Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn

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Do we need teachers?
By Barbara Bray    July 8, 2007 -- 08:38 AM

This question is appearing in the blogosphere and I need to jump in.

Dean Shareski wrote The Honeymoon’s Over  where the debate is on about putting technology into every child’s hands. He references:
You have to read all the posts and comments (dig deep) to get the points:

Gary comments on the $100 laptop for Nigerian students:

Get schools entirely out of the computer business and give a generous tax credit for each parent to buy every child a laptop that can be used at school and home. (not a PDA, but a real computer) This would bring enormous volume discounts, boost our economy and play on the public’s selfishness. You’re not paying more taxes, your kid is getting a laptop.

and responds to Will’s comment:

Sure, lots is learned via modelling, but that can occur in any community of practice - often a community devoid of “official” teachers. Kids can certainly show each other neat web sites and computer operations. However, most of that “instruction” takes minutes to hours, not the years schools often invest in “teaching technology.” School doesn’t teach MySpace.

Now, if you’re arguing for the teaching of formal disciplines, such as computer science or media production beyond the standard “make an ‘iMovie’ about the five food groups,” some source of identifiable expertise (some might say, teacher) should be provided.

Short of that. homeless kids can satisfy the ISTE Standards in a few weeks with a hole in the wall in rural India.

In reading more comments, Stephen Downes adds:

My own views are pretty much exactly what Gary Stager’s are in this forum. In particular I support the argument that the children ought to be the ones who decide how these computers are used.

So here goes, my two cents:

So information is at the fingertips of all learners. Are teachers gatekeepers? Are administrators only interested in increasing test scores? Web 2.0 allows information to be connected, collected, shared, modified, and debated. I asked some students of different ages if they could create the curriculum, how would they design it?
  • create video games
  • redesign standards that need to be taught
  • do not teach by grade level
  • set up projects that make a difference
  • have flexible hours
  • use evidence as proof of learning instead of tests
I believe that teachers (good teachers) are constructivists by nature. They want to make a difference and they want their students to use information to develop their knowledge and create an understanding of the world around them and their place in it. Where does this fit in the standards? See my next post on new learning theories.
 
These last few years of NCLB has impacted us so much that we don’t realize how much. In the US, the teachers, parents, and students from PK-5th grade only know "Reading First" and believe that the curriculum and textbooks are the same. I had one parent in Oakland who thought the textbook was the best thing since slice bread and I thought this was an educated fellow. What ever happened to good literacture? I was appalled when I saw that Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes was rewritten in a summarized version by another author for Open Court. So what if we learn how to read if we don’t read to learn or even read for enjoyment? I really am a book lover and a geek.

Field trips do not happen in most schools in California. You cannot mention the word "Project-based" in California. I have done most of my work with urban schools in the bay area - PBL was it - you wouldn’t believe the projects that teachers and students created then. The district took the site down with all of the projects. Help! Everything changed with NCLB. I could not see me teaching teachers to teach to the test. UGH! Most of my work in the last five years has been out of my own home state and in other countries.

What happened to the arts? I was an art history major, with a mother who is an artist, daughter an artist, and son an actor. What would have happened to them if they were in school today? What would have happened to our greatest thinkers of the past?

I believe in teachers and administrators that want to innovate. It is not a bad word. Check what the Queensland Government in Australia is doing with the
Rich Tasks of the New Basics curriculum. Suites of projects that are collaborative and product-based not age-based.

My thoughts: Students do not learn at the same time yet we continue to teach this way.

I believe in teachers and will not give up on them. I do agree that professional development has to change. No more one-stop workshops! Teachers want to learn from each other. Ken Bakken an eCoach in Washington guided middle school math teachers as they planned collaboratively. I showed Ken the tools and he came up with new ways for teachers to collaborate in a way I didn’t think of.

I was lucky to work with a great group of teachers in Pinellas County Schools who did
six 6-week cross-age cross-curriculum science-based projects focusing on community and making a difference. This was a one year grant. Let’s be real! It will continue because the teachers, students, parents want it to, but look at the results. One fourth grade student said to the program coordinater at a field trip to the high school "this is the best day of my life. I will always remember it."

Schools are not meant to be prisons but many of them have bars on the windows, metal detectors, police in the hallways. Would you want to be a student in any of these schools? Learning should be fun!

They’ll change it anyway especially in higher ed: Check out Leigh’s
Voicethread.

We have to change for our children. Have you seen Did You Know 2.0? by
Xplane the Visual Company.

Let’s work together to make a future that we all want to be a part of.


Categories: "Future" "Change"



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Comments:
By J. Seto      July 23, 2007 -- 04:55 PM
Very interesting to imagine every student (in the world?) having access to the Internet via a (laptop) computer...they, of course, would have to know how to use it as an educational tool, and for what purpose. I'm sure kids would learn how to navigate and use the MySpace "stuff" right away - and that in itself would be "educational." All students being provided the opportunity and information that is available to them via the Internet is an awesome proposal. I think, even if the learning (provided it is appropriate!)is inadvertent, students would learn something...and if this peaks their curiosity to learn more, I feel this would be a good thing.

Reply to J. Seto

By Linda Ullah      July 28, 2007 -- 02:37 PM
Let's remember that technology is just a tool. The question really is how do we best use all this new and emerging technology as an educational tool? Even if the digital natives know "how," we, the educators need to guide them. I've begun using the expression that the digital natives are in danger of becoming a "Lord of the Flies" generation if we don't provide the necessary adult guidance.

Reply to Linda Ullah

By Roxanne Clement      August 1, 2007 -- 02:39 PM
Accessing information using technology opens the door to the world and can easily overwhelm us with the volumes of material at our fingertips. Sorting reality from fantasy, organizing information, rethinking and summarizing, questioning and theorizing; these are just a few of the essential skills of critical thinkers and global consumers. Can you show me the NCLB standards and standardized test questions that evaluate how well our students navigate through our growing global society? I think some of the most important skills we will teach for the future include critical thinking and problem solving, personal responsibility, empathy, and selflessness. How do we measure student success in utilizing technology? It may start with how they use it to make a difference for others.

Reply to Roxanne Clement

By Erin Elliott      August 7, 2007 -- 04:52 PM
Some very interesting research work done by Charles Reigeluth from Indiana University on the paradigm shift in the Information Age for educational restructuring. They have taken big steps in the "Decatur Project" to systemically change the way education is viewed today. Teaching should be student centered and technology allows us to customize learning for ALL students. With traditional models, students are generalized to learn the same way. Check out this research http://www.indiana.edu/%7Esyschang/decatur/reigeluth_pubs/index.html

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