Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teacher's Crystal Ball

Networked learners. Google docs. RSS feeds. The Horizon Report. GeoTagged Everything. Smart Objects. And that’s just the next 5 years…

Maybe Marc Prensky was right after all and these dusty old curriculums teachers cling to are getting in the way.

But where I would chose to deviate from Prensky- is what curriculums are getting in the way of.

I commented on a few blogs recently that teachers should all be equipped with a crystal ball to see what the future will look like. What a 21st Century learner needs to know.

Based on global projections about the health of our planet (made with today’s technology), the number of friends you have on Facebook, or the number of hits on your connected blog, won’t mean a thing!

Food and water shortages, diseases and epidemics, pollution, deforestation, energy consumption… Technology isn’t the cure. It is the problem itself.

Today’s learner needs to know how to use a divining rod, and a fishing rod; how to harness the wind, and brew ethanol.

Making videos with a phone is easy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Swimming or Skimming?

In his article in the Atlantic, Is Google making us Stupider, Nicholas Carr describes the feeling of losing his span of attention.

He describes how he used to love immersing himself into words and books and lengthy prose; but now, with computer-based reading occupying increasingly more of his reading, he struggles to read past a few paragraphs. Instead of thoughtful and involved reading, he is gleaning for ideas, while being bombarded by competing images and advertising.

He describes his transformation as the difference between swimming and Jet Skiing.

Carr is certainly not the only one having the experience of peeked distractibility online. But what are the implications of this kind of transformation in reading?

Is this phenomenon, as Carr suggests, making us ‘stupider’? Or are we, and our students benefiting from seeing more?

Perhaps online reading about: gardening, adventure travel, global issues (or any wide variety of topics), could actually be a richer experience for students (or any learner) if accompanied by images, links, and pop-ups.

If that is the case, then to deny our kids online reading, and promote books is an educational crime.

Is the pursuit of slow the equivalent of a thumb in the eye of the speed boat of technology? Does it behoove us all to get on the boat now or risk being left behind to become obsolete? (Have you noticed this about technology; at a certain point, if you’re not on Facebook, or you don’t’ have a cell phone, you’re a pain in the ass!?)

I think what it comes down is this: like any Jet Ski ride, the adrenaline rush is great at first, but eventually the ride has to either go somewhere, or come to an end. Extending the metaphor, at some point, students will find an area of interest, get off the Jet Ski and swim in the words.

And the reading will be more powerful because they will have found it on their own. Our job as educators, then must be that of guide and life guard.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pendulum Swung too Far: Marc Prensky VS. Nicholas Carr

In his article Apopt and Adapt, Prensky makes a case for more technology in schools. Perhaps that's putting it too mildly. He implies so much more technology is needed that schools' curriculums are getting in the way of technology.

He argues that teachers and school are too conservative, too slow, and that schools: teacher and administrators, hang on to curriculum as if it is the last bastion of culture and the way things were. If Marc Prensky were to walk out of his software training and Games design office and into virtually any other business setting, would he really expect to find the technically advanced demographic that he isn't seeing in schools?

Prensky complains that although teachers have started using programs like powerschool, they are not changing their assignments. (Does he know what powerschool is?)

For our kids to be able to finally join the 21st century, all schools should be one-to-one, and all lessons, activities, and assignments should be digitally based. Because after all, the computer has become "extensions of the students' personal self and brain".

Nicholas Carr makes mention to the ideas of AI (artificial intelligence) and the computer as an extension of our brains in his article "Is Google Making us Stupider?". Carr desribes the possibility of becoming a society of "pancake people" spread too wide and too thin with access to uncountable volumes of information at the touch of a button. And how Google is working toward programming AI.

Although at times, I sensed that Carr was deliberately making a Socratic case in his article, I think that he too would find fault with Prensky's extreme position on the over-use of technology in schools.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beating up on Bloom

Is it academically cliche to repeatedly defame old theories and theorists?

If so I apologize...

I just think that any taxonimist worth his salt should describe the entire specrum of the heirarchy on which they claim expertise.

Kate and Tess (my 2 year old twins) are curently learning and thinking at a mad rate. None of what they are doing are represented on Bloom's heirarchy because their thinking must not qualify as HOTS.

But if to them stacking cups and signing songs and learning signs is higher order, then, equitably speaking, shouldn't that qualify?

Evidently I am not the first to come to this realization. Dave did in 1975. Here is his take on it:

The follow up question is this: Could this model then also be interepreted into the world of digital thinkers?

Looking at a glance, the answer must be yes.

From banging on a computer mouse, to touch typing keyboard skills, to writing a first essay, there are applications throughout the spectrum.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amendments to Bloom's Update

Okay, I just lost my entire post. Rrrrraaats!!!

Boiled down version: Take 2!

At it's highest level of HOTS (higher order thinking skills), the Digital outlook on Bloom is either (a) too easy or (b) too hard.

(a) Too easy. "Creating" a blog or a wiki is a sinch. Anyone can plan, construct, design, etc... a blog that offers nothing but flashing hotdogs.

That's not the height of thought.

(b) Too hard. "Creating" a computer program, animating graphic images, mixing and remixing video or audio or both are all very difficult.

That's supposed to be the point, but these things are also very exclusive.

Lack of money or no way to access equipment means that for many (most?), attainment of the top of the heirarchy is completely off limits. Unattainable.

The original vision of "evaluation" is far more inclusive.

PS. I'd also like to give a shout out to Robin Ulster on her comments about "Creating" and on "Understanding". Well said Robin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Teaching Blogs

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who questions the academic value in using blogs for student writing assignments.

On the one hand, as I write this post, I am cognisant of the fact that I may have any number of readers looking on; judging my writing, spelling and sentence structure, as well as my thoughts and ideas.

On the other hand, blogs posts, comments and replies are rife with spelling and grammar mistakes, and often are simply unintelligible! Too often blogs are used as opportunities to vent and spew.

If kids are going to use blogs in spite of whether or not we learn about them in school, why not focus our energy on teaching them the proper sentence structure, grammar and spelling the blogs don't value? Why not focus the energy on teaching how to build a proper thesis statement?

There will always be time for kids to blog weather we intervene or not.