This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on December 19, 2012
In my previous post, I tackled the debate of student performance as a measure of teacher effectiveness in. Here’s why performance-based pay for teachers as an approach to teacher effectiveness runs counter to every meaningful definition of personalized education: Continue reading
This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on December 18, 2012
The irony is hardly lost on anyone when at education-related professional conferences educators sit in the audience as experts lecture them about how to teach as a guide-on-the-side rather than a sage-on-the stage. A “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” moment that often has even the lecturer chuckling. The habits, traditions, and structural constraints of conferences make such absurdity inevitable, and we all tend to take it in stride with a dose of self-deprecating humor. Back in classrooms and buildings and districts, however, similar habits, traditions, and constraints have a much more serious, and less obviously absurd effect. Continue reading
This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on October 9, 2012
When I worked in the high-tech industry, our products sometimes included what we called “check-box features.” These were features that would never, in reality, be used by the end customer but which purchasing agents would look at when they compared our product against our competitors. In many ways I think of classroom management software as falling into this category – with the fears about technology use that absolutely do exist among parents and educators, having a checkbox that says, “Don’t worry – we can control student technology use,” feels like a must-have. Continue reading
Over the 2011-2012 school year, e-Mergents has been involved in “guerilla research” to get some insight on several gnawing questions regarding the use of Android tablets in primary school classrooms. Some of the questions are profoundly practical, such as whether students can really write papers on tablet devices even though we adults are convinced we need laptops for serious writing. Some of the questions are logistical, such as whether Androids can serve the same purposes as iPads. But some of the questions are emergent: “What happens when you give students and teachers mobile devices with 24/7 connectivity to the Internet and the freedom to use them in the ways that work for them?” Continue reading
What is the appropriate role of wireless technology in schools? When we look at the history of technology implementations in schools, we see any number of failures that have led to cynicism regarding technology on the part of educators, a tendency to roll one’s eyes and wait for the “silver bullet du jour” to pass. In my opinion, the reason for the “failures” lies in a mismatch of capabilities and expectations, in a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of schooling, the role of teachers, and the capacities of students. Continue reading
This article was first published on O’Reilly Radar on May 15, 2012
Create, disassemble, repurpose! DIY-ers relentlessly void warranties and crack manufacturers’ cases, showing us what is possible when people decide that they, not the vendors, truly own the technology they have purchased. “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it,” the Make Owner’s Manifesto tells us.
This DIY ethic is now seeping into one of the most locked-down social institutions in existence: education. Educators, parents, technologists, students, and others have begun looking at the components, subassemblies, assemblies and specifications of excellent education and are finding ways to improve, reimagine, and reinvent learning at every level. They are inspired by a multiplicity of sources, from neuroscience to gaming, to knock down the barriers to learning that exist for so many young people. In every way, they are looking at the components of teaching and learning, and finding ways to re-create them to be more efficient; more effective; and, critically, more modular. Continue reading
This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on April 10, 2012
There are no really good math apps out there. I’ve been convinced of this for some time based on nearly a decade of trying everything from online courses to video-game-like drills to the more recent iPad apps and flash cards. Available offerings tend to be inauthentic, in that they encourage rote procedures over real problem solving. They tend to be uninspired – either a direct translation of textbook approaches from the lecture hall to the video screen, or drill-and-kill practice with a veneer of video gaming that is intended to motivate students. Worst of all, they tend to be disrespectful of our students’ capacities, of their curiosity, and of their time. This week, though, I had the chance to play around with ST Math and found math software that actually treats us with respect. Continue reading
This article was first published on O’Reilly Radar on March 7, 2012
John Seely Brown tells us the half-life of any skill is about five years. This astounding metric is presented as part of the ongoing discussion of how education needs to change radically in order to prepare students for a world which is very different than the one their parents graduated into, and in which change is accelerating.
It’s pretty straightforward to recognize that new job categories, such as data science, will require new skills. The first-order solution is to add data science as a college curriculum and work the prerequisites backward to kindergarten. But if JSB is right about the half-life of skills, even if this process were instantaneous, the learning path begun in kindergarten might be obsolete by middle school. Continue reading
This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on February 28, 2012
Recently, EdSurge published a fabulous post highlighting the escalating rhetoric that the Khan Academy has inspired among math educators and edupreneurs. Sal Khan’s success has brought to the forefront a discussion that has been ongoing in academic and education circles for some time. This debate parallels the one about Common Core Math Standards exemplified by the Wurman and Wilson article referenced in a recent Getting Smart post.
At the heart of the debates is the tension between teaching students to accurately perform math computation and procedures versus teaching students higher-order mathematics skills. Versions of this debate have persisted through numerous iterations of math reform. As early as 1965, Tom Lehrer quipped in his song, New Math, “but in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing rather than to get the right answer,” a perspective that summarizes the skepticism of parents and employers and leads many an edupreneur to focus on the “rote skills” of memorizing number facts and solving problems procedurally. Continue reading
This article was originally posted on Getting Smart on February 16, 2012
Well into the 21st century, we are still trying to get a handle on what a 21st century education really is – both the question of what young adults really need to know and be able to do and the question of the best way to help them get there. I first encountered this issue as a high-tech executive when coaching talented engineers through a series of workplace myths.
Young engineers tend to come out of school with a mindset that the only truly valuable contributions are individual contributions. In a workplace where nearly all projects require collaboration among colleagues, they are prone to sitting at their desks working on a problem for weeks when a few quick conversations could have the problem solved in hours. Even when coached to seek help, they still feel as though they are somehow “cheating.” Continue reading