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Posts Tagged ‘chris dawson

It’s a sign of the times when a kids says, “Dad, Dad! He’s looking up answers on his iPod!” and the father doesn’t bat an eyelid.

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I wish more parents would respond like Chris Dawson. I think that his kids are more likely to be more ready for higher education and the workplace because they will focus less on knowing WHAT and will instead be more able to tap WHO, rationalize WHY and formulate HOW.

[image source, used under CC licence]

Chris Dawson recounts a conversation at the Education Worldwide Summit where two students, one 15 years-old and the other 17, shared their thoughts on social media in education.

Most schools (ours included), frown upon teachers “friending” students. Unfortunately, that has ended badly in enough cases to just make it a generally unwise practice. However, as Miss Smith [one of the students] pointed out in our discussion, there are already mechanisms within Facebook (pages, discussion boards, and other messaging applications) that support communication around a given topic (say a class or a club) without requiring a friend relationship in Facebook.

When I mentioned Ning and the other social media tools that educators often try to leverage to provide social functions without the worries and stigma of Facebook, both students were clear: it’s been tried before and it won’t be successful because students are on Facebook anyway. The utter ubiquity of Facebook certainly makes it a compelling platform for continued learning beyond the classroom. Students have no motivation to check yet another social site; they can barely be bothered with Twitter, let alone 4 Nings for their classes. One more page on Facebook, though? This makes sense.

He goes on to mention how the students weren’t particularly interested in using Facebook in class, but saw it instead as another way to communicate and collaborate when they were out of the confines of the school.

He also makes a good observation that working Facebook-style is reflective of today’s working world. I think that it will also reflect the social lives of these students when they join the workforce.

So if school is meant to prepare our students for work and society, then why aren’t we finding ways to integrate social tools like Facebook into everyday teaching?

What would I learn without RSS? Very little! RSS is one of my personal PD (professional development) tools and with it I learn or get something reinforced every day!

One blog I follow is Chris Dawson’s. He recently asked how important is 1:1 to literacy? He doesn’t have all the answers (no one does), but he asks some pretty good questions. He has a follow-up today on getting your teachers started with 1:1.

On his blog today was a feature on virtual autopsies via surface computing. Another of my favourites! Surface computing, that is, not autopsies! Alas, I have practically abandoned my efforts in surface computing due to a lack of support.


Video source

I think that surface computing is not only more intuitive, it also promotes other literacies because you must be able to manage, manipulate and create with digital media. These might include the interpretation of various types of images or the creation of videos or screencasts to illustrate ideas and processes.

Chris Dawson asked “What if my kid went to Dawson’s School of Online Learning?” He was referring to the idea of “educational aggregators, taking the best available online content and helping students build degrees to fit their needs”.

This is not the usual face-to-face (F2F) versus e-or-online learning debate. That topic is passe. (Why? Blended is best and overall online learners performed better than those bred only on F2F.)

The issue Dawson was thinking about was whether a Big Name (and Big Cost) University was better than a customised programme that was more meaningful to his children. Ask just about any Singaporean parent and they would rather send their kids to an Ivy League university. Right after they have sold an arm, a leg and a spare kidney.

I recall being asked to consider an Ivy League place when I was awarded a Ph.D. scholarship some years ago. I told the committee that interviewed me that none of the Ivy League universities were known in the field that I was interested in. The big and expensive names did not matter to me; the big and meaningful experience did.

So I agree with Dawson when he said that “the point should really be what my kids get out of higher education, not where they get their higher education”.

Sure, a Harvard degree will get your foot in the door. But if you are an asshole or incompetent, some other foot will kick you right out. Schooling is still about the grades and numbers. Education is about who you are and what you do.

Two days ago, I tweeted MOE’s press release on how all schools here were adopting cloud computing in the form of Google Apps. I thought that was wonderful news.

What do other people think of it? Chris Dawson who is far away in Massachusetts and a fan of Google Apps seemed pleased for us, but he had this concern:

With the relatively high number of homes with computers and broadband access in Singapore, one has to wonder when communication and collaboration via Apps will be encouraged among students.

I too share that concern. The technology should be placed squarely in the hands of learners and the pedagogy in the that of the teachers. (Of course, the teachers should use Google Apps too!)

Students need to explore, create and critique. Teachers need to design, implement and manage. In theory at least.

One barrier will be mindsets. Cloud computing is the return to the mainframe-terminal model of computing. Everything is stored online in the cloud. People will find it hard to let go of their standalone copies of MS Office tools sitting in their hard drives.

Cloud computing allows one to share and collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously. Instead of working in selfishly in silos, we can work more openly beyond what we currently perceive as borders. This is the future of the way our students will work, so I think that the adoption of Google Apps is one step in the right direction.

But let us deal with the mindsets, particularly that of teachers. Let us provide professional development, not just on the technologies but also on the pedagogies that facilitate learning as enabled by the technologies. Just as important: Let us in NIE, the only teacher preparation institute in the country, have Google Apps too!


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