Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zoe Weil is a Trekkie. Color me impressed!

"We need a bigger vision for the purpose of schooling." 

These words, bravely stated by the the co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education shook me. It made me think very soberly: what are we doing?! School is not the blissful realm of inspiration, creativity, and wonder that we want it to be. No--today's thoughts in the classroom are more filled with meeting expectations, meeting deadlines, and not failing in another's eyes. The goal of graduating a "generation of 'Solutionaries'" is Weil's grand idea... and I like it.

Zoe Weil wants students to have three simple things: "the knowledge, tools, and the motivation" so that we can make game-changers for a "restored, healthy, and humane world." This eloquent speaking by Weil isn't just filled with empty words; instead, she has a different, unconventional outlook on the current state of affairs. I see her TEDx talk shows just how innovative her activities and thoughts are. Her ideas stretch beyond the short-term goals of No Child Left Behind and make be believe in education in 2012 all the more positively.

The t-shirt example and how it encompasses the larger global thinking style made me smile. The way people think is what we need to be focusing on, and it can all start with providing new forms of education to our students. She believes that it's, in fact, not fair to provide this new knowledge and way of new thinking to all students. I wholly agree. Overarching themes, global epidemics and issues... these topics shouldn't just be touched on; they should be the focal point to our kids' education. Zoe Weil is a visionary.

All of this brainpower that our students possess is going to waste! We can do major things with this power that students aren't even aware they have. Let's explore and not be inhibited by false boundaries! Onward to our beautiful future alive in the world of Star Trek.

Until next time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

David Warlick on Wikipedia

I just want to start off by commenting on the way David Warlick presents these "findings" on the Web to the adults at this 2008 Conference. They are small errors in his language, but young ears pick up on them instantly. Case in point: Warlick incorrectly refers to them both as 'Digg News' and 'The Wikipedia.' Yuck. Am I in Bizarro World?!
How he knew to use the term 'Twitterverse' is beyond me.

It seems to me that these Web 2.0-based sites like Digg or Wikipedia can be easily misunderstood by an older generation and have changed drastically since 2008. Three years may not seem like a large amount of time, but both Digg and Wikipedia are entirely different species now.  The commercialism and trend of lowbrow sites present in 2011 have plagued news aggregate sites, and any problems or fears over Wikipedia are--and should be--gone. In short, Digg has sunk into the bowels of Internet Hell (all hail Reddit!) and Wikipedia has risen to be that shining white Knight of Righteousness.

The only finger-wagging I ever received over Wikipedia is waaay back in the mid-'00s when the news broke that there was an "editable encyclopedia" online. This must have scared teachers, for the fear that any yahoo could erroneously edit an article and the misinformation would spread from there. The example given to us was George W. Bush's Wikipedia page that had trolls reentering wrong information on purpose. This. is. not. the. case. anymore. I am so glad that David Warlick realizes this and puts the audience on the spot.

Wikipedia, in my eyes, has always been that wonder source. Something literally will not be allowed unless it is cited and is agreed upon. Otherwise, it is deleted. I don't know where the hoax started on Wikipedia being a site to not be trusted. This is becoming more of a rant than I wanted, but it infuriates me when the hammer comes down on the ever-reliable Wikipedia. It doesn't deserve that kind of stigma!

When it comes to teaching and learning, Wikipedia, like Warlick mentions, are giving practice to "basic literacy skills." If not for these ever-changing (that's a good thing) Web 2.0 arenas, there might not even be that outlet for students to even have. This video clip did not change my opinion on Wikipedia because I have loved it since I first heard about it in 2004. My feelings were validated, but I wish only more so. Maybe if this video was from 2011. I'm certain that I have learned more information from Wikipedia much more than I can say for the entire number of articles I've ever read online. One cannot simply "teach" with Wikipedia, but it is our greatest source of information in this already overflowing world of the Web.

It turns out that Othello can definitely become more interesting when people are given the basic information on which they can build and morph into their own product. It shows that sites like Wikipedia are only the beginning of the process of learning.

People should not be afraid that content and info. is out in the open for even the lowliest of beings; instead people should be glad that it even exists and has been collected in the first place.

Until next time!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Children's Education: Past, Present, & Future

Both of these videos convinced me that educators all over are beginning to have a sense of fear when it comes to the future of education. It is not that teachers and schools will be unprepared for technology because of the cost. Rather, it is because we may not know how to use future technologies to their full potential or even correctly. These two educators, though, have great ideas on what to prepare for in the future (which is becoming our present). More importantly, both videos give insight into how we shall not allow our children to live through the same mistakes as past generations had to.

David Warlick's video was a bit dry, but its message remains clear: the process of teaching and learning is in a state of flux right now and must be rethought. His ideas weren't as revolutionary in my mind as the other video speaker, but the Three Converging Conditions makes a lot of sense. As cliché as it sounds, the message remains true: our children's future is unpredictable. This, viewed beside how tech-savvy our students are already in this new digital landscape and online environment, may not be as large a problem as it seems. Students may be transforming right beside the very technology they are growing up with, but this should be viewed as a positive thing and not a waste of idle time. 

I do give kudos to David, though, for knowing that young children are already connected and primed for using technology's various interfaces and pieces of hardware. For example, a toddler's intuition to pinch or slide their own fingers on an iPad screen will come in handy down the line. I believe that the more we are surrounded by computers, the less foreign and daunting they become.

Alan November's message struck a chord with me. His reminder that kids do not have the same sense of contributing to their own community as in the past is sad. I can see how sitting in a classroom and receiving grade after grade would be unsatisfying. Of course, in the past during colonial times, education wasn't as well researched as it is in the 21st century, but students today are being set up for limited reward. He argues, "Change the concept of the learner into someone who becomes a contributor by doing their work." He then adds that because of this, we must redefine the work. Advanced thinking like this is what drives the future of education and the concepts that embody the work itself.

It seems like November is preaching that students are very self-helping and self-sufficient when it comes to work on various technologies. His idea that there could exist "a network of children that are helping one another learn" is simply groundbreaking. The tools are all there nowadays in 2011 and 2012, so why not trust our kids to show their potential as Generation Z-ers? If these children are already born into technology at their fingertips, then why not set them up to help themselves in their work? This huge idea changes the way teachers need to interact with students and the dichotomy that has existed for decades.

Yes, we may be more distracted by many fun technologies today (social networking sites like Facebook or mobile gaming devices like the iPhone), but saying that we are losing our critical thinking skills is harsh. Maybe it's just hard to hear that we are not functioning to our full potential any longer because tech has made everything too easy? Either way, technology in classes should be used like a tool much in the same way a calculator is used in a math classroom. There are wrong ways to utilize it and then there are ways one can use the Web, for example, that will give progress and satisfaction from both the student and the teacher. I especially like his idea of a daily 'Official Classroom Researcher' because it shows trust and gives freedom. Plus, any links available for students are better than if nothing had been written down that day.

Students, in fact, do need to be life long learners, like everyone. It only makes sense that they start now. Google Docs and other cloud-based services, as well as podcasts make classroom sharing and collaboration easy and fast. It is time to stop fearing and start embracing technology for what it can do.

If preparedness is key, then we must unleash the possibilities of emerging technologies onto students as fast as we can. The important thing is to make sure they know what it can do as well.

Until next time!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ken Robinson is a Living God

Let me preface this first ever blog post (other than microblogging on Twitter) with this:
TED talks are one of the best tools in educating the world today. What a great way to spread the word of educated and inspiring minds like Ken Robinson himself.

Sir Kenneth's 2006 video on 'schools killing creativity' is a personal favorite of mine. It made me feel a plethora of feelings on education, the future, and even mankind itself. I feel proud that I am involved in teaching and that I may make a big difference in someone's life someday. It evoked feelings in me for the argument of different learning styles in young bodies and minds and made me feel confident that I will not ignore a budding spark of creativity in any future student. His comments on not knowing what the future will hold for our young children today gave me chills because of its impact it will have on all of us. I also agree with his idea that we teach young ones (literally) from the bottom up--ending with the head. How poignant!

Mr. Robinson sure knows how to work the crowd, too; I love it. How likable is this man?! I'm definitely one who has a demand for his TED brilliance.

His other video on 'the learning revolution,' though, is just as great. I have always been a fan of looking at others' abilities as strengths within their own little realm of success. It's never fair if we treat everyone as if they are all the same because it's not fair for the sake of their learning process. Turning a stagnant educational system that has failed is difficult, but a revolution and change-up in the old mindsets of teachers is welcomed. Like he said, we have to move from 'manufacturing' to 'agriculture' so to speak, as children need to have something for tomorrow. Learning should be 'organic' not 'mechanic.' The standardized/customized idea resonated greatly with me because I am all about letting customized education run wild.

It's a digital world, as Ken Robinson then indirectly proves in his 'changing education paradigms' video. Knowing how to speak to your changing, tech-literate students is key. It is the smartest move an educator can do, though. This illustrated video stands as a great example of how visual learners might receive something more/different in this infographical form.

Kudos for my instructor Susannah for using the brilliant Ken Robinson as a way to educate us on the very task at hand.

Until next time!