Archive for January, 2011

Watching the interview with Heidi Hayes Jacobs on her new book Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World really got me thinking! I love what she says about students being ‘time travelers’! I think it’s insane that the same arguments in regards to changes in the education system have been taking place for the past 20 years. Everybody in education realizes that a change needs to take place but there are very few people stepping forward to make the change. Peers in my EDT400 course pointed out that everything is organized in a hierarchy and teachers can try to implement new ways of teaching, but at the end of the day their students still need to know the state and school’s curriculum. A change like this is hard to make unless everybody is on board and ready to take the step together.

It’s bizarre to me that education hasn’t changed at all. Outside of education, technology in this country moves at such a fast pace. Everyday there are new developments and advances in technology and they spread so quickly. Computers are as widespread as they’ve ever been and now people have them literally at their fingertips on their mobile devices. Take a step into a school system though, and there is a computer lab or maybe a cluster of computers that students are given a limited amount of time with in the day. Cell phones are for the most part prohibited in schools and social networking is frowned upon. Why isn’t technology advancing at a fast pace in education? What students are learning in schools today is no longer relevant to the workplace. We are sending our children into the world with no knowledge of how to collaborate, interact, create, and formulate ideas. To me, that is really scary thought. What is going to happen to society when a large percentage of high school graduates don’t know how to keep it running?


Monkey see monkey do

The Chicago Tribune published an interesting article.. Are big ticket electronics on your child’s wishlist(Healy, 2010)? The main focus of the article is that children are asking for expensive electronics such as ipads, ipods, and cellphones. Why are kids asking for these items? There is a very simple answer to that question.. they are watching their parents, cousins, peers, and grandparents use these very same items on a daily basis. Parents may be handing off their cell phones and ipods to their kids who are then playing games on them and having fun with them.. so of course they want one! Is this a bad thing? Well, for the parent who has to purchase these expensive items.. maybe. But for the child who is learning at a young age to engage in technology, absolutely not! This is the radical change we are trying to make right? As educators if we want our students to use technology in the classroom then we want them to have these early experiences with it.

Albert Bandura, a social learning theorist believes that children learn best through observation of models (parents, peers, etc). If humans truly do learn best through observation then this is a good thing! Why? If we want to go into the classroom as first year teachers and make this radical change by creating a classroom including technology and other teachers see this change and see that it works, we can hope that they will jump on the bandwagon!  Monkey see monkey do right? Well.. one can only hope.

In the piece Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Community in Virtual Learning Environments (Schwier, 2009), there is a lot of discussion about how critical it is to provide a virtual learning community for students. I completely agree that it is a step in education that needs to be taken, however I think as educators, we need to tread lightly.

Students are comfortable when they are communicating through their social networking sites and it is something they are familiar with. Using these social networks and other online communities is an excellent way to get students interested and engaged in their learning. For students who aren’t comfortable having discussions face to face with their peers, online communities provides them with a way to get involved.

At the same time, we need to be careful not to put too much emphasis on these online learning environments. Students need social interaction not only to guide their learning but also to guide their development as humans. As educators we need to maintain a healthy balance of virtual learning as well as group discussions and working in teams face to face. The social aspects of learning are sometimes the most important. On the one hand students may feel more comfortable in an online community but on the other hand there could be students who are more comfortable expressing their views in the classroom amongst their peers. Virtual learning is an essential piece of education in the 21st century but I think that a lot of the meaning in a person’s words can get lost in a virtual community. We need to be careful not to lose the social interaction that is critical for the growth and development of students.

The video Learning to Change, Changing to Learn has really sparked my interest! It was never put into perspective for me before but once I heard the words it was kind of like an “aha” moment. My first thoughts were that these are great ideas and upon watching the video multiple times I realized these are some of the only ideas relevant to strengthening today’s education system.

Looking back on my k-12 years as a student I have a hard time recalling instances where I used the knowledge I was learning and actually applied it (there were very few)! Back then I didn’t know the difference but now, as a student that is learning how to educate I find myself awestruck. All I can remember is lecture, lecture, lecture. Immediately a dozen questions come to mind.. Is this still happening in schools? If, so why? Don’t teachers realize that children need to apply their knowledge to a concrete situation? Don’t teachers realize that what students are learning in school isn’t relevant to the jobs they will have once they graduate? Are students learning more outside of school through technology then they are in the actual classroom? Finally, what are we going to do about it? Where do we even start?

What Daniel Pink said in the video Learning to Change, Changing to Learn is what really got me interested. I love what he says about the “vending machine approach” that is being taught today is no longer the right way to go about education. Instead students need critical thinking skills, team building skills, the ability to research, and create, and modify. As I was digging for more information on this guy I realized that he wrote a book about these very skills. It is all about the left brain/right brain theory and how students today aren’t being taught the right brained skills necessary for their futures.

This video sums it up: