I'm not sure about the whole ghost of w2. There is an awful lot of rubbish out there - in here. I've been offered friendships by people who basically want me to further their web ratings, rather than, what I had hoped for a chance to share ideas about improving the education of my students.

Social networking can be great, I've learned a lot from forums, I've down loaded a lot of excellect free resources and I've had help solving problems.

But I fear if we are not careful we will focus on the medium and lose the message. The posting title is from
Marshall McLuhan who had a lot to say about the problems of mass media

Mud sometimes gives the illusion of depth.
The trouble with a cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it.
The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.

For teachers in the classroom lets focus on the students and how we can improve their education and only use the technology if it help in that task.

I hope this sparks some debate.

Best wishes
Paul Spencer

Tags: Education, Media, Technology, pedagogy

Views: 161

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Hi Paul,
Welcome! Sounds interesting -- being skeptical yet open and optimistic at the same time is certainly a balancing act.
I must reflect on your comment. The segment about being a specialist who has to be careful about making small mistakes provokes some thoughts on my part. Mistakes are inherent when trying to develop a whole new approach to content delivery. I feel the vehicle in which I offer the day's classwork must to some degree allow for small mistakes. How else can I know which versions work for the majority of my students. Tweaking the approach, tools, applications, mashups and the like help me and my students participate together in learning. I worry at times about perfecting my lesson plans before delivery so this post caught my attention. I do think it is all about the quality of student education. Technology merely enhances and facilitates
Hi Lee,
Spot on. Over the years I've started using the 70% rule for preparation rather than trying for perfection, that way after a lesson I'm less reluctant to make changes if it goes wrong.
The real point I was trying to make is that content rather that media should be a driving force. I've seen lots of teachers improve the way they deliver content through the use of new media tools but an awful lot who have been so fixated with the technology that it over-rides the quality of the content.
Best wishes
It's so true what you're saying about valuing content over media. You can see this in almost every web application out there. Ning, like some forums, is one of the few places where you can engage in substantive debate and or conversation. I think that's what makes it valuable as a tool for both collaboration and thinking. If you look at other popular offerings out there (like myspace, facebook, mashups, widgets, streaming video, and even google apps to a degree) you find a common thread of image being more important than intellect.

I've seen a lot of teachers in support of blogs on this site, and I think that's actually a pretty good start, but it lacks certain qualities that, in my perception, are beginning to be heavily emphasized in both industry and education. Specifically, organization over the short and long term are invaluable to an individual's education and development. While a student can create a blog they'll keep their whole life it isn't exactly something they can put up personal thoughts on, or use to collaborate on projects. This is something fundamental to education that I think is completely ignored by known web applications.

However, I think there's hope. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is focused on using technology to develop literacy in the third world. Laptops are given to students and information is stored on central servers so that a student's progress is held over the long term. I think eventually we'll find that technology can provide a lot of assistance to teachers once it is properly used for the long term benefit of students.
I agree with your statement:
"For teachers in the classroom lets focus on the students and how we can improve their education and only use the technology if it help in that task." and would add that let's only use anything if it helps in the task.

Technology is an extremely powerful tool, but it isn't more important than the way we act around the kids, the very human environments in which the teaching begins. That's an important focus for reform and change, as we've got to move away from a rather "darkened phase" of education. It's time to swing things back to meaningful and holistic, connected, exciting. First, we create good classrooms with positive learning atmospheres. Then we bring in the best tools and use them. Then the vibrancy and vitality of learning accelerate throughout. That's how I see it.

One more thing: the learning curve in this new age of education is steep. We have to allow ourselves a lot of experimentation and mistake-making. I've found with any number of new applications that initially there's a "junk-phase" in which products are "all form and no content" or even just random bits of nothing. Still, the process of learning how to use the tools is going on, and that is worthwhile just in itself. So don't be quick to judge whether something is worthwhile in its initial phases; something else will soon evolve.

Anyhow, good questions, good point about focusing on the students first.
Hi Connie,
Good point about teachers learning the process, I tend to forget most teachers are not IT specialists.
This is a great post. I'd like to point out an interesting factoid I just learned the other day. Evidently, a long while back, IBM was having trouble finding proficient programmers and software engineers. It wasn't so much that they weren't willing to train anyone, to the contrary actually. IBM just couldn't find anyone that could learn how to program well and quickly. What they ended up finding out is that the best place to recruit programmers were music schools. Music students were best suited to learning the abstract language for some reason probably similar to the reason why young musicians tend to do better with mathematics and other visual abstractions.
That's fascinating! My daughter is a young musician and mathematician. I'll tell her about your comment.
Yes, mud gives the illusion of depth. So that is why it is encumbent on educators to teach our students how to jump.

I agree, we shouldn't focus on just technology. But we should see how it can be used in combination with "being human" and being there. Unfortunately we are confronted with a stark divide at present and this will gradually recede as younger teachers move into the educational system. Then it will really take off and I don't think we will have much of the debate about "losing the human touch" or focusing too much on the medium. The medium will be the message and it will ubiquitous and all around -- so no need for our present debates/qualms.

I do think though, we will always need people to lead teachers towards using some standard set of principles by which to access if technology is meeting educational goals/desires. It won't be enough in the future, just to let our students use technololgy and play with it. It should be focused on learning outcomes and we need some leadership in that direction right now. Who is articulating when and why we should use technology in the classroom. Is it appropriate just for student motivation? Is it good to use technology even if it appears that test results are compromised? Is it good to use technology to "decorate" when it raises standards to which other teachers can't hope to meet? So many more questions along these lines. Thanks for raising this vital topic. -- I am involved in using technology in language acquisition. Mostly I find technology beneficial because it does what human's can't do. It can spread everywhere and give learners all over the world access to good/competent teachers who speak great English (a computer / a network / a podcast / a program ). It rules by default.....

But I also got a chuckle from the title of this thread..... An ESL student once wrote me a kind letter. At the end she wrote, P.S. Thanks for the massage.
I thought awhile about when or if I'd ever given her a massage (she was quite attractive), then I finally figured it out -- she'd meant message.....
The main thing IS to keep the main thing the main thing.... and the main thing is learning.

Totally agree with Paul's sentiments but having seen how my students have reacted with improved motivation to the couple of things I have tried out with them I'm pretty hopeful that there's a solid foundation under the mud.
I also appreciate being able to work asynchronously with them, it's a great bonus.
I am a tech teacher and I push and pull my colleagues to use tech in the classroom, but I still worry about what we are losing when we replace our old methods of teaching and learning with technology. Especially for younger children. Where I think the effect can be more profound.

I teach elementary students, so that is where my training lies. My concern is, what are we losing when we replace traditional methods with technology? What effects will it have on our students ability to learn in the future? Are there consequences to technology that we haven't realized yet?

As a fifth grade teacher, every year the student's penmanship is poorer, they can't use scissors and don't know how to glue. Are we training this generation of students to be life long learners, or life long techies? Are we losing our artisans, our musicians, our craftsman for the sake of technology?

I have had teachers say that students don't need to know how to write (penmanship) as well now because they will be typing everything, ( I even had a teacher state that teaching typing is a waste of time as these students will talk to their computers) While all that may be true, there is more to learning penmanship than just to be able to do it, the process of training the brain, the repletion of fine motor skills has value in and of itself.

My golden rule, and what I tell other teachers is, "Look at your lessons, your projects your units, are there any that can be modified to use technology without losing content or skills, that would be better with technology? If so, then do it." Yet, a book report movie may have the same content, but the students lost the chance to use scissors and glue.

Technology is mostly visual, more and more auditory, but what about kinesthetic learners? Where do they fit in?
Hi Greg,
I think you are right about the struggle to know what to let go, since you can't pack new stuff in without dropping something. It's unrealistic.

However, penmanship may indeed be something that could be given up. If you are worried about fine motor skills, it seems like there are many other things to replace it with. If we hang on to too much stuff just because we hope that it "trains the brain" to do something else, we really end up with a lot of remants of irrelevant things that aren't important anymore, but we hope the kids may need someday. Oops, that's math curriculum in a nutshell.

Specifically in writing, there is a whole body of research that shows that children consistently equate good writing (penmanship) with good writing (content) and that many, many children are damaged by the message that their writing is not good enough. There is a whole other set of research that shows that by allowing students to write on the computer, they can express themselves better and feel more powerful, because their written work is closer to what they want to produce, and is not limited by their coordination. Boys especially fall into this group since they mature at different rates than girls.

I would say that penmanship is more related to art (which is being cut out of the school day in the US), and learning to express yourself in a variety of media is always a good thing. Caligraphy is something that many kids like to learn, and is an appropriate artistic expression and a great activity. it's not only kinesthetic learners who are being shortchanged by schools squeezing PE, art, and music out of the curriculum.

Really, what would be the harm to society if fifth graders fail to learn how to glue.



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