We aren’t even close to being “there” yet!

It has been awhile since I used this blog, but another class at Walden and I find it is necessary to reactivate the blogging brain cells. As anyone can tell from reading any of my books, I have a lot to say and as my publisher has told my husband, “you’ll never be able to stop her from writing, will you?”

This first blog in the present series is not in completion of an assignment, but simply a set of observations. Please indulge me and if you reread any of my previous blogs, the one called “My Personal Learning Theory?” will tell you a lot about me.

A previous course I took at Walden was about Qualitative Research. The professor had asked us to find various journal articles based on such research and use it in a class discussion post. An article in the Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology drew my attention and what the researchers found was quite interesting.

The heart of the article was information and communications technology (ITC) integration into classrooms. Malaysia has a goal that ICT will be fully implemented into schools “in order to make Malaysia a fully developed nation by 2020 (Narinasamy, Ilhavenil & Wan Mamat, Wan Hasmah, 2013, p. 44).” Imagine that, Malaysia wants to do what the United States should have done years ago and they want it by 2020.

What the researchers found when they looked at the problems of implementation and integration was a bottleneck that plagues many schools. Teachers, administrators, and teacher education establishments are not doing their job to make this happen.

Given enough money, schools around the U. S. could be awash in the latest and greatest technology. However, when you have teachers who either won’t or can’t use the stuff, it gets pushed aside and out comes the old lesson plans from the filing cabinet to be used over and over again. Students suffer by being denied the integration of educational technology into their classroom experience.

Administrators are also laggards on the road to innovation. Schools have become social engineering petri-dishes and nationally accountable ‘one-size-fits-all’ testing facilities which administrators fear will reflect badly on their management skills. Disruption of any kind and especially implementation of forward thinking technology in the classroom is beyond the skill sets of many who now hold these positions.

However, perhaps the most pernicious of all the culprits in this failure to the future is the college/university that teaches teachers. How forward thinking are these institutions? Do they incorporate, teach the use of, and prepare the future teachers of America in using anything more advanced than a whiteboard? Or are they learning to use gamification, experiencing virtual reality labs that teach everything from dissecting a frog in biology to the kinds of aquatic life near a steam vent, perhaps they have experienced sitting in the Globe Theatre while Hamlet is being performed?

Children learn in different ways and at different speeds. We all know that, but we are still following the theorists who gave us the roadmaps to education for the future and we remain mired in the past. Innovation, change, and clearing out the old to make way for the new are not easy. In many instances, jobs have been protected to the advantage of the practitioner to the detriment of the students.

No, we are not “there” yet. Until there is a realignment away from protecting the past, foraging on to the future will be hard if not impossible. Sugata Mitra showed us you could put a computer in a wall and children who didn’t know how to read or even the language the computer used, could teach themselves and others how it worked within a short time of its installation (Mitra, 2013). Please tell me we can, at least, do that much!

References

Mitra, S. (2013). The child-driven education. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html.

Narinasamy, Ilhavenil, & Wan Mamat, Wan Hasmah. (2013). Utilization of ICT by Moral Education Teachers. The Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 1(4), 1-10.

 

My Personal Learning Theory?

I started public school in 1958 after doing one year of kindergarten in a private school. Since that time, education has changed dramatically. From a face-to-face, pen and paper-learning environment to multiple technologies, networked, and online presented classes, the world of education has evolved. However, as much as things change, there are still some things that remain constant; a teacher/professor/instructor still needs to work with students. Educational theories abound and for me, no one is adequate to cover the various ways that people learn. Bloom’s Taxonomy, Piaget’s genetic epistemology, Gardner’s multiple intelligences, Dewey’s learning by doing, Erikson’s socioemotional development, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, Vygotsky’s social development theory, and Siemen’s network theories (Driscoll, 2005) all contribute elements into a whole. The idea is to take from different theories to fashion something usable. Computers and other technologies have the added benefit of being tools that allow teachers to fashion and accommodate the various ways students learn; the various theories give a framework for understanding it all.

When I was in high school, a teacher, Mr. John Feirst, described teaching to the Future Teacher’s Club. He said that children begin with a basic layer of information and skills, it is on this layer that a teacher helps the child build their educational foundation, each year the information gets broader, more detailed, and the foundation gets deeper. If something is missed, it causes a hole to appear in the foundation. As more information is added, the hole gets bigger unless a teacher in subsequent years helps the young student fill it in. Unattended to, the hole gets bigger, information is not added over that part of the foundation, and the whole structure of learning can be put in jeopardy. Based on this, it is apparent that it is the responsibility of the teacher to see that their students have a firm foundation and any holes in that foundation need attending to before trouble appears. A teacher must also remember not to try to get their student to paint the walls of their house of knowledge before they are even built!

I have said this before, but will say it here again because it is a firmly held belief of mine. We only have these students for a few months. It is our duty to see they get the best we have to offer; they are not social experiments, or testing grounds and we do not have the right to steal from their learning just to try some new method or theory. We get to go home at the end of the day, have our summer vacation, and do it all again with another group of students the next year but for the students we shortchanged, it is their future we have messed with and no one gave us the right or authority to do that. Shame on us if we forget our primary duty is to our students; they deserve nothing less than our very best.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. New York: Pearson.

For some interesting reading about the blending of theories, try:
Berliner, David. “The 100-Year Journey Of Educational Psychology.” http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/611/Berliner_100years.pdf

Key words: Learning theory, philosophy of education, teacher responsibility

I will be responding to the other students in my class.