For our first T21 module (EdTech Teacher) we are exploring LiveBinders. This is a web tool which allows you to organize, curate, and share digital resources. A user creates a virtual binder and fills it with links to websites, text documents, PDF files, digital images, and videos. The binder can then be shared with colleagues or students. The creation of a binder can also be a collaborative process wherein two or more people build a binder.
Think of the ways you and your students can use LiveBinders. It could be the “parking place” for all the resources you want your students to use for a unit of study. It could be how you and your department collect and organize resources you will all use. Students could use LiveBinders as a tool for developing and presenting a project. A LiveBinder could include all the resources used in creating a project as well as the project itself. How else do you think it could be used? Please post your comments below.
Here is a short introduction showing how to create a binder. There are many other tutorials on the LiveBinders site itself as well as on YouTube.
I am learning how to use a MaKey MaKey circuit board in conjunction with Scratch to create simple music. These videos track my progress.
Leah Buechley is my new rock star. Working in the MIT Media Lab, she is exploring ways we can combine electronics and computer programming with art, music, and fabrics. Leah is an assistant professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, where she directs the High-Low Tech research group. For more video on the amazing work her group is exploring click here.
Gal Sasson has put together an amazing puppet theater by combining art, music, theater, electronics, and computer programming. My mind is boggled by how far we have come from cardboard shoeboxes and sock puppets. I am guessing that Gal spent many hours designing, problem solving, iterating, and tinkering. Her passion and persistence have resulted in a truly spectacular product. Is there a way to measure her learning? Does it matter?
How are we going to educate students to be prepared to live and work in a world where up-to-date encyclopedic information is as close as a smart phone click? Where new technologies are being developed at lightning speed? Where many jobs are being outsourced to countries where they can be accomplished at lower costs? And other jobs are being automated? Tony Wagner explores these questions in his book Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Wagner and videographer Robert Compton interviewed parents, young STEM and social innovators, and business and military leaders, to find out what it takes to create a mindset that is ready to be creative, take risks, identify needs, and work toward solutions. The message for teachers is that we need to take the role of guide on the side rather than sage on the stage. Gone are the days when sitting in a lecture hall to “receive” information will be sufficient to develop the skills students need. As Paul Bottino (of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard) says, “The value of explicit information is rapidly dropping to zero. Today the real added value is what you can do with what you know.”
This may come as good news to students whose forte is not memorization, but instead, the ability and desire to explore, experiment, work and play with others, and think in divergent and convergent ways. It may come as bad news to teachers who like their students to sit quietly in neat rows and not ask questions that start with, “What if…” Wagner says, “It is a rare class that genuinely encourages students to take intellectual risks, and that encourages learning from- rather than penalizing – failure.”
Wagner quotes General Martin Dempsey of the US Army who tells rising battalion brigade commanders “I [make} three promises: one, we are not going to give you an organization that is perfectly fitted to your needs; two, we are not going to give you the equipment that is exactly what you’d like to have to accomplish your mission; and three, the guidance you get is likely to be late to your need. The answer is you – you the leader- have to figure this out.”
When I think about the path real life takes for most people, I think Dempsey has it just about right. You could promise that to anyone in any situation and be true to your promises.
As all of these interviews were taking place, Robert Compton has his camera running. The book is full of QR codes which, when scanned with a QR scanner such as Tag Reader, will bring up the video so you can watch the interview. All of the interviews can be found at http://www.creatinginnovators.com.
Whether or not you agree with Wagner, this book offers food for thought about how we should approach the education of today’s students.
My favorite Wagner quote:
“If you don’t fail, you are probably playing it too safe. But you will learn some of your most valuable lessons from failure – far more that your successes.”
Click here for more information on the book.
There is a great discussion taking place at this link on the ISTE Linkedin discussion board. On one level, it’s fascinating to see educators and business leaders from around the world having an asynchronous conversation about this topic. On another level, it’s interesting to see the many views on the topic. Here is my view: In certain situations the use of the Internet is appropriate during a test. In an age when the value of memorizing information is being overshadowed by the ability to locate, analyze, and make sense of information, it seems the goal of a test (in some situations) would be to measure a student’s ability in these areas.
Tony Wagner (author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators) identifies the following Seven Survival skills for the 21st Century. Memorization of facts is not one of them.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Effective Oral and Written Communication
Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
Accessing and Analyzing Information
Agility and Adaptability
Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
Curiosity and Imagination
If you look at NAIS’s Essential Capacities for 21C, the ISTE Nets for Students, NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment and the skills of STEM education, you will find similar listings. Again, memorization and regurgitation of facts are not on the lists. I am interested to know what others in the education world think. Please add your thoughts by commenting on this post.
I just read a great blog post by Sam Gliksman at the link below. He discusses the critical idea that we need to constantly re-evaluate why we are teaching the skills, concepts, and procedures in our curriculums. What do our students need to know? Gliksman says:
“We each have a concept of what constitutes an ideal education even though it’s likely we’ll disagree on many of its components. There is however one common thread that most of us might agree upon. As strange as it may sound, we aren’t teaching children to become good students in school. After all, school is just a transitionary stage of their lives. Our objective is to educate and prepare them for life outside school. What’s the purpose of helping a student ace a test if the learning required for that test has no real-world meaning for the student? Ideally, we’d like to ensure they develop the necessary skills to become happy, productive adults and solid citizens in their lives outside school.”
In other words, we shouldn’t be preparing them to be students (although lifelong learning is a positive goal), we should be preparing them to handle life outside of school in a productive, ethical manner. The world is changing so quickly. New technologies are emerging and being adopted at an ever increasing pace. It is difficult for teachers to know how to prepare students for the world they will inherit. I don’t think anyone has the definitive answer. But I do think we should ask ourselves “Why?” for each skill, concept, and procedure we are teaching.
For the last three days I have been traveling with a group of educators, visiting schools which are that for the innovative ways they are educating their students. The range of variables in these schools was wide, with two schools close to 150 years old and one less than two years old. Their enrollment varied from 30 students to over 10,000. The physical spaces we saw ranged from elegant old construction to rented office space to brand new, state of the art facilities. Two schools were operating with high end technology and practically no hard copy books, while one school had a rag tag library of donated books and a makeshift collection computers and tech tools.
Yet, while we talked with the administrators, teachers, and students, we heard some common themes expressed at each school.
The students were highly engaged and happy about participating in the learning process. Their learning was sparked by passionate inquiry. This inquiry was driven by a personal desire to learn more about something. The learning process started with questions. They were using a variety of avenues to find the answers to their questions, including some very hands-on methods. The teacher role was very much that of a mentor or coach who provided guidance, support, and encouragement. Failure to answer a question or solve a problem did not mean the end of the learning process. Intentional reflection about the learning process turned failure into part of the journey to reach the answer. Attentiveness, or focus, played a major role in moving toward an answer or solution. There was not a focus on grades. The focus was on the growth of skills, not on acquired facts. These skills are translatable to the real world, beyond school.