Leonardo's Apprentice

Home » Posts tagged 'classroom'

Tag Archives: classroom

The Answer Is Within The Question

Back in the 1990’s, I took a course on becoming an info-broker.  It was a week-long course where I was introduced to data research, database design, and data retrieval.  About this same time, the Internet was evolving with Websites and new technology tools like browsers to surf the Net for information.  It was also during this time Vice President Gore created the phrase, “Information highway.” However, the course I took had nothing to do with links to Websites or University libraries.  It was about being able to access unpublished information via the Internet using SQL and FTP commands.  Unlike published information, unpublished information had value as a commodity, which could be bought, sold, and traded for the right price.

In order to access databases of this caliber, one had to have the following three things:  First an account and password to access these global information databases; Secondly, a bank account pre-established to pay for the information once retrieved.   Pricing varied from a few dollars per hour to one particular database that cost $1,800 dollars for every 15 minutes; Thirdly, the knowledge and skills needed to maneuver in a database to retrieve the information desired as quickly as possible.  What I also took out of this course was the importance of two other key elements:  Learning how to ask the right question, and knowing where to get the best answer.

quote-to-ask-the-right-question-is-far-more-important-than-to-receive-the-answer-the-solution-jiddu-krishnamurti-51-33-65

Asking the right question was not about asking a typical journalist question (who, what, when, where, why, and how.)  But learning how to ask open-ended questions, prioritizing them, and then mapping out a path within a database’s labyrinth maze structure.

eb8ce968798ca69afe630ef88675abccI recently just finished a great little book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana called, “Make Just One Change: Teach Students to ask Their Own Questions. This book mentor’s teachers on how to develop the skill in asking the right question.  I highly recommend it for those who are interested in getting students engaged and developing a classroom culture whose motivation is self-lit.  This is a small book but powerful.

 

Teaching students how to ask questions and then having them answer their own questions does lead to student lesson engagement.  Because the questions are developed by the students who are motivated to explore and discover their own answers.  Consequently, doing it this way has another benefit, they retain more information than through a lectures or worksheets.

As for where to look, that takes us into research.  Google has become the 21st Century equivalent to the 20th Century photocopying phrase, “I want to make a Xerox.”  Boy did 3M, Minolta, and other photocopying companies hate that phrase.  Today, you hear, “Google it,” for getting information.  Actually, there are 65 large databases on the Net.  Even though not as popular as Google many of the databases have links to information that might cut down on research time.

In any case, no matter which database is used by students they still need to know three basic things:

  • First, the structure of the database and how information is stored;
  • Secondly, logic tools on how to reduce the number of hits and get the best information quickly. Noted that I said the ‘best’ information, not the ‘right’ information.  In school, on a test, there is generally the one right answer whether that answer must be spelled out or blocked out on a multiple-choice question; and
  • Thirdly, the sources of the information. Understanding where the information came from and the timeframe are crucial to data integrity.

demingquestion

We should also teach students the value of asking the question, “Which database will best serve me?”  Followed by, how do I design the best approach to get the information and document it.  As for documentation, students should be able to tell you which database they used, where the information was stored, the date of publication and the person(s) responsible.  In my case, it was date and time (GMT) that had to be recorded for the unpublished data or information once retrieved.

Every database on the Net has a map along with the logic tools that best serve information retrieval.  But, I caution, it still comes down to answering the question, and if the question is not formed correctly, well, as Lewis Carroll put it:

cheshire-cat-alice-in-wonderland-quote1

Teaching students how to ask questions and then how to retrieve the information are important skills that all learners will need their entire life.  In fact, you might still have a question yourself.  You might still be wondering about what was in a database that would cost $1800 dollars\15 minutes to retrieve?  If you really want to know, I’ll tell you—for a price.  My next blog will tackle strategic ways to help students develop questions through storytelling.

 

Let Pokemon. . .Go!

 

There is a story of man who was walking through the woods and spotted a target painted on a tree trunk with an arrow straight dab in the middle.  He was amazed at the archer’s accuracy.  He continued his walk and spotted several more trees with targets and arrows shot dead center.  As he continued, he met a man with a bow and arrow and inquired if he was an archer who had made those shots.

“Are you the archer who made those brilliant shots?” the man said.

“Yes, I am.” said the archer.

“I would enjoy seeing you make another shot if you would,” the man replied.

“Sure thing,” said the archer

Stepping back the archer pulled out an arrow from his satchel, attached it to his bow and carefully drew it back as he aimed at an unmarked tree.  Firing the arrow it lodge into the tree.  The archer then picked up two buckets of paints and brushes and proceeded to paint the target around the arrow.

archer

Finding new ways to motivate and engage students is the big buzz in education today. Many of the articles online are about how social technology can be used to solve these problems.  For example, in two recent online articles  from Edutopia,(July 22, 2016)“The Educational Potential of Pokemon Go” [http://edut.to/2bfHFPi], and (Aug. 2, 2016), “Pokemon Go…and Global Success Skills) [http://edut.to/2aIhld2] the authors present arguments as to the educational benefits that the Pokemon Go game could have in the Global Community.  The readership is encouraged to download the game, play with it, and figure out ways on how to incorporate it into a lesson plan or curriculum.  This is what I call, “Painting the target around the arrow.”  

Can Pokemon build reading skills?  It’s looking for virtual characters, so the answer is no. Will it help students better understand mathematics?  Again the answer is no.  What about language skills?  Not there either.  So how does this game build real-life skills?  The authors never say how the game will do this.  Why?  Because Pokemon Go does not address any important learning issues–it’s a game!

Many of today’s educational digital games are no more than electronic flashcards. Pokemon Go offers no learning challenges it’s quite intuitive to learn.  As for strategies, the only one I can see is not getting hit by a car while crossing a busy intersection, or falling into an open manhole while scanning for images from the user’s phone.  

The authors imply that this game can make students better global citizens?  Really?  Does it teach about multiculturalism?  Foreign languages?   Social issues?  No!    In truth, the game was designed to make money.  But there are some people both in education and in the game marketing industries trying desperately to draw their own targets around the arrow of ‘educational outcomes’ to convince teachers that their product or service will motivate and engage student learning.

There is a thread today that sings that education must be fun in order to learn.  I like it when learning is fun, but real learning is also hard, it challenges, and demands focus.  As educators, we are preparing our students for the real world, not the virtual world.  The successes and points in the virtual world pay no dividends in the real world.  As teachers in the classroom, our job is to encourage leadership, teach students how to question, how to evaluate failure and how to find alternative options.  Our quest is to open the minds of our students to the future where they will be interacting, working, raising a family, making a living, and contributing as a responsible and productive citizen in the Global Community.

In conclusion, games like Pokemon will probably not be here twenty years from now with the evolution of technology and gaming theories.   But the language, math, and thinking skills will be required to survive.   To modify a line from Gladiator, “What we teach today echoes in eternity!”

I encourage and welcome comments on this and any article posted.

 

 

Once Upon A Time. . .

Once upon a time, actually last month,  I was asked to speak to a group of university students from the University of the Philippines, Manila, on the topic of Digital Storytelling.  The whole talk took place from my home in Southern California via the Net.  Digital Storytelling is really no different than any other storytelling except you are using digital tools to compose and create the story.  But, storytelling in itself, is a powerful tool that most teachers don’t take advantage of.

It is basically assumed that storytelling is for small children, or for entertainment like movies or plays.  It doesn’t belong in an academic classroom.  But I argue it does.  Back in the 1980’s, Barron Publishing printed a series of math story books.  The first was called, “Algebra The Easy Way.”  Before “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings”, the land of Carmorra existed with its carefree and happy inhabitants.  But like any good story, an evil presence appeared to challenge the King and his wizard on solving a problem or losing the kingdom.  159072843_926ce6Of course, math was the answer, and the story moves through a normal series of modern math chapters explaining in a story format how they could answer the Gremlin with math.  In the end–the Gremlin lost.  However, he returns in the book of Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus.  The key was students were completing a journey, an adventure, and learning math along the way.  What could be more fun!

I was introduced into math storytelling back in the mid-1970’s at Aviation High School in Manhattan Beach, California.  Originally hired as a math tutor, I was introduced to one of the math teachers whose subject was, “Alice in Wonderland.”   I was given a copy of the book to read and study.  On one page was the story of Alice, and on the opposite page detailed the mathematics that were hidden in the story.  I was so intrigued in how Lewis Carroll, a mathematician himself, created a visual representation of what was really quite a set of complicated mathematics concepts.

Alice.in.Wonderland.full.1451133

You have to understand that the mathematics in the late 19th century was quite turbulent.  The discoveries of non-Euclidean geometries, development of abstract symbolic algebra, and imaginary numbers were all the rage in those cigar and pipe smoked filled rooms as mathematicians continued to argue for some of kind of normalcy away from the madness at hand.  Okay, you’re getting ahead of me.

The “Advice from a caterpillar” to Alice creates some interesting results as she tries to figure the correct proportions and positions of the mushroom, where the caterpillar sits on, which will bring her growth and proportions back to normal.  In fact, even the “Hooka” that the caterpillar smokes is a symbol of Arabic origin, like “algebra,” which meant al jeer e al makable, or “restoration and reduction.”  Al-jrbr in itself a medical Arabic term meaning may “Allah guide me through the unknown,”  a medical technique used to restore broken bones.  Of course, I am quite aware that during a test students will often pray to be guided through their unknown problems too!

Harry Potter was told to board his train at track 9 3/4.  Alice deals with the Mad Hatter’s hat size of 10/6.  Actually, 10/6 was not the hat size but the cost for the hat.  It stood for ten shillings and sixpence, which interesting enough in late 19th Century England was equal to £300.96 pounds.  You would have to be quite mad to pay that amount for a hat.  The symbols and math continue to move along throughout the whole story.

Could physics problems be explained easier with a story?  How about calculus?  I believe, if you really know your subject well, you can tell it in a visual story.  Consider it the next time you have a student to tutor, or a difficult concept you must present the class.  If you have told a story would you consider sharing it with me?

 

Tools of the Trade 2

teachingtoolsBack in the 1990’s, the boys at the high school I worked at carried all their textbooks, notebooks, pencils and calculators in large duffle bags.  They had access to a locker, but students felt carrying their locker in one bag from class to class was better.  In any case, they got their weight training in early.  It was during this time the Dean of Technology, Dr. Jerry Waite, and myself were looking into e-books, originally called, “e-readers.”  This was pre-kindle.  We both came to the early conclusion that if educational publishers ever took on the task of converting traditional paper textbooks to digital this could save a lot of weight.  However, would owning an e-book increase student reading skills, comprehension, and output?  Would it increase literacy?  Would it motivate students to read more?  We weren’t sure.

This article is a continuation in a series I am writing about regarding the Tools of the Trade.  Teachers have access to more teaching tools than any previous generation.  How to choose the best tool for the right job is still an important question.  There is no one tool that fits all.  Hopefully, these articles will open dialog and direction that in the end will benefit our students.

In the world of marketing, both online (Social Media) and offline (newspapers, flyers, and even business cards) media are encouraged in getting the message out.  Likewise, in education it’s important that we embrace the new technologies while continuing to evaluate what we gain and lose with legacy tools vs. digital tools.  Certain questions have come to mind, which I believe are being ignored or overlooked.

Question 1:    What improvements in learning are achieved by integrating new technology into the classroom?

Lest we forget, the classroom is a learning tool, and the classroom as we knew it has been evolving.  Today’s classroom can be a dynamic learning tool for discovery, creating dreams, and empowerment provided we address three conditions:

  • IF, all the elements in the classroom are interconnecting and engaging the
    young learner.
  • iF, the teacher has been well instructed on how to use and integrate the
    technology into the curriculum, and
  • IF, the teacher is willing to push the technology envelope to find more ways to
    reach student learning styles.

exam-20I have read a lot of articles about the “New Skills” today’s technology will teach our students.  But no one has ever taken the time to make a list of exactly what those skills are.  LAUSD spent $1 billion dollars to purchase 600,000 iPads and WiFi infrastructures for it’s school district.  The only public reason given for this purchase has been that the California State Standardized Tests under the new Core Curriculum will now be taken online.  So I thought, what new skills are needed to learn on how to click on a bubble, or type in your answer in an assigned box?

childworkingonipadA week ago, I visited a fifth grade math class.  The teacher had several multiplication problems on her Smartboard that were being copied by students using their iPads.  As I walked around the room I saw student after student using his/her finger to write the problem onto a blank screen and carry out the computation.  Students could use the same finger to erase by tapping on the appropriate icon.  As the students continued to work, I asked the teacher a question, “How has the student learning outcomes improved by replacing pencil and paper for the new digital device?”  She replied, “We haven”t had much time to evaluate that question.” She continued, “However, it has saved our school quite a bit on paper purchases.”  Was saving paper or student growth the most important reason to implement iPad technology into the lesson plan?

The efficacy is further hindered with yearly industry system and software upgrades along with district demands not only to learn the new technologies but finding new ways to integrate them into current curriculums.  All of this creating a learning curves for teachers that are almost vertical on the graph.

So, how is this problem to be solved?  Base on my research, these six foundation questions need to be answered first.

  1. How will the technology being considered improve the content to be delivered?
  2. What projects will be developed from the technology demonstrate student engagement and self-motivation?
  3. How will the technology create collaboration between students?
  4. How will student communication improve?
  5. What creative projects can be created, that will utilize both traditional and digital technologies in solving a unique problem?
  6. How will the technology help to encourage learning outside the classroom?

Second, better assessment tools need to be created, not on the technologies, technologies don’t have learning outcomes, but on student learning outcomes.
Third, programs need to be re-evaluated for school mission efficacy.  Our school missions are the light houses that represent who we are, and what goals we have agreed to work on for the betterment of our students, not state rating or scores.

Tools of the Trade

Back in 1988, I took a photography class at Glendale Community College.  This was in PDA (pre-digital age).  Like my fellow students I brought in my brand new Minolta 35mm camera.  Our first assignment was to go around campus and take a composition picture in black & white showing textures.  Our teacher went out as well, taking his 1950 Brownie camera to take shots.  When we returned we all prepared our film, chose the best negative, developed it, and proudly placed it on a viewing rack.  We then voted on the best picture.  Okay, you’re jumping ahead, but you’re right!  The teacher’s photo won.  I still remember his words, “It’s the eye of the photographer, not the camera that takes a good or great picture.”  Years later, when I taught a digital video production class I passed on the same phrase to my students.  Composition is a communication skill that should not be left to the camera to decide.
TechInClRm2 My teacher’s quote can also be applied to today’s professional teachers.  The technology available for classroom projects, presentations, and experimentation is awesome.  But in the end, it is still the teacher not the tool that motivates a child.  Today’s teachers are graduating from the best universities coming out with knowledge and insights on how the human brain learns, memorizes, and thinks.  Neuroscience research has become part of the university’s curriculum with the newest information and studies on learning impairments, learning styles, cultural integration, and motivation motif’s.  And yet, not one class is set aside on the topic on current technology being used in the classroom.  Not one class discusses the best methods and procedures on how to implement any of the technology tools available into lesson plans that will engage and motivate young learners.
Some will say, today’s technology is quite intuitive, and there doesn’t need to be any training in it.  There is some truth in this.  My Canon Rebel digital camera can take good automatic pictures once I set the auto dials, then all I have to do is push a button, and instantly I get to see my taken image.  But professional photographers learn how to compose their own shots, manually setting their own speeds and lighting, using raw files instead of tiff files.  Pro photographers expand the envelope of their tools to invent and create new ways to communicate visually.  There is a difference between a candid shot and a professional shot.  But what has all of this to do with teachers?

Teachers who are not trained in how to manipulate the technology given them are limited to only the program instructions and device functions.  Student engagement and motivation becomes a reality when teachers are trained properly on what their technology is capable of doing.  An iPad device has access to thousands of apps, however, understanding how a child thinks and learns opens up opportunities in not just choosing the right app, but being able to manipulate it into a functional teaching tool.  Teachers need to be taught how to choose the right technology and software programs that will meet the student’s learning style.  There is no one size fits all here.  It is at this point we transform the classroom facilitator into a EduTech professional capable of changing lives, engaging students, motivating them to their highest potentials, and in the end, even keeping the bureaucracy satisfied with higher test scores.
TechInClassRm

Supervision is unanswered question to iPad distribution

I have to confess I’m often amused when I read an article in the newspaper or the Internet about school districts that have given computers to students who then break into ‘secured’ areas or forbidden websites.  The real punch lines comes with the words, “this was unexpected!”   Really?

30 years ago (1983)

Wargames

Back in 1983, the Commodore International released its newest computer model, the Commodore 64 home computer that cost $595 dollars and had only 64K memory.  This was an 8-bit computer that could be hooked up to a modem (300 baud), and more importantly–programmed.  In 1983, the movie,”War Games,” with actor  Matthew Broderick, playing David Lightman a high school  student, told the story about a young teenage hacker who breaks into a government computer facility and nearly starts WWIII.  In 1985, a real fourteen year old boy from Escondido, California, was under FBI investigation after hacking into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer (Arrington, 2008).  Most security people at the time were surprised that a 8-bit computer could log into a million dollar mainframe computer.  Oh yes, he did use his Commodore 64 computer to do the job.

30 years later (2013)ipad-mini-creative-apple

According to a recent article (Jones, 2013) Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project for LAUSD, purchased 50,000 iPads, at a cost of $678 each, and handed them out to 47 schools to test them out on program integration and security verifications.  Within a short period, 300 David-Lightman-type students breached security measures designed to prevent students from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube, plus in house security.  When the iPads were called in thirty iPads were missing.

“We’re learning from what’s happening,” was Ms. Lucas’ response.  Considering the history of computer hackers that have been well documented since the 1980’s, at what point does information become knowledge.  This becomes a serious question because the district goal to distribute 600,000 iPads to LAUSD students that will be in full force by next fall.

The Real Question

The iPad is a useful tool that can be used in very creative ways.  The key is not about allowing or not allowing students to have access to the technology hardware.   The real issue is supervision.  This is no different than having a teacher in the classroom or on the playground.  Unless LAUSD or any school district can guarantee total supervision, and 600,000 independent users is not in the mix for this security task, then the prudent solution is to keep the units locked up in school.  If school districts become responsible for incidents (cyber bulling, adult sites, or any questionable sites not allowed in school) created outside their school campuses by students using assigned school equipment, I think the solution is quite evident.  Use them only in the classroom because in the end the teacher, the school, and the school district are still responsible for giving out Pandora’s boxes to discoveries and potential future lawsuits to minors!  I welcome your comments!

Reference:

Arrington, Michael. “MySpace Cofounder Tom Anderson Was a Real Life “WarGames” Hacker in 1980’s.” Weblog post. TechCrunch. N.p., 30 Aug. 2008. Web. Oct. 2013. <http://tcrn.ch/aUNn13&gt;.

Jones, Barbara. “LAUSD’s IPad Problems Frustrate Those Involved in the $1Billon Technology Project.” Huff Post Los Angeles. N.p., 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://huff.to/16igCYc&gt;.

EduTech

computersComputers, laptops and iPads have become as common as the number 2 pencil. .  The research shows that 75% of today’s schools are using computers as part of the curriculum.  However, the very companies and institutions that have created and promoted technology (i.e., Apple, Microsoft) have funded the vast majority of the studies available, raising questions to the validity and objectivity in the research (Educational Week, Dec. 30, 2012).

For example, the iPad was introduced in April 3, 2010.  In that year, a number of stories emerged on student achievement and success in the classroom (Crump, M., Mar 29, 2010).   Since the release of the first iPad, we have seen the development and release of several generations of Kindle, Nook, ACER, and Microsoft e-tablet products.  Included with each of these technology releases has included the promise of student achievement, creativity and promotion under the NCLB program.

However, the purpose of this dialog is not to discuss the type of technology that is being put into the hands of our students, nor is to bash technology.  But to ask a simple question in how is technology in schools being assessed?

Grant you; the majority of students in the United States have access to technology at school, home or even their local public library.  While in school students generally use technology as a word processor and information gathering source (Royer, 2002).  Many research studies on the efficacy of technology tools for teaching and learning, studies are not supporting a strong conclusion that the return on investment is showing any future promises for success.

I found one article called, “How To Know If You’re Correctly Integrating Technology,”  that I believe to be on the right track of assessing the integration of technology into the curriculum.  A copy of the matrix is found below.

Matrix

References

CEO Forum. (2000). The power of digital learning: Integrating digital content. The CEO Forum school technology and readiness report, year three . Washington, DC: CEO Forum on Education and Technology.

Crump, M. (2010). Pros and Cons of the iPad in Education. GIGAOM.  Retrieved from

http://gigaom.com/apple/pros-cons-ipad-education/

Royer, R. (2002). Supporting technology integration through action research.

The Clearing House , 75(5), 233-237.

How Boys Learn

Boys Do Learn Better in Single-Sex Classes

boysgirls_2 Interesting enough we already do separate boys and girls.   In sports, club activities (the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts), some organizations (YMCA and YWCA), even some summer camps are restricted to same sex activities, bathrooms and changing rooms.  There are others.

So, if we accept these separations why not at the educational level?  Brain and physiology studies show that boys and girls develop at different rates at different times.  Why do we continue to insist and expect that putting both sexes in the same classroom and teaching both sexes exactly the same will work?

Alabama has separated the sexes and now has come under attack by the ACLU.

“We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children. But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer,” said Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “These programs are poorly designed and based on pseudoscience and stereotypes that do nothing to enhance learning, and only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave” (Leech, 2012).

Single-sex education has been around for thousands of years.  It wasn’t until the end of the 18th Century that co-educational classes were being instituted in the United States.  In 2005 covering 2221 studies was commissioned by the US Department of Education entitled Single-sex versus coeducational schooling: A systematic review.  The review demonstrated positive results and arguments for establishing public single sex classes.

True, every child learns differently.   Researcher and educator, Howard Gardner (Harvard University),  developed a study and discovered seven distinct intelligences called Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence.  These seven distinct intelligences also work differently with how boys and girls perceive their world.   The ACLU lawyers have no foundation for their political case.  In the last 10 years, there has been a multitude of brain and cognitive research to demonstrate how male and female brains form, perceive their environments and function.  The good point that we can all be thankful for are that these are lawyers not educators.

While the fight continues in Alabama, a successful experiment of separating 5th grade boys and girls has shown much success in the Bronx in New York.

Screen shot 2013-01-05 at 11.21.41 AM

The single-sex classes at Public School 140, which started as an experiment last year to address sagging test scores and behavioral problems, are among at least 445 such classrooms nationwide, according to the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education. Most have sprouted since a 2004 federal regulatory change that gave public schools freedom to separate girls and boys  (Medina, 2009).

After working in two all boys private high schools here in Southern California for the past 25 years, I am confident that boys learn better in a single-sex environment.  The statistics of the number of boys graduating from single-sex schools, and the percentage of college acceptance letters these boys have received is higher than boys from  local area public high schools.  These statistics are on record.   I would be open to questions and further discussion on this topic.

Reference:

Leech, M. (2012). Alabama public school separates boys and girls for all classes. The ACLU has a problem with this.  Retrieved from http://www.cafemom.com/group/99198/forums/read/17736762/Alabama_public_school_separates_boys_and_girls_for_all_classes_The_ACLU_has_a_problem_with_this

Medina, J. (2009, March 10).  Boys and Girls Together, Taught Separately in Public School.  New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/education/11gender.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

National Association for Single Sex Education.  http://www.singlesexschools.org/home.php