Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Differentiating Learning Opportunities

I've been reading "Brain Rules". It's the science of the brain.

Here's the things:

  • What you already know: People learn in different ways. In fact, we've even taken this knowledge and grown a little label and prescription for it - Differentiated Learning Opportunities. We try to label - or at least appeal to labels of - students as "Textual", "Visual", "Kinestetic", "Auditory", etc. 
  • What you might NOT know: People form memories (learning is basically the act of forming a memory) by merging new ones into old ones. So the facts of a memory might stay correct as long as it is consistently recalled. But the more it is left alone, the further back it gets stored with older, more basic, or more visceral memories. It merges and, basically, details get less reliable.
---By "forming memories" I mean the act of recalling information or a way of doing something. There is A LOT of information in this book about how there are separate locations for stored information (like vowel letters and the space in words where the vowel goes - one patient lost the ability to write vowels but would write this sentence like this: _n_ p_t__nt l_st th_ _b_l_ty t_ wr_t_ v_w_ls b_t w__ld wr_t_ th_s s_nt_nc_ l_ke th_s). So vowels and the space for vowels are stored in different locations---

SOI took the gist of these concepts and made this connection: 
  • People learn differently because of their firstmost visceral, and most frequent way of  encoding knowledge. And everything is knowledge, even entertainment.
  • ENTERTAINMENT is what people reach out for, it's the type of learning everyone craves - even if it's dry knowledge - those interested are entertained, or the brain would not pay attention to it. So how is the targeted audience being entertained? 
  • The older generations have been entertained, and therefore most interested in, encoding knowledge through books and radio and then TV. But radio and TV was not all that well produced because it was in its infancy of hitting markets - so it couldn't compete with books. So more people were textual learners. And they were probably stuck in more rigid silos of learning styles - you could actually label them with great accuracy.
Now, my theory of the evolution of communication and learning style has brain based research to back it up? The newer generation is tuned in to RICH communication sources and more than one at a time. This is CREATING their learning style. They are encoding different types of learning experiences with completely separate learning styles. The cultural climate and the value systems have changed as well. What they are mostly interested in is precisely the content that is media rich. Again, evolving/shaping/creating their learning styles.

It's becoming increasingly more important to differentiate instruction  not just so you can reach each type of learner - but so each learner can reach different types of information.

And it's becoming more clear that your students might not have the actual ability to learn the way you did. 

Sorry. It's brain research.

John J. Medina, in his book I'm reading - Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, says not to make prescriptions based on the research. So I won't, but these are some observations you might find interesting, and some worth exploring. That's what his book is too, interesting observations and most notably a call for more research.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Using Blogger in Education - Another Stream of Consciousness Email

Just to let everyone know...

We are talking about blogging and Blogger at my Fear Factor trainings.

We will set up a blog together. Talk about what you would like to use it for (maybe as a family journal - maybe as a way to vent)

(maybe as a way to keep a professional journal so others can see what your critical eye is all about)

(maybe so you can model for your students what a critical eye is and encourage them to start building an online brand for themselves)

We’re also going to talk about your audience and how or why you will bring them in – or even if you really care to. "Audience" is something that can shape how you write. It can create an awareness for your students, too, that gives them the "Ah-ha moment" for HOW to write (my academic papers went from stretching to get five paragraphs to editing down to 5 pages in a single paper after a "writing for an audience ah-ha moment" happened - which shaped the rest of my career).

You know, if an employer Googles an applicant's name, and the applicant has used their name for a public blog... guess what's going to be a top hit? What would an employer love to read from an applicant? Their thought process maybe... their attitude about their work environment maybe... ?

Maybe you'd like to use it as an asynchronous communication tool. Write about the next day's goals in class, and make it a part of the daily routine for students to read the blog the next day, first thing(even when they come in at 15 minute intervals). Now you don't have to wait until an hour in, and you don't have to repeat. Plus you provide the experience.

Or just maybe you want the student to get some real world writing experience

- that's right, I said real world writing experience -

Want me to explain more? Well get started NOW. By the end of 2010 this ol' bloggin' deal might take off...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Even Faster

In the blog from yesterday (see below or click to jump to), I embedded the brilliant video: The Bank of Facebook. Today, I saw this story and realized, that video is now out of date. The expert says it'll be a year before Facebook tops Google. This report shows that Facebook has now actually held more traffic than Google for a week. Talk about exponential times.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bank of Facebook? The Name Game and The Next New Planet- Facebook

Our world has changed. I said in the next 5 years email will be dead and Social Media will have completely changed the landscape of everything we do. Even GMail is becoming something different as Google adds functions within it. This video seems to show an even faster shift. And I'm terrified.

The connection to education? I'm terrified about the gap between our online maturity and the availability of tools. Much like the real problem with doing things like bio-engineering. If no one is teaching what the capabilities are, then no one is pondering the ramifications. Immaturity with big tools lead to things like "growing" bio-engineered meat in a tank in order to feed world hunger (it's no longer sci-fi, this is happening).

So the dangers here? Most of us believe in the idea of "State's Rights" and the importance of local government and local business. Here we are seeing the workings of a global economy and a very powerful monopoly. If we don't understand how to work within the confines of this system, how will we function? How far behind will our next generation be? And as they are able to get what they want out of a system of social tools, will they have the maturity to understand when they are being taken advantage of? If facebook starts lending [*edit*] Facebook becomes the place for lending- and we already see how my generation can't handle the concept of interest rates and "nickel-and-diming"- how will the next generation handle instant buying, instant lending, and $5-a-day spending (like Starbucks everyday)? So how does that affect you?

It's Q & A time people.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One More on Social Media

Type in to Google: #NALSPD . Then click on "options" then click on "latest". You will see everyone on Twitter talking about this conference on Social Media. Or click here:

One of the biggest points made: "Social Media is not a fad. It is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate." So don't just take it from me, but our language is evolving. When we cut Social Media out of our schools, we cripple our students from being able to communicate with the rest of the world. And how does that change their experience in society when they leave our schools? How does that affect how they handle college and the workforce? 

Prediction: In five years email will be dead. It already is for your students - just ask how many times they check email. Then ask how much they communicate on Social Media. Ask how much they talk on the phone to friends as opposed to how much they FaceBook each other.

How long will it take teachers and administrators to see that Textbooks are dead? That even PowerPoint slides are dead?

Currently we are facing two dilemmas in schools. Budget cuts, and Technology cuts by those who don't understand the media, the proper use, and the ramifications. And both could be solved by proper training in technology. (Have you looked at what's available to you with a FREE Google Account?

Just today I was told by someone that his son was stuck on a homework problem and he was able to Facebook his teacher and get feedback. Right then. Imagine if it was a more comprehensive question. And instead of this student getting some straightforward answer, he was directed correctly to a subject matter expert who was also on Facebook. Imagine how much richer that learning experience suddenly is. And it also sets a precedent that learning is happening all around.

Now, what happens when we just block this type of communication? Students are still left on their own, their Social Media is for socializing, no one is monitoring, and they don't make the very real connection between their online "socializing" and the real world. For examples just start using Twitter search terms like "need a job" or "got to get this homework done". You will find kids with racy pictures and unprofessional junk littered all over their online profile. And guess who is out there googling these student's names? College Entry Boards, Scholarship Advisory Boards, Employers, etc.

Our students are NOT mature enough to handle the ramifications of their online activity. And no one is teaching them to use it to their advantage in the real world. We are choosing to ignore it because we think Twitter is for telling the world what type of sandwich we are eating. And that Facebook is for stalking. They are both COMPLETELY false - though they've fallen in to that because no one is teaching or willing to learn.

Here's another point: We trust our teachers to take students into a small learning environment, we trust them to coach them, ride the bus, punish, and pull them out into the hall for one-on-one discussion. We trust them to pull a student over to their desk and whisper to them about their work while others take a test. We trust them to have students as officers of organizations for extra-curricular activities. We trust our teachers behind closed classroom doors. But we don't want them to have a public conversation?

And how many realize that I can message anyone on Facebook? Does anyone realize that a student can use the @ tag in front of my name and call me out on Twitter? I've had full conversations with people who were not followers or who I wasn't following. So what are we protecting students or even school districts from exactly?

As someone famous once infamously said, "No other generation has ever been better prepared for the Industrial Revolution."