Seminar in Personalized Learning
Seminar in Personalized Learning
This is more of an app smash than my last "app smash" post, which did smash a couple of apps, but was more of a slam. Feel free to leave a comment, as I'm still playing and learning.
Chapter 1: Arc-of-Life Learning
Quote: “…fusing a vast informational resource with a deeply personal motivation led to an unexpected, unplanned, or innovative use of the space. In short, the connection between resources and personal motivation led people to cultivate their imaginations and recreate the space in a new way” (p. 31). This quote sums up the first chapter because it describes the importance of embracing change from an obsolete, stable educational culture to a more dynamic, fluid one in the 21st century. This change—the result of constant play with incessant innovations in society—forces imagination and effective collaboration to create even newer innovations.
Question(s): If neither a limitless amount of information (such as the Internet), nor a bound and structured environment (such as our traditional classrooms) are effective for learning as individual entities, and we seem to have plenty of the latter, then why can’t we justify this as motivation to push for strong technology programs to be implemented throughout all schools, regardless of demographic? Why can’t we fight for blended learning programs to be in every school? Why aren’t the policymakers shifting their focus from textbook adoptions to Chromebook adoptions?
Connection: There are clear parallels between the argument for breaking free of this stagnant, 20th century education model, as discussed in chapter 1, and the need for reforming education to prepare our students for an unknown future, as discussed in both EDL 600 and 680. By relying on a stable, knowledge-based education system that we have in place today, driven by standardized testing, we are setting limitations on the minds of our students. It will be a frightening thought to see American education be like a broken-down vehicle on the side of a freeway that is moving too fast for anyone to stop to help.
Epiphany: The greatest epiphany I got from this chapter was the connection between play and true creative thinking. Of course it makes sense that in a stable environment, we grow out of play and become complacent. It made me think of my 21-month-old son, who loves to play with my iPhone. He doesn’t really know how a phone works, nor has he ever used or played with an old rotary phone. But in a matter of a few sessions, he figured out not to touch the screen while a video is playing or it’ll stop. He also realized that turning the phone made the screen re-orient itself. He is playing with the phone and is using that play to discover new things (well, new to him anyway). And yet, many elderly people struggle to adjust to new technology; they’ve forgotten how to play. Play is essential for change, and it also brings us together as a community.
Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Cultures
Quote: “Unlike the traditional sense of culture, which strives for stability and adapts to changes in its environment only when forced, this emerging culture responds to its surroundings organically. It does not adapt. Rather, it thrives on change…” (p. 37). This quote points out the primary difference between the two cultures discussed in this book so far: stable cultures versus emerging cultures.
Question(s): How to we convince policymakers who write the standards for measuring growth and progress that it’s ok to not know the answers, or “get” the information being taught as rote? How do we prove that it’s ok to “embrace what we don’t know,” and continue to seek more about those unknowns using technology and structured learning environments grounded in inquiry (p. 38)?
Connection: Will Richardson’s, Why School? stresses the importance of transferring power to the students, and that’s what I think we are seeing is key to adjusting to emerging cultures in our own classrooms. We don’t always have to have set measurable outcomes, as there will sometimes be unexpected (yet pleasant) outcomes, too. Yong Zhao’s, Catching Up or Leading the Way also discusses the irony of the United States striving to become more proficient through standardized education and tests, like China, yet China is shifting toward becoming more innovative and creative, like the United States in the mid-20th century. Zhao points out that the U.S. holds more patents than any other country in the world, yet if we continue to move toward more standardized learning, the room for “emerging cultures” will begin to dissipate.
Epiphany: An epiphany I had in this chapter came with the discussion about learning environments and “broken” schools (p. 36). It makes sense that environments really can’t break, but it’s the lack of blending cultures and systems that keep schools from emerging. Great structured environments coupled with powerful technology can lead to amazing innovation.
Chapter 3: Embracing Change
Quote: “And therein lies the major pitfall of the twenty-first century’s teaching model—namely, the belief that most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged for a long enough period of time to be worth the effort of transferring it…the pool of unchanging resources is shrinking…” (p. 40). This is powerful because it points out the complacency and pride we place on knowledge-based thinking. It’s great to know a lot of facts, but those facts don’t necessarily help with new issues and problems that have no set solutions. We need to teach play and embrace failures as learning opportunities toward innovative solutions to complex problems.
Question(s): How can we convince those individuals who aren’t on board with the idea of embracing change due to an unwillingness to compromise their obsolete, stable ways? Will those people inhibit progress? Will we have to carry the weight of everyone with fixed mindsets?
Connection: In EDL 600, we have been assessing the needs of our own schools in order to create a proposal related to improving technological systems in our classrooms. If all of us spread this energy toward creating positive change for the sake of our students and their futures, then maybe we can help expedite the destruction of the fixed, standardized, obsolete education system. In that case, everyone will have to adjust to a new paradigm of thinking and learning in America, one that is constantly evolving.
Epiphany: My epiphany in this chapter was that pride holds us back. When we are prideful of our stable culture of complacency and unchanged thinking, we rarely take risks and embrace new innovations without constant scrutiny. We want to conform and not lead. This was the case with the adaptation to colored TV from black and white. That took 70 years, whereas the more complex adoption of the Internet and computers took only ten. When we are forced to embrace change and adjust to it in order to appreciate the latest and greatest innovations (such as new cell phones every other year, for example), we are also allowing ourselves to truly realize that nothing is absolute anymore. We won’t be able to accept the former way of thinking as something we can revert back to, either. That would be the opposite of progress.
Thomas, D & Brown, J.S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington: CreateSpace.
Although I was thinking I made an App Smash, in reality, it's more of an App Slam. I did smash YouTube and Peardeck, but that wasn't enough. I am showcasing five cool tech tools in this video. Please feel free to leave comments!
This is such a true and refreshing article. I think it sums up what our cohort has been focusing on so far. We educators (and students) all want to design a “story” together; one that is fun, exciting, relevant and innovative. After reading this article, I got goosebumps because Markham depicts what I have been craving for years: a real profession of innovative thinking.
I like how author Thom Markham (2015) writes, “For well over 150 years, education has been stuck in an endless wash cycle that alternates between a ‘hands-on, better citizenship, student-oriented’ and a ‘scientific, strict outcomes, measurable results’ approach to children’s learning.” I’m tired of being an over-used garment stuck inside this broken washing machine; I’m starting to become stained by so many new policies and ideas that never seem to take root, or simply lack real value in today’s society.
The problem with education in America today is that teachers are “under-empowered participants in a stagnant system designed to broadcast standardized information” (Markham, 2015). We need to shift the power from policymakers to teachers, and even students and parents. As stated by my friend and personal learning network member, Natalie Priester, “How [do] you fight the system while still being required to work within it and prepare kids for college,” or life, for that matter? It’s just too messy when the end-product has no real say in what, or how, they want to learn.
When I talk to my students who are graduating from college about whether or not they feel empowered to change the world, they laugh at me. But then I refocus the conversation and ask the question again. Most of the time the response is “not really.” But why not? After all, who is responsible for running the world? I mean, when you stop to think about it, almost everybody alive today will be dead in 100 years. Shouldn’t our youth feel empowered to pull the plug on this broken washing machine—that is their own education in America today—and replace it with a colorful, efficient, fun, innovative, universal and omnipresent machine that has no pre-established cycle or limitation to how many pieces or types of “garments” can be tossed inside?
I feel inspired! I want to be a piece to this collaborative puzzle that Markham describes as the “system that leads to ‘better’ people.” I am all-in; I will now continue to “redefine smart” by encouraging “evaluative thinking” in my classroom, and beyond. Whenever I hear an apathetic teacher curse the system, I’ll challenge them to join my network. Whenever I read an inspiring article or watch a motivating video that encourages reform, I will follow the author on Twitter (because we all know he or she will be plugged-in to a PLN). And most importantly, whenever I hear students complain about their “education,” I will challenge them to be part of the solution and not the problem.
Markham, T. (2015, February 11). Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century Education 'Story'. Retrieved June 20, 2015 from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/11/redefining-teachers-with-a-21st-century-education-story/
I had never heard of a “Personal Learning Network” prior to this seminar course. Obviously it makes sense to establish a massive network of like-minded people who can act as resources for support and innovative thinking. Why is it that I never considered tapping into such a seemingly limitless amount of creative minds, all aching to share and receive invaluable feedback? And this isn’t just with education, but with any pursuit. Thomas Friedman creatively explains this ability to intimately network with others in his brief summary of the 21st century.
Author Thomas L. Friedman first published The World is Flat in 2005. Friedman addresses personal learning networks by discussing what he coins, “Globalization” 1.0 to 3.0 (Friedman, 2007, p. 9). He continues with Columbus’ discovery of the “New World,” which validated the notion that the world is round, and also revealed how grossly inaccurate the size of the world was believed to be during that era (p. 4). Friedman goes on to explain that this sparked the movement, “Globalization 1.0,” where global integration of power and information—which extended to 1800—“shrank the world from a size large to a size medium” (p. 9).
Multinational companies further catalyzed globalization into “Globalization 2.0” from 1800 to 2000, during which the world shrank from a size medium to a size small (p. 9). Identities were being established and relationships formed between companies and nations. Suddenly, the roundness of the world argument that Columbus had celebrated years earlier was being reestablished as flat (p. 9-11).
And finally, we are experiencing “Globalization 3.0” today, which is true personal learning networks on a grand scale. Thanks to the unpredicted advancements that came about with the personal computer, fiber-optic cable, and work-flow software, the world has been “flattened” by empowered individuals (p. 11). Friedman discusses the idea of innovative individuals having the ability to influence many others at the touch of their fingertips (p. 11). And to think, this was eight years ago; so much as changed in that span.
I’ve recently begun building my own personal learning network, mostly with educators. Using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, as well as Voxer, I have been able to exchange ideas and feedback with members of our cohort, as well as my own district staff members. I’ve willingly subjected myself to constructive criticism and have maintained a growth mindset regarding my own teaching practices and ideologies. I have also been inspired to read more literature that pertains to education reform, and that has opened doors to even more amazing educators and their ideas.
I now fully understand the impact that personal learning networks can have on the world, let alone my own teaching. Each teacher, parent, and student may be empowered to evoke change and progress towards innovative education. These global networks can create a voice that scream for reform in public education, and I hope I can have my voice echoed by future generations of collaborators, worldwide.
Friedman, Thomas L. (2007). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Picador.
Both of these videos are hilarious, yet each have an underlying, serious truth that is related to public education in America today. One video sheds light on our obsolete past, while the other shows how far we have come, thanks to innovative thinking.
The first video shown below is a true testament of how far we have come as a civilization. Thanks to innovative thinking, technology has exponentially evolved into mind-blowing creations with limitless capabilities. It’s amazing to see how humanity has adapted to those evolutions, too.
These young children are born into a world that has forgotten the obsolete technology of the past, and rightfully so! Who wants to remember how hard it was to use an Apple II? When I mention mobile computer labs and “The Oregon Trail,” you’re probably smiling because you remember those things. But when we show today’s youth what we endured, they just laugh at how ridiculous some of the features were. Even the girl who speaks to the computer to tell it what command to execute isn’t too far off of what we are able to do with iPhones and Androids. Yet computer engineers of the past would have mocked that idea.
The point of that video is to point out the fact that obsolete technology should remain obsolete, and it SHOULD be funny to watch children mock it. They should also feel thankful that innovative minds have enhanced computers to what they are today. The technology of today will also be funny to children 50 years from now, I’m sure. And with the advancements made in technology, the same parallel can be made in the case of education reform. I’ll get back to that point after I discuss the second video shown below.
Watching elderly people who haven’t kept up with technology developments over the years is pretty comical. It’s funny watching these people try to use Snapchat, especially when one man even admitted he doesn’t even own a phone capable of using apps! But after they have each sent a Snapchat, it’s really refreshing to hear them discuss digital citizenship and the importance of being mindful of what people do with Snapchats.
I respect the wisdom of my elders, as time has a way of preserving values that are meaningful. Youth who become literate with technology should remember that they should behave on the Internet the same way they would in front of their grandparents, if they are conscientious of their actions. The Internet has the potential to do great good, but also inflict great harm. Nevertheless, with the way the world is evolving, we should start to teach children character strengths, socializing, and self-value through the medium of new-and-improved technologies. A lot can be said about policymakers utilizing these new innovations for the “better” delivery of the same old curricula, rather than the implementing different practices altogether.
Education reform should always improve upon lessons learned from past educational ventures, as children are born using the latest technology rather than something rendered obsolete. Digital literacy must be taught, though, and so should effective collaboration via social networking and efficient applications. in the midst of CCSS-based, high-stakes-testing-measured paradigms, policymakers and lobbyists are having a hard time coping with the idea of true reform: something much newer and different than the educational practices they experienced in school.
Accountability and rigor are things that can be applied to new educational platforms, but if we keep trying to implement obsolete practices, other countries may eventually show videos like these to their children, mocking our educational model and its ineffectiveness.
Kids React to Old Computers (2014 May 25). The Fine Bros. Retrieved on June 14, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF7EpEnglgk
Elders React to Snapchat (2015 April 23). The Fine Bros. Retrieved on June 14, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-wv1QiI008
Preface to my blog on the toxic culture of education:
Before I make the connection between this video and our EDL 680 course, I want to first give some background to my purpose for the video. This morning I was doing a service activity with some students, and one of those students is valedictorian of this year’s graduating class. I asked her if she is excited for college (she’s going to Cal), and she replied, “I’m more nervous than anything.” We got to talking and it turns out, she doesn’t feel prepared. She doesn’t know what she is passionate about, nor does she have the life skills needed for life outside of the classroom setting (creating and following a budget, arranging transportation, etc.). Yet she’s going to Berkeley and everyone around her is applauding her accolades. It’s easy for us to shake our heads and point the finger at her parents, or even our school, but who is at fault here?
I remember taking dozens of high-stakes tests throughout my educational career. I was valedictorian. I was very well-rounded in high school and did everything I was supposed to do in class. I was a rule-follower, a nerd, a do-gooder. I also graduated scared, unprepared for the relentless hoops I needed to jump through to earn a college degree. But why? I was a critical thinker and loved to learn, but I was afraid of failing at anything, not being “perfect” on paper.
In the end, I graduated and am now a part of the educational “profession” that once had me petrified of “failure” and of not doing well on any test that would have prevented me from making it that far. In retrospect, I give credit to some amazing teachers I had, even though they simply taught “to the test” much of the time.
But was it really necessary for me to endure such stress? Could I have learned more effectively in a different environment? Did I have to be afraid of failing on a test or in a class? And with technology more readily accessible in today’s classrooms, are teachers using the same pedagogy (albeit delivered “better” with “better” technology)? What if I hadn’t been such a high-achiever, but still loved to learn? Would I have been left behind and expected to find a niche in the low-paying, low-praised workforce? I think there is an giant, authoritative elephant—that being a test-driven, standards-based paradigm—standing in the middle of every public classroom, which every policymaker wants us to ignore.
The toxic culture of education today:
So I found this powerful TED video by Joshua Katz on YouTube, and I immediately found it to be connected to the theme of EDL 680. We talk about creating Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and presenting to authentic audiences. We discuss amazing technology and tools for learning. But at the heart of every effectively managed classroom, which is the passionate teacher, we have a broken foundation for implementing such amazing ideas. That foundation, which Joshua deems the “toxic culture of education,” is preventing students in all demographics from being able to apply such powerful tools of technology to their fullest potential.
I’m referring to the current paradigm for teaching; abiding by CCSS-based curriculum and the many policies we learn about in EDL 600. I don’t have a perfect solution for all of the problems for holding all stakeholders accountable for high-level learning and teaching, so I won’t vent too much on the issue. Regardless, the fact remains that when we hold students to our strict policies surrounding standards-based learning, we limit their ability to be as creative as they would like to be in the classroom. We rob students of their passion for learning. That’s sad.
Joshua’s passionate talk on this toxic culture of education gave me the chills. He passionately attacks the very system in which he teaches. As a high school math teacher myself, and self-proclaimed nerd, I can honestly say I agree with all of his points.
By strictly adhering to the results of standardized, high-stakes tests as measurements of student success, we can easily lose sight of many other important measurements. Joshua brings up the point that “academic identity is established” with the results of high-stakes test, beginning in third grade, and students begin to “define themselves” by the results. The demands for teachers to abide by such “rigorous” standards, rather than relevant standards, can easily convince them to accept them as the paradigm of choice. What about the non-cognitive factors of character, integrity, perseverance, and social skills? As Joshua states, “We need to start paying attention to our students and who they are.” We need to focus on relevance and imagination. We need to focus on producing better “people” who take risks for the sake of progress, rather than better “students” who use test results as factors of measurement for self-worth.
So as we all learn about Personal Learning Networks, 1:1 laptop-student ratios, innovative projects and authentic collaboration, we must also fight the toxic culture that exists in education. We must accept each student as an individual and dismiss the notion that a test result dictates their identity and ability. Let’s all keep this in mind when we brainstorm ideas for our classrooms in the fall. While we must follow the current paradigm, we can simultaneously put pressure on policymakers to shift their attention to people-centered learning and to hear our voices. Let’s follow Joshua by reestablishing education as a true profession with the students being heard.
Katz, J. (2014 May 2). Toxic culture of education: Joshua Katz at TEDxUniversityofAkron. Retrieved June 14, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnC6IABJXOI
Dr. Wesch's video gave me goosebumps. Although the video is just over 18 minutes long, I feel like I can spend hours analyzing how simplistic he makes complex issues seem. For instance, I completely agree that it is technologically easy to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate and publish; in reality, it is VERY difficult to genuinely connect with people, organize groups of people together, share thoughts on an in-depth level, and effectively collaborate. Social media presents unlimited potential to have a sustainable impact on things that truly matter to us and our students in this world, and if we harness those instruments with the creativity and ingenuity of our youth, we can create a recipe for...anything.
I was so inspired by this video that I scratched my plans for my AVID elective class tomorrow morning and decided I'm going to show them this video. Following the message, I want to have a Philosophical Chairs (which is something we do in AVID regularly) to see what students have to say. I have a feeling this may lead to a fun experiment in the final weeks of school before summer vacation. Keep in mind that I live on an island with a town that's only one square mile. Something like the free hugs experiment could be fun, and still inspire the students to develop their own mission. Despite the fact that my student population is small and accounts for a small percentage of the global population, the message from Dr. Wesch is that technology is a vehicle that enables them to connect to global audiences. Just like the little bird in the Aztec story, we should always do the best we can to evoke change and progress in our global society, even when there are doubters and opposition.
Wesch, M. (2010, October 10). TEDxKC - Michael Wesch - From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8
Dr. White's take on visitors vs. residents of the Web is very interesting. Until recently, I think I'd say I was a visitor of the Internet--both professionally and privately. I utilized the Internet for things I needed, thanks to information that others provided to it, but I wasn't contributing to the "abundance" of information available for others. I never took ownership of the Internet. Even my social media sites had become "latent," as Dr. White mentions. I was absolutely on the visitor-end of the spectrum described by Dr. White.
A fact that really stands out to me in Dr. White's video is his quote, "...just knowing how to use particular technologies makes no one wiser than just knowing how to read words." I suppose my mindset was that I was always capable of creating websites, sharing ideas, exploring new ideas; I just didn't ever act on the thought of being communal. I allowed myself to become a private entity and didn't realize I was sort of being selfish. Another key notion is the comparison between visitors vs. residence as having a converging mindset vs. a nebulous mindset, respectively. Wow. Was I really using the Internet as a tool from my toolbox to accomplish finite tasks in my day-to-day teaching? That is a dangerous recipe for absolute, quantifiable tasks, when true education should be lifelong, incessant expansions of our previous works. What a mind-blowing epiphany.
In our profession, we advise students to collaborate all the time (although Dr. White suggests that being communal still allows us to be autonomous). When students engage in fruitful collaborative discussion, they seem to take on more ownership and accountability of their learning. It would make sense that the same principle applies to educators on a different platform--the Internet.
I recently reactivated my Facebook, partly due to requirements of this cohort we're in, but also because of pressures from my colleagues to share ideas. I began sharing ideas with teachers on Kahoot.it, and broke out of my fixed mindset. I had shifted over in the spectrum to more of a resident of the Internet. Even my students have allowed me to use their work to further enhance my work, which is ultimately our work as educators. I'm very excited to say that some amazing opportunities have developed due to ideas I learned from others' work on the Internet. Had they not been devout residents, I wouldn't have found inspiration to develop new programs and projects for my students and colleagues. Some of these ideas come from the small "apartment" we have created--our Google+ community for this cohort.
I'm eager to see my residence continue to develop on the Internet. I no longer mind leaving a footprint behind if it means others might benefit from my ideas/activities. I know I've benefited from others, so I have to think of it as a two-way street. I'm in the business of educating, so I need to continue to be more transparent along the way.
White, D. (2013, May 31). Visitors and Residents. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from https://youtu.be/0sFBadv04eY
In his book, Why School? (2012), Will Richardson emphasizes that the current paradigm of teaching in America—preparing students with an education whose basic premises haven’t changed in over 150 years—is in desperate need of reform (loc 62). Richardson isn’t dismissing the need for education, but rather has us question the entire purpose of our current models of education.
Richard presents the “old school” educational system as one that embraces a stand-and-deliver approach, celebrates quantifiable measurements of learning, and continues to focus on getting “better” rather than evolving into something completely different (loc 73). The need for “cookie-cutter,” assembly line occupations is no longer the primary focus of our workforce, so why should we continue to embrace a system’s obsolete skillset that doesn’t foster creative thinking? I completely agree with Richardson’s statements regarding this notion. Richardson adds that according to NCTE, our students, under the current model of Common Core (and its NCLB, CST-based predecessor), are failing to meet the established criteria for literacy; simply put, the majority of students are deemed illiterate by NCTE’s standards (loc 177-183). Educational policymakers can’t seem to get over the fact that “better” isn’t just improving the way our curriculum is delivered to students; standardized assessments are completely outmoded (loc 211). It’s great if you’re focused on students as a business commodity rather than real people.
I have always been a fan of inquiry-based learning because of the creativity and discovery it fosters. Students seem to teach me new things every time I watch them investigate a problem with various approaches. And their buy-in is immediate when they get to use their imaginations. This is what Richardson argues the “new school” educational system should evolve into. Richardson mentions that we need to promote higher level thinking and not ask questions that can be answered with a Google search (loc 316). We need to rethink pedagogy and purpose, as well as assessment so that we inspire students to fall in love with learning for a greater purpose; when that happens, there are no limits to creativity (loc 324-365). There is an abundance of resources available to students; let’s allow them all to utilize it as a means of investigating new ideas on their own accord (loc 81).
Of the six unlearning/relearning ideas for educators that Richard discusses (loc 387-530), I would say I could commit to sharing ideas, focusing on discovering curriculum through inquiry, being a master learner, doing real work for real audiences (as we’re doing with this course), as well as transferring the power to my students. I think I’d have trouble with talking to strangers, just because that’s something outside of my immediate comfort zone. I’m learning to reach out and network through sharing with audiences (I feel I’ll be networking with people in this cohort very well).
Richardson, W. (2012). Why school how education must change when learning and information are everywhere / Will Richardson. New York, NY: TED Conferences.
These are pictures taken this morning of some of my Functions, Stats & Trig students having free reign to create an aquaponics system, which is a side project of one of our linked-learning pilot programs called NatureWorks. They are fun to watch! I gave them an overview of objectives, we did some research and now they have all the supplies to build. [Disclosure: all students have provided a video/photo release through LBUSD.]
I'm a high school math teacher, but I like to say that I teach students how to think. Math , like most subjects, can be learned; being able to critically analyze problems of all sorts is much more important.