Mobile learning devices at New Milford High School

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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 handschooling.com 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.” . . .


Teaching is not crowd control

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Posted on 9th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have

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Handschooling has a sweepingly simple solution to the woes of teaching: quit trying to teach classes, teach individuals. That way you can do it at the level of understanding your pupil has. You can engage her interest, adjusting as you sense how she is grasping the knowledge you are explaining. You can interact with her, challenge her, and lessen the pressure when she is struggling. How in the name of Socrates’ ghost can you do any of that standing in front of the very typical class shown in the illustration above?

The New York Times Magazine article where the illustration appears goes on page after page trying to solve this mystery:

But when it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers’ instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans… A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems.

Somehow we have reached a point where teaching is synonymous with controlling a classroom full of students. Teaching is thought to be something you do to a crowd. Think about it: that is absurd. This view of teaching has has led to the development of educational theories for managing a class that are called techniques for teaching. We get the flavor from the NYT Magazine article:

. . . what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed. . . When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

Handschooling allows individual students to learn by letting them interact privately on their own device connected to the online global knowledge commons, perhaps spending part of a morning learning some optics from the OSA. No such opportunity existed when textbooks, grade curricula, and standards began sending education down the slippery slop of losing teaching in techniques of crowd control. Millions of natural, devoted teachers have bounced off of what resulted — to the enormous loss of several generations.

Handschooling will free teaching to resume. A teacher can interact with a student who is looking at the OSA page on The Eye. She can answer questions her student asks, and if she does not know the answer they can look elsewhere online to find it. Other students can join in the discourse. The ghost of Socrates will smile.

Fumbling to use technology in the classroom

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Posted on 9th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Schools we now have

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Today Wired Campus posted the above video with a story titled Class Produces Parody of ‘The Office’ to Highlight Challenges of Teaching with Technology. Wired Campus explains:

Students at the University of Denver created a parody video essay — in the style of the popular TV show “The Office” — to show their frustrations with technology in the classroom and urge professors and students to work together to make classes more lively. . . .

Never is any learning content mentioned in the video. The internet is only alluded to when the bored students use their laptops to check their Facebook pages — showing that the internet is, indeed, available in the classroom. Content is not brought in from the interwingularity. Instead, the professor prepares a Powerpoint presentation — which becomes a substitute for his writing on the whiteboard that had disgusted the students early in the video.

These are students who have sat through classes for over twelve years (K-12) where the internet was not allowed in at all, or only with major limitations. They seem as much at a loss as to how to use the technology as the professor.

Here is a suggestion for an in-class project. Give the students ten minutes to go online and select webpages that provide solid descriptions of technology that could be used in classrooms. Then project on the screen at the front of the room the selected webpages one-by-one, with the students who chose them describing their content and its relevance and importance. Have a back channel open on Twitter for other exchanges of ideas and quipping.

Great job by these UD students in depicting the real world of underwhelming tech learning.