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Our current mindset has to change. The extent to which students are engaged and challenged and–dare I presume–learn is correlated with many things, only one of which is “seat time.” If the education profession so grossly misunderstands the crowning glory of many 21st century technologies–their ability to affect a student outside the 45 minutes in which his/her posterior is planted in row 4 seat 5, to expand learning beyond the physical walls of the classroom–then yes, it might be a waste of valuable “seat time” to train teachers who do not have the schema to make use of professional development in any meaningful way. Technology-focused professional development would then only be static information gathering, filed away with the other innovations teachers intend to implement when they find the time, over the summer, after the vacations, before the posters go back up next September.

If the foundation of our mindset [courtesy of legislation which will remain unnamed] requires that all (currently enrolled on September 30th) students are engaged in challenging, collaborative, student-driven, differentiated, etc. etc. and so forth…activities every minute, then we have to reconsider the impact that training teachers has on the sum total of student “seat time”. 45 minutes per class multiplied by 188 school days seems like an abundance of time with a teacher, yet I know that right around this time of the year teachers bemoan 8,460 minutes—not long enough to inspire students to explore and engage with curricular content as we’d hoped when we mapped things out last August. How many professional development days are required to facilitate the purposeful implementation of technology into existing curricular content? Two? Three? It is valid to note that subtracting 135 minutes from 8,460 does students a disservice. Think of all the things teachers could do with those 135 minutes, now completely lost.

If school systems approach professional development as an investment rather than a deficit, the educational profession might arrive at a more enlightened mindset. Teachers are adult learners after all–professional development that is worth anything (and I’m assuming that the professional development described is of the highest quality) should include implementation, reflection and extension components. The effects of a highly qualified professional, motivated and excited about not only the curricular content but also the tech-y methodology cannot be underrated, especially since for 45 minutes, 188 days, teachers share space with a roomful of student learners motivated and excited about tech-y methodology but not curricular content. Too often professional development occurs on its own island–a theoretical vacuum of flashy terminology and/or idealized anecdotes. Too often professional development does not include accountability for deliberate implementation, objective reflection, and proposed avenues for extension/evolution. Too often professional development sucks. And not just from the 8,640 minutes each teacher is allotted to impact each student. Technology as method, as resource, as supplement to curriculum should augment the best practices of highly qualified educators. Technology should inspire teachers to approach content from diverse perspectives, taking into consideration alternative viewpoints with which students might not have previously been able to engage. Technology should facilitate student-driven classrooms, collaborative learning, and thereby differentiate, engage, and motivate. Technology should expand the curriculum beyond the classroom, providing opportunities for students to equitably encounter content at minute 46, 47, and far beyond 8,641.

Educators should not be satisfied when mediocre professional development opportunities give “digital immigrant” teachers enough of a taste of technology that they can discredit Wikis as research material, passing their 21st century citizenship exams with just enough points to earn a “Satisfactory” stamp of approval. The education profession needs to invest time into its adult learners (and the money into its available resources) so that K-12 education is a relevant and competitive arena for our students’ attention. 21st century technologies work both ways. If teachers do not familiarize themselves with technologies and use them intentionally in the 45 minutes students are required to be physically present in the classroom, competing arenas in our students’ lives will nibble away at those minutes. One minute: cell phones should be “off” and “away”. One minute: headphones should not rise above the collarbone. One minute: updating Facebook may not qualify as publication. One minute: wikis may not be included as research resources. 4 minutes, 188 days…what a waste.

 

Originally posted to ISTE Community Ning: http://www.iste-community.org/group/landl/forum/topics/pointcounterpoint-should

Cleric: And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Thesis. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number of paragraphs thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Essay of Five Paragraphs towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

Brother Maynard: Amen.

All: Amen.

King Arthur: Right. One… two… five.

Galahad: Three, sir.

King Arthur: Three.

 

adapted from Chapman, G., Cleese, J., and Idle, E. et al. (1975). Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071853/quotes

 

Why has the five paragraph essay fallen out of favor?  Is it because the Post-modern leanings of current educational philosophy instinctively abhor anything resembling Modern structure?  Or is it that the Five-Paragraph essay restricts creative thinking?  is not rhetorically effictive?  Do the blue pinstripes of college-ruled, lined, notebook paper make it look fat?  Ponder that, if you please.

I’m kicking around some ideas about Scott Karp’s post about the Web Content Conservation Movement.  I like the idea, but I am having difficulties making sense of its necessity.  Underlying the post is a sense that time is limited and that too much information, too many “digital echoes,” as one commenter cleverly termed the repetitive articles proliferating the web in the wake of any significant event or idea, pollutes the internet unnecessarily.

What is the function of the internet?  Is it merely another way to read text?  If so, it is understandably frustrating not to know how unique each of the thousands of search results are–it’s tempting to skim through them, leading to the frustrating feeling that one is not quite getting any information, in the attempt to get all the information.  When a third grade student goes to the library looking for a book on butterflies, no one expects the librarian to pull every book from the shelves which contains significant repetitions of the word “butterfly;” however, that’s the way that search engines on the web function–mine data and return results.

What I’m musing about is whether links, as Karp advocates in his post, will truly solve the perceived problem.  They offer the end user several illusions, but whether those are substantiated by actuality seems a bit subjective. 

The first illusion is that the author has done his or her background research on the topic, and is familiar with others’ views on the topic under discussion.  How many authors link to diverse opinions?  How many journalists would link to an article written by a “competitive” paper?  How many individuals weigh the merits of more than one location to direct their reader’s “linked” attention?  A link has the ability to take the reader away from the current article, so it’s more advantageous to link to foundational material than controversial.  That way, the reader returns to the original article, rather than adopting the linked text as a “better source of information.” Links can offer the illusion of ethos without providing substantial content.

The second illusion that can be offered through links is the illusion of totality.  Put enough links on a page, and a reader will feel confident that all necessary perspectives, angles, and reactions are accounted for.  This effectively limits their curiosity on a topic.  Links can provide the illusion of totality, when, in fact, they can severly limit the reader’s perspective on the topic if they are injudiciously, or even maliciously, selected from the available coverage of a topic.

Are we conserving quantity in exchange for its quality?  If quantity is the problem, who is most affected by the increasing volume of data on the internet?

Unfortunately, it seems that the most responsible individuals are the most affected–those who want to weigh the totality of perspectives on an issue, present a fair, balanced, and understandable position on a topic or idea.  Because of the volume of data, being responsible ekes away at precious time.  It’s understandably frustrating, but until filtering software improves, it may be a necessary evil.  Reducing the volume of content would reduce one of the ways we can identify significant topics and ideas on the net–quantity of communication on a topic.  We know something is relevant and interesting if a lot of people are discussing it.  Translating verbal exchanges into text generates a lot of data, but it also provides a valuable digital footprint to trace the evolution of ideas, reactions, perspectives, paradigms, etc.

While it appears advantageous now to pare out repetitive communication, in the end, reinforcement by repition is what we have to work with.  There’s a time and a place for Twitter, and there’s a time and a place for James Joyce’s Ulysses.  It just seems short-sighted to complain that Joyce should’ve compressed his text to 50 words or less.

Case in point: I did not stumble upon Carr’s article, or the study it referenced or Scott Karp, whose ideas may have equally inspired Carr’s article, until I read a passing, negative reference to Carr’s article in The Atlantic in a blog to which I subscribe. As a teacher, Will Richardson’s balanced reaction, comparatively, got me thinking. I most closely identify with Mike Curtin’ vision that hypertext and Web 2.0 tools might dissolve cultural borders and unite disparate people and ideas.

Early in my assessment of Car, I accused Carr of blundering because he suggested that the internet could repattern an individual’s cognitive process—is it naïve for me to hope that the same internet can repattern a world’s social stratosphere? Absolutely.

Here’s the question, though: Is it a sign of my ignorance that I must rely on–reference–so many other ideas in forming my own, something which would have been even more time-consuming, if not impossible, to accomplish before Web 2.0 tools like Google and blogs? If so, I don’t mind being broadly stupid.

Related: Grad School assignment

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