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Archive for November, 2017

Some thoughts on robots, making and schooling (as experienced through a conference).

Posted by jturner56 on November 26, 2017

There is a difference between those who find a solution and then look for problems to apply it to, against those who seek to understand the problem before seeking the best possible solution.

This offering summed up a recent conference on latest educational research and thinking I attended in Boston. The following is a summary of some of my takeaways:

Conferences tend to come with superficial parts through presenters as hyper-sellers of need for transformation based on this or that structural/process preference. Based more on personality and reputation such presenters take limited views and indulge in fallacies of composition and false cause. It appears educational discussion is awash with this.

In a similar vein some presenters get a gig on the back of a novel perception or narrow focused books.

I also felt neuroscience references did not seem to have moved forward all that significantly, and were used in too many (but not all) cases in support of reductionist agendas.

But value could be found with researchers either updating significant research/insights, or gracing the stage with new well-researched insights. As an example, one presenter provided insights into cognitive enhancement through video games. On a similar level, a compelling overview was provided into why reading trends have not been all that affected by the digital age, even though many possible effects (positive and negative) have still to be clarified (apart from contemporary eTextbooks).

Two newcomers caught my eye. Kimberley Sheridan (George Mason University) on the learning value of Studio Arts approaches to Making as learning, and Cynthia Breazeal (MIT Media Lab) on developing socio-emotional AI robots as learning buddies.

My overall main takeaway is that good schools are those who seek continuous improvement while trying to understand the complex ecosystem of school as an institution. Part of this is the potential and challenge that come with new technologies and associated processes (currently focused on robots, design, making, and AR/VR). Connecting threads of student agency and inclusion, teacher development and diversity, and leadership by example as co-designers, ran through the most impressive offerings. The importance of Co-Design approaches was stressed across many of the better presenters.

My other takeaway was a better understanding of the underlying importance of School as a social institution developing cognitive control (and delayed gratification) in students. (Cognitive Control refers to the depth/connections built between Attention, Working Memory and Goal Management). I have often wondered why schools still teach solving quadratic equations in much the same way as when I was a student. And why despite constant calls for schools to fundamentally change, core structures remain relatively intact. I can now see this in terms of school responsibility in developing directed cognitive control in students (although I still think there is a better way through computers as augmented intelligence). The challenge remains (as it has ever since digital first appeared in school curriculums) how to incorporate the opportunities and challenges that swirl around this, currently as characterised by personal technologies, and non directly measurable meta-skills such as creativity, collaboration, curiosity, adaptability. While still meeting apparently intransigent elements such as high-stakes standardised exams. Inquiry is a key part of making this possible.



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A Gadfly, a Gypsy, and a Gatekeeper walk into a bar

Posted by jturner56 on November 19, 2017

A Gadfly, a Gypsy, and a Gatekeeper walk into a bar,

They were there to discuss the likelihood that they might be hired as teachers.

“I would uphold the status quo; systems that have worked and in time can be improved through hierarchical endeavors,” extolled the Gatekeeper.

“That just makes you a prison guard”, rejoined the others.

“I would  teach students to question on a path of seeking a better world,” put forward the Gadfly.

“That just makes you a subversive,” agreed the others.

“I seek new to provide new opportunities as an outsider with insight” said the Gypsy

“No, you’re just a mystic looking to steal time from an overcrowded curriculum,” said the others.

But they all agreed that teaching was not an easy endeavor and that they all had a role to play.

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