Posts Tagged iste
On Tuesday afternoon I attended the ISTE12 talk given by Elliot Soloway and Cathleen Norris titled “Education in the age of mobilism: The inevitable transformation of the K-12 classroom”. The following is my summary of what I learned during the talk of these pioneering experts in this field.
Elliot and Cathleen (and others from SIGML) define a mobile device as a cell phone, smart phone, or tablet but not a laptop. The latter is a transportable device but not a mobile device. They have a long-held belief that by 2015 every grade in every school in the US will be using mobile learning devices 24/7. Students and parents want this to happen, so it is going to happen. They know that this change will not be easy or fast, but they believe it will be a cheaper way to go than the current book, laptop, and computer-based track that we’re currently on.
Defining characteristics of the “Age of Mobilism” (which they strongly believe that we are in) are the following:
- Connectedness: all the time, everywhere. It is not enough to say “anywhere at any time”
- Affordable by everyone
- Global: cross cultural, cross everything
They emphasized two pieces of data to support their contention. First, in 2012 there will be one cell phone for every single person on the planet. Second, 72% of Apple’s revenue now comes from the iPad and the iPhone. People aren’t going to carry laptops in the future. Why should they? Their smart phone (which is the only kind of phone that will exist) will have nearly as much computing power (because of the cloud) as their laptop.
What it takes to bring about change
The speakers pointed out that, while new technology has changed just about every industry it has come into contact with, it has had little effect on K-12 education (so far). Movies were originally resistant, too. They originally performed plays in a theater and included shots of the audience in the recording. It took quite a while for someone to figure out that they could perform for the camera alone, and that the audience was not needed for the recording.
It takes new technology plus new processes in order to bring about disruptive change. Thus, using the old pedagogy of a teacher standing in front of a class while talking or students doing “worksheets” in combination with a computer isn’t going to bring about that dramatic growth and change and improvement. You need to change your educational model to 1:1, individualized education that is enabled by the technology in order to get the gains you are looking for.
Deploying technology is hard
One of the hard things about deploying technology in a school is that scaling across lots of teachers is really hard. The success of the pilot project usually leads to unrealistic expectations because you expect the next round to be the same as the first. This doesn’t happen because the teachers involved in the pilot project are usually a different kind of person, or are invested in the project differently, than the people in the full roll-out. First, they do whatever it takes to make the technology and the class work. Second, these pilot teachers are “artisan teachers” who make it look easy. The challenge comes with you have to support everyday teachers, parents, and admins. It is not a challenge to support the kids; they are adaptive and will figure it out.
The artisan teachers, the ones working with the technology in the pilot, do a Learn by Doing pedagogy. They invoke a John Dewey quote (which they referred to multiple times in the talk):
They give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, … learning naturally results.
So, in the doing is the learning. Teachers should not focus on the end result of the activity to see if learning has occurred — they should think about encouraging activities that lead to learning in their very doing.
To actually scale up, two plans can be followed. The first, shallow scaling, involves rolling out the technology to everyone and making sure that everyone knows how to use the technology itself and then figuring out how to use it. The second involves figuring out the pedagogy first and rolling out the new pedagogy with the technology as an accompanying tool in order to implement it. As you might guess from how they name them, the speakers highly recommend the second approach because it ends up being more successful and being less frustrating for teachers.
The benefits of mobile technology
In order to bring about the benefits of mobile learning, teachers need to determine the activities that students can do with these devices that they could not do with a pencil and paper. They acknowledge that it is not always the case that the students could not do the activities with pencil and paper but that the mobile technologies simply make it so much easier to do something different.
They have found that mobile devices make it much easier to enact learning by doing. With the devices in their hands, the students have more responsibility for the doing while the teacher simultaneously has less responsibility. This raises a sense of ownership of the learning in the student.
They have also found the following benefits:
- Students have direct and immediate access to information, events, locations, and data. This means that teachers no longer had to mediate the content. Students can get the information themselves.
- Learning in context
- Because of the previous point, assignments can be more complex and related to the real world, not separate in-class assignments divorced from reality.
- Student groups, but also teachers along with his/her students, can discuss, collaborate, and work as a team. The technology helps teachers learn along with the kids.
- All the time, everywhere learning
- It is not enough to say “anytime, anywhere learning.” The learning can happen all the time and everywhere the student is. Stop thinking about learning in a classroom — think about learning as an integral part of life and living.
Teachers need to keep in mind that mobile devices are not just computers. These are better than laptops; they have accelerometers and GPS and will have soon temperature sensors and heart monitors. Because of the highly competitive industry and its relatively young age, both software and hardware offerings are rapidly evolving. It is time to get in right now, but realize that the tools will continue to get dramatically better and cheaper. But don’t wait because you need to start creating capabilities and expertise in this area.
A great offer
Through their Intergalactic Mobile Learning Center, Soloway and Norris are making available at very low cost the software, hardware, and curriculum (for a few subjects and grades) in order to help schools kick-start this journey. This is, or will be, available for Windows, Android, and iOS platforms. They seemed genuinely excited about the opportunities that this would provide to teachers who don’t know where or how to start.
Last Tuesday I attended the ISTE12 keynote by Dr. Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon. He is a deeply interesting, funny, and motivating speaker who clearly has a wealth of knowledge on his topic of what it means to deliver a world class education. He has written World Class Learners and Catching up or Leading the Way along with many dozens of articles.
Here I will try to summarize the main points of his talk in a unified essay. As far as I can recall, the points below are his; I wish I could take credit for them, but I can’t.
Choose the right goals
He considers the story of Easter Island (as recounted by Jared Diamond) to be a good metaphor for what is happening with educational reform. The Easter Island residents seemed to think that their rock carvings were a sign of prosperity of their carving, so each family dedicated all their resources to carving bigger and better rocks. They neglected farming and everything else that was needed. Eventually their society collapsed not because of external influences but because they had chosen the wrong goal.
He came back to this again and again: If you choose the wrong goal by which to measure yourself, no matter how good or efficient you are you will never get to where you need to go. Actually, the more efficient you are, the more quickly you will disappear (or at least become irrelevant).
He likens the above situation to education reform in the US, Australia, England and many other places around the world. Here in the US we have the following:
- Common Core
- He says that he is not against standards, but he would like this one better if it weren’t common and if it weren’t considered the core of what is to be learned.
- No Child Left Behind
- Sometimes it is good if a child is left behind. For example, what if we are all going in the wrong direction. Wouldn’t you like if it that child was able to choose to go in another direction?
(This is among many others.) He says standardized test scores are like the giant stone heads on Easter Island. They are really beautiful and seductive, but they aren’t what we need. Using technology to raise our test scores is the wrong use of the technology. He mentioned this saying:
If you judge a fish by its ability to climb, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.
You cannot judge technology by its ability to improve test scores. This is not what it’s really good for.
The leaders in standardized testing
When the 2009 PISA test results (gold standard of education results) were released, China took #1 in all three categories. Obama said that this is the Sputnik moment for us. Arne Duncan said this is a wake-up call. Everyone wanted to know how these countries did so well. However, when these results were announced, China did not celebrate. Why not? Well, they are looking for different talents:
- Wen Jiabao
- “China must have entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs.”
- Kai-fu Lee
- “The next Apple or Google will appear, but not in China…unless it abolishes its education.”
Why were these Chinese leaders worried after seeing these results? Well, it has to do with the innovation and leadership disparity they saw. For example, in patent filings in 2008, China had 203k while USA had 400k and Japan had 500k. Given the difference in populations among these three, China should have had significantly more than either of these. Also, while Asians make up 5% of the US population, and 15-25% of the student bodies in the Ivy League (and other top schools), they make up only 2% of the board seats of Fortune 500 firms.
So, the Chinese were not satisfied with their educational system because they perceived something lacking in it as the underlying engine for their economy. At the other end of the spectrum, tthe US was (and is) really dissatisfied with its system.
History of bad test-taking
You hear that US education is in decline. The College Board says we’re crumbling. Professor Zhao says that US education isn’t in decline — it has always been bad. He wonders why the US is still among the leading countries
He brings up several points when emphasizing how bad our educational system has been. It was bad in the 1950s. Remember the whole Sputnik thing? There was a special issue of Life magazine in 1958 titled “Crisis in Education.” In 1983 we were comparing our educational system unfavorably with that in Japan. Again, the US was at risk, this time from Japan. We have a long history as bad test takers. In 1960s we were 12th out of 12 in math. In 1970s-80s, we then were 12-15th out of 15 in math. You could actually say that we are doing better now than we ever did.
Explanations for the bad scores
All sorts of explanations have been put forward for why the US has such bad test scores. First, it has been found that there is an inverse relationship between test scores and perceived entrepreneurial capability. He isn’t saying that the perceived entrepreneurial capability is causing bad test scores; however, given that we are so high on this dimension, it then makes sense that we would have low test scores…even if it is still unclear why this relationship exists.
Second, he points out that all sorts of surveys have shown that we are very confident in our math ability even though we are really bad. Our political leader have said that this implies that we need higher standards, and that these standards need to be clearly and frequently measured by tests so that we will know just how bad we are. This will then cause us to be sad and to work hard at raising our scores. Or so their thinking goes.
Third, in the US most teachers care more about children than math. This is apparently a big problem here; he said this with a huge sense of irony in his delivery.
The professor made it clear that he is not particularly satisfied with any of these possible explanations. Actually, he is not even satisfied with the question because he doesn’t think that the scores matter at all.
A “Lady Gaga” curriculum
What he is really interested in is whether or not it is possible for a school to develop a curriculum that could churn out a whole lot of Lady Gagas. No matter how you judge her music, he said that it is clear that she is talented, entrepreneurial, and creative. Would it even be possible to create a Lady Gaga curriculum? A Common Core for Lady Gaga? Does this even make sense to think about?
When creating a curriculum, we are placing a bet on what’s going to be important in the future — what will make us “college-ready” or “ready for our career.” The predictions that we place are based on the past. The question becomes what really makes people rise to the top?
Amy Chua, in Day of Empire says that tolerance is the key. Richard Florida, in The rise of the creative class, says that it is technology, talents, and tolerance. It turns out that tolerance gets us diversity, creativity, and entrepreneurship, which are the things that an economy needs to thrive. Whether or not you believe that the resulting creativity can be taught, it is clear that an education can help kill it. Maybe it’s the case that US schools kill creativity less successfully than other school systems.
What education should be
The professor poses three important questions for a school system:
- What matters to you: test scores or confidence?
- Do you allow exceptional talents to exist?
- Are you taking advantage of the resources that you have?
The structure of our current educational system was to support our industrial, manufacturing-based economy. While it is true that the average profit per Apple employee is $400,000, they are not the ones putting the devices together. This is being done (mainly) by Asian companies who are much less profitable. Today a company (and an economy) needs unique workers with special skills, and you have to be great because this is a global society.
Further, the economy needs entrepreneurs off all types: business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, policy entrepreneurs. These people, when they are unhappy with a situation, comes up with a solution to make it better. When enough people are working on a problem, and when those people think about things in lots of different ways, then problems get solved and economies advance.
These so-called “black-collar workers” (who he named in honor of Steve Jobs’s turtleneck) don’t wait for someone to create a job for them; they create the job for themselves. He has identified qualities that are common to these people:
- They have to have an innate confidence in their own abilities.
- A supportive network of friends help them persevere.
- A sense that risk-taking is acceptable, or even desirable, gets them to try important and difficult problems.
- A passion for their efforts helps them keep striving in the face of difficulty.
- This allows them to try different approaches when the first 100 fail.
- These people have a real inner drive to solve these problems and to make a difference.
We should all abandon the idea that US schooling can produce employable skills. Kids turning 13 this year, if they work until they are 72, will be retiring in 2071. Think about what has happened in the last 10 years. People make a living working for Facebook, writing Angry Birds, and tweeting. Was that predictable 10 years ago? What makes you think that you can predict that we know what skills will be “employable” for these people in 2071? Remember, our predictions are based on the past. Well, no matter how perfect a horse wagon is, it will never make it to the moon.
Education should involve student autonomy, a global campus, and product-oriented learning. They need to make real things. Schools need to focus on the individual strengths of the student. They need to turn the students into makers of things and not only consumers. This can only happen beyond the school’s walls; the world must become our campus. The people of the world are our collaborators, investors, and customers. Work with them, not against them.
He concluded by saying test scores should not apply to everyone. They don’t reflect your student’s, your teacher’s, or your school’s abilities. A great education allows each child’s maximum potential. Design your class with that in mind.