Friday, November 23, 2007

Visualizing a technology divide

The education/technology blog Dangerously Irrelevant has an interesting visual display and analysis of the gap between home and outside of home usage of technology across various constituencies. One of these is students, and so is of interest to me.

Here is an interesting analysis:
Speaking generally, the people in charge of implementing technology initiatives likely are high users at both home and work, with a fair amount of overlap in terms of the tools that they use. Teachers and administrators, on the other hand, probably are not using technology near as often. Also, they likely have relatively little crossover between the specialized technology systems they use at work (e.g., student information systems, electronic gradebooks, PowerPoint, parent portal software, and “clickers” for formative assessment) and what they use at home (e.g., digital photo management, games). What overlap does exist is probably mostly in the arenas of e-mail, word processing, and browsing the Internet. Finally, as we know, students’ personal lives usually are much more technology-rich at home than at school. They use many more tools, most of which are not allowed during the school day.

So, what are we to do?

My own experience with middle school science students is that the types of technology they are most familiar with (cell phones, IMing, video games, iPods) are not in sync with what they use in school (word processing, blogs, podcasts).

To some degree, I have tried to span this gap by training them in the "school tech," as well as trying to make us of the technology with which they are familiar.

I find myself in different places on different days about in the conversation about preparing them for the 21st century workplace. I am not sure they we can predict well what technology needs are going to be in 10 years (which is good thing). I do think, however, that we can be more reasonably sure about what makes for engaging learning. Anyplace we can close this gap and make their everyday tech tools part of the normal learning environment, we have made learning relevant in a powerful way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The pinata model of learning

This weekend I got to spend a lot of time with my 3 1/2 year old son. We were talking about his friend's upcoming birthday. His version went something like this:

His birthday party is next week. We are going to sing "Happy Birthday" and then he'll blow out the candles. We'll all wear hats. Yours will be pink and mine will be purple...

And on and on the story went.

Only later, it dawned on me that he was learning about the party. And he was learning because he was interacting with the story of the party. First, there was going to be a party. Then, there were more and more details (hats, singing, candle blowing, etc.).

And only later still, did I get the image of a pinata. You start with the balloon, which then gets covered with paper mache. Then, the details get added, until you have something special. That's when I started to thing that this is exactly how learning happens. And that it is our job as educators to provide the balloon framework (the basic concepts) on which our students can begin to hang details and meaning.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Breaking the Model

I have been interested in investigating the places where learning happens (and this usually involves technology in some way) that goes beyond our traditional model of education (teachers in classrooms, homework, etc.).

Here's some things to report --

Will Richardson posted this piece on his blog about ways that he and his wife are trying to extend their children's education:

Every Tuesday afternoon for about an hour, my wife’s office turns into a classroom where my kids are making wikis, learning about searching, and creating stories around whatever their interest is. And they’re being shown some ways in which technology can be used to connect, as in the picture above. (Click on it to see a more viewable size.) A couple of weeks ago, Steve Hargadon made a guest appearance using Skype to help them identify what they might want to work on in terms of projects. And there are plans to invite other people in to speak to them and help guide their work. (Let me know if you want to volunteer!) Real people, real work, real audiences.

Then, in response or inspiration, Neil Winton shares about his son's experience teaching and learning the computer programming language Scratch:

If ever you wanted proof that we can find learning everywhere and from everyone, tonight was it. The earth was flattening before my eyes as Andrew talked a group of kids in America through an introduction to programming. I need to think more fully about the implications of what I was watching, and I think I need someone like Will himself to give these thoughts some shape and direction. The implications of being able to find what you want to know from someone who is willing to share… even if they are not present… turns our traditional model of education on its head… and even more so when you realise that the person with the knowledge you require might be the person you thought you ought to be teaching!

What happens when more and more of us "play" with these kinds of ideas?