Friday, February 24, 2012

Will change really happen this time?

This short animation of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson does a fairly good encapsulation of the challenges of K-12 education. What's interesting to me is that, for many years people who believed this way mostly spoke and wrote books for, well... each other. Today these discussions are taking place in policy circles. And the tools for structural change (especially customization) are there. Many voices are saying the time has finally arrived for the "complete retool" we've all discussed for decades.  Has it?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trauma Telemedicine on IPod Touch

Rural Maine Telemedicine.... Trauma surgeon on IPod Touch...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kahn Academy Described

I found this TED talk presentation a better way to understand Kahn Academy, and its progress as a tool for schools.  I think some educators have been hesitant to support Kahn, partly because students would be consuming, rather than producing the videos (which would not technically be consistent with constructivist ideology.) This presentation shows how such a tool can put students in the drivers' seat while respecting and supporting the unique role of the teacher.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

News flash: students use technology to break the rules

I often receive an email from a teacher to the effect of "I saw a student defeat our firewall and go to a blocked site.  What is the technology department going to do about it?"  In nearly every case, the teacher had a responsibility to deal with the student, but saw it as a technical matter, rather than a disciplinary one.  I also often receive messages to the effect of "I broke the rules; look how easy it was."  This is largely a problem of school culture, both professional and academic.  We need to build a culture where people understand that doing something wrong is not made right because it is possible.  This has always been true, but the Internet has caused some to become confused (at times hysterical) about it.  Technology departments can do a lot to prevent unintended access to inappropriate material, but cannot transform the Internet into a walled garden.  It is a place where the capability to do both right and wrong is inherent.  While the technology folks appreciate information and can assist teachers in apprehending or ascertaining what students have done, it is the school's responsibility to respond to violations with the appropriate consequences and actions. There is no need for hysteria; we can bring our existing wisdom and ethical sense to the table on this.  Today, many students struggle with this idea: "I can, therefore I may."  When something is against the rules, it is not made less so by the fact that it is technically possible to do it, and it should not be encouraged, even as a way of "testing our security." 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Same old arguments

In twenty years of working with technology in schools, the same arguments always appear in posts about computers in school.  I was following this thread on a recent PBS article and sure enough, there were several posts which:
  • Equated technology with bad teaching
  • Described computers as a luxury and complained about the expense
  • Waxed nostalgic about drill and practice in the old days, and how much more was learned back then (by the 30% of people who completed high school.)
Some obvious points:
K-12 is the last industry which makes a big deal out of using technology.  Every other industry has switched to using it.  The world uses technology to do real work today, so of course we need it to teach those things.

$250 per year per student is not much money compared to the $12,000 or so we spend on each student every year.  Kids will buy their own computers soon.  Most already do.

Learning does require practice and hard work, and wherever this is not present, learning suffers.  (It's an old problem.  Unfortunately, you can do bad teaching with or without a computer.)

Education is lighting a fire, not filling a bucket.  Many old-fashioned school practices actually taught kids to hate learning (writing as a punishment, for instance.) School does not have to be like it was.

Printed textbooks will not survive this economy.  E-Reader copies can be updated much more cheaply, contain video, etc.  E-Readers cost no more than one or two textbooks now, and can hold thousands of books.  You can read them in daylight and they don't make your eyes sore. There will always be wonderful books, including paper ones, but for traditional classroom textbooks, It's over.  People complain about filtering the Internet. There is no more egregious filter than a history textbook approved in Texas and California.

Technology does not drive good teaching; it is simply necessary, as a practical matter, for good teaching in today's world for most subjects.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prensky says make school less boring

One of Mark Prensky's "Principles for Principals reads:  " Make it your business to eliminate boredom from your school—make 100 percent engagement the goal. Poll students as to which of their teachers and classes are engaging and which are boring and why. Investigate and take action."

I felt this needed some clarification: 

We can make school less boring, but not by making it more entertaining or less demanding. (Some teachers achieve it at the expense of learning, by entertaining at a higher and higher level trying to emulate Bill Nye, which probably cost $400K per show.) It’s about working the students very hard, but on something that has meaning and a real audience, in other words, on real work, instead of work for the teacher. It’s not about inordinate obeisance to their immature subculture, which we enabled when we created schools.  Its also not as dependent on technology as Prensky's article suggests.  The coolness factor is temporary.  I like this little video, which I think deals with the hype quite well: