Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Technology Should Make Ya Move!

As I sit here on my ever-widening rear end night after night, searching and reading and collecting Education issues, I am serving as a reminder of how I do not want my children or students to use the computer and internet: It, the computer-centered world, cannot be the be-all, end-all solution to anything, especially not Education.  A computer cannot be the means for engaging, teaching, researching, producing, and assessing (not to mention entertaining) students.  Yet I see in a lot of the work and ideas that herald computer technology as the only future for Education, and concurrently the only way to communicate with any person under 16 years old, the common thread of isolation, of a student linked electronically and wirelessly to teachers, classmates, and the means to receive, practice, and demonstrate understanding of knowledge.

I'm not merely railing against the video game generation that never sees a ball or bike touch real dirt, that's an old argument, nor am I hating on the texting/FB-ing addicts whose thumbs and phones are never separated.  But what I see online and out on the campuses seems to fall into two schools of thought regarding technology:
  1. "We're a Technology school, we let 'em use computers!"  These schools/teachers are so hip and with it their students can use Word, then Google up some pictures to really snazz up the book report!  The advanced students that finish class work first, or the RSP students that "don't do" a certain subject, can play cool math games... What's the difference between my son sitting for 2 hours in front of the screen playing Zoo Tycoon and sitting for 2 hours playing Shoot the Geometric Shape?*
  2. "We need to relate/connect/catch up -- we Twitter and Facebook and Text our students!"  The emphasis here is playing their game, communicating on the students' terms.  Assignments are available online, questions and answers relayed wirelessly,  entire semesters of work produced electronically.  Is my son demonstrating a mastery of the subject matter or of his ability to collect and merge the correct pieces? 
No Luddites here, I am all for the 21st century and beyond -- I just want there to be balance, a synchronicity between Wikipedia and the dog-eared paperback Thesaurus, between the video camera and real live actors.  Technology assignments should always try to incorporate movement, should have elements of other media involved.  For example: video science reports with real world demonstrations and on location interviews; text message or twitter scavenger hunts that involve reading maps, interviewing classmates, collecting measurable data; history research reports that result in physical demonstrations of knowledge, such as speeches, songs, or re-enactments. Many of these and other ideas can be found at Edutopia's Digital Science and Math Lessons .

* no, I do not let my sons sit for 2 hours playing anything.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Animated by Purpose

Came across this randomly (or was it... "inspired"???) while playing with an iPad at the Apple store.  Through my drool came this rapid animation and words such as motivation and incentive -- words I happen to be turning over repeatedly in my brain pan as I get ready to take on a 3rd grade class for the next week.  Anyway, got home, looked it up again, this time with audio, and there must be something here we can use in Education.

Now I don't know anything about this RSA group, I'll look 'em up in a minute*, but the video is well done if a bit on the fast side... I want to run it back in slow motion just to make sure I caught everything.  Coming from the business world, I've experienced the "just because you give them more money, or offer the opportunity to earn more money, doesn't mean they'll work harder/faster/better/not be rude to customers" phenomenon. It seems the people that are going to work hard and get things done, and done right, are the people that will do it that way regardless of monetary or advancement incentives.  I'm sure the same is true of students -- the ones that will work hard and complete assignments will be those students whether they get a bouncy ball or Starburst or not.

How should we inspire/encourage/motivate our students?

I do like the Free Time idea -- let them work on whatever they want, but (the manager in me can't let go) I want to see results, I want to see contribution from all team members, I want to see your product shared (taught to) the rest of the class.

* update: okay, I've found, as in The Renaissance Society, but that wasn't it.  Here is the RSA YouTube page and the official "21st Century Enlightenment" RSA site, and here is the video/art site for Cognitive Media  ...

...and here's another video -- he starts discussing education and "kids these days" at about 5:30