Three NEW things we need to see in education

cc licensed flickr photo by Heini Samuelsen: http://flickr.com/photos/heini/2693887793/

Cognitive science tells us that learning with technology is a duel-band activity, which in some way explains our desire to live in a world with multiple tabs, multiple devices and multiple streams of information at our finger-tips.

This post is about actively dealing with three things: cognitive load and capacity, the modality in which we teach and learn, and the filter.

I’m going to argue we can’t have it all, but 2 out of 3 aint bad – if we at least get 2 things right – and we’re not yet getting it right.

Learning modalities are the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive, and store information.  Many students have pervasive access to technology and potentially engaged in extraneous (no relevance), essential (selecting) or generative (organising, integrating, making) activities. I think, that the common modalities we use – don’t really teach use much about our cognitive capacity, but overload us. Our motivational and emotion responses -(which make up a third of our belief-making brain activity) is not to persist.

Take a typical professional development vignette

 

cc licensed flickr photo by RDECOM: http://flickr.com/photos/rdecom/5125599045/

The presenter has a pre-made Powerpoint, with a dozen or so slides. The room is set up with computers and the presenter has a handout. The intention is to teach the teacher why and how to use some web-tool in their practice to improve learning.

This is arrangement, classically presented to teachers as good practice, is also how most teachers encounter professional development.

Think about the first two things:  modality and cognitive load. Powerpoint to audience decode, translate to the desktop, more input, more trial and error, more questions than answers. All the time the day’s agenda moves forward. Each participant has differing prior-experience, different capacity. The method of instruction presents a high cognitive load. How many times have you been here – fumbling to work the machine, grasp the purpose or the imperative as the presenter says “let’s move on”. It is only our familiarity with this environment that makes it feel normal and unsatisfying. – We can’t be surprised to find decreasing motivation in staff and students when this strategy is presented time and time again.

A second vignette: The keynote speaker delivers a presentation, full of motivation and emotional arguments. The audience lacks the modality to en-mass separate erroneous, essential and generative. The presenter fails to address socially independent knowledge and meaning (the other two thirds of brain-making belief). We are entertained, perhaps inspired, but how many have the capacity to action it. There are many reasons for this, the most toxic is that the presenter – is in-accessible after the presentation, a common problem when we import speakers because of their past profile or because the point of epoch they speak from – is a concensus point for the assumed audiences cognitive capacity – and sadly the popular ‘sweet spot’ messages often imitated as a result – with no evaluation.

Both these common experiences are producing marginal gains in teachers being able to rethink the modality and method they use with technology in learning and teaching. Now I’d like to look at perception, disruption and distortion in relation to filtering.

THE METHOD IS HIDDEN INSIDE TEACHER PERCEPTIONS OF THE MEDIA

 

cc licensed flickr photo by simonov: http://flickr.com/photos/simonov/366430817/

Also think about how we present ‘the internet’ as a media and not a method by which learning occurs. We cannot be shocked when students lose interest and motivation, when we present it in an almost opposite modality. They are not distracted, just intensely more interested in socially independent uses of technology at their finger-tips – as they have greater capacity to engage with it this way, that to learn in the manner I described earlier.

THE REVERSE MODALITY OF INTERNET FILTERING EFFECT

The filter  is a very blunt tool to deal with erroneous information and is a subjective as Alan Jones on gin. [excellent social studies clip there]

The filter distorts how we access and manage essential and generative opportunities – and counter-acts the modality of learning that students experience in just about every other area of their technological-lives. It wasn’t designed to do this – it was created to remove risk to the organization, preventing accidental or deliberate access to pornography, hate, drugs, violence etc., but has evolved into a social-filter without any real evidence or discussion with teachers or students. The filter is also applied vary differently between systems, and often between schools.

“there was no evidence that online predators were stalking or abducting unsuspecting victims based on information they posted at social networking sites.” – Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire, March 2008.

THE SEMANTIC DISRUPTION – The end is coming.

cc licensed flickr photo by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML: http://flickr.com/photos/seeminglee/4041872282/

Today much of filter-policy ignorantly assumes the internet’s role in education is predominantly as media delivery mechanism and not a medium to support a method. To some degree, few parents and teachers are lobbying for anything else – making it a social issue, not so much a school one.

Filtering (as we know it) assumes information remains static in the way it is organised and identified. Emerging semantic technology – draws heavily on information produced socially – ending the time where ‘the internet’ was experienced as separate experiences or compartments. Only silly minds will think the browser and laptop will be pervasive in the next decade.

Current policy often fails to recognize youth agency: young people as participants, stakeholders, and leaders in an increasingly participatory environment online and offline.

For the most part, the filter is a crude stop/go mechanism. Given the lack of training to helps teachers learn to manage, create and use technology in sympathy with real world modality. Social filtering distorts learning because it’s not safety from bad outcomes but safety for positive ones. We want to students to be be safe, but do we want our children to play in places that are only safe? This brings me back to modality – and the neo-classical depiction of a classroom. Projector, Laptops, Filter – is this how we want children to learn and teachers to teach?

“SOCIAL MEDIA” – IT USED TO BE CALLED APPLICATION SERVICE PROVISION

In the old days, circa 2000 – technology that power’s social media used to be called ‘application service provision‘. Clearly tools like Twitter carry ‘media’ information socially – but the term itself is misleading, popularised by culture and group bias – and even inside the believers, there is argument over what it actually means and affords society. It’s a word, along with Web2.0 that is meaningless to the majority.

Clearly GoolgeDocs, WordPress, Wikispaces etc provide a modality of learning which are clearly different to pornography – yet suffer from filtration (something I’ll come to next). Recent research finds kids are more at risk of peer-use of networks in abusive ways – than from people they don’t know.

WE CREATE OUR OWN FRANKENSTEINS

  • We have, like it or not, chosen to put technology into learning and teaching though government and organizational investment.
  • We cannot afford to accept we don’t need to train (and mentor) teachers to see technology as a method and find better modality in how we do it.
  • We need to accept how much more powerful technology is when used through personalisation and allowing people to become socially independent learners.
  • We need to accept, that in terms of cognitive load, capacity and modality – technology does not give rise to Frankensteinian epoch moments we can push out as being ‘the future’ or something to ‘work towards’ – but that as events that need corresponding change in education immediately.
  • What we did before and what we do after any epoch moment – causes greater distortion in the classroom.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD – Something I can live with

In approaching teacher development and support – we have to recognise that teachers are capable of asking for help, and that request comes from a professional capacity. What they do out of work is entirely their business. This is a blurred message much of the time – perhaps most problematic in the current popular dialogue of the personal learning network.

  • We need to find ways that we reduce the cognitive load needed to learn something essential – but delete the erroneous – in the classroom.
  • We should stay clear of generative desires when helping and mentoring them – as generating content is now seen as a chore, rather than creative joy.
  • Teachers should not believe that making more content is better – or required in pursuit of using technology in the classroom. (busy-thoughts).
  • Most of all we need to accept that the envelope in which we often work is not realistic – but a simulation of the real world. There is no shame in being clear about this with students – so that they recognise where the classroom-end point is, and where they need to start taking responsibility for their future. Even if this is to find a grade-school game that they could use at home to learn maths, that is banned in school.

Two out of three aint bad, as Meatloaf said.

Accept that we can’t have it all – we never did, and we never will – we live in amazing times, with mind-blowing complexity – but there are ways to do a lot of good with what we have … and each time we do … we push negativity one step further backwards as we make more sense of the positive.

Cleaning up YouTube

Having decided the Bubblegum post was far too long, I’m making up for the sin with kicking a few small but mighty bits. Worried about seeing hot babes on car bonnets while watching ‘proper’ YouTube clips? Freaking out when another Evony ad informs your class that they can be some wenches Master? – Rejoice – for now you may use SafeShare.tv. Does what is says. Interesting to learn if this beats the firewalls in schools.

Here’s the video before (to save you looking) – Heather Nova singing Stayin’ Alive on YouTube — and the cleaned up version here … views? thoughts? (not about Heather). The first link is just because that Jag is so cool.

No Clean Feed 2

The digital-president Rudd has once again got the social movement up in arms over the National Filter announcement today.

The shadow minister is not exactly oppositional to the idea. In a statement Smith said the Coalition “supports measures to protect children from inappropriate internet content” and that “appropriate adult supervision and guidance should be front and centre of all online safety efforts”. Well he would say that, it’s basically the law.

A trial conducted by Enex Testlab earlier this year with a handful of ISPs resulted in a report also released today. Internet Service Providers (ISP) may also be offered incentives to go beyond the mandatory blocks. One report about the ‘over-blocking‘ suggests that the government is ignoring key recommendations. The Christian lobby of course want even more filtration. Smashing keyboards and re-instating scribes seemingly on the agenda.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Perhaps the best way to experience this is to look at a twitter search using a real time visual tracker. Huh? Just click here to see what we are saying about the plan to filter Australian content by the government.

My take on it is that there are so many lobby groups and intersections; filtration of content is key to risk-managing the long term legacy of the digital-president. No one ever went online to find Utopia and indeed much of the internet’s phishing and criminal activity was perpetuated from geographical locations that supposedly had or have tight control over it’s citizens. We are not facing a dystopia from cyberspace either — despite the endless flow of mainstream media feeding ignorance.

The protagonists of cyberpunk fiction are almost invariably street punks, cyberspace hackers, black market techies, mercenaries and their likes. They perform their dubious skills in the greyzones of this new world, this witch-broth of commercialisation, technologisation and globalisation gone wretched

It seems that the government, like many organisations is saving us from this fiction. Worlds imagined by writers such as Gibson or movies such as Blade Runner. In reality, we are chatting, shopping and playing games … our biggest crime is that we are simply not interested in much of what goes on in the name of governance. We are hard to predict and hard to herd now we have Facebook.

Clay Burrell wrote about social intelligence today, and why grades and current assessment methods are increasingly unrepresentative of a persons worth. It is well worth reading in the context of the social limitations. We are obviously less and less interested in listening and commenting through the varicose veins of old media. #nocleanfeed is just a movement of ordinary people who actually believe that we are able to make our own decisions, and that the laws are already there to deal with online content. Remember the concessions to porn and gambling Howard did to get the GST a decade before.

Filtration pushes content to ‘sanctioned’ outlets — and that is not good for speed or access. Bottom line — if you are thinking about or running a filter — you’re brain-missing to think we can’t beat it.

Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING

blockedlearning

Just send an email!

blockedlearning@gmail.com
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at http://blockedlearning.posterous.com and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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