I’ve been thinking a lot again about phones and about the disruption they are already creating for most schools (high schools at least) and about the huge brain shift we’re going to have to through collectively to capture the potential for learning in our kids’ pockets. A few particular items have kind of come together of late that have been pushing the conversation in my head pretty hard.
First, this kinda cute little YouTube video titled “Phone Book.” Not sure who or what it was that led me to it, but it’s worth a quick couple of minutes to watch it.
Now take that concept and mix it with these four ideas:
- Apple’s next iTouch is coming out with 64GB of memory, and the iPhone won’t be too far behind that.
- In the next five years, every phone will be an iPhone. (And let’s not forget that there are already over 100,000 apps for that little sucker, many of them with relevance to the classroom.)
- We’ll soon be seeing what Steve Rubel is calling a “dumb shell” that takes the book idea in that video and creates a netbook sized (at least) keyboard and screen that your phone simply plugs into.
- According to NPR, the Pew Hispanic Center says that there is a definite trend toward phones being chosen over computers as computing devices, especially for those on the wrong end of the current digital divide. (The article makes more sense of that than I just did.)
All of which leads me to ask a whole bunch of questions:
- If at some point in the fairly near future just about every high school kid is going to have a device that connects to the Internet, how much longer can we ask them to stuff it in their lockers at the beginning of the day?
- How are we going to have to rethink the idea that we have to provide our kids a connection? Can we even somewhat get our brains around the idea of letting them use their own?
- At what point do we get out of the business of troubleshooting and fixing technology? Isn’t “fixing your own stuff” a 21st Century skill?
- How are we helping our teachers understand the potentials of phones and all of these shifts in general?
And finally, the big kahuna, are we in the process of transforming (not just revising) our curriculum to work in a world that looks (metaphorically, at least) like this:
I wonder how many educators look at that picture and think “OMG, puhleeeese let me teach in that classroom!” (I suspect not many.) I wonder how many of them already do teach in classrooms that look like that if we consider the technology in kids pockets (or lockers) as the access point. (I suspect, more than you think.) The problem is, and I can guarantee you this, 95% of the curriculum currently being delivered in those classrooms would waste 95% of the potential in the room that we could glean from that access.
All too often we get hung up on the technology question, not the curriculum question. Here in New Jersey, every district has to submit a three year “Technology Plan” and as you can guess, most of them are about how many Smart Boards to install or how wireless access will be expanded. Very, very little of it is about how curriculum changes when we have anytime, anywhere learning with anyone in the world. Why aren’t we planning for that?
So I’m asking. When do we stop trying to fight the inevitable and start thinking about how to embrace it? Or, as Doug Johnson so eloquently suggests, when are we gonna saddle this horse and ride it?
Neil Hokanson says
Got the saddle, just need to break the horse so we can ride it!!!
Gary Bates says
So right, so right! I couldn’t agree more. I will be sharing this will all the school personnel I work with across the state.
Tom Hoffman says
Please try to bear in mind that there is a vast gulf between “*almost* every kid has an internet connected cell phone” and “I can plan my curriculum around the assumption that *every* kid will have a working, compatible, paid-up, cell phone with a data plan *and* a good signal *and* a local cell network that can handle 1000 people hitting YouTube and still be responsive.”
There is a vast gulf between “perhaps we should not ban this” and “we can and should require it.”
Will Richardson says
So I was hoping you’d chime in here Tom, since I know you have been skeptical of the ubiquity piece of this and the footprint piece as well. Assuming we want a 1-1 environment, what do you see as the path to it? Netbooks? Is there no path that makes docked mobiles a viable alternative? And do we wait until all kids have access in whatever form it happens to begin creating curriculum around it? Some of these are obvious I know, but I’m sincerely interested in your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.
Chris Nepper says
Why does it have to be all or nothing? At some point can’t we allow students to connect with their own personal device, be it a laptop, netbook, cell phone or whatever, and for those on the ‘wrong side of the digital divide’ we offer a district provided solution – netbook, laptop, etc. Then, we make it a matter of personal choice – use ours, or use your own. As long as the user can access the information needed in a way that satisfies the user & the teacher, what’s the difference? If the tool is to become that ubiquitous, shouldn’t the source be immaterial?
Greg Esteves says
We are working on a project which will enable student wireless devices within our schools to access our network resources. We’re pumped to see the impact it may have.
Chris – We are doing just that, as a pilot project, in my 6th grade classroom. Students are allowed to bring in whatever they have (not required, but allowed) and use it on specific projects. I provide other access points (laptops from the building sets and 3-6 iTouches from those provided to me and another teacher who have agreed to try this out.) We’ve just started this fall, so I only have some preliminary observations, but here they are:
1. Students are absolutely fearless when it comes to using technology – theirs or someone else’s.
2. Students know far more than I do about what they can do with their technology.
3. Students are doing far more at home with social networking than I thought (given the fact that they are 11 and 12) with Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
4. Students are willing to share their devices and teach their use to others.
5. The technology hasn’t been as much of a distraction as I thought it would be.
6. They go to their technology to find information much more readily than they would ever go to a book – they’re willing to look things up and pursue ideas far more than they were before (when I said, “Why don’t you look that up and see what you can find out – they rarely did!)
7. I have A LOT to learn!
That’s it in a nutshell. Check back with me in June and see what I think!
I’d love to talk with you further about your classroom experiences as our district is considering a similar policy.
Terry C Elliott says
For me, the question is not whether we actually do something before we reach ubiquity, but rather when will reach the point where conditions tip us toward change. Maybe it has already happened and we just don’t know it. Maybe the work of learning has already shifted over to these networks that are incompletely ubiquitous. I know that sounds crazy, but how often has it been the case that we did not see the nose on our faces for the trees (I know Yogi Berra would nod approvingly.)
John Carver says
At Van Meter we understand the â€œgulfâ€ between having technology and not having it. We are a K-12 system in Iowa that has provided every student in grades 7-12 with wireless laptops. (We are looking to include grades 4-6 for 2010-11.) In 90 days of being operational, it has transformed us. The rate of change amongst our teachers, students and patrons is now accelerating exponentially. VERY COOL! Because of thinking differently, things/people are being attracted to us. Rockwell-Collins and Mechdyne Corporation are facilitating and supporting us with an Imersadesk R-2 virtual reality system. We are told we are one of two public school districts on the planet (the other is Sigourney Public, Sigourney, Iowa) to have both a 1:1 and VR capacity. We have â€œstepped through the looking glassâ€. New thinking from our Board of Education is for VM to offer our diplomas globally. This exciting time!
Mark Geary says
Will & Tom,
Not sure we want or need one-to-one. If you look at what McKenzie http://www.fno.org/jan02/overequipped.html wrote on over equiping and what literacy expert Beers says about vocabulary instruction, you may come to the same conclusion, that fewer than one-to-one is preferable.
Given that all cellphones CAN search the internet, be it in limited fashion, via Google SMS, how can we engage students in socially collaborative activities that facilitate learning in a given subject area? There are lots of opportunities if we are trying to move up levels of Bloom’s taxonomy instead of merely preparing students for content based state exams.
Here’s a thought: Allow students to use Google SMS for state exams, then redesign test to require students to USE the information they will have access to anywhere for the rest of their lives (if they are not on an airplane or in a classroom).
So the current problems that will be fixed soon, prevent us from moving toward that goal/expectation? The reality is 21st century knows no boundaries. The current problems will not exist. That future is what educators need to prepare students for.
This is the kind of thinking that scares me, and that — I think — is bad for education.
“The reality is that the 21st century knows no boundaries.” Really? No boundaries? That’s great. Except that it is utter fiction.
We are nearly a decade into the 21st century, and I see LOTS of boundaries. Furthermore, I see looming in future years. Population growth combined with a shortage of capital investments in facilities creates huge problems. Finding is getting strained, with real structural problems there that will not magically go away.
Many of the current problem WILL exist. For example, issues of battery life. Power is not infinite, not free is likely will get MORE expensive, not less.
The problem of parents who insist that their children be taught like they were (“It was good enough for me”) is not going away. Tensions between reliability of measurements and the kinds of things we want to validly measure are not magically going away, either.
Get real. I mean that. Think about reality. Work the problem or issue down the child level with specifics. Think about the goals, the available means, and the various compromises that each calls for.
Terry C Elliott says
Maybe we just can’t predict where the boundaries will be or that there will be multiple boundaries. I see widening gaps in adoption with use diverging on levels of income. All manner of access for the affluent and declining toward what can be gotten publicly at schools, libraries, or open access wi-fi.
Richard Whtie says
What a great post, and a great reminder from Tom. As a classroom teacher interested in *appropriate* use of technology to further learning, I can tell you that managing edtech on the frontlines can be tricky. Here’s how it can work, though:
Last week, a few moments before a physics lab was to begin, I found out about iHandy Level, an iPhone app that could act as a protractor for measuring ramp angles. I walked into class, announced the name of the app, and watched the fun begin: about a third of the students pulled out their phones, downloaded the free app, and started working. A third of the students, working a little more slowly, asked to borrow the other students phones once their owners had finished. And a third group used the protractors provided in class, getting reasonably good results just the same.
Clearly this isn’t a transformative use of the technology, but I think it illustrates both the rate at which cellphones are being adopted into students’ lives, and the potential for creative uses of those phones. Yes, we need to be sensitive to students who don’t have technology resources, but there are ways to manage that: 1:1 program, netbooks for checkout, etc. If I had to wait for universal adoption or district permission before implementing technology into my teaching, I’d still be using a blackboard in class.
(That’s an inside joke. I actually *do* use a blackboard in class, the only one remaining on our entire campus…)
Michael Walker says
Richard, Thanks for sharing that story. It shows that equity of learning can still occur.
Ann Carnevale says
I suspect we’d see a similar result when introducing something like that at a faculty meeting in an average school. A third of the teachers would embrace trying the new technology, a third would hesitantly follow their colleagues, leaning on them for help/guidance, and a third would stay with the traditional way of doing things.
Tom, I think you are absolutely on the mark with your comment. It is an overgeneralization to think that ‘every’ student is all-accessed and that every teacher has the professional development to handle planning a wireless, internet-based, technology-driven curriculum.
Julie Lund says
True. People on the outside of k-12 tech. support just don’t see this. Being on the edge of ‘perhaps we should not ban this’ and ‘we want to do more, but feel like the curriculum is holding it back’, we ask “How can we move technological-access mountains and why should we try without a clearly articulated plan from teachers and curriculum planners?”
Kyle Brumbaugh says
If we wait until every kid has everything, we will do nothing. Let us move forward with what we have, what kids have and find ways to make the content much more accessible. We can facilitate ways to assist those who do not have home access with Netbooks, local hotspots, wireless service on our school campuses, etc. These are the easy things.
I would ask what you are doing to fill the gaps you identify, instead of pointing things out and using them to point out the failings of the entire system. Our public works departments see potholes and find ways to fill them instead of telling people they shouldn’t drive because there are potholes. There are people who drive the roads, hit potholes yet continue to drive, Why? Because even with the potholes, it is the quickest and most effective way to get to where they are going. But just like the drivers in our town, we need to let the people who can do something about it that they are there.
OK… enough of the pothole analogy.
keith schoch says
I’m with Tom on this one. I’m in a fairly affluent district, and you can not even begin to assume that every child has the means of most. And once you require it, who will foot the bill for those who don’t have it?
Steve Ransom says
Sadly, for many districts, the answer will be, “When we have no other choice.”
Although I completely agree with your point here, I think we have to be careful not to demonize the more traditional forms of teaching/learning in the process. There is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater here. I’m not so sure I entirely agree with the notion that current education practices have to be completely transformed into something completely different…yet. But, it would be nice if most were willing to get close to that horse and perhaps even ride it once in a while to see that it’s not so bad… even invigorating for all! I think a huge stumbling block is that we are still struggling to see the more progressive forms of education, now a century or so old, realized in our schools. The very ideals and practices that harness the power of new forms of social, collaborative, construction-based, and networked learning seem to stem from such progressive frameworks. If we could re-envision schooling in general, all of these tools and opportunities that we are passing by would make a whole lot more sense. We can push cell phones in the classroom, or we can push social, collaborative, customized, construction-based, and powerful networked learning.
Terry C Elliott says
Thus, the importance of “straddle” teachers–those who know pre-web tech and can improvise plan B on the fly. Like teachers who have blocked access to social networking online, they need to be able do it the old-fashioned way-sneakernet to classroom notes to bulletin boards. All is fair in the digital divide we live in. I relish that challenge even as it makes me angry that we all can’t have an iPhone. I can’t afford one myself.
Patrick Larkin says
I think we need more and more examples of places where schools are saddling up with this new technology. One of the biggest problems we have at the secondary level is the low-levels of student engagement in classes.
For me as an admin. I like to show examples of places where students are doing things that are giving them an edge. I am naive sometimes, but I feel that when educators can see that a tool that is being used is helping kids make progress they will process the information and then look to utilize it with their own students. I like to work under the assumption that educators want their students to be competitive and will not deny the use of a resource that is helping other students in other schools move more quickly.
In regards to technology plans, it is unfortunate that they are quite similar to many of our annual school improvement plans. They are documents that we write to fulfill a local or state mandate, but they are not living and breathing documents that help focus on short and long term goals that actually help improve teaching and learning. As Schmoker eloquently stated, “The length and complexity of these plans ensure that no one really knows if or how well anything is being implemented.
In the end, these plans are more political than practical.”
I guess that sums up the post and my point. Let’s start being practical.
Jen W says
This is a “just-in-time-post” that I look forward to sharing w/ admin today.
Just one question though — you say
“In the next five years, every phone will be an iPhone.”
Wondering if you would continue your thoughts on why you think that — and also wonder if the iphone we know NOW will be the iPhone in 5 years??
PS: Smiles, if you really feel it is true that apple will have a monopoly on phones and every will own one — I might just need to buy some apple stock.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for chiming in, Jen. I didn’t mean to imply that the iPhone was going to be the only phone but, instead, that every phone will replicate the functionality that the iPhone has already.
Where the iPhone will be in five years??? Who knows. But I do think it will continue to be a major part of pushing the the ways we think about mobile devices and computing.
Barbara Kraus-Blackney says
heard a great NPR On the Media story Sunday re. “what is reading?” – prof. compared “reading” Dickens 4 ways – a traditional book, audio recording, on a Kindle, and on an IPhone – proclaimed the Iphone the winner:http://www.onthemedia.org/#segment145003
Andrew Marcinek says
I think this is a great piece and is the struggle we all face in incorporating new technologies into our curriculum. We need to think about content first and foremost. Without a grasp and ownership of the content, then technology is irrelevant. We cannot use technology as a cructh, but as a new medium to help us achieve our mastery of new skills.
We are currently in a period of rapid change. iPhone’s update yearly and computers go out of date before they are shipped. I agree that curriculum needs to be the primary focus, but we cannot skirt the fact that technology and new learning tools are creeping into the classroom at a rapid pace. We need to embrace the technology but keep the curriculum design as the main focus of our lessons. We need to adapt to new learning styles and realize that our kids will live in a world where everything is done from one device. Our lessons need to reflect this world and our goals should have a global perspective.
The content will subtly change, but it up to us to adapt and integrate it at a pace that can help our students become global learners.
Will Richardson says
So Andrew, I think this is a valid point about the speed of change. But I wonder, aren’t there some things that we do know? As in curriculum has to support global connections outside of the classroom more than it does. Or that it has to facilitate learning whenever it’s appropriate, not just between 8-3. Aren’t those bankable shifts regardless of how the technology evolves, and aren’t there others?
Karl Fisch says
Just FYI – you came across that Phone Book video in the ADVIS PLP Cohort. Just a little plug for your “other” job.
I had some brief thoughts on that NPR story. I ask that iPhone question (“what will the iPhone look like in X years and what does that mean for educators?”) in pretty much every presentation I do. No matter the participants’ thoughts on how important devices such as those are, it always starts a good and thoughtful conversation.
Tony Baldasaro says
Will, thanks again for pushing the conversation away from tools and toward curriculum. This blog struck me in two ways.
First, I am currently at NH’s largest technology conference. It is full of good people, great tools, and opportunities to connect face to face with long time and/or cyber friends. But, the conversation about curriculum is lacking, there is little dialogue about that shift that you and Clay Shirky keep bring us back to. I’m tired of hearing about tools, tools that are changing as fast as they are being adopted. I’m frustrated by the lack of conversation about teaching and learning, regardless of specific tools.
Second, many districts are spending a lot of money on presentation tools (SmartBoard, Polyvision, etc), but little on teaching our students how to present effectively. I’ve seen many dynamic presenters who use no technology or (gasp) something other than PowerPoint to present information to their audience.
Carolyn Foote says
The point you made which most intrigued me regarded the ‘technology plan’. Why don’t we press our administrative teams to design plans that focus on curriculum and how that will change due to technology changes. I agree that far too often they focus on hardware, not learning.
Patrick, It is too bad that these plans are living breathing documents. Time and again, I remember the focus at the SLA school in Philadelphia. Everyone knows their key questions/mission–it’s on the wall, and it breathes live into everything they do. Why can’t we design technology plans that are reflective of what is really important to us?
Maybe the first step is to define what that is, as a district and as a campus. And then infuse it, proclaim it, broadcast it, teach it.
Terry C Elliott says
I would love to have this be my future job description.
I think hardware and learning have always been interconnected (written language being the first revolutionary technology).
Jay Hurvitz says
The “phonebook” video is only one small part of this post and, considering that you describe the video as “kinda cute”, reading more into it than is really there is perhaps going a bit overboard. Still, though the technology displayed is definitely impressive (frankly, framing it inside a book seems superfluous), I find some underlying aspects of it quite a bit more interesting.
The video suggests that reading the “phonebook” can be a bonding experience between parent and child. But the parent seems to be doing almost all of the pointing – “instructing” the child in what would seem to be pretty self-evident. At one point the parent even seems to push the child’s hand away â€“ perhaps because the child hasn’t yet been taught what to do, or perhaps because, despite the child’s smile, the parent finds the tool more exciting than the child does. The pedagogy seems, even in this rather innocuous video, to lag well behind the technology.
Karl Fisch says
I’d look at that video more as a “proof of concept.” The fact that the Japanese developers didn’t model good pedagogy in the video doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some intriguing possibilities.
Can someone teach me how I can teach to these learners? I have only been teaching 10 years, but I am already way behind. I learned how to teach from people 2 or 3 generations older than me, so naturally although I am close in age to the high school age kids I once taught, I am miles apart in terms of learning style.
Terry C Elliott says
I would suggest that you know the landscape of your learners. If you don’t text, then text. If you haven’t gamed, then game and use a headset when you do it because lots of stuff is happening in that space. Find out where they learn stuff informally, then learn how to do that. Those old school teachers should have shown you how being a teacher is about being an ethnographer albeit an incomplete one.
Second, use twitter, facebook, or Ning to develop a network of those who are already doing what you want to do. I follow those who I want to be like when I grow up. Their ideas are a constant jolt to me to do more and be more. Props to all of them.
Work on a project with your students and colleagues that you will report out to the world. Make sure that has a deadline if only to do an informal PD for your faculty or students.
Last, ask your students how they learn best and with which tools. You never know until you do so. If they know you are interested, they might just keep you in the loop AND you might do the same for them.
Good luck. Your question is profound and rich. I am glad you asked. It has gotten me thinking again about my students.
Pat Hamblett says
I appreciate your response to Sharin. Being a quasi-retiree, I find that while I am excited by all the possibilities, I am frustrated by my lack of knowledge. Investing time in Will’s blog is my “gift of learning” to myself. It is my baby step approach to ‘doing’ and trying to fit this foreign practice (social networking) into who I am as a learner.
You bring up a point that works best for me as a hands-on learner (and advocate) — do it for yourself first! I am driven to take advantage of these technologies because I want to be learning in a global environment. My goal is to absorb and expand so that I can comfortably (and naturally) share the joys (and heartaches) of my experiences. This allows me to then share my passion for learning (especially using these new found skills) with others. What a fantastic journey — I love being able to consider the possibilities…
Anna Watkins says
Patrick said >> I think we need more and more examples of places where schools are saddling up with this new technology.
This is exactly where I’m stuck. I can see the power in the pocket phone, but I’m not yet able to figure out how to use it in the curriculum — as we currently know curriculum. The real change has to come not so much in how school is taught, but in what is taught. Content? Or skills?
I do not consider myself an “out of the box” thinker, but I can edit and adapt new ideas like crazy! Give me examples that show me the way. It’s time — for the innovators to give the rest of us models to use.
Sharin Tebo says
One of our Title I elementary buildings, Chappell Elementary here in Green Bay, WI is progressive with its technology. Much of the technology drive comes from a principal who believes in its effectiveness for captivating our hard-to-reach learners, many of whom don’t have access to computers and other technology in their homes. The staff there is comitted to using technology in the classroom, sets goals for its implementation and shares with others at staff/faculty meetings what they are doing with kids. Teachers are using blogs, wikis and there is a network of parents who are being taught how to use some of the technology their kids are using in class. They have been fortunate enough to implement a one-to-one computing environment this year with their classes, too.
Kent Chesnut says
Great post… but it left me wondering about a couple of things.
1. Students need a platform capable of constructive use (writing essays, programming, …) beyond the basic access to information the internet affords. Maybe the iPhone will be there in a couple of more years… but probably not yet (IMHO). Is this a common view? Or is the iPhone seen as a computer replacement?
2. How does higher education deal with this issue? It seems that our local university provides numerous computer labs and campus-wide wifi and lets students use the technology as they see the need. I’m not sure this is a model you can base curriculum decisions on… but thinking about it might be constructive.
Have a great day,
Nicole Tomaselli says
Because we block students from accessing email their phones and txt messaging were very helpful in class week as 150+ wellness students generated and verified their “Google Docs” accounts…
I think this post — and most of the comments — foolishing look at high tech and connectivity as the goal, without paying attention to what the tools are really able to do.
1) The very nature of a phone is that it is pocketsized. That’s virtually by definition. The limits the screen size. This is OK for some uses, but quite problematic for others.
2) Small size means limited data input options, a far greater issue that screen size. We really want to use technology for projects and creation, not just consumption of existing data or images, right? Well, with such limited data input, phones are horrendous for creation.
3) Limited size and portablility means batteries and anyone who has been paying attention to the portable space (i.e. laptops and phones) would know that advances in battery technology have generally been equalled by advances in other technology that require more power. So, my laptops — and I’ve been a laptop user for 16+ years now — have not even doubled in battery life since my first one. Can teachers plan activities and lessons depending on students having sufficient remaining power in their batteries?
4) One huge lesson of the iPhone (HUGE!!!) is that apps matter. Web apps are great, but local apps are generaly better. I know that Google has a different vision of the future, but right now, locals apps are king — and with good reason! Who is going to ensure that the students have the right apps? What about students with different phones? What if one platform doesn’t have the needed app?
There are good reasons for a teacher or school to provide the technology. This is how the teachers can make that every student has what s/he needs to do the lesson, activity or project. The ENTIRE lesson, activity or project. It’s like supplying kids with textbooks.
Yes, we could require students have a particular platform, that they bring in power cords of one sort or another. But that doesn’t address the output and input limitations of phones. And we don’t require public school students to buy their own textbooks, so it would be quite the odd shift to require students to buy iPod Touches.
I think that this idea or question or suggestion is typical of the extreme-pro-edutech crowd. It ignores the real issues. The fact is — despite what Mr. Baldasaro says — this post is NOT about curriculum. It is about technology — vaguely — and the WORD curriculum. Where is the discussion of actaul real curriulum? There are just suggestions that we should be talking about curriculum.
(The fact that 95% of the lessons won’t use 95% of the technology does not mean that we don’t need it or wouldn’t miss it. Heck, 99% of the lessons don’t use 99% of the library. The issue is not how often we use it, but rather how important it is when we do. I’ve never (0%) needed a fire extinguisher in my home, but when/if I do (0.00000001% of the time?), it will be VERY important. I don’t use my bed even 40% of the time, but I need it quite a lot. I use my home phone less than 5% of the time I am home. I need flour for less than 5% of the meals I make. And brown sugar? Far less than that. Muffin tins? Wow, less than 1% of the days I cook, probably less than 0.1%. But I have good reason to keep flour, fire extinuguisher and a bed in my home. I even have good reason to own muffin tins.
I’m sorry, Will, but that’s just a dumb argument. You don’t need 95% of your kidneys, but there’s a good reason why you have all that kidney capacity. And 95% of people will never need 95% of their kidneys. (Well, are those the right numbers? Who knows?) And yet, there’s a damn good reason why we have so much excess kidney capacity.)
I got into this argument about smart or app phones being ubiquitous with a friend of yours, just last year. I suggested that that might be true for his students in the nice suburbs, but I was not seeing with my students, and did not expect to see it soon. He the argued that $200 handhelds are cheap enough and easy enough to deal with that there is no longer and excuse not to supply them. But I think he was mistaking the means for the ends.
You like tech in schools. Why? How does it substantially improve education, with regard to the big and fundamental lessons worth learning for a lifetime. The best arguments I’ve heard or seen relate to project based learning and creation. Well, if that’s the reasoning, I’ve got to ask, “Are palmtop devices good for product creation?”
For example, did you write your blog post on your phone? Would you write a blog post that long on a phone? How would your writing change if your were writing on a phone? Would you have included the video, the image and all the formatting? How much longer would it have taken you?
If I were teaching writing and about the writing/revision process, would a palmtop be a good way to do that? How much would I lose — how much would my students lose — if they had to write on a palmtop?
And that’s for text-based projects. What about non-text?
If getting or increasing technology use is not the ultimate aim, then how do we view your suggestion?
Not to be overly simplistic, but much like it is now, sometimes paper and pencils are the right technology. I don’t think anyone is saying replace everything with cell phones, just simply that we need to take advantage of the opportunities present. Too many of us complain about a lack of access, yet many (not all) of our students have access to cell phones with internet access. In my mind, it’s not a teacher’s job to have every student use the same tool (be it 2.0 or old school) at the same time (standardization). I believe we owe it to our students to provide opportunities of engagement and learning that for some kids will happen on a cell phone, others on a laptop, and others in a book. Finding the right “technology” will never change as long as our focus is on each student as learner. Will talked about personalization. Education should never be a one sized fits all approach (which I recognize it almost always is).
Katie Creeger says
I agree with you on this. BTW, I am on a real keyboard now… I don’t think we should just focus on one way of presenting a lesson to a student. That is the beauty of technology.
However, there are many times that my students use pen and paper. I teach AP Language and Literature and I feel that technology does help my students to write better. We use blogs, we use Glogs, we text and chat to each other. I feel that this is just helping them to begin the writing process. When we actually “write”, it’s on paper since that is how the AP test is. My kids don’t like it all the time, but they need to be able to write as well as type. I am trying to teach them life skills with technology at the same time I am teaching the content.
In my first response I meant that it is challenging for even the best educators to use technology in the classroom with all of the demands that are placed on teachers nowadays. Change is not easy. A lot of folks feel it has “worked” in the past so why mess with it? Well, because life has changed a lot. Reality today is not what we had growing up. We need to differentiate with lessons as well as the types of technology that we use in the classroom.
Netbooks are great, but they limit some programs. I’m thinking about the art and tech programs at our school. They aren’t “big” enough to store some of the things the kids use.
I don’t have the answers… just want folks to be flexible to trying new things- and to have the support there for people who are doing the new things. Incorporate it into the curriculum.
And of course, stop using those blasted standardized tests to “measure” what a kid has learned!
Terry C Elliott says
Have you seen the ipod touch app Hitchcock? Create story boards inside that little screen that Hollywood types are using as tools to pitch movies to potention producers. Umm, that isn’t a toy. Imperfect tools are still capable. No tools at all offer no affordances at all.
The food analogy doesn’t work at all. An iphone is not the same as an ingredient or a can opener. Digital tools have manifold purposes.
What I do like in your post is the positive orneriness of having to deal with being teachers who straddle these gaps with no help and on their own. Well said.
Katie Creeger says
I think the issue is getting teachers and admin to open their minds to new ideas. Our school has been 1:1 for the last nine years and some of our staff still doesn’t work well with technology. I don’t want it (technology) to be a substitute for teachers but to enhance the learning experience. There are too few teachers that truly use technology well in the classroom. I’m not referring to the smartboards etc but web 2.0 tools. Take content and curriculum for ALL subject areas and show schools/teachers/districts how to use the new tools. If you would like to check out our school, come by and visit!
Katie Creeger says
Sorry this is a little fragmented. I’m using my iPhone in the doctor’s office!
I LOVE THIS!!!!
Thank you for illustrating my point so well, Ms. Creeger!
Karl Fisch says
Hmm, not sure she illustrated your point that well. She created and communicated content on her phone at the doctor’s office.
Could she have created it better with a full keyboard – probably. Would she have if she had to wait until she was somewhere that had a full keyboard? We don’t know.
She herself thinks it is more fragmented — with a strong implication of being the less for it — for being posted from iPhone.
You yourself, Mr. Fisch, acknowledge that she probably could have created it better with a full keyboard.
isn’t one of the main goals of schooling to teacher students to write WELL? To hone the craft, the gain proficiency in the process? Why rely on a tool that gets in the way of that fundamental task?
Karl Fisch says
Agreed – but the particular question I was trying to get at is being able to create imperfectly versus not being able to create at all. In her case, at the doctor’s office, I would suggest that being able to create imperfectly is better than not being able to create at all.
I agree, btw, that current phone technology leaves something to be desired in terms of creation. But that’s current phone technology – I think we have to be careful about assuming that that won’t change (foldable keyboards, projected keyboards, etc.).
Will Richardson says
Just echoing what Karl said here that I guess is the x factor to all of this: what will phone technology look like in five years and what devices will there be to overcome their limitations in terms of footprint. I’m trying to come to some understanding of what looks to be possible when, and what that then means for the curriculum. What I’m reading suggests that the device and its add ons will be a) affordable, b) functional for writing. Some other comments in this thread point to that as well.
Given the hardships that schools have in implementing technology for students (i.e. cost, support, etc.) and given the possibility that older students at least will have usable technology in hand, what if we starting thinking about another path? One that takes the best of what we currently teach and finds ways to use what they already have when appropriate.
Not suggesting that this is an easy picture to paint, but shouldn’t we at least be trying to sketch it out?
This sounds like fantasyland to me.
What will phone technology and add ons look like in five years? That’s too broad a question.
We know what kinds of things change rapidly and what kinds of things do not.
Processor speed? Changes rapidly.
Appearance of truly revolutionary new applications? Unpredictable — sometimes fast and sometimes not.
Battery power? Utterly predictable advancements, and not much faster than battery consumption.
Input and output technology? Incredibly slowly. Keyboard, mouse, trackball, trackpad, touch sensitive screens, multi-touch. In five years what will input devices look like? Probably exactly what they look like today.
When it comes to project based learning and creation, input is critical. I’ll believe we have the revolutionary input methods when I see them. Just like the flying car.
I donâ€™t think the economics works out in the cell phone vision presented above. Say Iâ€™m a parent of four kids in grades 6-12. Well, Iâ€™d be broke to begin with, plus Iâ€™d be skimping to save for college. But, all those things aside, letâ€™s say that Iâ€™m told that my kids all need smart phones and active data plans. Iâ€™d be looking at 4X$200 for the phones, and 4X24 (two year plan)X$80 (cell and data plan), for a grand total of $8480, prior to taxes.
Thatâ€™s quite a bit for two years of free public education.
Iâ€™d rather buy a netbook for $300 one-time cost per child and ride the schoolâ€™s wireless. That comes out in my scenario to saving the parent $7200 every two years, and will conceivably last 3-4 years. Meanwhile, students have a larger keyboard, bigger screen (a 10â€ screen is wider than standard, portrait aligned paper), USB ports for file storage/transfer, faster online browsing; in short, a superior academic computing experience.
Iâ€™m not arguing against ubiquitous access, I just think the phone is the wrong tool. I have real concerns about these costs being pushed on to parents. Also, and this will not be popular in this forum, but I think that if cell phones are a required component for education, then there needs to be a CIPA-compliant filter in place. Not sure that this is even possible with cell signals.
Just my $7200 worth,
I agree that it’s the wrong tool, no question.
But jumping to netbooks is quite a big step. The iPod touch would be the next logical step. Keep the portability, and cut down on the recurring costs. Lots of kids have them already, and that expands this “phone” concept further. (That’s why I referred to palmtops.)
However, my objections apply to non-phone palmtops, too. So, what of netbooks, right?
Well, it depends on what you want to do with these tools. Are netbooks good at the kinds of things that make technology such a positive addition to our schools? Sure, there’s value there on the writing stuff — which is one of the few most important areas — but what about other sorts of creation and projects?
Karl Fisch says
Our experience so far with netbooks has been very positive. We’ve been able to do everything we could do with full-blown laptops, with the one exception of video editing (and we’re looking at that).
And, again, I think we need to be careful not to focus too much on the capabilities of today’s netbooks or iPhones – both of those are less than three years old. Right now, for $300, we get full-school-day battery life, full (filtered) wireless connectivity to the Internet at school, and almost-full-creation capabilities (exceptions being video editing and other high-processor intensive apps). What will they look like 5 years from now? 10 years?
Will Richardson says
I hear you Mike, and thanks for those thoughts. My sense is that in five years or so, all phones will be “smart” phones and that cost of the device at least will come way down. The service plan is a huge question, I admit, which is why I was struck by that NPR report that seemed to suggest kids are finding a way to cover those costs whether we’re asking them to or not.
And frankly, I don’t know how the CIPA piece works. I know in Australia they are running pilots where the phone company applies the filter to underage users. Not sure how effective that is.
Lots to think about, no question.
Liz Davis says
That classroom looks like hell to me. I don’t think I would want to be either a student or a teacher there and it has nothing to do with the laptops. There are way to many people all facing the teacher and their laptops and not each other. This is not my idea of good pedagogy regardless of the technologies present. Is this what we are preparing our K-12 kids for?
Katie Creeger says
Gosh I hope not!
Personally I would rather have the kids sitting in groups so they could work collaboratively.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment Liz. The photo was just for effect, not to imply reality, and perhaps I should have been clearer in that. THAT looks like chaos to me, too, in fact it was staged for effect. What I’m suggesting is that we have to get to a point where we embrace connectivity and access in our classrooms, yearn for it in fact, instead of run from it.
Carolyn Foote says
Did I completely misunderstand what Will was writing about?
It seemed like to me he was really writing about anytime, anywhere learning and when we are going to begin discussing that and changing our curriculum to embrace that reality.
So my question is, how are we?
–new technology plans that are about curriculum, not tools?
–policies that allow for anytime/anywhere learning(including use of tools like iphones on campus?)
–curriculum that is flexible and ever-changing?
–staff development that encourages teachers to think of a classroom without walls?
The iPhone or laptop filled classroom is just an illustration of the changes coming/already here.
I don’t perceive it as a matter of “choosing” between pencil and paper or technology, because it’s about learning, and using the method of learning that makes sense in the moment, and using the method that reaches our real students, the ones in our classrooms today and tomorrow and two years from now.
We have to understand fundamentally that this isn’t an either/or debate and we can no longer define it that way because it is a quagmire that we’ll never get out of, otherwise.
The world is going somewhere. Are we going to come along?
Will Richardson says
Thanks, Carolyn. I was hoping someone would notice. ;0)
Honor Moorman says
Several comments have mentioned the need for examples of schools “saddling up with this new technology” and Kent asked how higher ed is dealing with this technology. My favorite example of a teacher who is effectively integrating the use of Web 2.0 tools into the curriculum is cultural anthropology professor Michael Wesch. In fact, the lecture hall photo above reminds me of his video “A Vision of Students Today.”
Dubbed “The Explainer” by Wired Magazine, Wesch is probably most well-known for his videos including “The Web is Us/ing Us,” but if you watch his presentation “A Portal to Media Literacy” and look at his Netvibes page, you can see how he breaks down the walls of the lecture hall and has his students using blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, video sharing, etc. to “harness the knowledge, experience, and creativity” of all 200 students sitting there in the lecture hall where “the reality is that the vast majority of human knowledge is actually floating in the air all around” them.
Terry C Elliott says
Yes, our classes already are augmented reality if we only chose to fearlessly go down that rabbit hole.
I don’t see any comments about actually altering the curriculum. Did I miss them?
I think that once teachers start teaching with lots of data access and student engagement and means for project creation (on whatever size screen)what happens is that the teacher has to be able to change and alter the course quickly and on the fly. The information is not fixed, the students’ interests are not fixed and therefore the course can not be fixed. While the big topic/course title might remain the same, the effective teacher in this setting is constantly altering and not just a little here or there with the personality of the class, but making real change. This requires quite a bit of confidence and courage in the teacher and comfort with uncertainty. All things it’s nice to have in any teacher, but qualities that become required in the new classroom. It means that while you (the teacher) may have planned for a week or so (maybe the district requires 2 weeks of plans to be submitted in advance), the class focus is being created by student comments on your blog or diigo remarks or wiki contributions which means that you the teacher need to be “light on your feet” and able to dance not just like Fred Astair, but like Ginger Rogers–to do everything Fred did but “backwards and in heels.” I personally think it’s exciting and as well as nerve wracking, in a good way.
Mark Pullen says
“I donâ€™t see any comments about actually altering the curriculum. Did I miss them?”
AMEN. Everyone is so focused on ensuring that every child has some form of capable wireless internet device that we forget that the classroom will not suddenly become some sort of educational Shangri-la once that infrastructure is in place.
Chad Evans says
I agree with your comments, but I also think we have to take away as many excuses as to why things still look the same too though. We can’t afford to wait until everyone has access to allow some of them to use them. Many of us have a long way to go in evaluating curriculum vs methodology, but I am hopeful that in this chicken vs egg scenario, that it doesn’t really matter which comes first. If we have the tech it might drive curriculum to change. If we change the curriculum, it might drive the need for better tech. My question is either attitude right or wrong?
Terry C Elliott says
Which ed schools teach any improvisation skills to their teachers much less technological improvisation? You are absolutely right about being comfortable with uncertainty. How many humans are comfortable with that? The larger question is whether institutional structures are capable of dealing with the demands of a connect learner in a way that is scalable or have we come to the crossroads where we have to begin thinking of teachers as learning brokers, learning concierges, learning abettors, learning dj’s, learning fixer?
I certainly didn’t mean to give teachers, and I am one, an “out” by saying this is hard and therefore we shouldn’t have to do it. I think this is where education and educators should be spending a lot of time thinking, rethinking, planning and replanning. I have been changing my teaching drastically as I use technology more and more and therefore the curriculum has also changed. Even if not everyone is one wireless hand held devices, I must think and teach in the mid-way points.
One of the things that is changing is that teachers have to engage more with the content too since they are teaching students who have so much information at the tips of their fingers. It does not mean that they need to know everything or claim to, but it does mean that the content of the curriculum can’t be seen as fixed. The idea of emmergent curriculum that is so ever present in the very youngest grades should probably be making its way into the upper grades as that will allow teachers to take advantage of both the technology and changing curriculum.
Ben Grey says
“The problem is, and I can guarantee you this, 95% of the curriculum currently being delivered in those classrooms would waste 95% of the potential in the room that we could glean from that access.”
We already waste that even without the technology. As the collective mind power of students sit in a room listening to one source of information disseminating from a largely one way stream, there is very little to no opportunity for transfer. Step one is to break that model, and then, step two, show them all where we could be going by adding the more robust access. We are already wasting so much talent and so many resources; our students minds working collectively. That’s our start.
Ric Murry says
1-budget savings when we allow students their own access through their own devices. Those who can’t afford data plan, schools could contract with cell companies for reduced price during school hours. Still cheaper than providing it all.
2-CIPA no longer necessary. Parents will have access to what kids access. Responsibilty is shared with parents instead of teachers/schools dealling with child choices on their own.
Carolyn Foote says
Here’s a student blog post written on a cell phone. Just found it, coincidentally!
Terry C Elliott says
Part of my problem is that I just can see well enough on the small screen. And my fingers are too stubby. And…well I just haven’t practiced enough with the tools. Our students are practiced and getting better all the time. OK, so now I am inspired to send at least one phone post a day via cell/touch. Thanks for the kick in the butt.
I read that blog post, and the dozens of blog posts written since then.
I got to say, from an English teacher’s perspective, it it by far the lowest quality. It demonstrates no understand or even knowledge of the text.
Though it is supposed to be abut Alice in Wonderland, it is only about technology.
And that is my worry about these discussions here. We are not talking about curriculum or content. We are talking about technology, without explaining how the any particular technology might support the actually goals or aims of education. The goal of the discussions here is to get more technology integrated into our schools because….because…well, as best I can, it’s just for its own sake.
Chad Evans says
Your comment is an important one in that without the context, a tool is just a tool. With that said, what happens in most districts is that there is no integration between curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy. They are treated separately and exist in vacuums. (at least in my district) Conversations about curriculum rarely involve pedagogy. Conversations about pedagogy simply involve complaining about how limiting the curriculum is. Assessment is it’s own beast.
I disagree that conversations like these are only about technology for technology’s sake though. Education in general lacks a true vision or goal and I would imagine that if you asked that question to everyone who has posted here, they would provide a different answer. Maybe that is part of the problem too, maybe not. In the same way, the tools (or hardware) have become (or are becoming) a disruptive force for those who think school is about disseminating information. No doubt there are many of us who try to use new tools and fail, but there are inherent and unintended outcomes that come from those failures. Our students might just learn that learning is messy, you don’t always get it the first time, and sometimes you have to work at it. I know this isn’t exactly what you meant, but I guess I’m at the point that conversations like these are far more interesting and worthy of my attention than those that ignore technology altogether, dismissing its importance in learning and in our students lives.
Christian Long says
@Carolyn: Thanks for linking to my student’s blog entry (and the “Alice Project” as a whole). You definitely made the student’s day…and sparked a great conversation here in my classroom about ‘quality’ vs. ‘provocation’ between the 2 of us. In other words, real world ‘learning’ in real time became the real take-away for Mike.
While I will (as his 10th grade English teacher) comfortably acknowledge that that specific blog entry is *not* Mike’s best writing; likewise, it is *not* the most indicative of what the project specifically about re: a 6-week process of analyzing Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (via The Annotated Alice). While anyone can do the legwork to read up on the rules/vision/expectations, I’ll short-cut it here. Each student was challenged to write 12+ unique blog entries inspired by their understanding/discovery of Alice/Wonderland and the historical/cultural ‘annotations’ that accompanied their text(s). The goal was to have them ‘fall down the rabbit hole’ idea-wise, not to stay rigid to a specific set of intellectual concepts/data. Additionally, each student’s collection of 12+ entries is being holistically graded in terms of “will the blog reader’s/audience’s understanding of the text and thematic concentric circles be expanded?” If so, great. If not, then individual entries can lower the overall grade. In this case, Mike — admittedly — knew he was offering little specific analysis of the text, but he was really curious about the idea of a modern wonderland. That question at the end was never meant to be the holy grail of Alice/Wonderland analysis, nor was it meant to be the defining ed-tech argument of the century. It is merely a think-out-loud piece. Period. That being said, that very raw initial piece has sparked for him (and his classmates) a new series of ideas…which far out-distance that one entry.
@ceolaf: Thank you for taking time to comment on Mike’s entry…and for not wearing kid-gloves when you reacted to it. I sense that you’re going to counter any example that comes your way (which appears the be the spirit of the conversation to date, although I actually respect a range of challenges you presented well before you touched on Mike’s piece). I also sense that you (naturally) are taking that single post out of context of the project’s own protocols/expectations, thus Mike’s entry is a moot and convenient sparring point to be made as you parry the larger issues Will and others are presenting. That’s fine…and I have no quarrel with that. But, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to give you — “from an English teacherâ€™s perspective” (as you semantically stated above) — a deeper understanding of what that one post might mean within the project, how I’ll evaluate it, etc. That is a sincere offer. I doubt you’ll take me up on it since it seems to be a convenient straw man right now, but let me know if you would like to engage the conversation. BTW, since you are critiquing Mike’s entry “from an English teacherâ€™s perspective,” I suspect you’ll appreciate the irony of your use of “It demonstrates no understand [sic]” and “I got [sic] to say” to make a point about the use of the English language or what an English teacher would approve. If we are going to split hairs (or “hares,” if you will), perhaps we oughta [an intentional word construction on my part, BTW] consider how valuable it is to throw casual stones at glass [fun]houses when a few seconds of simple editing was ignored in the construction of your own typed reaction. I’d be happy to offer you an intellectual/writing reaction “from an English teacher’s perspective” if you’d like to improve your own writing style/skill. Let me know.
You also make a logical but egregious error in stating that “[t]hough it is supposed to be abut [sic] Alice in Wonderland, it is only about technology.” Do not confuse @Carolyn’s point with the student’s inspiration with the assignment’s parameters with the larger perspective about what Alice/Wonderland may or may not be about in Mike’s class. I’ll assume — for convenience — that you are relatively ‘expert’ at analyzing Alice/Wonderland (and Carroll) and that you’ve thoroughly read all of the project’s rules (et al). With that said, what do you *assume* “to be abut [sic] Alice in Wonderland” actually is? And do you realize that it is formally called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (although Disney did re-frame the title and your cultural assumption language-wise). And why — assuming that it fails your assumption test — does a discussion about technology have no business within the metaphor of the ‘rabbit hole’ and ‘Wonderland’? Would you also argue that “The Matrix” is a) not about technology (or at least fueled by it) or b) is not directly inspired by Carroll’s masterpiece? So, if we’re going to spar re: the ‘merits’ of Mike’s entry as being relevant or not to this larger conversation about technology (iPhones and such), I’d be happy to offer you a customized rabbit trail of conversation to engage, but I suspect that you’d find that a poor chess move if you give the obvious set of next logical rhetorical moves any sincere reflective time). I’d also invite you to a) use your real name and b) leave a comment on Mike’s post so that you can engage the 10th grader on equal footing and offer your sincere response as to why his post has no value within the assumed context of the project as you understand it. The link is above, so that’s an easy next step for you if you elect. If not, I’ll wait for your reaction and happily tumble down the rabbit hole with you. Let me know. I’m eager to see where you take this next, contradiction tendencies aside.
Christian Long says
@ceolaf BTW, I tossed in a few easy grammatical/mechanical softballs for you to toss back my way. Figure that 4-5 of them are no-brainers. The next 2-3 may be a bit more challenging. The others…well, a tad more difficult.
Then again, if the point of this blog post comment thread exercise is to focus on the premise of “anytime, anywhere” learning and the potential of ubiquitous (and cost-effective) technology roll-outs/adoption that might plausibly challenge the prevailing/historic norm of how we teacher types do what we teacher types have always done, then you are welcome to ignore that tempting linguistic/structural distraction.
A better use of our shared time: I’d love for you to consider doing a deep-dive with re: to the “Alice Project” parameters/rules, as well as how Mike & his peers approached the over-arching goals of their digital/collaborative assignment.
Finally, if you’re game, I’d love to know whether you’d consider the assignment to be a valid premise within the framework of shifting a single classroom (and perhaps more) towards the future of learning/schooling within a Web 2.0/emerging technology landscape.
Thanks in advance.
1) I have no doubt that that post was not the best example of the student’s writing. In fact, I would entirely predict — and think I’ve made very strong implications to the effect — that no one’s writing from the cell phones will strong examples of their writing.
2) Actually it was not ME who took the post out of context. It was actually Ms. Foote. I put it in a bit more context, but not the full context.
3) There was nothing “semantic” about my writing “from an English teacher’s perspective.” I looked at the post for links to the text, and compared it to the strength of the links in other posts to the text. That is something that I, as an English teacher, am quite concerned with.
4) His assignment was not a straw man. I did not present it as something to argue against. Again, it was Ms. Foote who offered it up, out of context. I merely commented on what she presented.
5) My own comment was also from my phone, and is similarly not the best example of my own writing. It was rushed, and not done carefully. It certainly was not something I would “hand in” to be graded.
6) I’d be happy to know more about the larger project and your rubric for assessing students’ work.
7) You might find this hard to believe, but I am happy with my writing styles and skill level. I think that you, however, are referring to my proofreading skill with my own writing. While I know is can be poor, it is not something I worry about greatly. So, I will decline your offer. Once again, I suggest that this is a much greater problem with palmtop writing — which just feeds one of my larger points.
8) No, I will not use my “real” name. I’ve been through this before on this blog. No one has made the least convincing argument why I should, and such insistence seems to misunderstand the nature of the medium. No one is supposed to know I’m a dog.
9) I would not make such a comment on the student’s post. I do not know him. I do not know the assignment well enough to be able to comment on it. I have no interest in taking the time to read all the post from all the students with the degree of care that I would require of myself to do so. They are not my students.
10) I never said that his post had no value, and I did not assume anything. I surmised and concluded based on skimming dozens of other posts. I looked at data.
I understand why you might be eager to defend your student, and I applaud that instinct. But I am fairly certain that you missed my entire point. I have been quite clear about how technology gets in the way of “teaching students to use their minds well” (as Ted Sizer liked to explain the aim of schooling).
In this case, technology was such a distractor that he wrote a post that shows no evidence or sign that he knows anything about the work in question. There is no sign or evidence that he had read beyond the title, and the exact same post could be written about virtually any narrative work that a student might be assigned. Just as discussions here so often are about how great the tools are without linking them to curriculum, content and habits of mind, his post was about the tool rather than linking it to the text, as least as I read it.
(Of course, grading his collective posts makes a lot of sense. I am not, as I have said, in a position to do that.)
I’m afraid however — in considering your follow up — that I do not have the time to assess all of your students or to help you with you grading. However, I might be able to find the time to engage in a discussion about your rubric and instructions to the students.
And last, I really must question your implication that palmtops are cost-effective. Yes, they are less expensive than desktops or laptops, and even have some advantages. However, to say that they are cost effective is to compare their cost to their effectiveness, which assumes particular goals, tasks or aims. My point is that palmtops, despite their power cost, are particularly ineffective as creation tools. In fact, they are so poor in that regard that I believe that they are particularly cost-INeffective.
Advocatus Diaboli says
“There was nothing ‘semantic’ about my writing ‘from an English teacherâ€™s perspective.'”
According to thefreedictionary.com, ‘semantic’ is defined as:
“Of or relating to meaning, especially meaning in language.”
Unless you meant to concede that your statement was devoid of meaning, I’d wager that it was a fairly ‘semantic’ assertion.
It’s a minor quibble, indeed, but coupled with your myriad grammatical and spelling inaccuracies…the ‘quality’ of Mike’s post is beginning to look higher and higher by the minute.
Regardless, I see no problem with the post on its own or in the context of the assignment; the student was simply relaying an intriguing inference that he made, and decided to share it with his peers by means of a question that tied directly into the story that was being analyzed. Would he have had to have read the aforementioned text to construct his post? Perhaps not; but his ‘collective’ posting history proves that such isn’t an issue.
“I never said that his post had no value.”
We’re back to semantics again. While that may not have been your intention, phrases like “Of the lowest quality” can easily be interpreted in that manner. Word choice is crucial, as I’m sure you’re aware.
Advocatus Diaboli says
“Though it is supposed to be ab[o]ut Alice[‘s Adventures] in Wonderland, it is ONLY about technology.”
is a “straw man.” It implies that his blog had utterly no connection (even tangential) to the book in question. As loose as the thread may have been, the post WAS tied to Alice; thus making your representation nothing more than an easily contended, simplified…well, distortion.
I think that you might be mistaken about what “straw man” refers to. Wikipedia’s entry for it says “A straw man is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic.”
You see, it could not be MY straw man because I am not the one who presented. Furthermore, I used it to illustrate a point that I was already making, rather than to distract from the substance of an argument I was losing.
I must say, I did not write that the post had no connection to the central text — whose vernacular name I used rather than formal name, just to save myself some palmtop typing. Obviously it had a connection. It ends with the imperative or fragment, “Imagine technology in Aliceâ€™s adventureâ€¦” and the question “How would technology, such as having a cell phone, have affected Alice and her adventure in Wonderland?”
I said that it is not ABOUT the text. It might prompt an interesting discussion about the text, but the post itself is NOT about the text. It is about the impact of technology, without any discussion of the technology in the text, or the equivalently wondrous things she encounters there (i.e. the parallels in the text). There is not even any explanation of why or how the text inspired the idea in the student’s head. (Actually, as he explains it, the text did NOT inspire the thought.) The fact is, as I have said, the post could have been written about virtually any narrative text, simply changing the name Alice to the protagonist of the alternative text.
I didn’t distort anything. And while much that I write is contestable, it’s hard to see how someone can explain how that particular statement was clearly false — or even false it all. It takes a serious misreading, perhaps by someone who has confused his/her own inferences with my implications, to find such a problem.
In fact, I might suggest that your argument is, in fact, a straw man. You see, you are arguing that the post was linked back to text, when I never suggested or implied that it was not. Yes, you can win that argument, we should not let that distract from what I was trying actually try to say.
In this case, technology became the subject of the post, rather than anything about the central text in question. That problem — of discussions about technology supplanting discussions of curriculum, habits of mind, or truly lasting lessons — happens a lot on this site. I also suggested — and I think that Mr. Long inadvertently supported this point — that writing or typing on a palmtop is an inferior way to produce quality writing, and that the associated limitations can actually prevent us from well sharing our best thinking.
I had one of my customarily long comments in response to your comment about semantics. Unfortunately, and this is a hazard with cloud computing, it was lost. Rather than reconstructing my 5 points (5!!!), I’ll summarize.
* Context matters. Mr. Long did not intend that meaning of the word “semantic,” which was clear from his writing. As I was replying to his comment, his comment provided my comment’s context, and I followed his usage of the term. Furthermore, my comment makes clear that I am comparing this student’s post to the dozens of others I read, and the criteria I used. Removing one sentence or phrase from that context can be horribly misleading That’s something we should all be careful of.
* Don’t make up quotes. Don’t attribute ideas to me that I did not express, your own inferences to my supposed implications, and do not quote me as saying or writing things that I did not. I never called anyone’s work “of the lowest quality.” Word choice, as you said, is critical. To make up quotations or to insert words into a quote without properly noting it is highly misleading and can be an enormous distortion.
You have attributed to me something that I did not say or write. You took something I did write, removed it from its context and added a key word that turned it into a well established idiom, and put quotes around it.
This is reprehensible. This goes far beyond sloppy reading, careless writing, or misunderstanding or other forms of miscommunication.
The personal attacks have been bad enough, but this is more more like slander.
Advocatus Diaboli says
The statement “the lowest quality” is somewhat imprecise, and can be taken in two ways: that you meant it was “OF the lowest quality [in general]”, or that you meant “It was the lowest IN quality [out of several].” I misunderstood which meaning you intended, and should not have added what I felt to be a missing word; I can admit that, though more precise language on your part would have been appreciated. Regardless, the point stil stands; even the statement “the lowest quality” can be easily equated to one saying that the post in question “is without value.” I’m simply arguing that more consideration should have been put into the phrasing, not that you intentionally (Or actually) made the implication.
I apologize for whatever ‘slander’ you feel has been committed; but I don’t agree that any personal attacks have been leveled against you. All that’s been brought into question are points that you’ve made and some of your grammatical choices; if you’ve taken offense with anything else, please point it out.
Yes, Mr. Long was using “semantically” in a specific context…but to imply that there was NOTHING semantic about your statement is false. Your meaning was clear, and I don’t take issue with it; the point was that just as many (if not more) minor quibbles can be found in your posts as can be found in Mike’s. Yes, the difference is that he’s striving for a grade; still, a little empathy for the fact that he was using a palmtop could go a long way. Is it right to hold his post up to the same standard as the others under the circumstances? His post largely met the criteria for the project, and considering it was written on a phone…it’s mighty impressive when viewed on its own merits.
I’m not confused; I know what a straw man is, and I feel that one is certainly on display. When subject A is in question (Mike’s post), and subject B is brought up (A version of Mike’s post that supposedly is ONLY about technology, as if AAIW and technology are mutually exclusive) and B is argued against (‘It’s by far the lowest quality’) as if it’s equal to A (Mike’s post, which is actually about the possibilities of a ‘techno-wonderland’)…that’s a straw man. Cut and dry.
“I said that it is not ABOUT the text. It might prompt an interesting discussion about the text, but the post itself is NOT about the text. It is about the impact of technology, without any discussion of the technology in the text, or the equivalently wondrous things she encounters there (i.e. the parallels in the text). There is not even any explanation of why or how the text inspired the idea in the studentâ€™s head. (Actually, as he explains it, the text did NOT inspire the thought.) The fact is, as I have said, the post could have been written about virtually any narrative text, simply changing the name Alice to the protagonist of the alternative text.”
Well, in THEORY, the post could have been written about another work (I wouldn’t say ANY, though)…but would it have been anywhere near as relevant? Surely you’d agree that there are distinct parallels between the internet and Wonderland; the bulk of his post was NOT about the text, sure, but the closing question was. Just because it didn’t analyze a specific passage or directly reference an event doesn’t mean that it wasn’t ‘about’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He approached the blog differently than others might have, yes (He first made a point that was separate but relevant to the text, and then tied everything together with his thought-provoking question)…but I don’t see anything particularly wrong with that.
In the end, what might help would be to simply read over the parameters of the project thoroughly; if you don’t have the time, well, that’s fine…but why comment on the post without being fully aware of what the assignment’s goals were? Perhaps you and Mr. Long just have different philosophies on this subject (Well, not ‘perhaps’-it would appear that you definitely do). We can argue over semantics and the definition of straw man from dawn ’till dusk…but that doesn’t seem to be leading to anything fruitful. Mike’s post essentially fulfilled his requirements; maybe your argument shouldn’t target Mike, but the rules of the project itself?
Lastly, despite what could have been perceived as ‘rudeness’ on my part, your replies were very civil and polite. I thank you for not stooping to my ‘level’, so to speak.
Advocatus Diaboli says
And before the pounce is made-
1) You still take my phrase out of context. You admit that you added what you felt to be a missing word, without noting your addition. And you did so to support your misreading, rather than to reconsider your own reading to match the words actually in front of you. You altered the text to match your reading. My language was precise enough to require you to alter it to match your reading. My context was clear, and you continue to choose to ignore it so that you can blame me.
2) “of the lowest quality” would be a comment on the student. It comes from statements of class, the (lack of) worth of some human beings, and the lack of merit to their thinking and behavior. I understand why you would feel such phrase would carry to the meaning your ascribed to me. But I did not use it. As you say, word choice matters, and YOU do not get to choose MY words.
3) You appear to misunderstand the major topic at hand in this whole comment thread and the argument that I am putting forth. Again, you are ignoring context. The palmtop makes for poorer writing, and has a limiting effect on quality of the thinking we can share. (Keep in mind that rule #7 of the assignment calls for three levels of proofreading — each by a different party — before a post is made fully public. The post’s lack of grammatical or spelling errors, lack of missing words or mistyped words is likely due to those efforts.) My very point is that the post has to read with what you call a different standard — presumably a lower standard. When we are lowering the standards of assignments to accommodate technology — as you suggest we do — then we are making a big mistake.
Let me say this again. My point was that his post was the lowest quality of the bunch I skimmed BECAUSE IT WAS PRODUCED ON A PALMTOP.
4) Let me review for you. The topic at of this blog is using technology in the classroom. The comment of this particular post (i.e. Will’s) was the use of palmtops. Ms. Foote pointed to this particular post by this student as an example of such a use. I pointed out that this post by this student was inferior (by a particular standard) than other posts in the the class project, with the very strong implication (given my earlier comments) that it was because of use of the palmtop.
Where’s the straw man? You claim that the student’s post was the topic at hand? Have you not read the entire post and comment thread? Are you suggesting that simply because Ms. Foote offered the student’s post that we should have abandoned the topic of Will’s post and the comments that others had already made?
I have consistently argued that palmtop technology is bad for creation and project-based learning. Mr. Foote offered an example of palmtop-based writing. I pointed out that its quality suffered for it being written on a palmtop.
Where’s the straw man?
4) I did not say his post could have been written about just any text. I said “any narrative text.” You ask for more precise language from me, but consistently misrepresent what i have written. If you think that there exists a narrative text about which one could NOT ask about the potential impact of changing the level of technology, you are free to offer one.
5) Whether or not I think there are parallels the internet and Wonderland is irrelevant. The fact is that the student’s post does not describe them, mention them or even hint at their existence. In my reading, he does not even allude to them. Rather, he writes about how technology has changed our lives without any mention of Wonderland (in the body of his post) whatsoever. I do not give students credit for what I want them to write, what I would write or what I hope they write. I cannot, in my classroom, give a student for the obvious next point that a student did not actually make.
And last, I have never targeted the student. I have never addressed the student, described the student or judged the student. I have only addressed and judged his post, which Ms. Foote brought to our attention. There is an ENORMOUS difference between talking about a student’s work and targeting a student. I blame the palmtop for the relatively quality of his post, not the student’s own capabilities. In fact, I would argue that given the same amount of time an effort, he could have produced a much better (by my standards) post were he using a laptop or desktop computer — or even a netbook!
Advocatus Diaboli says
“1) You still take my phrase out of context. You admit that you added what you felt to be a missing word, without noting your addition. And you did so to support your misreading, rather than to reconsider your own reading to match the words actually in front of you. You altered the text to match your reading. My language was precise enough to require you to alter it to match your reading. My context was clear, and you continue to choose to ignore it so that you can blame me.”
What? I’ve admitted that I misread your statement and that I was wrong to quote you as saying what I thought you intended (I’m not “blaming you” by continuing to point that out; it seems you’re attributing motivations to me that I do not possess). That’s it. What am I ignoring? And why are you focusing on this error rather than my larger point re: how “the lowest quality” could be read as “without value to the given assignment” (Remember, this back-and-forth nit-picking began as such)?
To perhaps shed some light on this matter, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard the phrase, “X was the lowest quality, period.” It’s always been, “X was of the lowest quality” or “X was the lowest in quality.” Forgive me for assuming that either one was what you were aiming for.
“Let me say this again. My point was that his post was the lowest quality of the bunch I skimmed BECAUSE IT WAS PRODUCED ON A PALMTOP.”
I thought your point was that his post was the lowest in quality due to the fact that it wasn’t about the text? Or would that be a direct result of using a palmtop (if so, I fail to see how using a palmtop = not being able to stay on subject)?
If your modus operandi is to criticize the use of palmtops for scholarly purposes, that’s perfectly fine; I’m not particularly passionate on the issue either way. But even when placing your comment in the larger context of this discussion, you did not point to any correlation in your initial response between the quality of Mike’s post and using a palmtop; I’ll admit that his blog was rather brief and lacked depth, and that it doesn’t take a stretch to attribute this to the palmtop. It’s why I’ve never used one for something so important. Your comment, however, only referred to its lack of pertinence to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Despite taking you up on your advice and reading your other comments, this fact has yet to change.
“Whereâ€™s the straw man?”
I felt that you misrepresented and simplified Mike’s post, and made your point based on that misrepresentation. I’m…not really sure what more can be said.
“5) Whether or not I think there are parallels the internet and Wonderland is irrelevant. The fact is that the studentâ€™s post does not describe them, mention them or even hint at their existence. In my reading, he does not even allude to them. Rather, he writes about how technology has changed our lives without any mention of Wonderland (in the body of his post) whatsoever. I do not give students credit for what I want them to write, what I would write or what I hope they write. I cannot, in my classroom, give a student for the obvious next point that a student did not actually make.”
We might be in agreement on this point. I merely argued that technology is relevant to Alice, and that his question was “about” the given text…should he have gone farther? Maybe; I’m really in no position to be judging that, though. If your original point had been, “The student did not take the next step in his post and expand upon the relationship between technology and Alice,”…this conversation probably wouldn’t be happening. Still, his post was technically “about” Alice, and I’ll stand by that. Very, VERY loosely, indeed; but “about” it nonetheless.
This really just boils down to how one defines “about.” I’d define it as “in reference to; relating to; concerned with*.” If we’re to use this meaning: Mike’s question was relating to Alice, it was concerned with Alice, and it was in reference to Alice; therefore, it was about Alice. Yes, the question wasn’t the bulk of the blog…but it WAS a part of it, which would indicate that his post was not “only” about technology.
“And last, I have never targeted the student. I have never addressed the student, described the student or judged the student. I have only addressed and judged his post, which Ms. Foote brought to our attention. There is an ENORMOUS difference between talking about a studentâ€™s work and targeting a student.!”
Fair enough. Imprecise, careless diction on my part. 🙂
Advocatus Diaboli says
A long reply I had typed seems to have disappeared as well…I’ll try to sum this up:
A. The reason I added the “of” had nothing to do with trying to distort your statement to my own reading or what not; I’ve simply never heard the statement “X was the lowest quality, period.” and was attempting to “correct” the phrasing out of courtesy. Honestly. I was wrong, and I have admitted this.
B. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be re: the strawman.
C. Yes, you have never targeted the student, and I apologize for my careless diction there. 🙂
D. This boils down to how one defines “about.” Mike’s post fits the definition of the word “about”; still, it’s only very, VERY loosely about Alice, and I agree that it should have been expanded upon. My beef is that it was not “only” about technology.
E. I’ve read all of your comments, and I don’t yet see any indication in your initial response that the quality of Mike’s post had anything to do with the palmtop. You said the problem was that it wasn’t about the Alice text; if you’re meaning to suggest that this is directly related to the palmtop (You did allude to this in a later response), fair enough. It could indeed have boasted more depth of thought and length if it had been written by means of another medium.
F. ” I did not say his post could have been written about just any text. I said â€œany narrative text.â€ You ask for more precise language from me, but consistently misrepresent what i have written. If you think that there exists a narrative text about which one could NOT ask about the potential impact of changing the level of technology, you are free to offer one.”
Narrative text, then. This is ultimately an argument leveled against a tangential quip I wrote that wasn’t related to my main point, so I’ll leave this be. I don’t feel compelled to offer an example as I have no reason to; I can CONCEIVE of one possibly existing, though, which was my motive for not wanting to agree with your absolute.
This is all I’m arguing for:
Mike’s post was partially about the text, and din’t horribly violate the parameters of his assignment.
Everything else we’ve contended are quibbles that seem to be turning in perpetual circles.
Advocatus Diaboli says
Also, I’m simply wondering- is “the post was the lowest quality” correct English? It seems equatable to statements like “The door was the shortest length” or “The dog was the lightest fur.” I think that’s perhaps why my “instincts” kicked in and I added “of” into the mix.
A) You keep on making up quotes, taking what I said out of context, adding words and putting the whole thing in quotes. Why do you persist in these distortions?
B) You could be more clear on the straw man charge by putting my comments and the others in context and explaining what point I raised that did not fit into the previous discussion.
D) How was the student’s post about the central text? What did he write about the central text that could not have been said about any narrative text?
E) Everything that I have written in this thread has been about the inadequacies of palmtop technology for creation. Ms. Foote cited the student’s post as an example of student work done on a palmtop and I responded to it as such. I was not commenting on the student work for any other purpose than the one I had had, or with any agenda in mind other than what responded to Ms. Foote’s comment.
F) The suggestion that one does not need to be able to support their arguments or accusations but only need to imagine being able to do so is an odd one. You tell me that I am wrong, and you reasoning is that you can imagine the existence of something that would prove me wrong?
So often when people complain about others’ supposedly inferior grammar, they are actually making complaints about style. So often when they claim lack of clarity or ambiguity they do so by removing the statement or sentence in question from its actual context. So often when people complain about others’ writing, they demand a standard of formality that is not necessarily agreed upon.
You are correct, there were implied words that I expected the reader to be able to fill in. In context, those words are clear. Perhaps some better parallels would make that clearer for you.
i) “I looked a dozens of doors at the hardware store. The red one was the shortest length.”
ii) “There were so-ooooo many dogs in the shelter. The one in corner had the lightest fur.”
iii) “I read that blog post, and the dozens of blog posts written since then. I got to say, from an English teacherâ€™s perspective, it it by far the lowest quality.”
With i, the implied text is “of all the doors I looked at.” Without that text being explicit, in context the meaning is still clear.
With ii, With i, the implied text is “of all the dogs in the shelter.” Without that text being explicit, in context the meaning is still clear.
With iii, With i, the implied text is “of the dozens of blog posts I read.” Without that text being explicit, in context the meaning is still clear.
Your examples are not “equatable” to mine because unlike mine they lack context.
I think that your own long reply just came though.
1) I have made my criteria for my statement about the post’s quality clear. The cause is different than the criteria, and is tied to the subject of Will’s post and Ms. Foote’s introduction of the student’s post.
Criteria is one level of “because” (along the lines of “in that”) and causality is the other (along the lines of “due to”).
Perhaps it would help if I explained it in more detail.
It is harder and slower to type on a palmtop than on a full sized keyboard. I have found this to be true in my experience and those who type on palmtops much more than I have long since confirmed this to me. This encourages a sort of brevity and simplicity in production. Many people read email written on a blackberry or iPhone more generously because of that. (You agree with this, I believe, as you yourself said something about reading the student’s post with “empathy.”
There’s a problem there, however. The development of a thought, or an inspiration to explain what A has to do with B can lost by time have the thought has been written. I don’t disagree with the suggestion that the student’s intent was to link the marvelous world our current technology makes possible with the sorts of things that Alice encountered. However, my guess is that it took so long and so much effort to write his first half dozen sentences that he did not have the steam and excitement to explain the links had thought of once he had finished his only real paragraph.
And so, as a teacher I considered both the problems with post itself (i.e. criteria) and the underlying causality.
Linking this to use of technology in general and my frequent insistence that we consider the ultimate aims of education, I ask what the ELA goals or purposes of this project were to be, and whether this particular technology supported those goals or worked against them.
(I have been trying to avoid addressing other aspects of this student’s post, or Mr. Long’s project, criteria, rules and expectation, as to retain as to keep from going any further astray than we already have, but I need to bring a bit more in. My apologies for that.)
I don’t know that Mr. Long and I would agree on goals and purposes well suited to an ELA class, but I don’t think that this post meets either his or mine. For example, his first grading criteria is that posts must be at least two paragraphs long, each paragraph being made up of at least seven sentences. I would not have offered that, but I think that he mind have in mind a certain level of depth or development of thought. His formulaic requirement has both advantages and disadvantages, of course. I think we would agree, in the end, that this particular post is missing a paragraph. I want to see explicitly how he links this technology stuff particularly to ideas or issues in this text. Mr. Long might or might not want that, but he certainly is looking for another paragraph of some sort.
Given this sort of assignment, **I** would caution my students that they will find it hard to do on a palmtop. The kind of depth or development of ideas that I am looking for are going to be so much easier to develop with other tools that they really should focus on them. I would not ban their use — ideally, I would know know the platform they used to write their entries — but would not lower the bar for using an inferior tool.
And so, those who keep insisting that the student’s post was fine, that it fulfilled the requirements of the assignment or whatever else miss the mark. It actually did NOT fulfill Mr. Long’s very first criteria. And those only get students to a “Gentleman’s C,” as he explains it. Though his remaining criteria (i.e. to get a B or an A) would appear to focus on substantive content, but they are made clear on the project’s site. While you might feel that the student’s post was sufficiently tied to the text, I think we know that I do not.
Is that more clear, Mr. Diaboli?
5) You say that we are arguing about the definition of the word “about.” I do not agree. I think that the mentions of the text could be made of any narrative text. If I am right, then the post is not about Alice. You think that they have particular resonance with this particular text, and that they could not be made for ANY narrative text. If you are right — and I am wrong — then the post might be about Alice.
But my mentioning my 9th and 10th grade English teacher and what she taught me about making particular points with well substantiated links to the text does not make this post or this conversation about her. And simply asking others to consider the impact of technology on Alice’s adventure’s does not make the post about Carroll’s work.
I am happy to discuss substantive ELA sorts of issues, but I have tried to shy away from doing that in this forum because of the focus on use of technology here.
Wendy (below) asks about things in a particularly social studies context. There are good reasons to talk about these things from the point of view of particular disciplines, but I wonder what that would do to Will’s blog? I mean, he does not generally pose his wonderings or questions from the point of view of any particular discipline.
This isn’t really going anywhere. You seem more intent on the argument than reaching a mutual understanding, which I’ve been striving towards with my multiple concessions to points that you’ve made. I’m finished.
I can’t leave this untouched, however:
“F) The suggestion that one does not need to be able to support their arguments or accusations but only need to imagine being able to do so is an odd one. You tell me that I am wrong, and you reasoning is that you can imagine the existence of something that would prove me wrong?”
You clearly don’t understand what I was saying. I said I was reluctant to say that any narrative text could have been tied to that post because I have NOT read every narrative text that has been written or will be written. Therefore, I can’t honestly subscribe to an absolute. I can conceive of a narrative text that might not be relevant to that post; it’s not my job to present one.
I never said you were wrong (Speaking of manufacturing quotes…), I said that I PERSONALLY wouldn’t say any [narrative] text. You’re not wrong, it’s just that I myself am not comfortable with subscribing to an absolute on this matter.
I will admit that I have a slight personal stake in the matter at hand, and emotions could have clouded my judgment and led me to jump to conclusions. I’m still not convinced that Mike’s post wasn’t about Alice to any degree, especially considering what Alice was “about” in regards to the assignment. Agree to disagree, I suppose.
I am not going to let your continued leveling of baseless accusations go unanswered.
What quote did I attribute to you falsely? What quote did I manufacture?
* I did not target the student.
* I did not make any straw man arguments.
* I did not say that the student’s work was “of the lowest quality” or “was the lowest quality, period,” as you have plainly stated by offering false quotes.
* And I did not manufacture any quotes.
Any “mutual understanding” that grants any of these things to be true is impossible. However, I am fairly certain that I understand you perspective. I have tried to make mine as clear as possible, explaining at length and in detail what I thought and now think. I do not know why I would put such effort in if my goal were not to increase understanding.
I am unclear, however, as to how your concessions increase mutual understanding. Moreover, to claim such moral high ground and then continue your baseless attacks seems somewhat at odds.
Andrew B. Watt says
At my school, which is a boarding program among other things, we still see confiscation of personal technology as an appropriate disciplinary action to take. We take student cellphones from them every night, and some students have their laptops or netbooks taken for inappropriate use.
Our cellphone policy also requires adult teachers to refrain from the use of cellphones in the school building, the gymnasium, or the dining hall. And yet, yesterday, I saw our head of school step out of his office and into a hallway to use his cellphone, in a place where almost anyone could see him as they passed by. He saw me, and shrugged. “It’s really hard to give up access,” or words to that effect, “and it’s school business.” He chuckled, and gestured with his iPhone. “And whatever it is, there’s an app for that.”
We are reaching the point where a given technology like a cellphone, with its attendant uses and applications, is ubiquitous. And I think it’s time we stop pretending that the little silver-gray rectangles of connectivity are going to go away… It’s going to take us thousands of hours of practice as teachers to understand how to use them, accommodate to them, and accept them in the classroom, and thousands more to integrate them.
Yet every week this small, personal technology gets more and more affordable, and more widespread; while the Interactive WhiteBoards become more expensive toys just out of reach of the average school budget.
It’s time to get over our big-ticket budget lust, and welcome the cellphone.
Ric finally brought up the 800lb gorilla in the room: filtering. Schools that filter (CIPA mandate) cannot extend those filters to smartphones (because not everyone has an iPhone). Yes, we need to have a partnership with parents about appropriate content, but even more we need to have a conversation with students about “professional” behavior on-line.
Anna Watkins says
Again, where’s the curriculum model?? If my teacher is supposed to teach European History to prepare students for the AP Euro exam, how do student choice, student passion and new technologies support and further that goal? Show me! This unoriginal thinker needs to know. Or is this discussion really about using cool new tools to teach the same old (possibly, but not necessarily, irrelevant) stuff.
If knowing European History isn’t useful to 21st century students, that’s a different discussion — and it’s a CONTENT issue, not a “to text or not to text” issue. What are we going to teach comes first. HOW has to support the WHAT. I’m still hoping for examples.
Thank you, Ms. Watkins!!!
Means should be tied to the goals and aims of schooling. Thank you for asking this question so directly.
Interested to hear your take on this vision:
Putting aside the factual errors in his presentation…
The big problem is his vision and understand of education is about getting information to students. Though he says the word “project,” he does not offer ideas of how THIS platform is well suited for projects or creation. In fact, he suggests that this platform would obviate the need for pencils — and presumably pens — without offering a decent alternative for how to solve complex math or science problems.
(At every level, math is worked out by writing, from learning how to carry and borrow to the most sophisticated proofs by professional mathematicians.)
So long as the purpose of schooling is learn information, his idea might have merit. But If the goal is to teach lessons worth learning for a lifetime, to teach students to use their minds well, etc. etc., his vision is quite problematic.
Carolyn Foote says
“Again, where’s the curriculum model?? If my teacher is supposed to teach European History to prepare students for the AP Euro exam, how do student choice, student passion and new technologies support and further that goal? ”
Anna, Here are some ideas.
First, what do students have trouble with particularly on the exam or in preparing for it? A particular time period? memorization? particular battles or leaders? keeping up with the volume of information? The first thing would be to identify areas where the students have weaknesses or that the curriculum isn’t quite addressing the needs. In other words…assess.
Second, let’s say the assessment reveals that students are having trouble remembering articles they read and annotating effectively. Perhaps a tool like Diigo would really make a difference–it would help them organize bookmarks, and they can use it to annotate texts, even doing joint annotations and discussions of articles, deepening their understanding. The annotations are online for all to see and participate in.
Or perhaps it reveals that they are “memorizing” but not gaining the deep understanding needed to write AP essays. Blogging might be a way to address that–as they work through the content of the course, blogging in groups, pairs, or individually about the concepts they are intrigued by, curious about, or struggle with. They could bring in current articles that relate to what is being studied, create their own reflections on what is covered in class or in readings, and develop their writing skills and reasoning through using blogs. The blog could function as a journal of sorts, but is more interactive than a journal, since teachers and other students can interact on the blog posts. (much like the dialogue that has taken place here–imagine that lively a debate over European history and how it would deepen the understanding of your AP students.
Another way to address that might be using Cover It Live (live blogging software) with ‘inner/outer’ circle discussions, which is a technique many English teachers use. The innter circle discusses while the outer circle listens and talks about what the inner circle is saying (using Cover it live to type their responses). This preserves the dialogue for later reading/discussion.
I’m sure these are oversimplifications but it sounded like you were looking for some concrete examples, so I thought I’d brainstorm a few.
Sorry Will for such a long post!
Anna Watkins says
Carolyn, that’s exactly the kind of thing I need. Thank you for the long post!!
I’m not suggesting that everyone here give lil’ ol’ me their best tips (tho’ if you want, send ’em on 🙂 But Will has been talking for a long time about WHAT kids should be learning, and I think it’s what this post started off discussing. I’ve been thinking and thinking about that question. It requires a huge shift in the desired goals of a high school education (such a creative and extensive discussion in AP Euro class could derail the progress of “covering all the material”). The result could well be less information and more skills, a good thing for the real world but maybe not for the immediate academic goal of a 5 on the test.
Will, you may be pleased to hear that my daughter’s 5th grade persuasive essay (for which she got 100%) was on a topic of her choice — Why We Need More Recess. It wasn’t done on a blog or wiki, no cellphones were employed in the process (she wrote in pencil on blue-lined notebook paper) but she got to use evidence like, “sitting and listening to the teacher talk for a long time makes kids’ brains hurt.” Now THAT’s passion-driven curriculum!!
Carolyn Foote says
I do think though, that an indepth understanding of information WILL lead to a better score on the AP test. When you understand things, and have context, they are much easier to remember.
And also, while blogging takes time, much of it can be done outside of class. When students get caught up in it, and spend some extra time at home blogging, they are deepening their understanding and spending more time on AP curriculum, which again, would lead to better understanding and thus, higher scores.
There is no “one” way, but we have to care both about the “five” and their longtime learning and understanding to raise informed citizens.
I feel it’s too tempting for schools to continue using netbooks and phones for ‘same old same old.’ Granted netbooks are cheaper and there something to ‘something is better than nothing. A fully functional laptop provides creation opportunities. Video, audio editing, art creation and programming suites, animation etc.
The classroom in the pic above was designed for a lecture. i often thought a great way to push into an era of educational reform would be to abandon furniture.
Laptops are no magic elixir… but they do conquer the issue of equity for students. They do stir currents of change to immobile curriculum.
The classroom shot in the picture is a reality… of a classroom designed for lectures.
Over the years I’ve seen too many schools rely on filters to avoid more sophisticated use. Business as usual does not really serve the students. Of course curriculum change is required. It can start in small steps:
1. Promote teachers to ask students: “How can we use technology to enhance this assignment?”
a. Video, audio, digital art etc.
b. Social media / web 2.0 in classrooms.
Reinforce that teachers need not be the ‘tech’ experts on these agendas rather that they apply their wisdom, their depth of focus.
I have great success training teachers over the years using these simple guidelines.
Phones will no doubt be more powerful in the future. So will netbooks, ereaders and the like. No better time than the present to get moving though.
I think curriculum is the right focus for this discussion. However, I think we should concentrate on specific courses.
When I was in college, students were required to take several writing intensive courses. Why not develop a few technology intensive courses?
It is strategic use of resources, focusing on implementation on a small number of faculty and it ensures all students receive access to 21st century skills.
It’s not realistic to think that all teachers will use these tools, but I think it is realistic to ensure all students receive instruction leveraging these tools.
Over time, additional courses could be added, but I think this has great potential for getting started.
Samuel Matoke says
Mr. Long you have new found new respect from me…
Christian Long says
@samuel [picture one teacher smiling, fella]
Kyle McGeehan says
Yeah, that was utterly incredible.
Mary M says
Re: Christian Long’s comment.
My sons are still a few years away from high school, so I have time to move to where you are and enroll them in your class! Location?
Christian Long says
@Mary: You’re a good soul, but I’m not sure moving your entire family to TX on a whim after reading a blog comment thread would be the most traditional move. That being said, I’m flattered. Thanks for making my day/night!
Okay, you’re right – I probably can’t move to TX. But I’m in MN, and right now, it’s 20 degrees, so it might be more practical than you’d think!
My point was that, aside from the long debate raging here, it is clear that you are willing to explore options and challenge your students in a very forward-thinking way. We all need that for our kids! And professionally, I like to surround myself with people who are doing that!
sylvia martinez says
We are currently dealing with two big “truths” – schools will have to change because of the knowledge revolution, and schools are impossible to change because they are too culturally and politically entrenched. We are stuck in the middle between these two massive opposing forces and unable to see our way clear.
Of course a cell phone/personal device won’t change everything if the only expectation is that the “content” is coming from the device in your hand instead of the teacher at the front of the room. All this does is create a false sense that the teacher is no longer important. This is obviously 1) not true, and 2) will cause teachers to reject that claim and therefore the technology along with it.
It’s not so much curriculum that has to change, but pedagogy. It’s not the “what”, it’s the “how”.
On a completely different issue – it does worry me that we are chasing this thought that bandwidth and connectivity are what’s important. That brings with it an assumption and expectation that pricing plans for bandwidth will driving educational practice.
Julene Reed says
This is great information that I am sharing at a workshop at TETC today. Thanks for the info!
As I read through this discussion, I thought that it all comes down to what tools schools actually “allow” students to use in school. I think we are a long way from allowing phones in the classroom. With many schools having a rule that phones must be kept in lockers and are often confiscated when they’re not, I canâ€™t see thinking shifting enough to envision a room full of students on iPhones anytime soon. It goes back to a discussion a few months ago titled â€œDonâ€™t, Donâ€™t, Donâ€™t vs. Do, Do, Do.â€ We can embrace technology, but will it be â€œallowedâ€?
Thomas Pond says
I attended your session this afternoon at VASCD….You have excellent points and I am still trying to figure out how to “pilot” something that my division would go along with that would stimulate conversation about our need to open up the technology sooner rather than later…..when it truly will be too late and our kids will be way behind….I have grand kids and you hit home with your presentation…thanks
Kat D'Ambra says
I just spent the last two days with Heidi Hayes Jacobs and her team immersed in the world of technology in the context of curriculum and classrooms. They shared a video by a young man named Travis who would agree with you 100%. We live in exciting times!
Wow. I really appreciated your blog. We were just talking about this in class. One of Yong Zhao’s articles talks about “technology disappearing in the teaching”. That’s the goal, right???
Like you said, when are classrooms going to quit fighting it and USE it. Yes, it will still be a distraction, but aren’t notebooks and pens just waiting to be doodled upon also distractions in current classrooms???
I imagine there will come a time when the teacher can control what happens on the students’ computers – i.e. blocks facebook, myspace, etc etc.
I do think it will be interesting, though, to imagine that all teachers will be able to fix their own technology. I’m not sure that will ever happen – or at least not any time soon. I’m guessing there will be apps that help a teacher fix their own stuff before all teachers can do it themselves.
Thanks for blogging………..
Jeff White says
Great post! I’m an instructional technology specialist for a very technology-rich county north of Atlanta, GA, and there’s a similar sentiment amongst lots of my colleagues and teachers – we have lots of toys, but perhaps not always enough work on how to play with them. The pedagogy often gets lost, because people assume that just using the technology make a lesson “revolutionary.”
True technology integration into the classroom will come from not only having the latest technology, but understanding how to use it properly – how to let it blossom in the hands of students.
Dean Shareski says
Not exactly why I’m writing this comment as it becomes extremely difficult to see much flow after the sheer volume and diverseness of the comments. However, it’s almost 2AM and I’m not in bed yet and have spend the last 40 minutes here, I might as well.
The discussion about battery life and equity seem out of place here. Mobile devices aren’t the answer to educational ills. But they represent something way more important than an new app. They suggest allowing us to tap into a multitude of potentially powerful connections and resources that can make school much more relevant and give students a chance to be co-designers in learning. That’s pedagogy, not curriculum. Again, not the devices themselves aren’t really the issue but the attitude that students bring something to the table: their phones, their ideas and their dreams. As educators we can leverage that, stick some wisdom in for good measure and apply what we know about good teaching and learning.
If you can’t imagine a phone can assist students in learning and that it’s going to continue to improve in usability and power, you haven’t been paying attention.
Kim D. says
Interesting post. It puts a lot of ideas and thoughts in my head. Technology is crazy these days….how long can we, educators, ask our students to put their technology away and only have access to what we give them and tell them when they can use it? I love the possibilities of technology and what is available to us. I just can’t imagine teaching that classroom (picture), especially with middle school aged students.
For me, the issue of cell phones in the classroom is one that I have struggled with since I began teaching. Being relatively young myself, I understand the internal struggle of feeling like I need my cell phone at all times. Especially in this tech-savvy world where I can simply send Google a text and get answers now. We live in a world of instant gratification, and, because of this, I love my phone. Therefore, I do understand how students feel when we tell them that they are not allowed to have their phones on during class, but come on? Iâ€™m sure that my students are not texting Google to do further self-directed research based on our content of the day.
The picture in this blog that exemplified this dilemma. It was a college classroom filled with students on laptops. On the one hand, this is such a wonderful opportunity for these students. If they are truly engaged in the class, the access to everything that they can find on the internet is outstanding. However, if they are like students in most of my college classes, they are checking facebook, interacting with those who are not even in the room. While communication and cooperation are necessities in the classroom, it shouldnâ€™t need to be said that the communication and cooperation should be with others who are actually IN the classroom.
Michael Wacker says
I’ve been returning to this post on a daily basis for nearly a week, much of what I felt needed to be addressed or responded to was done so by fellow educators speaking with passion and student learning on their minds.
This post stuck with me an dI had to return and reply.
I agree with your observation that studnets are checking facebook, and interacting with those who are not in teh room, and my first reflection is….GOOD! If your classroom is confine dto the “expert” at the front of the room or containe dto the room in general, you are limiting our most powerful resource in education…each other.
However, this quote really hit me from your reply…”Iâ€™m sure that my students are not texting Google to do further self-directed research based on our content of the day.”
You’re sure about that? Really? My question to anyone that also believes this would be what are you discussing or asking your students to engage in if they don’t want to extend the discussion or continue the learning.
I can say with confidence that if I don’t know something when sitting in a presentation or keynote the first thing I do is look it up,I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Here are some of the discussions I would like to be having with my colleagues about curriculum and technology:
1. What (specifically) do we still feel students need to memorize anymore? I would like to have this discussion particularly in Social Studies. While I realize that anything can be found quickly, there is still information that they need to know that will allow them to get to searching more effectively more quickly.
2. When assignments go digital which ones are just the same-old-same-old but on the computer, and which ones have really changed?
3. Once the converstation on my class blog gets going (and the students have the converstations I would have had in class on the blog instead), what can I now engage my class in that will have them moving beyond our school walls? Does that mean that we should read fewer books and branch out more with each?
I think that the third question your raise poses quite a big problem for many classes in our system of schooling. Coverage objectives tend to rule most of our courses, with this year’s teachers having to cover the content that next year’s teachers must (?) assume has been learned.
On the other hand, many educators call for a “less is more” approach. We might more depth and exploration, even at the cost to breadth of coverage.
I think that you raise a good issue. If students are holding these discussions online — presumably out of school — ought we assign them as much reading and other writing homework as we have traditionally? Too often, teachers feel that they must cut off or end interesting and/or valuable discussions because of coverage objectives — sometimes the bell rings, and students must go on their next class, right? What’s more breadth than that? But if we respect students’ time and real intellectual efforts, how should we respond to their engagement in mental energy and minutes or hours online from home?
Obviously, your second question relies on shared knowledge of traditional assignments. I would add to the question of why particular assignments might be moved to the computer. What is gained and what long term aims are goals are furthered?
We don’t all actually agree on the aims and goals of education or social studies classes, and this might be an opportunity to bring those critical issues out for discussion. By sharing our educational values and thinking processes, we as educators might be better able to come to a more cohesive educational experience for our students. I would suggest, however, that you include non-social studies teachers in these discussions, or at least in some of them. Crafting a cohesive educational experience where the different classes all mutually support each other and the fundamental lessons we expect students to retain for decades requires that we work across disciplines.
Oddly, I think that your first question might be the most difficult and variable. Obviously, being able to look things up requires a framework to be able to ask the questions and understand the answers. What amount of knowledge might that require?
The more difficult question embedded in there, I think, is how do we get students to that point? Does relatively short term memorization support the development of such frameworks? Or are there better ways? Does relatively short term memorization fail to contribute to such frameworks, and therefore involve a high educational opportunity cost?
Science, in my view, has a different take on this. There is far less to memorize, and it can happen in the course of repeated use of the information (e.g. eventually, students memorize the atomic mass of some key elements, simply for looking them up over and over again). But the breadth of potential facts, dates, names, locations, relationships, links and all the rest in social studies is so vast, that kind of repeated use does not occur in the same way in social studies.
I would be quite interested to know how thoughtful social studies teachers address this question.
Phil McRae says
We need to be more mindful and sophisticated in our understanding of the diversity of new millenial learners, and what an inquiry stance to learning (in a socio-constructive space) really looks like before we saddle and ride ‘the horse’.
First of all, our ‘learners’ are deeply influenced by their age, gender, educational level, and the values and cultures of their peers and parents (i.e., socio-economic status). We need to understand this great diversity before we talk about technology in education as if it were a homogenous thing that benefits all. In actuality, the socio-economic variance in our societies creates a very different picture of how (mobile) technologies are taken up by different citizens.
In light of a conversation about diversity of learners, we also need to consider how much screen time is appropriate. In Canada and the United States, children under the age of 2 are not recommended to be in front of screens at all – see the Canadian and American Pediatrics Associations’ policy recommendations.
Finally, the question must be asked of ourselves and others in the field of education. How do you believe children learn? Is your philosophy of education one built on fluidity and dynamics, about socio-constructivism and the highly relational and contextual space of learning? Alternatively, perhaps it is a about finding the ‘truth’ that is hypothetically out there?
Ultimately, we need to be clear about the complexity of learning before any of us saddle the horse…if in fact this 21st century horse really exists and is not a distractor around customized (personalized) learning being driven out of the corporate cloud.
This makes me think of the role of teachers. Much of what we are sharing can just be viewed on a laptop. When students are working with teachers and each other, it seems even more important that time be used for activities that could not be easily done with technology or that are hands on such as physically constructing a model that may be displayed or doing experiments.
Although many things like drawing, painting, discussing, can be done easily on the computer, it seems important that we maintain some balance. There is an importance of doing things using tech, but still being able to get our hands dirty.
That photo is overwhelming. Soon though, it will be a photo of seven year-olds instread of the high school and college students. I see kids all the time with phones far more advanced than mine (or my computer for that matter).
Tom Hoffman says
First, good lord, the less you post, Will, the more comments you get.
Second, we’re just somehow still hung up just short of the devices we really need for schools, and probably two years away. Maybe one, maybe three. But essentially, we need netbooks that cost districts $0 over five years over current expenses, have dual mode ebook/color modes like the XO, play flash video, run at least 8 hours, have wifi, obviously, no moving parts, $100.
Having a sane telecom policy to get high speed connections into kids homes would help to, but the availability of super-cheap computers for kids might spur reform in that area.
Nothing’s really going to change until we get the right hardware and software. And once we do, well, we can stop thinking about is as “technology” at all.
Hripsime M. says
You bring up a great point, something that I recently posted about on my own personal blog. I find myself still resisting and fighting the fight, though I fear that one day soon we may have to give in and think of ways to cooperate with the ever-changing world of technology.
However, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask students to keep certain items inside of their lockers and outside of the classroom. It is just another classroom rule that must be adhered to and should be dealt with if violated. If we are flexible in this one particular area then we must be flexible in other areas as well, thus risking authority.
Jason Stein says
While I understand why people love technology, I don’t understand why being disconnected from it for approximately 6 hours a day could be a bad thing. Although the Internet creates the ability to communicate with a very wide range of people, it is always a mediated communication. I think many people enjoy communication through the Internet because it is a mediated communication tool. I can happily type away here at my keyboard oblivious to what emotions my post may provoke. The consequences have little effect on me. Does it matter if surferguy777 (sorry if that is any of you) doesn’t read my blog posts? The cost to me is very little. There is no urgency to repair broken relationships.
When students come into my classroom, I want them to learn to deal with people face to face. It matters in a classroom if you say something hateful because the next day you have to come school and interact with that same person. Neither party is going to leave. Physically communicating with another person requires a level of self control and reflective thinking that cannot be captured on the Internet. And in my classroom, that is what I am looking for; self controlled reflective thinkers.
The curriculum question is foremost in my mind. I enjoy using technology, but I am often at a loss when it comes to evaluation. How do I know what my students have learned when using technology? I teach primarily high school mathematics, and I can certainly come up with assignments and projects that show they can use technology to achieve mathematical goals (graph some function), but this is little more than saying a student knows about addition because they can use a calculator (Caveat: a students who uses a calculator may in fact know a lot about addition, but I need some other metric to tell that). Part of the issue is that I have only a limited say as to what is in my curriculum. Our curriculum has outcomes and indicators that we use to measure a student’s progress. And I am not sure that if a student knows how to type
factor(2*x^2-x-3)into sagemath that they really know how to factor a binomial.
Carol Keen says
These are exciting times and I think that the key is to embrace the new technology and put it to good use. One of the problems that my youngest son points out is that many teachers lack the technical skills to adapt quickly enough to the ‘internet revolution’
Katherine Schutte says
In 1970, composition theorist James Britton wrote “And, in the end, what we have to do for [students] is trust them. To begin to do, which is to discover, that some of the obvious things they say could have power if enough of a generation said them, and believed them, and refused to see their impracticability, and, finally, to admit that among the injustices and extravagances of the young people’s revolution, demands are being made that represent fragments of a world we have always wanted.” How absolutely true. We seem to fear the worst. Teachers assume students will abuse technology, so we amputate their access and thus their learning and the possibilities for the future.
You asked: “…how many educators look at that picture and think â€œOMG, puhleeeese let me teach in that classroom!” I am one of those educators. PUHLEEEEEESE!
Chris Miraglia says
It is amazing in that in a large metropolitan school more kids have iphones than computers. I truly think we need to figure out how to access the this. My students easily access our so-called closed network with their devices which leads me to wonder at times, why am I trying to teach them using computers (Macs of course). However, there are the rigid policies which dictate when phones can be used (never during school time). As you stated, why can’t we get over this and show students how these devices can be used as learning tools.
Hripsime M. says
Sometimes it feels like a lot has changed, and other times it feels that little change has been made. However, I’m noticing that my outlook on technology has changed quite a bit since last year, therefore I’m noticing changes more frequently than I used to. I see change in my surroundings, I see change in my classrooms and I see it in the article and news stories I keep up with. Much has changed, yet change is not new and advancement/abuse of technology is not new either. I can’t say I am as open-minded about others regarding using certain resources as learning tools, but I’m curious to see where we go from here.
I’m a high school senior, and, ironically, I found this blog post on my district’s website when it caught my eye. I come from a pretty average school district economically, but my school is part of an affluent community. Here are some of my thoughts as a student.
1. State of technology in my district. At a district level, we have a “classes” portal that allows teachers to have an online component to their curriculum if they so choose, where they can post assignments and hold discussion boards. Also, you can download the notes for the days lectures if you missed class.
In my school, we have a wireless network that students can access. However, I don’t know of a class that uses it as part of the curriculum. Mostly, it’s just for kids to have internet access without going to the school library or computer labs.
In each department of our school(Math/Science/Social Studies/English), there is at least one classroom that has been upgraded to a “Smart Room.” These rooms have a projector in the ceiling, a laptop, document camera, and a Smart Board. Even though I like these rooms, I think many are underused. My math class last year almost never used any functionality of it at all. However, in AP Economics we use it a fair bit for lectures and videos.
2. District supplied technology for those who cannot access it. I know, I wouldn’t want to be the kid using the district supplied Netbook while most of my class was on their brand new laptops and iPhones. My school district goes to great lengths to conceal the economic situation’s of its students. What I am saying is that not that many kids want to be seen and judged by their fellow students when they use technology that may not be up to spec with the rest of the kids, even if that doesn’t impair their education.
3. What I would like to see. I am a proud owner of a Nook, basically a Kindle made by Barnes and Noble. I did not purchase it for school, I just got it because I like to read. However, I think if textbook makers made eBooks of their textbooks available, it would be amazing. However, I have not found any eBook copies of any of my current or past textbooks. Imagine a school where kids didn’t need to lug around their 30lb backpack, and instead carried all of it in the size of a paperback book. A nice thing about this, is that students with eBook readers could choose not to check out a hard copy, and just be “loaned” an eBook copy by the school.
But what I would most like to see is a gradual paradigm shift of education that would more realistically grow the skills needed in the real world(but I’m still in high school, what do I know?). Anyway, I find there is a big difference in the way some students think. For a lot of students, they don’t grasp the big picture of what they are learning. This is make or break in some classes. My best example is AP Calculus BC, which is a pretty tough class for high schoolers. In this class I can truly see the difference in thought processes that students have, and how they learned math in the past. Some kids in my class never realized how what they had learned before could help them here. This is the difference I see between college classes(AP/IB) and high school classes. In high school classes, students learn to remember information for 2-4 weeks, take a test and forget it until the final, where it is then forgotten forever. Then they get into a class that requires their previous knowledge and they are totally bewildered when someone tells them they actually had to remember what they learned.
Where does technology fit into this? Even though my math teacher is one of the best teachers in my school, besides a calculator we have never used technology at all in the class, so Calculus isn’t my best example for how technology should be used. Nonetheless, teachers need to realize how to harness the massive technological capabilities of their students. Most of my teachers do the same thing, give some notes, give an assignment that is in some way based on those notes. Herein is the problem, nothing in the “real” world actually works this way. In common workplace, you are given a task and you have a certain amount of time to do it. Your boss doesn’t spend 90 minutes beforehand teaching you how to do it, you’re expected to know how to do it, or at least get started. What I want to see is assignments that are actually relevant, will test my total knowledge, and not waste my time testing how well I took notes. How should teachers change this? Honestly, I don’t know, but I foresee lots of technology involved. Your job is to find out how to do it. Good luck.
TL;DR: Change the way kids learn using technology so that they actually LEARN.
@Eli–What an amazingly insightful comment! Mirrors everything I’ve read or been told about what teachers should do and how education should change, but it’s the first time I’ve heard it straight from a student. Thanks for posting!
Ric Murry says
I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas. What the education bloggers need more than anything in the next ten years is to listen to the students they teach.
I have one question (in two parts), not meant in any way to be derogatory:
Is it required that students receive the type of education you are describing (and hoping for) to prepare you for the “real world” do-it-yourself capabilities that will be expected?
Here’s why I ask, and the 2nd part of the same question.
You obviously are well-prepared for future “real-life” problem solving. What role did your education (even without the use of the technology) play in getting you to this obvious point of preparedness?
Again, I am seriously wanting to get a student’s take on this. I’m working through what the purpose of k12 public education should be, and what is really required to accomplish the task.
Thanks again, Eli.
I do not think that students are unable to acquire these skills on their own, but it seems it is the responsibility of educators to provide the tools and methods necessary for students to succeed.
To answer your second question, I ultimately think my love of learning has fostered my preparedness. Starting at a very young age I was always interested in how the world worked. As I grew older I continued to challenge myself in everything I could. Even if I wasn’t ready for the challenge at the time, the experience would end up accelerating me far past what I would have achieved had I taken easy options. To sum it up, I think kids need to be taught at a very young age how much there is to learn, and teachers need to always challenge their students, not with trivial busywork, but mentally enriching tasks.
Ric Murry says
As I read my first question, I should have worded it better. What I meant to ask was how important is it (to you) that teachers use the technology? It appears that you have done well in spite of the technology not being used.
I think you actually answer that question in your second paragraph. YOU took responsibility for your learning and took advantage of what was offered to you in school, regardless of the amount of technology it entailed.
I think one of the things teacher/bloggers have overlooked (as well as the political edicts on education) is the role of the student. There has to be a desire on the part of the student to want to learn, do better, and improve their “life possibilities.” It appears that you have that, and that you educational opportunities allowed you to increase your abilities to be ready for your “real world” whatever it may be.
GOOD FOR YOU, ELI.
Thanks for the teaching you have provided me (and us) in this forum.
Thanks Will for the best discussion I’ve seen in a blog post in years – maybe ever.
I am also a high school senior and am in the same situation that Eli is in. I am a proud owner of a variety of technology including a laptop, an eReader, cell phone, and an iPod. While it would be fantastic to use my laptop more often in class, I foresee some issues with this endeavor.
First, some teachers are terrified of technology. I have had classes taught in “Smart Classrooms” where the only time the technology was touched was to dust it off at the end of the year. Some teachers have not been exposed to technology beyond their television remote or cell phone and have no idea what to do with the technology given to them. While there are certain teachers who have technology, know how to use it, and use it well, they seem few and far between at my school. An example of a teacher who can actually use technology in a beneficial manner was my IB Biology teacher. He would go over notes in a PowerPoint form that we were to download and print prior to the class and during class we would flush out the notes with what he called “depth and detail,” which kept us learning in the classroom and not just have notes written for us. While in his class, I remember many educational videos over the internet being watched and those helped quite a bit. Another technology related part of his class was that he allowed us to text, as long as it was not at inappropriate times, like during his lectures, and did not distract too much from the task at hand. I found this to be brilliant, because from what I have noticed, it takes a lot more effort, time, and concentration to try to sneak a text than to simply pull out your phone, text, and then continue learning. I can say, without a doubt, that he is one of the best teachers at the school. However, this status is not reached through his use of technology, it was his teaching style and his ability to actually get information through to the students, though technology has definitely helped his capabilities. When teachers use all of their resources in a purposeful way it does help kids learn. Although, with that being said, there are also teachers who try to use technology but it is just out of their grasp. When a teacher tries to use technology but it turns into a twenty minute break while he/she tries to figure out how to turn on the projector, which plug goes where, or what have you, it just impedes learning in the classroom, rather than being something that can help. To me, it seems to me to be a waste of money to fully equip rooms with technology that will not be used (or used well) by the teachers.
This leads to the idea of the threat of childrenâ€™s personal technology becoming a distraction in the classroom. In my classes, people are allowed to bring their laptops to take notes or work on various assignments, if they want. Though in my experience, people use laptops for games instead of actually doing something productive. For instance, in my Theory of Knowledge class, we often got free time to work on our Extended Essays, or our Internal Assessments, or anything, our teacher just gave us one condition that we actually had to work. Though it seemed that every time this work time was given to us, at least five people would pull out their laptops and proceed to play games on them and three people would be crowded around an iPhone, also playing games on that. Very few students used technology for good instead of evil.
Another important factor to take into account would be the expense of providing laptops or other technology to students who cannot provide their own. In my high school, there is much economic diversity. There would be many people who would need to be provided a laptop and that would be very expensive. My school district is definitely not the richest and I doubt that they would be able to give every kid a laptop who needs one when they can barely afford to give us textbooks that are not falling apart.
So while technology has the ability to help, it can also hinder the learning experience. What ways could help prevent the unhelpful aspects, while keeping the useful parts of technology?
I also agree with Eli, that teachers need to teach to help the students later in life, thatâ€™s what school is supposed to do, right? And while I do not know how this can be achieved either, but to me, it does not seem that I am being prepared for life, rather, that I have been learning how to take notes and that does not seem to be the best way possibly to help with â€œreal worldâ€ experiences.
Ric Murry says
Thanks for your comment. The voice of students is so important to us (teachers).
I appreciate your statement, “So while technology has the ability to help, it can also hinder the learning experience. What ways could help prevent the unhelpful aspects, while keeping the useful parts of technology?”
That is our true struggle – along with some teachers’ fear of tech, which you also mention.
I agree with your premise that we need to be helping you for “later in life” as well. Additionally, I would like to think that we help you for the “here and now” too. Today’s dream is tomorrow’s reality…so I hope we can help you begin to dream.
All the best to you, Bre.