The myth about social media in the classroom is that if you use it, kids will be Tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting while you’re trying to teach. We still have to focus on the task at hand. Don’t mistake social media for socializing. They’re different — just as kids talking as they work in groups or talking while hanging out are different.
You don’t even have to bring the most popular social media sites into your classroom. You can use Fakebook or FakeTweet as students work on this form of conversation. Edublogs, Kidblog, Edmodo, and more will let you use social media competencies and writing techniques. Some teachers are even doing “tweets” on post-it notes as exit tickets. You can use mainstream social media, too.
—When students finally reach high school, especially if they live in poor neighborhoods, they may find just a smattering of honors or A.P. classes, nothing like the ample course offerings of well-resourced suburban districts and elite private schools. Although some public high schools focus exclusively on high-ability, highly motivated students, when Jessica Hockett and I searched for them in connection with a Hoover-Fordham study that led to our book, Exam Schools, we found just 165 that met our criteria within a public-school universe of more than 20,000 high schools. These specialized institutions educate about 1 percent of students. Nineteen states have none. Only three big cities have more than five such schools (Los Angeles has zero). Almost all of these schools have far more qualified applicants than they can accommodate. Hence they practice selective admissions, turning away thousands of students who could benefit from what they have to offer. Northern Virginia’s acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, for example, gets some 3,300 applicants a year — two-thirds of them academically qualified—for 480 places.
Dear Education Tech Start Up Company Dude at SXSWEDU
It sure was good to see you there in Austin.
You are so young, you are so hip, you are full of ideas, so gosh darn cool. Damn, you sure made me feel old and out of touch.
So why the hell were you there anyway?
On the surface, you attended an education conference because, heck, everyone loves education. It’s for the kids for goodness sakes. We all want to help the kids. We want to make education better don’t we? Make teaching easier, make learning more engaging and fun and meaningful? Who doesn’t want that?
But something was missing in all of your presentations about your data-aggregating-high-security-personalized -learning-platforms-like-no one else has software/hardware that will revolutionize the future of education.
You missed talking about something:
You missed talking about kids.
You know, the reason we actually have public education?
You talked about “data points” and you talked about “personalization” as if students were widgets or chicken nuggets that you can add honey mustard or BBQ sauce to. Tangy soy sauce? Congrats, you are now “personalized.”
It was painfully obvious that you do not understand education or the issues that educators are facing.
It was painfully obvious when you told Diane Ravitch during her Q&A session that you taught for two years in TFA and now have a startup in the Bay Area and that teaching was “a great experience.”
It was painfully obvious when you spoke during your panel discussion on how important educators were yet did not have a single educator on your panel.
It was painfully obvious when you said “You work with OVER 500 teachers” in much the same tone of voice a rancher describes the number of cattle he tends to on his ranch. Round ‘em up cowgirl!
It was painfully obvious when you spoke for over an hour on the education troubles and not once mentioned students or teachers.
It was obvious when you got to the microphone in the Q&A portion of the presentation and the first words out of your mouth were to advertise your company. “Hello, I am Mike Bloog, and I have a company called Bloogmu, the leading startup company to aggregate student data and correlate it to moon phase, body types and menstrual cycles and student achievement. And I was wondering…”
It was obvious when you said that you had “consulted with teachers” before making your product. We all know that that is code for you spoke to your girlfriend, or your mother, or your sister about your earth shattering, paradigm shifting product. Of course they said it was great. What did you expect them to say?
All of us real educators that have been around the block a few times easily picked up on why you were really there. It wasn’t kids. It wasn’t teachers. It sure wasn’t education.
You were here to try to sell your product or maybe your company or get funding, or in some way make a ton of cash. Maybe the vice-president of acquisitions for Pearson would walk by and notice your free swag (hey, nice bottle opener you get there boy..tell me about Bloogmu) pick it up, you give your elevator speech, and presto, you get a check for a billion bucks like in some Mark Zuckerberg wet dream come true.
Or maybe you were there to connect with others like yourself, also hungry to make a ton of cash and be able to retire to Key West by the time they turn 38.
Maybe you had dreams of being the Wolf of Palo Alto, dripping with cash, yachts, gorgeous women, and all the things that come with making tons of money, Lindsey Lohan-like, real early in life and never having to think about it again.
Whatever the reason it was pretty obvious that the purpose of this education conference was not education.
What you were not there for was the kids.
What you were not there for was the teachers.
What you were not there for was the administrators.
So maybe next year, when you show up to network and try selling version 2.0 of whatever you were pitching, why not do this before time?
Maybe you should adjust your thinking just a little bit and instead of thinking about how much cash you can squeeze out of education, maybe you could think a little bit about education and how you can REALLY help.
Think about how what you’re doing actually makes the education for kids better.
Think about how what you’re making actually makes teaching more engaging.
Think about vetting your product with a lot of teachers and students in real situations, not computer simulations.
Maybe you can use your big programming brain to help solve the problem of low income kids being way behind their rich peers.
Maybe you can use that big bag of creativity to help us get digital equipment to all kids fairly distributed across the country.
Maybe you could help parents in the ghetto be able to get their kids a little more academic help because they have to work two or three jobs to keep food on the table.
Maybe you could entrepreneur your way to helping dropout drop back in.
Maybe you could do something like that, because we have a lot of problems that really need your big brains to help.
When you think about the advance of technology in society in the last decade, the progress has been phenomenal – just take a look at these examples to see how far we have come in such a short space of time. Now, think about education. Think about the technology in your school ten years ago – perhaps a computer suite with an unreliable bank of PC’s; CD-ROMs; discs; slow, irrelevant programs; staff scared of using IT; and so on.
OK, we concede, there are some schools where this is still the picture, but the future of Educational Technologies are a lot brighter, and here is why we think that the next ten years of tech will be staggering. Belt up, and prepare for the voyage…
The meta-analysis of 50 study effects, 43 of which were drawn from research with older learners, found that students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction. Learning outcomes for students who engaged in online learning exceeded those of students receiving face-to- face instruction, with an average effect size of +0.20 favoring online conditions.3 The mean difference between online and face-to-face conditions across the 50 contrasts is statistically significant at the p
Microsoft’s Office is the go-to software package for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Google’s Docs has emerged as a good, free alternative for lightweight tasks. But what’s …
Often overlooked, the iWork suite works on all devices.
By now, almost everyone has heard of the idea of the flipped classroom. This is a trend (Fad? Too early to tell.) that has met with a lot of positive press and a lot of teachers dipping their toes into the idea of posting the major content of their classes online and moving the practice, usually reserved for homework, to the actual class time. (Heck, just do a quick search for “Flipped Classroom” and see how many hits come back!)
Wikipedia talks about flipped teaching in these terms:
In flip teaching, the students first study the topic by themselves, typically using video lessons prepared by the teacher or third parties.
In class, students apply the knowledge by solving problems and doing practical work. The teacher tutors the students when they become stuck, rather than imparting the initial lesson in person. Complementary techniques include differentiated instruction and project-based learning.
Flipped classrooms free class time for hands-on work. Students learn by doing and asking questions. Students can also help each other, a process that benefits both the advanced and less advanced learners.
Flipping also changes the allocation of teacher time. Traditionally, the teacher engages with the students who ask questions — but those who don’t ask tend to need the most attention. “We refer to ‘silent failers,’ ” said one teacher, claiming that flipping allows her to target those who need the most help rather than the most confident. Flipping changes teachers from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”, allowing them to work with individuals or groups of students throughout the session.
(To be clear, flipped learning is STILL assigning homework. It is just that the homework assignment has changed from the practice to the theory. So if you are a teacher that has issues with homework, flipping may be a better way to get students to do homework, or if you are opposed to homework in general, then flipping may not be for you.)
Flipping is also not merely having kids sit at home and watch videos. It involves the careful planning of the proper content delivered at the proper time in the lesson cycle.
Books have been written on flipping the classroom, such as
The IDEA of a flipped classroom is intriguing and promises to save time and expand the amount of time students are actually DOING as opposed to the time that they are simply getting.
That is the promise. However, as with many educational initiatives, the idea can differ greatly from the actual implimentation and practice.
After taking a course in flipping their classrooms, many teachers are excited about doing it in their classes.
However, once the reality of what actually is needed to flip the lesson sets in, the excitement fades.
In order to flip the classroom, the teacher must provide the students with the resources that replace the lecture and they have to be posted online. Unless they already have these handy, the search can be a great time consumer. No teacher wants to put unvetted material online in their flipped classroom, and finding appropriate material from a trusted source, creating videos of lessons , creating screen casts or narrating power points can all be great time consumers.
So unless you are a teacher that is a podcasting/screen-casting/lecture capturing geek, chances are that flipping will be pretty time consuming, at least at first.
And in my experience, the more time something takes to do, the less chance that people will actually do it. Motivated teachers will do it. Teachers that see it as a time consumer will balk.
So how can a district help teachers out with flipping their classrooms, while at the same time allowing for the personalization that teachers need to make it appear that they are responsible for the content?
The 80/20 Model of Flipped Classrooms
After thinking about the idea for a while, it occurred to me that MOST of the material for a flipped classroom in a district would probably be pretty redundant across specific classes. For instance, a chemistry teacher teacher with a Chem 1 class at one school or in one department is pretty much teaching the same concepts that a Chem 1 teacher in the same district or the same school is teaching.
For instance, the periodic table and how it is organized does not change from class to class. That is basically unchanging information and can be shared across all classes with all teachers.
Since the concepts are similar, then there should be a good starting point to gather a storehouse of flipped classroom material. Video, audio, tests, text readings, all can be gathered into a single space for all teachers of a similar course of study to pull from.
By providing the materials for the teachers upfront, the heavy lifting so to speak, is already done.
Like an iceberg, the majority of the material is already there, unseen, but ready for use.
The remaining 20% of the flip is the teacher’s own material. (If they wanted, a teacher could use 100%)
The district provides material that is aligned, that is vetted, and ready for use, saving the teachers tons of time. This can be as simply as creating a Google spreadsheet that lists the resource, the lesson aligned to it, the type of resource it is, and some description of it.
By providing materials for the flip, teachers will be more likely to try it, and less likely to blame time as an issue for not trying it.
• “10 Reasons to Flip” by Kathleen P. Fulton, Phi Delta Kappan, October 2012
• Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. ISTE/ASCD, Eugene, Ore.
“Flipped Learning: What Does the Research Say? A Literature Review,” commissioned by the Flipped Learning Network
• “It’s Never Too Late to Flip” by Pat Semple, Internet @ Schools, January/February 2013. http://bit.ly/NeverToo
• Flipped Learning: What It Means for District Administrators and How Administrators Can Support Flipped Learning (webinar and tip sheet by Jonathan Bergmann and Brian Bennett, board members of the Flipped Learning Network). www.schoolwires.com/Page/232
"The basic currency of higher education — the credit hour — represents the root of many problems plaguing America’s higher education system: the practice of measuring time rather than learning.
Cracking the Credit Hour traces the history of the credit hour, which was created by Andrew Carnegie at the turn of the 20th century. A credit hour typically represents one hour of faculty-student contact time per week over a fifteen-week semester. Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 credit hours.
As the report notes, the credit hour “was never intended to be a measure of, or proxy for student learning.” Over time, however, the credit hour has taken on enormous importance in everything from setting faculty workloads to determining state and federal funding and an institution’s eligibility for federal student aid.
Even though the federal government has tried to indicate a willingness to move away from the credit hour, “many in the industry still believe that their safest bet, if they want to keep access to federal financial aid, is to do what they have always done: use time to determine credits.”
The report recommends a variety of policy solutions that could help move the U.S. from a time-based higher education system to one based on learning. “If the U.S. is to reclaim its position as the most- educated nation in the world, federal policy needs to shift from paying for and valuing time to paying for and valuing learning,” the report concludes. “In an era when college degrees are simultaneously becoming more important and more expensive, students and taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for time and little or no evidence of learning.” —Education Sector
Download this free ebook by clicking on the title above.
Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, a new ebook from the Digital Media and Learning Hub, is produced and edited by a group of National Writing Project educators and takes examples of practice that teachers have shared online—here at the NWP Digital Is website—and curates them into a larger collection. This collection, unique in its focus on in-school work, explores the principles of Connected Learning woven throughout classroom work and practices.
You can download the PDF now for free. This report will soon be available as an eBook as well.
Edited by Antero Garcia along with Danielle Filipiak, Antero Garcia, Bud Hunt, Clifford Lee, Nicole Mirra, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen. Foreword and Afterword by Kylie Peppler and Christina Cantrill. Special thanks to the National Writing Project and their Digital Is community whose work is included:
CHAPTER ONE: INTEREST DRIVEN LEARNING
Nicole Mirra, University of California, Los Angeles
Interest-Driven Composition: Using Social Media in a Writing Workshop Christopher Working, Red Cedar Writing Project
Link to Digital Is Resource: Social Media as a Tool for Peer Collaboration with Elementary Students: A Teacher Inquiry Project
The Word and The World: Connecting Writing to Lives of Students
Meenoo Rami, Philadelphia Writing Project
Link to the Digital Is Resource: Media Literacy via study of Advertisements
CHAPTER TWO: PEER-SUPPORTED LEARNING
Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, Colorado State University
Lights, Camera, Social Action! Katie McKay, Heart of Texas Writing Project
Link to Digital Is Resource: Lights, Camera, Social Action!
Wanna See the Movie? Lacy Manship, UNC Charlotte Writing Project
Link to Digital Is Resource: Wanna See The Movie?
Two Future Teachers’ Views on Peer-Supported Learning Chelsea Geier and David Neisler, Colorado State University
Link to Digital Is Resource: Teaching Reading: A Semester of Inquiry
CHAPTER THREE: ACADEMICALLY ORIENTED TEACHING
Antero Garcia, Colorado State University
Academically Oriented Teaching: How do I teach what I do not know? Janelle Bence, North Star of Texas Writing Project
Link to Digital Is Resource: How do I teach what I do not know?
How do I teach what I do not know?
Bringing “Traditional” Essay Writing into the Digital World Larissa Pahomov, Science Leadership Academy
Link to Digital Is Resource: Bringing “Traditional” Essay Writing into the Digital World
Writing with Pictures: Comics and Connected Learning Nick Kremer, Columbia Public Schools, University of Missouri - Columbia
Link to Digital Is Resource: Writing With Pictures: Creating Comics in the Classroom
CHAPTER FOUR: PRODUCTION-CENTERED CLASSROOMS
Clifford Lee, St. Mary’s College of California
Interactive Fiction Game Design: Text-based Video Games Jason Sellers, Bay Area Writing Project
Link to Digital Is Resource: Interactive Fiction Game Design
Interactive ‘Zine: Bridging Maker spaces, English Language Arts, Computer Programming, and Visual Arts Christian McKay, Indiana University
Link to Digital Is Resource: Digitally Interfaced Book: Paper, Graphite, Makey Makey, Scratch, and Imagination
Using Media to (Re) Claim The Hood: Essential Questions & Powerful English Pedagogy Danielle Filipiak, Teachers College
Link to Digital Is Resource: Using Media to (Re) Claim The Hood: Essential Questions & Powerful English Pedagogy
CHAPTER FIVE: OPENLY NETWORKED
Bud Hunt, St. Vrain Valley School District
Supporting “Change Writers” through a Connected Learning Lens Gail Desler, Elk Grove Unified School District
Link to Digital Is Resource: On Becoming Change Writers
Learning Alongside: Openly Networked Storytelling with Social Justice in Mind Adam Mackie and Jenny Putnam St. Romain, Colorado State University
Link to Digital Is Resource: Learning Alongside: Embracing Digital Storytelling with Social Justice in Mind
Openly Networked Learning In and Across Art Museums Mike Murawski, Portland Art Museum
Link to Digital Is Resource: Blogs by Mike Murawski
CHAPTER SIX: SHARED PURPOSE:
Danielle Filipiak, Teachers College
Shared Purpose Leads to Civic Action Jennifer Woollven, Central Texas Writing Project
Digital Is Resource link: Shared Purpose Leads to Civic Action
A Fourth Grade Service Learning Project Robert Rivera-Amezola, University of Pennsylvania
Digital Is Resource link: A Fourth Grade Service Learning Project
Hip Hop Literacy X Entertainment Justice = Young Digital Economies Bryce Anderson-Small, The HERU Organization
Digital Is Resource link: HERU: Hip Hop Literacy X Entertainment Justice = Young Digital Economies
Is School Enough? introduces parents, educators, and everyone passionate about learning to:
• Students in Maine who work with veterinary experts and digital apps to prepare a new home for a retired circus elephant.
• Young people worldwide who use the online Harry Potter Alliance to launch meaningful social justice initiatives.
• A curious and creative teen who crafts her own educational experience based on her passion for natural healing and yoga.
• A young man in Oakland who produces state-of-the-art music videos to engage his community—and himself.
Through the voices of these inspired students and America’s foremost education thought leaders, Is School Enough? provides insight into an essential new understanding of what education can be in the 21st century. Is School Enough? is the second in a series of programs about kids, digital media and education. The first program, Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century explores students claiming digital media as a means of connecting, communicating, creating, and learning, while interpreting its importance and providing a window into 21st-century education.
Announced way back in 2013, it looks like Pearson has finally released TESTNAV, the ubiquitous testing software used by schools all over the place for online testing, in an iOS version. This is good news for schools with tons of iPads.
For some reason, this went way under my radar.
The very small description on the iTunes store says: “TestNav is Pearson’s online test delivery platform. It enables test items to be delivered online securely and reliably in a consistent manner. The TestNav for iOS app allows TestNav to run on iOS devices.”
I have been seeing this trend lately that seems to tell our students that failure seems to be kind of ok.
You probably have seen it too.
There are memes out there on the web that say things like this:
FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.
There is a lot of this going around. FAIL.
If you watch this Keynote speaker, you can even hear him speak about it right around the 32 minute mark.
This is usually followed by the some quote by someone famous that said that they had to fail to succeed, like Edison said he didn’t have 10,000 lightbulb failures, he had 10,000 examples of how not to do it the next time.(if at first you don’t succeed, try try again and all that…)
And while I get the gist of the idea, that out our students need to be secure with the idea that they do not have to be 100% correct all of the time, and that they have to be able to be in an environment where it is okay to fail, I wonder if we are actually sending a wrong message to them? What are we telling them after they fail?
Is the second attempt in learning SAIL? The third is TAIL? Then the fourth and fifth are back to FAIL again?
I wonder if some kids will misinterpret the “It is okay to fail as long as you learn something valuable” message with “It is okay to fail.”
There is a difference. And I also think we need to make sure that if we say that, we mean it.
For instance, would we say that FAIL: First Attempt in Learning applies to high stakes testing?
It is okay to fail your state’s mandated test kid, as long as you learned something along the way.
Of course not.
So there seems to be boundaries where FAIL is acceptable and FAIL is not acceptable.
Are our students understanding that difference? How are we explaining that to them?
If kids see the message do they interpret it as “It is okay to fail?”
With Edison, as with all of the others that talk about having to fail first then succeed, there seems to be the idea that while they did indeed fail, there was failure with a purpose.
Edison failed 10,000 times, but he did it with the end in mind: he was making an electrical lightbulb. The goal was established already.
Do our students understand what the GOAL is from the outset? If not, the failures become meaningless.
That meme needs to have a follow up. It needs to be made clear to students that while some level of exploring while you learn is acceptable, at some point they must master the learning.
Failing with a purpose is different than just failing.
What’s a Web Journal? You might say it’s a hybrid scrapbook, photo album, and slideshow. The scrapbook element is derived from the arrangement of photos and the mixture of non-photo widgets you can integrate into the presentation. Elements like notes, maps, symbols, and weather modules can satisfy the urge for a simple storytelling narrative—one that might even contain some documentary flair—without getting obsessive.
Can you teach creativity?
There are some that say no, but at least you can do creative things with your students.
Great creativity tool or a party tool!
Use this to start a meeting!
Great ice breaker!
Try it. But beware: This draws randomly from Flickr, so you don’t know exactly what the content is… Best to use with adults.
Can you improv a coherent presentation from images you have never seen?
Enter a tag, and see how well you can communicate sense of 20 random flickr photos, each one on screen for 20 seconds. Advanced options offer different settings.
From the site:
SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers. Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence.
One useful purpose for such a program is to auto-generate submissions to conferences that you suspect might have very low submission standards. A prime example, which you may recognize from spam in your inbox, is SCI/IIIS and its dozens of co-located conferences (check out the very broad conference description on the WMSCI 2005 website). There’s also a list of known bogus conferences. Using SCIgen to generate submissions for conferences like this gives us pleasure to no end. In fact, one of our papers was accepted to SCI 2005! See Examples for more details.
We went to WMSCI 2005. Check out the talks and video. You can find more details in our blog.
Graphic designer James Harris has taken the periodic table of the elements, which catalogs the basic building blocks necessary for all life in the universe, and done something useful with it. Harris’ Periodic Table Of Storytelling takes several of the film, television, and video game clichés assembled so thoroughly by the website TV Tropes, assigns them the equivalent of an atomic name and number, and gathers them together in a big, beautiful parody of the periodic table.
Each of the tropes on the chart is linked to the corresponding TV Tropes page—clicking the element Dx, for example, takes users to the page explaining deus ex machina, while clicking on Mcg brings up the page on the MacGuffin. The table also provides the chemical compounds for a select few shows and movies—Firefly, for example, is made up of one atom of Sbn (Screwed by the network) combined with a molecule consisting of Lrg (Lovable Rogue), Rcy (Recycled IN SPACE), and Mal (Rebellious Spirit). It’s an ambitious project that makes frittering away time on TV Tropes easier than ever, and is sure to please lovers of chemistry and pop culture alike.
The process of educating teachers, including improving their pedagogy and the use of tech tools.
Teacher professional development tools don’t fit neatly into well-defined buckets like those for digital curriculum. There’s no scope and sequence for progressing through the teaching practice. There are a host of views on what “PD” means. And views on how teachers “plug into” professional development vary widely. What’s clear: any thoughtful definition of professional development demands careful consideration of the classroom, school, and district context.
Educational Malpractice: Time to Call out the Fake Science Teachers
Recently, I have, stupidly, gotten into several online discussions with people about topics that we should not even be having discussions about. These are all hot button topics like global climate change, but the one that stands out in my mind is a recent exchange where I posted this picture:
I know that this would be provocative, and that is probably why I posted it. Statements like these make people think about their positions. On top of that, if they choose to respond, I like to tweak them to explain themselves. MOST people cannot explain why they feel some way about something. MOST people end up calling me names or saying that I am unreasonable, or a hater. Oh well.
I added this phrase to the picture: “I have had science teachers that have said this in class. I often wondered how exactly they could teach science.” I said this because of several ideas:
The concept of evolution, that things change over time and that in biology, living things have common ancestors, is one of the central grand ideas of science. Things change over time. Biological entities change over time and have ribbons of commonality going back to the rise of life is not debatable. Given enough time, living things change radically, slowly yes, but radically over the span of history . If you understand that concept about change over time, then you understand everything from how astronomy to biology works. If you teach science and do not understand change over time, then you simply are misunderstanding science.
You can SAY you are a good science teacher, but you are not.
Change over time causes galaxies to form, mountain to rise and fall, suns to form and explode, and living things to evolve. It is that simple. You can agree, you can disagree, but if you think to yourself that it does not happen then you are NOT a science teacher. Sorry.
Change over time and the interconnectedness of living things pretty much explains why EVERY LIVING THING ON THIS PLANET has DNA. You cannot scientifically explain it any other way based on our current understanding of science.
It is time to call science teachers out that don’t believe in what they are teaching.
Because if one does not understand a CENTRAL idea of science, then how can one say they understand science?
That is like a math teacher saying they are a great math teacher and not understanding multiplication, or an English teacher saying they they are great English teachers but not understanding verbs, or nouns. It simply is not possible.
Almost without exception, when pressed, these “science teachers” will say something like well, their belief is in the Christian Bible. Consider this which was posted as a response after a teacher explained to me that she was a “Good Science Teacher:
"…Well, that’s [what a theory is] not entirely true. There are even things in our science curriculum that state certain things are "theory"… but let me just say this. I have a firm testimony of the divinity of a Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ who created this Earth and all the inhabitants thereon, in Their own image. We did not evolve from apes.”
Faith trumps science.
Typically, these sometimes well meaning (we need to teach the truth as we see it, not as it really is) but totally misinformed “science teachers” have a fundamental misunderstanding of the term “Theory” as used in science. (Again, this is big red flag that if you do not understand what a scientific theory is as opposed to a “Theory” in the common use phraseology, then you are not a science teacher. )
I think she is a well meaning teacher. I don’t think she can be a good science teacher.
How can anyone say that they teach science well and NOT understand what a Scientific Theory is? There are lots of SCIENTIFIC THEORIES:
Theory of Relativity and on and on…
I try to point out that a scientific theory is not the same as a non-science theory, but these “Science Teachers” simply do not or refuse to understand:
When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena.
Any scientific theory must be based on a careful and rational examination of the facts. In the scientific method, there is a clear distinction between facts, which can be observed and/or measured, and theories, which are scientists’ explanations and interpretations of the facts. Scientists can have various interpretations of the outcomes of experiments and observations, but the facts, which are the cornerstone of the scientific method, do not change. (source found with a simple Google search)
However, because most of the people understand THEORY in the non scientific arena, they simply cannot make the mental leap to the THEORY of science. If you want to understand the term Scientific Theory, you go to scientists or scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science whose definition of scientific theory is:
"A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact."
This teacher says that because something is not “in the Bible, she can’t believe it. Can you really teach and understand a topic if you fundamentally disagree with it?
To me at least, that is a form of educational malpractice. If one did not like Muslims, would one leave the Middle East (except Isreal of course) out of geography?) If one didn’t like Satan, would one not teach Dante’s Inferno? If a teacher didn’t like Barack Obama would they simply ignore his presidency?
Can you leave your faith at the door when you teach? In science, one has to.
The bible is full of bad science. Just recently, it was shown that a passage in the Bible about domesticated camels could not have been accurate because camels were not domesticated until thousands of years after the event in the bible was said to have taken place. The Bible says the earth is flat (several passages refer to the “four corners of the earth), that insects have 4 legs, that bats are birds, that the value of pi is 3 and that the earth had a roof over it. (Let’s face facts here: A book written thousands of years ago by illiterate sheepherders should not be used as a science textbook, or as a basis for scientific inquiry. )
Because of the understanding of evolution we have been able to fight disease, have better agriculture, eliminated polio, have better biofuels, been able to improve crime fighting, even been able to find your descendants with just a swab of your DNA.
Evolutionary SCIENTIFIC THEORY has been used to change the ideas of how businesses work, how technology changes and even to address how politics and societies change. To deny students exposure to that idea, that leads to so many other ideas, is again, educational malpractice in my opinion.
Imagine if every single one of the teachers of the inventors of those life saving improvements like antibiotics, or the polio vaccine, or stem cell breakthroughs thought that evolution and change over time were not “true?” (I actually remember a teacher of mine in high school telling the class that he didn’t believe a thing he was teaching but that he had to teach it anyway. He was teaching biology. When he said that, he lost every shred of credibility he had with me. His lack of faith in his topic was one reason I became a teacher. I remember rethinking to myself at the time that I could do a better job that that…)
Then we would simply not have these because some teacher thought they understood science better than scientists. Lives have been saved because of evolutionary SCIENTIFIC THEORY.
We are also seeing that attitude of “I don’t believe it therefore it does not exist” more and more today with ideas such as climate change. People with a religious or political agenda are dismissing the idea of climate change because it is cold where they live, or because they found a single scientist somewhere that disagreed with the vast majority of other scientists or because they saw a show on TV.
Sadly, these same people will complain when international test scores show our students falling behind in scientific thinking and reasoning skills. They will complain when we are told that our students cannot reason effectively, and then stand in awe as countries such as Korea and China move ahead both industrially and in creativity.
We need to start calling out these “science teachers” because frankly, they are not science teachers. They are preachers. And if they don’t teach something because they “don’t believe in it” then they are hurting our children and the future of the nation.
These EXACT SAME people that know little science or base their science knowledge in a 3000 year old Bedouin text rewritten hundreds or thousands of times (dare I say that the text has EVOLVED over time?) should not be teaching our children science. They should be in Sunday school, teaching there, because that is where their heart is, that is where their passion is , and that is where their basis for living is.
Leave science teaching to people that know and understand science.
Leave Sunday school for Sundays.
Online document editors such as Google Docs, and Zoho Docs, have long-promised a browser-based alternative that will finally let you eradicate Microsoft..
Enter TeamLab Personal, a free version of TeamLab’s cloud-based Office suite. Built using HTML5′s Canvas element (for those who are Web-standards au fait), it claims to combine the best of Google’s online collaboration features with Microsoft Word’s high quality formatting. And if the slightly self-serving demo video below is anything to go by, may well send Microsoft Office 365′s online versions back to the drawing board.
The free Personal edition of TeamLab combines text, spreadsheet and presentation editors, essentially mirroring much of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint’s features, with additional online co-editing and commenting capabilities. Talking up its use of HTML5 Canvas technology, no mean feat, TeamLab says its been able to offer functionality unavailable in other online word-processors.
One instructor’s experiment of teaching without a desktop or laptop — and, only with an iPad.
I teach Art Appreciation and Art History at a local community college. For each session, content is presented on Keynote slides (typically consisting of 25 – 75 slides). Creating the presentations takes anywhere from three to fifty hours — most of that spent on the iPad. Naturally, the preparation involves a lot of time on the Internet for research, image selection, and administrative tasks.
eduClipper has become my unsung hero of digital portfolio tools, and with the latest app updates it deserves a place on the podium! For those of you who love the look and feel of Pinterest, Adam Bellow’s EduClipper provides a similar style of clipping content to an EduClipBoard or a Portfolio. There’s a great teacher-to-teacher social aspect of sharing and connecting through clipped content, as well as practical and sensible use in the classroom.
EduClipper for Teachers
Web or app based, teachers can easily create a class and upload student accounts or students can join using a class code. Teachers can create assignment boards which students then clip to, adding their content via web, Google Drive, or an upload. For specific assignments, teachers can clip content to the board, like related readings, relevant websites, or uploaded documents. The assignment boards are also fully teacher moderated for visibility as well as feedback. Video, audio and text are embedded feedback options for assignments.
The iPad app also allows feedback for video, audio and text, as well as assigning a letter grade and awarding badges. The badge feature is great for younger students, with a variety of badge icons and editable badge titles. It’s nice to see the variety of embedded feedback features where teachers can record themselves providing critical feedback for students, beyond just the text capacity.
What human skills will become more valuable as computers take over more and more duties?
As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology point out in their book “The Second Machine Age,” computers are increasingly going to be able to perform important parts of even mostly cognitive jobs, like picking stocks, diagnosing diseases and granting parole.
As this happens, certain mental skills will become less valuable because computers will take over. Having a great memory will probably be less valuable. Being able to be a straight-A student will be less valuable — gathering masses of information and regurgitating it back on tests. So will being able to do any mental activity that involves following a set of rules.
Interview: Julie Dirksen Author of "Design for How People Learn"
About the book:
Products, technologies, and workplaces change so quickly today that everyone is continually learning. Many of us are also teaching, even when it’s not in our job descriptions. Whether it’s giving a presentation, writing documentation, or creating a website or blog, we need and want to share our knowledge with other people. But if you’ve ever fallen asleep over a boring textbook, or fast-forwarded through a tedious e-learning exercise, you know that creating a great learning experience is harder than it seems.
In Design For How People Learn, you’ll discover how to use the key principles behind learning, memory, and attention to create materials that enable your audience to both gain and retain the knowledge and skills you’re sharing. Using accessible visual metaphors and concrete methods and examples, Design For How People Learn will teach you how to leverage the fundamental concepts of instructional design both to improve your own learning and to engage your audience.
About Julie Dirksen:
Julie Dirksen is an independent consultant and instructional designer with more than 15 years experience creating highly interactive e-Learning experiences for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, to innovative technology startups, to major grant-funded research initiatives.
Ms. Dirksen holds an M.S. degree in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Visualization Department at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she has designed and taught courses in Project Management, Instructional Design and Cognitive Psychology.
Thank you for taking time to talk about your book “Design for How People Learn.”
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been working in learning and development for about 20 years, mostly in adult/corporate settings, but also higher education. Most of my work has been in elearning, but I consider myself firstly an instructional designer with a focus on performance support, regardless of the end medium. I also have a pretty extensive background in User Experience (UX), though it was called HCI (Human Computer Interaction) when I first started in that area.
Mostly, though, I’m a big learning geek – I find the process and act of learning endlessly fascinating. I always want to understand how people learn and decide and behave.
Can you give us a 10,000 ft view of the book?
A number of people come into teaching or designing via subject matter expertise. I describe this as a the “Hey, you’re a good customer service rep / web designer / gardener / philosophy student, so we are going to have you teach other customer service reps / web designers / gardeners / philosophy students.” Those people, while really sophisticated in their area, frequently know almost nothing about how to actually create a good learning experience.
So they often think back to their own educational experiences, and recreate those as best they can. This can lead to educational cargo cults, unfortunately, where people make things look “education-y” (“Classroom, check. Powerpoint slides, check. Lecture notes, check”) without much understanding of what makes for a really good learning experience.
It’s not because they aren’t sincerely trying to do well, but while there are a lot of books on how to teach, many of them tend to be focused on either the mechanics of teaching (e.g. how to write a lesson plan) or are for a more academic audience. Design For How People Learn is intended to be the accessible first book anybody might read, to not only help them think about how but also the why of learning design.
It’s not really intended for experienced instructional designers, though I’ve been hearing from many of them that they are finding the material from the book useful in helping them explain certain issues to their subject matter experts and stakeholders.
Your book looks at instructional design as is was, as it is, and how it should be. What are we doing wrong when it comes to instructional design? Why do we keep making these same design mistakes?
Honestly, I think the biggest issue with instructional design is the absent feedback loop. I’ve been working on this a lot lately, actually.
There’s the idea that mastery at something takes many hours of deliberate practice. People have floated out the number as 10,000 hours, but really the exact number depends on multiple variables.
The problem is that one of the critical elements of deliberate practice is a good feedback. This can take the form of expert coaching, or of seeing the outcomes of your choices, and adjusting accordingly.
Most people in instructional design just don’t get enough feedback about their design choices. Most feedback comes in the form of preference surveys or multiple choice tests. This is like watching your users by peering through a drinking straw – it’s just not enough data. If you design an instructor-led class and then deliver it yourself, you at least find out what does and doesn’t work in terms of the class experience – where the instructions clear, or did the activity go well? – that kind of thing. That’s better than most elearning people get, but in both cases it doesn’t really tell you about the efficacy of that solution at actually changing the behavior.
So if instructional designers can’t see if their designs are effective, then realistically, they probably won’t be able to improve much. I know some people who have been learning designers for a decade, and I don’t know that they are much better than when they started. They are better and faster at the process, but the product and outcomes aren’t really different.
Agile/Scrum project management developed in response to the impossibility of creating massive project structures given the variability of software projects. Instead of figuring out everything up front, Agile/Scrum projects out a much smaller time period and sprints towards that. I think we need something similar for learning evaluation. Often we are defeated by the sheer magnitude of evaluating real behavior change in an entire population. I think if we figured out small minimal effort ways to get feedback into our design process, that would change everything.
There are a number of other issues I see with instructional design as a field, but to my mind they all stem from this. If we can see outcomes and adjust accordingly, then most other things would also improve.
You study effective and ineffective instructional designs. What do you find that the effective ones have in common, and what do the ineffective ones have in common?
Hmm, there’s another whole book in this topic, but one big issue is not matching effective interventions to specific conditions.
What I mean by this is that most learning designs are about information delivery. That’s fine if the problem is an information deficit (e.g. salespeople don’t know how the new product is different from the previous one), but mostly, the learning challenges I see are more complicated, involved skills, attitudes and habits.
If you are helping someone build a skill, for example, practice is going to be essential. I sometimes talk about the sports-and-things-that-can-kill-you conundrum. In sports and music and life-endangering areas (medicine, airline piloting, driving) we understand that practice is necessary. Nobody thinks you could show a complete novice a powerpoint on how to play golf and that person would then be able to go play 18 holes. Of course not. But we do that kind of thing to new managers all the time. Management isn’t less complex than golf, it’s just less visible when it goes wrong.
We know that you can’t just transfer an expert mental model to a novice. They need to interact with and practice and solve problems, and gradually develop their skills over time. We also know that spacing learning out over time is one of the best ways to improve memory retention, but I still see knowledge dumps all the time.
In order to get people to change the way they design instruction in schools, you have to begin somewhere. So where do we begin? With publishers? Academics? School districts? Teachers?
I don’t work with K12 audiences, generally, so I don’t really have the expertise to comment there. From what I’ve been able to see, the rigidity of standardized testing is doing a lot of damage, and putting an unfair burden on teachers.
In the higher ed space, we really wrestled with the issue of content knowledge vs skill development. Is it more important to teach somebody specific math procedures, or to bolster their overall problem-solving skills? And if we do decide the latter is more important, how do we actually do that in some structured way?
I think there are educators doing interesting things in this area. Dan Meyer is a math blogger who I think is incredibly smart about developing cross-domain problem solving skills. Daniel Schwarz and ??? Arena are doing some fascinating things with choice-based assessment that looks not only at what students choose, but also how they got there.
Often, students might encounter innovative instructional design in elementary, less in secondary, and finally, they end up in post secondary where the lecture/note taking method is still the de facto brand of teaching and learning. How do we get post secondary schools to change? How do we get professors away from the lectern?
Well, let’s get the incentive issue out of the way first – professors are often not incented to improve their teaching, and indeed are even punished for over-focusing on teaching at the expense of research.
Aside from that, though, college instructors are very much an example of where they come into teaching via their specific subject matter.
There’s a behavior scientist named Dan Lockton in the UK whose stuff I love. He wrote an article a while ago about helping people use more sustainable behaviors, and there’s a line in it that I think is great. Basically he said “don’t treat people as the problem, treat their problems as the problem.” For example, if people aren’t recycling, don’t treat them as irresponsible or anti-environmental. Don’t tell them to try harder. Instead, make recycling easier. Move the recycling bins closer, or get more of them. Whatever makes it work better.
If professors are failing, then how can we help solve their problems? Do they need more background, or more support, or better frameworks? More coaching? Better job balance so they have time to work on their teaching?
Can you talk a little bit about the emotional side of learning and how you square that with your feelings about multiple intelligences?
Hmm, good question – can I talk just a little bit about emotion in learning? Not sure, but I’ll give it shot.
Emotion is one of the primary guides for assigning importance and determining the allocation of attention. It has a huge role in decision-making. We have the myth of the rational decision maker, but it really is just a myth.
Antonio Dimasio is a cognitive scientist who has done a lot of research into the area of emotion and decision making. He frequently studies people who are of normal intelligence, but (though brain injury or stroke) report feeling very little affect. They don’t describe feeling happy or sad or frustrated or angry.
If rational decision-making was really the ideal, then these people should be great decision makers, unfettered by messy emotional impulses. In actuality, they are terrible decision-makers. Even a simple “should I put on the blue or while shirt?) can stump them. We listen for emotional cues to know how to feel about something, and what to do about it. Is something no big deal, or is a very big deal?
If emotion is important for decision making, then we do our learners no favors when we strip all emotional context out of an area or domain.
[punting on the multiple intelligences question – I can answer it, but it’s kind of long]
You are living in 2050. What does instruction look like?
I think that it’s a combination of the holodeck and Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder. That sounds a little glib, but really, it’s about both more immersive experiences and really embedded performance support. I’m specifically talking about adult/workplace, though. I think those elements might find their way into K12, but of course there are bigger questions in that domain.
Can the ideas that you talk about in design be used in non traditional learning methodologies? For instance, can they be incorporated into video games?
Hmm, I actually have been pretty obsessed with understanding game design in the last 6-7 years, because I think game designers know much more about scaffolding and skill development than most learning designers. Video games are ferocious learning environments – the amount of knowledge and skill you need to develop to succeed in contemporary video games is staggering. Games have gotten much harder, and yet more people are playing them than ever. Most learning & development people are skilled in information delivery, but much less proficient in skill development. I sometimes talk about the Sports-and-Things-That-Can-Kill-You Conundrum – we understand in sports and music and things that can be life-threatening (pilots, doctors and drivers) that you can’t just *tell* people things. Nobody thinks you can just *explain* to somebody how to play the violin and they’ll be able to play, and nobody wants the helicopter pilot who just passed the written test and who’s never had any hands on practice. We forget this in less visible areas, which leads to things like two-day management training seminars. Being a good manager is not less complex than being a good pilot, but we don’t prioritize practice in the same way.
Video games designers have a lot of knowledge about how to craft practice environments that gradually develop skills. I’d love to see more of that knowledge finding its way into learning environments.
What do you hope to accomplish by writing this?
Really to just help people be more confident and capable when they are designing learning experiences. I think most people eventually find themselves teaching something to someone, and a lot of the books about learning design are very academic and somewhat inaccessible to a general audience. One of my priorities for the book was that it eat its own dog food – if I advocate that people create learning experiences that use stories, examples, visuals and conversational language, then the book should model that.
This book has been out for a few years now. I always like to ask “Who is listening to your message?”
I’ve been really happy with how the book has been received, and the number of people who have told me that they are recommending the book to others. That was what I was really hoping for – that it would be the book that experienced people would recommend to people who are new to the field.
I’m not sure how many people are doing things differently based on the book, which is really more to the point than who is listening to the message. Some people have told me that after reading the book, they immediately redesigned their class or presentation, which is really gratifying.
I’ve gotten a lot of interest from tech sector folks. I think the tone and relative informality resonates with less traditional industries.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you had written but didn’t?
It’s interesting because I’d been planning the book for several years, but I was also incorporating new ideas that I was discovering right while I was writing it. I’d bump into a relevant idea and incorporate it into a chapter on the same day in one or two cases. My own practice of instructional design is constantly changing, and if I were going to write the book now, I’d definitely make some changes. I sometimes talk about how instructional design as a discipline has a lot of guidance around tasks like analysis or evaluation, but very little specific guidance around the actual design, so I’ve been working on what my own framework is for that. Maybe it’s time to start working on a second edition.
Do you have a website or some way for readers to contact you or get more information?