Ever since I was a young boy I have always had issues with focusing. Going to school in the 70’s and 80’s, there was never any talk about ADD or Ritalin. Instead my parents taught me to use the analog clock to gauge my progress through the school day and I got the natural consequence of poor grades (sometimes) when I was ill prepared. Luckily for me school, with the exception of math, came easily to me and I could wing it better than most could study. Lucky I thought back then, but it set up a life long pattern of winging it instead of fully preparing.
Editor’s note: I won’t get into my political or philosophical leanings in this blog post as they would detract from the question of how education will look in the year 2020, but suffice it to say that I don’t believe that American schools are failing due to poor teaching, teacher unions, or “stale” older teachers. I don’t believe that America is suffering from a STEM crisis or a “skills” gap, or that American students are being outcompeted in the world due to poor instruction and pedagogy, and only business and their leaders know what is wrong with education and can fix it if only teachers and their unions would get out of the way. I’ll save those topics for other posts.
My wife and I recently watched the movie Her, which is set in the not too distant future. The premise of the movie is that AI (Artificial Intelligence) has become a reality and the newest OS (operating system)is an AI capable entity with the ability to learn and feel emotion. Technology hasn’t radically changed how people live and use computers; instead technology fits seamlessly into the lives of people without standing out, while making their lives much better and easier. Without giving away too much of the plot, the movie chronicles the main character’s relationship with the OS, and the OS’s relationship with the main character. I really enjoyed the movie and immediately after watching pulled out my iPad and starting playing with Siri, which while not as satisfying as an AI operating system is still a pretty neat experience. Watching Her got me thinking about the future and how technology will be integrated into our future society and whether our society will be markedly different than it is today.
While exploring the applications from the seriously old article about Web 2.0 apps (7 years is more than 3 lifetimes considering Moore’s law), I decided to read more about Google applications. I chose this as my district already is subscribed, and my students already have an account and use Gmail and Google Docs. They have access to the other applications such as calendar, Google Drive, etc but rarely use them. I was one of the first teachers in my district to have students use the Google suite of apps, and have been searching for a way to make the use of these applications more seamless into what we already do. The problem seems to be that my district has too many applications and platforms to choose from and both students and staff become overwhelmed by the number of websites, log ins, or knowing which platform to use in a given situation.
A paperless class is something I, as a classroom teacher, have been slowly working on implementing. Over the years I have tried using wikis, moodles, online journals, and even email. Lately I have been using our grading package, Parent Portal, and Google Docs to make this a reality. Surprisingly the biggest resistance seems to come from my students, as many of them are reluctant to use email or Google Docs as they are not seamless enough for them. Access to computers and the proper software is also an issue as gaining access to both requires effort on their part and many are not willing, oftentimes, to make an effort. I had hoped that going one-to-one this coming school year would help with that, but that has been put on hold. Instead I may have to think outside of the box to make this a reality.
Last week I blogged about using Skype to learn and my experience in attempting to connect with another classmate. In that blog post I mentioned that I was also venturing into a new online learning experience using Skype called italki. (You can read about my experience using an online teacher here.) What I learned from the experience aside from the actual learning that took place, was that we are no longer limited in how we acquire information or where the teaching takes place. While in the past I have learned using videos, books, and classroom lectures on a local level, last Monday I was able to interact and learn from a teacher who was physically in Brasil. 4190 miles as the crow flies from Wellsboro, and it has me stoked and excited about the prospects of learning in the future.
I have spent years dabbling at learning a foreign language, with limited success. I am pretty good at remembering vocabulary but have extreme difficulty in using it. I tend to get flustered and second guess myself. I also don’t really practice Spanish by talking to someone daily in my target language as life often gets in the way. That changed when I recently discovered the italki website.
I have to be honest. I have spent several days and have read upwards of 5 articles, plus scanning other articles and wiki sites, and I still don’t think I have a handle on what connectivism is supposed to be. In looking at Group B’s wiki on the cons of connectivism, the following quote from their page sums up my feelings about connectivism.
Connectivism is a “sterile” learning theory. It wouldn’t exist without technological advances of today.