In getting to the brass tacks of any educational system, one of the most fundamental is also one of the most overlooked. As teaching has developed over the years, the lecture method has been incorporated into instruction so completely that, today, it feels as though it were more like a fact of education rather than a choice that educators are making. However, lecture methodology is merely one small part of instructional tools that are available to educators and, studies show, one of the least effective in promoting student motivation, comprehension, and retention.
When looking toward the future of education and technology, one of the largest emergent topics for discussion is the integration of technology into the student assessment process. The method by which student knowledge and progress should be assessed is one of the most contentious among educators. What role should assessment play in the educational process? Which method of assessment gives the clearest picture of how well students have comprehended material? How should the assessment process be coordinated to give a clear picture of student understanding while at the same time maintaining a grading process that is logistically feasible? Evaluation of students typically occurs on two levels; the first is the day-to-day evaluation of student comprehension, while the other is the actual examination process. Education technology (edtech) is able to assist educators on both of these distinct levels.
Before the advent of the public education system, student motivation was not a big concern for educators. In order to learn, students actually had to seek out their education in the form of tutoring or apprenticeship. Logically, any student who would take the time and effort to do so already had a great deal of motivation to learn their chosen subject. As modern policy makers introduced compulsory education as well as a predetermined mandatory curriculum, student’s motivation became one of the most critical issues facing modern educators. Whereas before, students chose when and what they learned, the modern education system forces kids to learn about subjects toward which they may have no natural inclination. Continue reading
Last Tuesday on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama delivered the penultimate State of the Union of his first term. In previous editions of this historic annual speech, education has been somewhat overshadowed by other domestic issues such as the ailing economy and the fate of the middle class. However, scholastic issues figured largely into Tuesday’s speech, as a range of shortcomings in education were connected with the untapped potential of the American workforce – the products of a flawed education system. Sara Ferguson, a teacher from Pennslyvania who was invited to attend the speech, was pleased to see that Obama made the connection between education and the United States’ economic issues. “We need more politicians to realize that quality public education is the way to economic recovery.” Continue reading
In the mid 1980s, the course of longtime educator Roger Schank’s career changed forever. A professor of computer science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), he radically shifted focus when his own children began their careers as students. His professional work up to that point had been devoted to developing a successful system by which computers could be programed to learn. When his children entered the education system he noticed that, while he was trying to teach computers how to learn, the schools were merely teaching his children how to pass. Schank became increasingly horrified with how little learning actually occurred in these supposedly “educational” environments and devoted the rest of his life to correcting this fundamental problem. The solution, he believes, is learning with computers.
2011 was a big year in the advancement of technology with consequences, intended -or otherwise- impacting the educational sector with ripples quickly becoming waves. The Ipad tablet has transcended being the plaything in bourgeois households of the upper class and are now making their presence -and more importantly utility- in schools a thing of the present with every passing day. Take the Eufala primary school in Alabama, USA as a prime example, where children at the pre-Kindergarten level have access to and learn interactively through Ipads which as Tiffiny Woo notes
“prepare(s) students to (be able to ) navigate (through) a technologically centered society”.
Kindle, like the Ipad has also revolutionized the consumption of books through digital formats, with Amazon.com noting for the first time “in July that the sale of digital books outpaced that of traditional hard copy publishing, selling 143 digital books for every 100 hardback from May through July -the rate reaching 180 e-books for every 100 hardbacks in the last four weeks (of July) alone“.
With January nearly half finished, I thought it was time I contribute my two cents on upcoming trends in education, technology and how their deepening relationship would come to impact classrooms this year. These are trends and stories I’ll be returning to and fleshing out further, but I thought I’d get my ideas out there while they’re still hot!
1. Regulatory regimes to govern the emergence of Virtual Schools.
As the United States moves inches closer to the upcoming 2012 election, expect education reform to make a return of sorts to the national spotlight. Nearly two years ago Florida became the country’s first laboratory for education reform, making 2011 the year for virtual education. Unfortunately, while the fight for education reform is pitting proponents of blended/hybrid education against teachers unions, what is resulting is a greater array of educational tools available to the student. As this market grows, so too is the inexorable march towards a concrete set of regulatory rules for a massive and largely untapped market that’s worth billions.
The Colorado board of Education has already voted on instilling a set of educational regulations, which traditional brick-and-mortar schools currently face. This is but one example of how government regulations are beginning to codify a set of standards for student learning in virtual schools. This is a sign of the times, with necessary rules in place to ensure students receive an education that is comparable in the least, to traditional schools within an industry that has virtually -pardon the pun- exploded.
2- Open Source University Programs
Late last year the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that the university was expanding the array of open source courses it was providing, courses that are free and available for anyone interested in the classes offered- with a certificate of completions provided to any enrolled MIT student who completes a number of courses. This comes on the heels of news that Stanford University has provided similar courses – such as Software as a Service,Computer Science 101, Machine Learning, Cryptography, Natural Language Processing, Human Computer Interaction, Design and Analysis of Algorithms I, and Probabilistic Graphic Models, which are both free and open source.
3- Apple readies their foray into Digital Textbooks
The internet is already abuzz in anticipation of what exactly Apple has in store with news of their upcoming announcement. Early reports “by sites such as Ars Technica hint that Apple will unveil a textbook version of its Garageband music software – a ‘book creation kit’ that will make it easy for publishers, or teachers, to add video, music and images to text.” This may do what Garageband and Pro-Tools did to the production of music- made it accessible to the public. In doing so, Apple is ready to “disrupt” an $8 billion dollar market, one Steve Jobs said was “ripe for digital destruction”. I don’t want to place too much of a weight on Apple’s share of the market, but news of technology that would empower educators, at the expense of traditional publishing, is news that will definitely make waves. We’ll know definitively what Apple is up to when their plans are finally unveiled at the New York Guggenheim on January 18th, 2012.
4- Move to Cloud Computing
In the same vein a Dropbox changed the way information is stored or how SoundCloud forever altered the way music is heard, disseminated and experienced, Cloud Computing is set to alter the educational landscape in a way that is set to bring educators, students and administrators together like never before. The concept of “clouds” is well elaborated on in the YouTube video Cloud Computing Explained with the Shankerblog delving deeper into what this might mean for educational institutions in general. Consolidating the information students need through “clouds” would facilitate students’ ability to learn anywhere, providing students and teachers the ability to interact and collaborate in ways that will enhance learning.
While troubling to some, cloud computing would also contribute to the development of “learning analytics”, qualitative metrics taken from student activity, time spent on work, and student grade outcomes in ways that could help us understand the process of learning in ways we haven’t be able to before. This does present questionable issues, consolidating student information at the expense of student privacy. However, just the possibility of what cloud computing presents is an exciting prospect for researchers of education pedagogy helping further understand how best students learn.
5- Handheld Mobile Devices will Democratize Advances in Education Technology
For those of you who follow MathQuack on Twitter, you know how excited we were for UNESCO’s “Mobile Learning Week” seminar in New York earlier in the year. For nations in the developing world, governments often don’t have the money to invest in infrastructure like telephone lines -let along broadband- that are critical in allowing citizens a means to access the educational tools the internet has helped to disseminate. The UNESCO Mobile Learning Week website has a great collection of the presentations that seminar played host to, giving you a good idea of how much of an impact the use of mobile devices have worldwide; “Mobile Technologies, Education and Socio-Economic Development by Stephane Boyera” in particular.
Stephane Boyera of the World Wide Web Foundation, a participant of the “Mobile Learning Week” notes that in “the mobile is often referred to as the computer of Africa”. This was at the heart of what made Mobile Learning Week so exiting; increased access of learning applications that expand. This isn’t as critical of a medium in learning as it is in the developing world, however attitudes are quickly changing with regard to their utility in the classroom, with many schools becoming increasingly accepting of students who “Bring Their Own Technology” or BYOT. Take the Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City as an example of how school attitudes are changing, making 2012 a year for greater integration of education technology in and out of the classroom.
And so we keep a keen eye to developments on the horizon of 2012, with ones we listed as those we think will be shaking up the industry. Think we left some out? Let us know which developments you’ve got your eye on and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!
“Disrupting Class” by Clayton Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Chester E. Finn Jr. is another compelling book that has been responsible for steering forward the conversation on education, painting a vivid picture for its readers of his vision for “the classroom of the future”. An excerpt from their book, is an entry on Edutopia titled “Disrupting Class: Student Centric Education is the Future”, which provides an appropriate backdrop for our next discussion, which is education, technology and the future of the classroom.
In my last post, I introduced Howard Gardner’s perspectives on student learning, through his theory on multiple intelligences, its rightful place in the classroom and how teachers can integrate his advances into their classrooms. Nearly thirty years later, advances have been made in the way we approach and view education, sparking a critical debate that is responsible for slowly moving classrooms away from a one-size fits all approach to teaching.
Simple as it sounds, the key is to individualize learning individually. This is the core message of “Disrupting Class”. In fact during a presentation the authors gave at the American Enterprise Institute on Oct. 27th 2008, co-author Michael Horn noted that it was Garner’s theory of multiple intelligences that served as the primary reason as to why students struggled to learn in a standardized setting only “learn(ing) better in a customized setting where they can learn at their own pace and through methods that work for each individual” was a more holistic and successful approach to education achieved.
In 1983 Howard Gardner published his first book on a subject that would revolutionize the way we understand human beings to understand, process and learn new information. “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”, published by Basic Books, details seven identifiable forms of multiple intelligence (MI), revealing the various ways human beings think, learn and understand the world around them. With the help of LDPride.net, I’ve included a brief break down of the seven types of MI, which inform us of the different ways we understand students to learn:
The ability to visualize using spatial or visual elements. These learners tend to think using pictures, graphs, videos and movies, retaining information most efficiently when vivid mental images are integrated as part of the educational experience.
The ability to use words and language using highly developed auditory skills. These learners tend to think in words as opposed to pictures. These students are keen listeners, strong readers, writers and storytellers. They are particularly adept at remembering information, conveying knowledge and convincing others of their point of view. They learn best by taking notes, listening to lectures and discussing what they have learned.
According to a study on information retention rates of students, J.J Lagowski’s article in the Journal of Chemical Education has yielded surprising results in the graph below. Lagowski found that compared to traditional models in education the key to the most effective way students learn is marked by
- Less of a reliance on face-to-face teaching
- Greater reliance on high quality learning.
Parents and teachers alike need not worry. Findings reveal that students don’t have to be in the classroom to learn the subjects covered in class; they just need to be engaged in ways that are interactive. Traditional classroom teaching that center around lectures mean students on average will retain 26% of what they hear. This is not a comforting statistic for lecture heavy classes, keeping in mind students will retain only 26% of what they “hear” in the 20 minutes that they actually pay attention. Notes displayed on the board in class during lecture only represents an added 4% to the information students retain, with students remembering “30% of what they see”.
What does this reveal about the be key to learning? Students must be engaged, key to this is classroom participation and group activities where students “say, as they do”, to demonstrate learning. This is a strategy Lagowski registers as having a 90% rate of retention in what students learn. Teaching strategies in school must then center on “cooperative learning groups in class” and employ “flexible teaching opportunities”.