Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Obsolete in Education - Part Two

Three years ago, teachpaperless.blogspot.com predicted some things that were going obsolete. I think she's experiencing some edu-psychosis brought on by wishful thinking.

continued from Part One ...
8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.
Maybe. According to Amazon's numbers, fiction is overwhelmingly swinging to digital, but non-fiction isn't -- and that's the majority of what we use in school. The stuff we have kids read isn't the same as what Amazon is lumping into it's "fiction" category, but I'll get to that in a second.

 Dan Willingham recently talked about the difficulties people have with mutli-use devices and uninterrupted reading. "A consistent finding is that, given the choice, students prefer traditional textbooks. That's true regardless of their experience with ebooks, so it's not because students are unfamiliar with them (Woody, Daniel & Baker, 2010). Further, some data indicate that reading electronic textbooks, although it leads to comparable comprehension, takes longer (e.g., Dillon, 1992; Woody et al, 2010)."

My experience is that students HATE eTextbooks. They will use them when they have no other choice, but when we're doing something in the classroom, the first thing they'll do is grab the book version off the bookshelf. The reaction is worse if the students are trying to flip back and forth from source to workspace. Unless they're cut-and-pasting, that is.

The best use for tablets, in my mind, is for novels and ephemera. For reading Literature or "classics", I'm not so convinced. The kindle, and other tech, are great for reading stuff you don't care about, for reading that mystery crime novel that has the exact same plot as that other mystery crime novel, which resembles the other seven books in that genre that you've read in the last few months ... you know, the ones you have to initial inside the front cover to make sure you remember that you've read them and you still have to think "Did I really read this already?"

Kindles/Nooks are the best option of all the eReaders for reading because they don't connect to the Internet, get email, Facebook, and all the million little distractions ... but I still find myself flipping through more quickly than I do while reading a paper book.  I see the same behavior in my students. The iPad and Kindle Fire are worse because they connect to all those distractions.

For stuff you need to annotate, the apps just aren't really there yet. Hopefully, soon. For me, the tablet reader isn't all that, yet.
9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.
That is just creepy. And stupid. Sure, attendance secretaries collect the attendance numbers, but also do a lot of the follow-up and tracking down of students. They call home and verify absences, collate field trip information, and work with the guidance office. Trust me, this person isn't going away.

Don't even start with RFIDs. Several schools have tried that; the parents and students react badly and people recoil at the cost ... and you still need someone to look at the data. In the attendance office.

Add to this is the way that public schools get money from the state: per kid per day of attendance. This school spent money on the attendance office: "Bill Huyett opted to spend $250,000 on new administrative staff dedicated to making sure kids showed up at school. Looks like it worked: After nine months, 150 more students are attending each day, on average, bringing in some $1 million in extra funding, the San Francisco Chronicle reports."
10. Lockers.
A coat-check, maybe.
Does this person know what a teenager's locker looks like? Books are maybe 10% of what goes into one. They need someplace to put their crap.
11. IT Departments Ok,
so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.
Nope. IT will still be heavily invested in security because the rest of administration doesn't have
enough of a spine to tell them off. Case in point, we just got BYOD after three years of it being in the student handbook as available. Why so long? Because IT couldn't seem to get a network up and running. Kids had to set up a wifi hotspot through their phones to get online.

It's IT's own fault; despite repeated requests, they insisted on being able to log everything, run everything through the filter, catch kids going to "bad" websites.

Second, in most schools, IT will be the set-up men for the 1:1 programs and such because (A) they won't allow the faculty to do so, "You're not _qualified_" and a tremendous fear of not being in complete control, and (B) they are the ones with the budget and the ability.
12. Centralized Institutions: School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.
Experiential learning is one of those interesting thought experiments that dies in the light of the blazing sun of reality. Show me experiential learning and I'll show you a teacher who doesn't understand enough to teach, or students who have quit on themselves or on school.

The Big Picture Schools are the ones who have taken the lead on experiential learning but even their most ardent supporters acknowledge that these programs are only for about 10% of the students ... at most.  And they don't include math classes because they can't; the teachers don't know enough math to "mentor" them through a self-directed program.  The one around here boasts that 2 of the 6 teachers are "Highly Qualified" teachers ... seeing as 98% of the teachers in public schools in Vermont are HGT, what does it say if this school boasts of 33% ?

And all of those mentors? Master Tradesmen and Professionals? No, what we're dealing with here is mostly at the journeyman trades level, and most of the mentors are using the kids as unpaid interns or apprentices.  The kids bounce from interest to interest, barely learning anything - I think because they're the ones who couldn't figure out school in the first place.  It's far better than the alternative for these kids, a complete withdrawal from school, but it's also far less than the majority deserve.

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.
This is another sign that this opinion was written by someone with a limited sense of how education actually happens with the broad range of students that exist. The rote memorization stuff and much of the lecture will happen on-line but the real teaching has to happen in groups that are homogenous in ability and, usually that also means by age. As for the "student interest groups petitioning for specialized education", that used to be called "taking electives".

High school is the broad, grey line between education that is an absolute minimum to succeed in life (up to 8th grade, it's all very non-abstract) and the specialized college experience that includes a lot of the abstract thinking and critical thinking that we glorify so much.

High school is that transition. We are taking kids from the absic, "Don't make me think, just give me a worksheet" mentality to the "Learn this thing that we've identified as being interesting and worthwhile." High school has to be organized because, for the first time, the teachers need to specialize ... and that takes scheduling.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.
Fantasy. And false.  College students (actually, all students) aren't clamoring to IM/text/tweet/Facebook with their professors. They want to communicate with each other.

Education schools haven't made themselves irrelevant because they've not focused enough on tech ... they've made themselves irrelevant because they haven't focused on knowledge and content.

How many education students actually major in the field they plan to teach?  Trick question ... none of them do, because they are all education majors. The fact that an education major can become a teacher is a big difference between the U.S. and other countries.

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