Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Connections in the Real World

When I begin to "put things together," I notice I see connections everywhere. Did I always do that or is this just part of being in edtech, and now in a Master's program, where new ideas abound?

Today, I opened an email from Tech and Learning, and clicked on a link that came from a discussion on the digital divide. It was referencing an event, hosted at the Clinton Global Institute (CGI), regarding the future of education. Being a curious person, I couldn't help following the link to see their perspective on education's future. I didn't actually find the event, stopping instead (I have no idea why I did that...) on "Membership." On this page, there was a description of the model they use for their actions: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/membership/default.asp?Section=Membership&PageTitle=Membership

Eureka! They described Connectivism! A huge "Aha!" moment as I read about their pipe, how information flows through and new ideas are plumbed from partnerships. Amazing stuff...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Kind of Learner...

... am I?

I had an interesting conversation with another teacher during a planning time. We were talking about styles of learning and she said she thought she was a visual and kinesthetic learner. We talked about her experiences as a learner. She said she wasn't that interested and tended to "zone out" when she was in high school in the 1960s. I asked her if she was more curious now than she was as a teenager. Oh, definitely, she is, she said.  She said she learned considerably more about herself as a learner when she did her Master's because the approach had changed by the time she attended those classes. It was more participatory and collaborative. Obviously, the instructionism with herself as an "empty vessel" that needed filling didn't really work for her. The few times she was given the opportunity to offer an opinion, she wouldn't want to participate because she was unsure of her opinion.

It was interesting how much she sounded like me. As a teen a decade later than her, I was also unsure of how to communicate my thoughts. I tended to think about something I heard first and then try to formulate a response. Those who were quicker and more confident would speak first and the topic move on quickly. I never said what I thought about the subject and was never able to articulate opinions.

This segues nicely into a part of Sawyer's New Science of Learning chapter. He talks about articulation on p. 12: "the best learning takes place when learners articulate their unformed and still
developing understanding, and continue to articulate it throughout the process of learning." He later discusses the idea of learning how to support students through the process of articulation and that scaffolding is one of the most effective ways to do it. He put it this way: "Students need help in articulating their developing understandings; they don't yet know how to think about thinking, and they don't yet know how to talk about thinking." As educators, we would serve our students best if we understood more about the articulation process as well as we know the subject matter. What are the questions that would help them formulate and refine their thoughts? What questions do we need to ask to find out what they already know? How do you give them enough information to ask a question but not so much that you have provided the answer? If they don't know what they don't know, how do they know what to ask? Hmmm....

So what kind of learner am I? I think I'm like that other teacher - visual and kinesthetic.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Machine Thoughts

While poking around the "Mod 1 Resources" section, I found "The Machine is Us/ing Us" and of course, the provocative title proved irresistible. I had to check it out. I was intrigued by the path the author took from handwriting to digital and hyperlinked text. A number of years ago, a tech friend said he was sick of hearing about Web 2.0. "It's the same Internet as before" was his take on the concept of Internet use. I didn't respond. I'm not sure I knew what to say but now I do...

Of course, it isn't the same Internet! Once upon a time, the two way communication of the Internet was reserved for those who knew html. This rarefied atmosphere was occupied by programmers and geeks of all kinds (so he was communicating!) but not the casual user. We had one way communication. We asked for and received information. All kinds of information arrived on our screens but we didn't give any back. Now, that's changed and it's opened to the masses. We talk, we type, we visit via video conferencing, we share information. Bruner (p. 52) made mention of group collaboration as a way of creating knowledge and isn't that what we are capable of doing now?

The less than "sunshiney" side of this new, fabulous fast, everchanging digital communication is that some of us do it without regard to authorship, copyright and citizenship. The author is right when he says we need to rethink. Technology has moved quickly and we have not responded socially as fast. There is no doubt in my mind that the advances have had and will continue to have so many positive implications. Yet, as any sociology/anthropology major could have predicted, there were, and are, bound to be negative and traumatic events due to our inappropriate use of this medium. Two days ago, tragedy occurred in Libya, following a posting of a video and subsequent translation of it into Arabic. Our actions are not local anymore; they're global. We need to rethink...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

In the Beginning...

As I begin this blog, and a new class, I like to consider what I already know (or what I think I know). I'm intrigued by the idea of change over time and curious as to how what I think/believe now will be enhanced, changed, and strengthened over the course of this class. 

Our conversation in the first class, strangely heated (but stimulating!) considering that we really don't know each other that well, involved the difference between learning and knowledge. It seemed we had some trouble agreeing on the definitions of the terms themselves, with some feeling that learning was more likely to be rote memorization and knowledge was a deeper ownership.

What do I believe so far? I think rote memorization occurs in more situations than we realize. Sometimes we learn something just long enough for its utility, i.e. tests, directions, names of people, recipes. If it's important, we may keep the information longer but not  necessarily, and may need to go back and retrieve it, only to lose it again. If we're intrigued by it, made connections to it, argued it, loved it, hated it, experienced it, we're apt to keep it longer. Perhaps we'll keep it forever because we take it out, look at it and place it in a special location so it can be found easily. Sometimes that knowledge, or learning (whatever term is suitable), will be expanded and strengthened, building upon core principles, blended with prior knowledge, and fleshed out into action.

What do I believe now, at the beginning of this class? I have always leaned to the constructivist theories as described on the website "Concept to Classroom." While I understand the idea of teachers as "experts," I feel that students understand less if they listen passively rather than become actively involved in their educational experiences. I believe that:

  • some of our fallback strategies with children involve what we learned from our own teachers when we were in grade school or the parenting techniques we observed in our own families.
  • people, not just students, are often bored with lectures. This isn't new because of constant stimulation from TV or video games. Our minds are busy all the time and not always the eager sponges lecturers would like to believe. As teachers, sometimes we need to be the "sage on the stage." Other times, we need to listen, watch, question. An active dialogue will tell an educator more about what a student knows and believes than telling students what they need to know.
  • people learn by watching, doing, reading, listening and in any combination at different points. They remember because it made a difference when they learned it.

Knowing Little


I have been a "teacher" for just over four years. I used quotations because my colleagues, for whom I have the utmost respect, are "real" teachers with students of their own, as classroom, Title or SPED teachers. They discuss the rationale behind the strategies and will quite often quote the theorists behind the strategies. My time in the educational world has been spent more on the tech side. I became the bridge between the technicians, who often didn't speak English - just tech-ease, and the teachers who were overwhelmed by the demands and complexities of technology. I learned both sides from observation and by "doing." I saw the success some teachers had with their classes and, after some practice, used some of those strategies myself. What I did not know was why they did what they did. So...
  • why did they choose that style of learning, i.e. constructivism, multiple intelligences, project based learning?
  • were they choosing that strategy because of the dynamics of the class?
  • was it a different style compared to what they had done previously?
  • how did they shape their practice for differentiation purposes?