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What is the Future of Education?

Have you ever considered what education and the world will be like in the future, say in the year 2020? It can be very daunting to think about what could and will change in the world as technology continues to influence and dramatically change how people live. Because of medical technologies, people are living longer lives than hundreds of years ago. This is also a reason that the Earth is home to more and more people. How do these people interact now and how will that change over the course of time? How will education have to change to keep up with the change in peoples’ lives? It is a lot to think about but I have some ideas of what we may see.

Within the world, human population is expanding. First-world countries are helping third-world countries and providing better medical technology, better healthcare, and better living, which is changing the lives of people all over the world. One important aspect of this is education that people in other countries are receiving. While these third-world countries are not as advanced currently as first-world countries, I think it is only a matter of time before the world does not have what we consider third-world countries. There may be various levels and types of industrialized countries right now and I think non-industrialized countries will cease to exist.

The Read/Write Web and Web 2.0 tools have drastically changed education from how my parents experienced school to how I teach my students right now. There is no comparison to the technology that teachers and schools are utilizing right now compared to the technology available 50 years ago. And, I can just imagine my own future grandchildren thinking the same thing of my era of schooling. There are many ways I think school will change in the future. One of the major ways will be the timeline and time frame of school. Gone will be the traditional bell schedule and yearly schedule with students of the same age always moving through school in the same grades. Students will move at their own pace throughout all of school and will learn at their own rhythm. Teachers will behave more as facilitators, providing lessons, resources, and information and aiding students as they learn the information themselves and with students learning the same information. For example: I could be the facilitator for a student taking high school-level Biology who happens to only be 12 years old because he or she is intelligent enough to be learning that information at that age, after having progressed through the other levels of school. Simultaneously, another student in the same group could be 18 years old, having taken longer to master the content and information throughout their journey of school. Teachers will no longer just pass on students because that’s what you do at the end of the year, regardless of whether the student has mastered all of the content and is actually ready for the next set of advanced lessons.

Students will contributors and authors of their own learning, instead of passive onlookers. All students will have a personal laptop and will be regular contributors of information to the Internet, through their own blogs, wikis, or other Web 2.0 tools. Students will be in charge of their learning, choosing how to meet the content standards and demonstrate to the teacher they have mastered learning the information. Education will not just take place in a building with rooms made of four walls. Education will take place in the real world, exploring nature, business, and other realms of the world. Students will learn through volunteering, service projects, internships, and other means that are not always at the forefront of education today. The collaboration for students will not be limited to the same students in their school. Students will collaborate with and learn from other students all across the world, through the use of the Internet and Web 2.0 tools. The Internet will become more of a social networking grounds for education instead of entertainment. Students will be publishers of their own ideas and projects on the Internet, which will be available for their peers to see and have discussions. Teachers will monitor all of this with their students and will help direct, ask probing questions, and keep students on track with their education. Because of all this, students will be more well-rounded and ready for a career upon graduation and leaving the educational system. This will also hold students interest more in education and there will be a significant decrease in student drop-out rates, to where it’s almost non-existent.

College and universities will no longer be concerned with GPA and class rank of incoming students. The class rank in high school has gone the same way as the traditional schedule and is non-existent. A college education will be much more readily available through offering classes and lessons in the online environment. This will make college more affordable and not cost an arm and a leg to educate people. Colleges and universities will be more concerned with what students know and how they can help students learn about their passion, in order to live out their passion as a career for the world. This mindset will influence the world so that adults are not only working to have a career and make money, but they are working because their career is their passion and they are making a positive influence on their city, country, and world. Teachers need to help students find their passion and find a career that the student won’t feel like is work to them because it is their passion. How many people do you know like that now? I’m guessing not enough.

I believe all of these changes will start with a change in education. Teaching and learning has come a long way from one-room schoolhouses in the days of pioneers but I think there is still a long way to go. There are so many improvements that can be made to education with the use of the Read/Write Web and Web 2.0 tools. Students need to be exposed to these tools and taught how to use them and teachers need to be empowered to use Web 2.0 tools. I truly believe that education can change for the world for the better and everyone in the world can have an improved lifestyle, beginning with a change in education. I am excited to be a part of the change and to see what will happen in the next several years and decades with education. Hopefully, we as teachers are excited about the changes that are and will happen in our field.

Web Applications

As I explore the Read/Write Web and Web 2.0 tools, I realize that I have only scratched the surface of learning to use the Internet and all the technology it contains for education. There are so many different, unique web applications available that can do just about anything- and oftentimes, for free. One tool I was recently introduced to is Gliffy, which can be found online at http://www.gliffy.com. Gliffy can be used for many things including creating flowcharts, graphic organizers, floor plans, technical drawings, and other things. The most interesting part of Gliffy for education I think is the ability to create flowcharts, graphic organizers, and Venn diagrams. I use these types of activities with my students all the time in school, but usually in a paper and pencil format. Gliffy could be used in the same manner for online or blended courses and it has the ability to be shared with others. So I could assign my students to complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast animal and plant cells. The students could use Gliffy to create their Venn diagram and then share it with me for discussion and assessment.

Another way to use Gliffy would be to make graphic organizers or flowcharts as a form of notes. For example, in my cell communication unit my class creates a fairly large flowchart, examining the different types of transport and communication. Many students enjoy this but it’s time-consuming and not something we do often. I would recommend to students that enjoy and learn well from flowcharts or graphic organizers to use this technology on their own to help them study and learn the content. Students would also be able to pair up or form groups and have them each create graphic organizers to share with each other to help review and study. Many students are visual learners and creating their own graphic organizers would help them significantly in class. I hope that I can incorporate Gliffy into my classroom soon and can definitely see students benefiting from this technology.

Save a Tree…Go Paperless!

I first heard the idea of a paperless classroom I believe my first year of teaching. I was attending the Iowa Science Teachers Association Annual Conference and one of the speakers I listened to talked about having a paperless class. Unfortunately, the information must have gone in one ear and out the other because I don’t really remember much of anything they said. It was too far above my head as I was just trying to survive my first year of teaching. “Paperless class?” Yeah right, I thought- “that guy is crazy!” However, I was reintroduced to the idea of a paperless class recently and finally feel like I can take a breath from teaching and really dig into this idea. A paperless class is just what it sounds like- paperless! All reading assignments come through the student’s computer or other technology. Students submit homework assignments via technology such as email or an LMS and the assignments are marked and given feedback from the teacher using various colors, before returning them to the student. This allows the class to proceed and the students to interact with each other and their teacher without using any paper for the class. Intriguing, right?

There are obviously many ways that creating a paperless class would change teaching and learning. From my perspective- I would need to find resources for students to use that are an alternate to the traditional textbook. Those resources could include an online version of a textbook, online articles, videos, blogs, or similar resources. I would also need to make those available to my students to be able to access them whenever and wherever. Access could occur through an LMS such as Moodle (which is the LMS my school uses), or a class website, blog, or wiki. I have always thought of myself as a facilitator and not just a teacher and I think that role would increase in a paperless classroom. If you think about it- you can’t really teach anybody anything. If I could- all my students would have 100% in my classes! However, I am a facilitator for students learning- I give them resources to read, questions to discuss, projects to create, and explain information to them. So I think this facilitator role would increase in a paperless class. Going paperless would also change how students receive feedback- instead of writing on a physical paper, I would insert comments, ideas, and suggestions into the document or project that students submit online and return it to them online.

A paperless class would change learning because I think it makes the student more active in their own learning. It can create a better community of learners because students can share their ideas and thoughts with others with a quick click on a keyboard and then discuss those ideas in a face-to-face class. It also changes learning because access to information opens up when students purposefully read information through a computer rather than just a textbook. It also enhances their learning because it can provide more than just the written word like a textbook- audio, video, images, and other media can be incorporated into the learning process for a student. I think learning would be measured in a similar way than in a traditional class, with the main difference of how assignments are turned in, graded, and returned. Teachers still assess learning through monitoring discussions, assessing homework, projects, and tests, and having conversations with students.

One last question to think about is whether a paperless space makes it easier or harder to build a learning network. I would have to say that depends on the situation and how the teacher facilitates it with their students. In some regards, it could build a better learning network through the collaboration and conversations between the teacher and students, if the teacher is good at setting up a collaborative learning network. However, if the teacher does a poor job of setting up expectations and building a network, then learning in a paperless classroom would not be very easy. I think it all depends on how the teacher runs the class, sets and holds expectations, and their teaching personality in creating a positive learning network. That can happen with or without being paperless.

So…what do you think? Want to try going paperless? Good luck! I know I will give it some thought!  🙂

Shift in Education

I have recently been reading the book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. The book discusses Web 2.0 tools and their uses in education. The final chapter of the book talks about big shifts in education that have occurred as a part of the Read/Write Web. The shift that struck me the most was the first shift- “Open Content”. Richardson describes education of the past where schools and teachers “owned” their content through the textbooks they used, along with films they showed and resources in the library that could be accessed. This is very different in education now where it only takes 2.8 seconds for a student to “Google it” and find any information they want. This is a dramatic shift in education. I found the following picture the other day and it fits perfectly with this topic- Image

How funny and true is this picture? It speaks exactly to this big shift in education. I grew up in the era where we used card catalogs and did research in actual encyclopedias (remember those?). It was towards the end of high school and beginning of college that technology found its way into my learning and school.

This shift has affected my teaching in many ways. From even before I actually started teaching, I was using the internet to find ideas for lesson plans, videos to watch, images to share, and anything I could use as a teacher. This is very different than the resources my teachers had when I went through the education system as a student. I think this shift of open content will continue to affect my teaching because I will continue to use the internet to search for resources. I now am a part of social groups and listserves that are specific to high school science education, which allows me to find resources in a more direct way. I am learning more and more about how to incorporate this shift in my teaching and to teach my students differently than how I learned in high school. Through the use of wikis, blogs, websites, and other resources my students can learn science in a collaborative, inquiry-based way with the help of technology. It is much easier for students to find answers and information to questions they have with the use of technology that was not available several decades ago. I am excited about the future of technology with these Web 2.0 tools that making education better for students.

Resources:

Richardson, W. (2010) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Third edition, Corwin Publishing.

Image retrieved March 26, 2013 from: http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/c0.0.340.340/p403x403/486059_458973554172725_1155529184_n.jpg

Connectivism. vs. Constructivism

Connectivism vs. constructivism- what do you think? These are both learning theories that describe how students learn. I was recently helping create a wiki about the pros for connectivism but when I read another group’s wiki against connectivism, I have to say I agreed with many of their points. (Want to read the wiki against connectivism? Click HERE.) There were several reasons why I agreed with this wiki. Their reply that connectivism was really a reworded form of constructivism made sense to me. The wiki stated “No, we believe Connectivism is not a learning theory. It is the Constructivism theory reworked to fit the digital age.”  The main basis of connectivism is the digital age and all the technology that goes with it, but I agree that it’s really a form of constructivism and not necessarily its own brand new, distinct learning theory. The 8 main principles of connectivism the group discussed on the wiki and their counter explanations to the principles explains how connectivism is really constructivism with an emphasis on the digital age we live in now and how that affects student learning. The principle of connectivism that stuck out to me the most was principle #2. It stated “Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.”. Their reasoning why this was really constructivism was interesting. It stated “In Constructivism, students are encouraged to explore and use all technology available to them to have a variety of experiences. These experiences are tied to previous experiences, making connections to those previous experiences. These experiences include social media. Students are encouraged to talk about what they have learned in order to share with others. This exchange between students helps students to clarify, rework, and make the knowledge theirs. Constructivist thinking also states that learning is a social activity, which is a method of connecting specialized nodes or informational sources. Constructivism states that learning can occur among family, peers, and/or experts. It is not limited to a teacher-student relationship.”.  I agree with this because I have always thought students learn best when they are making connections to knowledge they already know and new information. And those connections can be from social media or technology but obviously aren’t and shouldn’t always be from those places. So once again, that relates it back to constructivism. I encourage you to click on the link above to read this wiki and see all of the 8 principles and the counter arguments yourself!

Fun with Skype

I was recently able to Skype with a fellow teacher, whom I have been completing projects with in an online course. I have used Skype previously, usually to Skype with my sister-in-law to see her and so she can see my daughter. Using Skype for the purpose of collaborating and connecting with a teacher was a new experience. It was nice to be able to see the other teacher and put a face to the name that I have been working with in class. We chatted about school, our kids, and a few other topics and it was a nice conversation. I can see many benefits to using Skype in education, both for myself and my students. Personally, I would like to Skype with other teacher who teach the same grade levels and classes to get ideas for projects or lesson plans. This could potentially include Skyping with the teachers in my secondary education classes in college. There is one person in particular whom I used to collaborate with but has since moved away. He would be a great Skype buddy to talk with and share lessons. Using Skype has benefits that other technologies don’t have because we could visually share projects and see what the other person does, instead of just talking or writing about our ideas. Skype could be used in class with students in several great ways. We could Skype with other classrooms all around the world to share information and create a newer version of pen pals. We could also Skype with professionals to share their knowledge with the content students are learning. For example, in my Anatomy & Physiology class I could schedule an appt with a doctor as one of their daily appts and have that appt be a Skype session with my class. By using this technology I hope to expand my students’ view of the world and broaden their horizons. I also hope to collaborate in a new, exciting way to enhance my lesson plans and deepen my lesson plan ideas.

Podcasting in School

Have you ever thought about using podcasting for education? Podcasting is a great way to share and gain information and can be easily incorporated into your teaching. I found a wonderful podcast series called “Science…sort of” that I plan to use in my science classes. I found the podcasts to be very fun to listen to- they were entertaining and thought-provoking. According to the podcast authors, the tagline for their podcast series is “Conversations about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science”. If you would like to check out this series, click HERE.

I chose this particular podcast because it is right up my content alley- since I teach science and this a podcast about science. I have thought of a great way to use these series of podcasts. I would like to listen to the podcasts and find specific ones where the authors talk about topics that students learn about in my classroom. I would then use clips from those podcasts and do one of two things: share them in the classroom and have a discussion about the topic and what was said in the podcast, or have students listen to them on their own and have a forum discussion throughout a week of school on Moodle to talk about the podcast. I think these podcasts could enhance my curriculum and student discussion, bringing a new and unique dynamic to my students’ learning. I can’t wait to start using these great podcasts! Happy listening!