Archive for the ‘21C’ Category

Resiliency and self-regulation are two learning skills that have recently taken the spotlight in education circles. Questions have arisen as to whether schools provide too much of a safety net for kids and whether this extended safety net is actually proving detrimental to the personal and academic growth of kids.

I just recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”. The major premise of his book is that there is an inverted U-shaped curve when it comes to the benefits of interventions or advantages. Certain traits or interventions bring benefits but there is a limit to those benefits. When there is too much of a certain trait or intervention, those interventions can actually begin to undo the benefits that they are intended to bring. One education-related example Gladwell uses concerns class sizes. Smaller class sizes are advantageous to student learning when class sizes are reduced from 40 to 25. This intervention allows the teacher to spend more time with each individual student to support individual student learning needs. However, if classes are too small, the intervention of reducing class sizes actually makes the learning environment worse off as there isn’t enough diversity of thought or diversity of student connections and relationships.

Is that what is happening with resilience and self-regulation? Have we as a system provided our kids with too much intervention to the point where they are too dependant on the safety nets put in place for them? Take a look at this experiment taking place at one school in New Zealand. The school is experimenting with removing some of the standard rules used during recess time – the intent is to add more risk to student play. According to this news article, kids are becoming more creative and inventive in their play. The news article also states that students are more focused when returning back into the classroom after recess. The premise presented is that by reintroducing the element of risk during recess play, kids learn to be more self-reliant while at the same time, allowing them free reign on their creativity of play.

Another plea to add more academic risk in learning can be found in this interview with inventor James Dyson . The interview focuses on the need for schools to let kids fail. Valuable lessons are learned when kids make mistakes and by not allowing kids to make those mistakes, we do not allow them to learn this important skill of how to learn from failure.

When in conversation about the state of the school system, I often hear people share their opinions on what school was like “in the olden days”, how “we turned out alright” and how “the pendulum has swung too far the other way and we need to find a middle ground between how things were and how things are”. Maybe that is what this focus on resiliency and self-regulation is all about. The difficulty, in my view, is that so much has been invested in providing a wide reaching safety net for kids that it may be difficult to restrain the scope of that safety net. The other difficulty has to do with societal norms and beliefs. The prevailing opinion is that it is the responsibility of schools to improve student achievement. While I am in agreement, in maintaining that view, we often forget about the role the child has to play in taking responsibility in improving their own achievement.

The old adage of ‘you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ applies here. School systems must continue to do whatever possible to support student achievement but part of that support is to give kids the appropriate level of responsibility to improve their own achievement. In the case of the school in New Zealand, supporting student achievement means removing some of the interventions to allow kids to experiment by adding some risk to their play. In the case of the argument made by James Dyson, supporting student achievement means shrinking the academic safety net and allow kids to fail so that we also allow them to develop the important skill of learning from their mistakes.

If Malcolm Gladwell is correct and too many interventions can actually reduce the effectiveness of the intervention, then adding an intervention to support resiliency and self-regulation may make kids less resilient and less able to self-regulate. Again, if Malcolm Gladwell is correct, then perhaps shrinking the academic safety net and allow for more academic risk will help to push students to achieve new academic highs.

It will be interesting to watch this issue develop.

Apps are the foundation of all mobile platforms.  The explosion in the use of mobile devices, especially smart phones, is the direct result of two factors.  The first factor is the design and manufacture of hand held devices that are small, yet powerful enough to act as mini computers.  The second is the design and development of applications that run on these devices that allow users to access information and accomplish tasks on the go.  With regards to learning, the discussion around the use of mobile devices has often been around app use and the use of mobile devices as a device of consumption.  There are endless learning apps available in app stores that focus on information access or reinforcement of skill through consumption.  While using apps specifically, and mobile devices in general, in this way has a place, when we focus the use of mobile devices to develop skills, we need to use mobile devices differently.

The discussion in education circles regarding inquiry based learning and knowledge construction applies when discussing mobile learning.  It is only by using mobile devices to collaboratively interact with others, construct knowledge and publish learning that mobile use begins to move to a new and higher level. Using apps on mobile devices to reinforce learning at the end of the learning cycle is not a transformative use of the technology. Transformative use includes using apps to learn and develop new skills at the beginning and throughout the learning process.

It is difficult to provide examples using specific apps due to the various platforms available. However, if we use social networking sites and apps as an example, one can see how mobile devices can be used by students to discuss questions, formulate solutions to inquiries, and to collaborate. It could be discussions using Twitter, collaborating on presentations using Google docs and sharing presenting findings on a blog or wiki. The crucial part is the apps, like devices themselves, are tools to learning thus play a subservient role. We need to focus on expectations and learning skills first and then find apps that support the learning. We should not be getting apps because “it’s a great way to reinforce math skills” but because it “help students develop math skills”. Apps, like devices, need to provide students with the ability to engage in learning in ways that are impossible without them. Apps that replicate flash cards do not support higher level learning. Apps that allow students to communicate, collaborate, share ideas and construct knowledge with others across distances and time do support higher level learning.

What are your thoughts here? What specific examples do you have of apps that support higher level learning?

Before the dawn of the Internet, who would have ever dreamed that the supremacy of network television would ever be challenged? The impact of television on our society has been so pronounced that it changed our communication habits, social habits, and even house design and organization. Today, the Internet has, and continues to be, changing this prior revolution and changing it rapidly.

TVWhile the Internet has been mainstream for around 20 years, only recently have we had the infrastructure in place to support the type of communication needed to challenge the dominance of the network television framework. What changes have resulted? Internet and mobile use has skyrocketed. This Infographic is just one example of how the use of the internet is expanding quickly. Of note for this blog is the section in the Infographic on online video consumption. Another consequence: the once mighty Blockbuster video has gone the way of the dodo thanks to online streaming services such as iTunes and Netflix. These same services are also putting massive pressure on cable service providers as many people begin to cut their cable and rely solely on steaming media.

While I myself have not yet cut the cord on cable, I have been investigating alternative sources and starting to reorganize the way I consume media for an eventual cord cut on cable. I have found that while solutions are available, cutting the cord on cable is not a seamless feat yet for one major reason: limited access to live feeds or live video events.

Allow me to elaborate. In terms of watching movies or TV shows, there are services such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and iTunes – much of what one needs is there and no cable service can match the selection nor the convenience provided by those services. When it comes to news feeds, I have noticed that some TV networks have begun to stream their live news feeds or morning shows online. Once can access these streams on a television using available tools such as a simple iPhone and Apple TV connection. We can stream those shows on our TV as if the feed were coming from a cable line. What is currently problematic is live sports or other live events broadcast on TV. I have yet to find a legal solution to this problem and is what has kept me from cutting cable. However, even as I write this, this scenario is starting to change as some sporting leagues, such as the NFL and NHL, are providing access to games by purchasing online streaming packages.

While not yet as elegant and smooth as simply ordering a TV package from a cable provider, online solutions are catching up. This will benefit consumers as cable packages are not cheap. With shows broadcast at inconvenient times (PVRs have helped with this point but are not cheap) and with so many channels that we pay for that go unwatched, paying for cable service is no longer an efficient model of content delivery. The Internet is changing media consumption because it allows us to watch video on demand, either without cost or very cheaply, and the quality of bandwidth and streaming video is improving quickly.

web browsersImplications for our education systems: With the increase of cheap or free videos on the web, access to video materials to support learning needs is becoming an important resources – mainly because of the on-demand nature of the videos. Of course, educators need to ensure that copyright and licensing agreements are adhered to – this will be dependent on local laws and school district policies. Nevertheless, the need to spend valuable school monetary resources purchasing video content that quickly becomes obsolete (if not the content, then the format it’s viewed on) is no longer necessary.

Due to the fact that it still takes some effort to access online video, especially as a cable replacement, cord cutting is not happening as quickly as it could be. However, in time, even network TV will realize that effectiveness and efficiency of online streaming for the consumer. When that day arrives, cable companies who have not yet diversifies into other businesses will also go the way of the dodo.

Back in 2007 when I began this blog, the main thrust was sharing ideas about why mobile devices can improve teaching and learning. Now in 2013, not only has the use of mobile devices become much more widespread both in schools and society at large, but the attitudes toward the use of mobile devices for learning has changed. Many in the education system are much more willing to accept mobile devices as learning tools. Where in 2007 school districts were banning cell phones in schools, in 2013, they are being embraced with the goal of creating new and rich learning environments for students.

As a result, I’ve decided to shift my focus a bit on this blog from the why of mobile learning to the how. By how I mean ‘how can mobile learning be used to develop 21st century skills?’ I hope to answer this question in a series of blog posts that look at various 21st century skills and ways mobile devices can be used to support their development.

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We begin with the most basic of human skills – communication. It is this skill that allowed individual humans to band together into groups. It is this skill that allowed those groups to form civilizations. It is this skill that allowed ideas to be shared, be it through oral language or the written word, between civilization both across expanses of space and time. As technology has charged, so has access to information and as a result, communication needs in the 21 century are different. In no other time in human history has anyone able to communicate with anyone else anywhere in the world and with groups of people in the millions. This new ability to tweet a statement that can be read by millions instantaneously requires a new skill set.

How Do We Develop Communication Skills in the 21st Century?

1) Incorporating Multimedia: Audiences consume information in a variety of ways. Where ideas were once shared via direct oral communication or through the written word, audiences can now share ideas by listening to audiobooks, watch them portrayed in online video or look at them expressed in imagery. Students today need to be able to communicate ideas that include multiple forms of media. Asking students to create a blog or wiki that may or may not be written on their mobile devices is not enough. They need to augment their ideas. One way can be by posting images or video taken from their mobile devices and upload it to their blog or wiki alongside text not to regurgitate the same information but to express an idea in different ways.

2) Know Your Audience: This is an indispensable job skill today. Communicating ideas that are relevant to the target audience is not a new concept – businesses and the marketing industry have done this for generations. The difference today is that being able to access anyone and everyone on the globe through communication technologies now means that we must all now frame our communication to an audience. In order to communicate to our target audience, we must know something about them and that is where mobile devices come in. One can use online tools such as Google Forms to poll one’s audience or use Twitter to engage in conversation with them. The better one knows an audience, the better one can frame communication for them.

3) Connecting Ideas and Supporting Ideas with Evidence: Today’s civilization is extremely connected to information. At our finger tips, we have access to the largest library humans have ever created, the Internet, and the starting point is often one of the largest single source of information on the Internet – Wikipedia. As a result, communication needs to incorporate and connect with other supporting ideas and these ideas need to be supported with evidence. While it is easy today to tweet a 140 character message to a large audience, that audience will not pay much attention if that is the extent of the substance if the ideas shared. Social media is great at connecting people to ideas, but those ideas need to be flushed out, developed, connected to other ideas and supported with facts for anyone to pay attention. Having access to all this information make our communication more about making sense of what’s out there instead of just stating it. Mobile devices can be used to help students research their ideas on the web, use social media to discuss ideas with peers in order to better make sense of them, and the use the mobile device to create a blog or wiki sharing their ideas to a target audience.

In sum, by using multimedia, knowing your audience and connecting and supporting ideas, students can begin to develop the communication skills they need for the 21st century. Mobile devices are support tools that students can utilize to record data (including pictures and video), communicate with audiences and research information.