Posts tagged: Cool Papers/Articles/Resources

How are computers in the classroom really doing?

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By , November 22, 2010 11:31 am

This weekend, I was hit by two interesting finds in my Twitter feeds. The first takes a look at what the Alberta Teachers Association – ATA –  (via @joe_bower) thinks needs to be changed to get computers in the classroom to “actually do something (my words)”. The second is a comment from Alan Kay who goes over some points as to how computers in the classroom have actually failed. Looking to Alan’s points first. He likens what has been done with computers in the classroom to people playing Guitar Hero – players experience the fantasy of being able to play, but in reality learn nothing. Going further,he is frustrated that schools, and society at large have yet to really make use of the technologies made available through the computer to be intellectual amplifiers, rather it seems that computers, specifically consumer computer technology has essentially become the “next legal drug”. Kay suggests that evidence for this can be had if you take a look at how education, which is supposed to (in his interpretation) create a sophisticated voting public, has not been able to deliver on its mission. It seems that many of his frustrations are around the inability of those involved in any given stage of the computers in education process to focus on the curriculum.

The ATA, in its new report looks at changing from the “new chalk” approach that has seen new technologies be used in old methods to shifting to a more problem based curriculum that might encourage new ways of teaching out of necessity. The use of technology to merely create and process more administrative data is also called into question, as it seems to enable the conservative nature of education rather than encourage its ability to change. Technologies in the classroom should be used to create knowledge that is unique to each student and emergent of the situations that the student is presented with as opposed to funneling student responses into a standard score. Finally, it looks at something that the University Academy has started to realize now as well, the distinct and often fiercely independent disciplinary domains of knowledge that have been used for the past hundred years or so are indeed part of the problem and should be revised to recognize the connections rather than the distinctions.

All this was certainly interesting reading. I found that Kay was a bit too gloomy, and the ATA, a bit too optimistic. For my money, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I would love to be able to read more about what Kay has done with respect to technology integration, as a trade article is not really representative of his body of work (I think the only reason it came to light is because of the iPad/Dynabook comparison). I also hope that in some way I can help to effect change within the province and bring forward what some of the ATA has said. There is hope on that front. We now have some schools that are open year round, something that only took perhaps decades. The change of curriculum from Bio/Phys/Chem to Science to the Art of Science hopefully can be done in less time. I think it would be really cool if by the time that my daughter and her cohort hit Div II, that they only have three subject – Art of Science, Science of Art and Human Motion.

Edit: And of course, at it often happens, later in the day, I find another interesting resource that talks about the same thing – this time Mashable‘s take on how computers are helping in Education – part of their Education Tech Series. Some of the points, specifically when it comes to Kay vs Mashable, I would say that with the exception of ebooks and more efficient assessment, Mashable’s list is pretty good. Showing how computers have been used to extend the capacity of students to be able to take in and manipulate data and then synthesize it in novel ways and with others who are not physically in the same location. I would however have to agree with Kay with regards to this list. These examples are the exceptions, not the rule when it comes to computers in the classroom. Even though every school in a district may do the same thing, without the ability or structure within the school and the society within which it exists, students are not really using the computer for what it could do. They are jumping through hoops to meet a standardized assessment (hence not agreeing with all the Mashable points) and only providing the impression that they are capable, ala Guitar Hero. Some students are of course going to be able to transfer the skills and knowledge in spite of the school and the society, but these are few and far between. So perhaps the next question should be… do we really need all students to understand computing and the ways and means that it can extend capacity in the same manner?

2009 Horizon Report

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By , February 3, 2009 10:50 am

I’m sure some of you have seen mention of this (or the Comment Press version) around the ‘net, but for those who haven’t and who can’t be bothered to log in to get to the report, I’ve pulled out the highlights – this is also handy for those non Edu-folk who read, looking for insight into what technology in education might be doing.

So here is what EduCause/NMC thinks is going to be coming up:

  • Mobiles (about a year)
  • Cloud Computing (about a year)
  • Geo-everything (two – three years)
  • Personal Web (two – three years)
  • Semantic Aware Application (four – five years)
  • Smart Objects (four – five years)

The first couple of technologies are going to change the way that we think of computing, especially spacially – ubitious networks, powerfull enough handsets and powerful “cloud” backends. The second set seem to point to an increasingly “non-line” world that will integrate more data from the real world into the online systems. Regardless of how “plugged in” one gets, there will always be the need to interact with objects that would not otherwise have data associated with them… by giving them data. The last two will then allow users to do something with that data in a more simplistic manner. These are of course my interpretations of what they wrote, so feel free to create your own paragraph summary. But, if these come to pass I think there will be an increasingly gap between the academy and the “real world” and if education doesn’t step up and at least get one step behind, in four years, education will be in an even bigger world of hurt.

Gatelock – teaching kids with games

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By , April 9, 2008 1:22 pm

In the grand tradition of Squeak, Gamemaker and Scratch (et al), Gatelock is a system that is looking to create an environment where kids can create their own worlds. I’ve been in touch with the authors of this paper and they have no plans yet for a non research release and this post is not meant to pressure them into this in any way. Hopefully as their work continues, they will get something that can be released to the masses. 

My First YouTube Video

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By , September 27, 2007 10:47 am

Well, it’s a very poorly shot video as it’s a rough for some animation that is going to be done later, but it’s my first online Youtube Video – Chemistry Melting Point.

Ideas of surveillance

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By , May 19, 2007 7:06 am

+++This post started out on my phone and has been trapped in the back end of my database for the weekend – I’ll come back to it when I have time+++

Friday, I took in this really interesting lecture by Meyrowitz, as well as a small panel afterward, who talked about how reality and it’s perception can change greatly by how it’s archived (I would also think that it would change according to why as well). This got me thinking, what do we really want to go back to?

Should the machine now help us forget as well? The second question was only briefly touched on, and the first was explored in many ways by looking at communications theory and the like. But asking these questions from the point of an educator, that is something a little different.

Our students are actively archiving themselves and many don’t even think twice about privacy (likely because identity protection wasn’t well covered at school), especially online. These kids are like the people of the sixteenth century, before the private home and the people of the old Soviet block (or so we would be lead to believe). Not only do the accept the surveys of others, but the actively record their own lives (often online via the social network of the day) as well. Knowing this, how or why are we having such a hard time with technology integration and with the establishment of eportfolios?

Storytelling and technology

By , April 30, 2007 8:57 am

This isn’t digital storytelling from the traditional (it’s more than a month old online so it’s ancient) definition, but it’s more aligned with interactive storytelling. Warren Spector, a great game designer has written an article in Escape about the new storytelling and how the new hardware might actually be a barrier and that to do these properly by looking at new ways about how to think about the story and the interaction – ala verb thinking from Chris Crawford’s Interactive Storytelling. It’s great to see that these classic designers are starting to think about the story (check out Storytron), even though their games have been classed as shooters for such a long time.

Was Dewey already on School 2.0?

By , January 6, 2007 10:53 pm

Helping my wife tonight on her paper, she came across this quote from Dewey (1916):

From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in school comes from his inability to utilize the experience he gets outside… while on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning in school. That is the isolation of school – it’s isolation from life.

It seem that we haven’t really come that far in 91 years now… if Dewey was on to this back then, we certainly haven’t moved the stick that far at all. At best we’ve added some window dressing to ensure that it looks like we’ve moved ahead (and we have in some areas, but not as it seems where we should be).

Thinking about this some more, you have to wonder, those of us reading this, how on Earth did we every apply what we learned in school to life before learning became our life (or is that it? – was learning always our life?)? Did we all just enjoy this obscure challenge and have enough “outside” learning to satisfy our outside of classroom world and then enough school to satisfy our day jobs in the classroom? Does this make a case for lots of extra curricular activities for kids (keep them busy so that the don’t see whatever that “real world” may be)?

It looks like I wasn’t the only one to catch this meme/idea over the weekend, Christian over at think:lab and Chris over at Practical Theory also posted about this.

Kids on GTA

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By , January 5, 2007 10:52 am

I got this from EdTechLife, but here is the direct link.

To me, it seems that the kids feel that they are desensitized to the events in the game and that in some manner they are immune to it’s influence. Granted, it’s difficult to see what the impact might be, but to my mind, the level of desensitization in society in large part will only increase with this sort of game available to kids. Because just as we’ve seen what has happened as people of my generation have started making movies and ads that are far more explicit for lack of a better term than in years past. This and other effects of the slow “adultification” of childhood are slowly starting to be seen elsewhere as well.

I may be a bit naive, but I think we should try to protect some elements of an innocent and obviously naive childhood in order to foster kindness in society. I’ve seen in my own experience that some of the people in my extended family have raised their children in this manner and they have a world view that can see lines of good and bad very easily and not always inline with their parents and I’ve seen kids that have grown up saturated with violence that are not likely to ever really know about where lines are.

Granted this is a broad brush.

It Spams Shots Shoots & Leaves

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By , December 30, 2006 8:58 pm

Well this is a multi-part quick post – the first part is just noticing the difference between the spams that are caught between the first part. It seems that there are no spams that SK has caught that Akismet hasn’t – so why have both? Just in case (I dropped the extra later after a missed spam on by Aki) But I’m noticing that the Akismet counter is getting much higher, much faster than SK’s. I wonder what is happening to those that I never get to see.

The second part is a quick comment on the lens that I got this holiday. The 60mm Macro is freaking amazing, but when I was thinking that I would use it as a great indoor lens I didn’t consider how close or far I would have to get from my subject. Depending on the subject(s) that I’m framing, I have to be almost 2m away to get a tight crop. The 10-20 from Sigma that I was thinking about getting would have certainly helped me get closer to my subjects when I shot (especially when I was shooting the ceremony on the 24th), but the distortion may have not been appreciated by everyone, though they would have enjoyed seeing more people in the shots all the same. I’m not saying that I should have got one over the other (the 60 is so amazingly sharp that my baby candids are just mind blowing, the 10-20 would let me get closer, but that would have likely meant that I would have little hands all over my camera – As cute as that would be). So if you are reading this and wondering if you should go wide or Macro, remember that you will want wide indoors as well – if you want lots in your shots – and Macros are great general lenses as well. If you want my suggestion as to which to get should also bring into consideration how controlled your shooting situations are going to be. If you are able to move freely around your subjects and take time, lean toward Macro, if the space you have to move is limited, think wide angle.

Lastly, I just finished Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It’s not the first book ever written about punctuation, but it certainly is an interesting read. If you want to see an interesting way to get “spice” into a “dry” subject, take a look at this book. I saw a similar book to this on the history of French. I’m now on to Crawford’s Interactive Storytelling, which only a few pages in seems to be a great way to look at how to look at the role of story in any instructional space (even though it’s not really what it’s written for).

JSB – Use Web 2.0 to fix education

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By , December 1, 2006 4:49 pm

C|Net has a nice little writeup talking about John Seely Brown’s comments at a recent MIT event. One of the things that he suggests is that we look to the sharing and apprenticeship model rather than the hording/mastery model that we have now to make education more authentic. He also notes that the rise of the amateur (Pro-Am) is something that is going to shake up traditional education. He also suggests “passion based learning” should be included in schools in addition to traditional means of education.

This isn’t anything new really, to those of us in the the field, but it’s something that when said by the right person can affect change (granted, it’s been said for a long time, and things still aren’t really moving). If schools ignore the fact that there are kids with more media skills than their teachers, how are they going to keep those kids engaged? How are they going to be properly assessed? Teachers should not be multi-media uber-masters, but they should at least know the basics of how to put some of the projects that their students are handing in together, otherwise, how are they going to mark them? I remember in high school, my brother’s teachers finally realized that it took as much work, if not more to put together a video as opposed to an essay. That was about 12 years ago now, but looking at some of the students that are leaving the various Ed departments, there are still teachers that don’t know anything about doing anything more than putting together a lesson plan and some idea of what to do create an exam.

I think part of it is the generation gap that we have with those people who are instructing our new teachers – they are teaching what worked in their classrooms yesterday, not what students need tomorrow. This is fine for basics like classroom management (but even that has to adapt), but for content and assessment? I don’t think this is very good for anyone. Many students also think that education is a fall back option and they don’t take it very seriously. And it seems that there are many more of these than there are committed individuals who actually see that teaching is a profession on par with any other, and so central to society that it is a crime that it has been neglected so. Slacking students, combined with aging preservice instructors doesn’t bode well for education to be able to follow JSB’s lead any time soon.

(Edit 12/3/06) Will Richardson over at Weblogg-ed also has a bit of a writeup.

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