If Robots Will Run the World, What Should Students Learn? – from Edudemic

As automation and artificial intelligence become more and more of a reality in daily life, what are the things that our students must learn? Katrina Schwartz addresses this question on the Edudemic blog…

If Robots Will Run the World, What Should Students Learn? – Edudemic

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100 Learning?

100 Cute?

For my son, 100 is the biggest number in existence. If you ever want to express the idea that something is truly superlative, just label it with 100. For example, if you had a really great time at the park today, you had “100 fun.” If I am eagerly awaiting a weekend birthday party, I’m “100 excited.” You get the idea.

Of course the idea of using a quantitative measurement for an abstract concept is ludicrous. But he’s four years old, so we give him a pass. After all, he’s cute!

As I think about the way we treat assessment in our classrooms, it occurs to me that we might do the same thing. I teach a unit. I give a test. A student takes that test and gets a 92. He now has 92 learning.

We have attached this type of quantitative measurement to teaching and learning for so long now that it doesn’t even strike us as being odd. We never ask the question, “what do these numbers mean?” Are we measuring what we think we’re measuring? Are we even using the right unit of measure?

The fact that we’ve been using this method for so long should suggest that a) something about it works, b) its too hard to do anything else, or c) we’re afraid of what a better assessment might reveal. I suppose there is also a third option – a combination of the first three.

I am willing to admit that there is a correlation between a student’s grade in a class and his ability to show mastery of the concepts. But when we use those grades to rank and sort and determine important life decisions like college entrance is correlation enough? And when we also use factors like “neatness” and “class participation” in the equation, does that not lessen the correlation?

All this to say, I find myself more and more on the student portfolio bandwagon. Not just because it is the latest fad in assessment and not because it gives me another opportunity to use technology to solve a problem. I am in favor of the idea because in a world where the number we assign to a student can make or break him we owe it to that student to be as comprehensive and transparent with the grading process as possible. A cumulative portfolio of student work gives us a tool to attempt just that.

Of course no single classroom teacher can change the entire structure of academic assessments. But just because you still have to give a grade doesn’t mean you can’t also provide a portfolio. If what people like Tony Wagner (of Harvard University) and others say is true, colleges and universities are slowly starting to see the value of a portfolio in their admissions process, while simultaneously devaluing standardized assessments.

How can you do this in your classroom? Here’s a simple two-step solution:

  1. Assign meaningful work
  2. Archive the products of that work

Step one is really the hard part. Keeping an archive is easy. There are a variety of ways to do this, including just taking pictures or making recordings of the student’s work. You can then save it to a hard drive or post it to a blog so that there is a lasting record of what that student has done. Use standardized file formats so that they are easily accessible across platforms, and you’ve got an invaluable tool for that student to give an authentic account of what he or she can do.

We can argue all day about whether the educational system will ever change to fully adopt methods like this for assessment. The answer to that question, however, is irrelevant. If we can see the value in the endeavor and know that it is technically possible, why not start now?

We 100 owe it to our students.

The Personal Learning Network – Practice What You Preach

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” – Luke 6:40

This, for a teacher, should be one of the most sobering passages in scripture. The idea that my students will be like me when fully trained gives me a renewed focus to “practice what I preach.” In other words, am I an example of what I want my students to be?

It is easy to gloss over this idea with a simple “yes” and move on. If my objective is for my students to have knowledge of a subject then I can affirm that I do know my subject. However, if my objective is more than just knowledge, but also includes actions and dispositions, then the scene is a bit more cloudy.

To answer this question, we must first be clear on exactly what we want our students to be like. Again, the question is not “what should they know,” but rather, “what should they do.” Lately we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the ideas around the “4 C’s.” Creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration are the skills we say are necessary for our students to bear influence in the world that they will inherit. We could probably add a few things to that list, but I think it is certainly a good starting point.

So then, in light of the wisdom of Luke 6:40, what is the example that you are setting for your students? I would ask if you “model” the 4 C’s, but I don’t think that word is strong enough. To really do this, we must truly embody the 4 C’s, not just model them. Its not enough for us to talk about these things in class, they must be part of who we are! I think of it as the old idea of being a “lifelong learner,” re-imagined for the 21st century.

This is a tall order for many. Our lives are filled with so many things, who has time to invest in remaking ourselves into a 4 C’s teacher? It seems such a daunting task, but there are things that we can do to lower the barrier to entry and get ourselves moving in that direction.

To that end, I want to spend a few posts expanding on the idea of a “Personal Learning Network,” or PLN. Your PLN is a network of people around you that you can interact with and learn from. They may be people you know or (thanks to the magic of the internet) people who you may never meet. It is a sort of etherial thing that can bring real growth in the way that you think about your classroom and your students. It is a place for two-way interaction through conversations, comments, and even tweets! And, perhaps most importantly, it is something that you can initiate with surprisingly little effort.

So, I’m going to spend the next several weeks developing this idea a little more fully. In the mean-time, here are a few links to sites that expand on the idea of PLN’s – mostly without the Biblical guilt trip. 🙂

Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips – Mark Wagner, Getting Smart

5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network – Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator

PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy – Kate Klingensmith, Once A Teacher…

Did you know that if you do a Google image search for "iPad" and "Hammer" you will get a bunch of pictures of MC Hammer? Me neither!

Thoughts from Boston (other than “I don’t like snow anymore”)

I discovered that I don’t like it when it snows sideways!

I was fortunate enough to spend three days this week in Boston attending the first EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, held on the campus of Harvard Medical School. This was a fantastic time of learning and discussion with great presenters and thought-provoking questions. It was also an opportunity for me to experience my first “Nor’easter” – an experience I could have done without! I had never experienced snow that was parallel to the ground. I also did not know what it felt like to be a human snowdrift. I can now check both of those items off my bucket list.

I will be sharing quite a bit of what I heard with you through this blog over the next several days, but I wanted to start with a thought that was shared by Justin Reich (Co-founder of EdTechTeacher) on his blog before the conference ever began:

If you meet an iPad on the way, smash it.

This, of course, is a statement designed to grab your attention. It is also an important point about how we use iPads. In his post (to which you can find a link below) Justin discusses how we must guard against turning our attention to the “what” — iPads and apps and systems and tricks — at the expense of the more important question: “Why.” As we move forward in this new paradigm of school in a 1-to-1 program, we must remember that the idea is for every student to have an iPad, not for every iPad to have a student. The main thing is still the teaching and learning. The iPad is a tool that we are using at this particular point in time and space. It is a fantastic tool, to be sure, but it won’t last forever. Our attention must be squarely focused on the things that will.

So, take a moment to read Justin’s post yourself and then come back here and leave a comment. How are things going in your classroom? Do you struggle with losing sight of the students for all the iPads? Do you forget that there are iPads in the room? Could your class function exactly the same if we took away all the iPads today? I look forward to your thoughts!

If You Meet an iPad on the Way, Smash It — Justin Reich, EdTech Researcher

How Ed Tech Is Like Betamax – from Edudemic

In this article from the Edudemic blog, Beth Holland & Shawn McCusker compare the iPad movement and Ed Tech in general to the rise and fall of the Betamax format for VCR’s in the 80’s. Its a great read with excellent reminders about remembering the Big Picture as we dive into this iPad adventure.

How Education Technology Is Like Betamax – from Edudemic

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads

EdTechTeacher has a great post on their blog about some of the most common pitfalls that schools face in their iPad implementations. Author Tom Daccord gives an excellent synopsis of what he sees as the 5 most critical. You can read his article here.

What do you think? Is he right? Did he leave anything out? How are we doing in these areas? Give your thoughts in the comments section!

Taxonomy of Technology Integration

Here’s a great resource from the Berglund Center for Internet Studies at Pacific University that unpacks the updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy and applies it to tech integration in the classroom. I love that the writer here points out that, “learning is the result of thinking,” and therefore, “the role of technology is to direct & foster thinking.”

The author also provides some example tools to check out, and points out the individual or collaborative nature of those tools. Check out this resource here.