What would Maria Montessori say about the use of the edtech available to us as we approach the year 2013?
Heaven forbid any actual Montessori educators should read this post. My summaries of Montessori ideas and structures most certainly do not do justice to the wonderful body of work Maria Montessori left behind, nor do I adequately represent the many mindfully conceived and executed programs based on Montessori’s work. For this I offer an a priori apology.
Maria Montessori was a revolutionary in education. During the first half of the 20th Century, she commanded global attention for her work with pre-kinder Italian street children, and later for her inquiries into the education of children of all ages. The Montessori Method requires an observer scientist’s habit of mind for educators of children and adolescents, which relies upon a carefully constructed environment that promotes individual determination. Further, the Montessori teacher becomes a student of each child, observing them work, and carefully noting their accomplishments and challenges so as to be ready to introduce the learner to an appropriately timed task that suits both his interests and abilities.
On Wednesday of last week, several members of the US Department of Education kicked off their Back to School Bus Tour at the high school where I teach science in Redwood City, California. The visit was an edtech themed visit, and spotlighted a panel discussion that included edtech pop stars Sal Khan of the Khan Academy and Andrew Ng of Coursera. If you are reading this blog, then you are an edtech nerd and none of what Andrew or Sal had to say will be news to you. Instead, you might be curious about what English teacher and author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms, Catlin Tucker, said, what activist and former grade school teacher, Todd Sutler, of the Odyssey Initiative did while he was there, and what the students of Sequoia High School did to mark the visit of these dignitaries.
Catlin Tucker sat beside Sal Khan and Andrew Ng on the theater stage in front of a packed house of the local business community, the media, and selected classes of students with their teachers. Secretary Duncan played the role of discussion moderator, and provided the panelists the opportunity to showcase their work. While Khan and Ng shared the excellent work of their edtech websites that are bringing education into the cloud, it was Tucker who stole the show.
Grounded in the practice of a classroom educator. Tucker talked about the very real challenges of getting to a one to one device for each student, and high speed internet access at home for students of little means. She raised the roof, and the Twitosphere, when she told Secretary Duncan that great edtech tools alone would not take us very far, but great tools in the hands of great teachers just might. Sal nodded.
It’s not about the hardware. No laptop, tablet, lapdock, or webtop is going to change education by virtue of its screen resolution, haptic capabilities or processor speed. However, a proliferation of free, cloud-based, high quality, curated curricular materials (videos in particular) just might.
Sal Khan is not the harbinger of a revolution in education because he is a great lecturer. Khan is a revolutionary because he has boldly stood up in the cloud to tell us that there is nothing holding us back from making educational materials free and ubiquitous. Dozens of others have risen to Khan’s challenge; many of whom are making high quality video that can replace traditional classroom lectures.
It is easy for a middle-class, Washington outsider to become skeptical about our political system that, by some metrics, operates more like a polarized plutocracy than a socialistic democracy. However, in the same week, three members of a Russian girl punk band got two years in prison for playing protest songs in the face of the Russian Christian Orthodox Church, I attended a most democratic, egalitarian gathering of intellectual sharing of best practices.
Edcamp as a concept is in its infancy. Inspired by barcamp, a similar gathering for hackers to share best practices in their technical profession, teachers and educationists in Philadelphia organized the first edcamp less than three years ago. In that time, the edcamp concept has spread like Facebook. See edcamp foundation wiki, and an article about edcamp on edutopia.
Motivating questions have been used by master teachers probably for as long as humans have inhabited their neocortex. An inspiring question targets the background, interests, and capabilities of a student. Such a question can be a launching pad for discussion, inquiry, and a starting place for a learning trajectory. This summer, I have the privilege of working with two teams of three master science teachers who bring an average of 12 years of experience each to a problem that the cloud is finally going to help us solve.
The recent attention given to the New Media Consortium Horizon Report for k12 has me thinking of the future again. I had a free couple of hours on Saturday morning when I woke up early with a gentle summer hangover and decided to pick up Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future.
In the first chapter, Kaku jumps right in and addresses what is to become of the computer. Published in 2011, after extensive interviews with the world’s leading scientists and technologists (an impressive list of names that fills a full seven pages of the introduction), and in light of Google’s recent introduction of Google’s Project Glass at the Google I/O this month, it is hardly a bold prediction when Kaku suggests that our connection to the internet will move into our lenses. With voice command technology and natural user interface capability rapidly improving, it isn’t too far fetched to predict that our interface to access the internet will soon be nearly invisible to those around us.
Is there a difference between watching Sal Khan on the internet and having him teach you face to face? According to Sal’s cousins there is. In his TED appearance, Sal reveals that his cousins told him they prefer his internet videos to his in-person tutoring. The reason they prefer their virtual cousin to the real one is that they can pause, rewind and playback his teachings – at least that’s the reason they shared with Sal.
A more data-based answer to the above question may exist, but in my limited survey of research I found only a few relevant studies to help us out here. Both studies were in the post graduate medical education field and indicated that virtual teaching in that environment is about as effective as face to face teaching (Cardall, Barker). Your first question is probably the same as mine, “What if the learners are not quite as highly motivated as training professionals?”
Me outside of school:
- Jing screencasting
- Google site reading and commenting
- Goorulearing.org collection re-ordering
- Assessment co-creating
- End of project survey writing
- Frantically laptop cart fundraising (1/3 of the way there as of this writing)
Students in my classes:
- Braingenie watching and quiz taking
- PhET simulation running
- 3x more labs doing
- MIT style group problem solving
- GoSoapBox class discussing
- Google site documenting
- Administrator tour tolerating
I ran an electronic survey today in two of the blended classes; sixty two responses in all. I asked students to compare the various types of learning that we do in class in this new blended method against our prior unit that I taught in a traditional fashion. Here are some of my takeaways.
This is a little embarrassing. The link below will take you to a video of me, circa 2003, pimpin’ it for HMH. It is a promotional video for their adaptive software program, Destination Math. Figured I’d better post it before someone else does. Growth through humility.
Succinctly stated the challenge is this:
The United States culturally undervalues education. We have low standards for the teaching profession. Not surprisingly, there is little trust placed in our teaching force to make education decisions, and the practicing professionals in schools are kept out of the policy-making process.
Read more at the New Media Consortium..
I am ready to jump in. For fifteen years I have been employing educational technologies in my high school science classes to increase student engagement and improve student performance. I have documented increases in both of these with my most recent foray into Peer Instruction with clickers over the last three years. Before that I dove head first into podcasting, video making, and blogging. Now, I am ready to take a real risk. I am ready to blend class time to free me up for more individual engagement with students, and to increase the differentiation of study in my classroom.
I will be honest. My first motivation is selfish. Read more…
Schools are doing the calculus. With the growing prevalence and lower cost of digital textbooks and the myriad options for tablet displays, it almost makes financial sense to go digital. Almost, but not yet.
In middle and high school the tablet has cachet, but it’s just not quite a laptop. Tweens and teens need to write, and writing on a tablet is awkward at best. The Chromebook is gaining traction because, as it is marketed, it solves many problems. You can read the digital texts on the Chromebook, it is small, but performs better than the first miserable wave of netbooks, and it can be purchased with a 3G wireless access plan for educational settings where wireless is not yet achievable.
As if getting to the One to One tipping point weren’t exciting enough, Google is now adding fuel to the silicon and PCB fire with rumors of a forthcoming heads up display (HUD). No, that’s not a scantily clad teacher dancing in front of the room. An HUD is the Kurzweilian display that utilizes fancy optics to project images that are visually accessible straight from your glasses.
I know nothing about what the price point might be on such a device, but suspend disbelief with me for a moment and imagine what the education world might look like two years from now if cheap HUD’s became a reality. Students sit in their desks or cubicles or tables or whatever, wearing HUD’s that are connected to smartphones or iPod Touches in their pockets. The smartphone serves as CPU so that all the glasses need to do is be the virtual screen for the learner.
Add to this scenario a wireless keyboard that communicates with the phone like this logitech with track pad for $31, and you have a one to one solution for the cost of the HUD (say $100 for my fantasy here), the keyboard, and the few iPod Touches that must be loaned to students who do not have a smartphone plan (much like we do with graphing calculators already). My back of the envelope calculation for a typical US school with 26% of the student body below the poverty line needing CPU loaners still gets us to One to One for under $200 per kid – and that’s if everything in that equation only lasts one year!
Let’s hope that Google elects not to make these HUD’s with tinted lenses. Can you imagine the parodies of Corey Heart lyrics?!
First, a primer: when a student takes a test or writes a paper at the end of a unit of study, if that test or paper is graded and used as a component of that student’s overall grade in the course, we call this summative assessment. When students take standardized tests, as they must do in every academic subject at the end of every school year in high school, this is also considered summative assessment. The latter is often referred to as high-stakes testing because it can determine course placement for the student during the next school year, and it most certainly is a component of the school’s accountability metric under the current incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as No Child Left Behind.
Formative assessment is less discrete. Formative assessment, as the root of the word suggests, is used to assist in informing the instructive and learning processes. Formative assessments provide educators with ongoing feedback that shapes instruction both for individual students and for the class as a whole. Socratic questioning is a formative assessment. Looking over a student’s shoulder as they attempt a practice problem during class is another type of formative assessment. It is low stakes, and purely motivated by the desire on behalf of the teacher to be responsive to his or her students’ needs.
This is the second in a series of posts I am writing about what the traditional classroom could look like in the near future with already available and nearly available edtech. The first postexplored lesson planning.
By one edtech standard, my high school health teacher was well ahead of his time. He had videotapes of lectures given by another health teacher that he would show to us every day. Content delivered through video is part of the flipped classroom model that is in vogue right now — 25 years later. Teachers falling asleep in the back of the classroom while students watch the video — not so much in vogue.
Stephen Wolfram, maker of Mathematica and author of A New Kind of Science, challenges the world again; this time by collaborating to offer free online mathematics texts with interactive simulations to help students see math.
Working in concert with Neeru Khosla’s free textbook initiative, ck12, Wolfram Alpha (WA) has made available free to everyone their first interactive textbook, algebra 1. It took me ten minutes to get up and running with the system that requires the user to download WA’s free computational data player. Like the portable data player for files of type .pdf, the computational data player for files of type .cdf allows the reader to view documents that contain interactive simulations. And because the cdf player is a download, the reading can be done on or off line.
Ck12, the open textbook project supported by the Khosla Foundation, joins pioneers like Salman Khan, and goorulearning in making available to the world, standards-based content for free. Ck12 has free textbooks, available in a variety of formats and licensed to print as well, for nearly every STEM discipline in k-12.
The partnership between ck12 and WA has yielded a readable textbook that is laced with interactive simulations that allow students to see math, particularly graphing, through an interactive interface. Though the major publishing houses have similar interactive simulations available to accompany the digital versions of their texts (such as those recently released with the introduction of Apple’s ibooks 2), the collaboration between ck12 and WA is further evidence that content is headed the direction of free. For cash strapped schools, this movement could not come soon enough.
This topic will probably get more action from me in coming months. This post will be a quick informational one to start a conversation so that I can get more information.
The California Student Bill of Rights Initiative (link to .pdf of initiative text) seeks to allow students anywhere in California access to UC approved course curriculum. Sounds great. David Haglund, the sponsor of the initiative, intends for the state to make this happen by attaching funding to the course, not the school. And the initiative allows for private providers to offer the services.
One out of every five times I boot up my clicker software — a process that takes nearly 120 seconds on my MacBook — the program crashes. Re-booting requires a full-system re-start. I desperately want to make the move to personal digital device dependence in my classes.
Not only would a cloud-based solution be more dependable, but it could also be multi-dimensional. In addition to collecting real-time data from multiple-choice question responses, I could examine student text entry to free-response questions. Word clouds could help me quickly identify conceptual trends. Students could share, rank, and respond to questions they generate themselves about the material we are studying.
If the students had their own web-enabled devices, I could experiment with a classroom backchannel during demonstrations and labs. Group problem-solving work could focus more on scenarios that bring out critical thinking. I could teach them to use tools like Wolfram Alpha’s course assistant apps to access basic concepts when they need them. I might even make the plunge to flip my classroom toward that same end.
The former head of Google India is drawing with a whiteboard marker on the glass cover of his white office desk. He is showing me the organizational structure of his STEM education resource, search, and curation portal called Gooru.
Prasad Ram — Pram to his friends — started Gooru as a 20% time project while still at Google. Like the beta project that once was Gmail, Gooru grew to reach primary significance in its creator’s eyes. As he came to realize the potential that Gooru could have for education, Pram felt that Gooru would need to operate as a nonprofit for it to be everything that he had envisioned…
It is 2016. We are shadowing a fourteen year-old student in a suburb of a major metropolitan city. His name is Elroy.
Elroy wakes up, gets dressed, eats breakfast, and brushes his teeth just like any teen would today. That’s when Elroy’s day diverges dramatically from that of anyone who attended school in 2011.
Instead of trudging off to make first bell, Elroy plugs-in to unschool. Unschool is a personalized learning environment (ple) consisting of experiences both real and virtual, catered specifically to the abilities and interests of Elroy. A learning facilitator (the term teacher is so passe in 2016), call her Jane, has helped Elroy to craft a routine that draws upon a curated mosaic of virtual resources, freeing up Elroy to spend most of his time on projects that keep him both intellectually and emotionally engaged.