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Monday, February 14, 2011

My Response to the Comments Left on the Watson vs. Jeopardy Event

Uncle Sam Wants You

Last Friday I posted notice of the Watson vs. Jeopardy Stars Event. Forty students left comments prior to my writing this post. Over and over they wrote something like this: “I don’t want my students to depend on technology to gather information.” The suggested substitutes or additional methods for gathering information were libraries, classrooms, books, encyclopedias, hard work, pencils, paper, teachers. One student made it crystal clear: “A teacher’s job is to provide information.”

I have two response.

First, and most importantly, the assumption that underlies these responses is that learning = information. That is absolutely not true, even though our educational system has forced you to believe that it is true with its emphasis on burp-back education and machine readable tests. It makes me ill to think what our educational system has done to you. DO NOT LET IT CONTINUE IN YOUR CLASSROOMS!

Second, a sense of fear pervades at least half of the responses. What are the sources of those fears? First there is a fear that all information should not be available to everyone. One student compared the information available as a result of the new technologies as in need of restrictions similar to the restrictions we attempt to place on nuclear weapons. (He did admit that his position was a bit extreme.) Others suggested that "inappropriate" information might be available, or connections made with unsavory individuals. Still others suggested we could undermine the ability to write and spell, we could lose our jobs to machines, the emotion and excitement of human responses would disappear, students would become lazy, hard work would not be valued, thinking would be undermined, we could encounter severe difficulties in case of electronic or political actions that shut down technologies, we might become “robot chow,” intelligence would decrease over time, people would be less willing to learn facts, machines would take over thinking, “humans would become obsolete.”

Wow! What a list of fears. A few respondents, but only a few, expressed the fear that without the technologies their students or their children would be faced with severe economic difficulties and extreme competition from those who did have and use the tools to their maximum advantage. But several more admitted that they would not like it at all if they were separated from their cellphone tools!

Look again at the video assigned for last Sunday (2/13) - Kevin Robert’s Teaching In the 21st Century. Even though this video was renamed by one student Mr. Very Long Video , it is worth your attention for the full 9 and 3/4 minutes (my, how short your attention spans have gotten!) it takes to watch it. And then it deserves some additional time while you think about what it has to say about teaching since you intend to be “teachers.”

Here’s a quick summary for those of you without 9:49 to spare:

•If teachers are mere dispensers of information, our jobs are obsolete!
•We must teach our students how to validate, synthesize, leverage, communicate, collaborate with, problem solve with information.

A Strange interruption: How well can you do these things? Has anyone ever taught you how to do these things? Are you learning these things now in the College of Education?

We return to our program in progress:

•We must teach skills not facts.
•In addition to teaching students to remember, we must also teach them how to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create. Yes create!
•And we must teach them about responsibility, reliability, integrity, collaboration.
•We must rethink our classrooms. What tools should we and our students use? What problems should we ask our students to solve?
•Ask your students to explain, evaluate and justify their positions about contemporary, interesting issues that affect them.
•Your classrooms will have to be relevant, challenging, engaging. Not entertaining - engaging!

Another Strange interruption: You cannot, you must not teach the way you were taught! You must be a different kind of teacher in a different kind of world. If I thought you would, I would urge you to go back through Teaching In the 21st Century again. Slowly. Taking more than 9 3/4 minutes. It is worth you most careful consideration! We must also learn from our students. Thanks to Teri Hampton (Fall 2010) for bringing this most important video to my attention!

We return to our program in progress:

•These changes must start with YOU!

What Does It Mean to Teach in the 21st Century?

38 comments:

  1. I don't think the meaning of teaching should be based on technology. Whether a teacher is able to use technology in the classroom or not does not define how well they teach. I will admit that using technology will help your students, but the question is still "what does it mean to TEACH in the 21st century?"

    I have reviewed this video and my opinion again after this post, and I am sticking with my original response:

    What does to teach mean in the 21st century? It means we do not need to just be teaching facts and content. We need to teach skills. What kind of skills? We need to teach many skills such as how to synthesize information, how to communicate that information, and how to problem solve the information at hand.

    How do we teach these skills? The video suggests rethinking the tools we use and the types of questions we ask our students. I completely agree. Simply asking questions that require an a,b,c, or d response is not enough. Why don’t we try asking questions, not so much for the right answers but for why that is the right answer?

    Mr. Roberts was right that students do not need to be entertained; rather they need to be engaged. Students are only engaged in the material when they are being challenged. I will always stand by what I believe and I believe that without a challenge, nothing is learned.

    Therefore, let’s go out there and promote thinking! We have to face it, simply producing the correct answer is not enough to be considered educating.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dr. Strange,
    I think your response post was appropriate and well put.

    I like your short summary:

    A Strange interruption: How well can you do these things? Has anyone ever taught you how to do these things? Are you learning these things now in the College of Education?

    I have been thinking about these questions since my last response because they are powerful questions. These are the questions we should be asking our students, and ourselves.

    So thank you again.

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  3. Wendy Drexler's video (http://techliterateteacher.blogspot.com/2009/06/networked-student.html) clearly spells out what a 21st Century teacher is. Technology is a huge part of future education. Her video opened my eyes as to what my job as a teacher is to be. I want to be a 21st Century teacher, not a teacher of yore.

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  4. Dr. Strange, i don't know who made some of those negative comments, but it sounds to me like there are some very uncomfortable people out there. I don't know if it is fear, of losing their job, to a robot or what. Look, technology is coming, whether we like it or not. Instead of putting up this wall of what-ifs, why don't we embrace it, as we have with all the other wonderful inventions by man.

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  5. Dr. Strange,
    What a list of fears indeed! I was quite shocked to see so many fears that fellow students had listed. I agree with Michael that the video by Wendy Drexler really helped broaden my sense of what the "21st century teacher" should be.
    Because of your post, I did as asked and rethought my position. I actually tended to stay pretty much the same. I agree that skills must be taught and NOT "burp-back" facts. However, I think that the focus needs to be on this concern BEFORE we decide to fully integrate technology. I think it is inevitably going to merge with every aspect of society, but I do not think that paper, pencils, and some more "old school" techniques need to be completely abandoned.
    This topic just so happens to align with the post that i read for my comments for teachers this week by Mr. Chamberlain, entitledCan We Adopt a Master/Apprentice Approach to Learning?. It talks about how we need to focus more on giving our students skills to face the modern world, instead of just teaching them information that they will regurgitate once. To him, the master/apprentice approach seems fitting, and throughout my conversation with him, he helped me see how EDM310 reflects this model. So, if EDM310 embraces this idea, then I think that every class needs to somehow embrace the idea of focusing on skills!
    Technology, like anything has risks. Embrace it and deal with it. Technology is not going to regress, so we might as well progress along with the wonderful tools that are given to us in this modern world. So, drop what you are doing right now, really think about what it means to truly not use technology - that means no mobile phones everyone- and then post your opinion. I would like to bet that you are not so inclined to take a negative view on using technology to help produce better learners.

    Am i wrong?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dr. Strange, I agree with you. I have two children of my own, ages 7 and 3, and they are very technologically savvy at even these young ages. As technology advances and the schools do not, where will children stand in obtaining a job against someone who has had the technologically advanced schooling?
    Also, how do teachers expect to keep their student's attention without jumping on board and using technology? These student live in a world where they use technology all day and everyday, from ipod touches, cell phones to computers. To engage a student is to keep their attention and make them use their brain versus sitting there and reciting the teacher word for word. My kids will be bored in a burp back class, when they can come home and use technology and advance in their own way. Why would you not want the best for students in this ever changing world?
    In a world where other countries are exceeding our "Great Nation" in everything and by far in technology. I personally want my two children to come out on top and obtain that job that requires a person to be technologically literate.
    I also want to be the teacher that grows my students. I want to know that I have given them every technological option out there and that I am personally up to date and prepared to teach this information.
    I have enjoyed this class because I am learning something that I will apply to my life in the future not "burp back knowledge".

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dr. Strange,
    I didn't want to stretch your page with my response. Here is my response posted to my blog. I hope I didn't get too off topic.

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  8. 21st century means a move to authentic assessment and learning. For far too long teachers have been required to teach to meet standards and tests with content that can be easily memorized but shortly forgotten.

    My goal in the 21st century classroom is to arm students with skills.... skills that allow them to seek content,review its authenticity and use this to create their own material. Its through this way of thinking that true learning will occur.

    if we can google it? Should be teach it? This begs the question about the more important thing we can do being to arm students with SKILLS as opposed to facts.

    The use of technology in teaching today is as much about improving learning outcomes as it is about staying relevant. With all advantages of learning improvements aside, what is wrong with teaching students about life in the 21st century and the types of tools they will be required to be able to operate.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dr. Strange this is what I posted on my blog.

    Teaching in the 21st Century:
    This video brought up valid points and questions about teaching in the 21st Century. It no longer is about teaching facts and formulas. It is about how you find these fasts and formulas. Its about teaching the students about sources and how to determine if they are legitimate and right. Education has already begun moving away from traditional books and resources and moving toward technology and searches online. I believe to teach in the 21st Century means to teach the basic skills but in a more interactive and technological way. To create a research paper using accredited sources, while teaching about plagiarism with its legal issue as well as moral issues through the internet. Teach how to learn from the technology available. How to broaden their thinking. How to find important information that is at their fingertips. How to use social media for their benefit in a heath and appropriate way. How to collaborate with others and gain knowledge from people all over the world that otherwise they would never have come in contact with. Teaching students how to use the resource available to them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dr. Strange,
    Thank you for posting this!! I have to admit, before this class I was not sure where I stood with the whole "technology taking over" deal. I wanted to be the teacher the old fashioned way, to help the students learn by books and on a whiteboard. Your different videos and blogs that you have made available for us to view has helped me think differently. Now more than ever, I believe we need to take the technology and the tools we are given and do everything in our power to use all that we can to our benefit. Technology is only going to get more advanced and I want my students, as well as myself to stay up to date.
    Technology has its risks for sure, but so does not grasping the tools available to us. "burp-back facts" do nothing for the student or teacher. You as a teacher are wasting your time with having your kids learn that, and the students are wasting their time as well because they will forget it as soon as they can. Thanks for posting this, also thanks for making all this available to us and letting me see this side of things!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Some people do not realize what we already have and can use for education. We have cell phones that can help us for school, but then again some people just want to fear something that they have not exactly grasped. I am learning new ways to use technology in schools. Even as a coach the technology is always growing so we can perform better. Lets prepare our students for the generations to come.

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  12. I love that the last thing you leave us with is that these changes must start with us! I firmly believe that the future of education is soon to be in the hands of future educators!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fear of knowledge makes little sense to me! It is the fear of ignorance that threatens the future of our Nation. How much of a head start do kids have with the ability to access information in a fraction of the time that I did in school? It's a big head start. The quick and easy access to information will only make future generations better. If you want to see what fear of knowledge does, read your history books, it usually only makes the fearful look foolish in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for the shout-out, Dr. Strange. I think the video only seemed long because I had already been watching some other videos. Anyway, I agree with your post. I've been looking forward to watching Watson on Jeopardy (but since I don't have a TV, I don't know how I'm going to) and I'm not intimidated by the technology. I'm curious. It's interesting to see just what will happen. I just keep in mind that behind that computer there are some great minds, and those those great minds are working toward making life easier for society. I don't know how Watson's capabilities may be used, and I'm sure there are numerous ways, but just the fact that a computer is now advanced enough to compete with the ultimate computer--our brains--is astounding.

    The computer engineers responsible for Watson must make their mommas very proud. Thanks again for the post though. I enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dr. Strange:
    I made the "robot chow" remark. I was kidding. I do think that survival without technology are skills we need to know, but not with sacrificing using technology to help us. I guess I should explain better. My husband and best friend love to poke fun at me saying I'm going to be the lady on the cellphone commercials updating my Facebook status while giving birth! I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! I have since we got our first computer when I was 12. However, I was blessed enough to grow up on a farm as well. I'm all for using technology to make our lives easier, or worlds larger and in many ways better. However, I'm also old enough to remember Y2K, and have experienced many technological failures in my 15 years of computer ownership. I was only trying to say that no matter how much technology we incorporate, their will always need to be someone who knows how to function without a computer or even machine's help. I was nearly written up when I was teaching because I had brought in my personal computer to use in my classroom because we didn't have one. I am glad you wrote this post, because I don't want to teach like many of my teachers did and definitely not like any of the teachers I observed for 211! :)

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  16. Dr. Strange - they're forming opinions about education without having given a single lecture. This is a product of that. Stand them up in front of a class and give them the task of preparing a group of students for a WWII exam within 2 weeks time, and tell them if their students fail, THEY will fail.

    I promise they'll reach for every bit of technology they can get! Drastic circumstance + a good deal of motivation can have an amazing affect on opinion. At this time, however, they haven't had the opportunity to see the wolf from the sheep.

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  17. Dr. Strange - I was just reading your blog for kicks. Bring back memories! Haha! I just wanted to say that the list of fears about students and technology - I HAVE HAD them all. However, as I embrace technology in my classroom, I realize the students are learning and are EXCITED to learn. Also, I believe the College of Education is doing a really good of making their students LEARN to teach by
    engaging as opposed to forcing burp back education. Two professors that come to mind are you and Ms. Baggett. Kudos to you both. Just thought I would post for old times sake.

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  18. I believe teaching in the 21st Century means getting up to date with the technology and teaching our students the benefits of it. The students today need to prepare for the future to come. And knowing that this is hard to do, because nobody can accurately predict what the future holds for us.But on the other hand teaching technology of today can better help us in the future.

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  19. I believe teaching in the 21st Century means teaching with relevance. When I was young and questioned why I must do something to an adult, hardly anything made me more upset than an adult telling me, "Because I told you so, that's why!" I thank God my parents made time to explain things to me. As a teacher, I have promised myself, I will give relevant lessons with relevant reasons why it will be beneficial for the children to learn the skills they need for success in the future. No one, child or adult, wants to feel like their time is being wasted. When this happens, we become disengaged and uninterested.

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  21. I watched the "exceptionally long video", and felt that it addressed two of the most important factors in the education system today: 1. the inability to evolve with technology and utilize it in the classroom, and 2. the rampant refusal for radical classroom change, whether it come from administration, or the teachers themselves. Times they are a'changin', and we must change with them. Most of these kids are born with a device in their hands, and the general function is for entertainment only. Parents and teachers need to understand that these kids can just as easily be engaged using technology for information. Will they access "unacceptable information"? Yes, occasionally. Is that not an opportunity for yet another teaching moment? These people are going out into the world, let loose at the ripe young age of 18 to make decisions for what will be "us old folks"...I want them to be able to make a better world for all of us. Teaching them from a people perspective, not a teacher to student perspective will engage them and make them think "outside the classroom".

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