14 Sep, 2009
Monday Morning Roundup (9/14/09)
Here are just a few of the articles I found interesting over the past several weeks:
Lenn Millbower makes the case that icebreakers (not to be confused with opening activities) are a waste of time and actually harm the learning experience. Be sure to read the followup article (link at the end of the article) that suggest 10 good steps for beginning a learning event.
Ice breakers suggest a frivolous training will follow – Forcing involvement in an activity with little seeming connection to the subject being taught implies a lack relevance in the training as a whole.
Heather Wolpert gives a well thought-out reaction to the hoopla surrounding President Obama’s speech to schoolchildren last week. Common sense, no matter what side of the political fence you fall, and why politics have no place in the discussion.
But as much as I didn’t see eye to eye with those who opposed the president’s right to speak to our country’s students, my anger paled in comparison to certain members of my own profession who handed the educational reins over to their fearful community.
I was disappointed and angered about the weak leaders in our public schools out there who so easily caved to the fears of bias. It is our job to not allow fear to dictate education, teaching only what is safe. It is our job not to judge but to guide in how best to form an evaluation. It is our job not to decide but to give opportunities for students to make their own decisions.
There will always be people in this country who dislike our president, whoever the person is or will be. But public schools should be a fortress against these ebbs and tides of opinion. Parents and communities are not meant to insist on our curriculum, and our job is to stand up to trends of fear in lieu of the possibility of knowledge.
More commentary regarding the Obama speech.
It would seem to me that there should be no better place for my children to watch that speech (or any other, for that matter) than in a place where ideas are encouraged, where critical thinking about those ideas is a natural part of the conversation, and where appropriate response and debate can flourish. Where the adults in the room lead my kids to dig deeper, to validate facts, and consider the many levels of context in which every speech and every debate takes place. Where the discussion around it is such that it lays to rest the concern that many seem to have about this particular speech in general, that in some way the President will be able to “indoctrinate” our kids into some socialist mindset. If schools are the fully functioning learning communities that we hope they are, they should be the place where our kids learn to make sense of ideas, not to fear them. That, however, is not the message we are sending.
I keep thinking of how much could be taught in this moment: oratory, research skills, statistics (drop-out rates, etc.), history, media, analysis, debate, composition, social justice, and on and on and on.
I keep thinking of those teachers out there right now who have had a level of confidence and professionalism stripped away by school districts who have ceded to parents wishes to avoid rather than to trust them to teach.
An oldie but goodie. Doug Johnson shows the absurdity of banning cellphones, MP3 players, an other technology by applying the same flawed logic to pencils.
- A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
- A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
- One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
- The pencil might get stolen.
- Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
- Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.
My experience is that the more familiar educators are with a new technology, the less likely they are to restrict its use by students. When we old-timers experience a technology’s benefit ourselves, the more we understand its benefit to students.
Cameron is an 11 year old using technology and project based learning in pretty amazing ways. Watch his story and see examples of his work.
Last year, Abilene Christian University handed out free iPhones (or iPod Touches) to all 957 incoming freshmen, as well as 169 to faculty and another 182 to staff. This article takes a look at the results and opinions of students and staff a year later.
After listening to the conversation for a while, it became clear that there was a driving philosophy behind this, and one which made it all work. First, the devices were the students’, their use of them as social and entertainment devices was unrestricted. They let the iPhone do something it does quite well: become an integral part of a student’s daily life. Second, nothing was mandated. Acceptance and use by anyone, student, faculty or staff, was entirely voluntary.
In addition to podcasts, class polls and various communication channels made possible by iPhone ubiquity, the school also provides a web portal — one that can be accessed through either an iPhone or any standard web browser on a desktop or laptop computer. It offers everything from curriculum overviews and syllabi to account information and Google Calendars, and provides an information center for all students. Making this web-based meant existing security measures stayed in place, and students without iPhones/iPod touches had equal access. Additionally, iPhone specific tools were created to enhance the educational experience. One such application was an attendance tool which automatically contacts absent students via an email they can reply directly to. Bill explained that this greatly increased student-instructor communication, and resulted in fewer absences.
One of the questions asked was about the distraction level the iPhones and iPod touches generated in the classroom. George tells me that, in a post-semester survey, 90% of the faculty and staff stated that the devices “were not a distraction in class.” Students reported that they were bringing their devices to class, and that their performance, grades and class work all benefited. The studies also revealed that 82% of the students had used the web portal at least once per week during the Fall semester, 49% said they were given at least one assignment that required device usage outside of class, and 60% of students said they had regular opportunities to use the device for at least one class.
Who/What I’m Following on Twitter
- Monday Morning Roundup (8/24/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (4/27/09)
- Monday Morning Roundup (10/19/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (5/3/2010)
- Monday Morning Roundup (5/11/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (8/31/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (4/20/09)
- Monday Morning Roundup (5/18/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (5/4/2009)
- Monday Morning Roundup (7/19/2010)