Posts Tagged technology
The class I had last year was great in so many ways. Sure there were some behavior issues, but generally, they were an energetic and happy bunch. One thing that made them unique in my experience is they tended to shy away from class discussions. Though good workers, individually and in small groups, the large group discussion didn’t produce a lot of apparent engagement. I traditionally rely heavily on in class discussions; as such, we went a little faster than I’d normally go and a hole opened up in my long range plans. Not wanting to run poetry as my only unit in language block, and not yet ready to start up their final presentations that would end their yearlong research, I was looking for something to do.
I had an assignment based on Clay Shirky’s article “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus “ that can be found at: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/mini-unit-clay-shirky-and-social-surplus/ I had tried it before in June or in small doses like if half a split was on an extended trip or such. The results were always mixed, limited, and somewhat muddled. Whatever the reason, I decided to give it one more try. I modified the assignment a little bit and presented it to the class not really knowing what to expect. Well, they, by-in-large, took off with it. It was the highlight of the year for many; it has become one of my “flagship” assignments; students were so excited about it, that they showed up this year with their ideas ready (which created minor problems with the brainstorm section…).
It went so well last yea, that I let it run much longer than I intended. I feel students got a lot out of it. I am still finding ways to leverage it into better assessment and evaluation but it lead to so many mini-lessons on learning skills, specific content, social skills, problem solving and personal growth that I have come to really value it. This year, instead of one chunk in April/May, we are working through it part of every Friday.
Last year’s projects:
- A radio station: We bought a raspberry pi computer and a few other components. While one person (and I…and my brother-in-law) was working on the technical and software aspect, the others were developing their shows and the advertising/surveys/other that went along with it. There were a lot of problems to be solved with the tech (thanks Glen!!) but in the end, they (and I) learned a lot. What I liked most about this group was that the project met their diverse interests. The artistic student was interested in making their banner, posters, etc. One was interested in the Tech. 2 were interested in the programing. I’ve never seen a group work on so completely different aspects of a single goal
- Bird houses: I remember being a little disappointed with this group’s choice. They were very strong academically and had a strong social conscious. I was hoping for something a little more hard hitting. Well, I approved their plan; in truth, I thought they’d finish early and do another project. Instead they worked long and hard; I think this group got the most out of it. Researching, problem solving, team work, logistics, etc. There were a lot of obstacles and skills to learn. In the end, they made 13 bird houses (PS: if any of this group is reading this: I still have the bird houses….please put them up this winter so that birds can use them in the spring).
- The Art Club: One group ran an art club for primary students. They were the best planned group I had. Every time I had a question, they had thought of it already, and had a good workable answer. Students in this group got to show strengths (planning, organizing, creating) that I had a hard time seeing in more traditional class work. The primaries loved their club; they got to make a craft every week for 8 weeks. I think members of this group were very proud of their work and happy with the opportunity
- The Movie: though this group had some logistic problems, some focus problems, and the movie didn’t get an Oscar nomination, they had fun, worked on social and learning skills, were quit pleased with their work and success. The Group was likely a little large and had trouble finding specific tasks for everyone to do at times, but they all came together to make a product and everyone say it through to the end. I wish I could see their movie again
- The Youtube Channel: this group wanted to make a Youtube channel that would host Minecraft instructional and walkthrough videos. Technical problems, logistics, and even a little problem with focus made this project seem a little less successful than I hoped, but in truth, they still worked on planning, brainstorming, problem solving, and all the other skills associated with group work and projects. While their product never really took off, they had a lot of success in learning to compromise, learning the technology, and attempting to create. There are well positioned to be more successful next time
- Wilderness Survival club: another group wanted to learn about wild edibles and other wilderness survival skills. The first researched and learned some skills, found some opportunities to practice and eventually decided to apply their skills by running a club for other students to teach and share what they had learned. Eventually, we took a small group out into the woods Wednesdays after school to do: shelter building, fire starting and theory, and navigation. Everyone, even myself, had fun.
- Orienteering obstacle course: The final group learned orienteering skills and developed a course for their peers in a local green space. It was a very well organized and fun event for the class and a great day outside. Even undercover police came to check it outJ
This year, the groups are again working on a diverse group of activities: a cooking club; a group making art installations around the school; a movie; another attempt at a Youtube channel; buying, building, painting and engraving games on picnic tables for the school yard; a mural on the wall of the gym; an outdoor permaculture garden and classroom; and homemade T-shirts to raise money for a local animal shelter. It’s going to keep the kids (and me) busy….I’ll let you know how it goes.
Often, again among educational circles on the internet, you hear the phrase / command to “stop asking questions whose answer can be found on Google.” Firstly, I think implicit to that statement is a devaluing of factual knowledge that I have addressed https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/in-defense-of-facts/ where I argue that having factual knowledge is the basis of skills and is vastly different from having the ability to find factual knowledge, and in a corollary form https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/im-not-dead-i-think-ill-go-for-a-walk-said-the-expert/ ; however, a few things remain to be said:
I have often replied to individuals who advocate the above with: “can you give me an example?” Mostly, the call is ignored but occasionally, an individual replies with a broad statement about asking students for opinions. To this, I’d respond 2 ways. 1) To have an opinion, you require facts; opinions are a response to a fact. They need a base or are merely a pseudo-opinion that may mimic the syntax of an opinion, but are valueless. Thus, you must at least start with facts (that can be googled) that are firmly understood in order to have an opinion. 2) Have you met the Internet? One is tempted to say that the majority of statements on the internet are opinions or pseudo-opinions. Why can’t a student copy / mimic an opinion as much as a factual statement? I wait in earnest for someone to give me a question that can’t be googled but can be answered by my students. The only think left is to create—are they advocating jumping to the top of the beloved Bloom’s Taxonomy each and every time with everybody?
Many skills are also an application of factual knowledge. Are people suggesting we shouldn’t ask a student to demonstrate a serve in volleyball because we can look up how to do it on the internet? Don’t paint a picture to demonstrate balance because you can just find one on the internet. Don’t write a poem about beauty because Shakespeare’s been digitized. Don’t do any math question because you can find the answer on line. Being critical or creative is an application of knowledge; many fine examples can be found on the internet, but surely there is value for students to do these independently. Is it different with a content question in science?
The organising of facts into a coherent answer is an application and a demonstration of mastery. Like the above art examples, to have a student create an answer to a math or science question requires them to turn their understanding into the complex symbolic language of writing. Even if it doesn’t involve opinion, it requires many skills, clarifies their thinking / understanding, and improves their understanding and memory for later application.
Implicit to the statement is also the assumption that it is better to seek information from the internet instead of class questions or discussions. This is troubling for 2 reasons. It is partial (at least) absurd, and it fails to appreciate the complexities of learning online.
It is partially absurd because it is such a generalization. It has in its core, either the idea that information on the internet is always inherently better, or that learning this way is always inherently better. Should students learn to speak from the internet? Learn the letters and sounds? Can they learn to turn the computer on from the internet-sure they can, but perhaps it would be less problematic to be told how to by a teacher, even if it can be googled. I invite you to take a break now and go to Google. Type in “how do i goo” and see the list of suggestions from instant search feature; don’t the suggestions hurt just a little? There are many factual based content areas that are better learned from teachers or other interactions; how to share and why is sharing important are easily googled, but not easily learned from this exposure.
Many contents on the internet are hard for students to decode without context from the teacher first. “Is radiation good for you?” is a good question to ask and to discuss in class because a search on the internet will likely reveal to the student that indeed radiation is good for you (try it and pretend you don’t already know). “Is global warming real?” is another great question to ask in class even though the answer can be googled. This is because a student without factual knowledge beforehand will almost certainly come to the conclusion that it is fake (try it!). “Evolution?”-try it! “Which religion is the best?” – try it! Critical thinking without prior knowledge relies heavily on internal inconsistencies as you cannot spot the omissions without prior knowledge—that’s what makes the internet a dangerous place.
What’s wrong asking questions that can be googled? To retell and repeat doesn’t just demonstrate understanding, it improves it.
There’s a lot of talk out there on the Twitterverse, and other digital places, to the effect that teachers have to use technology. This statement is either painfully obvious or a complete hyperbole. If the term “technology” is being used appropriately, then the statement is painfully obvious; chairs, lighting, the alphabet, clothes, and deodorant at all technologies that a teacher really needs to use in the course of a school day.
I think, however, people are generally referring to digital technology and some web 2.0 / SM tools. This of course is a complete hyperbole. This position is supported by such statements as: teachers can no longer afford to ignore tech (sic); or it’s insane to
ignore tech (sic); or teacher’s who are uncomfortable with tech (sic) are doing such a disservice to their students that they should retire or be forced out of the profession (this one’s paraphrased). These statements are fairly common on such micro-blogging sites like Twitter. To these statements and others like them, I’d like to say in very general terms, “calm down, relax, and be reasonable.”
Calm down: I really like digital technology and SM but it’s still not everyone’s focus. 20% of Canadians don’t even have internet connection, Twitter is used by just 3% of the world’s population and a mere 50,000 individuals account for 50 % of the traffic (that’s ¼ of 1 percent of Twitter users). How many of your personal followers are no longer active? How many Twitter users have rejected Twitter? It’s great, but digital technology is still a minority experience. Let’s not invalidate so many people’s lives by pretending we have all marched to an omega point of technology and social experience.
Relax: it still remains to be seen if this is a digital revolution we are experiencing. We might be in a revolution, but we might not. If most if your public discourse is in digital mediums it is hard to maintain perspective. Will it be adopted by the majority? Right now, voices ringing with the need for digital technology are still a minority; is
this a revolution or is it the Bay of Pigs. How big is this movement? Is it growing faster then the resistance to it? Is it unreasonable to suggest even the possibility that society might actually reject SM? No one thought that Rome would fall either. It remains to be
seen whether SM will be evaluated as a liberator or conqueror. At what point will digital tech fall; when will the next revolution start and what will replace the current technological environment?
Be reasonable: there is plenty of good, useful, necessary learning to do outside of SM. We used to suggest that there was room for diverse techniques – in teaching and learning. Some educators might actually choose to reject SM for valid reasons; is there no room for professional judgement here?
There is lots of great stuff you can do with digital technology in the classroom; however, you need to stop justifying yourself at the expense of others. Your hyperbole doesn’t help
your position. Whenever one side doesn’t allow for legitimate opposition to even exist there is a problem.
I use digital technologies in my class quite extensively, though not as extensively as some. I think that teachers should explore the possibilities and decide how best to use them (even if that is be not using them). I don’t care what people’s decisions are – use it or don’t, its up to you, after you have informed yourself. I don’t want to ne at a point where we tell each other what must be done; how to do it; and pretend there is no other way to be a good teacher.