Rethinking Education

I recently read a book called Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. The authors give a historical overview of education in the U.S. – from apprenticeship to the current factory-model that Americans know. They make the claim in this book that school as we know it is changing, and it’s changing because we’ve entered the technological revolution. In fact, they believe that education is going through its own revolution.

They address barriers to using technology in education; but, they focus on the current bricks & mortar educational system when they discuss these barriers. It isn’t until very late in the book that they begin to explore how students can learn differently and in self-directed ways.

The subtopics in the last chapter are: rethinking learning, rethinking motivation, rethinking what is important to learn, rethinking careers, rethinking the transitions between learning and work, rethinking educational leadership, rethinking the role of government in education, and their vision for the future. Their vision: stretch thinking capacities to include broader technological use in education. Ummmm- aren’t we already doing that?

Granted, education must change, and it must include technology to an extent that just isn’t doing yet; but, we all know that education moves at a glacial pace. I don’t think including more technology “in the classroom” is what we need. I think teachers need to learn how to use technology and they need to become mentors so that they can allow students to be self-directed. The traditional role of teacher must change. We should be coaches. Maybe our educational system needs to revert back to the apprenticeship system – with a few little tweaks here and there.

Education News Involving Technology

Iam a member of NCTE and get their weekly updates in my inbox. Of course, there is a section on technology (albeit small), so I thought I’d share what English teachers think are important enough to list in their weekly updates.

PBS recently conducted a survey that asked teachers if they want more access to classroom technology (DUH!). Not surprisingly and with the state of education budgets in this country, 2/3 of teachers report that budgets are the biggest barrier to incorporating technology in the classroom. To read the full article:

An introduction to the beginning of the “highlighting” feature we so love in e-readers:

And, hurdles to iPads in every classroom. We all want them; we all think they could positively impact our students. So, why aren’t they transforming education yet?

If engaging students is what we really want in education (you know, creating the self-motivated, self-directed learner), then why aren’t we doing it?!

And, finally, remember a week ago (I know things move fast in technology) when we talked about SOPA/PIPA? There were a few colleges who joined the hype and blacked out part of their websites, too.

Week 2 – Transforming my world

The percentages listed in the “Unleashing the Future” article concern me. So, 51% of students are motivated to learn? There is not outside motivation to include in this statistic? I’m not so sure I agree with this idea – at least with the current way that bricks & mortar schools are arranged. The single, most important thing I think we can give students is self-directed learning. Unfortunately, self-directed learning is not how students are being taught in schools now. I look at my time in a bricks & mortar school, and I remember giving students a topic and letting them choose how they wanted to discover that topic. I gave them access to any technology available. I can say for certain that 51% of my students were not more motivated to learn.  In fact, I would say that my students’ motivation decreased. And, I think the reason for this is that they were not accustomed to having technology available to them. So, they wanted to do all of the things they weren’t supposed to do – like playing games, checking social media, etc. – instead of focusing on the “learning” of their topics. I believe that if technology were used on a more continuous basis that students would better equipped to use technology without allowing distractions to impede learning. A bit later in this article, the mention of “firewalls” and students’ and teachers’ frustration struck an important cord with me. Many times, I gave assignments to my students only to have them unable to complete the assignment because of the firewalls our district had in place. I believe our firewalls were especially stringent in comparison to other districts. In fact, many times I wanted to use legitimate teaching sites that were blocked from my use. It is almost impossible to engage students in self-directed learning using technology when students are blocked from content that is important to their learning.

Moving from my bricks & mortar classroom and into my online “classroom,” I connected to the Boston Consulting Group article and the ways that students can learn “online” in a history classroom (p. 24). It was interesting to me because this is exactly what my students do. I teach English online, and my students’ learning involves reading, writing, exploring, and discovering. I cannot honestly say that my bricks & mortar classroom involved exploring and discovering. In this new environment, however, my students read traditional Canonical texts; but, they connect that reading to videos, blogs, online encyclopedias, online content that involves youtube videos, etc. My students no longer simply read a story and are spoon-fed information about the author and the times of the things they read. Now, they discover that through their virtual worlds (and they do it at the time of day they choose). I do not believe online learning is for every student, just as a bricks & mortar school is not for every students. What excites me the most is that this virtual environment exists for the student who needs this type of self-directed way of learning.

Just as the infographic from this week by indicates, I’ve moved from being a teacher-centered educator to a student-centered educator. I’m a mentor now. Online teaching has transformed the way that I think about education. I can’t wait to see how it transforms my thinking over and over again.

Week 1 of R685

I’m liking this notion of sharing that I found in Dr. Bonk’s prequel to The World is Open. I was struck by several things in this reading – not just the notion of sharing. I do want to hit on that notion first, though. I am struck by the idea of sharing, especially in relationship to one of my favorite educational thinkers, Friere, who wrote about the notion of banking education. I believe in the first several waves of technology in education, we focused in must the same ways that Friere wrote about. We expected technology to be a vehicle to help students acquire (or bank) information. With these new waves of technology and education, however, we’re focusing on how students can not only take in that information; but, how they can use it to create meaning in their own worlds and share it with others. I like that. What good is information if we can’t share with others? It doesn’t seem to me that students gain much by just taking in information. It is the synthesis (in this case sharing) of that information that makes it important.

There really is no transition here… I’m just going to move right on to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart— rural students. Dr. Bonk wrote about the access rural students in Canada had as a result of the internet. One of my passions is bringing “education” to students rather than students going to be educated. I think the internet and web 2.0 make that possible. But, I’m also completely aware of the lack of access many rural areas have to the internet. In fact, it’s closer to Bloomington than one might think. I teach for Ivy Tech’s Columbus campus in their Brown County location. I have stressed to my students the importance of accessing their e-mail and Blackboard throughout the week. I assumed that all of my students had access to the internet, and I guess they all do; but, there are many places in Brown County (less than 30 minutes for the IU campus) where dial-up is the only internet option. So – I agree that the world is opening… but, only in some locations. And, we have far, far to go before some of the remote places in this country have high-speed internet access.

The next idea that struck me in this reading is another of my passions. Like Dr. Bonk, I think information should be free. :). And, I’m struck by the complexities of copyright and what should legally be shared on the internet. As an online high school teacher, I use the internet constantly for my lessons. And, I can do that; but… I have to be careful. I can use anything (school appropriate) that I find; but, I cannot record and distribute much of this material. And, as an online teacher, many of my students need a recording of the LiveLessons that I conduct. If, however, I am using material that cannot be distributed, I cannot record it. It’s sort of a catch-22. I think it’s important that educators understand the complexities of online copyrighting – especially as we move into a vocation that shares information.

Welcome to my meanderings

More than anything, I’m hoping this blog helps me to think about how technology both affects and is affected by education. And, I do believe the two have almost constant interplay. I believe those in education directly impact how technology is introduced and used in classrooms (both f2f and virtual ones) and technology impacts how students learn in both f2f and virtual classrooms. We have reached a time where the two cannot ignore one another. And, for me, that is an exciting time. I’m exicted by the possibilites that I have as a teacher, and I’m excited to learn what my students will contribute to the discussion.