I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is struggling to get her son to read. It got me thinking. The truth is that hardly anyone, adults or children, has time to sit down and read these days. Of course people do MAKE time to watch American Idol, or Lost or CSI or whatever other empty TV show. Yes, sorry, I mean this. These are 3 examples but there are many more. I am talking about TV programs that either show the worst possible side of human beings or that give people a completely distorted version of reality. If I watched the local news, I would never come out of the house. People overseas have called me to ask if I was OK after hearing some news on their local TV… Across an ocean, thousands of miles away. What is the point of that?
So yes, it is a shame that people don’t read much because I do believe that there are a lot less mediocre books than mediocre TV shows. But here we are, that’s the reality and there is no doubt that children respond a lot better to TV and iPods than a good old bunch of pages. Note that it might have to do with the fact that most parents who want peace and quiet at home have a tendency to just sit their kids in front of the box from a very early age… You can’t blame the little darlings.
So let’s make the most of this situation. Ultimately, why do we want kids to read? Just for the skill or for the content of what they read? Past a certain age, it has to be for the content. The actual skill should be drilled early on and if you have teenagers who can’t read, that’s another problem and not the topic of this article.
A couple of years ago, I was given an iPod. I had never wanted one because I don’t listen to music much and I couldn’t imagine myself walking around with my earphones jamming to my songs. But then I was introduced around the same time to audio books. Wow! What a discovery! My iPod follows me everywhere. I hardly ever watch TV and whenever I am doing something that doesn’t require a high level of concentration, like cooking, ironing, cleaning the house, sorting out mail, etc, I just put the iPod on and I just “read”. I mean I am listening really, but as I am not prepared to make the time to actually sit and read. I just kill two birds with one stone. I have “read” dozens of books in the last couple of years and have learnt so much! It has been the best education of my life. I have grown in ways I didn’t think were possible.
Now I am sure that your kids have an MP3 player of some description. Have you thought about looking into audio books for them. Or simply some audio files that they can have in their iPod and that they would listen to. Have a mix of some music and some educational stuff. Do the same yourself: when you are driving somewhere, let the whole family listen to your favorite audio books, have a discussion about what is said. Get your kids into it from an early age.
The same applies to TV. Yes, there are a lot of useless programs on TV in my opinion, but there are also good ones, that actually bring knowledge. Some kids’ programs are very educational and then you have the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, etc. Instead of quietening your kids with mindless cartoons, try a Discovery program on sea life. Don’t get me wrong, I love cartoons too, every now and then. Some are better than others. But there has to be variety. Children, like all people, respond to what they are given. If you feed them violence from an early age, they’ll enjoy it because it will have become the norm for them and they will want more. If you feed them knowledge, instruction, education from an early age, they will want more of that.
Games consoles are the same. They have games that require some thinking and others that consist of shooting, or racing or pretending you are playing sport. If the weather is good enough to go outside and you like soccer or football or baseball, go and play it, do the real thing. If it is too cold or rainy and you are stuck inside, pick a game that will teach you something, about finances for instance or managing your future, or building a business. There are games like that.
Computer use also needs to be taught to kids early. Mastering Microsoft office is a must. Get them to write their journal on the computer for instance, get them to play around with PowerPoint when they have school projects, show them Publisher, etc. All these are essential skills. The Internet is also a great source of good or bad and you have to pick and choose. There are a lot of interactive sites for kids that can be great. All the communities are good too if they are used for a reasonable amount of time per day. It is very easy to get carried away on the net and spend hours literally wasting time. But there are also a lot of things to be learned. even just the technical aspects of using a computer. Teach your kids to be wise on the net: for instance, make sure they select what pictures they put in their profile and teach them about the kind of image they want to project. They can also learn about advertising themselves or an event on one of those communities. It can teach them about marketing at an early age.
Technology is full of riches. It has to be used wisely and kids have to be shown – ASAP – the positive, educational ways they can use it so that they will ask for more. Don’t blame violent TV or games, worthless TV shows etc for children’s lack of interest in school. Take your part of responsibility: you are the ones to decide what your kids do or don’t. Then work with what you have got and use this great tool that we call technology to your advantage.
This is the first in a series of articles focusing on video conferencing and education. Part 1: The Teaching Predicament primarily focuses on the dilemma that educational institutes around the world have been facing in terms of teaching.
Over the recent years, visual communication as an effective tool to enhance delivery of education has gained a lot of traction. Educational institutes are constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining consistency and quality of teaching over geographically dispersed branches. For instance, will a student enrolled in an undergraduate business studies program at a top tier American university experience the same teaching quality in the Middle East or Europe? The answer to this question will most likely be ‘not quite’. Although there are a number of variables at play here but the most fundamental challenge is access to the same quality of instructors across geographical regions. Geographical regions can typify different branches in the same city, across cities, countries and continents. Maintaining teaching standards across continents is even a bigger challenge given the social, cultural and ethnic divides.
A traditional approach to somewhat alleviate the problem is to fly in faculty periodically to conduct workshops. However, this can prove to be very costly and cumbersome. Technology has an answer for this common and age-old problem. Although video conferencing solutions have been around since the 1980s, they’ve never been so affordable and accessible as they are today. Visual communication technology has advanced leaps and bounds making it highly immersive and interactive. More importantly, the bandwidth and the infrastructure that is required to support a truly interactive video conference is ever more affordable and ubiquitous now. This makes videoconferencing a viable and practical learning tool for the classroom. Truly interactive visual communication can add a level of teaching consistency across multiple institutes.
Full HD 1080p video, 360-degree audio combined with interactive whiteboards and multiple cameras provide the next best thing to being physically present in a classroom. Video conferencing technology has truly reinvented how teachers and students interaction. From sharing lecture notes and feedback to carrying out assignments and group work, a video conference setup in a classroom knows no geographical boundaries. The selection of video conferencing equipment however may appear to be daunting initially with the sheer amount of options available. I personally prefer Panasonic Video Conferencing.
Panasonic is a manufacturer of state-of-the-art Video Conferencing equipment. Their Visual Communication technology combines full 1080i video coupled with advanced compression algorithms connecting you with colleagues and experts around the world on standard broadband connections. 360° HD Full Duplex Audio with echo cancellation technology combined with stunning video provides a truly immersive and collaborative video conference.
The age of modern day learning has arrived. It is no longer a matter of whether we want to integrate technology and education; it is a necessity. The reality poses an immense problem and threat to the longstanding educational institutions that have for the most part remained unchanged for nearly a century. Who would have imagined that the alphabet’s letter “E” would forever transform the face of education to E-Ducation?
Technology in education has progressed from basic tools such as the abacus, pencil, ruler, paper and calculator to computers, laptops, iPads, tablets, software and apps. The technological advancements alone are forcing the manner in which teachers teach, how students learn, the ways schools are structured and breaking the barriers between home and school life. At its core, technology is impacting the very essence of the future of humanity.
Digital Natives: A Generation Dedicated to Learning with Technology
The prominence and rise of technology in the world applies to all aspects of life including how we learn. It appears that the days of “open your textbook, read the following pages and answer the questions” will be for the most part a thing of the past.
As educational institutions resist and make attempts to adapt, it is crucial to keep in mind the learning needs of today’s digital natives. The digital natives are those that were born during or thereafter the inception and introduction of digital technology.
This generation is not only accustomed to technological advancements and devices they expect it. As such, drastic measures will have to be implemented to meet the student’s expectations for learning. The key will be to adapt to an uncertain, modern, changing and dynamic global world.
Pivotal Technologies and Learning Portals
Technological advancements will allow education to be universally accessible, customized, individualized and highly adaptive. In essence, learning with technology is propelling independent learning to the forefront.
Now more than ever, students will have the opportunity to individualize and navigate the knowledge portals through pivotal technologies such as the Internet, Open Sources, Virtual Learning Environments and Mobile Learning Devices. Open Sources includes MOOCs and Web 2.0.
Massive Open Online Courses will allow students the autonomy and flexibility to choose what they want to learn independently. The Web 2.0 is simply the way new web pages are designed and used. Students will have a multitude of options by virtue of using Open Sources through a variety of Mobile Learning Devices.
Virtual Learning Environments will only enhance the learning experience by making it fun and interactive. Students will have a wide selection of learning mediums to complete assignments and receive feedback. Hence, the learning would be more interactive and engaging.
Individualized Learning and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The role of the teacher would alter to monitor and provide feedback at an unparalleled level. Technology would of course also help the teacher with the many independent learning assignments, projects, presentations etc. of the student’s through the use of Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics is the accumulated of created data to continually evaluate and precisely guide student learning.
The digital natives are choosing their own devices to learn in a world that has cloud computing and the Internet. They are living in a digital information literacy online world. Their reality encompasses learning through educational games and virtual learning platforms. They are living in a world where the physical and virtual have amalgamated.
Learning with Technology from Students’ Perspectives
As such, what do kids think about technology and learning? How often do we really ask for their thoughts and opinions? Do we really take into consideration how and what they want to learn? Should what they have to say really matter how we as educators make decisions? Personally, I do believe that they do bring value to the decision-making table.
My sister in law is an eighth grade social studies teacher at a middle school. In a conversation with her, she mentioned to me the various ways she integrates technology in the learning. What I found especially of import was her comment on how the students use technology as easily as breathing.
She explained to me that now only do students expect it but that they demand it. She further informed me that it is a necessity and it brings lots of fun to the learning. As an educator, I firmly believe that learning should be continuous, fun, engaging, inquisitive, and ongoing.
Students are Right at Home with Technology
Humanity should be learning something new each and every day. It should be viewed from a window looking out into the horizon of each new day. It seems logical to catch a glimpse of learning through the eyes of children.
I often reflect on how my 7 year old niece sees the world and how through her eyes I learn something new every day. As Digital Natives do, she carries an iPad with her and frequently shares videos, cartoons, games, songs, etc. with me. I can literally say that I am learning things that a 7 year old child is learning.
Wow, the whole idea seems to put me in awe. What she has learned through the use of technology can be only termed as amazing. The ease, comfort and curiosity that impel her to learn independently without her parents or teachers imposing “because you have to” are truly remarkable.
Learning with Technology: A Necessity
Never in the history of our world has the trajectory of technology education been a certainty to create a better global society where one and all will have the opportunity and accessibility to be literate.
A view from a student’s perspective about learning with technology as mentioned above is a 6 part series that will include technology and students, learning with technology, student’s and iPads, learning with games and virtual learning. Stay tuned to next week’s blog article on students learning with technology.
The time has come when student learning has gone beyond the classroom because the use of technology. Now, student can engage in a much more interactive way to increase learning.
Thinking of what education might look like in the next decade, one quickly realizes that the trends in technology are leaving a large number of our students behind. We no longer live in an age of visible movement when it comes to progress and innovation. Today is an age of exponential change. New and ever-improving technologies are popping up every day and in every corner of society.
Educating the best and the brightest in this brave new world will take a new and improved educational paradigm. Allowing our educational tools to age in the corner of the classroom will be the mistake that may cost us our future. Throwing away masses of children to inequitable access will ensure that we languish at the bottom of the global pool of employable workers for decades to come.
The New Toolbox
I was at an auction a few years ago and noticed a few old woodworking tools that I thought I could use. For a few bucks, I was able to snag an assortment of hand tools that may have been in someone’s toolbox for a generation or more. As the next decade passed, I used these tools in my shop for a wide variety of projects until my projects outgrew these old, dull tools. My woodworking creations continued to improve as did my skills and artistry. I quickly discovered that using improved tools would translate into improved craftsmanship. As any woodworker will tell you, new tools require new skills.
Woodworking is a great metaphor for shaping and molding students. There is simply no good substitute for a sharp tool. If you want to build the best projects possible, you need to use the best tools possible. Thinking in terms of the next decade for our country, we will be sorely disappointed in our projects if we fail to improve our tools.
Within this article, I will try to paint a picture of how technology will shape the way we educate students in the next decade. I will attempt to show the amazing possibilities that lay before us if we will simply walk through the doorway of opportunity that is open to us. My focus will be this idea: Transforming the student from being a passenger to becoming a “user.” You may be wondering what I mean by this. Let me explain.
Ask yourself what it means to be a “user.” A user is not simply a person who uses. For the student, being a user should involve using the latest technology in a free and autonomous manner. This new-found freedom will allow the student to become an active participant in his/her education instead of a passive passenger. No other time in history have we been so able to make this a reality.
In our current technological society, being a user also means being tracked. Tracking has become a major part of our daily lives and is precisely the engine that should drive our educational process for the foreseeable future. Tracking a student means having the ability to target education toward weaknesses and strengths. The ability to accurately customize curriculum to the individual has been the holy grail of educational philosophy for many years. This golden age of technological development may soon enable this dream to become a reality.
Current educational curriculum and individual assessment is arbitrary at best. Being able to accurately asses a student can only be achieved by using modern tracking and database technologies. The means by which we can make this a reality is readily available and only needs to be taken off the shelf to be used. If Congress is looking for a shovel-ready project, this may be the one.
Imagine a world where every child has a tablet computer with ready access to the App of virtual photographic memory (internet). Further, imagine that every student can access all the knowledge of humankind freely at any moment in time. Continue to imagine a world where a misspelled word brings up a spelling challenge application instead of an auto correction. Try to contemplate what it would mean for a teacher to have a database of every misspelled word, every misunderstood concept or every missed equation for each of their students. Try to envision a teacher with the ability to customize the experience of the individual “user” with minimal effort. Imagine the curriculum being automatically targeted to the user through an intuitive educational platform that knows every strength and each unique weakness. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
The company that makes this standard available to the educational community will be the company that shapes the future of humankind. Will it be Google, Apple, Microsoft, or some other yet unknown pioneer?
Continuing from the thoughts in my last post, I would like to elaborate on the idea of the student as a user of a new standardized educational platform. It is obvious to me that the future of education will always mirror our everyday lives in one way or another. If you examine how technology has influenced your daily life already, you begin to put together a snapshot of what it will mean to be educated in the next decade.
In the last few hundred years, most individuals would consider an education as something you receive. You often hear the question asked, “Where did you receive your education?” As we proceed through the next decade, education will slowly move away from reception and toward being custom designed for the individual user. New technology will not only allow us to receive an education, but also develop an education. The question we might ask in 10 years is, “How did you develop your education?” The question of where will still be important, but the how of the matter will be the focus that defines the individual.
To make this a reality we will need a standardized platform from which to develop a student’s unique education. This standardized platform will allow us to tailor a custom curriculum that will be matched to talents, interests and life goals. For the educator, a standardized platform will create a way to assist the student in discovering a true purpose in life through a unique educational experience. The basics of reading, writing and arithmetic will not be taught as much as they will be discovered and used. Learning will become a reciprocal experience between the teacher, the student and the machine.
Under a standardized platform, each of these three participants will have a role to play. The teacher will be the facilitator, assisting the development of the curriculum and inspiring the direction the student takes. The student will be the user, gathering resources, skills and knowledge in an efficient and measured sequence. The machine will do the work of data gathering and analysis, which will assist the teacher and student in refining the curriculum. This data gathering work of the machine will also free the teacher from the burden of record-keeping and tedious tasks that currently distract from the real job of teaching and learning.
Under a standardized system, grade level will be far less important. Achievement and progression will be measured by accomplishment and intelligence as a benchmark for success. The question of failure or success will be irrelevant and replaced with a standard and consistent measurement of potential and overall intelligence. Information will no longer be missed but continually rehearsed and monitored for retention by the machine.
In our current educational paradigm, the teacher is in charge of arbitrarily constructing curriculum. This approach to curriculum development is based on inexperience in some cases, outdated materials, inadequate funding and a shortage of time. Measuring the success of a specific curriculum is currently impossible. With a standardized system, comparisons of curricular success can be made across the entire spectrum of education and then continually reformulated and enhanced by the machine.
Sadly, teachers today are bogged down with an assortment of mind-numbing tasks that would be better suited to an off-the-shelf automated system. Tasks such as data tracking, reporting and record keeping are currently accomplished manually. These tasks could easily be delegated to an intuitive database. Developing a standard to follow would eliminate these tasks and free the teacher to do their main job of teaching students.
Throughout history, man has sought to pass on knowledge to the next generation. This process started with oral tradition, storytelling and writing. With the advent of the printing press, knowledge and information slowly became available to the masses. The amount of information that could be gained by one human in a lifetime was severely limited by his access to printed materials and wealth. The majority of learning was gained through observation and imitation. We can call this Education 1.0.
Education 2.0 starts around the late eighteen hundreds with universal literacy movements throughout newly industrialized regions of the world. Improvements in education slowly transitioned from apprenticeship to formal education and training. Despite our movements toward universal education, access to knowledge and opportunity continues to be inequitable throughout the world. Even with the arrival of the computer revolution, access to the tools of learning continues to define the learner.
The next decade may mark the moment in history when all men are granted equal access to the greatest treasure a soul can possess. I use the word may in the last sentence because there is the chance that we will miss this golden opportunity. Access to Education 3.0 will only be gained through investment and universal standardization. If we continue to divert wealth toward fruitless goals and corporate greed, this opportunity will be lost or hopelessly delayed.
Education 3.0, when it arrives, will be the age of universal enlightenment. Platforms for education and learning will slowly standardize and become globally accessible and affordable. The poorest to the wealthiest will have access to the machine that runs the platform.
The thought on your mind at this point is most likely wondering what machine I keep referring to. The machine in question is the one we have been so busy teaching and training since roughly 1969. You’ve probably guessed it by now that I am referring to the internet. The great cloud of knowledge that we call the internet is precisely the mechanism that we will use to build the platform of Education 3.0. When the platform is finally in place, the decade to follow will see the greatest amount of wealth, discoveries and use of human potential that we have witnessed during our time on this earth. The only question that remains to be answered is the point at which I will leave this article.
When will we allow the user to use the machine to its potential?
Stephen McClard has been the Director of Bands at Bolivar High School since 2002. Mr. McClard graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1990. He started his teaching career in Southeast Missouri before moving to Illinois where he taught band for 8 years.
Mr. McClard’s bands have consistently received superior ratings at contest as well as many other awards and accolades. Since 2002, the band has traveled twice to Chicago, where they won 1st place class 4A and 1st place overall at the Midwest Music In the Parks Festival. The band also traveled to Cincinnati in 2006, receiving the same honors. In 2006, Mr. McClard was named by SBO Magazine as one of the 50 Directors Who Make a Difference. In 2006, 2008 and 2009, Bolivar RI School district was named one of the “Best 100 Communities for Music Education” in America by the American Music Conference. Mr. McClard was previously featured on the cover of the 2003 issue of SBO Magazine for his work with music technology.
In addition to his career in education, Mr. McClard maintains an online woodworking business and is a 3rd generation piano technician. His woodworking creations include custom bass guitars, which have sold all over the world and one-of-a-kind computer desks made from old pianos. His piano desks have been featured in magazines such as Business 2.0 and Piano Technicians Journal and in many other newspapers and television news features.
His first book, The Superior Educator, A Calm and Assertive Approach to Classroom Management and Large Group Motivation, is available on Amazon as well as other book outlets.