“Learning the way they’re living”

The title is in quotes, because I lifted it from dharter’s blog, Thinking Allowed…who in turn quoted it from Pa. schools say high-school laptop program works so far, as a rebuttal against the NY Times article, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops… (phew – that was complicated :))

“They have laptops at home, iPods, cell phones … and then we have them open up a social-studies textbook and ask them to outline a chapter,” [Superintendent] Frantz said. “They’re not learning the way they’re living.”

I tried to post a comment to this on Thinking Allowed, but it somehow did not work…so I’ll comment here instead :)

I think that Superintendent Frantz understands the big picture completely when he says, “They’re not learning the way they are living”. This is true as a big idea and not only with regards to how or why technology is being used.

In Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys by Michael Smith and Jeff Wilhelm they talk about how students (boys) are considered illiterate based on school standards, but they do read, for example manuals on Chevy fixing, when it is purposeful and relevant to their lives. What we need to do is find out what is relevant to their lives and make their learning in school as meaningful as possible based on that context, by creating connections so they can learn the way they live.

As an educator that is what I am, a connection maker – between my students’ lives and the technologies I am teaching them to use: laptops, web 2.0 tools, books – whatever the technology is I need to make it relevant within their contexts, not mine.

So yes, throw laptops out the window, BUT ONLY if you are not ready to show teachers how to make connections between their students and the technology, because if a teacher can do that…WOW, you’d be throwing a powerful learning tool out the window.

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creating a whole brain model for education reform

Image: Brain Dissolving Detail by flora.cyclam made available by a creative commons license on flickr.

The Information Age we all prepared for is ending. Rising in its place is what I call the Conceptual Age, an era in which mastery of abilities that we’ve often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind. (Daniel Pink, Revenge of the Right Brain, Wired 13.02, 2005)

This is where we need to focus – right within that fault line.

I believe that it is where current reform, at least in Quebec, is trying to focus. But the fact that we are in a transitional space, the fact that we are trying to implement a reform that highlights right brain activity such as synthesis, emotional expression, and context within a left-brain structure that continues to emphasize the importance of literalness and sequencing through end of session exams…well…this is problematic. It’s problematic because the two notions are competitive. I hear teachers saying ALL THE TIME that they can not afford to focus on collaboration and knowledge management when they are working towards a traditional end of course exam.

We know that both hemispheres of the brain work in tandem for much of what we do. It would be interesting to extend this concept to educational organizations. Instead of working within a competitive structure we could teach and learn within structures that are whole.

Questions to ask are

  • How can we create a ‘mashup’ of left and right brain tasks and environments that make sense to kids as learners and teachers as educators?
  • How can we create professional development experiences that not only teach these ideas but model them as well?
  • How can we manage the transitions?

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mind bending…for real ;)

I just discovered this new (to me, at least) blog On the Brain by Dr. Merzenich, a leader in neuroplasticity from UCSF.

I’m excited about this little discovery because brain plasticity – the ability my, your brain has to reorganize itself – supports my belief that I can find ways to help people learn, that learning can happen as long as it is consistent, appropriate, and timely. I’m looking forward to staying up to date with the latest research here.

Among the many resources here I was led to children of the code, a site based on learning to read and understand ‘the code’ – the techhnology of written language.

In a nutshell, taken from the site:

The Children of the Code project has four major components:

  1. A three hour Public Television, DVD
    and Web documentary series;
  2. A ten-hour college, university, and professional development DVD
  3. A series of teacher and parent presentations and seminars;
  4. A cross-indexed website/database containing audio, video and
    transcripts with the world’s leading experts on reading.

Each has five major themes:

  1. The history of the code and its effects on the world around and
    within us;
  2. The cognitive, emotional, academic, and social challenges involved
    in learning to read;
  3. How the structure of the code effects learning to read it;
  4. How the brain learns to read;
  5. How teachers and parents can help children learn to read

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mindfulness and finding answers

“If we can help children slow down and think,” Dr. Haick [school principal, Piedmont Avenue Elementary School] said, “they have the answers within themselves.”

from:In the Classroom, a New Focus on Quieting the Mind
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN, Published: June 16, 2007, NYTimes

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VoiceThread – WOW

I discovered VoiceThread while perusing Barbara’s blog Dare to Dream . It took no time at all to figure out how it works and to start playing with the technology. I literally got chills while watching the ‘What’s  a voicethread anyway?’ intro.

Let’s see if it works…

My first VoiceThread