Improving Learning

We can’t use tech because it is “cool and new.” It must improve learning. If it doesn’t improve learning, why are we spending the money?

I met Eric Sheninger when he did the TEDxBurnsville event at the Minnesota History Center (it’s complicated) in 2014. He is an idol, I was thrilled to meet him. Watch his TEDx talk…

Saw this interview with him. It’s worth a listen.

History Podcasts

I have become a podcast addict. It’s getting ridiculous — I won’t even mention how much storage on my phone is podcasts. But I learn a ton! So there.

For reference later – here is a blog post recommending podcasts for history teachers. I’ll check out a couple of these.

Bias

The last few weeks since the election have been difficult for me. I can’t even begin to process how people can possibly think that this political climate will be ok. There is much more I could write but I can’t even start — I won’t stop.

So, I ‘m going to post resources I find that could help me and perhaps others process, protest and persevere for the next four years. (It better not be more than that.)

Starting with a great series of videos from the New York Times that helps us understand and work beyond our own bias. Don’t feel guilty about it — work to understand it and not be a slave to it. (I do hope the NYT is making sure the ads before the videos are kid safe…)

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004818663

Creativity and Tech

Here’s an article in Forbes about how Google and Chromebooks have overtaken Apple/iPads in the classroom.

I’ve seen this shift. When I started building content for schools, it was nearly 100% iPads with very few laptops. Chromebooks didn’t exist. Five years later, we see over 50% Chromebooks in classrooms. Although we started building for iPads, thankfully, we built something that is accessible to iPads and browsers (including Chromebooks). (We have never had a request for an Android app.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I see the reasons schools move: Chromebooks have keyboards. Chromebooks are cheaper. And – I think most importantly – Chromebooks are much easier to manage from an IT perspective.

Chromebooks have come a long ways, but I still see the iPad as a more creative tool. Critics say it’s only a device of consumption, and the Chromebook is a device of creation. I disagree. The iPad is much stronger in video, audio, music and photography production.  You can’t beat iMovie or the plethora of photo editing apps. Garageband is beyond compare for music production. Chromebooks can do these things, but not nearly as easily or as intuitively.

So, who drives the move to Chromebooks? Is it IT? Admin? Finance? Or is it the education teams that are choosing them for pedagogical reasons? Somehow, I don’t think so. Is technology becoming just really expensive paper? Are computers just a fancy Xerox machine, allowing worksheets to be delivered digitally instead of on paper — without expanding education beyond fill-in-the-blanks teaching, avoiding creativity? This is a broad overgeneralization of course, but….

More Audiobook Discussion!

Today, I saw a counter argument to the recently referenced blog post from Digital Book World that slammed audiobooks.

I am very happy to report that today’s post is much more affirming of audiobooks, and for real reasons — not just the previous author’s “feeling” that audiobooks were cheating.

First, let’s make a point. I want no more argument with this one:

I call it “reading.” Consuming a book, whether you do that in hardcover, braille, tablet or audio, constitutes reading in my book. To suggest otherwise is discourteous to those who don’t have the choice.

This next quote is what makes me happy about audiobooks:

But what’s particularly exciting when you’re reading a book with your ears, rather than your eyes, is the whole world of possibility that instantly emerges.

Possibility! For example, the additional nuance that a good narrator can bring. (And the horror a narrator who doesn’t fit your expectations can bring….) I appreciate that the author points out that oral storytelling is where we all began. And that in our changing lifestyles (commutes, more technology, etc.) it is not only easier to access audiobooks, but easier to consume them. Let’s see — should we read a paperback book while driving? I think not. But we can listen!

Hopefully this is the end of the great audiobook wars for awhile. I’m heading out to drive to work, and will be listening to an audiobook on the way.

 

Really, Audiobooks do not make you a bad person

I recently ranted about post from an editor at Digital Book World thoroughly dumping on audiobooks.  Seriously? From someone who works in the  digital  publishing industry? Unless, of course, it was a plant to put down another format of book that competes with the ebook industry that publishes in text only – -the one that refuses to come up with a standard way of delivering books that have something besides boring black text, and isn’t doing very well when compared to the booming audiobook business….. (OK – that maybe needs to be a rant for another day.)

I just saw a reference to another post about the value of audiobooks (thanks to Blogging through the Fourth Dimension. She even calls audiobooks “gifts to all learners!”)  It’s even from a scientific perspective! “As far as your brain is concerned, listening to audiobooks isn’t cheating” by Melissa Dahl outlines exactly why reading books doesn’t prove you are  better person, as our society would make us all believe,

If, he argues, you take the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology — that is, the mental processes involved — there is no real difference between listening to a book and reading it.

The “he” referenced above is Daniel Willingham, a Psychology professor who studies and writes about education. His post is awesome – he wrote it because he’s tired of being asked if audiobooks are cheating. He says, “The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”Agreed.

He also says that once a person has learned to decode words, reading print is no more work than listening, i.e., it doesn’t make you a better, smarter person.  . The comments at the end of his blog illustrate this view that somehow reading in print makes you a better person than listening to books. It seems there is really very little scientific study about which way of gathering knowledge is “better.”

For a less academic view about audiobooks, see this Reddit thread. (found through Dahl’s article.) I love the snark and, again, the pointed elitism we have about print being a “better” medium than audio.

Mind you, I am not arguing that audio is better than print. It’s like many debates: let’s stop the debating and let people consume knowledge/enjoy a story in whatever manner they prefer. Stop judging and making people feel like cheaters if they, in fact, prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.

History is too a worthwhile major!

Love this op-ed from James Grossman at the LA Times about why history is a worthy major, “History isn’t a useless major.” This post was written in May, but even in just a few months, his emphasis on the critical thinking skills one learns in history are even more crucial. Analyzing the current presidential election through a historical lens makes it even more terrifying than it is on its own…..

I was a history major. I love history. I admit it did actually lead me to my first job out of college – an interpreter (or guide) at a historic site. I spent the summer teaching the story of a fort in 1827 to visitors. I wore period dresses, I went barefoot, I cooked in a fireplace. It was fantastic. I still work for the same organization, but I rely much less on my historical skills, but on my much-more-recently acquired computer skills.

I never took a single computer class in college. I didn’t learn to code until I was 35. But – that doesn’t mean I can’t do this. Any coding I would’ve learned in college would’ve been so outdated by the time I was 35. My current job relies very little on what I actually learned in college, but relies much more on how I was able to learn since then.

I don’t put much stock in the “marketable” college majors. Of course, I don’t have anything to back this up — just that 30 years out, it really didn’t matter what my major was. It mattered how I was able to learn, adapt and keep up-to-date.  We tell our kids that they should major in something they find interesting, something where they are learning more and expanding their horizons and minds. Something where they can gain some expertise and confidence. We think that’ll carry them much further than having a specific degree.