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Posts Tagged ‘technology integration

That is a phrase that jumped out at me as I read a blog entry on how a school had implemented e-portfolios. It had a plan for doing this from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The description for 7th grade was:

Since all students and teachers have 1 to 1 laptops, that raises the bar as to what can be expected. The 7th Grade is in a domain, but the expectation is working toward paperless classrooms. The best way to understand how this works is to see it in action. The classes in our district that have embraced it fully are so fun to watch. The best part, the students have no idea that it could be different. “Of course we hand in work this way Mr. Kelley, how else would you do it?” Reminds me of the saying, “How do you explain water to a fish?”

The water is transparent to the fish. The technology is transparent to the kids. When technology is well integrated, that is the way it shoud be.

[image source, used under CC licence]

In reviewing the work of Howard Rheingold and Neil Postman, this blogger mentions six questions educators might consider when bringing technology into lessons.

I am led by two main questions, neither of which is on the list.

1. What technologies are students already using and how can we leverage on them?

2. How might the technologies help them now and in the future?

Video source

This tongue-in-cheek video is a look at technology use in the higher ed classroom and done in the style of the US version of The Office. Ah, the disconnect between technology and pedagogy!

I’d classify this as Comedy and “Horror”; it’s funny and “scary” at the same time! But it also offers lots of good takeaways, particularly when the students suggest to the instructor what they might do (from the 4min 39sec mark).

I think that they all had good suggestions, except for one: Making use of BlackBoard. If they want to get more involved by getting into the modes of creating and critiquing, they could use Web 2.0 tools like wikis, VoiceThread, MixedInk, MindMeister, Google Apps, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Clay Burell’s blog entry On Using Technology Without Understanding It is a longish read, but I think he makes a point.

I was more interested in what led up to him saying this about getting teachers to use technology:

I’ve been in this world long enough to believe that we can’t push the reluctant to use it, and that that’s a fool’s errand. The best we can do is “pull”…. But even that word is wrong, since it still requires more energy than is sustainable for teachers. Now I believe the best we can do is simply attract.

That is an interesting perspective. I think that it’s realistic as well based on my own experiences with teacher trainees.

But a magnet can only attract so much and some are more magnetic than others. I’ll definitely strive to be a stronger magnet!

That said, I know that if I simply lead and not look back, others might not follow! So I will continue to push and pull as well. After all, there are several leverage points when implementing change and there is no harm in knowing which ones to fiddle with judiciously.

It’s been a year since I first heard of Abilene Christian University (ACU) providing iPhones or iPod Touches for students. The link to the Chronicle article in my blog entry then seems to be broken now, but ACU still has the information up on its Website.

The Chronicle and Wired have revisited the programme at ACU. The Chronicle called it “an academic success” and both articles provided examples of how the mobile devices were used.

I liked how one professor asked his students to look for information “on the fly” (meaning “in real time”, not the insect!) and then discuss what they found. I think that it reflects how we learn and need to learn nowadays.

I was less fond of the idea of posing questions in PowerPoint and getting students to poll their answers anonymously. Yes, most students don’t speak up, but they will be active on the poll. I can attest to this with my own trainee teachers: Only a few participate during class discussions (this is after a deafening period of silence), but all will clickity-clack on keyboards as they contribute to shared documents, polls, mindmaps, etc.

The first approach integrated technology more effectively. It was an attempt to cover content dynamically and model/teach thinking skills. It also presented opportunities for students to learn how to articulate, debate and evaluate. The second approach was interactive but it kept learners in their shells. They certainly expressed themselves, but they did not move much outside their comfort zones.

I am all for learning starting with what students are first comfortable with. But we often learn most when we are put in a tight spot and have to make the effort to get out of it. Technology should be a means to an end, but the end should not be to build a tighter shell.

I found this Vimeo video from a ReadWriteWeb article, You Can’t Squeeze Knowledge From a Pixel.

Video source

It has little to do with education. However, it reminded me of something I try to emphasize in the ICT course that I facilitate and am now harping on in the EdPsyII course. What makes learning meaningful is context, not isolation.

I think that teachers or curriculum planners often remove context and complexity from a problem because they think that learners cannot handle the cognitive load. As a result, the problem is simplified into what seems like more manageable chunks, but it is devoid of context. Another result is that the issues that contribute to that problem get compartmentalized and isolated from one another.

For example, the complex skill of integrating technology in education might require content knowledge, technology skills and pedagogical approaches to be blended into a coherent whole. But we tend to teach these separately because each component is so complex.

I think doing this is acceptable as long as learners get to synthesize in context. So instead of simply asking my trainees to plan for technology integration (and thus show me head knowledge), I ask them to actually teach that topic via a demonstration. I also get them to sell their ideas via a walkabout format of presentation. They are teachers after all and designing, implementing, reflecting and strategizing is their context.

In new version of the EdPsychII course that I facilitate, I notice the broad topics of classroom management and inclusiveness again broken down into parts. There is the potential the pieces to remain disjointed.

To counter that, I am requiring all five of my classes to choose a subtopic and start writing about them from the first week of class. They will not only gain expertise in one area and teach their peers about their topic, they will also be able to critically examine a particular week’s topic from their lens. (We are using a Google wiki and Google Docs to do this.)

For example, classroom rules and routines are normally an individual teacher’s domain. However, they could also think about how their individual biases (personal pedagogies) and how school or cultural norms (collaboration and support) shape what they how they do this.

Facilitating this process is not easy. Learning this way is not easy either. But I think this approach will promote both creative and critical thinking. I also think that my trainees will be better teachers as they will think and act more collaboratively and systemically rather than individually.

But that is only what I think. The next few weeks are about putting these principles into play. Let the fun begin!

Thanks to a Tuck Soon, I discovered a my paper article yesterday on how some North Vista Primary School students were using netbooks.

primary-school-netbooksClick the image above to see a larger version.

I am glad and mad for a couple of reasons. First, the reasons why I am glad.

I have written about netbooks before, the earliest almost a year ago. I am glad that people are taking this concrete action of putting netbooks in the hands of learners.

Of course, technology alone is not going to help students learn more or better even though it is an enabling factor. Case in point: The journalist chose to highlight how the boy said that YouTube was his source of information. I am glad that the boy was able to find and defend his answer, but I hope that his teachers model and teach information literacies.

I do not like the numbers games that people play. The netbooks were reported at originally costing S$1,000 each. After an educational discount, each cost S$600. Who are they kidding? You can buy a decent netbook without the discount for S$600-700, even less if you go for Linux driven ones!

I’m hoping that there was some really good software was included in the bundle, e.g., computer management software and an automated system of installing updates. But what they would need beyond Web 2.0 applications like Google Apps (which all Singapore schools will get by default by the end of this year) is beyond me. These are netbooks for crying out loud!

Though the cost of netbook ownership is not exhorbitant, there will invariably be some who cannot afford it. I wish schools took suggestions like mine or come up with more schemes to leave no child without a netbook at home or at school. See what Oz is doing with netbooks or what this school in the UK is doing with the iPod Touch.

The other number that presents more questions than answers is the 32 out of 40 class periods a week in which the netbooks are used. A number like that might make administrators happy. But what exactly are they doing with the netbooks. Yes, the newspaper article mentioned a show-and-tell and taking photos in the schools ecogarden. But you can do this without netbooks.

Video source

I hope that the students of North Vista get to do things like digital storytelling (link opens a YouTube video). Or that they go beyond the basic searching for information and actually create and collaborate, something Alan November mentioned.

I realise that I am an outsider and do not have deep knowledge of what is going on in the school. What the reporter saw was but a subjective snapshot. But these principles still hold true: 1) Without powerful and relevant pedagogies, the technology is used but not integrated, 2) the medium can change but the teaching and learning do not. I hope that the school skilfully blends content, pedagogy and technology so that its students benefit in the long run.

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