Education or Business?

Why is the New York Times so opposed to education in technology? The article, “How Google Took Over the Classroom” is another criticism of education working with any commercial company to provide better learning for students.

The first Times article I saw critical of ed tech was critical of Apple’s business practices of getting technology into schools.

This article criticizes Google for its business practices of circumventing administrators by going right to teachers and using teachers to convince other teachers of Google products. Let’s look a little closer.

Google was the first tool that allowed collaborative editing and such easy sharing of materials. This was a game changer in schools from a pedagogical perspective. It had a profound impact on how teachers could deepen learning for students, pushing further up the SAMR model by allowing for learning experiences that were not possible before technology.

Perhaps teachers embraced and promoted Google and Google tools because these tools led to better learning? It was not, as the article implies, a bad thing that teachers were involved in deciding on the technology to be used. This is a good thing.

Google listened to teachers. Google worked with teachers to create tools that teachers wanted for themselves and for their students. I have a hard time seeing why this is not a good thing…..

As for students being steeped in Google by the time they graduate, why is that worse than being steeped in Microsoft or Apple products? If it wasn’t Google, it would be Pages and Numbers from Apple, or Word and Powerpoint. Schools are going to have some sort of office software, and students will be more comfortable with whatever they use.

Apple and Microsoft

Apple was first out of the gate, and appears to be losing ground recently. The iPads jumped into education right after it was introduced, even to Apple’s surprise. Microsoft just this year (many years after Google) introduced a series of products that are created specifically for the K12 education market. Seriously, this is almost 7 years later – an eon in technology time. Microsoft made some huge errors early on — I still have one of the first Surface tablets Microsoft gave away at a big teacher conference trying to convince teachers to use their stuff. Needless to say, that early version of the Surface was a bust – I haven’t turned that thing on in years.

Microsoft, Apple and Google have really different ways of interacting with teachers. Honestly, they all watch each other closely and will likely really keep building on each others mistakes and successes. Criticizing Google for how it works with teachers is just crazy.

Privacy

I do fully acknowledge the privacy concerns. However, I’m not sure why this article focuses so much on the transition of a student’s school Google account to a personal account. I’m not so sure students will actually want to take all of their high school email and papers over to a personal account. Is this a common practice? There is not evidence in the article beyond one school example.

Positive Impact of Tech

Sometime, I’d love to see a Times article that addresses the positive impact of edtech.

 

Chrome Accessibility Tools

Posting this for my reference…. saw an article, “21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs.”  I’ll be testing a few of these, including the Text-to-Speech extensions and the ones that pull the ads/sidebars off the page.

I would like to clarify that personally, I struggle with calling these tools for “struggling students and special needs.” Many people benefit from these types of tools. I understand why they say this, but it really limits who will use these. It’s a basic UDL concept that building for the “margins” benefits everyone, and this is a perfect example.

I, for one, occasionally use extensions that take off the the ads and sidebars of really cluttered sites. Sometimes I use a text-to-speech extension.

In addition, there is a webinar going through all of these options.

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.

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.

TIES Day 2, Many Days Later

Over a week later, here are the highlights of TIES#13, Day 2:

Session 1

Great session on “The STEM of Social Studies” by Elk River teacher Ron Hustvedt. Ron teaches 6th grade social studies in a STEM school, and I was overjoyed to watch him compare the work of historians to the scientific method! Ron said, “Inquiry is the scientific method” and showed how doing the work of a historian mimics the work of a scientist. It is an important perspective to share in this world that values tested subjects over the humanities.

My session

I presented a poster along with Craig Roble on our favorite topic, digital primary sources. Here’s our poster description:

A win-win situation: museum curators + creative educators = great digital content for your classroom. Learn how collaborating with local history organizations can benefit you and your students.

This is my second poster session, and I think I’ll stick with that format for awhile. It is tons of fun to talk with people, rather than talk at them. We had 15 people or so stop by, and had some really good conversations.

One teacher asked if MNHS will translate primary source documents into other languages. This is not something we can do, for a variety of reasons. (It’s expensive, way too many documents, and then the document is no longer actually a primary source!) We suggested she use visual primary sources with her students learning English. There are many powerful activities you could do with students using photographs or objects that don’t rely on strong English reading skills. For many native English speakers younger than high school, reading primary source written documents is a challenge. Use visuals! This seemed to be a new idea to many of the teachers who were talking with us. Hopefully they’ll try it! We definitely see teachers focusing on written primary sources.

Image

Pinterest Board with links to Digital Primary Source resources

We know teachers want new sources and places to find digital primary sources. Craig and I started a Pinterest board linking to various resources. It’s not a perfect solution, but we really liked the visual nature of Pinterest vs. a Google doc with a list of links.

 

Parent Session

George Couros presented a session, “Involving Parents in the Process of Learning.” See next post for a more detailed discussion of this powerful and motivating talk.