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I may be revealing how much television I watch, but those K12.com Oregon Virtual Academy commercials are everywhere these days. Issues of school choice aside, their refrain of praises for online learning has me thinking more and more lately about the role of technology in education. How will new technologies help students’ learning? How will digital tools change the classroom? Will all these developments help create critical thinkers and global entrepreneurs (with “21st century skills”), or will they disconnect people from each other and create a generation of frenzied consumers of the overwhelming digital stream of information?
In our current ChalkBloggers poll, not one person has selected “Utilizing new technologies” as the most important element of classroom instruction. That’s a relief to me. I would never want a teacher to sacrifice real interactions (like providing constructive feedback and creating a positive and open learning environment, the two top answers) to let a computer do it for them. No one wants robotic teaching.
But certainly, lessons can be enhanced with new digital resources—and more and more, this and future generations of technology-steeped children will need to be reached with constructive interactive tools in the classroom. No one can completely shut off to new technologies and risk being left behind. The trick is finding a balance and carefully choosing the most effective tools that will enrich, not distract from, student learning.
But how to sort through the myriad options that seem to be growing and changing even faster everyday? It seems like a full-time job just to keep up. But I’ve found a few new online resources (of course) that look to do the work for you.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual SxSW (South by Southwest) conference in Austin, TX – “Interactive” track. As happens after all great conferences, my head is still swimming with the energy of great ideas.
If I had to condense the learnings of the conference into one main idea, it was this: Game mechanics are changing our world. It has already started, and will continue to accelerate. This is true in education, as well. There were about a half-dozen panels and speaker sessions dedicated to education at this year’s conference. Some of them investigated the evolving relationship between technology and education, but many mentioned gaming & game theory as central to the way education should be redefined. Most of the sessions that focused specifically on game theory mentioned education as an obvious arena in which these learnings should be applied.
One of the most influential speakers of the week was Jane McGonigal. She has been speaking for years about gaming and its power for intellectual inquiry and social good, but now even slow-adopters like me are finally listening.
“…those who continue to dismiss games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Gamers, on the other hand, will be able to leverage the collaborative and motivational power of games in their own lives, communities, and businesses.”
- Reality is Broken
My mother went to college at McGill University, in Montreal. Under the “British System” of schools, almost the entire grade was based on one final exam. My mother still tells the story of how traumatized she was when she got violently ill on exam day before a math final, and nearly failed the course. (Note: My mother got her Minor in math, and did actually love the subject matter.)
Hearing that story as a child, I was struck by the injustice of it all. Why would you grade a person’s entire learning for the year only by what they could put down on paper during a few hours?
There was an article in the Oregonian a few months ago about the crunch schools are feeling trying to keep up with the demand on their computer labs. Apparently much of the computer time is used for testing, rather than actual course work
Testing is obviously a major topic these days, and a very sore point for many teachers and administrators.
I’d like to propose we use our Lessons Learned from web & software development. Test early, test often, but keep it “light.” Keep analytics of every touch, click and download. Don’t make a big fuss about it, just keep doing it iteratively so that you keep a constant finger on the pulse of your users.
This type of testing requires a completely different paradigm. (more…)
For those of you in the Portland Metro Area, next Monday, August 23rd, the Mobile Portland Users Group is hosting a conversation about mobile technology in education.
Thank you to ChalkBlogger Heather Penner for letting us know about this event!
Here are the details and description from Moblie Portland:
Mobile Technology in Education
Monday, August 23th, 6 pm
Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE)
1227 NW Davis St
Portland, Oregon 97209
Mariah Maines has worked as a Montessori, Sudbury and public school teacher. Her life’s work is to improve the educational experience for low-income and minority students in America. She recently moved to Boston after living in Portland while working with Grantmakers for Education.
For my first post, I wanted to share with you a perspective which, quite simply, changed my life. In 2008, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, produced a document called 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning. The guide explores what education could look like in ten years from the perspective of the individual, the school, the larger school system, our economy and the ever-growing world of data.
The forecast identifies key trends that have the potential to fundamentally shape patterns of educating. For example, through the internet, students will have more exposure to more data and knowledge than ever before. The 2020 Forecast asks, if students have access to more data, what are the implications for learning? Perhaps students can create new media (games, videos or blog entries) to supplement their classroom work. Or maybe, teachers could share lesson plans and develop a virtual professional community alongside their colleagues at school. (more…)