“I’m Right and to Hell With Everyone Else”

It is an intensely hard thing to be humble. To admit that you may have oversimplified an issue or spoken out of (a large amount of) ignorance. But, being as noble a person as I am, I must admit that I have failed in this regard. It is easy to get caught up in an exciting issue, especially the riveting issue of ICT and its uses in the classroom, but calm down for a second would you? Lets try to see things clearly and avoid both the “illusory hype” and “pessimistic Armageddon” extremes (Brown, 2005, p. 16).

This is what Brown is trying to do in this article. He’s not offering his own approach as such. Rather, he’s critiquing different articles and studies that have already been written on the use of technologies in education. So lets take a look at some of the reflections it sparked in me…

“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
Henry David Thoreau

We need to consider the ways in which ICT will effect and change the way we educate. Many studies have suggested that technology is likely to drive more student centred learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2009; Isard, 2012; Richardson, 2013). There are sure to be many other unforeseen changes brought on by the increasing use of ICT in the classroom so it becomes our priority as educators (or soon to be educators) to seek out information on what some of these changes might be. If we are truly striving to teach equality amongst students, prepare them to be critical thinkers, and prepare them to be active and involved citizens we must make sure that the effects ICT has on their education do not run contrary to these aims.

One of the (possibly unforeseen) issues I have with the increased use of ICT in the classroom is how exclusive it could be. At the moment we are seeing what can happen when rural and remote regions are overlooked in regards to the moving of Year 7 students to high schools. I plan to teach in the country (rural or remote) when I graduate. My worry is that access to ICT will not be as great for these regions (or areas of low socio-economic status) as it will be in the metropolitan area. This is backed up by the Bate reading in which we saw that both of Dawn’s schools (a country school and a school in a low socio-economic) had poor access to ICT. My mind can’t help but go to the Ron Swanson ‘Pyramid of Greatness’ and its comments on “Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart, and who is poor” (Parks and Recreation, 2011). If ICT truly is going to benefit education in the major way that many claim then it should be provided across the board, there should be no school without. Otherwise, how can we claim that we are giving all students the chance to be successful. No, either ICT is not majorly important to current education systems or we must provide appropriate ICT for all.

For Reference and Enjoyment

However, some of the ways in which education changes are independent of the delivery method that is used. Brown touches on the ‘Innovation, Enterprise and Creativity’ resource that is being used in New Zealand. This resource promoted quite the opposite of critical thinking when it merely required students to follow the ideals of “decentralization, marketisation, privatisation”. The problem here is not one that arises from the use of technology, rather it is a certain ideological approach that could just as easily be found in a textbook. However, in Brown’s article it seems to be suggested that is is an effect that technology has on curriculum. The only link I am able to see is that if use technology simply because it is seen to be the way of progress, then we will cease to think about the ideals that are taught, even if these go against the guiding principles of our curriculum.

I still believe that a creative use of ICT is an important step that needs to be taken by our educational systems, but Brown’s article has caused me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We need to look past the ‘I’m right and you can just get on board or go to hell’ mentality and be willing to engage in a real discussion with those we disagree with. It is simply not acceptable to get caught up in the excitement of our own views. We must be able to back up why we believe the things we believe. This is the only way that true convictions will arise. This is the only way that carefully considered and beneficial approaches to education will ever occur. So form your own view on whether ICT is beneficial to education or not, but make sure you have considered the options. Otherwise you’ll end up looking as ridiculous as the individuals in this ‘debate’…

Spirited Debate

Spirited Debate

And for those of you still clammering at Ron Swanson and his Pyramid of Greatness I present without further ado…

Bridging the Gap

Everything I have discussed so far in this blog could ultimately be for naught…

Frank Bate’s article shows the real danger for the future of ICT use in the classroom. Until we start to see ICT as a support for teaching and not something just to be tacked on we will fail to unleash the potentially massive benefits of using ICT in education. No single teacher can bring about a revolution of ICT use in education. A whole school approach is needed to effectively incorporate the use of ICT in the classroom.

I am dead keen to use ICT when I graduate and start teaching a class of my own. I have seen both wondrous, and dreadful uses in my own education, but the positive experiences far outweighed the negative ones. I do worry though that I will be restricted in my use of education. When I graduate I hope to teach in rural or remote public schools. There is a high probability that if I do this, I will likely find myself in a similar situation to that of Dawn’s. It is quite hard to effect any change when those in leadership do not support it, or provide the necessary equipment to effect that change.

My mother teaches in a small private school which I believe would fit into the same category as the school that Mike fits into. She has a few computers in her classroom, is provided with a laptop and also has access to an interactive whiteboard. However, unlike Mike, Mum isn’t so computer sophisticated. She struggles with new technologies (apart from her smartphone) and still, 3 years into teaching at this school, barely uses these technologies in her classroom. Admittedly she has had the opportunity to do some training with the whiteboard and she declined it. If we introduce technology into classrooms, teaches should be trained in using them. Either there should be mandatory training or schools shouldn’t use the technology.

Unless schools tackle the challenges of using ICT in the classroom as a whole, we waste the potential gains that these technologies could bring to Education.

 

All thoughts were spewed forth from…

Bate, F. (2010) A bridge too far? Explaining beginning teachers’ use of ICT in Australian schools.
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7).

Mobile Technologies in Education: Why Hold Ourselves Back? (There may be ranting…)

“Technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything.”

Neil Postman

How do we deal with technological change? It seems we only seem to just catch up with technology as it takes another major leap forward, espescially when we struggle to afford it. When I could finally afford an iPhone 3G, the iPhone 5 was coming out. I know a lot of people who would rather not deal with the strenuous task of learning how to use new technologies (or at least technologies that seem new to them). It seems we pick and choose what we’ll learn to use. Often this seems absurd to those around us.

Take, for instance, my family. Dad jokingly (at least I hope so) believes that Apple is a neo-nazi company trying to take over the world and as a result won’t use tablet technology (he doesn’t seem to get that there are non-Apple tablets).  He is better, however, with computers than I am. On the other side, while Mum has a Macbook that merely sits on a bench gathering dust, she loves using her phone (which is an ‘acceptable’ Samsung Galaxy) often using it in amazingly creative ways…

And so while Mum will say that new technologies merely present new ways to do old things (technological change as additive), her actions show that her Galaxy has changed the way she approaches life. Regardless of whether educational systems accepts the idea that mobile technologies change everything, change will occur. The real question is whether schools are willing to acknowledge the ways that mobile technologies will change schooling and how they will adjust to that change. It is both naive and negligent to our students to ignore this ecological change. It effects everything. For instance…

I find it absurd that we expect students to produce hand-written assignments. I am finding it quite hard to rind a reason for this. When was the last time a company would ask for a handwritten report? Which Universities, if any, accept handwritten assignments (excluding exams)? Who would read, let alone sign, an official contract that was handwritten? The answers are over a decade ago, none and no-one, respectfully. Primary and, especially, secondary schools are behind when it comes technology. Not because it’s not available, although some schools deliberately avoid new technologies, but more often because teachers don’t know how to use them. It’s our job as educators to propel our students forward. To give them the skills they will need to thrive in their world. If we fail to learn how to use relevant technologies or even worse, to ignore them, then we are failing to provide a relevant education for our youth.

I am in no way suggesting that handwriting is a useless skill, it needs to be taught. But maybe it doesn’t need to take up as much learning time as it currently does. Just a thought…

http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/handwriting-do-we-still-need-it/ (For further thought provocation)

One thing that does worry me about the article though, is the assumed availability of said devices. To say that the “use of mobile devices… taps into [every] students’ preferred styles of learning and suits their interests” (Isard, J. (2012). p. 10) is ridiculous. Some students, for a range of reasons, will not have access to mobile devices. There is major disparity in the use of mobile technologies in different schools. Some schools provide laptops for every student, some iPads, and yet others will provide neither (though they are almost certain to have at least desktop computers for students to access). As time passes, many of these issues sort themselves out. Tablets become cheaper, more accessible to the wider public and more widespread in schools. Hasn’t this already happened with countless technologies already? (the ball point pen, desktop computers, the internet, laptop computers etc.).

Also, how can Isard claim that mobile devices are the only way to meet students’ preferred styles of learning? It is one thing to say that many students have benefited from the use of mobile devices or that they seem to be more efficient. It is quite another thing to say that these devices embody every student’s preferred learning style. No! Students’ preferred learning styles are something that the teacher must figure out and then, using relevant technologies, prepare appropriate lessons that teach to these styles.

My last rant concerns the assumption that the move from “whole class teaching” to “more individual and personalised learning opportunities” (Isard, J. (2012) p. 10) is a good one. Again, a major focus of education should be to give students skills and knowledges that will help them to succeed in the world. Workplaces are looking for people who have good interpersonal skills, people who can co-operate with others to increase efficiency (Peterson, C. H. (2012)). When learning becomes predominantly individualised students are less likely to gain the highly valuable skills important to teamwork. I get that it’s hard sometimes hard to be part of a group; I often struggle to work with others but I have seen the value of it. I agree with Isard, we should be using mobile technologies in the classroom, but I disagree that this means that these technologies move students towards individualised learning.

The gold in Isard’s article came at the end. The real problem with using mobile technologies, and any technologies for that matter, in the school context, is that it is often executed dreadfully. We spend billions on technology that has little or no impact on our students’ education (Richardson, W. (2013). p. 12). It’s not that the technology itself is useful or useless, the problem is that teachers don’t know how to make this technology useful. So before we implement mobile technologies in Schools, we need to make sure that teachers know how to use them. Isard’s tips for supporting schools wishing to use mobile devices in the classroom were brilliant, if not challenging.

Overall, Isard is right. To do our students a real service we need to learn how to use mobile technologies in the classroom. We need to become masters over the technology and deliberately guide the kind of change it will inevitably bring into our classrooms.

Most of the critical reflection in this post was formed from the humble begginings of:

Isard, J. (2012) Why mobile technology makes sense in the 21st century classroom. The Professional Educator http://www.newlearninginstitute.org/film-series/a-21st-century-education/technology-and-21st-century-learning

While the rest was brought into being by:

Peterson, C. H. (2012). Building the emotional intelligence and effective functioning of student work groups: evaluation of an institutional program. College Teaching, 60(3), 112-121.Richardson, W. (2013). Students first, not stuff. Educational Leadership 70(6), 10-14.

TPACK: “How Do U Want It”

Technology…

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think technology? Is it the idea of a Tupac hologram performing at Coachella? Your iPad? The newly announced, and highly mysterious PS4? A Furby? How about this?

Badass Cyborgs…

When I think technology my mind instantly goes to cyborgs and how, unlike a narrow-minded friend of mine, I believe that the idea of cyborg humans is not only inevitable but ultimately beneficial. Not to mention flippen sweet, I mean, can you imagine being able to use Instagram straight from you eyeball or having bionic strength arms to destroy all obstacles in your way. You’d be an artistic badass…

But I digress, sort of. Often our minds do go to these sort of far off places, to technologies that push or break the limits of what we can currently do in our world. Sure technology is that, but it’s also something much more. Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler point out that technology is “almost everything that is artificial” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009 p. 15). That’s all the way from cyborg strength arms and iPads down to things like pencils and clothes. Shifting our idea of the term ‘technology’ is vital if we wish to be successful teachers. Why? Because it helps us realise that we already use heaps of technology, and we use it well. Teachers don’t think long and hard about how to use a pencil in the classroom. We know how a pencil works, so we know how to include it in the classroom.

Now, I realise you may be wondering “What the heck is this TPACK thing you mentioned in the title?” And rightfully so, but first we needed to redefine our understanding of technology.

Well, without further adieu I present TPACK (brace yourselves)…

Ok so there’s this thing called pedagogy (how to teach) and then there is content (specific subject matter). Now when you combine a knowledge of both pedagogy and content you get PCK, a unique combination of knowing information and knowing how to teach it. But maybe the term PCK doesn’t adequately cover the complete base of what teachers need to be successful. All teaching occurs through the medium of technology whether that be pencils, whiteboards (interactive or otherwise), iPads, books eg. To be successful a teacher you need to have a good understanding of the technologies you use in the classroom. So we add a T for technology to the PCK to get TPACK (Technological Pedagogical & Content Knowledge). And here’s a diagram for those of you who learn visually.

20130228-154515.jpg

Now that the boring stuff is over we can move on to a relatively simple point for teachers to take on…

Teachers, use technologies that will interest your class AND that will give them the necessary skills to succeed in your given subject area!

Students may argue that playing COD will give them a better understanding of war conflicts, but this is unlikely. At the same time, a plain old black and white PowerPoint slide with merely typed up information is likely to bore the crap out of your students.

Mishra & Koehler give examples of teachers repurposing micro-blogging, specialised search engines, and DJ software to become useful tools for the classroom. But think beyond that. What technologies do you use? What technologies are your students using? How might you repurpose them for appropriate use in the classroom? As for me, I’m still thinking about how I would use cyborg technology in the classroom…

Peace out Gangsters (and a special shout out to my bro Ramdogga)

Any quotes and most thought was inspired by the Oscar winning performance of:

Mishra, P. and Koehler, M. Too Cool for School? No Way!Learning & Leading with Technology, May 2009, Vol. 36 Issue 7, p14-18.

Digital Natives… Really Guys?

Young people have all far surpassed other generations in their ability to use modern technology… Generalizations. I must admit I’m skeptic of this one. As with most generalizations, skepticism isn’t a bad thing. In fact it’s the only way we can look at the world around us and see it as it really is. Skepticism is something that S. Bennett & K. Mato have in buckets. And it’s a good thing, because without it they wouldn’t be able to look past the “academic moral panic” (Bennett & Mato, 2010 p. 328) to move forward with the debate of technology use. Maybe we shouldn’t just accept the idea that young people are all amazing at using technology while old people’s technological skill leave something to be desired. Maybe there isn’t a massive danger of schools being unable to cater for our ‘digital natives’, maybe it’s all just hysteria.

I can say that while I have grown up with access to a computer for my whole life, this does not mean that I can use all technology amazingly. Even in writing this entry on an unfamiliar version of Word I struggled to find where the footnote option was. Earlier today it took me over half an hour to send an email from my iPad because I couldn’t figure out how to set the damn thing up. And, much to my own shame, I must admit occasionally when my mother (who is hopelessly computer illiterate) comes to me seeking how to work this ‘useless thing!’ occasionally I’m as lost as she is. Now I would never let her on to this fact because I was the ‘expert’. Instead, I’d just keep trying things until either I’d managed to somehow fix it or let her know it was ‘unfixable’ and that she’d have to give up.

You could argue that I’m not really a digital native because I grew up with Windows 3.1 (which I’m not sure was too useful apart from dos games) and didn’t have an iPad until this Wednesday. You could argue that this next generation is the real group of digital natives, and one student I met in high school who could hack into anything may even back up your point. However, recently doing a prac at a primary school in the Perth city area proved to me how untrue this assumption is. I saw young students really struggling to use Word and struggling with how to import a picture onto their page information. Technology by itself does not automatically click for all young people. It has to be taught.

Suggesting that because someone is not part of this fanciful ‘digital native generation’ they cannot provide adequate teaching to it is ridiculous. Bennett and Maton use the excellent that example that there were “such claims made… in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s about a generation of students immersed in new forms of commercial culture, such as television and popular music” (Bennett & Mato, 2010 p. 328). We can see from history that while teachers may not have grown up in the same society as that of newer generations, this does not necessarily mean that they weren’t able to teach to them adequately. In fact, sometimes these older generations understand “new forms of commercial culture” better than those growing up amongst the new culture. Instead, to further the debate, we should focus on how we can teach to newer generations in ways that will benefit them. Maybe that means learning how to send emails from my new iPad, maybe it doesn’t, but whatever the case it means I need to listen and learn how younger generations learn most effectively… and maybe even admit to Mum that sometimes not even an ‘expert’ like me can fix that ‘useless thing’…

 

kill_crush_destroy

 

All comments and thoughts were birthed from the womb of:

Bennett, S. and Maton, K.   Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of   students’ technology experiences. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning,   Oct 2010, Vol. 26 Issue 5, p321-331.

Bubbl.us

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BUBBL.US

What can I say about bubbl.us that hasn’t already been said? Many things… However I will restrain my thoughts on this post to some of its possible uses in the English Classroom. Bubbl.us is helpful when it comes to brainstorming and collecting info on a text (issues, form, context etc.). Each student can create their own word map. If needed the teacher can incorporate info from each student and form a class bubbl.us map which the students are able to access from home. There are obviously more uses for this website. As I think of more I will upload them… For now though, peace out you English Gangsters…