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The field experience at Asa Adams was a critical piece to my development in EDT 400. For months we have been discussing all of these different ways to incorporate technology into education but I had yet to see what that would play out like in a real classroom.

The morning began in a second grade classroom where deb was

using the smart board to work with students during their math lessons. As pointed out by Deb, there are many advantages to this tool. The board itself is magnetic so she can take it off the wall and move it to any classroom she wants. The students are engaged by using the pen to solve problems themselves up on the board. When asked who wants to solve a problem on the board almost every student raised their hand showing how eager they are to use this technology. Deb can also hook her laptop up to the board so that students can see her screen. She pointed out how useful this was because she can use the calculator on her computer rather than having students struggle with their solar powered dollar store calculators.

We were also introduced to a device called the ladybug which is a small projector that can not only project images onto the board but can also record voices. This is beneficial to students who may have missed school because Deb can record the lesson and post it on her website for that student or parents to access.

The remainder of our time at Asa Adams Elementary was spent in the computer lab with a group of 4th graders who were doing some research on Maine. We were able to walk around the room to see what students were working on and sit down and ask them questions. The child I talked to mentioned how much she enjoyed using the technology. Her favorite thing to do with the computers is to use the paint application because she enjoys art. She said in previous years she had been given the opportunity to work with twitter and a class blog.

I was amazed by how independently these students were able to do research and stay on task. They seemed genuinely interested in the topics they were researching. By doing this work independently they are able to explore their own interests and curiosity and they aren’t forced to learn about a specific topic. They are learning so much more about themselves, and their interests, and what they have the ability to do on their own, which is such a tremendous aspect of growing up.

Prior to this class when I thought about incorporating technology into the classroom computers is the one thing that came to mind. Now I know that there is so much more to it than that. There are numerous ways technology can be incorporated and computers are just one. Seeing a teacher use these technologies in action was beneficial to me in several ways! Not only did I get a first hand look of what really goes on in the classroom, but I also got some awesome ideas for my project!

I recently watched this video and I absolutely loved it! Robinson mentions that “we are educating children out of their creative capacities.” Right now in schools there is very little emphasis on the arts, but why? Students are learning the information that was necessary when this country first became industrialized, but that information doesn’t hold the vitality that creativity does in learning. Another video by Ken Robinson called Changing Education Paradigms showed that studies have shown that divergent thinking significantly decreases in children as they progress through school. So instead of encouraging our children to think outside of the box and use creativity we are teaching them there is only one way to think and they all must think the same. Why do we want all of our students to think the same? Did Einstein get as far as he did because he sat in his desk and thought how he was told to think? I’m guessing probably not. Students are afraid of speaking their mind and afraid of being wrong and I see this in college courses as well.

It was recently mentioned in class by my professor that students are afraid of discussion and as far as I can see that is 100% true. Students are coming from high schools where for the most part they sat in a desk and got spoon fed information. When they walk into a college course with a professor that expects them to speak up they are appalled. Why? Because they have never had a discussion. They want to come in, listen to a professor, and take notes because that is what they are a product of.

How then, do we put creativity back into the classroom? Open and networked learning. Creativity grows with interaction and collaboration among peers. Children should NOT be sitting in desks anymore. It is no longer relevant. They need to be encouraged to open up their minds and let their creativity and divergent thinking expand. Allow them to interact and try to solve problems in multiple ways, not just one. Creativity and networked learning is what is going to save education.

Are there any negative consequences of networked learning? Maybe.. something that I hadn’t thought of before was brought up in class last week and that is a machine can not love a child. We don’t want our children staring at a computer screen 8 hours a day just as much as we don’t want them staring at the board 8 hours a day. Computers need to be incorporated in education but technology should not replace the teacher. Children need love and care in order to develop and grow to be loving human beings. Just like children need love and care they also need creativity to become unique and make a valid contribution to society. Teachers might take a bit of a back seat with technology incorporated in the curriculum, but they should and most likely will always remain.

There are countless reasons why we are trying to make a change in the classroom from 19th century learning to 21st century learning. Above all, educators are concerned about the quality of their student’s education. The main thing that will further a student’s education is their involvement and engagement in quality learning. Student’s should be interested in the subject they are learning about. They should get involved and want to learn. But will they?

I found this video on classroom 2.0 which is a perfect example that they can.

These students are not only becoming active members in their learning by doing this project, but they are showing the world that they want to continue to build this online community. Through this project they are building skills that they would never get sitting in a classroom taking notes from the board. They are researching ways to raise money, they are communicating with a teacher across the globe, they are collaborating with one another, and they are showing an incredible amount of compassion. They are reaching out to people who they don’t even know and telling them, this is how we learn and it works so well for us that we want you to have the same opportunity.

Today we are living in a country with outdated curriculum and for the  most part a strictly formal learning environment. Students sit behind  desks and zone out as the teacher rambles on about the U.S  constitution and Shakespeare. It is time to start bringing more non-  formal learning into the classroom. Most of the content area taught in  school can be taught even better non formally. Instead of lecturing to the students about the subject in today’s lesson plan give them the subject and have them do some research. That way they are engaged in their learning by reading, watching videos, and picking out information they think is important. Have them write a blog about the subject and comment on one another’s blogs adding important information and discussing the topic. Or have them do the research and them come together in small groups or as a class and discuss their findings.

Should we wipe out formal education completely? No.. in some instances formal education is necessary and it is important we keep pieces of it in the curriculum. When students enter the real world to get jobs though they won’t need to know how to sit behind a desk and listen. They will need to know how to research, discuss, and work in teams to create and improve. The only way for them to learn how to do these things is to implement it in the classroom. I’m not saying non-formal learning is all we need to make it in the 21st century. I’m just saying we need more of it because we aren’t getting enough and in some cases we aren’t getting any. With non-formal learning students are not only learning necessary life building skills but they are retaining more information because they are engaged.

A perfect example of how to implement non-formal learning in the classroom is shown in Wendy Drexler’s video, Networked Student.

It was pointed out to me how much learning can be accomplished with technology when I read the article Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens. New knowledge on subjects is acquired every day, every minute, every second. This is obvious to me when I go to buy a book for a college course and there are 7 different editions that have been written in the past 4 or 5 years. Since it is impossible to update these books every day information is given through the world wide web. Type anything into google and there are copious links filled with articles, blogs, informative websites, books, and definitions on the subject. Technology is fast enough to allow us to be handed more information than is even possible to digest, in the blink of an eye.

I recently had a discussion with my sister who is 14 years old and a freshman in high school and I asked her flat out “what are you learning.” She just shrugged her shoulders.. I then proceeded to ask her what she does in class and this is what I found out..

 

More than half of her classes are lecture style and group discussions consist of the teacher reading them the material and then talking to them about it. The students however, just sit and listen. When I asked her if they used computers at all she told me they were allowed to type up their homework on them and there was one class where they had to do a powerpoint project. The only class she has with hands on learning is science where they do labs. When I asked her if she was learning anything by listening to the teacher she responded with, “well not really.”

I feel bad for students. The majority of them are just NOT getting the education that they deserve and it is so sad. Instead of allowing students to enjoy learning by engaging them they are daydreaming and pretending to listen. Students who sit and listen to a lecture are hearing one person’s point of view on the material. It could be biased, and it may not contain all of the information that they could be getting if they could use computers and talked to their peers. The fact that my sister took part in NO discussion with her peers throughout the school day is pathetic. This cuts down on a lot of possible knowledge gain.

With technology the student is in charge of his/her learning. They can research a topic, find something else that interests them, and research that topic. There is information from multiple sources so that students can pick out what is bias and keep what is important to know.

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: