Re-Examining Instructional Practice…

 

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

I read a great article today on the Education Week website. It was produced by a former teacher and consultant on 21st century teaching and learning, named Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. She made some great points, but basically it really shouldn’t have to be said. All the evidence is laid out in front of us…for us to change.

 

“Fortunately, teachers are beginning to resist the forces that encourage isolation and unproductive schoolhouse competition. Through virtual exchanges and the building of personal learning networks, teachers are increasingly drawing on external communities that promote connection and knowledge-sharing. Some of these virtual networks develop into powerful learning communities that connect the ideas of educators from around the world as they explore together and push traditional education boundaries.” (Nussbaum-Beach, 2009)

It’s interesting to look back and reflect on what this would have been like if I grew up with technological learning communities. I did not. The closest thing I had was the MLTI Laptop initiative, approved by past Maine Governor Angus King. That was great and I am glad it is still in effect.

Similar MLTI MacBooks students receive

 

With connecting endless ideas, especially with people from around the world, wouldn’t that provoke more questions from students? Wouldn’t the students also get a great chance to learn about multi-cultural diversity? It’s all at their fingertips. At the end of the article, Nussbaum-Beach says, “We have to awaken ourselves collaboratively, and the Web is just the tool we need to do it.” I think she is absolutely correct. There needs to be more professional educators “on board” or at least simply recognizing the benefits and risks of todays educational workplace. This article was great to me because Nussbaum-Beach illuminated the certain reasons why Instructional Practice is a dying breed and that change needs to happen. She was very convincing, using quotes from current teachers.

What do you think? How do you think the current system is working?


Connectivism: Theory or Solution?

Author and New Age Educational Theorist: George Siemens

Today I read Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, an article by George Siemens. Siemens is a theorist for digital age/progressive learning. At the beginning of this article, he discussed the three broad most common learning theories that everyone learns in a basic psychology class: behaviorism, cognitism and constructivism. However, after he mentions this, he says, “These theories, however, were developed in a time when learning was not impacted through technology. Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn” (Siemens, 2004). As technology progresses, learning must progress as well, and it must adapt to the realization of the usage of new age digital learning tools that are at mankind’s fingertips.

Connectivism is an alternative theory to the learning theories that Siemens talks about after naming some flaws from the previous three common theories. Siemens boldly states, “Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections” (Siemens, 2004). This is the introduction to his proposed theory called “connectivism.” The principles of connectivism are as follows:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision. (Siemens, 2004)

 

So...What IS Connectivism?

 

 

 

Siemens also says, “As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.” As time goes on, so will technological advances. Learning will and should progress in to the future, as days and years pass. Why shouldn’t there be a change? a new theory? a new learning revolution? New tools can and will be utilized by scholars of all ages from toddlers to the elderly as they are created. They are created to help us learn, so why not take the time to learn how to use them and learn how they can help US learn. In a digital era, the current state we’re in at this point in time, we need updated tools and material. The material is already in existence, so let’s use it, put it in the classrooms and make NEW positive change.


Dr. Asimov


I encourage anyone to watch this. This is part two of an interview with Dr. Isaac Asimov. It is unreal how “right on” Asimov is with his opinions and optimistic views are for learning in the future, as seen at the beginning of the video. Please note this interview was filmed in 1988. Asimov states, “You ask, you can find out, you can follow it up, you can do it in your own home, at your own speed, at your own direction, on your own time. then everyone will enjoy learning…now adays what people call ‘learning’, is forced on you…”(Asimov, 1988). Asimov talks about how the internet can spark learning interests because of the power of technology. He talks about social networking long before the famous Facebook or MySpace websites were in existence. Asimov was all about learning progressively. Are you? What does this video mean to you? Learning with technology can save schools and students’ interest in learning and knowledge. This video is very powerful in the sense of he is discussing what can and should happen for the future, over twenty years ago.


SKINS

Sid Jenkins (Mike Bailey) & Tony Stonem (Nicolas Hoult), the two main characters.

Sid Jenkins (Mike Bailey) & Tony Stonem (Nicolas Hoult), the two main characters.

I recently finished a series from BBC, titled SKINS. It’s about a group of friends from Bristol, England and their “coming of age” year before they can start applying to universities. Though it is a fictional show, it’s very realistic in the sense of it could be almost like a snapshot of an average group of students in England. Some of it is filmed in the school, which is almost already like a college setting. It’s interesting to view other students and their particular scenarios they get themselves in. Above I stated it was very realistic. These students are not “perfect”. They deal with the daily pressures and issues that most High Schoolers have to face during those particular years such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, relationships, apathy and homosexuality. I encourage anyone mature enough to watch this to check this show out. I’m not writing to summarize the show or to critique it (however, I think it’s excellent). It’s a very artistic and unique show that brilliantly captures this student body counter-culture, if you will, of typical or average students growing up in today’s society. You decide.

DISCLAIMER: I have heard that the American adaption/version of the show is not good at all, many companies are pulling their advertisements from it.


Sharism?

 

Sharism Symbol

Today I read an essay by Issac Mao on the Freesouls website by Joi Ito. It is a website based out of China that is all about sharing and combining of information, minds, etc. This essay by Mao was really unique. I feel as if he took an emotion or the art of “sharing”, that was previously hard to name, and called it: “Sharism.” Mao starts off his essay by questioning, “With the People of the World Wide Web communicating more fully and freely in Social Media while rallying a Web 2.0 content boom, the inner dynamics of such a creative explosion must be studied more closely. What motivates those who join this movement and what future will they create?….Sharism is also a mental practice that anyone can try, a social-psychological attitude to transform a wide and isolated world into a super-smart Social Brain.” (Mao, 2010) What Mao is referring to is exactly what You and I are doing right now, sharing and combining our information and publicly posting for others like ourselves to read. He talks about how “viral” (Mao, 2010) the blogging revolution was and how many people are now doing it. He calls it “Sharism”, which is a perfect name for it. He speaks about it as if it is an intangible object, like Karma. For example, he states, “If you happened to lose your Sharism in a bad educational or cultural setting, it’s hard to get it back.” (Mao, 2010). He is right, if you stop sharing information such as posting blogs, it can be hard to gain momentum or motivation again, however, it can be rewarding if you for some reason find it.

 

Issac Mao speaking

Mao backs up his argument speaking about how the brain is much like a networking system, which is what “Sharism” is, a large human network, exposing and revealing information for others to use. He also discusses the future of Sharism, saying, “Sharism will result in better social justice. In a healthy sharing environment, any evidence of injustice can get amplified to get the public’s attention. Anyone who has been abused can get real and instant support from her peers and her peers’ peers.” (Mao, 2010). This statement hints towards the use in classrooms or education. In future classrooms, I feel that/hope this kind of human networking technology based learning will take place. It is so useful to students already and will probably be used more in the future. This was an interesting article because it talks about this thing: “Sharisim”, and justifies it so well to the point where one has to agree with it and be “on board”. It only seems to reap positive benefits and perhaps could spark a “Mind Revolution”!

However, I ask of you, Do you think such controversial sites such as WikiLeaks will be accepted if this new “Mind Revolution” were to happen?


The Flat World and Education…by Linda Darling-Hammond

Linda Darling Hammond 7

Author: Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond

 

I haven’t read this book, but you can read the first few pages at the link. The book is titled The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equality Will Determine Our Future. I plan to read this book, I am going to purchase it soon enough. What I wanted to point out was something on the first page, which again can be seen here. It is not something that Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond says herself, however, she chose to put it in her book, on page 1. It was something that the Hong Kong Education Commission states pertaining to progressing with coming generation of students and the advancement of technology and the change that needs to come with it soon. The suggestion states;

“The 21st century is characterized by the availability of abundant information, advanced technology, a rapidly changing society, greater convenience in daily lives, and keener international competition. In response…our Education Reform should aim at nurturing in the new generation characteristics and abilities capable of meeting the challenges of the new century…Education Reform must be student-focused…to develop the potential and personalities of students. This student-focused spirit underlines the education and curriculum reforms, improvement to the learning environment, and enhancement of teacher training.” – Hong Kong Education Commission, June 2003 (Darling-Hammond, 2010, Page 1)

It is very nice to see the enthusiasm by an education commission. The commission clearly states their points and what needs to be done about it. Their plans, if executed properly, will be more “student focused” (Page 1) and an overall “improvement to the learning environment” (Page 1). I am so happy to read a plan such as this, in Hong Kong, where education is prominent. If many school commissions thought like this, or we helped to think like this, the future on education and learning would go quite smoothly, in my opinion. Dr. Darling-Hammond recognized the importance of this quote. As technology advances, I feel like the age of people who use it becomes lower. For example, has anyone seen 5 year olds use an iPad or an iPod? I feel like children now are growing up with all this new touch technology that will only improve in the future. Technology will continue to be used until the end of time. I think it’s great that China saw this in 2003 and stated what needs to be done to improve current conditions. I hope to see more of this, it excites me to see more of this. This book should be quite interesting and I can’t wait to share what I have read upon completion.

 



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