Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

It has been a few years since I heard Ian Jukes speak at the T+L Conference in Nashville (October 19, 2007).  However, his words continue to ring in my ears, and I want to share some of them with you as I reflect on where our school district is with embedding technology in learning.

Ian Jukes said:

“We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.”

“Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?”

“…Our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.”

“The starting point for making the necessary changes is that as educators we have to understand how truly different our students are.”

“This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.”

“The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.”

“Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.”

“The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”

“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how…”

“The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory.”

My summary and challenge to myself and others that continues today:  As educators it is time that we take responsibility for our own learning.  If we want to create self-directed learners, we must become one.  We must model self-directed, independent learning, and we need to discover how our students learn in the 21st Century.

Seth Godin and Tom Peters explain why!

Alice Carnegie Mellon University offers a FREE programming language along with teaching tools called Alice:

“Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience.”

“Alice is a teaching tool designed as a revolutionary approach to teaching and learning introductory programming concepts. The Alice team has developed instructional materials to support students and teachers in using this new approach. Resources include textbooks, lessons, sample syllabuses, test banks, and more. Other authors have generously joined our efforts, creating additional textbooks.”

Scratch There are separate programs geared toward college, high school, and middle school students and can be downloaded for your use today! Another FREE good programming opportunity for younger students can be found via MIT‘s Scratch. With these offerings combined a school district can offer programming opportunities K-12 at minimal cost!!!

Alan November NP Alan November graced us with his presence today in North Platte, Nebraska. It was a pleasure to hear his inspiring words and to enjoy his wonderful wit. I appreciated his approach and the challenges that he gave to us as educators. Some highlights from his presentation include:

Alan shared the idea that when 80% of the population was involved in farming there was a sense of responsibility and children could contribute in a meaningful way in a family or community. Today technology will change 80% of current jobs. Education needs to be about children creating, organizing, and producing, and we should look at technology as learning jobs; essentially, kids need jobs like they used to have on the farm; no, not feeding calves, cleaning stalls, or stacking hay, but meaningful responsibilities – I know you all know this but I’m just addressing the smart alecks. 😉

Alan mentioned some jobs that should exist in our classrooms:

  • Curriculum Review Team
  • Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
  • Global Communication Team
  • Official Scribes
  • Resource Finders
  • Technical Editors

He recommended teachers, students, and classrooms create custom search engines (See Google Custom Search); that we must connect kids to community; teach web literacy and critical thinking; and use a contributing model that provides for meaningful work, opportunities, products, and learning.

In essence, it is a “return to the farm” – children contributing and collaborating. I grew up on a farm/ranch and I had meaningful work everyday of my life. Our livelihood depended on each person doing his or her job well, and it was vital work indeed. If I was asked to ride a horse through blizzard conditions to pick up a newborn calf it was important that I did so; otherwise, a calf that would eventually be worth as much as $2000 or more dollars would die frozen in the night. Many do not have that kind of responsibility today and that is okay, but without something to be responsible for a child is missing the opportunity to be valued. This should happen at home, but it can be reinforced at school as we help students, young and old, to accept jobs that have value and substance and are meaningful in a young person’s life in today’s busy world. The jobs Alan mentions are simple, but they are important, and we should provide opportunities for students to serve as they learn and learn as they serve.

PBS Frontline special (Can be viewed online at the program web site):  “Growing Up Online.”

I watched this some time ago, but want to share it (View it and other great clips at TED Talks + check out Pangea Day, get involved!).

Here is the link to the video:  “Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

“Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, talks about our new wave of overprotected kids — and spells out 5 (and really, he’s got 6) dangerous things you should let your kids do. Allowing kids the freedom to explore, he says, will make them stronger and smarter and actually safer.

This talk comes from TED University 2007, a pre-conference program where TEDsters share ideas.”

Enjoy!

Great site:  Taking It Global!

TakingITGlobal.org is an online community that connects youth to find inspiration, access information, get involved, and take action in their local and global communities. It’s the world’s most popular online community for young people interested in making a difference, with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month.

TIG’s highly interactive website provides a platform for expression, connection to opportunities, and support for action. Join now and connect with thousands of other young people around the world!”

Active Learning at its best!!!

T+L reference to H I T I have returned home to my family, town, and school district from Nashville, Tennessee and the T+L Conference. The presenters that were most impressive to me include Will Richardson, Peter Diamandis, and Ian Jukes.

Ian was most impressive and captured the essence of many of the presenters in the fact that we need change and it is time to do it NOW! We can talk, converse, plan, analyze, and hope, but it is time to take action and bring about real, active change in education.

Here are some bits of information and excerpts from what Ian Jukes shared that put the situation into perspective for me and hopefully for many others:

The song remains the same…

“Just like 50 years ago many students still sit primarily in rows – for many, the oral tradition continues – many teachers still believe that chalk and talk is the most effective way to teach – many students are still expected to learn primarily by listening – most information still comes from the teacher or textbook – the primary focus in the classroom remains on content recall that is taught in isolation from the learning context.

We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.

As a result it’s increasingly apparent that there is a fundamental disconnect between the way most kids think, learn, and communicate – and the way schools interact with them. And students are voting with their minds and feet, which is reflected in the data shows the seriousness of the disconnect between the real world of high-school student & the real world of schools.

According to the NCES Condition of Education report, report, 6% of white kids, 29% of African American and 24% of Hispanic kids are at-risk. Now, think of the exponential, the quantum impact of these numbers on our society and economy – unless we address all of the needs of all of these children.

Beyond this, children’s view of the relevancy of their school experience to their future lives has declined steadily and dramatically since the late 1980s. According to their research 28% of 12th-grade high school students believe that school work is meaningful; only 21% believe that their courses are interesting; and a mere 39% believe that school work will have any bearing on their success in later life.

And these statistics are even more shocking when you realize that these are only the opinions of those students who have remained in high school for four years. Students who find the high school experience the least relevant have already exited the system in huge numbers.

The Carnegie Institute reports that in the largest 32 urban districts in our country, only 50% of students who enroll actually graduate. Each day, 2000 U.S. high school students drop out. If their voices were included in the above poll, the profile would be far worse.”

Furthermore…

“Our job as teachers and parents is not to make this a matter of either or – either our world or theirs. Rather our job is to be a counterbalancing influence in their lives – to help them understand the world from many different perspectives. And if we are willing to do this – if we are willing to acknowledge their world, – we will set them free. And in doing so, we will be able to leverage their digital lifestyle and help them become better, more engaged, more independent learners.

Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?

If we want to unfold the full intellectual and creative genius of all of our children more of the time. If we want to prepare our children for the world that awaits them. If we want to help them prepare for their future, not our past – for their future, not our comfort zone. If we are going to march through the 21st Century and maintain our tradition of success. If we want our children to have the relevant 21st century skills – we must create a bridge between their world and ours because the way we define our schools today, the way we define teaching and learning and assessment, will define our societies tomorrow”

Consider this…

“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how, develop an understanding and the ability to apply key content concepts and ideas, explore dynamically, discover, pose questions and question answers, solve problems, engage in complex tasks that enable them to address essential questions and participate in the processes that make up intellectual accomplishment, tasks that are generally inquiry driven, span different media, link different disciplines, have more than one right answer, multiple routes to each of these answers, an understandable purpose and a connection to the real world outside school.

The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory. The power of context to assist with learning is worthy of note for teachers who are struggling to prepare students for large standardized tests. By providing a context for the information teachers are actually helping students learn the material so their short-term recall will be better when they write the test as well as with long-term recall. The starting point is to understand how much differently they learn from the way we learn and then to reconsider what we can do to modify what we teach and how we teach it and how we assess learning.”

Next, what have we been doing and how do we change…

Gap

Now…

“I’m going to stop right here for a moment to stress this point. It’s absolutely essential that we understand that Digital Natives come to school able to do and understand so many complex things. But if you REALLY talk to them, they will tell you that the curriculum they are given feels to them like they are being put in a strait jacket; or that their mind is being laced with powerful sedatives – and that every time they go to school they have to mentally power down.

The sad truth is that many educators just don’t understand how truly different digital natives are. They’re not just a little different they’re completely different and as far as I’m concerned the major problem is that today’s learners.

Today’s learners – Digital Natives – are not the learners our schools were originally designed for – and today’s learners are not the students teachers were trained to teach – this is a clash of the cultures. As Bill Gates once said, even when schools work exactly as they were designed, that can’t teach our kids everything they need to know.

And if we continue to do things that we already know aren’t working, we really have to consider just who really has the learning problem – and it certainly isn’t the kids.

Consider for a moment that that 50% of the world’s population is under the age of 25 years old – then consider what % of teachers are under 25 or what percentage of people in this room are under 25? And because we don’t get it, a lot of kids think they have to slow down when they’re dealing with us.

The bottom line is, that if we want understanding, if we want retention, if we want success on state and national exams, if we want to address and exceed the mandates state, provincial or national curriculum, if we want children to demonstrate proficiency beyond content recall, we can’t just lecture at them.”

Furthermore…

“LOTS vs. HOTS”

“The emphasis in the classroom can’t just be on simple data information recall, low level thinking skills, and lots of information – what we call LOTS (lower order thinking skills and LOTS of information).

If we want our children to be successful on the test, if we want them to be successful in life – if we want them to be successful in life beyond being able to successfully complete a written exam or fill in a bubble test – if we want them to graduate as more than just highly educated useless people – people who are good at school but not adequately prepared for life – then our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.

It has to include more emphasis placed upon HOTS, higher order thinking skills and processes, on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking, on critical thinking, problem solving, project and process based learning, Gardner’s analysis of multiple intelligences, de Bono, 21st Century literacies that move beyond theory to the application of what is learned, metacognitive skills, and application of best practices based on an emerging understanding about how learning actually takes place.

This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.

The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.

We really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to honor their world and to create new schools and new opportunities for learners.

But to do this, we the adults need to have a 21st century cultural awareness. And we need to know and be able to use the very 21st century skills that we talk about our students having. In reality, most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.

As a result, despite our best efforts and intentions, it’s often impossible for us to design learning in the ways our students need and want – learning that will engage and inspire them.

Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.

As Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel Pink, there is an emerging world where critical thinking, problem solving, and a deep level of information fluency is increasingly more important than content recall by itself.

Research tells us that people who grow up in different cultures don’t just think about different things, they actually think differently. As educators we have to understand how truly different our students are. In the past most of the changes we experienced were about style.

As we grew up, we saw incremental changes in clothing, language use, body adornments, music, and lifestyle. But for anyone 25 and younger, the changes and differences go far deeper than just style and they are largely driven, by the arrival & rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century.

The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”

Dale’s Learning Cone…

Dale Cone

I know I have shared more information than I probably should in a single post, but these are fundamental, life changing, insights into what needs to be done in education. Ian repeatedly referred to “lip service” and unfortunately he is right. All talk and maybe a little action for a little while until it all fades into the sunset. The time is now, to do!

Read all of Ian Jukes article at:

http://web.mac.com/iajukes/thecommittedsardine/Handouts_files/ndl.pdf

Journey of Mankind The Bradshaw Foundation has an interesting interactive online presentation called “Journey of Mankind: The Peopling of the World.” Their site states:

“The Bradshaw Foundation, in association with Stephen Oppenheimer, presents a virtual global journey of modern man over the last 160,000 years. The map will show for the first time the interaction of migration and climate over this period. We are the descendants of a few small groups of tropical Africans who united in the face of adversity, not only to the point of survival but to the development of a sophisticated social interaction and culture expressed through many forms. Based on a synthesis of the mtDNA and Y chromosome evidence with archaeology, climatology and fossil study, Stephen Oppenheimer has tracked the routes and timing of migration, placing it in context with ancient rock art around the world.”

Enjoy!

I keep coming back to Sir Ken Robinson‘s speech “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  I watched it again and share it here:

The Panoramic Maps collection at the U.S. Library of Congress is an online resource that can be used to compare and contrast present day maps and landscapes with those of the past. A “collection connections” page gives ideas on how to use these maps in the study of U.S. History, the arts and humanities, and how to challenge critical thinking skills. This is a great social studies resource but has many possibilities in an interdisciplinary setting. Enjoy!

Panoramic Maps