Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Web 2.0 Britannica Discussion

There is a lively discussion going on over at the Britannica blog regarding project based learning and web 2.0 tools. This started with a post by Steve Hargadon and continued with a post by Daniel Willingham. I highly recommend you give it a whirl. The following are the comments I made on Daniel Willingham's thread a couple days ago. I am reposting them here because I think it follows well with some of my recent thinking and recent posts on this blog:

I completely agree that what is needed are teachers who know how to utilize project-based pedagogies effectively when appropriate and that the pedagogy trumps whatever technology might be used. Teachers need training not only on how to use web2.0 tools but knowledge of what tools are available. Since the spectrum changes almost exponentially every day this becomes extremely difficult. The field of education also does a poor job of providing this training. If a company in the private sector wants their employees to use a technology for their job they usually pay that employee to be trained on said technology and provide time for this to happen. In schools this time is almost nill and teachers are usually expected to keep up on their own. As for any system wide pedagogical shift that might happen there are other systemic factors that get in the way. To this point Alan Kellog comments, “Teach them how to think for themselves, and don’t accept whining.” The problem here is with most teachers there is no choice whether we accept their whining or not. Tenure and teacher unions make sure the status quo remains in effect. If web2.0 is a disruptive technology for schools and if that disruptive technology changes quickly (as it does), then schools need to be able to change quickly if they want to keep up. The system is stacked against quick change. In most schools there is a triad of forces that both prevent bad ideas from wrecking havoc on the system and prohibit quick necessary changes from taking place. These three forces are the school board or board of directors, the teacher union or association, and the administration.

Today, Scott McLeod asked, "Can a computer lecture be better than a human?" in a blog post about his 5th grade daughter needing to find an answer to a math problem. In their search they found an animated program online that more effectively taught the concept than any book or lecture could have done. He says that they found themselves self-motivated learners by the engagement of the tools. This is a serious problem for our schools. If our best teachers are not in our classrooms but designing programs, simulations, and teaching objects that enable self-directed inquiry and encourage independent learning and if students find that kind of education more engaging, thought provoking, and efficient than our classrooms then why should they not drop out and acquire their own education at home? Why would we need classroom teachers at all? Why would we need schools? With this scenario, home schooling looks like a great option. Maybe a superior option for many.

I don’t think we will see a major transformation of our public schools but if we do it will be in response to a crisis that hurts fiscally. When a mass exodus of students occurs and schools have to cut enough teachers and boards have to cut enough programs because of lack of funds due to declining enrollment we might then see schools enacting their own pedagogical bailout package.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Alan November at ITEC

This morning I attended a keynote speech by Alan November at ITEC. The following are my sketchy notes from the presentation. (Words in italics are my own thoughts) This presentation was similar to this one:

  • Alan November says his generation is the boomer generation and our current generation of graduates are the boomerang generation; they go to college and come back home.
  • We should connect our students with authentic audiences.
  • We are teaching our children not to be free thinkers.
  • When you ask employers what they are looking for in new employees they say they are looking for people who are free thinkers and can work self guided.
  • Do you know how Google works?
  • Shows how Wikipedia almost always comes up first.
  • Students always use Wikipedia. Asks some students if any of them have never been to Wikipedia.
  • Then he goes into his West Point story about searching about the impact of the Pope’s speech about Turkey.
  • The internet is more a place where you can go to get your own view of the world reinforced rather than a place to expand your view or get alternative views. (Because when you search on Google you are likely to come up with only western sources first).
  • Good question from the audience: “What if you search the Turkish version of Google?”
  • Alan tried it and the same results came up. The algorithm is the same.
  • Then he goes into his “Shots heard around the world” example.
  • We spend too much time teaching teachers technology but not enough time teaching good assignment design with technology. – Applause!
  • Can find schools to meet up with at
  • Assessment needs to change too.
  • We have underestimated what kids can do to create rich content.
  • There are children around the world who are very very poor whose work ethic is scary to watch.
  • Colin Powel said k12 education is the #1 thing the candidates are not talking about.
  • Students are not asking for more technology, they are asking for a different role.
  • Says we should engage students with us in building learning objects.
  • This totally reinforces what I have long believed.
  • Demonstrates making screencast tutorials using Jing.
  • Are we willing as a culture to empower students/children with more control of what happens in the class?
  • Teach children real jobs, real responsibility.
  • Teachable moment? Google custom search does not work in Safari but it does in Firefox?
  • Teachers in elementary schools should be building search engines for students and families to use. High school students can help build this.
  • He believes there should be search engines by department. Why? Why not just one for the school?
  • I am thinking we should create a school account, require teachers to use Firefox with tabs and use Del.izzy as our own custom search engine. This would make it extremely easy for teachers to use. Almost no training, almost no effort.
  • We need to change the assignments we give kids.
  • Don’t throw out your content after each course, keep adding.
  • English teachers will be using Google Docs…It is not up to debate.
  • Create a Google Doc for conference sessions and assign attendees as collaborators. In the end each attendee will have notes from all sessions, even those they did not attend. Better than each attendee blogging their notes separately.
  • Screencast football plays so players can put them on their iPods.
  • – teaches students to make a difference in another part of the world. You can invest in companies and get your money back to invest again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Ready for ITEC

I have decided to spread my wings a little bit and venture outside of MN and present at conferences in neighboring states. I am excited to be presenting two sessions on Tuesday at ITEC. Not the company that designs theme parks or the company that sells...wait, I can't tell what they sell, I will be at the Iowa Technology & Education Connection.

I will be presenting two sessions:

Session: Virtual World WebQuests
Description: Virtual Worlds are gaining in popularity and many educational
institutions are exploring ways to establish a presence or utilize
these multi-user immersive environments for instruction. In this
session we will explore principle elements of research supported
learning experiences within these environments.
Time: Tuesday @ 1:30
Where: Des Moines Downtown Marriott Salon B

Session: Digital Backpack -Killer Online Apps for Schools
Description: Cloud computing will play a significant role in future computer
technology with great implications for education. The Digital
Backpack is a collection of free online applications that have a lot
of potential for schools. Come explore the possibilities!
Time: Tuesday @ 2:30
Where: Des Moines Downtown Marriott Salon B

I am really excited about this opportunity. Not only will I get to present two sessions on topics that I feel passionate about but I will also get a chance to hear Alan November speak in person. I also am hoping to meet Scott McLeod whose blog, Dangerously Irrevelevant, I read almost daily and often comment on. I would be nice to put a face to the name.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Professional Responsibility - If You Are A Teacher

20 Questions:
  1. Is teaching a professional job?
  2. Do teachers have professional responsibilities beyond their teaching contract?
  3. What are professionals responsible for?
  4. Why do you do what you do?
  5. Do professionals have a responsibility to keep up-to-date on what is current in their respective fields of study?
  6. Would you expect your doctor or dentist to be aware of new medical developments, assuming you consider doctors or dentists professionals?
  7. Would you expect a detective to keep up with current trends in forensics?
  8. How is it that many teachers are unaware of sweeping trends in education?
  9. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what UBD is?
  10. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what web 2.0 is?
  11. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you be aware of the concept of disruptive innovation?
  12. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what is in NCLB?
  13. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what state education policy is? Or at least how to look it up?
  14. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what bills are being passed around the state legislature?
  15. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know, understand, and be able to at lease paraphrase your state's academic standards in your content area?
  16. If our teacher contracts don't explicitly address #9-#15 do we have professional responsibilities to address these on our own?
  17. Should teacher contracts address these issues? Or is it our own professional responsibility to address these for ourselves?
  18. Wouldn't teacher unions have an easier time negotiating "professional" salaries for teachers if more teachers exhibited "professional" behavior in their own learning?
  19. Why is it that when a "professional" teacher takes great interest in all of these things they usually are asked to move into an administrative or leadership role?
  20. If you are a teacher, what motivates you to care about these issues?