EPSY556 Week 5 Readings

Reflecting on this week’s readings left me feeling somewhat conflicted.  While I can’t help but admire–and even feel a bit overwhelmed by–projects such as the Horizon and Flat Classroom projects, I still find myself wondering just how practical they are right now.  The goals and ideals are noble and needed–don’t get me wrong; I think progressive programs like these are essential if education is to evolve adequately to prepare today’s youth for the rapidly approaching future.  And since the traditional model is so hopelessly outdated for today’s and future students, maybe something revolutionary is needed to shake things up a bit and shock people into thinking differently.

Perhaps I’m still a little too attached to the “traditional” formats, outdated though they may be–even though I’ve been reading Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, and it’s really opened my eyes to all the inherent flaws in the current state of education.  Part of me still finds the notion of a purely exploratory educational environment a bit too vast of a leap–I’m concerned that most of the world is not ready for such a radical change; something more incremental might be easier to “sell”, so to speak.  And maybe that’s where blended learning comes in–in any of its forms.  However one defines blended learning, it still sounds to me like an attempt to bridge the gap between more traditional and outdated one-way methods to a more collaborative and participatory education.  Maybe it is this idea that incorporates the best of both approaches in today’s educational climate and will serve as a springboard to a more widespread adoption of more progressive education.

Regardless of my conflicting feelings, I think the Horizon Project is headed in the right direction, and I’m curious to see how their efforts continue to evolve and develop over the next few years.  Maybe I’ll even be able to witness the fruits of their labors in the education of my youngest son, who’s currently in kindergarten.  Maybe by the time he’s in middle and/or high school, initiatives like those promoted by the Horizon Project will have seeped into more traditional public schools.  In the meantime, I think blended learning has definite potential for guiding students toward a more progressive constructivist education.

EPSY556: Techsploration – Week 2

This week, we were asked to explore Mike Williams’s wiki, http://teachdigital.net/web20.  A lot of useful resources here…  I plan on checking back for updates on a regular basis.  I found a lot of Web 2.0 tools listed that I had never seen before.

As for the optional activity, I signed on to my bloglines account–which I had not visited in quite some time, I discovered.  I added some potentially interesting rss feeds that I found on the suggested website (though I was unable to find the specific recommended feed).  I think bloglines has a lot of potential for staying current with a lot of different information sources, I just haven’t incorporated it into my daily routine, for some reason.

EPSY556 Week 4 Readings

I enjoyed reading Richardson’s “New Face of Learning” article–his thoughts echoed my own, for the most part.  I, too, see such enormous educational potential in Web 2.0.  However, based on my own personal experience, my enthusiasm is tempered slightly by the reality of how these technologies are being used.  Yes, blogging, podcasting, image sharing, etc. offer unprecedented access to, and ways to share, information for today’s youth, but many of them are not using these technologies as productively as we’d like.  Too often, these kids are immersed in MySpace or Facebook, sharing little more than teenage gossip and photos of themselves posing with wannabe gang signs in front of the bathroom mirror.  This kind of activity is to be expected, of course–as long as the technology is being used more productively, as well.  As Wartella and Jennings point out, when television became popular, it was lauded as a potentially limitless resource for sharing information to a mass audience.  Then came the sitcom and “reality television”.  So, again, I see so much potential and opportunity in Web 2.0–I just wish more younger people were taking advantage of it as much as they should.  In an ideal world, middle school students would be able to make use of their mobile devices in class for school-related activities without teachers having to contend with them texting their friends instead.  And I think it is this perceived potential for misuse and abuse that makes many educators reluctant to embrace the technologies as much as they could and should.  Despite that, though, Web 2.0 technologies cannot be ignored, regardless of the wasted potential or potential for abuse or misuse.  Web 2.0 is where education is going–period; whether we make efforts toward making the most of it, or not.  Put simply, I think we as educators–both formally as teachers, and informally as parents, mentors, and role-models–have a responsibility to set a good example for showing students of all ages the limitless potential of Web 2.0 and encouraging them to make the most of it.  If we don’t, then much of that potential will go to waste.

Which brings me to Wiske’s article, and his point about the importance of changing the culture of education–which, in my opinion, is the core issue surrounding educational technology.  Technology–no matter how advanced–is, in and of itself, simply a tool, a medium for transfering information between instructor and student, regardless of the context.  With his example of graphing calculators, he illustrates the importance of having unified support for the adoption of emerging technologies–making the important distinction that integrating new technologies doesn’t require radical change, but–I would argue–unified support.  Without an adequate and dedicated support system, such iniatives would be doomed to failure, in my opinion.

EPSY556 Week 2 Reading Thoughts

First… I found the Robinson video to be most compelling.  Not only is the man a gifted public speaker, but he seems to have a firm grasp on the link between creativity and education.  The story he related about his colleague, the world renowned choreographer, and how she was able to soar to success in her calling–dance–was both inspiring and disconcerting.  Inspiring when one considers her achievements because her aptitude was identified and nurtured early…disconcerting when one considers all the others whose potential and dreams go unrealized because they are shuffled through a system that rewards conformity and antiquated thinking.  I am planning on reading Robinson’s book–and I hope to find it as engaging as his video presentation.

I also found the “Toward a New Golden Age in American Education” compelling and motivating.  Though I couldn’t help but read it with a little cynicism because some of it seemed to be propaganda lauding the “No Child Left Behind” initiative–an initiative that has been met with frustration and skepticism by many teachers with whom I’ve discussed this.  Some critics claim “NCLB” doesn’t really seek to solve the core problems in our educational system, comparing it to a temporary band-aid that mandates excessive unnecessary testing and lowers standards to meet lowering expectations.  Granted, this may be a biased take on it all–I really don’t know enough about “No Child Left Behind” to judge it impartially for myself.  It may be a case of teachers resenting being told how to do their jobs.  To me, any system that seeks more exhaustive scrutiny of student performance and aptitude is a step in the right direction, if nothing else.  NCLB aside, I found the “Golden Age” report to be hopeful in scope as it seemed–to me, at least–to be on the right track by identifying technology as key not only to the future of education, but also to elevating the American educational system to where it needs to be, especially when viewed from a global perspective.  I also found the statistics about the educational goals of the “Millennials” to be most encouraging–as well as the highlighted examples of school districts across the country that have achieved extraordinary success by effective investment and implementation of technology into their educational programs.

One idea that really captured my attention while reading the “Learning for the 21st Century” piece, was that of learning skills.  So much of traditional education is simple memorization and recitation of facts without the next step of analyzing and evaluating this information and applying it to different contexts.  And it sounds to me like learning skills is an attempt toward teaching metacongnition skills–which will be even more valuable as the future takes shape, in my opinion.  It’s always been my contention that when it comes to most jobs, the basic duties and tasks of that job can be taught to most employees, for the most part (with the exception of highly specialized pursuits, like neurosurgery).  But the truly valuable employees are those that possess the more intangible skills, like an honest work ethic, the ability to work well with colleagues, the ability to adapt to new environments and readily learn new skills.  And it sounds like learning skills would encompass some of these intangibles.  Reading this article also got me thinking about the education/industry partnership, and how they both stand to benefit from this relationship.  Of course, industry devoting resources to education is a public relations win, but it is also an investment for them–albeit a longer-term investment.  If they are able to raise the bar of future prospective employees by helping improve education, then they stand to receive a return on their investment.

As for the “Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us” video…  I’ve seen this a number of times already, and it never fails to get me thinking about where all this technology is leading us, and it will continue shape us–and how we will continue to shape it.  A deceptively simple video in design with a very profound message.

Overall, some very interesting and compelling reading/viewing this week.  Motivation for those of us with some technological expertise to make an even more concerted effort toward aiding in educational reform…