Monday, April 21, 2014

Thinking in a blended world

When many teachers discuss teaching in a blended classroom, a flipped classroom, or just plain analog they are missing the point. Our world is already blended, but do students have the knowledge a skills to interact with it?   The internet is no longer a thing that people go to a computer to access.  Through wearable technology it has become become an intimate companion that walks with us throughout our life.  Students have access to the internet and the information that it provides 24-7, as long as their data plan is funded. (Which raises issues of equity for low income students).  Information has no longer become a thing that need to be memorized.  Information has become a thing that needs to be evaluated and manipulated into a meaningful context.  To prepare students for their future, they must receive instruction in different methods of thinking and solving problems.

While not the exact words of Einstein, the paraphrased version
of an New York Times Article: Atomic Education Urged
 by Einstein
Linear Thinking
Simple cause-effect thinking that ignores the relationships between systems provides an incomplete view of the world.  This type of thinking often results in negative unintended consequences.  The movement to promote bio-fuels is a prime example of this.  The linear thought behind this is that the US is capable of growing crops that can be easily transformed into fuel, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and pollution. Farmers will also benefit from increased demand on their crops as well.  I wonder if anywhere in this process anyone asked about the wisdom of burning food in our gas tanks?  Increase use of bio-fuels has resulted in more land being utilized for crops which has reduced the amount of land that is available for forests and grasslands that help to process carbon emissions.  A study determined that it will take over 167 years for corn ethanol to make a difference in the carbon content of our atmosphere (Sexton, Rajagopal, Hochman, Zilberman, & Roland-Holst, 2009).  Additionally, it will result in reduced biodiversity (Sexton et al., 2009).  The impact of bio-fuels production on the water supply also needs to be considered, not only is the damand for water increased, the chemicals that are used in farming can contaminate the water supply (Sexton et al., 2009). Anyone that purchases their own groceries has noticed the increased prices of food that has resulted from the competition between the table and the gas tank.  On a global scale food production per capita is decreasing (Sexton et al. 2009).

Systems Thinking
A systems thinking approach to bio-fuel might have resulted in a different decision.  A systems approach examine the internal functioning of a system as well as its relationship with other systems.  Systems thinking, developed in the 1940's has not gained popularity until recently.  Instead design thinking has dominated much of the decision making processes until recently.  The primary difference between the two problem solving methods is that design thinking does not include the external systems in the reasoning process.  Additionally, systems thinking recognizes the complexity of global relationships and recognizes the futility in trying to control all of the variables, whereas design thinking assumes that the variables can be controlled.  I would argue that either form of thinking is far superior to narrow cause-effect reasoning.

Importance of Learning Styles
Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of emphasis on non-linear thinking is that it lends itself to a global learning style much more than a sequential learning style.  Studies have found that learning styles are influenced by cultures (Sywelem, Al-Harbi, & Fathema, 2012).  Global learners are in the minority and typically do not not perform as well in school,  this may be because most teachers are also sequential learners themselves.  Consequently, the information that is presented in classes is sequential without any accommodations for global learning styles.  Even the new Common Core standards which is meant to instill 21st Century Skills, does not address non-linear thinking.    Yet it is this type of thinking that is so important for developing sustainable development.
By Rob Koch

More information:

Systems Thinking in Schools: The Waters Foundation
  The Cloud Institute
The Creative Learning Exchange

Kurilovas, E., Kubilinskiene, S., & Dagiene, V. (2014). Web 3.0 – Based personalisation of learning objects in virtual learning environments. Computers In Human Behavior, 30654-662. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.039

Sexton, S., Rajagopal, D., Hochman, G., Zilberman, D., & Roland-Holst, D. (2009). Biofuel policy must evaluate environmental, food security and energy goals to maximize net benefits. California agriculture63(4).

Sywelem, M., Al-Harbi, Q., Fathema, N., & Witte, J. E. (2012). Learning Style Preferences of Student Teachers: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Online Submission1, 10-24.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Reforming Education

United Nations Development Program
     What does learning look like?  Somewhere along the way to improve education, it has been damaged. The awesomeness of "eureka" transformed into normative bubbles.  The wonderful experience of falling down repeatedly until finally a first glorious step is taken replaced with a paralyzing fear of failure.    Inspirational feats of high performance  have been standardized.

    In reading Andy Hargreaves' article, describing the ways that the educational system has changed, I found myself reflecting on the reason that I choose to be an educator.  It was a long time ago, but I know that it was not to subject students to endless barrages of tests that arbitrarily label them as "partially-proficient" or "advanced."  I do see the value of knowing where my students and my skills fall in relation to others.  The series of reforms that the educational system has undergone in the past thirty years has helped move education forward; however, the road to improving education is far from complete.

Hargreaves (2009) classified the ways in which school reform has been implemented.  The first way of reform involved teachers' independent efforts to increase pedagogical efficiency (Hargreaves, 2009).  According to Hargreaves, the independent nature of teacher initiated reform resulted in an effort to standardized the educational system.  The standardized system then resulted in Hargreaves' third way which involved top-down efforts to force reform on schools through a system of threats and intimidation.

Through an extensive study of educational reform and educational systems, Hargreaves (2009) derived a “Forth Way” to reform education, consisting of purposeful partnerships, principles of professionalism, and catalysts for coherence.

     Five pillars of purposeful partnerships:

1.    An inspiring inclusive vision:  We need to develop a shared vision for education that addresses essential needs of society that extends beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.  The educational system needs to prepare students for their future.

2.    Public engagement: Re-energize the public's passion for education

3.    No achievement without investment:  Educating children requires investments beyond money; society has to put forth the effort and time to educate their children.  Replace technology time with time for tikes.

4.    Corporate educational responsibility:  Self-serving corporate support for educating children to learn skills that serve their industry needs to be changed to supporting the needs of society.

5.    Students as partners in change:  Empower students through establishing their responsibility for their training, and monitoring their success.

Three principles of professionalism

1.    High-quality teachers: If we want high-quality people to teach then we must provide a competitive salary.  Teachers also bear the responsibility of earning prestige and persevering the integrity of their profession.

2.    Powerful professionalism:  Teachers collaborate and challenge each other to increase the performance of the educational system.

3.    Lively learning communities:  Teachers involved in collaborative, data based, ongoing improvement to refine instruction.

Four catalysts of coherence:

1.    Sustainable Leadership: The job of leading and managing a school involves an extensive number of factors resulting in leaders burning out.  Utilize distributed leadership to increase stakeholder buy-in and share the responsibilities.

2.    Net with no nanny: Professional network driven by a shared vision but without a "nanny" to intervene allowing teachers to deepen their practices free from the whims of trendy innovation.

3.    Responsibility before accountability: Teachers are responsible for the performance of all children.  Multiple sources of data continuously collected to monitor the performance of teachers.

4.    Build from the bottom, steer from the top: Teachers set high standards objectives to improve learning through a system of collective responsibility.

The top-down reform measure of No Child Left Behind has resulted in increasing the number of schools classified as unacceptable and deemed “broken," by the US Secretary of Education.  The idea that teachers have a monopoly on education is not viable.  Educators and politicians must share the responsibility for education with parents, community members, corporations, and students.  Somewhere the vision for education became meeting standards and not preparing students for their future.

By Rob Koch
Hargreaves, A. (2009), The fourth way of change: Towards an Age of inspiration and sustainability. in Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (Eds.). (2009). Change wars. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Generation Student

    Entering college there are a great deal of unknowns. First generation college students are often left to find the answers for themselves.  A recent study found that first generation students benefited from a course that discussed the obstacles that they face as a result of their social class (Stephens, Hamedani, & Destin, 2014).  Students that participated in this intervention had higher GPA's than first generation students who did not.  Accessing college support programs and meeting with professors regarding questions were some of the behaviors that they noted as increasing.  For educators that work with students from low income families, this is an important lesson.  Are students in your school taught to advocate for themselves?  Are students taught where to go to find answers if they need help?

The magnitude of students’ dreams and efforts are the only factors that should limit their success.  
By Rob Koch


Mertes, S. J., & Hoover, R. E. (2014). Predictors of first-year retention in a community college.              
       Community College Journal Of Research & Practice, 38(7), 651-660.
       doi:10.1080/10668926.2012.711143 Google

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Implications of Web 3.0

Technology has changed the way people learn and communicate; however, the influence of technology in schools continues to be limited.  The internet has gone through many transformations from Web 1.0 creating the information age, to Web 2.0 creating an age of social networking and collaboration, to Web 3.0 creating an age where the internet has entered the real world.  Students are operating in a technology rich environment at home, yet they are not having the same experience in the classroom.

There is no question that Web 1.0 changed education through providing a global library, where everyone could find anything or even author anything.  In the classroom, teacher preparation programs considered Web Quests as cutting-edge examples of the effective use of technology. However, information literacy (IL) is lacking in most teacher education programs teacher education programs (Smith, 2013).  Information literacy is an essential component education.  Not only do consumers of information need find information, but they also need to evaluate the information that they find.  The idea that western academic scholars control knowledge is no longer relevant to our world.  Yet, college professors have noted the lack of information literacy in freshman entering their institution (Backe, 2009).  

 Web 2.0 further changed the way that learning occurs.  Collaboration has started to be implement in classrooms.  Asynchronous learning through forums, wikis, Google applications, calendars, citation tools, and social bookmarking are among the tools implemented on a limited basis (Chen & Bryer, 2012).  Some programs capitalize on the social learning aspect of online learning to enhance the depth and quality of student learning.  Epals provides a collaborative learning network that facilitates collaborative learning between students and teachers in different countries.  Additionally, Moodle, an open-source learning environment, provides several applications including wikis, forums, and workshops to increase student learning.  However, the use of social media applications for learning remains largely untapped despite its popularity with students (Chen & Bryer, 2012). 

Bandwidth has increased allowing for streaming videos and online synchronous learning.  The use of streaming videos in the classroom to enrich learning is popular.  Flipped-classrooms, where the student view lectures at home and participates in project-based learning in the classroom is another way in which learning can be enhanced.  Khan academy and other online schools provide free lessons to enhance instruction. 
Web 3.0 is already upon us and the potential for enhancing learning and teaching has expanded.  Wearable technology, semantics, 3D visualizations, virtual reality, augmented reality, distributed computing, big data, linked data, cloud computing, and global repositories are all tools available to enhance learning (Dominic, Francis, & Pilomenraj, 2014).  Wearable technology has enabled learning to occur anywhere, students can easily access the internet from their phones, through distributive computing applications create their assignments, and save them to their cloud where they turn them into their teacher to be graded.  Imagine a student in New Delhi, India, and another student in Denver, Colorado, conducting a study on the environmental impact of air pollution while another student wearing Google Glasses, in a rainforest in Brazil, collects data.  Of course, they would be working with a scientist to gather and analyze information for the United Nations Environmental program.  This is not something of the future; it is only an example of what can be happening today.

By Rob Koch

Chen, B., & Bryer, T. (2012). Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 13(1), 87-104.
Badke, W. (2009). How we failed the net generation. Online, 33(4), 47-49.
Dominic, M., Francis, S., & Pilomenraj, A. (2014). E-learning in web 3.0. International Journal of Modern Education & Computer Science, 6(2), 8.
Smith, J. K. (2013). Secondary teachers and information literacy (IL): Teacher understanding and perceptions of IL in the classroom. Library & Information Science Research (07408188), 35(3), 216-222. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.03.003