30 March 2009

Technology in our Schools

Social networking is not bad.... for that matter <insert name of technology here> is not necessarily bad, it depends on uses. Mike Elgan's post "How Schools Fail Students on Technology" is an excellent expose on the current failure of schools trying to wrap their arms around technology. It's interesting to note that
The US spends more on education than any other nation, so the problem is not (as commonly portrayed) a funding crisis
It's about integrating technology into the classroom and as he says
The mobile Web, and many Web 2.0 sites, should be seen by educators as a Godsend
They aren't of course as the prevailing view is that "iPods and cell phones are a horrible distraction in schools, and should be banned, not leveraged". Mike advocates using the technology that rises to the top from usage (much liek Shakespeare rose to the top in his day) and suggests that
  • Twitter
  • Wikipedia and
  • Facebook
Are a good place to start. Radical thinking but that is the way to shake up the system and if we are to fulfill our children's dreams we need to use the technology and not fight it. All the above trains have already left and if you think your students aren't on these system go check them out for yourself....Why not let them experience the power of these tools as part of the learning experience:
Those iPhones teachers find so distracting can call up 1.5 million books for free on just one site alone - Google Book Search
We want them to use the technology to get ahead and leverage all the innovation that has already occurred, not be hampered by some makeshift version created "especially" for education that is invariable over priced as well as poorly engineered.
Rather than fearing and banning gadgets and the social Web — then duplicating part of their functionality with unusable proprietary solutions — educators need to get busy leveraging what's already out there. These are the tools our culture has selected as the very best, most engaging, most relevant, most powerful available to us. The students are already immersed in these technologies and services.
If schools are ignoring, rejecting or banning the world students live in now, and will live in for the rest of their lives, and trying to force-feed them educational technologies from another world, an inferior world, a world that is gone forever, they will fail -- and so will their students.
Here here - get on board

24 March 2009

Men's Rules for Women

Please note... they are all numbered '1' ON PURPOSE!

1. Men are NOT mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports; it's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Crying is blackmail, and witchcraft.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one! Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. ; We have NO idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say 'nothing,' We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... Really!

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know I have to sleep on the couch tonight; But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

04 March 2009

Incentives and Education

Not an easy question and one many parents face challenges deciding on the best strategy. According to this article int he NY Times: Rewards for Students Under a Microscope the consensus appears to be that this is a bad idea. Creating a link between rewards and learning behavior creates an expectation for that reward. When the reward is removed the incentive is gone and behavior reverts to the original position:
For decades, psychologists have warned against giving children prizes or money for their performance in school. “Extrinsic” rewards, they say — a stuffed animal for a 4-year-old who learns her alphabet, cash for a good report card in middle or high school — can undermine the joy of learning for its own sake and can even lead to cheating.
So it may drive short term gain but the longer term suffers with reduced incentive and changing behavior and expectations based on rewards that cannot continue. We are also creating an expectation that drives stress higher:

There are suggestions of students making in the thousands of dollars. The stress of that, for kids from homes with no money, I frankly think it’s unconscionable.”

Good point and it seems like society has a general amnesia on the topic - in 1993 Alfie Kohn, published a book “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes” which remains valid today

So what to do: A simple reward strategy without high economic value appears to be best. Verbal praise works well!
"The higher the interest, he said, the more harmful the reward"
To borrow from some thoughts on presentation and distractions - it is up to the presenter to make the presentation interesting that people are not distracted to check e-mail, blackberry, iPhone etc. If they are doing that then the presenter is not doing a good enough job. Teaching and learning is the same - it has to be made interesting so that the student wants to learn