Tonight I participated in the weekly inland empire edchat (#IEedchat). I met some very friendly and insightful educators from the inland empire area!
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated “Life is flux” meaning “everything or all things change”. This is especially true when it comes to technology (computers are estimated to have a lifespan of only three to five years). In regard to social media the rate of change over the past two decades or so has been rapid. In his video “Snapchat murders Facebook” Casey Neistat takes a look at both the history of social media and the future in the form of Snapchat. I am from the Facebook generation, perhaps the tail end of the Myspace generation if you want to get technical. However, the next generation does not use Facebook the same way mine has in the past and continues to. Instead Snapchat is king. The evolution of social media sites has been multistep.
Friendster --> Myspace --> Facebook --> Instagram --> Snapchat
Based upon the video there seem to be several reasons for this phenomena:
While it is important to keep in mind how our students communicate (I will admit my knowledge of Snapchat is limited), as I watched the video I began to consider the concept that Heraclitus stated “Life is flux”. Everything changes, and it is critical to learn and be able to use current technologies and platforms. On the same token however is that as educators we need to be able to adapt to change and learn to use new tools effectively as well. The temptation of getting entrenched in one set of platforms may be strong but there will always be something new on the horizon. I feel I also need to transfer this to how I teach platforms to students, if I choose to do so. Teaching a student how to use excel effectively might be a useful skill for now, however, if I am able to teach students skills that will help them learn to use a program similar (but not identical) to excel I can better enable them to adapt to their future.
Mark, Joshua. 'Heraclitus Of Ephesos'. Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.
Neistat, C. [CaseyNeistat]. (2014, October 2nd). Snapchat murders Facebook [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKSr6h5-fCU&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp&index=9
Small Business - Chron.com,. 'What Is The Life Span Of The Average PC?'. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.
Volkman, Elliot. Snapchat Vs. Facebook. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.
At one point in the video above Alan November mentions that students say that about 85-95% of their assignments are googleable (able to be found via a quick Google search). On this topic he asked a compelling question, “Are we giving kids assignments that were invented before the internet?” and goes on to discuss how the prominence of the internet has changed the way students interact with information.
I think that Mr. November has a great point. How can we adapt our teaching to not only teach content but also skills that will be relevant to students not only now but also 10 years into the future? What skills will better enable students to adapt to whatever the future looks like? These are questions that I myself as an educator need to keep in mind.
We tend to view students as “Digital natives”, as people who have grown up with technology and innately know how to use it, but do they really? Students certainly have experienced technology throughout their lives, but knowing how to use those resources effectively is still a skill that needs to be learned. In the same way that teaching a child how to read does not teach them how to use a library to research topics, neither does using the internet enable students to know how to use it as an effective resource.
By the same token the Mr. November discusses how the internet has opened up a wide range of perspectives that were previously unavailable to students. If we limit our students to one view point, or even several view points that are western, we may not be showing them the whole picture. If we open the eyes of our students to the world they may gain some global perspective that will serve them into the future.
This is one of the many skills that students still need to be taught, and this skill will be useful to them now and 10 years from now. While content is still critical, in the future I want to keep in mind the skills that I can teach my students. These are the concepts that are not googleable that Mr. November was focusing on.
November, A. [The Brainwaves Video Anthology]. (2014 May 5th). Alan November - Who Owns the Learning? Preparing Students for the Digital Age [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp&index=24
In their video the backwards brain bicycle, SmarterEveryDay poses an interesting question. What if you had to learn to ride a bicycle in a different way? Destin (the presenter) is shown a bicycle that has essentially handle bars that function in the opposite way that traditional handle bars function (you turn left on the handlebars and the bike turns right and vice versa). He was unable to ride this bicycle even a few feet despite having known how to ride a bicycle for the vast majority of his life. He spent eight months practicing with the bike and suddenly he describes that his brain clicked and he could ride the bike. He then asked his young son to do the same, it took him two weeks.
This example is illustrative of set ways of thinking. If the brain only thinks in one way, then they are unable to overcome what he describes as biases. These biases prevented him from being able to learn how to ride the new bike. His son on in contrast did not have as developed biases and his brain had more neural plasticity. Neural plasticity is essentially the ability of the brain to adapt and learn new concepts. This is why young children are able to learn new languages much faster and more effectively than adults or even teenagers.
In my teaching I must be aware of the roadblocks that I have put up to prevent me from looking at things in different ways. If I allow myself to get too set in my ways then I will not be open to new ideas or concepts that may make me a more effective teacher. In addition, I may be able to integrate new ideas into methods that I have found effective to create a hybrid that has effective elements of both. Openness and adaptability are essential to being an effective teacher for ever changing student bodies. The world they grew up with may not be exactly the same as the one we grew up in and we need to account for these differences in the way we engage and teach students.
The Backwards Brain Bicycle - Smarter Every Day 133 [Motion picture]. (2015). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp&index=2
Roadblock. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2015, from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Road_block.jpg
In his video “Why you need to fail” Derek Sivers asks important questions about how failure is treated in learning. I love this video because it encourages teachers (and students) to view failure as a normal part of the learning process, necessary even for learning and not a negative. So many of our assessments punish failure (receiving a bad grade or negative feedback) but what if we encouraged, even nurtured failure as a normal part of the learning process? Students are scared to fail; a bad grade has negative consequences. The question to ask is: is this a problem in the way we have taught students to think about learning?
In sports failure is seen as a normal occurrence, especially when you are just starting to learn a concept. Players are encouraged to repeat and practice until they are able to master what they are working toward. If a player fails to show mastery of this concept during a game (arguably a sport’s version of a test) a discussion about the failure occurs. They are then, generally, given guidance on how to improve upon this facet in the future. This failure is seen as a growing process and not as something that will reflect upon them for the rest of the season. The classroom is a very different place than a sports field, but these are very different perceptions about failure coming from two experiences that require learning.
The practicality of this idea does come into question however, how do we encourage students to succeed if they do not fear failure? Perhaps assignments based upon mastery of a topic instead of a single test could come into play. By mastery I mean assessments that show a student’s understanding while allowing students to edit and repeat until they master the topic. One draw back of this would be the time and effort both teacher and student would have to commit to this model. For example, if a student is still working on reviewing their last unit paper how will they have time to work on and complete the current unit’s assignments? The student would have to be committed to repeating and practicing until they reached their desired outcome. A balance may be able to be struck but it is not an easy concept to put into practice in many ways.
As an educator I want my students to learn and succeed and this often requires them to fail. They must grapple and struggle with concepts until they understand them. I will be there every step of the way to offer guidance and encouragement but the learning is their own. How can we assess what students know, cover the required material and encourage students to not fear failure? This is certainly a question that I will think about in the future.
Sivers, D. (Director). (2011). Why You Need to Fail [Motion picture]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhxcFGuKOys
In his TEDx talk “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” Dr. Michael Wesch discusses how the way we treat knowledge has changed with the advent of technology and the evolution of our society. This new world has created an environment where information and knowledge is at our fingertips and treating education as delivering knowledge is not enough anymore (if it ever was).
Students can now interact with not only boundless amounts of information, but also connect with people from around the world and exchange ideas. With all of these possibilities how do students feel about their place in society? According to Dr. Wesch they are “meaning-seekers in a society in which meaning and recognition are not immediately given” this can leave them feeling like they are insignificant or that their education is not as relevant to their lives as it could be.
Dr. Wesch argues that changes need to be made in the way we look at knowledge, instead of being able to recall knowledge students needs to be able to use knowledge that they access (become knowledge-able). I agree with this idea. Our society has certainly made radical changes in the way that we interact with information and this mean that our skills have to evolve as well. As is discussed in the presentation, traditional critical thinking is still an extremely important skill but it is not enough anymore. We need to teach students not only how to think critically but how to sort through and use the abundant information they are presented on an everyday basis.
Our students have grown up knowing nothing but this information revolution and in the future this will only expand to encompass a greater part of their lives. While I agree wholeheartedly with most of Dr. Wesch’s arguments, I also believe that there is a balance to be struck here. As an educator I want to be able to teach my students with a view toward their futures while incorporating the best of current and past ideas as well.
Wesch, M. (2010, October 12). TEDxKC - Michael Wesch - From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able. Retrieved October 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8
I recently watched the video “Visitors and Residents” by Dr. Dave White (you will find the video above). Before I give my thoughts on the topic, I first want to say I would recommend anyone that uses the internet extensively watch this video and even more so if you use the internet to gather resources. Dr. White in this video discusses a divergence in the way people use the internet as a comparison of those who are residents of internet spaces in contrast to those who are visitors.
Visitor (similar in concept to the term “lurkers” in some internet communities)
Visitors and Residents. Dir. Dave White. 2013. Film.
In his book “Why School” Will Richardson presents two different types of reform for education. I tend to stand with the what might be called the integration of technology approach. Technology is a wonderful way to present and create content that is more accessible and efficient for today’s students. Want to have students collaborate on a group paper? Google Documents is great for that. Want to use class data for student’s lab reports? Google sheets has the potential to make writing data on the whiteboard obsolete. This is all assuming that schools have easily available access to technology. This access has certainly come leaps and bounds over the past few years and will continue to do so.
I believe that this expansion in technology integration will complement the teaching of an education professional in the classroom, not replace it. While we cannot predict the shape the future will take, we can say for certain it will be very different from today. To this end Richardson has many incredibly relevant points in his “new school” view of the future of education. Technology is striving for even deeper integration into everyday life. The abundance of information and resources that Richardson discusses has expanded access and options for all those with internet access. Despite this, I think that an evolved form of education can prepare students for their future. At the very least, students need guidance in wading through, understanding and analyzing the abundance of information that has been gifted to them. Beyond this the future of education will continue to evolve along side technology.
In the later part of his book Richardson describes six different learning/unlearning ideas for educators. There are several that are easy for me to get behind, others would be much more difficult for me. As a person that tends to be more private, his ideas “share everything” and “talk to strangers” could be more difficult for me to implement. While I have been going through the process of expanding my knowledge about education I have come to realize the essential importance that sharing of ideas and resources is to forward thinking educators. I will strive to increase my comfort with these ideas. There are others of his ideas I will more naturally connect with, in particular “be a master learner” and “discover, don’t deliver, the curriculum”. I like to think of myself as someone who is naturally curious about pretty much everything. Life long learning is something that all educational professionals should strive for, we are after all in the profession of teaching others. I am working towards becoming an effective educational professional and hope that learning along side my students will become a staple of my life.
Richardson, W. (2012). Why school? How education must change when learning and information are everywhere. New York, NY: TED Conferences.