Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is Technology Revolutionizing Education Yet?

Last Saturday my clock rang at about 2:45 in the morning. I got up, got ready, and headed off WP_000395to pick up a colleague for our trip to ISTE 2012 held in San Diego California. What a blessing to be able to enjoy real sunshine and warm weather. The Vancouver area in British Columbia has experienced consistently cool and wet weather unfortunately. We went to a Padre's game that evening and then crashed reasonably early so that our brains were ready for the ISTE experience. Approximately 15,000 educators attend this premiere educational technology event each year.

On Sunday I attended a workshop in the morning where we learned to program in Scratch and Alice. Scratch, a fabulous visual object imageoriented programming environment is used by many middle school students in our schools, was created by MIT and gifted to the world. We created a simple program with several sprites that interacted with the user on simple math problems. imageAlice is a 3D programming language. Things got more complicated with Alice as you have to envision a 3D landscape, camera angles, 3D characters and their position in the world. I programmed a fridge door to open when clicked and a banana and drink to move to the shelf when clicked and then the door closed. I can see how tools like this would engage students in math, geometry, visual arts, music, logic, computing science, etc. you could also incorporate writing, history, or any other subject area. Definitely worth considering for your students.

Sunday afternoon was all about learning iPad apps and learning activities. We started with a scavenger hunt activity. In teams of 5, each team scanned a QR code that revealed a "secret" word. Our assignment was to go out and take five pictures that represented our word, create a slide show, and present it to the "class" for them to guess our word. Here's the first and last pictures we took.  Can you guess our word... time is up, it's electricity (our team had lots of it).

We did photo editing, stop motion (iStopMotion) claymation and used iMovie to add text and voice overs.

Photo apps we saw included DMD Panorama, Pro HDR, and Frame Magic. We played with Aurasma for augmented reality to create a video to overlay on a picture. For example, a student could overlay a video essay on a picture of a play, person, a historical figure, or place. Or perhaps it's overlaid on a picture of the wall of their classroom. When the iPad running Aurasma "sees" the picture, the video overlay fires up and plays as if it was happening right then.

An app called Sekai works with air tags where you take a picture and tag it with GPS coordinates. When you come back to the location and open the app, it will show the picture or video.

We went on a virtual trip to the Eiffel tower using the Maps app, went to street view, took a screen shot of the tower, and created a book which can be opened in the iBook library using Book Creator.  Page two is shown here.  I threw in the picture of my QR code team for fun.

For me, that experience opened my eyes to the power of apps on a tablet. In particular the ease in how one apps work flows seamlessly to other apps for further editing. These tools are very powerful creation tools for learners. People who say or write that iPads are great consumption devices but poor for creating, are misinformed (I was one)... The workflow is engaging, the apps creative, the products powerfully representative of ones learning.  Although, you might want to read Dave Truss’ recent post “Still sold on Laptops over iPads” for another opinion.

I think iPads and other slates will disrupt the way we think of using educational technology. This model will also disrupt how we think of managing information technology. I have questions about how student created works will be stored, shared, assessed, etc. I know, "the Cloud", but I worry about how freely and trustingly educators are flocking to the cloud. Can we really trust corporations to have ours and our students best interests at heart? Rarely is that the case, they are profit driven entities and will find ways to leverage our information for their gain. It's a historic pattern that keeps repeating itself.

In one presentation, we "met" Super Awesome Sylvia. This 8 year old girl creates maker videos, check them out here.

Sylvia basically does what Bill Nye the Science Guy did but from a kids perspective. You've got to watch some of her videos. Digital technologies allow all students to have a voice where only adults could previously. We also saw a clip about MIT students emailing a design file for a bicycle to someone in Australia who then printed the bike parts and assembled it using a 3D printer. At that time, a A 3D printer made thiscouple years ago, the printer was $100,000 but I saw 3D printers (example) here at the conference that were 1,000's of dollars putting them in reach of families and certainly schools. Someone at ISTE tweeted that the picture shown here was made on a 3D printer, amazing.  I also saw a 3D scanner in the vendor hall that scanned objects into 3D editable model files that could then be “printed”, kind-of like the Star Trek replicator. I wonder how the copyright laws anticipate this development...

I participated in a workshop called Robotics: Making Computer Science, Engineering, and Math come alive. We used the Lego MindStorm NXT-G programming language to create programs to drive a robot in a square, to follow a black line (see picture here), to follow WP_000400a maze, and to avoid objects. We learned to use sensors to detect the presence or absence of light (black line), use ultrasonic to detect objects, to say hello when it did and to back up and turn to carry on around it, etc. Consider incorporating these tools into math and science learning for your students. I tweeted out during the session "this isn't learning, it's fun, no it's the same thing". When students are enjoying themselves, the learning isn't work for them. Check out for resources and click on Robotics to get the Prezi or PDF.

During the session The Steep Unlearning Curve by Will Richardson we heard and talked about rethinking schools, classrooms, and learning. Will said that we need to feel uncomfortable with what's happening in education and that we are living in very interesting times. Clay Shirky says that the change we are in the middle of isn't minor or optional. We've moved from a world of scarcity in terms of options, information, and tools to one of abundance but education mainly still operates as if we still lived in a world of scarcity. Learning needs to be both engaging and empowering for the learners. Students need to be given the ability to create their own learning. Education needs to foster a DIY (do it yourself) approach to learning facilitated by teachers.

I had many conversations about how education is being changed by technology. Teachers are flipping classrooms so that content is acquired by students as homework and interaction with the content is undertaken in class cooperatively and collaboratively. Technology makes it efficient to do things differently and in personal ways that better match students needs.

I think the answer to the question I pose in the title for this post is yes, to some degree. But I don't think education has fundamentally changed in a critical mass of classrooms for most students. I think my answer will be very different in three or four years. I used to use five year windows for thinking about the future but the exponential change we are seeing with mobile devices, apps, and online services, suggests that education will not survive long in it's default or traditional configuration.  I hope we are able to make the shift to a student owned learning model in thoughtful and caring ways. We need to consider the implications carefully since education systems are meant to "create" the next generation.