Revolving Revolution

Why hasn’t technology dramatically changed education? Why isn’t it a panacea for a system we call broken and antiquated? Sampling of answers: we use it too much; we don’t use it enough; we aren’t using the right technologies in the right way.

What if we’re thinking about the problem incorrectly? If we insert technology into an educational environment, then students will use it to enhance their learning. Right? Their experiences will be better and thus their learning will improve. Oops. Not if we aren’t applying the technology in a way that transforms how they learn.

The YouTube channel Veritasium released a video this past Monday, December 1 that explains the folly of thinking that technology itself will revolutionize education. That has been spouted for over a century. The addition of technology in a classroom to do different things with the same content is evolution, as is stated in the video. To truly revolutionize education, we need to consider how technology can help learners apply their thinking differently to the content. I love the moment in the video when the host states that we aren’t limited by what experiences we can offer students through technology. We are limited by how we can affect the learning, thinking, and reasoning that occurs inside the students. That is my paraphrasing.

Our attempts at integrating technology have seemed cyclical. We are stuck in a revolving door of thought and process. Every time we go round, we pick up a new toy — excuse me — tool, and we use it to help us continue with our revolving. We call this revolution. A different kind maybe.

Here is the video. Watch and see if it changes your thinking about our perspective on education. Is the juggernaut of education too stuck in its ways to allow technology to really change it, or is there a bigger issue that speaks to the heart of education itself and what it means to learn?

The Real World: Math Rules!

Now I don’t profess to be a math whiz, so there are plenty of articles and content I come across that I don’t fully understand. Surprise, right?

Punya Mishra’s article, “The Seven Trans-Disciplinary Habits of Mind: Extending the TPACK Framework Towards 21st Century Learning,” looks at seven cognitive skills necessary for cross-disciplinary learning that fits within the framework of TPACK. I’ll have to post more on this article later, but in the first skill — Perceiving — Mishra mentions Nikki Graziano’s Found Functions project. This is part of the Archi Ninja blog. In her project, she combines photography and math. This goes beyond the math in zoom and lens aperture. Her function overlays show math found in the real world. Some of the links on the page are broken, but the imagery and functions combine for a stunning use of math.

Ok, so we’re not all photography enthusiasts, but this sheds light on the fact that math is a part of our everyday lives, whether we notice or not. Students who hate math but love art, take note. Models and formulas make art, game design, architecture, and so much more. Cross-disciplinary learning like this could help learners expand their horizons. Students who love math could find more applications for it, and those who would rather eat raw broccoli for 32 (I tried) than find the slope of a line could find beauty and creativity in how math shapes our world (or is the other way around?).

Learning isn’t about isolated events and silos of knowledge. It’s about how it all comes together. How knowledge influences events and vice versa. Upper level math may have new life breathed into it. If anyone has an example of this type of learning, please share!

Simplistic Dipsticks

Kurt Williams - Creative Commons License

Kurt Williams – Creative Commons License

How do you know that you know something? How do you really know? Is it because you were able to pronounce the words in a textbook, or watch a video about it? Even if you don’t think about your own learning very often, the thought may come around every now and again. When it does, what do you look for to determine that the knowledge you have isn’t just a footnote in your life?

I am assuming you assess yourself in some way. I don’t mean you pull out a piece of paper and create a multiple choice test for yourself, but you may observe how you use the information you’ve absorbed. That observation is a type of assessment, as it provides you a way to check your progress and do something about it. How can you become better at something if you don’t know how? How can students become better at something if they don’t know what they need to work on; for that matter, how can teachers help students become better without knowing what their struggles are? We need to assess, but we need to do it in a formative way more often than in a summative way.

Formative assessments that don’t fit the traditional assessment mold (i.e. quizzes) can be called alternative assessments, according to Todd Finley in his article Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding. These alternative assessments serve as learning dipsticks to check for the level of understanding and learning that is taking place about a subject. I agree with Todd in his liking simple alternative assessments. The simpler it is, the less confusing it will be for students to complete and for you to assess. Students won’t be as likely to get in their own way by misinterpreting instructions. Todd references the 60 second paper as an example of a simple form of alternative assessment. In 60 seconds, you could have an indication as to whether your students understand a concept and what insights about that concept they may have.

Dipsticks quickly and easily give us information about the health of our car. Learning dipsticks, or alternative assessments, can quickly and easily give us information about the health of students understanding and learning. We use them in our own lives. Why not use them in the classroom?

Genius is as genius does

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.   — John Cleese

Genius creates. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Genius hour. FedEx time. Call it what you will — it is meant for creation. Google returns 20% of its engineers’ time to them to work on whatever projects they wish. They can follow their interests and passions during that period of time. As a result, Google has developed products like Gmail and Google News from this time. Rather than stifling the creativity in its workers, Google has allowed that creativity to flow through their curiosity and drive. And it seems to have worked out well for everyone.

With students, the idea is just as simple. Provide them time to pursue their own interests. Notice I said “pursue”, not “think about.” The key here is to run this time in a PBL-esque way so that action is taken. Connections will be made as students are encouraged to follow their own ideas to fruition. Research followed by production.

The Nerdy Teacher blog showcases what can come of this time when students are guided but given choice in what and how they learn. Students don’t just enhance their own learning. They become global learners and contributors as their ideas take root and grow beyond the four walls of the classroom. That’s what we want, right? For them to become productive members of society? Why are we looking at that concept as a futuristic occurrence? Why can’t it happen now?

The stigma of the word “genius” has taken on too much weight. Hopefully, this type of movement will lighten the load and provide us real examples of what genius looks like…and that we will find it in our students. They already do so many things to create and share and make the world better. They want to do. And to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Genius is as genius does.”

Turn Genius Hour Into Genius Year is a great article by Jennifer B. Bernstein, Ph.D. at Edutopia. She outlines some important points about how to get the most out of Genius Hour with your students, including daring them to go further and engaging in conversations that lead to more creation.

See what people are saying about Genius Hour on Twitter:

Interactive Media – One way to learn about WWI

The Guardian has an interactive experience waiting for anyone wanting to know more about World War I. Combining multiple forms of media, it is quite the visual interactive. Where was this when I was learning about WWI in History class? A global guide to the first world war – interactive documentary is an example of how to put knowledge in the hands of students in a way that will engage them. Would it reach everyone? Maybe not, but I would wager it is more compelling than an hour-long lecture on the subject. And I get to control the pace.

WWI Interactive Documentary

WWI Interactive Documentary

4 Stages of Learning

An article was recently released from Edudemic with the title “Do You Know The 4 Stages Of Learning?” What is represented in this article is a thought process and practice for learning. The example given is for a reading lesson or assignment, but the stages can be applied to any learning situation and any content area. The Learning Process series I wrote covered how we learn in general. This article by Edudemic covers learning in terms of strategies. There are many strategies out there that can be employed by both learner and teacher. However, how we approach the introduction and integration of those strategies is what is most important. As an example, there are many apps, so to go through them all and dig in deep would be nearly impossible. What we can do instead is highlight a few useful apps as examples and discuss how to use them and how to discern which apps are worth the time.

While the infographic below is simple, it still requires some thinking to pull in the objectives at the bottom into the Before/During/After section at the top. A brief breakdown of the four stages, combined with their objective:

  1. Declarative – identifying learning strategies (what they look like and what they’re called)
  2. Procedural – how to use learning strategies (inputting your knowledge into a strategy to increase understanding)
  3. Conditional – when to use learning strategies (applying a learning strategy that will best enhance the learning process)
  4. Metacognitive – understanding why a learning strategy is employed (how has your learning increased or changed due to the strategy?)

With the reading examples given, different learning strategies are used, and the four stages can be applied to each area of the example. Before reading, the preview involves different learning strategies. The four stages would be applied to those learning strategies as they are used to preview, question, and predict. Note that the reflective, or metacognitive process can take place along the way or at the end depending on the learner and the structure of the content.

One glaringly obvious piece of this that I want to point out is the inclusion of student/learner questioning throughout the process. Learners must be allowed to ask questions. That is how they interpret what they are experiencing. Assimilation is almost never perfect, so to resolve anomalies or misunderstandings as we add and modify our schema, we must ask questions, re-evaluate, and ask more questions. The teacher can help a learner with these stages of learning, but the student can help him/herself  by asking questions.



Learners & Knowers

“At times of change, the learners are the ones who will inherit the world, while the knowers will be beautifully prepared for a world which no longer exists.”

-Alistair Smith

Alistair Smith is a speaker and educational advocate who inspires us to think about new learning methods as we encounter an age of technological innovation. Learners have room to breathe, room to fail, and receive encouragement in the form of timely feedback. Knowers simply ingest information and regurgitate it in certain circumstances. What happens if I know but can’t do? Learning requires progress. A learner progresses from simple knowledge to application and innovation. A knower only holds the knowledge in his/her pocket.

More knowledge is constantly being added to what we already know. The information in textbooks, for example, can become outdated before the book has reached its determined lifespan in a classroom. Revisions are necessary, and in this digital age, those revisions are frequent. By the time we feel like we know something, new information comes out shedding new light on the issue. The world as we knew it no longer exists because pieces are constantly changing. Instead, we need to evolve as the information does and be ready to apply what we do know. As a matter of fact, that application is often what changes our knowledge. It pushes the boundaries, rearranges the facts, and provides a new perspective on the world and its workings.

Watch Alistair’s presentation below. It’s not just the fluff of wanting change. It is an exhortation to change. If we know what it takes, then what are we doing about it?