Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University) OUR COMMON HUMANITY IN THE INFORMATION AGE. He has provided an excellent treatise on the power and the value of the cell phone as a tool to eradicate poverty and to promote peace. When we see the power of the cell phone to disrupt classrooms or bus rides or hamper a meal in a restaurant or interfere with the enjoyment of a movie, play, or religious service, Sachs has shown how the cell phone is important for farmers in Africa.
Sachs' points begin with a discussion of how Asian farmers produce more than African farmers. The key has been to unisloate them via the cell phone. With the cell phone farmers can obtain a truck to transport their goods to the right market. They have access to weather forecasts, to market information, and to information to improve their crops. As more and more towers are being erected, the centralization of cell access and ultimately power is being dispersed and spread among the people. What I found stunning and revealing was that the east coast of Africa is bereft of fiber optic which means broadband is non existent and explains much of the turmoil happening in Somalia. We are well aware of how the cell phone helped those in Tiananmen Square, Bosnia, Iran and elsewhere to get news out. To break the isolation of these landlocked and isolated farmers and communities, the cell phone will become instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty and maybe even political tyranny.
Placing kiosks in communities is the beginning. While we take the cell phone for granted and use them for everything it seems unbelievable that areas of the earth are bereft of these ubiquitous tools/toys.
In our schools, we ban the cell phone. I have watched some of my students use their sidekick in very creative ways. While they are using the computer in front of them to do research they use their sidekick to write the essay on their webpage or in an email to themselves. Sachs makes perfect sense about how the cell phone can change the world and then in our schools we are banning them and not teaching teachers how to use them in powerful ways in their classrooms, in spite of Secretary Duncan's recent comments about the use of cell phones in classrooms.
We are at a crucial time in our history and it is amazing how a simple cell phone is at the center of this change.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
He calls the Cyber Challenge a good news/bad news story.
"The good news is that [the participants] have that inherent skill. ... I've met many youngsters who are really, really gifted with computers," he said. "The bad news is that we're not developing that talent to the Ph.D. level in things like computer science or electrical engineering, the things that are the foundation of this wonderful technology."
This quote came from Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell at the recent Cyber Challenge, a contest used to find hackers who have the skills to defend our computer infrastructure. Hackers are still home grown. We don't have a formal method to grow them. Once again schools are woefully ill equipped to support the countries needs. In this case it is in the very important area of security. Now we as a nation do very well in creating physical security forces like soldiers and police, but we don't seem to be able to grow the cerebral defenders of democracy and our way of life. In fact these kids who may one day be more important in our security are bullied in schools, called geeks, nerds, and mocked by their classmates who in too many cases become those physical defenders in bullying tactics often times seen by other peoples in other countries as counter productive in our real intentions. Then these geeks have to come along and clean up the mess made by the physical mistakes.
We see a transformation in our military in the use of drones, of spy sateiliites, and computers are we redefine the waging of war. Now we see the need to incorporate the dark side of computing, hacking, to defend and clean up the mess.
Hacking has always been considered evil, bad, and part of the dark powers of computing. I always prided myself as a hacker because I have had to use skills to make things work in my classroom for the benefit of my scholars. I'd hack the early software to make it work my way, rather than the way some computer programmer planned my path. Certainly when we see kids in our schools doing things on our computers that look unfamiliar or when they have rendered the computer under their control, we see teachers and administrators swoop in and stop all activity, making the person run and do this in the privacy of hir own house. We have created the hacker culture. Much of our literature on the topic shows hackers to be bad, unless they can be turned to do good, if only temporary. Mitnick, one of the celebrities was jailed for his behavior and then upon release from jail he got a lucrative job in computer security. This may send the wrong message. Break the law and then get rich doing good. Another instance where schools are falling short.
The New York Times has reported on this as well. Those who once called nerds, are now wealthy and the industry is seeking ways to encourage the young to become more computer savvy and embrace the technology industry.
Ironically, The Washington Post has reported that very few schools offer computer science courses. Even though all students use the Internet, few know how it works or how to be producers instead of consumers. Could this be the result of increased test prep?
Monday, December 21, 2009
Changing the culture of schools is going to be a herculean task. Teachers need to learn how to use the tools the student use. We have been figuring out ways to curb their use and now we are expected to turn around and use them effectively. Just how is this going to happen?
I know I know a way to use the technology effectively and informatively. My scholars love working ion their webpages and many of my former scholars have used them for college admissions, to show employers, and to publish whatever they create.
I'm encouraged by what Secretary Duncan has said.
I was happy to see an old friend who is now a principal had his students involved in the conversation with Duncan. Bravo, Ben.
The issue of merit pay for teachers is very controversial. A lot of people complain that basing merit pay on the scores of students just rewards teachers who happen to teach in rich districts. How can schools really measure student growth?
I am not a big believer in looking at absolute test scores. I think they tell you some things. There is a lot they don't tell you. I am a much bigger believer in looking at growth and gain and how much a student is improving each year. So, the more we can identify not just the teachers but the schools and the entire school districts that are accelerating student achievement and are accelerating student progress, those are the individuals and the teams and the schools and districts that we need to reward and shine a spotlight on, and most importantly learn from and replicate that success.
I'm not sure he answered the question. I'm glad to see he isn't a big fan of test cores. I'd like to hear a more definitive response to the question: How can schools really measure student growth?
Let me help him with a possible response. Digital webfolios are the way to go. As students do their work, that work is digitized, archived, and used for assessment. We can see progress, we can see teacher, peer, and the student comments on the work. This digital work travels with the student and becomes a more important permanent academic record than any test score because the viewer has access to the assignment, the work, the different drafts, and the comments. The current use of tests is very inadequate because teachers aren't involved in their creations, aren't aware of the contents, and the results are not immediately available to the teacher except a test score. These tests provide very little information and can't inform instruction, whereas a webfolio provides lots of student work that can and does inform instruction.
Technology must be used to do what it does best, data collection and then transferring the information to the teacher to guide hir in curriculum design and creation.
As I said it is encouraging to hear Secretary Duncan recognize the limits of the test scores. Now he needs to move on to discovering the power of technology is solving the question asked of him: How can schools really measure student growth?
Friday, December 18, 2009
Today none of that exists in NYC. I don't even believe we have a director of technology at the NYCDOE. If we do, it is a well kept secret. This is an absolute crime. The world is technology driven. Our cars, our household appliances are driven by technology. We have to know how to program everything. Our methods of communication are digital, our forms of entertainment are digital, our methods of banking, purchasing, preparing to visit our doctor are all digital and driven by technology. We have little devices for our music, for our books, for our multitasking lives. Technology is used in schools to record attendance, for surveillance, for data collection, but it is not used in educating our students. In fact technology is confiscated, discouraged, and left to gather dust because no one in the NYCDOE is leading, driving, or promoting the use of technology in our schools for educational purposes. Technology is being used and maintained by those few teachers who can and desire to do so with little or no assistance from the DOE. I don't think this sorry situation is unique to NYC. I think it is a nationwide dilemma. I'm still stunned by the fact that technology is everywhere in our lives except in education. Who's fault is that? I have to blame poor leadership at all levels. Our educational leaders at all levels lack vision about education, especially how technology could transform it. They are fixated on just one thing the tests. This tunnel vision has decimated NYC public education.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I've read recently of how a former school that was to be avoided is now taking on a whole new face. This school is changing its curriculum and aligning more closely with a college curriculum. I like the idea. I like that a teacher will be walking into a class and be able to design a course that will really provide challenges and innovative content to the curriculum. The possibilities become endless as teachers imagine what they can do in their own classroom and in collaboration with other teachers. Project based lessons will be possible. I would imagine that teaching to the test is not the focus in this school. I know from my own experience that teaching to the test is a waste of time and futile. Students become bored and lessons aren't and can't be very inspiring. It is basically drill and kill. It's aiming low. From my experience students who work on projects develop all the skills and more that they need to pass those heinous final assessment tools.
I imagine that this new revamped school will provide the inspiration to excel while the students fine tune the skills necessary to pass any form of assessment. I also imagine the students in this school will be preparing web/portfolios of their work. I see many great and grand possibilities with this school. I hope to be reading about them in the future.
"Raising the Bar" means challenging the students, making them responsible for their own learning, making work project based, being more conscious of the next level: college, and engaging the students in mental gymnastics that the current form of assessment is lacking. We don't see many schools doing this. For me, of course, the key is making schools places of scholarship and that means, make the student work public, have them engage in peer review, and pass it on for other scholars. This would be a bold and pedagogically sound move for schools to follow this credo and establish a new norm, a new bar by which schools and scholars operate. Not too many are ready to make this move as we see.
Good luck Miami Edison Senior High.
Another school in another state is showing more respect for students as more and more students are allowed and possibly encouraged to take AP and IB classes. This is raising the bar by letting the students challenge themselves in more advanced ways instead of the menial mindless current state exams that rely on Multiple choice. This is very encouraging, especially I have seen practice of not allowing students into these classes unless they had achieved a certain grade. Making it harder sometimes is the key to success. Watching tests get easier is insulting to the students. When we challenge them they rise to the occasion.
Bravo Beaufort County.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Use of ebooks is hard to believe will ever happen. Book publishers make too much money to allow this to happen. Of course it makes perfect sense for many reasons, but the bottom line in profits will never let this happen. There's money in them 'thar' textbooks. A great idea, but it will never be realized.
The netbook is another dream. The infrastructure of most schools couldn't handle the power and internet needs for all of these devices. Not enough teachers use the web to present their lessons, they still have paper handouts and worksheets. The netbook will be just another toy and distractive device in our technophobic classrooms and schools. Another good and logical hope that will remain in the nether.
More use of whiteboards would be a beautiful thing as students could be more involved. Again a pipe dream. Whiteboards are an incredible tool that just aren't used correctly. They have become expensive chalkboards, pretty places to tape poster paper, useful projection screens, but not used in the Smartboard or Prometheus way for which they were designed. It is a new way of teaching and not the way we were taught or trained, so this will never happen. Chalk is in our blood.
The use of personal devices in classes will never happen. We have become such an untrustworthy and anti-tech group of people in schools that personal devices present a challenge to our authority and control. There are so many important and fantastic uses for these devices and yet we haven't seen it happen. Why? Our fear and ignorance again rules our decision making in school policy. A lack of imagination and a lack of understanding of how technology and personal devices might enhance our instruction will always prevent this from happening. Teaching has become a matter of control and these personal devices strip the control from the teacher.
We need more than an assessment tool. I've worked with such tools in schools and have been very disappointed. We are shooting too low to what we really need. We need to develop databases of student work, the actual work digitized and then commented on by teachers and others for future teachers and employers to see and assess the student hirself. Databases that follow the student from class to class, from school to school, from state to state. I'd love to see the documents not test scores. The problem I have found with these programs is that they just can't or don't keep current with the student body. Because they are proprietary software, the schools do not have the necessary access to update the program on a daily basis. I found them not to be school or teacher friendly.
I would love to see some of these ideas actually happen, but as I have said before, I won't hold my breath. We should also consider the costs of each of these ideas. Money is just another small reason why these ideas are hard to fathom. Schools are constantly having their budgets slashed. How are these ideas going to be realized on just a fiscal level? Now on the pedagogical level, our teaching culture just won't let it happen. We merely need to look at how we still operate our schools. Our schools still operate the same way they were run when we were students, the way they were run when our parents were students, and the same way when their parents were students. We have had technology in schools for the past hundred years and we are constantly seeing reluctance to its use. Teachers are still ill prepared to use the existing technology. Schools expect teachers to figure it out on their own. Schools of Education the places that prepare teachers to teach have done nothing to promote technology use in their training of the new teachers. We have not rethought how education and technology can be used correctly. Teachers still like the control factor of their classroom and technology threatens them. I would love to see existing technology used well let alone these pipe dreams presented by THE JOURNAL.
I'd really love to see more requirements from the states to demand that technology and webfolios be made part of the assessment tools of each student. Then we will see an improved and innovative use of technology in schools and in education. There isn't a reason to use technology in education if the final assessment doesn't involve or demand its use. We need a raison d'être for technology in our schools and that doesn't exist in educational policy or in our pedagogy. Taking chances in education doesn't have the rewards.
Here is some good news. I have recently read FSC Students Help St. Joseph's Teachers Get 'Smart' about how college students from Florida Southern College were being 'tech buddies to teachers at St. Joseph's a private school, in Florida, as sponsored by Smartboard technologies. This is very encouraging even if it is a single private school. The concept of 'tech buddies' is a good one and would help colleges be more tech savvy and helping transfer it into schools. Telementoring was an idea I strted many years ago and saw it as a way for colleges to help get their teachers ready for teaching.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Technology use is all but absent in schools. Sure we find computers in schools, but they are not being used well and not being used across the curriculum. We still hear about and read about struggling attempts to use technology in a system that is hostile to advancing forward. We are such a status quo system it is scary, especially with a collection of employees who are highly educated.
If we are to extend the school day and the school year, we must build into the schedule time, blocks of time where the students are to play, play around with the technology and subject concepts. I don't want to see more of the same stuff, test prep. I want to see students connecting ideas from all subjects, seeing the connections of what is being learned in one class applied to other disciplines. This would slowly; slowly because that is the way we move in education, slowly; allow our schools to see how interdisciplinary school days can be created and generated and then how time over a school day and school year will be productive.
The other problem is the test. We need to see students produce products that are representative of time spent on a project. The one day exam is a bad idea for so many reasons from a pedagogical point of view and yet policy makers and publishers continue to push them. We are finding evidence that these forms of assessment aren't working. If so many are failing them, we as teachers know that when our methods of assessments fail us, we don't blame the students we throw the test out and start again. We continue to blame the schools, the teachers, the students, BUT never the test. How many times have we seen bad and blatant mistakes made on the tests and by the test makers in assessment and yet they continue to dictate the terms in educational policy.
What person, let alone a young child, would want to spend more time preparing for a test that cause anxiety. I know that child would must rather spend more time on a project that demonstrates an understanding of a topic. As a teacher, employer, college professor, that project will tell me more about the person than any test score. I can look at the project and see evidence of learning that a test will never show me.
Finally, what have we sacrificed in the longer test prep days in the character and spirit of our children? Perhaps we should reexamine the tests and not simply take away quality time from another activity to do m ore test prep. What kind of citizen, person, adult, parent are we actually preparing with this kind of education anyway.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The big problem still exists and that is where and how to house this work. We had a server at ITHS which died. To see her work, we are lucky to have The Wayback Machine. Now I use free sites like FreeWebPages & FreeWebSpace. Each scholar could purchase hir own space for a nominal fee and warehouse all of hir work during her academic years and include personal writings like essays, poetry, short stories, music, art and more. This documented webfolio is what we need for assessment. As we see it can be done and what a result.
More can be seen here.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Be ready for a barrage of neologisms.
I have finally spent the time to look at this new app from Google and it rocks.What is great about it is that it is web based. It doesn't require more than a computer connected to the web. It is more than a social networking or business tool, it is an educational powerhouse.
Initially, I see it replacing the old list and discussion board because of it's playback feature that let's me or any new member to a conversation see it from the beginning and run through it to now. WOW.
I love how it handles the different conversations in a post. It allows the threads of the various parts to be displayed and for the reader to follow the one s/he wishes. All those tangent conversations are collected and shown, too.
There is a privacy, mode, very cool.
When a new member to the conversation arrives, s/he can be brought up to speed in no time.
It is multimedia and interacts with other Google tools and is friendly on all browsers.
It is a collaborative tool with many synchronous and asynchronous features and it looks like it has solved the synchronous problem of wiki. Simultaneous editing without loss, WOW.
It is a collaborative tool. That means we can use it as a brainstorming tool much like a map we might create with Inspiration. Teachers can use it as a Do Now to start a conversation by getting an initial reaction from all scholars at the same time. Great for accountability. When a group,of students are working on a project they can all work at the same time without deleting anyone's work. This is a truly unique collaborative tool for the classroom.
There is a spell checker that will knock your socks off. It is intuitive and answers Taylor Mali's satirical piece about spell checking. In addition adding links is phenomenal especially as a way of extending the bibliography aspect of a document.
Wave is a new way to look at document production in the classroom.
The various gadgets are excellent like the 'yes, no, maybe' gadget that can be used to immediately survey a class. It is web based so a teacher can use this in class anytime.
Since this is Open Source, users will be able to create apps. This is a boon for teachers to create educational apps.
What I would love to see is these developers consider educational applications for their tools. I always see them in business or social networking models, but never, never as educational tools. Perhaps if developers actually demonstrated educational apps then teachers would use them and teachers wouldn't see them as toys or business tools, but as the powerful educational tool they can be. I know these developers need to make back R&D money by selling these products to business, but what if, and that is a mighty big IF, they actually aimed their pitch at educators and demonstrated them as educational tools with educational applications? WOW!! Education does spend a lot of money. Ask the book publishers. As I was watching the WAVE demo, I was pausing and considering how this would transform a Literature circle, how it would assist with scholars who are absent, how it would be a way for scholars to present to the class. I see many educational ways to use this tool. I'd just love to be in a room of teachers or on a WAVE with teachers exploring the possibilities rather than in my own head. It is just another example of how educators are left out of the development loop and why education is so NOT tech savvy. We in the world of education are never considered in these developments of new and exciting tools. It is our work in the classroom with the citizens of the future where these ideas are conceived and gestated. Why not include educators in development of technology apps?
Heck a colleague was just asking about Google DOCS the other day. Now when did Google docs become available? WAVE might make the educational scene in 2020. I wish these developers would consider the educational landscape when they present their new tools, how else will it proliferate. If nothing else I want to shop and go to Bora Bora.
I'd like to see a Professor Wave in addition to the classic wacky Dr Wave. When are we going to get serious about technology in education? Where is the educator on this development team? Lars are you listening?
Read more in eSchool news.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This quote is from a recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the redesign of the middle schools in Atlanta. This article and quote struck me, especially as I am hearing negative news from the NYC schools and the poor results in the elementary and middle school math tests. I was listening to a report on the radio that had college math teachers explaining that students aren't learning math in high school and are stuck in remedial math courses. So if the students aren't starting out well in elementary school, how will high school fix it as we see remedial classes in college are not faring much better. Maybe it isn't the teacher's fault as much as it is the system in which we teach.
I was in a conversation with a math colleague and we were discussing how difficult it has to be to be an elementary teacher and to have to teach all the subjects. I was an English major in college and wanted to be an English teacher. If I wanted to be an elementary school teacher how would I prepare? I don't feel prepared to teach math and science and social studies on a proper level. How are elementary teachers supposed to teach all these key subjects? Not just teach them but instill a love of, the essence of the subject. I can instill a love of English and writing, but I know I can't do that for math. A math teacher needs to do that. So why don't we have subject classes in elementary school?
In education we have the trickle down blame game: the college professor blames the high school teachers who blame the middle school teachers who blame the elementary teachers for the ill prepared students. I was wondering why do we put the elementary students in a class with a teacher who teaches all the subjects? We know that early learning is key to a student's success. We spend lots of money and time on pre-school preparation, so why do we still put the children in a one room classroom? Maybe if the college math professors were in elementary school, and the scientists were in elementary school we'd have better results later on in the students' academic career. Listening to the college math professors moan about how badly prepared the students were was amazing and disheartening. Perhaps the elementary teacher didn't have an understanding of math and was ill prepared to teach math, not math but math concepts and the key to math that a college professor or a high school teacher can convey because that was hir major in college and perhaps the teacher has an advanced degree in it, whereas, the elementary teacher may have been an English major and math just didn' t happen for hir. Maybe the experiment they are doing in the middle schools in Atlanta can be pushed back to elementary sschool.
Why do we structure our schools as we do? Why are elementary schools structured as they are? Once again I'm looking at a system that has not changed in hundreds of years and we are just beginning to see some schools think out of the box. Why is it that the onus is finally put on the student in middle school. What is the purpose of elementary school as it is structured right now? I'm not blaming the teachers, I'm blaming the structure of the school. It is obviously not working so let's fix it and see some experimenting done. The poor test scores are not the fault of the teachers, they are the fault of the flawed school structure.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Computers have always been ideal for data collection. When educational leaders try to use this strength, we usually see it done badly. We too often see badly designed tests, rarely field tested before use, that are used in school systems with many complaints and too many mistakes that cost schools, teachers, and students unneeded anguish.
Companies that try to create online tests do it badly. I've seen situations where the correct answer is not the correct answer. I have seen the system crash and the result is the loss of an exam. These companies are not flexible nor are they knowledgeable about education, they are only making tests.
In short, technology is used incorrectly in education and that is one reason technology has not had a positive affect on education. Technology should not be used to imitate the method previously used, but instead technology should be creating a method of assessment not capable of being done in the traditional classroom. We should be using the technology to have our scholars produce webpages and publish their work, not take multiple choice tests.
Another reason that technology has not had a positive affect on education is that we do not see any school district demand that the scholar produce a webfolio for graduation requirements. We still see only some test made by the state department of education or an third party. If we were to see a school district demand that each scholar submit a webfolio of their work as well as take a state test, then we would see technology provide that bump we need to see in education to make that education relevant to real life experiences. Once school districts begin to require a webfolio, the many other reasons technology hasn't been used well in schools will improve and we will begin to see just how powerful technology can be and that technology is the panacea in education. Technology has been used badly in education and hasn't been given a chance to show how good it can be for education.
We have seen how technology has changed other industries and how those industries have adapted. Education has neither accepted the technology nor has it adapted to using technology well. Consider how we bank, buy products, plan trips, prepare to see our doctor, communicate with others, and read our daily paper. Education has refused to incorporate technology in a meaningful way for many reasons and that is why our educational system is so lackluster and wanting. Correct use of technology would make a huge difference and would engage our scholars in learning. I know this because I see and hear it from my scholars and from those in classes where technology is used correctly. Technology will be the panacea for education when it is used correctly.