I’ve moved this blog over to http://briancsmith.org. I will no longer be using EduBlogs.org for hosting my blog. Thanks for the memories, I just wanted a little more control. Now, I need to write more.
If you’ve been subscribing, thank you and change your subscriptions to this new feed… http://feeds2.feedburner.com/bcsmith. If you haven’t please consider doing so… kthxbai.
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I’m cynical. Pessimistic. A nay-sayer among nay-sayers… and I’m sorry.
In conversation with a small group of teachers today I realized that I’m not giving educators enough credit for being learners. Deep down I know they learn, we all learn. So why am I generalizing them to a lot that, as I sometimes see, cannot or will not learn for themselves?
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I took a recent trip to Wikipedia to search for “21st Century Learning” and “21st Century Skills“. As of this posting, there isn’t an article for either.
So many are sharing and preaching 21st century learning and skills for our schools and yet neither is documented on one of the best examples of collaboration for learning? What gives?
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It has taken quite awhile for me to really piece together my experience at NECC. I’ll be honest, I’ll still be piecing it together for sometime to come. I went into the conference expecting to meet new people and meet face to face with those I’ve connected with on-line over the past year or two. Both happened and the discussions that took place taught me a good deal and confirmed some of my beliefs as well.
However, what has been bouncing around in my head the past few days is my experience at the Constructivist Celebration put together by Gary Stager and the Constructivist Consortium. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s experience that made me look a bit differently at the sessions I chose to attend and the conversations that took place throughout the conference.
Real and authentic learning in a digital world may be more important than ever
There’s a lot of talk out there. Since learning is doing, I’d personally like to see more students blogging about what they are doing, rather than what they are studying. Simply blogging or creating a wiki about a concept or topic does not prove that a student understands or is able to do anything.
The right brain, left brain war of signifigance is bogus
The interplay within the brain’s hemisphere’s is what it’s really all about. Creativity and logic can co-exist.
Most computer software available is not truly educational or built on learning theories. Open-ended programs such as the Inspiration series, Microworlds, Tech4Learning‘s programs, Scratch, Starlogo TNG, etc. allow users (this includes educators, parents and administrators) to create from a blank page.
“A good prompt is worth 1000 words”
When Gary Stager shared this point in his opening talk it reminded me of my graduate studies grounded in constructivist theory. The Constructivist theory is not solely about programming.
Constructing one’s own knowledge and skills is very personal learning as it engages emotions through doing rather than listening or simply sharing what is learned.I learned during that work that asking questions is an essential skill for teaching and learning. We must learn to communicate with our students in ways that get them thinking rather than regurgitating.
You really have to care about kids. Really.
Peter Reynolds spoke about an experience where a student reflected on how a teacher “noticed me”. Students see right through superficial “care” and the way we care for students needs to be more then just protecting them on-line or in the physical setting. Konrad and I spoke about this as well in regards to how he interacts with students in the hallway. He comments to students in the hall about their work, progress or a thought shared in class. Small signs of caring add up to a lot.
If you can’t do something well, do it well-ish
Peter Reynolds wrote a book called ish that gets at the idea that we don’t have to be experts at everything. He described this by talking about a drawing of a tree. If you can’t draw a tree draw it tree-ish. We’ve made the word “fail” too negative and halting. Learning is a process, we try things and they don’t always come out “right” the first time, we must be okay with working through stumbles.
Time to play is important
Thanks to Bud Hunt, Scott Swanson and April-Hope for the play time with the XO laptops during the day. While mine wasn’t working well at the time due to some updates needed, these three folks allowed me to play and learn from them. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make the Birds of a Feather session due to other conflicts, but I’m sure more playing and learning will go on after connecting with them here. We don’t allow ourselves to “play” with the concepts or skills that we teach and I think it’s critical that we do from time to time to remind us what it’s like to really learn.
I welcome your thoughts and push-back to further my reflection and learning here.
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I often receive rolling eyes when I mention
conversations I’ve had with others. Well, NECC is here and a lot of
it is about conversation. Conversations in the halls of the conference
center, the Blogger’s Cafe, before, during and after concurrent
sessions or at dinner. Tonight’s conference kicked off well for
conversation with Brian Crosby, Bud Hunt, David Warlick, David Jakes, Dean Shareski, Jeff Utecht, Laura Deisley, Wendy Smith, and Will Richardson.
You learn a lot through conversation, but as much as I like to
converse, I’m reminded of a quote from Plato I loved to share with students and
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
To be honest, I’m here for the conversation and to play. I enjoy most the
conversation where I listen and my previous thinking is challenged. I
am also here for the play. I intend to use the XO laptop as much as I
can to hopefully get others to join in and play on this machine.
So what/who will you play with this NECC conference?
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Today, I woke up, grabbed some coffee and settled into my ritual of reading my daily feeds of news and blog posts. First in my aggregator as this post by Sylvia Martinez related to gaming and education. My comments on her post were from the perspective of professional development and how sometimes we don’t think deep enough about what we, as educators, can learn from games or anything else for that matter.
That said, next week I’m co-teaching a Gaming in Education workshop for teachers in our area. We’ve invited a high school senior (and gamer) for this workshop who will be introducing our participants to the world of gaming via a LAN experience. He will
also lend his perspective to our discussions planned throughout the session. We’ve planned a spectrum of games for our participants to
experience, but the meat of this workshop, I hope, will come through in the conversation.
I’m iming for experiences and dialogue that start subsequent conversations back in faculty rooms, hallways, classrooms and homes. I don’t mean the ones that imply that more educational games need to be created or that we need to implement games in the classroom. I plan to throw these questions at our participants. What would you add to the list?
- What level of engagement is necessary for learning?
- How can game design impact instructional practice?
- What aspects of gaming can we use to build engaging learning experiences?
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I’m currently reading Communities of Practice by Etienne Wenger and as I began a question popped into my head. Do most educators knowingly base their practice within a particular theory or approach?
A web search for theories of learning turned up a site that categorized learning theories into Paradigms:
Behaviorism - Based on stimulus-response and can be explained without considering conscious thought.
Cognitivism – Mental function can be understood where the learner is seen as an information processor.
Constructivism – Learning is an active, constructive process where students expected to construct understanding and knowledge from information.
Humanism – learning is a personal act to fulfill one’s potential where learner has affective and cognitive needs.
I imagine that most educators use a variety of these in their practice, but I wonder if most educators identify with one more than the other, if at all. Should an educator base themselves within one of these paradigms?
Does identifying one’s practice within one of these paradigms provided a entry point for a joining a community of practice?
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I’ve been tagged by Sylvia for the Passion Quilt Meme. I’ve decided to pull from my personal collection for this photo meme. The photo above is of our daughter after helping me to find a geocache almost 3 years ago.
Often times when we go geocaching we don’t find a cache because we see something more interesting. Be it animal tracks, a scurrying animal or a odd looking tree formation, a learning opportunity presents itself. When she inquires about the discovery, why would I squander that with an agenda to find a box of trinkets?
Far too often I hear students say that they there is nothing to do, that they are bored. They’ll sit and do nothing, but stare at the flashing of a computer screen, television or their video games. Hogwash. (Note: While I advocate for each of these in educational and entertainment value, however, we must remember moderation is key.)
So my passion is about active learning, learning by doing. Learning by doing things, not just spewing what they know. When we are out and about, we open opportunities for play and discovery resulting in learning.
Directions: Find or create an image that captures what you are most passionate for kids to learn about.
- Post a picture from a source like Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn…and give your picture a short title.
- Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
- Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
I’m tagging these folks from my regional network:
Blogged with Flock
Tags: passionquilt, meme, learning by doing, geocaching
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I’ve been thinking more and more about the networks/communities we build using technology. My experience at Educon had me thinking even more about it as several of the attendees discussed building global networks vs. local networks. Reading about the Science Leadership Academy’s culture you’ll see that local communities of learners (educators included) without the focus on making global connections can be extremely powerful for learning.
As I read more I’m finding that there is power in the using all these tools available to us on the web for connecting with those in our areas. A recent article in Wired Magazine states (substitute educational words where appropriate):
One day, perhaps, virtual communication will become so good we’ll no longer feel the need to shake hands with a new collaborator or brainstorm in the same room. But for now, the world seems to be changing in a way that actually demands more meetings. Business is more innovative, and its processes more complex. That demands tacit knowledge, collaboration, and trust — all things that seem to follow best from person-to-person meetings. “Ideas are more important than ever,” Glaeser says, “and the most important ideas are communicated face-to-face.”
I’ve always hailed the power of having global connections and I will continue to do so, but I now believe a lot more time and energy should be put towards building our local connections and sharing the power of these tools to collaborate locally or regionally. Connecting with folks from places around the country or world is powerful for sure, but what of the immediate connections here at home? It’s one thing to show a nay-sayer administrator or colleague how a classroom is connecting with another in a remote location, but another to show how several local classrooms are collaborating to take on an authentic environmental or cultural issue in their local area. Wouldn’t we all benefit from building stronger connections that add value to what we are doing locally?
In terms of professional networks, I like the concept of the regional PLP. This is an opportunity for us to connect with each other, share thoughts and ideas, build blogs to share information/projects to join, ask questions and lend support for each other. It’s our chance to really set an example for the rest of our region and local districts to take a look at what is possible in the new learning environments that we are exploring here.
Photo Credit: Nebraska Library Commission
Tags: educon, wnyplp21, plp, global, local, learning, community
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I’m not the strongest blogger. I honestly struggle with writing posts. Most times they just seem, to me, to be so thin and inconsequential. I’ve been told that some of my best posts/comments take place in a few Ning networks that are supporting some local initiatives that I am a part of. So, I decided to share a snippet of one comment I wrote in response to the topic “Learning 2.0″. The following was in response to a colleagues comment on how students have the ability to multi-task.
I think we have to really look at what purposeful multitasking looks like. If the student is using SMS, IM, MySpace, etc. while doing homework, are they using them to accomplish the work before them or are they just distractions to make it more enjoyable? I would argue this is a very common thing. Is this good? I guess the skill of dividing attention is okay, but not when the tasks are disparate.
Without learning how to construct and synergize information into meaningful knowledge, hypothesis or questions are students simply a feather in the wind? I think there are those that are more effective multi-taskers and those that are simply distracted. Understanding the difference is important.
Take Twitter, once someone gets an understanding of how it works and how to leverage it, they can use it during the day to solicit information from their network, while they accomplish another task. That’s multitasking, but it has a purpose. We had a saying when I was coaching… move with purpose. Maybe we should “multi-task with a purpose.”
So this is where I ask what your take is… how do you multi-task? What ways have you seen purposeful multi-tasking by students?
Photo Credit: http://flickr.com/photos/samhines/465688758/
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