My Passion and Curiosity Quotients and a Final Reflection on CEP 812

20 Aug

My Michigan State University Educational Technology journey began long before I knew about things like TPACK, UDL, PLNs, and problems of the wicked kind. Witnessing all kinds of changes in technology happening year after year, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What can I do to use these tools to enhance the learning of my students?” Thanks to CEP 810, 811, and 812, I learned quickly that it is not so much about the latest tools, but how and for what they purposed. Thomas Friedman (2013), a writer for the New York Times, takes it a step further when he says, “It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime”. There are two parts to his statement that really struck me. The first was about inventing or reinventing a job, and the second was about learning and relearning for a lifetime.

Throughout the EdTech program, the importance of creativity in learning (a skill necessary for innovation, like inventing a job perhaps?) has been highly emphasized. Also teachers, if they are going to carry out the TPACK framework as intended, will have to be lifelong learners and evolve along with how technology, knowledge, and learning evolves. This concept could not have been made clearer than when James Gee (2013) said in his book, “Dealing with big questions takes a long-term view, cooperation, delayed gratification, and deep learning that crosses traditional silos of knowledge production” (p. 146). Friedman’s big question dealt with how the president was going to respond to what Friedman called, “The Great Inflection”, or the transition in society from a state of “connected” to “hyper-connected” producing various economic and social implications (Friedman, 2013). My big question, once again, was how to maximize my students’ learning through technology integration. Nevertheless, whether it is the “Great Inflection” or integrating technology in the foreign language classroom (both very wicked problems), lifelong “P.Q. and C.Q.” will more than likely be a greater player than the latest and greatest tech tools.

I find comfort that it isn’t just about the tech tools themselves, but that it is more about the people who use them. After Gee lists a number of tools in his book, he puts it quite bluntly, “All these tools are like crayons: they are just tools that can make and do good things (eg. art) or make a mess (eg. crayon all over the walls)” (p. 198). If teachers channel their inner passions and curiosities for their profession, it seems as though beautiful art would be made. That isn’t to say that messes won’t happen either, as I have learned from experience that learning a new tool (at least in the beginning stages), yields anything but art. No, the most important thing is a willingness to “get dirty” with new tools and learn to create art with them. I referenced the tool Animoto in an earlier post, but haven’t been able to put it to the test, until now. My passions and curiosities drove me to try something new for this final post, and the video found below is the “art” my “PQ and CQ” have helped me create.

Blog References:

Friedman, T. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. Retrieved August 19, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=5
Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, New York: Palgrave Mcmillan.
Tang, A. (2006, December 6). Pete.goldlust.crayons. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/hahatango/448783377
Video References:

Bellucci, M. (2005, August 4). Question mark. Retrieved August 20, 2015, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/50451886@N00/3534516458
Fryer, W. (2014, January 16). Making a song with Boomwhackers. Retrieved August 20, 2015, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/12079687674/
TPACK. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2015, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tpack.jpg

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Reimagining Online Learning: A Truly Wicked Problem

16 Aug

Education, no matter how much it reforms both on macro and micro levels, continues to have problems. One reason, as identified in CEP 812, is that most problems in education are neither well-structured (simple), nor ill-structured (complex), but rather quite wicked (unsolvable) problems. So wicked, that once a solution is seemingly found, the problem has already evolved new complex components making the anticipated solution obsolete. Another reason education continues to have problems, according to James Gee (2013), is that people “can sometimes be so stupid” (p. VII). After learning such bleak details about education and humanity in general, it sure seemed hopeless to even try solving simple problems, let alone wicked ones. Fortunately, later in his book Gee offered hope, of which, became a very helpful tool for learning how to even begin addressing wicked problems. In the project for the course, the challenge was to confront a wicked problem smartly, and come up with possible solutions to the problem. I then chose to join a group willing to take “Reimagining Online Learning” as a wicked problem to be resolved. It was necessary to begin such an endeavor by identifying complex pieces of the problem, in order to best understand how to possibly solve it. I chose Canva to help me create an infographic to portray just how wickedly complex reimagining online learning really is.

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Once the wicked complexity was understood, it was time to get smart in order to achieve the best possible solutions. Gee (2013) argued in his book that the best and smartest way to attempt to solve wicked problems is to form “Minds” (p.165). A “Mind” is made up of multiple individual minds that work together as “tools for each other”  paired with “non-human tools” (p. 165). Synchronizing my own mind with the minds of my group members (through Google Docs and video-conferencing with Zoom), we utilized various research tools to collaboratively work on solving our wicked problem. As a “Mind”, what we discovered is found below.

Sometimes it is necessary to temporarily settle for a best possible solution because, after all, wicked problems by definition are unsolvable. As problems continue to evolve (like reimagining online learning), so do the solutions along with them(Gee, 2013). Through the development of Gee’s Minds, humanity will be smarter, better equipped, and have a greater chance to solve wicked problems, not just in education, but the world as a whole.

    Reference:

Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, New York: Palgrave Mcmillan.

What’s in Your Infodiet?

9 Aug

The Internet, also known as the “information superhighway”, lives up to its nickname by providing a plethora of information for any given moment in time. Anyone who accesses the Internet receives what is known as an “infodiet”. Back in CEP 810, my professional infodiet began when it was suggested to join virtual communities to help create a personal learning network (PLN). By default this became one of my, what James Gee (2013) calls “affinity spaces”, to learn how to make arequipe for the course project. I tapped the knowledge of other like-minded people (who enjoy cooking) with the same interest (making arequipe) in virtual (as well as physical) spaces to help me create my product.

The Sims is another example of a virtual affinity space

For me, the arequipe PLN I formed was a positive example for what an affinity space ought to resemble. Over time, however, it became easier and easier to only access the perspectives from within my courses, the groups I followed on Twitter, and my blogosphere. CEP 812 to helped me realize that this type of information concentration also had potential for negative implications.

There was no question that I was limiting my information input in such a way that Gee probably would have considered me stupid. It was comforting, though, to learn that it wasn’t entirely my fault. Having used spaces like Facebook and Google, it came to Eli Pariser’s attention that information was being catered to the user’s unique personal interests. In his TedTalk, Pariser (2011) brought this issue to light saying, “this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”. Like Pariser, I too have used networking tools like Facebook, Google, and Twitter for professional and personal use and have quite possibly fallen victim to what he called a “filter bubble” (Pariser, 2011). As in my CEP 810 project, I had only consulted perspectives of makers of arequipe and probably would have also benefited from the perspective of a dietitian strict on limiting dessert. Likely, this may have resulted in a more friendly product for people with diabetes and consumable by a greater population in general. It became clear that opposing perspectives to a person’s own are necessary to broaden one’s Internet infodiet. Fortunately, I have found three new sources on Twitter (@uwnews, @nytimes, and @freakonomics) to help me burst my filter bubble concerning my world language profession and the wicked problem I’ve been working on in this course.

I support integrating online education experiences which deals directly with my wicked problem topic of “Reimagining Online Learning”. However, in a study on the “pros” and “cons” of online, hybrid, and face-to-face classrooms by the University of Washington (2013), online courses “appear to work best for students who are mature, well organized, and have good time-management skills” (p. 3). Furthermore, Mark Edmundson (2012), a professor at the University of Virginia, stated in his op-ed article for the New York Times that “the Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can”. After reading these two sources, I was powerfully influenced to question how much, if at all, online learning should be integrated. More so, it motivated me to find creative ways to make it work. As a Spanish teacher, I strongly support integration of World Language programs into the curriculum, but Freakonomics Radio (2014), took an economic standpoint on the matter and found out that the ROI (return on investment), for most students in this country, just isn’t there. Information like this must matter to me and cannot be ignored, as it challenges the very essence of what I do. All three sources have, and will continue to greatly expand my infodiet, challenge me to defend my perspective, but also encourage me to be open-minded to opposing ideas because bridging the opinion gap, may just result in best possible solutions to wicked problems.

References:

Edmundson, M. (2012, July 19). The Trouble With Online Education. Retrieved August 9, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/opinion/the-trouble-with-online-education.html?_r=0
Exploring the Pros and Cons of Online, Hybrid, and Face-to-face Class Formats. (2013). Retrieved August 17, 2015, from http://www.washington.edu/provost/files/2012/11/edtrends_Pros-Cons-ClassFormats.pdf
Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, New York: Palgrave Mcmillan.
Lechtenberg, S. (2014, March 6). Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast. Retrieved August 9, 2015, from http://freakonomics.com/2014/03/06/is-learning-a-foreign-language-really-worth-it-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

Maxis, E. (2013, July 31). File:Sims 4 logo.svg. Retrieved August 9, 2015, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sims_4_logo.svg

Pariser, E. (2011, May 2). Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” Retrieved August 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s#t=234

Community of Practice Survey Analysis

3 Aug

Image result for graphsTechnology integration has been one of the biggest challenges in the field of education for quite some time. There are many ways to approach how to best integrate technology into the curriculum (one-to-one digital devices, bring your own device, flipped classroom, etc.) with one yet to remain as the single best solution. Part of the challenge is the differing perspectives among educators even within single school community, let alone the whole global society of educators. The survey in this analysis tapped the perspectives of a small community of practice regarding what technology was already being used, how often technology was being used, confidence in using technology, how to improve one’s use of technology (professional development), and opinions covering online learning. To continue to the analysis click here.

Photo:

GoogleImages. (2014). Graph. Pixabay.com. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2014/03/25/16/26/bar-chart-297122_640.png

A Response to James Paul Gee

20 Jul

Solving problems in education has taken on a new look in the 21st century. The ways students learn has changed, the way teachers must teach has changed, the brick and mortar school buildings of the past can no longer approach education the way they once did due to an ever-changing, ever-evolving, and ever-increasing and connected global society. Solving this problem is an especially challenging task given that global society is, on its own, very complex. And if matters couldn’t get any more challenging, people, in general, can be pretty stupid. This begs the question, “If people are stupid, how can we put people in charge of such complex problems?” The solution, thankfully, is that people can be also be smart. But before people can be smart, it is very important to understand what makes them stupid first. This week I read various reasons by James Paul Gee for why people are stupid. Click here to see what I found out!

Reference:

Gee, J. (2013). Flight from Complexity. In The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning (pp. 141-147). New York, New York: Palgrave Mcmillan.

Using Technology to Help Solve Problems of Practice

13 Jul

In CEP 812 this week we learned about three types of problems that all educators face in their practice. Well-structured, ill-structured (complex), and wicked (unsolvable) problems arise in educational practice every day and it is up to teachers, like myself, to be sufficiently equipped to face such problems. The primary focus was on the well-structured and ill-structured problems to be identified and addressed within the educational practice, all the while keeping technology in mind as a tool to help solve such problems. An ill-structured problem all educators face is that no two people learn alike (if all learners were alike, the problem would be considered well-structured and a single curriculum would be sufficient to solve the problem). Therefore, the challenge this week was to find a technological tool that could be used to help accommodate children with special learning needs. As a teacher of Spanish, I chose the ill-structured problem of foreign language acquisition and the existing difficulty therein of meeting each student’s developmental language needs. Though foreign language acquisition is not typically viewed as a problematic learning need, some students indeed struggle with acquiring a second language and I chose Duolingo as my technology tool to help equip me to face this ill-structured problem.

Before I could begin my attempt to resolve the issue of meeting all learners’ unique needs using Duolingo, I needed to identify possible problems children may face from the level content being taught. What I teach, not just how I teach, might be problematic for some types of learning styles. Basic vocabulary could be considered a well-structured problem because each word has a single specific meaning (dog = el perro) in both languages. Grammar, parts of speech, and anything needed to build meaningful communication in the target language would then be considered the ill-structured problems of which students would more likely have difficulty learning. Simply because a problem may be considered well-structured, does not imply that learners will not have difficulty solving it. Duolingo helps a foreign language teacher address these potential problems for learning foreign language content (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) by allowing students the autonomy of self-paced learning. An “ICT (information and communications technology) is a valuable tool and a resource for both the teacher and the learner, providing flexibility and versatility in how information is presented and used. It allows the learner to explore, to experiment and to evaluate, and provides opportunities for the teacher to be innovative in designing and delivering the curriculum” (Heaney, 2012, p.164). When a learner needs extra time on a concept, Duolingo automatically tracks progress and meets the learner at the learner’s current level of skill.

Duolingo incorporates writing into its language learning software and according to Marianne Nikolov and Jelena Mihaljevic Djigunovic (2011) “generally, all learners considered writing a difficult skill, and sometimes revised and proofread their drafts, translated, and used bilingual dictionaries. Differences between more and less successful writers were observed in the perception and use of metacognitive strategies: the former used more strategies and employed higher-level processing during writing” (p. 105). Therefore, no matter what the learner’s skill set is, or the speed at which the learner progresses, all learners are accommodated through Duolingo’s proficiency tracking.

A final benefit to Duolingo being a great tool for solving ill-structured and well-structured problems is its portability. In fact, according to a study on optimal second language learning conditions by L. Quentin Dixon, Jing Zhao, Jee-Young Shin, Shuang Wu, Jung-Hsuan Su, Renata Burgess-Brigham, Melike Unal Gezer and Catherine Snow (2012) and strong home literacy practices enhancing student learning, teachers “can encourage home literacy practices by sending home books and other literacy materials and prompting parents to read with their children in either L1 (first language) or L2 (second language) and to take their children to the library” (p. 39). In place of taking a Duolingo “book” home to read with parents, students would need only to log in to their Duolingo profile at home, the library, or a mobile device to share their foreign language learning experience with parents and family. Duolingo helps to solve a variety of problems of practice for the foreign language teacher and will definitely stretch me to become more creative in my teaching.

References:

Dixon, L., Zhao, J., Shin, J., Wu, S., Su, J., Burgess-Brigham, R., . . . Snow, C. (2012). What We Know About Second Language Acquisition: A Synthesis From Four Perspectives. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 5-60. doi:10.3102/0034654311433587
Heaney, L. (2012). Promoting language learning in the primary classroom and beyond: A case study. Gifted Education International, 28(2), 161-170. doi:10.1177/0261429411434987
Nikolov, M., & Djigunović, J. (2011). All Shades of Every Color: An Overview of Early Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31(Mar), 95-119. doi:10.1017/S0267190511000183
WikimediaCommons. (2014). Duolingo French food skill tree. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 24, 2015, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duolingo_french_food_skill_tree.png
WikimediaCommons. (2015). Duolingo logo. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 24, 2015, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duolingo_logo.svg

A Final Reflection on CEP 811

25 Jun

One of the themes of this course that really struck me was the emphasis on fostering creativity and instilling a sense of “making” in the students of the 21st century. Traditional school settings tend to diminish creativity for a more “memorization of facts and test you later on it” approach. When exploring learning theories during week 3, I stumbled upon this TedTalk by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and intelligence:

It has become clear that continuing down the road of traditional approaches to learning will not yield the results needed for successful 21st century learners. According to James Paul Gee, “if they’re (people in general) going to survive in a developed country outside of low-level service work, they’re going to have to have innovation and creativity” (2008). 21st century skills will only be developed with a 21st century learning environment, and that continues to be the challenge for most educators today. What if teachers redesigned their teaching to accommodate all learners and develop their own unique creativity for solving problems and creating innovative products? How can a teacher evaluate something as abstract as one’s own unique creativity? Grant Wiggins believes it is not at all as difficult as it may seem. In fact, he created a rubric for evaluating creativity just to prove his point. For those who still may not fully align with the possibility to evaluate creativity, he shared an experience he once had working with ELA teachers that felt it “wrong” to evaluate student writing on an “engaging-boring” scale. He proposed that it is just as wrong to “deceive the learner into thinking that their writing is better than it is” and that “boring” doesn’t have to be the other end of the spectrum, but “not engaging”. The teachers were surprised to see that the students knew the difference between “engaging” and “not engaging” and quoted a student as saying, “you mean you don’t want it to be dull and boring? … Oh, we didn’t think that mattered in school writing” (2012). I find it interesting the student chose to use the “boring” word so the teacher wouldn’t have to, incredible. Assessing creativity is not only possible, but necessary for teachers to implement in their teaching and for students to gain more agency and innovation in their learning. For me as an educator, I have already been able to implement strategies learned in CEP 810 and received phenomenal response from my students. When a teacher connects with students like that, how can one not continue to try to make learning more designed around the 21st century learner? Considering my Squishy Circuits lesson, I feel that after a couple of revisions (stemmed from other ideas learned within the course) it is effective in meeting what a 21st century lesson ought to look like. The lesson is now full of students ‘playing’ to solve problems (stirring on  innovation), it meets all unique learner needs (UDL), and provides immediate feedback for students (students stay engaged with their learning progress). These three aspects, combined with the ideas of Wiggins for assessing creativity, result in a well-rounded 21st century lesson.

In my own personal evaluation of my growth as a learner in this course, I feel that I have pushed the limits of my previous knowledge of technology integration to something much more substantive. I would say that before this course, I would have been closer to the “digitizer” of instructional material instead of the “redesigner”. This course has taught me that sometimes, even as an adult, teachers need to learn alongside their students (my experience of learning Prezi against the clock) instead of always taking the place of the expert transferring knowledge. Also that authentic learning happens when we work collaboratively to solve problems and can engage in each of our own unique ideas. Most importantly, I’ve learned that, youths especially, need to play and work with their learning, making it much more meaningful and equipping them to be the innovative “makers” of tomorrow. All of this has reshaped how I view teaching, and I now feel ready to become less of a “digitizer” and more of a “redesigner” for the sake of my students.

References:

Edutopia. (2010, July 10). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. Retrieved on June 25, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0

TED. (2007, January 6). Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved on June 25, 2014. from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY#t=1168

Wiggins, Grant P. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can and yes you should. [Web log]. Retrieved on June 25, 2014, from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/