Dec 14, 2009

Tripped up by a Learning Typology

Christopher D. Sessums posted an interesting matrix by Vavoula that was on Patrick Dunn's site.

Christopher commented primarily on the "Unintentional informal learning." I was interested in a different part, one that I work in much more. By the graphic, it would seem that assignments where the teacher gives either the goal or the process, but the other is determined by the student, would be "Intentional informal learning" just as would an assignment where the student determines both. To me, those three feel quite different. I'll have to go read what Vavoula means by "informal". I'll also have to consider what "explicitly defined" means. What if I have a general process, but the students are free to work creatively within that process? What if I have on overall subject goal, but students define many of the elements within that goal? Seems to me that there are many shades of formal and informal learning.

Dec 3, 2009


Are they contradictions? Did I not explain the nuances well enough? Maybe I'm just not a dualist today.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
(I am large – I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman

Haven't read this in awhile, but it gave me lots to consider:
The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why

Dec 2, 2009

Is One-to-One Computing the Best Solution?

Originally written December 5th, 2005

It seems as if every tech related magazine has a story about another school, district, or state pursuing a one-to-one laptop initiative. Michigan’s initiative is called “Freedom To Learn.” Computer companies like Apple and HP have put up sites dedicated to the idea. And, they’d love to sell you carts full of laptops!

While I would love to teach in a school that provided a laptop for every child, especially if it was paid for by the state, I wonder whether having one computer for each student would change my methods.

When I work with my students, there are only enough computers for one for every two children. It’s designed that way. Compared to having students work individually, I find that pair and team projects result in greater student learning of content, tech skills, and intrapersonal skills. If each student had a computer, maybe that would give me the ultimate flexibility in designing some projects to be completed individually, some concurrently, and some jointly. Or, maybe I would lose something when each student is staring at his or her own screen instead of a shared screen. Over time, would I slowly be seduced by obvious individual accountability of one student per machine/project, instead of having to work hard to hold all partners equally accountable?

What advantages or disadvantages have you experienced or might you foresee?

Dec 1, 2009

Anti-Patterns - Avoid Focusing on the Tool

(This post the fifth in a series commenting on Kathy Sierra's presentation about creating passionate users.) 
How many tool based workshops or training seminars have you attended? How much of what you learn do you retain? How much of what you learn is easily translatable into students learning about your subject matter and methods? Focusing on the tool instead of focusing on the thing the user wants to do with the tool is common among technology companies and professional developers. Over the past years we have tried to spend less time on the tools and more on pedagogy, content, and the balance among the three. We try to put the direct instruction bits into problem-solving activities, exploration and self-teaching, and a few examples of what students can do with the tools in their classroom.

Yet, many teachers WANT, I mean demand, direct instruction in the step by step manner where they can write it down step by step. Are there ways to move teachers away from such a limiting habit? After all, how often does something occur in the exact same set of steps versus some variation on those steps? How will these teachers move on by themselves without the trainer their to hold their hand?

What will it take for the majority of teachers to get to the point where many of their students already are, comfortable with exploring the tool, using trial and error or other methods of problem-solving, or if all else fails asking a peer or searching Google for a screencast or tutorial?

As a half-way step. How can we get most teachers to at least see that their favored form of "learning" doesn't fit most of their students' favored forms of learning? This limits the possible growth of their students tremendously. Students' learning ends up happening far more outside of the classroom.