Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Education and the future...a trends map

Here's an interesting site (interactive data map) that looks at trends in education and society..."A map of future forces changing education". I'm not quite sure how to read it, but it looks like it is worth investigating and there is a demo which may help understand how to use it better.
-Joel G.

Hanging on for the ride...changes in education

Related to a few of my earlier posts, this great presentation addresses why we might embrace, rather than fear the Web 2.o dragon.

The presenter, quotes an Irish university IT director, Michael Nowlan, as saying his mantra is now "Yes before no; allow before disallow; open rather than closed". This could be an approach for any director, designer or educator and is all about letting go of control–-control of content, control of interaction, control of learning, control of power, control of the environment, control of the future.

Yikes! Scarey indeed, but I've been starting to adopt that position myself on a number of decisions already and am starting to feel the anxieties and excitment knowing that the roller coaster has left the station, and there's no turning back now! I do reserve the right to step off the roller coaster at the end of this run, and also make no guarantees that my stomach can handle it (i.e. the experience for some of those closest to me may not be very pleasant).

"Only fools rush in" you say?! Agreed! But for me, I proceed cautiously. This is calculated risk and a move that has already shown early personal benefits.
-Joel G.

(available from:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New literacies in Education...

I came across another great blog post that addresses this idea of new literacies and basics in education that I've been contemplating lately. The original post is very long, and covers a lot of ground on Moodle as an example. I'm presenting wholesale-size swaths of the original post by Miguel Guhlin because it is done so well--but I want to editorial rights, and don't care too much about moodle right now.
(photo by fotologic)
New Literacies Jun 13, 2007 (yesterday)
from Techlearning blog by Miguel Guhlin

How we read, write, and communicate has changed. This is an earth-shattering truth for people in any walk of life, but even more critical for educators to grasp. It is critical because educators are the ones charged with preparing children for the future. The prevalence of the Internet forces these changes in what our definition of what constitutes literacy in our world today. Moodle, a course management system, can provide a solution that can be used to maximize the impact of new literacies while helping educators survive this 21st Century earthquake.

New literacies include--as defined by Leu, Mallette, Karchmer, and Kara-Soteriou in their 2005 book, Innovative Approaches to Literacy Education-- the following:

...the skills, strategies and dispositions necessary to successfully exploit the rapidly changing ICTs continuously emerging in our world for personal growth, pleasure and work. These new literacies allow us to use the Internet and other iCTs to identify important problems, locate information, analyze the usefulness of that information, synthesize information to solve problems, and communicate the solutions to others.
In addition, citing Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, being able to create using these new literacies is of essence. In fact, it is not enough to be able to evaluate web sites, synthesize information, but important that we able to create and craft compelling narratives--digital stories--that encompass, as George Lucas shares, the "language of images and sound." Text is no longer enough, and new literacies require a level of fluency that teachers today have not yet grasped systemically in K-16 education. For people everywhere, these are defining literacies that must be learned. You either learn them, or risk a profound disconnect from the world.

In fact, many teachers, parents, administrators may be--dramatically--groaning in fear, gnashing their teeth at the need for new literacies. They see that the Internet, as its ubiquity increases, as it becomes an ever-changing tool molding itself to the mind of its users, now forces reading, writing and communication to be as changeable as the technology it is dependent upon.
The connection between reading, writing, communication and new literacies is multi-modal, engaging everyone as learners as a result of its constant, transformative nature. Multiple modalities go beyond traditional ways of communicating--such as pen and paper, keyboard and mouse--to combine old literacies with new ones. This results in increased usability, increased experience that engages learners.

The connection is also multi-directional, involving not just one or two people, but a global community networked together. As Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams write in their book Wikinomics, mass collaboration changes everything.' Mass collaboration involves peer production, people partnering together to create content, remix it in ways specific to their situation yet useful to others connected via a worldwide network.

As new technologies emerge, how can any one "new literacy" be used to keep up with another? In other words, how can we use technology to help us keep up with the changes brought about technology?...New literacies require us to better prepare ourselves and our students for a future where survival requires everyday technology use.
Again, this is not my writing, but that of Miguel Guhlin--retrieved Jun 13, 2007 (yesterday) from Techlearning blog. I share his words because he says clearly, what I'm thinking.

-Joel D. Galbraith

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sticking to Basics--part 2

A great post related to my earlier "back to basics" post with a couple equally interesting links. The original can be found here .
-Joel G.

Thoughts on “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative” by Ken RobinsonPublished by Jessica Draper June 13th, 2007 in Shop Talk

Ken Robinson argues in Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative that the world is changing rapidly, due in large part to technological advances, and that the old-fashioned style of “logico-deductive” education simply cannot meet the needs of the rapidly arriving future. The future, in his view, demands a new vision and effective use of human resources—specifically, the urgent need for creativity in all areas of education, culture, and business.
He defines creativity as “imaginative processes with [real-world] outcomes that are original and of value.” This process is the key to thriving amid the rapid and radical changes in modern culture—and the even more rapid and radical changes to come.
Some of these changes have already weakened the traditional view of education and employment; having a university degree is no longer a guarantee of either getting or keeping a job. Employers, he says, “want people who can think intuitively, who are imaginative and innovative, who can communicate well, work in teams and are flexible, adaptable and self-confident. The traditional academic curriculum is simply not designed to produce such people.”
The good news is that anyone can be creative under the right conditions. Robinson argues that creativity is not either/or, not just for certain people or disciplines; instead, “real creativity comes from finding your medium, from being in your element.” It is “a dynamic process that draws on many different areas of a person’s experience and intelligence.” It is also a cultural process, arising “out of our interactions with ideas and achievements of other people.”
So, how can education help train these creative, flexible, innovative people? Robison strongly advocates various reforms (reuniting arts and sciences, abandoning the IQ-based conception of intelligence, and others), but his keys to promoting creativity (in education and in business) are:
Encouraging risk-taking and experimentation.
Creating interdisciplinary associations, breaking down the barrier between art and science.
Harnessing creativity, encouraging and acting on ideas and creative solutions.
Obviously, any of these things is much easier to say than to actually do in the real world. (This is where grand visions in education-reform books tend to founder—it’s harder to come up with specific techniques and recommendations than general principles.)
On the subject of reducing the risks that stifle experimentation, however, a couple of ideas did bubble up as I read the book. They’re based on the question posed in the parable of the fence or the ambulance: do you build a fence at the top of a dangerous cliff, or station an ambulance at the bottom? To reduce the negative consequences of failure as a learner explores a new topic, a combination of techniques seems promising.
First, the fence. When presenting a new subject, reduce the consequences of failure by providing the learners with the background, concepts, and guidelines they need to freely experiment. Nothing is so frustrating as having too wide a field and no idea at all about how to proceed. Giving the learners a defined “sandbox” and the tools to use in it changes confusion into purpose, and wandering into real exploration. Schools that follow Maria Montessori’s methods [] provide just one example of fence-building technique: the children use tools and toys that let them freely explore and experiment, but they conduct those explorations and experiments within precisely defined structures and routines that are set up so that they can correct themselves when they begin to go off track. (For a humorous look at Montessori schools, see The Cult of the Pink Tower by Emily Bazelon.)
Second, the ambulance. If methods for preventing failure don’t work, the failure shouldn’t have such dire consequences that the students are afraid to experiment. Part of decreasing the consequences of failure is changing the focus of assignments and exercises from categorizing students (by score and grade) to assessing whether or not they actually know the material or can do the task—aiming for mastery rather than earning a score. Providing low-stakes, repeatable assignments with frequent, specific feedback, for example, lets students try, learn from their mistakes, and try again without worrying about a single failure permanently marring their academic record.
Of course, making those assessments relevant, interesting, and even fun is another challenge. Sounds like a job for creativity!
To see Ken Robinson talk about education and creativity, watch his speech at TED.

A Fence or an Ambulance (to embrace or resist)

I came across this now-famous poem in an a great and insightful blog post (by Jessica draper)this morning and immensely enjoyed the clever script. I've long been aware of the analogy--having cited it frequently myself, but don't recall ever having read the entire original text, nor known its origin/author. So here without further ado, I give you "A Fence or an Ambulance"

A Fence or an Ambulance
Joseph Malins (1895)

'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, "Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is all right, if your careful," they said,
"And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they're stopping."
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: "It's a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief," cried he,
"Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."

"Oh he's a fanatic," the others rejoined,
"Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?"

But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
"To rescue the fallen is good, but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence 'round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sticking to Basics--part 1

Sticking to basics...which basics?

I came across this recent posting on another edublog and thought it was worthy of sharing (Read the original blog post here)

Maybe we don't have a problem with basics or Maybe our basics need to be upgraded.A few years ago, we sold our home when returning to school. One of the attractive selling points at the time was that my brother and I had installed the latest CAT 5 cable (for internet acess) in every room in the house (including the laundry room--who knows??). That CAT 5 cable served us very well for a few years and helped sell the house, but today I would not install it again in my home. point is, while we don't want students to walk into our course "home", see 90's "wallpaper", turn right around and head for the door, nor do we want/need to install bluetooth location awareness devices in every room (currently the buzz in home automation). [...however, we DO want to make sure we make the needed repairs in our courses, possibly repaint, fix the drips, repair that one dangerous step, patch that hole in the get my drift]

As we look around us and see/hear vodcast, blog, gaming, wiki, second life, podcast, social networking, twitter, web 2.0, mLearning (mobile learning), and wonder if our "home" is up to par, let's stick to the basics in learning design. Let's focus on what these technologies enable, and how they facilitate learning within the context of our educational mission and responsibility.
At the same time, and what gave me pause in this article, is what today's basics for learners are/might be. Quoting another site (also worth reading) the author suggests today's learning basics are...

1. Be able to Connect
2. Be able to Create
3. Be able to Communicate
4. Be able to Collaborate

Are these the new basics??!
While I'm on a role here, let me suggest that my old (current?) basics used to be (and I hope you recognize these), to ensure my courses:

1. Gained learner attention
2. Informed learners of objectives
3. Stimulated recall of prior learning
4. Presented the content
5. Provided "learning guidance"
6. Elicited performance (practice)
7. Provided feedback
8. Assessed performance
9. Enhanced retention and transfer to the other contexts

Do our courses facilitate these new basics? Are these the new basics? What were the old basics? It seems to me that as designers, we should be able to answer some of these questions. Are we taking stock of what affordable upgrades our homes might need?
Read the original blog post here
-Joel G.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A great link (a collaborative DB) for educational technology related conferences. The site also lets you see different views of the data (chronological, geographical, list all).
If you know of some not listed, just add it in.
-Joel G.

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