Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Search Engine

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seymour Papert Interview

First of all, I never would have guessed that this interview was conducted over ten years ago.  It is surprising that the information Papert says is still so relevant today.  He is speaking about something that has seemed to grown in leaps and bounds over the last ten years but at the same time it seems as though the interview could have been done yesterday.

Papert emphasizes the unbelievable amount young children can learn.  How children are self directed learners taking in the whole world and how the computer will only facilitate this.  I completely agree.  He uses the example of seeing an elephant and the child wonders how does the elephant eat.  By using the computer the child can teach themselves this.  Similarly to how they teach themselves about the world around them but instead they need the internet.  I think it is important to expose young children to the internet at a young age.  Especially in today's world with the amount of technology we rely on and what a valuable skill becoming technologically literate has become.  If we were not to expose young children to computers, technology. etc. we would be doing them a great disservice   I think it is important though to balance the amount children learn from the internet and make sure they are still learning about the world around them by actually experiencing the world around him.

I found it really interesting that Papert says in his book, The Connected Family that the internet can actually bring a family together.  I couldn't disagree more with this claim.  I think that the internet allows each individual to find more people like themselves (whether it is their friends, or other people they meet online with common interests) and the individual spends all of their time socializing, etc. with those person.  In no way does it bring the family closer.  Also, a lot of times parents are nervous to use the internet or new technology because they don't understand how to use it whereas kids seem to be able to pick it up like it's nothing and really enjoy it.  I think that this causes even more of a divide in the family as opposed to connecting the family.

I see his prediction for what technology will do for schools beginning to come true and I think that it will grow as we move towards the future.  The only part I disagree with would be the idea that the age divide will disappear.  I don't think this will ever happen.  I think that as people get older they begin to fear new things (whether it is technology or not).  So although children like technology now and pick it up quickly and without any reservations, when these same children are 60 their will be new technology that they are not accustomed to and they will not be so willing to learn it.  I'm not sure we will ever get over the age divide.

Overall, I am surprised at how much of the information Papert says is still relevant today.  Although I agree with many of his points about the usefulness of technology in learning and how technology should be incorporated into young children's lives, I don't think that it brings families closer and I don't think it will banish the age divide.

Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives

A survey was conducted in which a non random sample of 1,021 people were given two passages to decide which they believed was more true.  The first passage, which 55% of the surveyors agreed with said that in the year 2020 people would benefit from this hyper connected world because they would be able to multitask and find the answers to deep questions due to the fact that they have the knowledge of so many people via the internet.  The other passage which 42% of the surveyors agreed with said that in the year 2020 people will see negative outcomes from technology.  People will spend a majority of their time using social media as opposed to thinking critically and connecting deeply with other people as well as becoming completely dependent on these devices.  There was no choice for a middle ground which afterwords some of the surveyors said is how they actually see it unfolding, making the results a bit closer to split evenly.

I would say that I agree it will be somewhat in the middle.  Peoples brain will be wired in a totally different way in 2020 than in the past.  If I had to chose though, I would say that our hyper connected world will lead to negative outcomes.  I think that it will be impossible to thrive in the world in 2020 without having these skills but I'm not sure that this will be a good thing.  Already I see a lot of these negative characteristics in my classes.  I teach ninth grade and students need that instant gratification, with everything.  The other day we did a lab where there was  fifteen minutes for students to wait and answer questions before they could see the outcome.  They all whined and complained that they wanted to see it now.  Another example is, the other day we used the iPads for a lesson.  One iPad working a little slower than normal.  The student said he was sick of waiting and would just do it on his phone.  I am already seeing this lack of patience and a need for instant gratification.

One example the survey gave that would be a positive outcome is the ability to multitask.  I am not sure that I consider multitasking to be a positive trait.  I think that it is better to concentrate on one task and do it well.  There is a much higher probability that something will get messed up if you're trying to do several things, even if this is how you're programmed.

Lastly, I see a hyper connected world causing more social divide by 2020.  It is bad enough as it is but now everyone feels the need to by iPhones and have iPads, computers, etc.  Many people and even schools can not afford it.  So those who can not afford it will be even worse off in 2020 because they definitely won't be marketable for jobs.

 I would say that I fall somewhere in the middle on my opinion of the outcomes of technology in 2020. If I had to chose though, I see the high reliance on technology causing negative effects.  It creates people that need things now.  They need instant gratification and have no patience.  Also, it will increase the social divide, and increase multitasking, which I don't see as being a good thing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Google Making Us Stupid Reflection

I couldn't agree more with Nicholas Carr's opinions in, Is Google Making Us Stupid?.  Our minds, both old and young are changing faster than ever before.  We read and learn and access information in an entirely different way than we did twenty years ago which was different twenty years before that and twenty years before that and so on. I think what is important to remember is that this change is not necessarily evil which I think is what a lot of the older generation thinks, especially those teachers who have been in the profession for a while.  Students can no longer sit down and read a chapter out of a biology book.  Literally, they cannot.  Instead their minds are malleable and have been reprogrammed to take in, process, and learn information in an entirely new way.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It does mean though, that we, as teachers, need to learn to teach based on this information.  Instead of assigning twenty pages of reading on photosynthesis in class we should use the iPads to do an interactive lab with small bits of reading material to get the exact same message those twenty pages would have across to the students.

Some points I found especially interesting from the article was the fact that the author said with all of the text on the internet, cell phones, etc. it is possible that we are reading more than was read in the 1970's-1980's when television was incredibly popular.  This to me was shocking but it does seem true.  Back then in order to read you had to physically open a book or newspaper and practice reading.  Now it is almost impossible to escape reading.  The only difference is that reading is done in small chunks.  The other thing I found interesting in this article was the reoccurring theme that everyone feared the new technology but it always created much needed improvements.  For example, Nietzsche was having trouble writing, then he got a type writer and he felt that he could write far more easily.  This did, though, change the way he wrote.  This is similar to what we're seeing today.  The way we learn, write, etc. is going to be different, but this may just be the change we need.

I think this article showed that the time has changed and new technology is inevitably here.  Yet, we need to recognize that this may not be a bad thing, there are many positives that could come out of it.  As educators though we need to realize this and adapt our lessons because students literally learn in new ways now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marc Prensky Article Reviews

I found a lot of flaws in Marc Prensky's two article, What Technology ISN'T Good At and Teaching the Right Stuff.  In the Article, Teaching the Right Stuff Prensky really focuses on three skills that he thinks will help students in the future.  Yet, he admits that like the skills of writing an email, making a blog post and making a power point they will just as soon be a dying skill.  Instead, we should teach our students skills that will never die.  For example, lets teach them skills that are more broad and spend the majority of time doing that so no matter what technology comes along students can apply these broad skills.  We can still spend a small amount of time teaching specifics that may be useful in the future even though we know that they too will die out, for example, making a video.  Some of these skills that will never die out should be things such as how to work as a team, how to be flexible and adaptable, etc.  No matter what technology comes about there will still be cases where students need to work together.  Whether or not that be from behind a computer screen, students will still need to know how to do that.  Being flexible and willing to adapt to new situations is also very important, after all Prensky said technology will change a trillion fold in our students lifetimes.  I think that instead of teaching to specific skills we see being useful in the future we should teach skills we see being useful forever.

Prensky's article, What Technology ISN'T Good At seems impractical to me.  Of course we want for our students to love learning and we want to be the teacher that lights that spark for them.  Yet, if we want to keep our jobs as teachers that cannot be done.  As a biology teacher the MCAS is a very high stakes test.  If students don't pass it they don't  graduate.  The MCAS tests on very specific information and therefore I cannot relate it to the different passions of my 120 students.  There are some topics the students need to just learn; I can't relate it to baseball, or baking or whatever it may be that they love.  For example, the MCAS specifically asks students the function of each organelle in a cell.  If they don't know the answers to these kinds of questions then they will fail and I will lose my job.  I think that it is unfortunate that we need to teach in this way but it is sadly the reality.  I would still love to be the teacher who instills a love of science in students and I think that would be done more realistically through a club.  For example, in college we had a biology club.  We did things twice a month such as going to the aquarium, holding recycling drives, going to a butterfly museum, etc.  all of the fun aspects of science.  I would love to have  a club like this at my high school where we could explore students passions and show them how they relate to science.  Unfortunately, at this time, the school day is not the time or place for that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kahn Academy Review

This assignment could not have come at a better time.  Since today was Election Day, the students had the day off and we teachers had an In Service Day.  The Science department was assigned to the technology room where we learned about new ideas involving technology that could help us in the classroom.  One topic that came up for exploration/discussion was the Kahn Academy videos.  The teachers had very mixed reactions, but similar opinions to my own.

After watching several of the videos I have come to the conclusion that the videos are good but not great.  First of all, since Salman Kahn makes all of the videos himself he needs to teach himself the information.  This is a lot of information to learn and then teach to someone else and I noticed some of the time he gets concepts wrong or phrases things incorrectly.  For example, in a photosynthesis video he speaks about ATP which is not correct.  Also, in a video about the phases of mitosis he continually says "the 2 nucleuses"  which is incorrect as well.  Nucleus is the singular form of the word and nuclei is the plural.  He instead should have said "the 2 nuclei".  I believe that this shows he understands main ideas but sometimes misses some smaller points that a high school teacher in the subject would not.

Another issue I see with these videos is that the videos are way too high a level for high school students.  The material he covers is information that would be covered in a specific college level class.  Not a general intro to biology high school class.  The information would be far to detailed for the high school students and thus confuse them even more.

The last concern I see is that there are no practice questions for science.  I know that this website contains a lot of information and takes a lot of time and effort but it would be far more effective if there were questions that students could use to test themselves like there is in the math section.

Overall, I think that this is a good website.  The material (with a few exceptions) is very detailed and accurate.  The only issue is that the material is far too detailed.  I could see these videos being used best for college students to help with material they may have missed or misunderstood in class while studying for a test.  Also, it may be useful for some high level students that need additional information.

Phases of Mitosis: Explanation of the phases of mitosis.

Friday, October 26, 2012

West Virginia Grade 8 Test 1931 Reflection

The 8th grade test given in West Virginia in 1931 is not something I could see myself using today. It lacks all of the components that would make up a good test today.

First, the questions are all the same format and require the student to regurgitate the memorized information. There are many flaws with this setup. It is a test made for a handful of students, there is no differentiation. There is one type of question, short answer, from the information the student should have memorized. This creates a lot of stress for the student and unfortunately is the type of test that shows what the student DOESN'T know instead of what the student does know. If the student is not good at answering short answer questions the test should be made up of a variety of question types to allow the student to showcase the information they know in the way they can best. If the student has the knowledge we should give them every possibility to show us that they know it.

Second, there are a lot of issues with the content. The material seems to touch upon only a couple specific ideas. Rather, a good test should encompass a variety of overarching themes. I agree that there are times where specific ideas are important to test but they can be worked into questions that involve more critical thinking skills. For example, question II asks the student to name one country. Instead this could be developed to ask the student to employ higher order thinking skills as well as naming the one country.

Finally, this test would never work today because I believe it lacks a few of the fundamental skills we are trying to teach. First of all, the test does not promote good teaching strategies. You can tell from this test that the teacher is simply drilling these facts into the students head so that the student can regurgitate the information and move on to the next grade. It doesn't teach the student how to live in the real world. A test today would include being able to show the information in relation to today's world and skills that are beneficial today.

Overall, the test seems to have worked for the time in which it was given. Today though, a test like this would never suffice. Instead, a good test would have a variety of options for a student to show us what they know, in the format that works best for them, employing their higher order thinking skills, and asking them to employing real world skills and strategies and use specific details to build a big picture instead of stopping at the specific details.