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Archive for February, 2015

What does it mean to be a teacher in the 21st Century?

Posted by jturner56 on February 19, 2015

Same as it always has. Well summed up by Thom Markham in Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century Education ‘Story’:The world’s top performing organizations achieve their goals by offering a rich blend of culture, work, and engagement that deeply enrolls employees in the mission and purpose of the organization, attracts highly motivated, committed individuals to join a rewarding social network, and infuses the journey to success with joy and passion. That results in innovation, creativity, and a personal desire to contribute to systematic improvement. Overall, employees become part of a ‘story’ that enrolls them in a cause and brings out their best talents.”

What does that mean in an increasingly digital infused world?

I have found that good teaching with this consideration in mind includes

  • the teacher leading by example by modelling good learning as a lifelong learner (a cliche but increasingly inter weaved with being a good educator).
  • the teacher developing flattened learning environments that allow for student active contribution to their own learning and that of others
  • the importance of the teacher being the filter in an era of over choice, to help students build strong pathways to higher-order learning (from concept development to critical thinking)
  • building learning communities that value both diversity and the importance of commonalities
  • being part of ongoing conversation dedicated to building better futures for their charges, their community, and society

How is your story going?

Kung Hei Fat Choi (A Happy and Prosperous New Year) to all

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Will BYOD be the next EdTech “failure”?

Posted by jturner56 on February 8, 2015

A few weeks ago some colleagues returned with the story of a nearby school whose Principal had advised the staff that from the following Monday the school would be going BYOD. The staff were aghast. Elsewhere BYOD has been referred to as Bring Your Own Disaster.

I look at this a little differently. While acknowledging the importance of teacher inclusion and support, I asked why not look at this as an opportunity to build (or at least consider) a new curriculum approach that recognizes what BYOD could offer. One that recognizes

  • demands of new information dynamics
  • opportunities for literacy development through digital communications and collaboration
  • importance of educating for digital citizenship
  • publishing digitally to authentic audiences
  • how creating a Cloud ecosystem could connect resources and people (students, teachers and the great beyond)

Such an approach also might help overcome one of the founding problems of computers in schools; that they are a cost add-on that requires constant reinvestment at an unprecedented rate (courtesy of Moore’s Law). OK for well off schools (who also can invest in teacher support), even if still all too often treated as an add-on. So much harder for low-income schools, even though many teachers have demonstrated what is possible. Ultimately it will depend on the conditions set: What learning is valued, in what ways?

But then I thought, maybe BYOD will be just the last digital advocacy that will flounder in contested and ultimately sidelined debate. While for some such as Terry Heick a solution to a required shift in education, for others a disaster unfolding in front of us. Larry Cuban sums up the historical system view in his latest blog post “The Lack of Evidence-Based Practice: the Case of Classroom Technology.”

From my experiences, digital technologies DO NOT automatically lead to increased achievement as defined by standardized testing (usually in non-digital environments). It is a much more complex question. Effective change in schools is even more difficult when educational decision-making and advocates (be they “measurement” based or future sellers) are divorced from school realities. Whatever the technology, we need to treat Teaching as part of the solution, and not the problem, or as individual, isolated judges. The teacher is at the heart of good education. Whatever digital consideration, there is a complex question of cognitive value.

Ultimately BYOD, like so many edtech “solutions” that have gone before, will more than likely be seen as a “if only” success for advocates, or be assigned to “another failure of technology to meet what is claimed.” Perhaps BYOD will bring on the conditions for evolution Papert saw twenty years ago, perhaps there is “opportunity in chaos“, but then maybe yet another “disappointment” and relegation to fragmented add-on. What do you see in BYOD?

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Is Digital Addictive?

Posted by jturner56 on February 1, 2015

This week I had the chance to go down the rabbit hole on this question.

First a parent morning where a clinical psychologist who, while pointing out that the Internet (which is in many cases referred to synonymously with all things digital) is not classified as an addiction by official medical bodies, is nevertheless a contested area.

Perhaps at one end of this contest we have claims such as in recent UK newspaper that “the addiction of children to their mobile phones could threaten the very fabric of society.” A whole industry in available to provide solutions to this.

A more balanced account can be found in the Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry, in which a 2013 paper deconstructs a neuroscientific view on the effect of digital on the developing brain. Drawing attention to the moral panics that go with society’s view stretching back over a century of the adolescent as both vulnerable and dangerous, it points to the need to consider digital capacity to extended minds and the social, political and economic opportunities and challenges that go with this. The human brain’s capacity to adapt is a powerful mechanism.

A key issue arising is balance. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides very clear guidelines on how much screen use should be allowed for entertainment. As children get older the AAP calls for parent discretion according to the child’s level of maturity and readiness.

There are two important issues arising to this. Firstly all brains can be susceptible to over stimulation. Can for example marathon running become an addiction? But as a recent newsletter from Dr Charles Fay from the Love and Logic institute points out, the root causes of any technological addiction lie with human relationships that lead to attempts to escape from self, deal with negative moods, lack of parental affection (including setting firm, clear workable boundaries), and/or lack of supportive peer relationships. While taking away the technological crutch may form part of a required response, it should only be in concert with dealing with the root human relationship issues.

Secondly, if digital is changing the brain, and their is strong evidence that it is, then it is even more important that school education contributes purposefully to support positive learning progress. One area is in memory development, where a balance is required between building strong conceptual processing schemas, while also intertwining these with the consequences of having information at hand 24/7. What in Mathematics is referred to as relational understanding (knowing both how and why) over instrumental understanding (knowing how). Our standardised assessment systems, and too often what is delivered in classrooms, as yet have not evolved to meet this challenge. There is also much to be done with teachers, particularly if we want to move them into specialist levels of understanding of what digital literacy entails (see Turner 2010).

Education therefore needs to seek to provide in developing times appropriate Balance, Focus, Value and Choice, be it in supporting for younger students who are increasingly exposed to adult digital devices, through to senior students who need to develop an independent, connected worldview.

Is Digital addictive? There is always that risk. But it is much more so an integral connected part of the modern mind.

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