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Archive for September, 2016

Digital, Maths & School. Two’s company, Three’s a problem

Posted by jturner56 on September 24, 2016

Each week in education is a heady mix of idea conversations, related readings and cognitive wonderings. At times it feels that we are all quantum educators; one can evaluate value and progress, but not at the same time.

This week I was drawn to two diverse readings. In 3 theories why digital learning access is good for students, Dr Liane Wardlow (from Pearson Education) examines three educational theories that she contends “bring huge potential for increasing learning“: Behaviorist, Social Cognitive (through modelling), and Information Processing theory. Within this “teaching should emphasize ways to increase desired behaviors, which can occur through connectionism or operant conditioning

Meanwhile, in Philosophy, beauty, complexity: what you are missing out on if you don’t do the maths, Nalini Joshi, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Sydney opines “Maths in schools is often presented as a rigid hierarchyTeachers present as priests pointing the one, true way to a solution. This is not what maths is about.” The need to “learn to celebrate the complex and creative in mathematics if it is to regain favour” is put forward.

What connects these two contentions? Perhaps the relationship between real Mathematics, School and what many contend should be the primary purpose of Digital use.

  1. Looking at School‘s approach to Mathematics learning, the weaknesses are there for anyone who is willing to look objectively
  2. Approaches to Digital in School are stuck in Assimilation thinking even as society takes on new Accommodations (see Piaget for more on what this means)
  3. The potential within Digital to support more powerful Mathematical exploration of complex ideas in creative ways is well documented for those who are willing to look beyond the School lens and its associated inequalities and failures to meet contemporary or future needs.

By the way, this is not new. Over thirty years ago Seymour Papert (1980) said it so much better “In my vision, the child programs the computer, and in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intense contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.” It was exhilarating to engage in this conversation again this week, even if the context is little different from twenty years ago.


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Are Screens In Schools a $60 Billion Hoax?

Posted by jturner56 on September 16, 2016

Like regular back-to-school routines, the highlighting of how computer screens have failed School emerge. Going all the way back to the mid-90s when Todd Oppenheimer opined The Computer Delusion, recent author Dr Nicholas Kardaras contends that Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax.

If only it was so simple. Call up one side of an argument and focus on the negative aspects  so that no meaningful way forward have to be put (except maybe by implication “if only we could go back to the good old days”).

This is not to say there aren’t two sides to this. The neo-Liberal aspects of Future sellers, based on promoting technology as savior, also have much to answer for.

A good reference point for this is a recent Larry Cuban (2013) book – Inside the Blackbox of Classroom Practice – which postulates “While many important instructional changes have occurred since the late nineteenth century in elementary and secondary school classrooms, no transformation in classroom authority or how teachers teach on the scale of the above fundamental structural, curricular, and cultural changes have altered classroom instruction.” Driven by what he termed dynamic conservatism. So what should the role of computers in schools be in the face of this?

Some options.

  1. inside-out: leave it to the teachers as optional. From experience this results in embedding Cuban’s contention
  2. outside-in: system solutions imposed without adequate change support mechanisms If schools focus more on using approaches primarily built on past values to control (they might say make) the future, this might continue to be limited. Straw man arguments in such circumstances are all too easy. None more so than it’s Teacher-centric versus Student-centered. Progressive versus Reasonableness.
  3. The potential of computer technologies to amplify positive cognition requires commitment to it’s potential for metacognition (through reflection and feedback), information literacy (through inquiry), digital literacy (through design thinking), engagement (local and global, digital citizenship (through community building), making (through personalised creativity), and empowerment as learners relevant to the world they face.What Papert termed “incubators of knowledge“, which I have seen add value for over three decades.

Papert, like Cuban, was interested in the limitations that teachers work under within School as an institution. The traditional system, for all its advantages, lacks in structural willingness to innovate (although some schools might from time to time seek to break out of the box). Closed knowledge too often overwhelms.

School is a teacher-centered system. What if we are faced with a system where student capacity to add value through technology use outstrips on average teacher capacity to adapt? If the balance between closed standardised systemic education and personal learning is altered through technological developments?

One related area needing more honesty is clarity about the expectations and purposes accorded to this, including the role of the teacher and opportunities that should be provided to all students. Then maybe we will start getting better value for money.




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Why we need Critical Thinking!

Posted by jturner56 on September 12, 2016


From a local widely-read Newspaper.

Demonstrates that it’s not just the Internet when it comes to sharing differing views.

How would you respond?

Perhaps applying Critical Thinking skills might help.

Such as trying to understand if there is any difference between ‘lesson performance’ and learning.

Says a lot about School.

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