Archive for July, 2012

In chapter four of Curtis Johnson’s book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns Johnson explains how student-centric education will infiltrate the current educational community. He identifies A.P. classes and Homeschoolers as the best opportunities for implementing new educational technology and student-centric learning models. Once these fields have been developed and the technology has reached its full potential, student-centered technology approaches will be ready to be integrated into schools because of what it has to offer that traditional approaches lack. Students will be ready to enter cyber-classrooms and conduct experiments in cyber-labs online without ever having to leave their homes. Students will be able to learn material at their own speed and will be able to take assessments as they are ready for them. This technology will also solve the teacher shortage problems that the country will be experiencing in the near future as the role of educator is slowly replaced with a learning facilitator.
As I mentioned in my last post about this book, Johnson has failed to convince me that pursuing the integration of technology into the classroom disruptively is the best course for education. Johnson is convinced that poor student motivation and performance can be solved by replacing the current curriculum with educational technology that teaches through the learning strengths and at the learning pace of the learner. This problem, however, cannot simply be solved by catering to the desires and motivations of the students. The problem with student motivation and performance is a complicated social and economic condition in the United States brought about by higher living standards and the availability of communication and entertainment technology. Adolescents today are growing up connected to networks of friends through social networks and gaming technology. Their motivation for becoming an active part of the work force of their community is overshadowed by their desire to stay socially connected. Many of these adolescents also live in families where the parents have enough to support them even after High School or College. In order for this condition in society to be corrected the values of that society need to change. But even this solution is not simple or will immediately solve the problems of motivation and achievement in schools. These problems can only be solved one student at a time, with each student finding an inner motivation to pursue achievement.


Reference:
Johnson, Curtis W. (2008-05-14). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

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For my second Learning Tool Exploration, I explored Edmodo the classroom social networking website in extension of our class’s discussions of promoting Digital Citizenship in the classroom. Earlier this week I researched an article by Matthew Winn, a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, entitled Promote Digital Citizenship through School-Based Social Networking. In this article Winn explained how his school is helping students develop Digital Citizenship through a district-wide social networking site. His description of teacher-student interactions and the capabilities of the site for project assignments and grading piqued my interest which is why I explored Edmodo for this activity.


Edmodo is a free social networking site much like Facebook or MySpace that is set up for and limited to educators and students. The site is visually very similar to Facebook and provides you with a news feed page when you sign in with all the activity that you’re connected to, much like Facebook. It allows you to plug into a specific school-wide network that gives you access to other teachers and to district messages. From there you can create your own profile page and groups, much like the ‘circles’ and modes of interaction on Google+. You can create specific group feeds for each of your classes so that students are only receiving assignments and messages from their class. The website provides you with an access code that you can give to each class which they can then plug into their profiles for class group access. Students can then receive specific class wide messages from you about course content or upcoming assignments. They can also send private messages to you directly about difficulties their having with content or assignments. There is also a poll feature, where students can privately respond to your inquiries about student disposition. Students can also take quizzes on the site with a variety of formats. For Multiple Choice and True/False formats the quizzes are scored automatically and the class results are provided to you in pie chart graphs. Students and Parents are also able to keep track of grades on the site, with parents having their own access codes to keep track of student work. The site also has a library feature and a direct access link to Google Docs so that you can access teaching materials everywhere you have access to the internet.


It seems like there is no limit to the kind things that you can do with a social networking tool like Edmodo in the classroom. There is an introductory video on the Edmodo website where the narrator explains how Social Studies teachers can create profiles for historical figures and join or create student discussions on the website as if the figure were actually talking and discussing with students. This example shows the kind of innovation that can take place with the features of the website. The site essentially solves communication and timing problems that currently exist in the classroom. Teachers are always complaining that there is not enough time to do what they want to do in the classroom. There is also the problem that there is little time during passing periods for students to ask the teacher questions about assignments or content, if they’re brave enough to ask questions in front of their peers in the first place. A social networking site like Edmodo expands learning outside of the 55 minutes set aside for learning in that particular discipline and allows teachers and students to interact in ways not possible in the classroom. In contrast to other forms of technology that plan to replace current forms of instruction with new methods, social networking technology like the Edmodo site can be an extension of learning already taking place and can serve to take some of the pressure off of teachers already present like grading and limited time.

Resource:

http://www.edmodo.com

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In chapter 3 of his book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Curtis Johnson continues to expand his argument that classroom computer technologies need to be disruptively integrated into classrooms. He faults the educational community for trying to keep the instructional framework already present in schools and professes his belief that instructional technology through the use of personal computers will result in the increased motivation and potential of students. He uses the examples of “Novaplast” in the Nypro molding injection firm, online stock trading in the Merrill Lynch investment management company (and others), and the development of Sony’s transistor on the RCA electronics firm to illustrate how companies have a naturally difficulty transitioning over to a new industry or type of production. These illustrations, he argues, are examples of how companies have crammed new technologies or developments into their existing organisations to remain competitive, which has a direct comparison to how schools have crammed computers into classrooms to reap rewards from the advancements of educational technology. The problem with this, he argues, is that advances in computers haven’t radically changed how students are taught, which is why educational technology hasn’t had a great effect on the performance of students. Computers have been used marginally for student projects as an interruption to their normal curriculum and for some communication with parents. They should be used, he argues, as the central components of the curriculum, with students pursuing student-centric models of instruction. Johnson explains why this is not taking place by giving the example of how teachers aren’t naturally inclined to show instructional videos of exceptional teachers because it limits their position in the classroom to projector operator. Similarly, teachers won’t pursue a student-centric model because it limits their ability and presence in the classroom. He concludes the chapter by using the further examples of the phonograph, the Kodak copiers, and Google to explain his belief that school district should pursue a disruptive model for the integration of educational technologies and student-centric curriculum, which he will explain in more detail in the next chapter.


Johnson has been using business examples to prove his theory that disruptive innovations will radically improve education. He’s identified the current instructional framework in education as the reason for low student motivation. From my perspective, I haven’t yet been convinced of either of these two points. I believe that low student motivation is an attribute of the society and time that students live in. With the development of the consumer society and the advancement of entertainment technologies, students have become more comfortable with their immediate surroundings and are less inclined to better themselves or their environment. Today’s students aren’t being taught successfully by parents or by teachers to see the inherent value of educational content, especially when entertainment is more readily available and easier to process. The problems that educators face with low student motivation are much more complex than the factors that Johnson has described. The student-centric learning model based on educational technologies will have negative effects on students and will not solve the problem of motivation. Students will be inclined to pursue the learning model until they are asked to complete something difficult. They are essentially being told with the implementation of this model that the instructional methods are being catered to their needs, which sends a subtle message to the student that any difficulty they experience will be a problem with the system, not with their understanding or development. This kind of model also has the potential of radically decreasing normal social interaction in the classroom, stunting the normal social development of students. Technological interaction cannot supplant normal social interaction. Educational technology needs to be integrated into the classroom as enhancers of the tried educational methods already in place in schools. Their use in the classroom should be based on whether or not the technologies fulfill a specific limited instructional goal.

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In chapter 2 of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Curtis W. Johnson explains the concept of disruptive innovation and how it applies to education. He defines disruptive innovation as a breakthrough within a specific field of technology or sector of production that though initially discarded by prospering businesses, eventually makes businesses and products obsolete. He gives the example of the development of the personal computer, which was initially ignored by mega-computer companies of the time. The idea behind the personal computer was to create a processor that was made of cheap enough materials to be sold to the average consumers. This was in complete contrast to the already prospering computer companies that sold directly to businesses and made huge profits from the sale of one mega-computer. Personal computers were initially discarded by those companies because there was so little profit to be made from the development of cheaper computers. Most of their customers didn’t want the personal computer which didn’t have the same kind of computing power as the industry’s mega-computers. However, as the demand for personal computers increased, the businesses that sold personal computers expanded, increasing the development of the technology available for the personal computer. Eventually, the personal computer technology surpassed the mega-computers and the mega-computer companies disappeared. Companies began buying computers from the cheaper and more developed personal computer companies.
Johnson argues that similar disruptions have taken place in education. He charts four radically different movements in education that have systematically replaced one another over the last two centuries. Originally, the job of the school system was to help preserve American values and the American system. Schools were given the responsibility of helping young individuals develop a sense of the purpose and focus of the United States, while developing a few skills needed for labor professions. The exceptions to this focus were the elite individuals who by their performance in school, proved themselves worthy of higher education. This focus changed during the latter part of the 19th century, when competition with industrial Germany created a need for preparing every young individual for some specific vocation. The school system was expanded to include job training for every child, in contrast to earlier systems and educational structures. Following Sputnik and the development of industries in Japan that began out performing American industries, the focus of American schools again changed to a push to increase America’s scientific and technological output. Students were funneled into science and math curriculums to make America more competitive in technology and innovation. This movement in education has been replaced by the current movement in education under No Child Left Behind that demands that all children within all demographics perform to specific standards. This changes the focus from helping brighter students out perform their competitors in foreign countries to a requirement to help all children perform to a specific expectation.
The argument that Johnson makes in the conclusion of his chapter is that since schools have adapted several times to meet the needs or desires of the populace, they are capable of changing to a student-centric model based on technological assistance now.

The issue that I have with this line of reasoning is that new movements in education tend to discard the focus of previous movements in order to channel the energy in the school system into making their new focus more successful. The problem is that each of these focuses has legitimacy and necessity within the American school system and so need to be preserved as legitimate callings in education. A more successful strategy might be to introduce these innovations into a school strategy that unifies these movements in education into a coherent and achievable goal.

Reference:

Johnson, Curtis W. (2008-05-14). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

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For my first learning tool exploration activity, I explored Google Earth as a possible resource for classroom exploration exercises. Though I had explored Google Earth before this activity, the new version contains many new features that makes classroom use that much more effective.
Google Earth is a digital collection of satellite images connected into a virtual globe. The globe can be navigated with the use of the mouse and users can see the geography and terrain of continents and oceans or can zoom down to a street view. Google Earth has many different features that can be accessed and turned on and off via the side menu bar. Among them are 3D building overlay on the maps in major cities, points of interest explanations, current weather conditions, pictures taken at points of interest, YouTube videos posted at points of interest, and many other features. Google Earth allows you to explore sites at street level and record your journey to share with others. It also allows you to mark out routes and mark your own points on the map, which you can then share with others in Google+ circles. It allows you to measure distances between points on the map and figure out the distance of routes you’ve marked. You can search for any place on the planet through their search bar and see it from ground view. It also has a historical features map which allows you to look at satellite images that were taken in previous years. Some points on the map go as far back as images from the 1940s. These images can then be compared with satellite images from the last few years. Google Earth also allows you to explore the sky from different positions on the globe, as well as underwater surveys of the oceans, and satellite images of the moon and mars. Each of these areas also come with points of interest and video features attached to specific areas of interest.
The applications of Google Earth to a Social Studies curriculum are nearly endless. Not only does the program teach students about geography, it allows them to explore important historical battle sites and chart movements of people throughout the centuries. Students can easily use this tool to explore the world and research their interests in inquiry-based projects.
An example of a possible research project that could be created for students is an inquiry that I pursued in connection with a class that I took last summer. The course centered on the experiences of explorer David Thompson as a framework for our discussions of the different applications of inquiry-based learning. When reading through the materials provided in connection to the story of David Thompson, I became inspired by the difference that we have from our ancestors in how we perceive distances. I wondered how long it would it take a modern vessel to travel the distance that Thompson’s ship traveled from Gravesend Docks in England to the mouth of the Churchill River in Manitoba, Canada. Thompson’s ship had traveled the distance in a little over four months, which impresses on me the bravery of individuals from this time period who were willing to make that journey and others to explore the new world. When I originally inquired about the distance and time needed to travel, I surmised that it was about 3456 miles using an internet site that calculated distances in a straight line from point to point. I was not able to calculate the actual distance. With Google Earth, I was able to research the path that Thompson’s boat would most likely have taken and was able to chart out its path using the path application. I was then able to measure the full distance of the route at 4801 miles, a full 1400 miles off.

This kind of project could be easily reproduced with any Social Studies curriculum. Students could be assigned explorers during a unit about the Age of Discovery and could chart the course of each explorer to measure the full distance of the each explorer’s voyage. They could then use math concepts and skills to compare the travel time to modern times and figure out how long it would take modern vessels to cover the same amount of area. This could lead into a discussion of how the world is shrinking in comparison to our ancestors in the context of how we view distances. This activity could easily be reproduced in other units to chart military campaigns or the migrations of different groups of people.

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For EDTC 6431- Learning with Technology, we are reading Clayton Christensen’s Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns on Amazon’s Kindle, as an exploration exercise for using digital textbooks. This is not my first experience with reading textbooks on Kindle, having used the Kindle reader for textbooks in several other classes. I initially started buying textbooks on Kindle because of cost and accessibility benefits but found shortly afterward that Kindle has a number of features that appealed to me as a student. The Kindle allows the reader to highlight passages on the Kindle using the keypad at the bottom of the device. These highlighted passages are stored in a database for further access separate from the full text. Students can then access those highlighted passages later on the device or on their computers which allows them to recount important understandings gained from the text without having to flip through the entire chapter. The Kindle reader app for the computer also allows you to select passages from the text and copy them directly onto a word document with an appropriate citation. This particular feature saves a lot of time for the student that was otherwise spent laboriously copying down passages from the book and searching for information to fill out proper APA or MLA format citations. Overall, the Kindle is very accessible and contains features that make the investment for the Kindle reader worthwhile.


Chapter one of Christensen’s book addresses the growing understanding within the education community of how differences between how people learn affects the ability of students to perform in the classroom. Christensen refers to the factory system of the early 20th century as the inspiration for the modern school system setup and questions the reliability of a system that doesn’t account for student differences. He proposes that an answer to accounting for student differences might lie in adapting classes to include specific teaching technologies that would allow students to pursue understanding through their specific learning style. This theme he will develop and explain throughout the rest of the book.
Though I haven’t yet heard his explanations of how this will take place, I am hesitant to embrace a teaching style that heavily relies on technology to engage students in the learning process. In my limited experience, I have observed students using technology to check out or disengage from the learning content when they have access to distracting or unrelated information. I’ve also observed that students, because they have a healthy access to technology in their social life, tend to treat educational technology like it is a limited form of entertainment. This attitude specifically needs to be addressed if educational technology is to be used effectively. My other concern is that educational technology has the ability to severely limit social interactions in the classroom. If a learning environment is to be truly effective, students need to be comfortable enough with each other to interact productively. Educational technology will sometimes provide the shyer students the opportunity to escape social interaction if the teacher doesn’t require it. For these reasons, I am currently in favor of a more limited form of educational technology within the classroom.

Reference:

Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2009). Disrupting class, how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

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