Mobile learning devices at New Milford High School


Posted on 26th July 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have

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USA Today spotlights the future of mobile learning devices at school for students of the 21st century. This blog is focused on the knowledge to be learned from individual student connection to the internet. What USA calls “social media” is leading the way at New Milford High School in New Jersey. However it happens, the arrival of connectivity for today’s kids is hugely good news. From the USA article:

The principal of New Milford (N.J.) High School has nearly 12,300 Twitter followers (his handle: @NMHS_Principal). He and his teachers use Facebook to communicate with students and parents, and students use it to plan events. In class, teachers routinely ask kids to power up their cellphones to respond to classroom polls and quizzes. Rather than ban cellphones, Sheninger calls them “mobile learning devices.”

He replaced the school’s “static, boring” website with what has become a heavily used Facebook page, and his teachers encourage students to research, write, edit, perform and publish their work online.

Sheninger is one of a growing number of educators who don’t just tolerate social networking in school — he encourages it, often for educational purposes. He says sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — long banned and roundly derided by many peers — actually push kids to do better work and pay attention to important issues such as audience, quality research and copyright laws. . . .

“The Internet as we know it is the 21st century,” he says. “It is what these students have known their whole lives. They’re connected, they’re creating, they’re discussing, they’re collaborating.” . . .

A way to bring schooling to Juarez, Mexico

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Posted on 12th July 2011 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Schools we now have | Uncategorized

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Thousands of the children of Juarez live in houses like the one shown above. These homes are often a few dozen yards from El Paso, Texas and seldom more that 20 miles from the United States. As you would assume, if these children do manage to go to school they do not learn much.

The little boy in this picture could have a real chance to get a basic education — and maybe a lot more — through handschooling. Wireless is not available yet in most of Juarez, but near the border there is some connectivity. There are Juarez kids who can be connected to the web right now. Each one would need a mobile device with a web browser. The old saying goes, you save one child at a time.

Certainly there are many, many places across the world where this picture could have been taken. Think about it: To assume we can or will provide good schools for all the children living under conditions like these is folly. That simply will not happen. But today, right now, you can connect at least one kid somewhere.

BTW: The picture above is from Siguiendo los Pasos de Jesus (SPJ), which is a truly wonderful and effective project assisting families in Juarez. If you are touched by the plight of Mexican families in the midst of the drug chaos in their country, SPJ is a place where your help will be strong and effective. They are not set up to connect kids for handschooling, but their website describes many other kinds of help that would be meaningful.

Writing from El Paso, where my family has been since before 1900,
Judy Breck.

Global knowledge – local nurture


Posted on 16th April 2011 by Judy Breck in Equality | Next | Schools we now have

This post is to suggest a large concept for the future of education. The concept has two parts:

1. The standardized concept is obsolete for knowledge that is nationalized (USA), culturalized (Moslem), state enforced (China).

2. As what is known by humankind becomes a global networked that each youngster interacts with individually, nurture of each child needs to remain individually local.

Let’s say a student in Lincoln, Nebraska with her iPad, a student in Alexandria, Egypt with his Android phone Web browser, a student in Shenzhen, China using a laptop — the three will simultaneously be learning about earthquakes here: Latest Earthquakes in the World

How can it make sense for each of the three to be required to learn from that earthquake webpage different stuff required by education standards in Washington, Cairo, or Beijing? Government, religious, cultural standards become irrelevant when an individual student is interacting directly with globally vetted knowledge.

If we did not have the schools we have now in Lincoln, Alexandria, and Shenzhen, what kind of education would we invent for the new connected world in which our children will live? We need to figure that out.

For sure, our goal is not to fix the schools, it is to educate our kids. And in the process we must be sure they continue to have our nurture at home as knowledge becomes global and virtual.

Learn from the Web while waiting for Superman


Posted on 23rd March 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have


Waiting for Superman is a GREAT movie. But something should be added!! While waiting and working for super schools with super teachers, we can do this immediately: show every kid how to learn everything known by humankind through the device they already have.

I saw Waiting for Superman this afternoon for the first time. In thinking about it afterward, I realized I could remember no mobile devices being used by any of the kids. This is both archaic and inaccurate. I can remember way back in 1999 being at a mentor meeting attended by a dozen students from New York City public high schools. We were sitting around a conference table at a business office in Manhattan. Just out of curiosity, I asked them how many were carrying cellphones. They ALL had them, and that was twelve years ago.

It is uncertain that very many more American students are truly going to have the great schools and teachers the movie longs for. It is very certain that essentially every school-age American will carry a Web browsing mobile device — and probably already are. While we are working for the great schools with great teachers, why not also work to show youngsters how to handschool themselves.

I knew a brilliant black woman from New York City who had a Ph.D from Columbia University. She gave up her other careers to work as a first grade teacher in one of the worst schools in Harlem. She explained to me: “If I can get them at that age and teach them to read, they will be okay.”

We should do all the things suggested and implied in Waiting for Superman. We should do one more thing: Teach individual students how to learn everything known through the mobile Web. That is another way to help them to be okay.

UPDATE: This Handschooling post from a year ago gives more on how learning can be done with individual devices:
Ignoring intertwingularity was education’s shark jump

T-Paw issues Call of Duty to fix education


Posted on 11th March 2011 by Judy Breck in Next | Obamaschool | Schools we now have

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At last, a Presidential candidate has leapfrogged the Blob to point out that Economics 101 will be learned from the sort of technology that makes games like Call of Duty compelling. Half way through the Des Moines Register article about T-Paw’s statement, the writer switched from her reporter role to media opinionist, concluding her story with snide dismissal of Governor Pawlenty’s suggestion.

Today’s Politico reports the excitement Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer is trying to create over the use of Game technology: Ballmer: Game technology is the future for the energy industry. Ballmer declines his Call of Duty (in my view) to push game technology for education. Ballmer does not mention education in the Politico report. But then who ever does?

The day that T-Paw’s suggestion becomes a reality, all the education minions who write textbooks, prepare curricula, teach courses, grade papers for Economic 101 — all will be essentially obsolete. Students everywhere will download Economics 101 from iTunes and learn at least a great deal about the subject on their own.

In spite of what the Des Moines Register reporter writes, economics students can still have seminars, and yes, they can play football too.

Alas, Bill Gates too is absorbed by The Blob


Posted on 28th February 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Schools we now have

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Bill Gates proposes another decade or two detour for public USA education in his Washington Post opinion piece today titled: How teacher development could revolutionize our schools. Good grief Gates, as we are so wont to say these days: You don’t get it.

Aaron Sorkin, in accepting an Oscar last night for his Social Network screenplay, thanked his agents, “who,” said Sorkin, “never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free”. A deeply inherent operative in human nature is that teaching is a gift, and those individuals so gifted have to be driven away from teaching with very powerful forces to get rid of them. Sadly, Bill Gates is throwing his considerable weight to just such forces.

“Teacher development” is a concept promoted by what is known in education circles as “The Blob,” described here and here. As the latter link says: “Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but rather more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink out of sight leaving everything just as it had been. ”

Because teachers are born with their gift, we need to wonder what is meant by “teacher development.” We know that whatever this activity is, it supports schools of education, teacher unions, textbook and standards producers, and layers of education administrators. For all of these folks and factions, the news that the United States’ richest man has bought into the idea that teachers need to be developed is promising indeed. Gates has thrown his support to all of these, and more, “experts” who are paid to tell natural teachers how to ply their gifts.

Most natural teachers do not last long in US public school teaching. How to keep those we have, and how to win back the ones who have left in sad disgust (or much stronger disbelief)? The answer: Cut them loose from The Blob and give them access to the tools their students use in other aspects of their lives, but seldom are allowed to use in education.

Imagine a great natural teacher trekking with a couple of dozen science students through an urban, rural, or wilderness habitat. The teacher and each of his students has a personal eTablet. They are studying the life cycle of city rats, field mice, or forest shrews, respective to the habitat where they are. Or imagine a gifted math teacher in a room full kids, ages 7-14, whose interest in and aptitude for math are high. The teacher would be responding with her own knowledge and telling a kid where to go on his eTablet –  to the level of each student’s mathematical competence — not forcing upon them all some textbook writer’s idea of what math is right for ten-year-olds.

The great Gates error in his Washington Post piece is that teachers need to be “developed” to function in the system in which The Blob has entrapped our kids. Instead, the system needs to be reconfigured to welcome great teaching and engage students in knowledge networks.

Bill Gates has enough clout to help weaken The Blob so reconfiguring becomes more possible. Sadly, he seems to have abandoned this clout by being absorbed into The Blob — where he joins legion company of well intentioned would be education reformers.

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