As the final multimedia project for my course, ETEC 540, I decided to try something new. I wanted to employ the dynamic nature of SVG files as created by programs such as Inkscape. The creation was a process in itself, but by the end I ran into a couple stumbling blocks. First, wordpress would not upload the SVG file. No worries, I thought, let’s just link to it. However, the link did not have any of the hyperlinks activated. So, I went for second best. I linked to the original file, but then also made an image file to share as an example of what the infographic was to be like. Here is is, along with a link to the original file (which has lots of hyperlinks to cool resources by the way).
Experts in Engagement
In the three pieces I viewed (Robinson, Harris and Graham, and Woodul et Al) I consistently heard the message that a primary issue lies not within the students directly, but rather the fact that they do not feel engaged in their learning. Essentially, this is the key to making any learning stick: get the kids engaged. I really liked the quote from Harris and Graham at the start which stated that teachers are no longer teaching subjects, but teaching children. To go one step further, perhaps we could even say that the teacher is expected to foster an engagine learning environment (it just sounds less direct, but means the same thing). Like a comedian, the modern teacher must know how to read a crowd and respond to cues they send in a dynamic fashion. The teacher also needs to be able to balance expectations of the school board, the parents, themselves, and of course the students. It gets tricky, that is for sure. Once school boards relax their expectations, the other three parties generally feel a strong sense of fulfilment when engagement in high.
Diversity in Style and Product
The article by Harris and Graham really brought forth a strong feeling to me that we need to be a bit more open to embracing diversity in learning styles as well as teaching styles. Both the Endogenous and Exogenous constructivist forms seem to have space and sit comfortably in a learning environment, and in the discussion there was examples of how both of these can be beneficial to learning. I have seen teachers prosper as master storytellers, while others excel at creating a laboratory like feeling in the classroom. To allow these styles to co-exist and not prescribe one of the the other seems to me like a critical piece of how we need to look at the future of education.
Similarly we also need to be accepting of a wide range of products from our students. It is challenging to not compare, but all work has intrinsic value and all learners develop when engaged. To do this, we may need to elimiate some of the core tenets of education (Grades, Learning Outcomes, Standards). in lieu of this, we will need to have a well trained and dynamic cohort of educators ready for each day at work to be unique and never feel they have an established routine. This is part of the Finnish model Ken Robinson speaks of: educate teachers to high standards and let them prosper in a more open system.
Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1994). Constructivism: Principles, paradigms, and integration. The Journal of Special Education 28(3), 233-247. Retrieved from http://sed.sagepub.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/content/28/3/233.full.pdf+html
TedTalk, (2013). How to Escape Education’s Death Valley. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc
Woodul, E. III, Vitale, M. R., Scott, B.J. (2000). Using a Cooperative Multimedia Learning Environment to Enhance Learning and Affective Self-Perceptions of At-Risk Students in Grade 8. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems, 28(3), 239-252. Retrieved from http://ets.sagepub.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/content/28/3/239.full.pdf+html
Bolter’s analogy of us living in the “late age of print” (loc 213, 2001) being similar to the late age of capitalism stated by Jameson (1991) held true for me in more than one way. I am often abhorred to see how much waste our societies produce these days, and feel consumerism (a direct product of capitalism) is the culprit. An element that I have noticed more and more with students is that as we progress towards digital devices is that the relative value of paper has decreased. The combination of the paper based system and digital media has led to large amounts of waste and a decrease in care for organizing our older, paper based learning. In this transition time, we need perspective and perhaps even find a role for the outgoing technology. Continue reading
This article which was recently shared with me does an excellent job in summarizing a critical piece of understanding. The world of education is riddled with formula for better learning, and we often forget to recognize quite simply that humanity is pre-disposed to learning.
Learning is messy. Sometimes it progresses at a nice pace. Sometimes it explodes in a fountain of acquisition. Other times it rides long plateaus. It goes off on tangents, loses directions, realizes its mistakes and charts new courses. It gets bored. It opens up cans of worms and then tries to put the pieces back together again. Its a beautiful mess.
Schools need to embrace this mess. Why is it they we feel the need to chart specific learning benchmarks for specific ages? We all learn differently, at different paces, and with different strengths and challenges. This is a good thing. It helps us see things from other perspectives.
The more I’m in education the more artificial it seems to say that a student should know X,Y,Z at the age of 11 in order to move into the next grade. A student should be able to take courses that match their interests and their current location on their learning journey. If that means they are best suited for a course that is filled with 14 year-olds for literacy and a course that is filled with 10 year-olds for math, then so be it.
Check out this article about Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, USA. They fearlessly take this concept and put learning completely in the hands of their students with no pre-conceived notion of what it is any particular student needs to be learning at any given moment.
If you stop and consider a world where we adopted open source across all facets of life…. who know what could happen? I just read about new efficiencies in solar panels reached by Panasonic… that technology will remain with them (for them to profit off of) until made redundant by another. But what would happen if the tech behind it was open source? I have a feeling ideation would indeed accelerate to crazy levels. Sorry… I digress….
Economically, open source just makes sense, particularly in education. I just finished teaching a class in graphic design, wherein I used Inkscape. The choice was obvious: here was a powerful tool with great online tutorials, and I can download it ad nauseum on computers owned both by the school and my students. How much did it cost the school? Aside from some tech support for an hour to install it on the computer lab computers, nothing. The same goes for Libreoffice, and for the adventurous kids… Linux. As I live in a developing nation, computer users have three choices… go without food for a year and buy a macbook, pirate a copy of windows for the cheap laptops available, or install a completely legitinate and free copy of Linux (which more than likely comes in their own language).
Beyond software, you can see great horizons with open source hardware as well. I would like to work on an automated watering system which takes into account rainfall using a controller called an Arduino. I know next to nothing about them, but the kids get into them really quickly, and with some solid guiding questions you see them produce meaningful and impactful applications of technology. This is at the core a fundamental part of the Maker movement, an area where I believe educational technology will progress faster than any other in the coming years.
And politically… this statement from (Mackenzie 2011) said it best:
Open source is a process of promoting inclusive participation, individual freedom and public knowledge. It is against closed source that enshrines exclusive participation, economic profits and private knowledge.
When I look back to what makes a good educator, it is one who equips their students for the world of tomorrow. The three assets mentioned above sound like tomorrowspeak to me. Geez, it may be todayspeak… to reference recent (somewhat) news events as evidence: the Occupy Movement (inclusive participation), Gay Rights (individual freedom), and Edward Snowden (public knowledge).
We still have a ways to go… this LMS has a cute button above to do this: © and this: ™
but it takes a bit of legwork to get one of these at the bottom of your page:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This article resonated strongly with me, regarding the experience of a child brought up in a nomadic lifestyle. In the article, they describe the creative impetus that comes from this type of life, but also the adaptability and need to blend into cultures in which these students move. The article highlights how sub-cultures, such as skateboarders, are open to outsiders and welcome them in readily.
What if a school could partake in this role? With Place based education being one of my most loved concepts, how great would it be to combine the benefits that a transient lifestyle allows for with the deep roots that a culture can provide. As I see it, a balance needs to be struck in order to make this happen.
The school needs a resident population who has invested time and effort into creating a community which reflects the local place. Having exclusively locals, however, means that there is a missed opportunity to integrate the creative spirit and experience of the nomadic students. Therefore an ideal would be somewhere in the middle, a place where a healthy proportion of the student body identified with the place and culture, and the other group moves in and out of the system, carrying along with them their experience and creative perspective.
Green School, where I currently work, does have this mix, although I have learned much from my experience here. The local students are far outnumbered by foreigners, and rather than maintaining the culture at the forefront of the school it plays a more superficial role. However, I often get glimpses of the magic that occurs when students share their experiences and creative perspectives.
Creating a school that serves as a cultural nexus, a place where people go for culture, would be a great feat. It could also extend the scope of school as a place for young learners to a place that is inclusive of all learners.