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Big Thinkers in Education

June 30, 2011 1 comment

This is my list of people in education who have inspired me as well as many others in education. While Sir Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch and Milton Chen are obvious, here are others who have inspired me to think bigger…Who has inspired you?

Carol Dweck – Her research on growth mindset has inspired me to never use the words “smart” with students.

Jeff Duncan-Andrade – His research using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs inspired his Tupac Shakur’s Roses in Concrete idea. I have worked in under-served communities for all of my educational profession, and his work has provided insight in how to reach our urban youth.

David Warlick – If it was his session a few years ago that lead me into social media as a professional tool.

Tim O’Reilly – The man who coined the term web 2.0 has provided the guidance in how read write web integrates into schools.

Dave Levin and Michael Feinberg – Their visionary work in opening charter schools during the early 90’s has paved the way for others to rethink schools in America.

Henry Jenkins – USC Professor of Journalism, Communication, and Cinematic Arts has guided the discussion on new media and participatory culture.

Salman Khan – I think the idea has been more inspirational than the actually work from Khan Academy. His approach to education is causing many to rethink how instruction can be delivered to students.

Clayton Christensen – His book Disrupting Class has provided me continued motivation in rethinking education. I really enjoyed the various industry analogies of disruptive innovations.

Punya Mishra – His work on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) has provided a technology integration framework for teachers.

Paula Tallal – Neuroscience has become of great interest to me recently, and her research on cognitive neuroscience is opening my eyes to brain plasticity.

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Can MMORPG virtual worlds change our history class?

When I was growing up, role playing games such as RuneQuest provided me hours of entertainment with friends, as we imagined fantasy worlds of strategic game play. Today, digital media has exponentially taken one of my boyhood hobbies into visually majestic simulations. These once storytelling games are now popular online games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy. According to wikipedia, Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a genre of role-playing video games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world. These virtual environments have finally infiltrated education, as teachers are researching and piloting ways to use game-based education to reach their students. The most well-known school using game-based education is Quest to Learn in New York.

“For those kids who become leaders of guilds in World of Warcraft, that’s as much an experience as being the captain of the football team, being the editor of the school newspaper.” -Dr. Henry Jenkins, USC Professor

Game-based education is an evolving education strategy of great interest to me. Second Life has gained popularity in game-based education, but has not been widely accepted in schools. So what would it take for schools to integrate virtual worlds in classrooms?

I have been thinking what types of games would work in schools. And it wasn’t until I was watching the History channel, combined with my childhood hobby of role-playing games when it finally clicked. I would love to see software companies develop virtual worlds that pertained to historical periods combined with MMORPG game components to provide a collaborative and critical thinking experience for students.

Could you imagine a classroom immersed in an Ancient Greece virtual world learning about the Peloponnesian War or students engaged in congressional debates during the Civil War era. You could have students play roles like Pericles and Archidamus II in the virtual world, learning about history standards while immersed in MMORPG game play. There are a multitude of cross-curricular standards that could be met while in a virtual world, such as real-time conversations related to historical facts, mathematical calculations with maps, and writing reflections/investigations on simulations. Role-playing has always been an effective education strategy in language arts and history, and MMORPG virtual worlds can only enhance that experience. I am a relatively newbie to game-based education, does this historical simulation world exist? I could only imagine if this existed when I was a kid…

Fab 5 Tech v.1

June 16, 2011 2 comments

This is a new series of blog posts dedicated to five technologies that have caught my interest recently. The list will contain a combination of emerging technologies that will impact the classroom, new upgrades for IT infrastructures, innovative software, or just cool tech gadgets worth taking a look at. I call these series of posts the fabulous five technologies.

Windows 8 – The revamped Windows Operating System has been developed with touchscreen capabilities in mind. The operating system is suppose to work on both mobile devices and traditional laptops/desktops. For enterprise infrastructures used to the traditional OS interface, this might not get the wide adoption as Windows 7.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – With the failures of Motorola Xoom tablet, I am hoping the Asus Transformer product gives the Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS new life. The 10.1″ dual-core processor tablet hopes to capture the tablet market space by offering a stylish keyboard docking station combo.

Eye-Fi – The Eye-Fi has enhanced the SD card industry by adding wireless capabilities. The Eye-Fi SD card is used like traditional SD cards in cameras, but the key difference is the camera will connect with your computer via wireless to download the pictures.

Canvas LMS – The Canvas platform is an open source learning management system that teachers can use to develop a customized learning experience for students. The Google Docs and Facebook integration were the most intriguing features of this platform. Instead of developing their own social media platform, integration with already popular applications will be a key selling point.

Sony Handycam HDR-TD10 – Just when you thought camcorders were going to lose its value with so many mobile devices providing recording features, Sony has reinvented the camcorder by creating a 3D camcorder. This camcorder has two lenses, two sensors, and allows for 3D viewing without glasses. The result is is 1920-by-1080 resolution video in each channel for 1080p 3D video playback.

Tech Department Core Services

There was a time when technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and protecting the data in the network. While the work of support, installation and maintenance are still a vital component of tech department services, it can no longer live alone in our 21st century learning environment.

“Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.”

I believe there are three core services the technology department has to provide in order for successful technology integration in K12 schools/districts. And all three are equally important and can no longer be left without the other two. The three core services are Support Services, Professional Development, and Strategic Planning, Research, & Documentation.

Support Services

The objective of support services is to maintain and install infrastructure equipment in the classrooms. Tech support is a thankless job often, and it requires a certain fortitude to be successful with mounting odds. I have seen some outrageous numbers of computer to technician ratios. Nevertheless, support services is a critical component to building trust in technology. No matter how talented a teacher is with technology integration, without working equipment, it could prove difficult. Timely and efficient support services goes a long way with school buy-in of technology. It is important as well to develop a tech support culture of empowerment and not control.

“Successful technology departments are not troubleshooting day-to-day tech support tickets, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.”

Professional Development

Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered. You can invest in tons of equipment, but without proper training and structured professional development, much of the equipment can sit there acquiring dust. Professional development is the key driver in any technology integration as it creates the culture needed for technology adoption. As a side note, the more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support tickets are submitted.

“Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.”

Strategic Planning, Research and Documentation

With the rapid changes that occur in technology, the tech department has to be actively planning and researching what is available for K12 schools. There needs to be a continued focus in emerging technologies and a culture of life-long learning. In just the past few years, developments in technology have “changed” the game in how technology can be infused in the classroom. Without strategic planning with academic departments, the tech department can be left with programs to support that don’t align with technology vision. It is more and more critical that the tech department collaborate with other departments and develop plans that are aligned across all stakeholders.

Notable Schools and Programs

Below is a compilation of schools who are leveraging technologies and resources to develop a variety of innovative opportunities for students in K12. I will be continuing to add to this growing list throughout my research of educational models. Many of the schools below actually overlap with many of the categories, but I decided to put them in the category for which they are referenced most in my research.

Online Learning

Hybrid/Blended Model

Linked Learning/CTE

1:1 Learning

Project-Based Learning

Competency-Based Learning/Peformance-Based Learning

Game-Based Learning

Edu Tech “Bubble”: Who will be around in 5-10 years?

Yesterday, there was an article published on Campus Technology’s website called Is Higher Education Ready for “The Education Bubble,” and it had me thinking about implications on education in general, in particular K12 education. Although many may think nonsense, considering that there is no money in K12 (more deficit), there are some new money being tossed around to fund new 21st century learning initiatives. With the rapid growth of software development and emerging technologies, there has been a dramatic shift in where education is focusing their dollars. Many new venture capitalists are pouring millions of dollars investing in new online software and technology hardware. “Edupreneuers” and philanthropists are funding programs and reform initiatives to tackle 21st century models of education. And government is creating federal programs (dollars) to support innovation in schools and districts. While this is exciting news for educators ready to build the next generation schools and infrastructures, we also have to be prudent to watch how this industry is progressing. Asking the right questions and being vigilant in which direction or agenda people may have will be important to avoid a potential education “bubble.”

Like many Americans, I have had the unfortunate experience of going through the dot.com stock market bubble and the more recent housing market bubble. To this day, many like myself are continuing to recover from those terrible financial periods. The marketing hype machine that was behind both bubbles fooled many of us into buying into the products (stocks and houses). Now to compare those two tragic bubbles to a potential education “bubble” is a bit of a stretch, but learning from those lessons will be key to not fall into the trap of all this new technology hype.

For example, there are a ton of new money being invested in software/hardware companies to produce the next generation curriculum, assessment tools, and other interactive learning gadgets. In the past year along, I have seen hundreds of products being marketed to the K12 industry touting solutions that will raise test scores, change the way students learn, and solve issues in education. While this is exciting for technologists like myself to see a wide variety of products catering to our needs, I also at the same time begin to ask the question, who will be around in the next 5-10 years? As we begin entering the world of digital curriculum, web 2.0, online content, and interactive technologies, there has to be a point where majority of these companies will not survive. It is such a new industry and at some point, the thousands of companies touting their products will hit a tipping point and many will be defunct, leaving schools with squandered investments. Be vigilant…

When do you have the time?

It is not uncommon for people to ask how do you make time to tweet, blog, or whatever I do to reflect about education and technology. Yes, we are busy running whatever daily operation tasked of us, whether it be teaching, project management, tech support, or professional development. But if we don’t carve out time reflecting, thinking, and collaborating about our profession, we become stagnated soldiers performing routines. There is no magic sauce to my methodology, so it would be difficult for someone to understand. However, if I were to point to one single factor why I have the time, it is because I truly believe my work is my lifestyle. There is nothing that separates the way I operate as a life-long learner at work than at home. I know it sounds cliché, but when someones enjoys their career, it really doesn’t feel like work. Spending extra time at night researching, strategizing, reading, and reflecting on my craft is like playing basketball, or playing video games. It is just what I enjoy doing and I am willing to go the extra mile to make time because of it.

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