Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Final Verdict - Ends and Beginnings

Has the internet changed what it means to to be educated..?

     Yes, in a word in which we are able to access any amount of information, from almost any source, one realistically, any topic, the world of education has become fundamentally different. What is the importance of school based learning when we no longer need to master, nor can we master everything there is to know. This has not been the case since the 17th century, but more to the point, we can no longer rely on schools to prepare us for the complexities of life. It is true that we must rely on it to some extent for guidance and social experience, but there is no conceivable way for the institution to prepare us adaquitly based on the pool of information available.
     In response to this, i would argue for an apprentishship based system. An institution that models individuals who are suited for certain roles (doctors, lawyers, engineers) into valuable and critical thinking students. Apprentiship in this context would be highly competitive and selective, thereby creating a generation of highly skilled individuals who are qualified in every respect for the task. The down side to this, of course, are those left behind. We would need a system in place to train those who do not move into apprentiship programs for their future careers: what ever they may be.
    Lastly, on the integration of modern conventions, i believe that our efforts as of late are working towards a better system. We can only move forward by accepting the conventions open to us: ie. social media and technology to further our education and personal learning goals.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts on Ghost in the Machine: Seymour Papert

For the full article:

Written in the 1990's, the author makes several predictions of the future of computing in the household and in the family. Firstly, that as technology permeates the home, the parents will need to adapt and keep up with it so they they can "know what they need to know" in an effort to help their children grow and learn. The second was that as computers infiltrate the schools a dramatic reform will take place leading to the end of the blocked scheduled and daily subject based classes. Of course, at the end he notes how that, by the 80's the education system had effectively diffused computers and kept their regimented structures, but his first prediction has come to pass. Adults, older adults, and parents have had to adapt and become exposed to learning how to use new technologies effectively; not so much because they felt it necessary for themselves, but rather, because it was necessary to aid their children education and safety.

On cell phones, my own family began with the box phone, the archaic version of communicating that predates our own smart phone technology. It was brought about out of the need to be connected over distances and in case of emergencies. The same impetus brought about the cellphones students in high school and ultimately elementary school now posses. The parents had to learn to use them eventually, so much so that my own parents are proficient at using phone based calenders, testing software, mail clients, etc.

Again, with computers, they were needed for school, and the parents had to learn to install software for students, and find solutions to problems that the students couldn't fix (prior to the WWW). This led to a generation of adults who had moderate exposure to technology, students who could expound on this, and ultimately (like english language learners) teach their parents new tricks and tools for efficient computing.

To close, while his predictions did not come to fruition completely, they do point the way to a feasible future.

The Future - 404 ERROR?

In an article by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, two differing arguments for the future of the human condition were presented.

For the full article: 

     "The argument was essentially a survey of what people perceived the long term affects of hyper-    connected lives will be on the populace by 2020. The outcome was 55:42 in favor of the positive .

 "brains of multitasking teens and young adults are "wired" differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields helpful results. They do not suffer notable cognitive shortcomings as they multitask and cycle quickly through personal- and work- related tasks."

The latter: 

"They do not retain information; they spend most of their energy sharing short social messages, being entertained, and being distracted away from deep engagement with people and knowledge. They lack deep-thinking capabilities; they lack face-to-face social skills; they depend in unhealthy ways on the internet and mobile devices to function."

So where do I Stand on this?

Granting that the article itself mentions the bias in that there was no middle ground choice and that i am bound by this convention. I will side with the positive. Am i concerned fro the negative outcomes, yes, but i believe that humanity has enough neural plasticity to combat the ever changing world. I believe that we will adapt, largely for the better, to this trend of media integration.

We do not fully comprehend the nature of sentience, but the fact remains that being able to access a sea of information and form a rational judgement on its validity, form an opinion, and choose a response we will continue to grow as a people.

"Young people accustomed to a diet of quick-fix information nuggets will be less likely to
undertake deep, critical analysis of issues and challenging information. Shallow choices,
an expectation of instant gratification, and a lack of patience are likely to be common
results, especially for those who do not have the motivation or training that will help
them master this new environment."

Clearly this is happening, but the fact is we are just now beginning to adapt to our new multimedia conventions. The world has become a candy store of information and treats, just like when the telegraph first connected the world. It will only be after the shock of the sugar rush, and it becoming an ingrained norm, that these tools will become applicable to their fullest appreciation. This only further supports the need for IT training and internet skills training in the classroom.  

Will there be problems... yes, will they last forever.... no. We will transition out of them. The couch potato was created by the TV, but even with #D smart TV's with web integration, the world has, in my opinion, moved past this stage because of the health revolution. It will be something similar, a trend (perhaps specific training, or a job field) that will do the same for the internet. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Brain and Google - Changing Times

The gist of this weeks article focused on two main points; 1. Our brains are malleable and the instant access nature of the Net is degrading both our attention spans and the way we're wired. 2. Google is trying to create the perfect search engine... an AI that can understand what you want --- and give you exactly what you need. "I'm sorry Dave. I can't do that Dave" Yes, i went there; and so did the authors, but i digress. To the first point, it appears that the way our brains wire themselves is changing. Where we used to be able to focus and weave elaborate mental pictures while reading books, we are moving towards a day when books will be out-modded by 1-2 paragraph articles that we simply power skim. I know for at least myself that I have lost the capacity to focus on a scientific journal long enough to read through a page without tangenting to some other task for a minute. Even reading the article for this, a paper of several pages, i had to take breaks and found myself losing focus even when i was actually trying to get it done. Literacy is a skill of civilization. Could it be that we are moving towards that future when the time machine stops and the great libraries of the world hold nothing but crumbling dust? The second point was the the scary prospect of our brains being replaced with a newer, faster, better processor. Google's future AI substitute for a search engine that will cater to our every question. What will become of invention, of synthesis, and experimentation when the answers to our questions can be implanted directly into our brains, as Rod Sirling once showed us in his series, The Twilight Zone. Or even more simply to use a Marvel reference, the Kree empire, a race of soldiers, all the same in purpose, to carry out the will of the supreme intelligence... Supremo, the biological computer. Will our own intellects be subjugated and altered by the Media Revolution? The Answer is yes. To what extent is left to be determined. End of Line...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marc Prensky - Article Review

The following is based on observations of a) 

And b)'t_Technology_Good_At-(Part%202)-EDTECH-Nov-Dec-1012.pdf

Article 1 - Skills

Both articles express interest in the continued development of today education, however were as the first focuses the transition of content, the latter looks towards the use of lenses and individualized learning to excite student motivation. Looking at the first article, it is clear that the author has hit on a key point in todays' schooling; the needs of today are different than the needs of yesterday. It is true that essay writing is largely not used in todays market place, neither is writing letters, or reports.

However, all the these are necessary skills.

True, we do not write letters. the author made it clear that we now write emails, but are they all that different. They still need an address, a format, and a signature. Essays? without those skills how will we produce the next generations authors. If the sum of a persons skill set allows them to write a two page short story; will there ever be a novel? As to reports, yes we use ppt and other media these days, but the sciences still need those basic skills to be successful. Business managers and researchers still need to be able to produce concise written material.

On to blog posts... As is evident here and elsewhere, formatting is choppy. Yes, they are nice to look at, but the informal nature of them can be taxing. They end up being more like personal journals or logs than acceptable material. Are they useful... yes. Do i see a blog replacing the lab report. No. blogs to me are by their very nature supplementary.

Article 2 - Passion

Motivation is the achilles heel of today's teaching styles and there really isn't anything i can fault in this article save his call for individualized material. While i applaud his vision i cannot realistically expect a subject to be recorded every which way. It would be nice, but i feel that material is already stylized to the point that anyone can find a learning niche to work with and be successful. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Khan Academy - Pro's and Con's (Part 2)

Well, I'm back after a trip down memory lane with organic chemistry and the Khan Academy. I decided to choose a field that i had some competency in and chose three videos as random (the first three i noticed in the side pane to be exact. Sn2 reactions, Sn1 reactions, and the Markonikov Rule. Below i've embedded the first of the three as an example.

Sn2 Reactions: Sn2 Reactions

My initial reaction was that he certainly sounds well informed and competent. I would otherwise guess that he was a chemistry teacher with more than a few classes under his belt. The second was the color coding, which aside from being highly interesting aids in identifying the reaction's constituents and in seeing stereo chemistry. Thirdly, i found his style to be somewhat slow, which i grant is due to the fact he doesn't know where his students are in relation to the material. In my own classes leaving groups and constituent names would be givens and only mentioned verbally once where as here they are constantly reiterated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and overall i found his teaching style highly informative and easy to follow.

Where do i see this going in terms of flipped classrooms? I could see lessons like this replacing the basic instruction. In this respect students can learn, as we have said repeatedly in class and in other forms, at their own paces, rewinding the teacher as needed. The classroom instructor then is freed to help students with focused instruction on areas that the video may be lacking, to correct misnomers/mistakes in the lecture, or thirdly, to simply guide the students on what material to access and watch.

The flipped classroom is a fascinating idea... now if only we could somehow incorporate tablets into the desks themselves...