Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Flickering Mind

The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved, by Todd Oppenheimer. ISBN 1-4000-6044-3.

The conclusion of this book is very thoughtful and thought-provoking. I have mixed feelings about it. I feel grateful that his conclusion matches and confirms my own reservations about technology in the classroom. It is simply nice to have some affirmation in whatever form it may present itself. I am uneasy that the path he warns not to take is the one that I will be obligated to follow per the wishes of whatever administration I work with in the high school setting.

The foundation of the book is that "the analysis showed no strong link between the presence of technology - or the use of tecnology in teaching - and superior achievement (p. 391)." What Oppenheimer says is needed is the same old common-sense things that have always been needed - good teachers, small class sizes, lively involvement, and thoughtful debate. The problems are the same ones that have hounded American education for a LONG time. Namely, creating a desire for people who would be good teachers to actually become (and remain) teachers. Oppenheimer mentions the same old issues of pathetic teacher pay in America and difficulty of the job.

Oppenheimer describes the cycle many or most schools seem to be following in which a FABULOUS NEW computer or software is introduced. It doesn't work as well as advertised and another FABULOUS NEW technology plan is introduced a few years later... costing lots of money and exhausting the teachers trying to learn and apply the technology.

Small classes and/or individual instruction yielded much better results than simply providing technology to students. Theodore Roszak is cited argueing that computers can offer information, but this is the most basic form of operational learning. The higher levels involve imagination, insight, knowledge, and judgment; with the highest level being wisdom. Oppenheimer says that the best tools for achieving these goals are likely to be the old-fashioned things such as books, (paper) notebooks, conversation, field trips, energetic teachers, etc.

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 82-107

Reflection on Pages 82-107 from Raw Materials for the Mind, by David Warlick; ISBN 1-4116-2795-4.

Tools for Internet Collaboration:

* Address Groups
* Mailing Lists
* Yahoo!Groups Web Page
* Video/Audio Conferences
* Wikis
* Virtual Worlds
* Multi-User Domains (MUDs)
* Safety Issue - Viruses

My initial feeling about all these tools is that it does seem a bit intimidating to get them up and running. Many of the high school kids that I work with simply don't have the access to computers needed to implement these tools. Of course, I have heard of schools that are providing all their students with laptops, but that is not my school. My school hasn't provided me with a laptop, and I wish that they would.

I do feel that one or more of these tools could be implemented with possibly interesting results. Another issue is that the instructions on which websites to go to in order to set up these tools may be out of date considering the high turnover rate on the internet. I will see if the recommended multi-user domain is still up and running. This is called Tapped In.

Well, Tapped In is definitely there. I even opened an office for use in Monday night's class. It is listed as WilliamV's office. I wandered around in the virtual TI campus for a while and then in my office for a while. It has a homey feel. I was even able to change my office decor, which was amusing. I hope that the discussion area inside my office proves useful as I try to teach class tomorrow.

Back to the "tools" of this section of Raw Materials: All of them seem to require a little research and preparation to implement. This is nothing new to teachers and (with the needed equipment) could provide at least a novel educational experience for students. That in itself is helpful to instruction. The Raw Materials gives simple, to-the-point instructions along with the author's opinions and advice on how to use the various materials. All in all, helpful and comprehensible.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Thoughts from Class, 12/5/05

Just a note about impressions from the computer class I'm taking. There is just so much stuff out there. Once upon a time a person could have read and discussed the great thinkers and historical texts. Now...

In class we discussed collaboration and the possibilities for collaboration now available because of technology. The three aspects of collaboration being 1) Local 2) Expert and 3) Distance. I am good at immediate collaboration, but not the others.

The learning site that I found the most interesting was a multi-faceted site about science (madsci). This was an informative and fun place to go. I am a fan of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and there is a Random Knowledge Generator, which I suspect is Hitchhiker inspired. It is also a source of some great questions.