Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Private Universe

How many times have I thought I knew something and when asked how it works or the basic concepts, was at a loss for the explanation? Unfortunately, too many times! Sometimes I feel I should know it and what I end up doing is explaining the same thing over again but with different words. It doesn't change the fact that I didn't know or only knew enough to discuss it shallowly.

I feel this was the case in "A Private Universe." I wonder if the fact that the first students interviewed were Harvard students was meant to shock viewers in some way. The reality is just because someone attended Harvard doesn't automatically grant them intellectual knowledge in all fields - any more than a child born in the 90's is automatically a genius with technology. Beyond that, it wasn't necessarily surprising that the Rindge and Latin students weren't able to "flesh" out seasonal shifts, the earth's rotation and moon phases correctly. My own particular bias is that I feel that when confronted by a "deficit," we are apt to fill it, especially if pressed for an answer.

If we're filling a deficit, how did we get the information? This is just pure speculation backed up by my own personal experience, with absolutely no empirical data... Now that I've issued that caveat, let's move on...

The Knowledge Building article discussed iterative idea improvement with the thought that students engaged in knowledge building will continue to explore and expand their thinking about topics over longer periods of time than just the span of a traditional unit. In a traditional class and school, however, students study topics over a set period of time and then move on to other topics. Many of the points made during those units that a student "learned" fall by the wayside but some remain, becoming vague over time. Discussions with others outside of class, perhaps at home with parents or siblings might add more detail. Books, even fictional ones, on that topic may add more information. None of these "sources" may be completely right or wrong but the information may be remembered, if somewhat altered. Is it possible that, years later, when asked about that particular topic, the student is able to pull all sorts of extraneous, half remembered facts together, piece it together, and present a viable theory? Chances are there will be a memory of studying something in class but the information that is now present may be the compilation of sources - spun with that individual's personal theory or bias.

The part that was startling in all of this was that the teacher was surprised. She seemed shocked at their theories and that they came in with incorrect knowledge. Considering the age of the student, it wasn't shocking at all. Once could be reasonably certain that the topic of the sun, the earth and the moon had come up in earlier grades.

Speculation like this makes it clear why I called this blog "Musings from Tis..."

Rethinking Learning

As I troll the Internet, looking for just the right resources for my mini-course, I'm struck by just how many times I've sidetracked and followed links to other oh, so fascinating articles and videos that are not actually going to help me in my quest for resources. If I would stick to the assignment I've given myself, I would make progress on my project. Instead I'm here, there, and everywhere with the information I find. Then, of course, it's too good not to share so I immediately put it in my blog (like now), email it to a friend, share it on a website... and I wonder why my project is taking so long to get going.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Are We Illiterate in the 21st Century...

...if we read and write? By most people's standards, the answer is no, of course not! We are, after all, reading and writing. Would that not be the goal? Well... this MAT610 and we are learning about different theories of learning or essentially how to learn and how we learn. Quite frankly, reading and writing is not enough to be "literate" in the 21st century.

Recently, I viewed a YouTube video, ISTE 2012 - Expanding Horizons, that had a quote attributed to Alvin Toffler:  “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”  The quote was rephrased from  Herbert Gerjuoy ( “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction—how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn." 

This was not written recently. Alvin Toffler quoted this in his book, Future Shock, in 1970. What is relatively new is the speed and ways in which knowledge turns over and is remixed and recreated. In the article, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, Siemens states that learning occurs in a variety of ways, from PLN to experiential. No longer is it possible nor desirable to remain in the educational silo (or ivory tower), dependent on textbooks or prior learning to educate students for tomorrow's world. Alec Couros' VoiceThread makes that clear as teachers remark over and over again the necessity for networking through different channels; Lisa Lane emphasizing that the professional development provided to her is no longer enough, and others stating how the development of their PLN expands and enhances their practices.

So, no, it is not enough just to be able to read and write. We must develop our own networks, consisting of our colleagues, virtual and physical, ascertain the validity of information and remix/recreate to send out through our own pipe. I believe that when we understand this process, we are learning to learn.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Innovation in Education

I've spent a fair amount of time considering the concept of "early adopters" and "laggards" (in reference to Rogers' theory "Diffusion of Innovations") as shown on the diagram in Scott McLeod's blog, "Dangerously Irrelevant." Usually I associate the first term with technology users, probably because my focus is almost always technology and its use. As I spend more time in the education world, I'm aware that these terms and, indeed the entire graphic could be applied to other areas - education being one of them.

Last month I had the privilege of attending a 1:1 conference at Lake Morey Resort, in Fairlee, VT. The Director of Information Technology, Paul Irish, spoke about devices and initiatives and referenced education as pendulum. He talked about technology's role in education and said "the pendulum has swung, and it isn't coming back." We have probably all heard educators say something to the effect that there's no point to learning about or initiating a new theory when, in another few years, there will be something new or we will return to the old - much like a pendulum. That said, there is no pendulum for technology. There never has been - just like we won't return to slates and chalk or the horse and buggy days. Technology is going to move forward, with or without us. Whether we are, by nature, an early adopter or a laggard, it is our responsibility to acknowledge technology's role in educating our children, redefining careers (including our own), and helping to shape new expectations. No, it isn't a panacea, it's simply a tool - but what a tool it is! We can't afford to be laggards; there's too much at stake.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Connectivism + SAMR?

As a Tech Integrationist, I'm constantly on the lookout for new technologies - ideas, tools, shortcuts, techniques - you name it, I'm intrigued. The ideas of "repurposing" and "feeding forward" put forth by Stephen Downes as mentioned in the article, " ' Connectivism" and Connective Knowledge," reminds me that, as we grow in tech use and abilities, we do this more and more. It seems to me that Connectivism and the SAMR model of technology integration have much in common.

I think of it in this way, especially for people when they first learn a new technology: people are introduced to a program and they use it much like they are originally shown. Soon, they become comfortable with a tool ("Substitution") and they stretch their usage of it. They add elements ("Augmentation"), perhaps other tools, and later share their new creation. Perhaps their new creation is unlike anyone else's - because they added not only information gathered from elsewhere but they put their spin on it and showed it in an entirely different way - due to their perception and technology combinations. This feels to me like "repurposing" and of course, "feeding forward" but it also feels like they added in the transforming levels of the SAMR model: "Modification" and "Redefinition."