It’s not about the tools.
That’s what teachers say after getting off their iPad, disconnecting their netbooks and closing the Skype window.
It’s not about the tools. It’s about the teaching.
The problem with that, of course, is it is about the tools. The internet has changed learning. It has changed knowledge in much the same way the printing press changed knowledge and learning.
Don Tapscott refers to it as the “Age of Networked Intelligence” in his recent TED talk. Therein lies the radical, tactical shift.
Knowledge, learning and intelligence is now distributed. It is no longer limited in time or space. It is only limited by desire.
It is only limited by desire.
Access, being what it is,
The question is:
What are you doing to foster that desire?
In my mind, that is the question that is at the root of public education. We aren’t churning out soon-to-be physicists and doctors. We should be churning out kids who love asking questions and exploring and reading and writing and engaging in the world around them. That’s our why.
Subjects taught in isolation, memory testing, work for the sake of work can no longer be what we do. But we need the tools to make it happen.
The pedagogy must come first, but we are pissing in the wind if we don’t have access to the intelligence.
With the ubiquity of technology and a growing integration of online teaching, training, applying, and learning, our students are required to learn new skills of communication. We need our students to be able to express themselves succinctly in writing, be able to build connections with little to no face-to-face interaction and the ability to understand tone in writing. However, a colleague of mine made an astute observation a while ago.
The need to build the ability to charm, disarm and create empathy is fading. Here’s her example:
“Deadlines are more important then ever. No longer can these kids talk, negotiate and charm deadlines to be extended because more and more deadlines are a technology. The portal to apply, submit, connect shuts down. That’s the thing with technology, sometimes there is no human on the other side.”
Are we doing our students any favours by extending deadlines because they ask us?
I think of my high school experience where I know a few of my teachers let me by a course because I was a nice kid. I was charming, polite. These skills have served me well. However, more and more, as technological tools create a buffer between humans, are those skills less valuable.
The same colleague made note, “When working in an online work environment, you have to fulfill the requirements, there is no wiggle room. Not only that, you have to fulfill all the requirements.”
There are more and more instances where technology is removing the “soft” skills that are a key element to public education.
So, the two questions I’m left with are: Do we start enforcing tougher deadlines and institute technology to help students remove the natural human elements of charm and negotiations or do we start to rethink and rework our technology and online courses to ensure a more human element to it?
While delivering a presentation to a group of teachers about online collaboration, someone said, “For students, reputation is the currency of social media, not marks.”
This observation redefines a student’s relationship with school work whenever social media is added to the equation. Which then begs the questions:
If we are creating inauthentic reasons for these students to use social media, are we using or abusing the currency of social media?
How do we help students accumulate this type of currency, save it, spend it wisely? Can we make them effective currency-managers in their future?
When asked to get a blog started, a student asked me, “Can I just use my blog or should I start another one?” (She didn’t say another with indignation) which confused me, I had just assumed students would not want to mix their ‘personal’ blog with the one that they’d be using for school. I replied, “You choose, either way works.” (My reply sounds so disinterested and disengaged, but it was more interested and trying to give her control.) She ended up deciding to use her previously started blog. And she posted an entry to her readers (however many that was) stating something like, “Sorry folks, for the next few months some of my posts will be school work. My teacher is having us write blogs. Sorry if they are dorky and nothing related to my real life.” She used different language but this was essentially her thoughts on blogging, in class.
At first I was a little put off thinking, “Me, dorky?” But that passed. Most of the blogging that students are asked to do is self-directed, but that didn’t matter.
Instead, I saw that she wanted to separate the authentic blog she was creating with that of school. She wanted to separate her reputation currency with the school work she’s “have” to post. And there lies the conflict.
On one hand, blogging (or Twitter or Facebook or other social media) is an opportunity for students to engage with an authentic audience, however, it costs them something when the direction of the blog is directed, in any way. So, by using social media we are caught in the crux of having them create something school-specific (inauthentic) with having them spend some of their social currency for our purposes (authentic).
A student of mine tweeted a 140-character review of a book she just finished. I asked each student to keep us posted with the books they had read and finished. I didn’t say there were marks involved, but she tweeted knowing that we were attempting to build personal learning networks/community (with classmates, etc). The first time she tweeted, she wrote the name of the author in the tweet. I mentioned that she should tweet with the author’s Twitter handle. Sure enough, when my student re-tweeted the review (positive) with the author’s Twitter handle, she got a response.
From the author.
This led to an interesting conversation about the book over Twitter with my student and the author. Authentic. Engagement. Appropriate.
Watching this on Twitter, I saw a student accumulating the currency of legitimacy in reputation. She recognized it. It was “for” school, but it carried weight beyond school.
Ultimately, the next step of this discussion in my head is to process through the second question. If the currency of the future (this seems a little ominous, but it isn’t meant to) is reputation, how do we help students build a healthy, strong reputation, know how to use it to its greatest affect and build the future they envision with it?
How do we help students find/harness/use all the ways we can accumulate this currency?
Last night I started developing my first iPad app. I have an idea for an app that isn’t in the app store that will help me, so I figure, it’s up to me to build it. The problem, of course, is the last time I programmed was first year University, a long time ago.
Believe it or not, that was a long time ago.
I now find myself in the position of a learner with a steep learning curve in front of me. To build the app, I need to process the syntax, the logic and the processing of app development. It will take me hours upon hours to program, debug, and design the app myself.
The problem is I’m a guy who likes instance results. I want the app now, I want to start using it tomorrow and that’s not going to happen. I could just partner with a programmer, pay them for their time and be on my way.
And so, I’m at an impasse.
Probably that tough crossroads many students find themselves. The place between wanting results, taking the easy way out, focusing solely on the final product and the tough journey of real learning, the grit and patience it needs to build the skills, the hours it takes to get there.
I feel humbled by the crossroads because I know the answer isn’t easy. Both roads lead me somewhere I want to go, but which road do I take?
I’m walking down both paths right now, sending out my feelers to programmers I know and picking up a few books, YouTube videos that teach me some of the basics. Eventually, I’ll need to choose.
I think about the factors that influence our students to make these choices. How many times do I facilitate the factors for them to choose to hunker down? How many times do I make them feel that the easy way is worth it?
By building an iPad app, I’m rekindling my memories of those choices. Those crucial choices we make as students.
Having attended ECOO last week, I often heard about the need to change the model for this technology conference.
There seemed to be a desire from attendees to do two things:
- Differentiate between the beginners in the ed-tech sphere and the veterans.
- Stop talking/presenting about the how we use technology and start talking more about the why we should use it.
Dan Ballantyne (@ballantynedj) and I, while driving home, decided to take on the debate of number two. Dan took the side that specific technology conferences are still important to facilitate a larger percentage of teachers to connect via social media and other technologies, where I took the side that we need to focus on the why of pedagogy and that the tools are just support, therefore shouldn’t warrant their own conference.
We recorded our debate to use as a podcast. Enjoy listening.
Comments or debate is always welcome.
This podcast has been cross-posted on Dan’s blog Avoiding Cookie Cutter Syndrome.
Although, we ran out of steam, I believe the debate is far from over. I have been contemplating the implication of the debate over the last few days and I’ve witnessed and heard various colleagues’ frustration and interaction with technology. I understand that my comfort with technology has allowed me to push the pedagogical ideas, where someone who is leery of social media’s influence is not able to get there, yet.
My thoughts have also been largely influenced over the last few days by the various conversations around BYOD. It is easy to look at the pedagogy that utilizes technology when that is your norm. I certainly appreciated the Teach Paperless blog, Bring Your Own Contexts.
I posted a Tweet in the middle of class today.
It contained an error. A grammar error. A small error, none of my students picked up on it.
My friend did though. She picked it up almost instantly. She corrected me for all my students to see.
The real story is that she corrected me instantly, from Ghana. From around the world, she was able to see what I was doing in my class and be a part of it.
It was that simple.
Anyone who tries to say that the internet and our connectedness hasn’t changed things is completely wrong.
My classroom door is open. Radically open.
The possibilities for my students are immense. They have an opportunity to stream the TED conference happening in Palm Beach live, in class. They can hear and learn from experts in the field. They can hear new ideas and witness what is happening anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, the world can be part of my class. They can ‘walk’ right in. I’m hoping to have @erinantcliffe join my class as she talks about the work she is doing in Ghana with Engineers without Borders.
For many teachers, that might be the scariest of thoughts. You never know who is watching. For me, it’s liberating. It allows my students access to the world. Connection and community.
The only thing I have to worry about is … my grammar.
Much of the conversation in the edububble talks about where we are today. What we need to be teaching and structuring our classes like today. I want to push that.
What is the classroom going to look like, operate like and be in 20 years?
It is not enough that we talk 21st Century Skills, we need to be creating the ethic for 21.5 Century schooling.
If we don’t start today thinking about tomorrow, we’ll find our students here again. Another today different then yesterday, but longing to be taught for tomorrow.
Today I had my students read an article. It was an inciting article that labelled them, my students, part of the dumbest generation. The article was from a reputable source, Newsweek, and decried many aspects of their lives.
Then I put them to Twitter.
“it’s not the students’ fault; it’s the teachers’. if we’re not being taught the material, how are we supposed to know?” @alicephilipp
“the quote at the bottom of the article was made up in 1905. obviously the problem has been around for a while. it’s not recent.” @alicephilipp
“even though there is no evidence that the new technoligy is to blame I strongly think that it is to blame.” @littlewrestler1
“I think it’s kind of hypocritical when adults complain about the present generation because they raised this generation..” @beccasnarr_
“maybe kids reply “huh” to certain references because they’re about boring things that don’t interest us.” @beccasnarr_
The responses were somewhat expected. Then the re-tweeting happened. This encouraged students to not only write for an audience, but it was authentic feedback that they wrote something, meaningful. There was an obvious sense of pride for some who were re-tweeted.
It did accelerate my thinking that students are ready to go to the next level. We may be responsible for “dumbing it down”. The conversations, both online and offline, reminded me that they were still hungry. They felt a sense of low expectations.
It reminded me to keep raising my expectations.
It showed me that a Twitter conversation, even in its 140 character limit, could be extremely powerful. When else does pith and language construction get celebrated as much.
This was effort one, in a closed environment, watch out world I’m going to be building this up.
The end of the semester always finds itself here too soon for many, too late for others and too full of work to enjoy for most. Students who are stressed out as they are given summative assignments all due within the same couple weeks, asking to prove their worth and counting on their energy reserves.
We are all caught slogging it out.
When did learning and education come to this? Is this what learning has become?
The arbitrary timeline of achievement and success says that you better be in lock-step unless you want to be left behind. You better be rolling at the same speed as everyone or you just might be rolled over.
Watching students walk through the hallways with their bags filled to capacity, their eyes with bags under them, only builds my apprehension for this time of year. Let the real farce begin.
Students have been told, “There’s no chance for you.” The calculation of the numbers leave them with nothing, but a feeling of failure, a confirmation of their self-worth.
Dragging themselves across the finish line can not be what we want for our students. A reminder that we don’t understand the nature of being a learner, about the time and peace that is required to engage thoroughly in material that challenges us.
It happens every year and it doesn’t make sense. Why do we want our students slogging it out, rather than positively passing on to another focus?
We have never shied away from helping students develop their communication skills. Why are we questi
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