Monthly Archives: October 2016

Legacies of Learning

I think one of the most powerful aspects of technology in the classroom and with student learning is the ability to offer a student the chance to share their learning with a global audience and to have their learning product withstand time. With the help of technology, students have the opportunity to create legacies of learning; products to be shared with other learners and which can be built upon and improved. In my math and science class, technology is used to support the development of theses “legacies of learning”. I want students to understand that they are teachers, innovators and creative artists and that they need to share these with a larger global population. In math class, students create tutorial videos based on what they understand at the conceptual level. They become teachers, creating videos to help other students. In both math and science class, students engage in inquiry-based projects where they are using the knowledge learned in class to answer a personally relevant question. We use technology to help students show the path they took to answer their question. Students create short documentaries, tracing their steps and showing the work they did to answer their question. These videos become models for other students to watch and understand the expectations and how they can use knowledge. They also become possible starting points for new students to build off the ideas of another student and improve the idea.

YouTube Preview Image

In my class, we use technology for these wonderful purposes but also balance this with paper and pencil thinking, storyboarding, whiteboard collaboration and sketches of ideas before using the technology. The use of technology without a front end load of time spent on thinking about how to use it, what I want to say, how will I say it and how can I use technology to deepen understanding, will only end up with technology impeding learning rather than helping.

We need teachers more than ever!

Will education change because of technology? Will the role of teachers and the classroom change with technology? Short answer; absolutely. I think before we can sit down and discuss exactly how technology will change, we need to begin with understanding the effects technology is and can have on the brain and learning. That is the future. The area of neuroscience, in particular, how the working parts of memory are reacting to information being delivered via technology. As Carr states, “The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory, the scratch pad of consciousness, to long-term memory, the mind’s filing system,” The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, 2011

Throughout history, there have been advances in technological tools, which have had great impacts on learning and the brain. For example, when the book was first introduced it required long, focused attention which promoted greater retention and deeper understanding. It is being argued that the internet is shifting away from focused attention and deeper understanding to a more rapid, shallow, broad scanning of information or , “the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources”. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Carr, 2011

If there are impacts which are starting to be uncovered and slowly understood, then the question regarding education could be, “how do we evolve with these changes?”  I think one way to evolve is to engage in dialogue using relevant, up to date information. For example, if the half-life of knowledge or, “ the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.” Why are we reading resources from 2004 or even earlier? According to the half-life of knowledge as a by-product of the internet, then that resource is completely useless. To be able to intelligently discuss the future of education and technology and their integration, then we need resources on the cutting edge of that discussion.

Also, the argument that the classroom is becoming obsolete as well as the role of teachers, is not the right argument. The classroom is simply a structure. What happens in the classroom is the key. How we see learning, how we choose to engage students, assess students or try to make learning relevant are the real questions and issues. I think if a classroom has learning opportunities which are “(1) personalized; (2) safe and secure; (3) inquiry-based; (4) student-directed; (5) collaborative; (6) interdisciplinary; (7) rigorous and hands-on; (8) embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations; (9) environmentally conscious; (10) offering strong connections to the local community and business; (11) globally networked; and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning”.Prakash Nair, 2011, then the classroom is fine. It works. I do see obvious challenges with large class sizes and small spaces, but I think the first change needs to be in the area of instructional design before we tear class walls down.

One of the most important roles we will have as teachers in the age of the internet is what Siemens states as the, “ know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).” We need to teach children where to find the knowledge they need. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. We need to teach students how to filter through the incredible amount of irrelevant, useless information in order to discover the key pieces of information they do need. Once they find those key pieces, we then create opportunities to apply that knowledge to real-world issues and questions, which their answers or innovative solutions can then be shared globally. Teachers are more important than ever!