Dr. Glen Coleman is a social studies teacher at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey.
Ten years ago, when students at Glen’s school were provided with laptops, Glen was unprepared for the disruption. This inspired him to reclaim his role in the classroom and harness the power of digital technology for learning. While pursuing his studies at Drew University, he reinvented his approach to teaching and learning by discovering how to use technology to inspire conversations that make the study of the humanities meaningful.
Inside Glen Coleman’s History Class:
Glen on Powerful Learning:
What’s one strategy teachers can use to incorporate Powerful Learning?
“‘What do you think?’ is a crucial question for my class. It has the power to engage students to work hard individually, collaboratively, and meaningfully. For example, in class we are now guided by this prompt: ‘What is needed for a nation to endure when its regions have differing economic, social, or political priorities?’ To answer, we study some of the powerful voices prior to the American Civil War. We compare those voices to today. What emerges are students’ voices. They broadcast their viewpoints, disagreements, and ambitions through speeches and writing, as they try to convince each other of the America they want. We then write to our congressman so they hear our voices. As the history comes alive, so do we.”
When did you realize the power of technology for learning?
“My first experience with the power of educational technology happened the summer of my freshman year of high school. Previously, I was a bad student, and then my dad brought home a personal computer and my life changed. I could read what I wrote, I could move thoughts on screen, my grades skyrocketed, and I realized I have a brain. Let’s find the right tools for our students, so that they can tap into their many talents, so as to help them secure a bright future.”
What book has influenced your thinking on powerful teaching and learning?
“Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari impacts my teaching by deepening my understanding of what makes humans such a powerful force on Earth: our power to tell stories and do science. This has spurred me to question, reflect, and implement measures that create a more holistic classroom, that develops students social and emotional well-being. This is because Harari taught me, the challenges our students will confront will require more than content knowledge or academic skill; they will require mastery of social-emotional skills, as our world is rapidly changing.”
Ask Glen about:
“Reach out to me to brainstorm ways to encourage divergent thinking in class, to increase student ‘buy-in,’ to promote a community of learning. The big idea is this: I love teaching. It’s fun. The material is engaging. The learning is at times even profound. Reach out because you want to, because talking about teaching can often improve it. We are only as good as our community, only as capable as the conversation that moves us forward.”
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