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.

New Tech Tools

Learning about some fabulous new tech tools for teaching. Just listing here due to time constraints!

  • Videonot.es
    Allows you to add notes to a YouTube video (and perhaps other video sources). The links will take you to the spot in the video where you took the note.
  • Thinglink
    Add links, video, resources to a still image
  • Infogr.am
    Easy infographic builder
  • Wordle
  • Tagxedo
    Another Word Cloud builder

Yup. The Students Need Tech

Another blog post supporting the need for students to have technology — not just the teachers. In his post, “Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology,” Ryan Bretag echoes the findings of the study I referenced in my last post where personal ownership of the tools is the best indicator of success.

In one district I work with, they made a concerted effort to get white boards in all the classrooms, at least at some of the schools. I know there are some teachers who have them who never use them, other teachers who would like them but are reduced to asking for grants to get them. (Oh, that irritates me. Why should a teacher have to drum up the money to get tools that they need? Whether or not I think IWBs are the answer, still!!!)

But moving to getting tech in the hands of kids is a slow, arduous process. It’s been painful. In past posts, I’ve referenced how hesitant teachers are to have kids use cell phones for educational purposes. Nearly every classroom has a NO CELL PHONES sign. They say they are BYOD, but wow — there’s no evidence. My daughter could have an iPad, and even has an accomodation that says she can have it, but she won’t because it sticks out.

Those fancy white boards? They don’t do much if it’s just the teacher and one or two students who can do stuff. I loved Mr. Bretag’s comment about converting a lecture to powerpoint to IWB….

I’m working on a curriculum. We get many requests for prepared IWB slide shows. I can only hope these slide shows are being taken apart and used for something besides lecturing — even with fancy white board slides.