Category Archives: Ideas

Useful things found and shared

PYP Key Concept: Form

Young children like to sort. They’ll do it on their own based on myriad
of qualities subjective, objective, and fantastical. When asked to sort for
a functional reason, such as testing and sorting colored markers for color
and how well they work, the activity can go on for hours. Asked to do it
for inquiry and again there seems to be a bottomless well of ideas and
criteria on the activity. Sorting comes intuitively and naturally to most.
We are, on the whole, naturally observant of form.

The fun goes deeper when subtle differences are seen and leading questions
go to why and what for. The shared learned vocabulary is deep as well –
each participant shares and brings in new words and concepts in verbalizing
the similarities, differences, and patterns they see. Qualities are
discussed; preferences announced, sides taken and opinions and fact
delineated upon its form.

Patterns seen in similar objects, or those which repeat in one, are grist
for the inquiring mind. Do the patterns match the algorithm definitively or
on occasion? Have we seen this pattern anywhere else? Can you create this
pattern using numbers? Does the pattern help it to survive?

Some forms are so obsequious to their use we hardly give it a second
thought and other forms are a mystery to their purpose. The latter can
perhaps lead to more immediate interest, but the close observation of
something which so wonderfully combines form and function can lead to great
explorations as well.

I use the key concept of form on my own investigations, frequently when I
work with children, and it’s difficult to avoid across all disciplines.

503 Words on the Transformation of an Educational Technologist

If you asked me last year what kind of an educator I was, what learning theory I subscribed most closely to, how you and I were going to frame our lessons together, I would have answered easily: “I am a Constructivist.” Ask me the question again today and I wouldn’t be so definite in my answer. I would ask back, “What’s our learning objective, what are we teaching, who are we teaching, and how will we know that we’ve been successful?” Somewhere, very likely, within that reflection we would offer our learners a chance to “mess about” and to come up with or reinvent their own solutions or rediscover well-trodden territories that they now call their own. We would allow for a wholly constructivist approach to our tasks, but we would, along the way, be using aspects of Behaviorism, Instructionalism, and Cognitivism to reach and reflect upon our objectives.

Within educational technology I looked at behavioristic methods critically, but I was using poor criteria. I had become over-sensitive to what I automatically believed were the less attractive aspects of learning applications – the fireworks, the badges, the “bells and whistles,” trying to ignore the clear fact that the students enjoyed them and had purpose. I saw it as a weakness in the program. Now I’m not so quick to judge. Yes, there are ways to incorporate behaviorism with more finesse, but now I am looking at the content and pedagogy more closely to determine whether the technology is appropriate for the objectives at hand. Previously, having been a strict constructivist, I would have looked at instructivists too critically, but now with an educational technologist’s view I see many good resources that are essentially well crafted lecture. This year I take on the mind-set of a cognitivist to frame my reaction toward my students’ thinking more than I did – to think more deeply about individuation, load, and style.

Within all of this rearranging and incorporation of new ways of approaching learning, teaching, and technology, I learned something new despite the fact that it surrounded me at every turn – Connectivism. Thinking about education and technology as a connectivist redefined and transformed me as an educational technologist. Thinking in this way helped me to see how enormous applications such as Google’s G-Suite for Education allows community to connect in the smallest way to the broadest. That smaller applications, such as Front Porch Forum, connects community together at a local level in small and broad ways as well, and how it’s possible to connect people with seemingly disparate culture and country, who share a common interest, using translation, email, video, and ways not yet invented, to connect with meaning.

And of course, as with most good learning, I understand how little I do know – which is both humbling and exciting, and makes me both hopeful and anxious as to how I will find my way to further my career helping others to find their own way through this vital aspect of teaching and learning.

Digital Divide Much More Than About Access

The Atlantic Magazine has an interesting article about inequality in the virtual classroom and that while internet access has become more available to students, courseware is not keeping up to the promise of providing disadvantaged students equal access to challenging and relevant online education. According to the article, “studies have found that online-learning resources had trouble attracting low-income students—or, in the case of school-age children, their parents—and that those who did participate in online classes performed more poorly than their peers.”

Among the impediments for students with limited means to access MOOCs are:

  • less likely to use learning for recreation
  • less likely to know where to find quality courses
  • reduced support network from friends, institutions, family, and co-workers
  • parents education level
  • lack of digital skills

A public library or a public school can provide digital resources, but it’s expertise that’s missing. Perhaps as in the way that lawyers have organized Legal Aid, technologists from ITEEA or ISTE could help develop the network that is so terribly needed to bring those who can’t take full advantage of online courseware.