Interesting NYTimes article on the problem with praising kids too much. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/opinion/losing-is-good-for-you.html?_r=0
For thousands of years, a very small, very select group of people controlled the flow of information in the world; those who could read and write. This scribe class not only recorded history for posterity, but was also the functioning engine of government and commerce. The ability to learn the skills of reading and writing were difficult and expensive to attain, and the tools for doing each were in short supply, thus limiting the skill set to a small cadre.
Not until the advent of Johannes Gutenberg and his moveable type printing press was this barrier broken. With Gutenberg, a sea of reading material was unleashed upon the world and, following market principles, with increased supply of reading materials prices fell dramatically. Suddenly, everyone could afford a book. Once they had the devices in their hands, it was a simple matter for the masses to learn from one another to decode the technology, and soon thereafter these same formerly illiterates were able to compose their own squiggles on paper, unleashing the, up until the late 20th century, greatest single point of human advancement in history.
Once again we find ourselves at such a watershed moment as Gutenberg and his printing press. With the advent of technology that can connect us with the world, record our every thought and action and instantly relay it around the world, or allow us to mine for information from the combined understanding of the 7 Billion + people who populate our planet, all of which fits in our pocket, we are once again living in a world with a small, powerful and elite scribe class; those who can code.
Our students will be asked to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet, using technologies that have not even been invented. Doing so with the tools deemed worthy of being produced by a minority group is no longer an acceptable path to direct our students down. Just as we deem it critical for students to learn the literacies of the written word (i.e. reading and writing) and mathematics, so too should we introduce the literacy of the 21st century, computer coding, into the school repertoire, thus providing students the foundation to leave the classroom truly prepared, not only to face whatever comes before them, but to actually engage with the world around them completely, no longer reliant on others to provide them an approximation of what they want. Rather, through teaching students to code what they want, when they want, they will have the ability, knowledge and confidence to leverage technology to its fullest in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue.
If you are looking for a curriculum for a Game Design course in your school, check out StemFuse. They are giving away full curriculum's right now, trying to get 10,000 schools to use it. It uses the free version of GameMaker, by YoYo games as the development platform, so Mac schools will have to look carefully to see if it will work for you. (GameMaker does have a free Mac version, recently out of Beta, but the StemFuse guidelines indicate PC usage.)
If you are making and/or sharing videos through YouTube and you want them to be show in their highest screen quality, add the following text at the end of the URL before you forward the link-
What's the difference? Without this little bit of code at the end of your video URL, YouTube will automatically choose the screen resolution for the video, anywhere from 240p all the way up to 1080, but usually in the 360p to 480p range. Ever noticed how sometimes videos of screencasts with words are blurry? If you add the little snippet of code above, YouTube automatically shows the video in HD, at least 720, and if it was recorded at a high enough quality, 1080p.
Want to see the difference? Check out this video I recorded using Snagit. For best comparison, click into full screen mode.
Youtube chooses the viewer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn1RHOJ8kXQ
I force it to its highest screen resolution - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn1RHOJ8kXQ&hd=1&
(Similarly, if you are embedding a YouTube video into another website, you can force the embed to open in HD by adding ?vq=hd720 or ?vq=hd1080 depending on the resolution quality of the video you uploaded.)
This article was just sent to me. It is well worth a read. It discusses the differences between how boys and girls view themselves and their abilities to over come challenges when presented with them.
Just this week, two new sites have launched, designed to help to sift through the insane number of programs, apps and websites aimed at teachers and learning.
http://www.graphite.org/ - is a little more aimed/tailored for teachers, though the interface is not quite intuitive. It is still in Beta, so you will experience some bugs occasionally.
http://learnbig.com/ - more polished and intuitive to navigate, but the offerings are not as diverse or as directed to educators, more toward those looking for tools to learn for themselves (or their children).
Of the two, after briefly reviewing both, I would tend toward Graphite, though LearnBig definitely has stuff that is worth exploring.
About the only way you could have missed the boom in the EdTech sector that is currently occurring is to have been hiding under a rock. Barring that, perhaps you turned off your smartphone for more than three minutes. Every day there are a slew of announcements about new funding rounds closing for learning companies developing the latest and greatest educational technology to teach kids everything from reading and writing to how to code. Investors are in a frenzy, administrators are spending money as fast as they can, and government officials are holding their breath that these companies can deliver a panacea capable of curing our ailing educational system. From MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) to Khan Academy to subject specific software systems and lowly “Apps”, the world is awash in companies and people seeking a solution to the problem of education in America, yet few, if any of them, realize that there is a very significant problem lurking in the shadows.
The problem exists in the way that most learning companies develop. Most of these companies grow out of an individual or small group who identify a problem in the educational world to which they believe they have a fix. These people tend to be developers and software engineers who are very good at what they do and are interested in making a difference. All good things, and here-in lies the very big problem that is propelling the EdTech boom to collapse.
These people are very knowledgeable about computers and software, but when it comes to education, they fall into the same trap as most parents, namely that they are operating under the mistaken belief that because they went to school, they know about school, education, and how people learn. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In some instances, these very well intentioned people have recognized their own deficiency and have sought out teachers, or former teachers, to get involved in their project, not merely to add legitimacy to the endeavor, but because they genuinely want make their product educationally effective. This step should absolutely be lauded.
Unfortunately, this is actually a false promise and amounts, essentially, to the blind leading the blind. The overwhelming majority of these teachers-come-learning company employees have had very limited teaching exposure. Two, or possibly as much as three, years in the classroom seems to be the norm in this regard and thus, while they have more experience as an educator than the typical tech guru writing the code, their understanding of the complexities of how the brain learns and how students of various ages take in, process and output information, are limited at best.
If we look at the fact that 10,000 hours is the generally accepted amount of time one needs to practice something in order to attain mastery of it, be it golf, driving a car, coding in a particular language, or yes, teaching, we arrive at the fact that this amounts to roughly 5 years of work experience. Some might even argue that there are substantially more pieces to teaching than simply imparting learning and that only makes the case stronger. If we factor in the reality that a not inconsequential amount of every teacher’s day is spent in the operation of school rather than involved in the practice of education it quickly becomes apparent that the amount of time required to truly understand how others learn and how to teach is actually more than 5 years.
Thus, a teacher who is recruited into a tech firm with less than five years of experience has actually only developed a rudimentary understanding of the learning process and this is the looming problem in the EdTech space as it currently exists today; the vast majority of what is being touted as the next cure all, competing for attention in what is quickly becoming an overcrowded marketplace, as well as for scant school and government dollars, is being developed by well meaning people with little to no true understanding of how to educate.
The byproduct of this system is very fancy technology, frequently forced upon them by overzealous, though well-meaning, administrators and government leaders that not only does not solve the problems it was intended to, but in fact creates new problems that then must be surmounted. Some of these systems are so bad as to actually impede learning, rather than improving it. This is not a matter of the technology getting in the way of the learning, but rather a problem of the technology offering nothing better, or too often, nothing, in the way of learning.
Can this problem be fixed? Of course it can. Will it? That depends on whether those in the EdTech sector are willing to get good and experienced teachers involved in the development process. Until that happens, be ready for a lot of good money to be thrown at ideas that will harm learning and school more than it will help.
I teach 8th and 9th grade English at a 6-12 coed school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I also regularly speak at national Tech Education conferences on the topic of integrating technology into the classroom.
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- Change the Way You Think About Education
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