Category Archives: edchat

Connect!

Wordle: Connect

I read Tom Whitby’s blog post in My Island View titled Assertions and Assumptions Skew Perceptions and I suddenly felt myself in the rut of education.The realization of this rut led me to the conclusion that I do not want to get back on the main road of education. I  instead want to forage a new path of discoveries by stepping away from the industrial classroom and into a connected, interactive, relevant space where students are able to discover themselves and thrive.

Whitby reflects on his attendance to a conference with many educational leaders and their “lack of relevance in the world of EdTech education.” There is a real crisis in our education system that lurks in the lecture halls of undergraduate classes and in the training of pre-service teachers. The education of our future teachers has not evolved with technology and society, leaving the education system stagnate in a pond of traditions and past practice. Our undergraduate students are immersed in basic coursework, leading them to student teacher positions that last weeks in various placements observing and eventually imitating the observed while adhering to policies and procedures that have been in place since the construction of the physical building. Student teachers are looking to gain employment from these experiences so standing up for best practice and innovation are not always recognized and rewarded.  Graduate work can bring a sense of loyalty to the system with excitement bubbling under reform. If a teacher is lucky enough to have gained employment the utterance of reform is heard, but caution is a common theme as veterans share their stories. There is resistance to reform and innovation as administrators race to meet the latest educational policy and act.

Where does this leave teachers who are looking to push past political and popular educational practice? How do teachers  embrace educational research and practice to inspire relevant reform, innovation and give life to learners who are armed with the knowledge to lead a peaceful and prosperous world? My simple answer is start connecting.

I can remember sitting at a meeting when Facebook ignited social circles, and we (teachers) were encouraged to refrain from using this social medium. Many moons later Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular sites have become a staple in the lives of many, yet still blocked in many schools and frowned upon for educational purposes. What is being ignored is the ability to connect. We can connect to each other personally and professionally. We can create spaces where professional development is continuous. We can share ideas, concerns, problems and solutions. We can create spaces for dialogues that shape our professional practices and perspectives allowing us to grow in our profession, absorb best practices and begin to shift our industrial rows of desks into a web of connections. These connections allow us a common voice that can not be ignored by politicians and public perception. It is a voice that can be so big that it could allow educators to take back education and make educational reform a prosperous reality instead of and empty campaign promise, that is based on nostalgia, empty bank accounts, and little research.

Let us give each other a voice. Next time you are at a conference give people your digital profile. Start creating a digital profile if you do not have one. Ask colleagues friends and yes even your students what they use and like. The act of questioning alone begins a connection. Let them follow you on social media. Connect, share, listen and be heard. Open your mind to the possibilities of EdTech not only to inspire the next generation of learners, but to connect and ignite this generation of teachers. Technology is not just a way to learn or teach but it is a way to develop relationships, understanding and tolerance. In a world that is connected to technology, we need to be better at connecting to each other through technology. It is time to push back on what politicians are calling reform and take back our profession.

Twitter: Basal24

 

Input equals output

output

 

There are many different angles to be explored when looking at student outcomes. We need to know the learners background of content, the students motivation and the learners developmental level. When we are talking about higher education this can encompass a wide variety of learners and needs. “A central challenge for educators is to support the emergence of environments for adults to participate in their own learning with respect to to those issues that are integral to their lives (Barab, Thomas & Merrill, 2001, pg. 107).”

So not only should we be looking at outcome, but also where students are in their lives. Distance education was an alternative for students who were unable to attend traditional classes based on geography, but the ability to remove the constraints of time and location from education exploded with the technology offered by the internet and has opened a whole new educational community (Bernare, Abrami, Lou, Borokohovski, Wade,Wozney et al., 2004).

What are the effects on K-12 students in distance education courses? Eleven variables were identified as features that impacted outcomes of student performance. These variables were: duration of program, frequency of use of distance learning, instructional role of the program, number of distance learning sessions, duration of distance learning sessions, pacing of the instruction, role of the instructor, timing of interactions, type of interactions, amount of teacher preparation for distance instruction, and amount of teacher experience in distance instruction (Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess & Blomeyer, 2004).

These ideas connect to interactions of student:teacher:content. I am thinking about science courses that I took as an undergraduate and how they may work online. The lecture part of the course would be fantastic online, but what about the labs? How about the role of gaming as an alternative to textbooks and science labs? Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMGO) can offer “well-crafted instruction, yet they also fully realize simulated worlds exhibiting emergent, unpredictable properties…MMGO’s can offer multivariate problems of real complexity and of genuine social importance to those solving them, problem solvers are stakeholders…individuals have the opportunity to make a genuine contribution (Steinkuehler & Chmiel, 2006, pg. 728).” Maybe this is an area of education that will get more attention and we will begin to realize that while distance education and f2f education have the same outcomes, some of the technological tools we have will benefit some disciplines over others.

 

References

Barab, S. A., Thomas, M. K., & Merrill, H. (2001). Online learning: From information dissemination to fostering collaboration. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12(1), 105-143.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., … & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of educational research, 74(3), 379-439.

Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K. J., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The Effects of Distance Education on K-12 Student Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis.Learning Point Associates/North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).

Steinkuehler, C., & Chmiel, M. (2006, June). Fostering scientific habits of mind in the context of online play. In Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Learning sciences (pp. 723-729). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Who is doing this?

I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the interest in “computer courses” not only in higher education, but in the k-12 setting. A friend recently handed me an article from Phi Delta Kappan titled Cyber skepticism. As I read through the article my heart pounded out of my chest with the description of online learning advocates. “Rather than supplementing the work of traditional brick-and-mortar schools, they (advocates)see online education replacing neighborhood schools. And they are making inroads.” I immediately shouted, “Who is doing this?” Then I thought of my school district who is rumored to be developing virtual lessons for students who are sent to “in school suspension” and need instruction for the day. Is this what students need?

There is a propensity for decision makers in education to throw out trending terms like technology,MOOCs, virtual classrooms, flipped classrooms, Smartboards and Apple t.v.’s (the latest) without an understanding of purpose or best practice. These trendy terms are tied to grants and “district initiatives” and teachers are flooded with expectations. Soon the wind will blow, and a new trend will gust littering the to do list of educators with mandates. What is different with technology is that it is not going away, and it shouldn’t. The technologies that pop up daily are fantastic tools to inspire creativity, connections and inspiration. Our ability to connect to one another and to access content is opening education up to endless possibilities. What is difficult for me to grasp is replacing our face to face teaching with online instruction, with little understanding of pedagogy and best practice. In his article Cyber Skepticism Jack Schneider discusses the arguments for virtual schools by advocates being that students can customize their curriculum and pace. In addition students without access to great teachers and schools based on geographical location, would be given access. While those arguments are valid, we must understand our learners and that the goals for our students are not just that they gain knowledge of content, but knowledge of self.

My observations of school systems failing is not so much based on teachers who do not have knowledge of content, or who lack the ability to teach. It is based on a lack of presence. Schools are becoming so assessment centered, but not to inform us about the learners needs rather to inform the state on how our students are competing.

The research of best practices in instruction (Garrison, Chickering & Gamson and Bransford to name a few) is that best instructional practices come from a community of learners. Students are successful in knowledge of content and self when spaces are learner-centered, knowledge-centered, community centered and assessment-centered (Bransford et al., 1999). We develop a triadic relationship between learner, content and instructor. The community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001) overlaps teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence that develops the learners knowledge of content and knowledge of self as learner. In our public schools we have become so overburdened with policies and mandates, we are forgetting to develop these personal connections to students and content. The cycle of blame on pop culture and innovations continues, when these influences have always been a part of adolescence. Teachers need to jump into the cycle and connect. We need to help learners understand themselves. If I have a student who struggles to read, I can’t throw my hands up in defeat of how low she is, I need to help her reflect on her abilities and begin to help the learner build a path to success. I am not saying that the burden should lie on the shoulders of the teacher. I see the need to overhaul the educational system, but not by adding more testing, and not by creating virtual schools.

To address the advocates of virtual schools, do we really think that all students are ready to customize their curriculum and pace? We need to look at how we are scaffolding a learners experience in school to learn to be self-regulated learners so that in time this would be a reality. The idea that online instruction will give those in rural or poor districts a chance, how will they access the schools? Do they have access to computers and internet? If the educational institutions in these areas is so bad then shouldn’t we change them?

Over the past century educational reform has been a doormat at the threshold education. We have added to our understanding of how learners are successful, but we have failed to put these understandings into practice.

So, who is jumping into this virtual landscape? In 2009-10 students in the k-12 setting took 1.8 million courses online and 250,000 students were enrolled full-time in virtual schools (Barth, Hull & St Andrie, 2012). Who are these 250,000 students? What is the allure of virtual schools? We need to know more!

I have been reading a lot about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the debate on their ability to engage and address the needs of learners. I have been learning about connectivism and the branching off of MOOCs into cMOOCs and xMOOCs. With statistics that report thirty-two percent of students in higher education taking at least one online course, and the steady increase of higher education institutions offering MOOC courses, the question of the quality of education a MOOC can provide needs to be analyzed. The same is true for virtual schools. While these new tools in education are exciting and add to the educational landscape, we need to be cautious about how we use these tools. In addition we need to think about what our goals are for our students. While we want our students to gain knowledge of content, we need them to learn to connect and collaborate. Students need to learn how to socially interact, self regulate, compassion and empathy. We need for them to come together in spaces to problem solve, to go to spaces to create and to be comfortable in their own space and reflect. There is more to teaching beyond content, and my fear is we will lose sight of the many dimensions of education if we leap into the virtual world of education.