Oops. Future of education already here; reformers missed it (and so did most teachers)

October 17, 2013

You need to see these slides, from Will Richardson.

First, teachers should send a copy of this to their evaluators, principals, and all other admins up to the superintendent.  Sure, it’s possible they’ll fire you for telling the truth.  But if every teacher in your district did it, they might look at the slides and ponder:  What in the hell do our evaluations and test scores have to do with this new future that is already upon us, and around us, and washing away the foundations of what the state legislature claims we must be doing?

Will Richardson

Will Richardson

Second, this is a model presentation.  Notice how few of the slides are cluttered with words.  Notice those slides with words are easy to read, easy to grasp, and complement and are complemented by a lot of great images.  (One of my students got a less-than-A grade on a PowerPoint presentation in another class, and brought me the evaluation:  “Not enough text,” was one of the criticisms he’d gotten.  That teacher is considered a model by too many administrators.)  It’s not a perfect presentation.  Garr Reynolds would have a lot to say about it.  I’ll wager Richardson’s is better than any other presentation you’ve seen this week, in the content, the depth of information, and the way it’s packaged.  (Would have loved to have seen the presentation . . .)  That is particularly true if you’ve been the victim of teacher professional development sessions in the past week.

There are a lot of slides, partly because so few of them are cluttered by text.  (Don’t know how long the presentation went.)  This presentation would win a case against almost every other slide presentation I’ve ever seen from any law firm, who pay tens of thousands to lawyers to make slide presentations that defy understanding.  The world would be ever so much better were lawyers required to watch this, and compare it with their last presentation.

Third (related to and justifying the first), you need to realize how things have changed in the past year, past five years, past decade, and how we as a society and nation failed to account for those changes, or keep up with them, especially in our public AND private elementary and secondary schools.  Richardson understands the changes, and has some great leads on answers.

This presentation appears to have been a hit.  It seems a few people asked Will Richardson for copies (@WillRich45, www.willrichardson.com), which is why it’s on Slideshare.

Richardson highlights the importance of these thoughts at his blog:

If the recent iPad debacle in Los Angeles teaches us anything it’s that no amount of money and technology will change anything without a modern vision of what teaching and learning looks like when every student and every teacher has access to the Internet. As many of us have been saying for far too long, our strategy to deal with the continuing explosion of technology and connections can’t be to simply layer devices on top of the traditional curriculum and engage in digital delivery. Unfortunately, far too few develop a vision that sees that differently.

*     *     *     *     *

Please note: Technology is integrated throughout these initiatives in ways that serve the vision, not the other way around. This isn’t “let’s give everyone an iPad filled with a lot of textbook and personalized learning apps aimed at improving test scores and then figure out how to manage it.” This is about having important conversations around complex, difficult questions:

  • What will schools look like in the future?
  • What kinds of spaces do we need to support instruction and collaborative work in 5-10 years?
  • How will technology transform curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

And how does it work at your school, teachers?  Students?

We missed the revolution.  The kids are ahead of us.

Can  we catch up?

More:


Imagequilts, with Edward Tufte and Adam Schwartz

September 5, 2013

These are pretty cool.

Can you use them in a classroom?  Some of these Imagequilts pack a lot of information into a small space — such as the one for Cézanne.

Here, “Subatomic Particles“:

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz; click image to see much larger version

Paul Cézanne“:

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz. Useful in art history? European history?

Super Advanced Placement (AP) history teacher John Irish created outstanding PowerPoints showing off art of European eras, or American eras, for use in introducing a unit of history (see a smattering of examples here).  Could these Imagequilts substitute, or do it as well, and — especially — faster?

Here’s another, “Pablo Picasso“:

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

This one could be particularly useful in a physics course, or a unit on the history of science.  Richard Feynman may be most famous, pedagogically at least, for his invention and use of Feynman Diagrams.  Most discussions simply mention the things, though a few attempt short explanations.  Rare is to find a good example of a Feynman Diagram, to see just what they are and how they work.  Tufte and Schwartz offer a bunch:

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz (click for a larger image)

Imagequilts is a Chrome App, available for download so you can make your own.  Of course, you’ll need to use Google Chrome to get full effect.

Got any Imagequilts you’d like to share?

More:


No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

More:


Darrell’s corollaries of education + technology: No good work goes unpunished, most opportunities missed

January 27, 2013

Aristotle, and his pupil Alexander

Does this 19th century engraving show the perfect learning situation? Alexander had no iPhone, no laptop; Aristotle used no PowerPoint, no grading machines, not even a chalkboard. Have we come a long way, or is this a measure of how far we’ve fallen? “Aristotle and his pupil, Alexander (c. 340 BCE)” (original source?)

David Warlick‘s blog serves up a lot of stuff to make teachers think (cynically, I wonder whether education administrators can be shoved into thinking at all . . . but I digress).

David Warlick

David Warlick, in a taxi in Shanghai, probably off at some education conference or other.

Recently he pondered his own son’s use of several different kinds of media at once.  In a longer discussion that would be worth your while, someone asked, “Has the nature of information influenced the emerging ‘appropriate technologies’ like the digital learning object called an iBook?”  David responded:

My knee-jerk response is, “Not nearly enough.” This current push toward digital textbooks, urged on by our Secretary of Education, concerns me. I worry that we’re engaged in a race to modernize schooling, rather than a sober and thoughtful imagining and designing of learning materials and practices that are more relevant to today’s learners (ourselves include), today’s information landscape and a future that has lost the comforts of certainty, but become rich with wondrous opportunities.

What I enjoyed, though, about my experience in publishing an iBook was learning to hack some features into the book that were not part of Apples general instructions for using their publishing tool. This is the ultimate opportunity of digital learning objects and environments, that they can be hacked into new and better learning experiences by information artisans who see what’s there and what it can become.

In a cynical mood, I commented on an earlier statement Warlick made, about how technology has changed the education landscape:

“… we live in a time of no unanswered questions.”

BUT:

1.  The internet and especially portable devices have exponentially increased the probability that difficult questions will be answered incorrectly.

2.  For teachers, no longer is it possible to ask a simple, factual question as a teaser to get students to search for the answer, and thereby learn something deeper along the way.  Portable computer devices present one more non-print medium in which education appears to be abdicating its duties, and the war.  (We missed radio, film, television, recorded television, and desk-top computing; now we’re missing portable devices.)

English: Cropped picture of Jaime Escalante

Legendary AP calculus teacher Jaime Escalante; pencil, paper, chalkboard and chalk, maybe a slide rule, made up his technology kit. Photo: Wikipedia

3.  No question goes unanswered, but what is really rare is a question that is worth answering; even more rare, that good question that can be answered well from free internet sources.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary:  When administrators and policy makers tell educators (especially teachers) they wish to utilize “new technology,” they mean they want new ways to figure out ways to fire teachers, because they don’t have a clue how technology can be used in education, nor have they thought broadly enough about what education is.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary Corollary: When a teacher effectively uses technology in a classroom, it will be at the teacher’s instigation, the teacher’s expense, and administrators will get revenge on the teacher for having done so.

I’ve wondered whether I wasn’t too cynical; David offered a solid response.

A couple of weeks later, my cynicism is growing.  I’m warning you, teachers, you adopt new technologies at your risk, often — especially in some school districts like Dallas ISD.

It’s a caution only.  Teachers, being teachers, will continue to push the envelopes, as Fionna Larcom related at Warlick’s blog.  Good on ‘em.  One out of 500,000 will get accolades outside the education system, like Jaime Escalante did.  Many others will face reprimand.

But if education is to improve, this experimentation by teachers must continue.  So teachers slog on, under-appreciated and often opposed in their attempts to fix things.

Someday a school system will figure out how to unlock teachers’ creativity, knowledge and skills.  Not soon enough.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos.  Photo: Wikipedia

(Can someone explain to me how Warlick’s blog, with much better stuff than I do here, gets fewer hits?  Teachers, not enough of you are reading broadly enough.)

More, not necessarily the opinion of this blog:


Quick! Vote for Bill Adkins! Get a new printer for his classroom

May 16, 2012

We have a great art department at Molina High SchoolBill Adkins, and his colleagues, pull great work out of kids who too often are not expected to produce good art.

Adkins is in contest to get a fancy printer, based on votes from the internet.  Will you do Mr. Adkins, and especially his students, a great favor and go cast a vote for him right now?  Voting ends today, and he’s in the running but not in first.

Details:

I want to thank Mr. Rhee and Mr. Jones for their efforts encouraging their students to vote for my project.  I also thank the rest of you who have voted to help me win a new printer for the art department.  It’s still a very close race, I’m currently in 3rd place and voting ends tomorrow.  If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you will.  Your students are allowed to vote too.  Just go the this link:  http://www.weareteachers.com/teaching-ideas/grant/teaching-idea?app=24725&grantId=98 and click on vote for me.

Someday schools will provide equipment like this without contests on the internet — but not yet.   A vote for Adkins is a vote for educational excellence.

Thanks!

From an earlier post:


Infographics creation by students, as a tool of learning

May 13, 2012

Infographic-a-Day describes this TEDx video (I added the links):

Perhaps one of the bigest and most listened to advocates of using infographics and data vis in the classroom is Diana Laufinberg, from The Science Leadership Academy. Diana, a History teacher, is a long time user of geographic information systems (GIS). She has recently, however, started helping her students to create their own infographics from complex issues that are part of her course of study and/or part of current events.

Here is a video of Diana’s talk at a recent TEDx…

Tip of the old scrub brush to David Warlick at 2¢ Worth.


Boys’ Life on YouTube, February issue preview

January 21, 2012

Every time I pick up an issue of Boys’ Life I think how much better students could perform if they just looked that this magazine once a month; you don’t have to be a Scout to subscribe, but why not live the adventures, too?

Will 30-second montages sell more magazines?  What more could/should Boys’ Life do on the web?

Here’s an example of the sorts of skills I wish my students had, again from the Boys’ Life YouTube offerings.  In “Cache Me If You Can,” these are young Scouts, I’m guessing ages 11 to about 13 from a Troop 6 somewhere in Colorado, out navigating a path through the woods using GPS and hand-held ham radios.  I fear most of my 16-18-year-old students would be challenged to do the stuff these younger kids are doing, if they could do it at all.

Of course, while those skills would make them better students more able to understand and use maps and charts, very little of those skills are listed in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  I’m given neither time nor resources to teach them.

More, resources: 

  • A feature at the Boys’ Life site I really like is the “Wayback Machine,” which allows viewing of many issues of the magazine dating back to 1911 — actualy from March 1911 through December 2009.  Alas, the features uses Google Books, so viewing at the site is about all you can do — no copying of the great covers by Boy Scouts of America art director Norman Rockwell, no copying of articles with teachable skills for use as illustrations in lessons.   This would be a good research site for high school history projects — Scouts in time of war, Scouting and education, map use, youth in exploration, etc.

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