a different pace. Anyone who tries to sell you that, call them out!” I believe that more important than remembering content is the ability to question and become a lifelong learner. We need to challenge our students and provide real problems to solve. Stop asking questions you know the answers to and open the door to communication and collaboration.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

I think connecting students, classrooms and teachers and learning from each other offers a great opportunity. I think personalized learning is the way to go, but we shouldn’t forget that we need to work together. A student sitting alone in front of a computer is not the answer.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Take a chance, don’t be afraid to try. Write a blog and use Twitter to connect and learn from others.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

Flipping the classroom is a great trend because it lets us discuss how we are using the time we have in school with the kids. It is not about producing videos or using Khan Academy. It is about helping students, working on different problems and discussing and learning in school.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

I would give a device that can connect the students to the rest of the world. It doesn’t have to be a laptop. When we visited Lesotho this March we learned a lot! For my students to see how they live and learn in Lesotho – a country they knew nothing about before we started to study it – was amazing. Now with the help of money from my school and technical help from Microsoft, we are able to Skype with this school every week. Communication is the answer. Use your device to connect and learn from others. Both students and teachers need to learn how to do this.

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