1. Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please? by Scott McLeod
Scott McLeod's blog post entitled "Dont Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please?" is written more in the form of a free-write or poem than the usual blog post, which seems to usually appear in paragraph form. In this post, he presents the arguments many people have made against the use of technology in education.
What inspired Mr. McLeod's post?
Scott McLeod is the author of the blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, an educator at Iowa State University, Director for the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education or CASTLE, and also the creator of the Did You Know? Videos discussed in Blog Post #2. What a busy man! He is considered to be one of the nation's foremost experts on technology and the leadership of it in the classroom. His efforts in this field have been recognized by multiple organizations, and he has also received many awards. One of his great contributions to education with regard to technology, in my opinion, is his blog LeaderTalk. This blog is created by and also used by school leaders. I took a chance to read a couple of the blog posts by various contributors, and I especially liked the story about Gracie the dog, and also enjoyed watching the video of the Stockholm Stairs once again because it really never gets old. You can learn more about Scott McLeod by watching his Did You Know? Videos, visiting his shift happens wiki, http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/ his moving forward wiki http://movingforward.wikispaces.com/ or his web page:
http://scottmcleod.net/bio/ . You can also find out more about his educational philosophy by reading his blog post "Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please?"
2. The iSchool Initiative (by a high school senior)
Travis Allen's Video, "The iSchool Initiative" insightfully outlined the advantages of moving away from the typical school environment that involves paper, pencils, and expensive machinery like projectors and copiers. This video was inspired by the budget cuts Travis witnessed in his Georgia high school. Instead of "letting teachers go" and expanding class sizes, maybe re-evaluating the way we are teaching and the tools we are using is a much better choice. He asks the question: "Does technology belong in our education?"
He bases his iSchool initiative on the iTouch platform and lists the multiple uses of this tool. Instead of a WalMart buggy full of school supplies such as TrackKeepers, Justin Bieber folders, Hello Kitty Pencils, glitter pens, High School Musical Backpacks, Hannah Montana agenda books, and especially pricey overhead projectors, etc., why not move to the electonic version of these instead? The iPod touch can keep track of all the things written and recorded on these various objects that usually get thrown in the bottom of a bookbag or on a bedroom floor (and sometimes under the bed); the difference is that the iPod Touch is handheld, instantly accessible anywhere and at anytime, AND allows for sharing and collaboration. Teachers, students, administration, and parents can all keep track of deadlines, due dates for assignments, social events, lunch menus, etc. It can be locked by school, easily tracked by personnel, and customizable based on student need.
Other advantages for moving towards the iTouch? The apps are probably the coolest tools ever. You can access millions of FREE apps that are "classroom ready" as Travis says: email, planners, chem. touch ( to view and interact with the periodic table, etc.), copies of the U.S. constitution, world maps on wiki, interactive content on presidents, quizzes on multiple topics, virtual tours of space, math formulas, store and send lectures, classic book readers, and many, many more! All without killing a single tree! Which means it also impacts the environment. Environmentalists, activists and tree huggers will love you for using this. Not that I'm suggesting you use that as an incentive.
My more cynical side says...but this sounds almost too good to be true. What's the practicality in doing this? Where's the proof? Does this save money?
Well, according to Travis' calculations, per student, you have the cost of text books, graphing calculators, scientific calculators, agendas, backpacks, paper school supplies, etc; and per class, you have the cost of ink cartridges, mpas, globes, paper, projectors, projector screens, etc. So, the cost would be around $600 per student, when the iPod Touch costs around $150. That's a bundle of savings right there.
So, my reaction to the video is...where do I sign up? If only it were that simple.
3. The Lost Generation
I have to say, when you first watch this video, it makes you depressed. Do we belong to a lost generation where our children are unimportant, there are too many workaholics, divorce is the norm, money brings happiness, quick fixes are the best solution, our environment is falling apart, and our people are lethargic, apathetic and find no hope? I was getting agitated because I strongly disagree! Strongly, I tell you!
And then the words roll backwards. The speaker's voice gains optimism. We see that our generation may look like a trainwreck and a complete hot mess; i.e., hopeless, to the "experts". When you look closely, slow down, take a deep breath, and have a little faith, we only seem like the lost generation. I do not think there is such a thing as being truly "lost" as everyone has the hope of being found.
I liked the technique used in the video because it allows people to slow down and stop having hissy fits and panic attacks and realize that we, as a generation who have seen more change than most combined, are destined for great things, not calamity. This video needs to be shown to the "experts" and "professionals" who insist that the generation after theirs, which would be mine, or...ours, has no morals, no boundaries, no realism, no feelings, and no real connection to the world and each other. Yes, admittedly, my generation is more selfish and a little less thoughtful than my grandparents' generation, and even my parents, but we did not get this way on our own. Does no one stop to think who raised us? Who educated us? Who taught us soccer and music lessons? Who made the music we listened to? Who taught us what was acceptable? Who did we get our life lessons from?
We do not exist simply in a vacuum.
Every generation is a product of those before it.
When I think about my generation I think about the problems the one before it is leaving for us to solve.
The national deficit, perhaps. My generation will have to be even smarter in order to fix this because it is growing (exponentially, I might add) as we speak.
And immigration. Does anyone else see that this is only a problem because each solution has been more of a "band-aid" solution than lasting change? Immigration was a problem when my parents were growing up, and look at it now. It is a hot mess. If my generation does not implement some lasting changes to it, it will only get even worse than we can imagine.
And what about education? As Travis Allen pointed out in his iSchool Initiative video, there are more effective ways of educating. Our world is changing, and has been for a while; does it not only make sense that our students have and will change too? Yep. So we cannot keep teaching them with the same methods. Well, I suppose for argument's sake we can, but that solves nothing. We need to teach them, to actually reach them, on innovative levels, because they will need to use this innovation to solve the problems that we, inevitably, will be leaving behind for them. If someone had been changing education as time went on, gradually, so to speak, in order to embrace and alter what problems would appear, my generation might not have so many problems to fix now.
That's a lot to take in. I think I need a cookie.
But the point is, do not let people fool you. My generation is not lost. The one after me will not be either. My generation is learning as we go, as we experience, as we tread uncharted waters toward unknown destinations, in the hope that we will fix the problems that have been ignored. Until now.
4. Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir
I cannot decide what I appreciate more; Eric Whitacre's beauty or his brain! Wow.
I will give you a description. The video starts and this virtual-looking curtain opens, exposing a bunch of video screens with a TV looking shape in the center. On that TV, there, as a maestro to all of the voices poised to perform "Lux Arumque", is blonde-haired, black tee clad composer, Eric Whitacre.
Whether he is composing and leading the voices in a technological sense or in the literal sense of music, or if he's just there for visual interest, I really do not care to make a distinction. He can stand there all day.
But I am supposed to be reviewing the video, not being a cheeseball.
This video rocks. No, really. Everything I said in this blog post leading up to this point, is made evident. This video can be viewed as an example of why we need to educate our students about technology with technology; and that technology itself, can be educational.
At the risk of being even cheesier and even more cliche (you doubted it was possible, I'm assuming,); I have to tell you why this is so.
The virtual choir stands for everything we are accomplishing in my generation, whether education is a part of it or hatefully sitting in the back of the room shooting spitwads (figuratively, of course).
Imagine being able to recognize potential all over the world, giving everyone a chance who has the tools (or even supplying those tools as the case may be), offering opportunities of a lifetime, lending ears to obscure voices in their own habitat, facilitating universal collaboration, allowing creative minds a chance to stand out, bringing out appreciation for art, history,and the classics, and encouraging harmony by accounting for everyone.
That is quite a laundry list of adjectives and verbs.
But....that is everything we need and should want to accomplish through education, if we are shooting high enough. We can and should at least give it our best shot to achieve all of this through technology. Like our far-reaching and over-the-top goals for education, this video could not have been achieved without technology.
5. Teaching in the 21st Century
What does it mean to teach in the 21st century?
To distribute content, facts, formulas, theories, and stories? Or to engage them while studying these things?
This video points out that students can find info anytime and anywhere. Teachers are no longer the main source of knowledge, we are only the "filters". How do we teach students to manage resources? We need to teach them not just how to use resources, but how to relate to them, to validate them, to communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with them. Students will learn how to use them one way or another, entirely on their own, but we have to teach them ethics, honesty, integrity, and accountability concerning resources. We need to teach them that technology is something that can aid education not the thing that powers their cell phone so that they can sit in the back of the classroom and text. Although a temptation, technology is not a cause for negative behavior. Technology can engage kids prone to negative behavior by providing them an outlet.
I liked how the creators of this video made the distinction between entertainment and engagement. After examining them, I think it would be a bad thing to entertain students. Think about it!
Entertainment= passive, for enjoyment, short-lived, no relevance neccessary, to escape problems.
Engagement= active, for learning, long-lasting results, requires relevance, to solve problems.
When I think of entertainment, I think of watching a movie or listening to a comedian; but when I think of engagement I think of collaboration, solving a puzzle, doing something active. I would love to have a classroom where kids spoke out, felt like they had a role, looked forward to attending, and didn't stare at the clock waiting for the bell to ring. I would love for them to feel like it was important that they knew not only how to use technology to write a paper, but to publish their work in a blog or comment on someone else's work, to find inspiration to write about, to record their thoughts, to design a cover, things like that. I think the iSchool Initiative would be a good idea to aid with this. I also think it would teach them the importance of technology and being good to the environment and they could learn how to respect others and their personal cyber space. Teaching them, engaging them, with technology can illustrate its good side and show them ways to solve problems they will be left to face later on. Technology can solve more problems than it can create if treated effectively and under the right conditions.