Back in Black

Or at least digital black and white. The past year has been full of new learning and new experiences. In my graduate work I have taken courses in Computers as Learning tools (which, coincidentally followed right in with Mindtools, which I had last blogged about!), E-Learning Design which focused on developing curriculum for online learning. Over the past summer I wrote my capstone paper on Integrating Technology into Learner Centered Professional Development. That brings me to this fall, 2015, where I am taking my final grad class for my degree in Masters of Education in Learning, Design, and Technology. The course is Design Studio and we will cover several aspects of learning design including the digital tools (HTML/CSS/JQuery, Photoshop, Illustrator, Databases, and video), as well as user design. Over the next few months much of the skills I develop with the digital tools will be reflected in this site. Some of the other things I will “practice” can be found in my PSU site.

Mindtools, teaching and thinking

In my effort to catch up on a great deal of reading this summer (aka, tackle that large pile of publications sitting on my desk) I read Computers as Mindtools – an Homage to David H. Jonassen by Mary Ann Bell in Internet @ Schools  . I was not previously familiar with Jonassen’s book, Computers in the Classroom: Mindtools for Critical Thinking, but after skimming through the article (which, I know, is not a great habit) I looked up the book. My first reaction when finding it on Amazon was that since it was written in the 90’s, and it dealt with technology in education, it must be a bit dated in concepts, as there has been so much radical change in both the actual technologies and in concepts in integrating technology into education. Then I re-read Mary Ann Bell’s article and realized there are some timeless concepts, even in technology and education.

While Jonassen’s book focused on technology as a Mindtool, it is really any mode, method or device you can use to make a student think. This makes it timeless – whether it is chalk on a board or an iPad app, it is not about the “technology” but rather the learning that is happening.  I think the only thing that is a bit dated about this book is the corralling of the concept as “Mindtool”. Based on my experience professional and academically, educators have begun to realize the place of technology in learning. It is not about the tool, the app, the device – it never has been – it is about how we help students learn with it. After all, its not about using Google Docs, or Word, or a Blog site, it is about having students reflect, synthesize and share.

There is such a vast myriad of tech tools out there to help students create, share, and learn teachers get quickly overwhelmed. Does it really matter what tool they use to create a presentation with? Prezi, Google Presentation, or Power Point? The learning is in how to create a meaningful presentation, not in how to stylize it and work all the features of the tool. After all, 10 years from now Prezi may not exist, but if a student has learned how to synthesize information and effectively express it, then they will be able to create new information and collaborate. And that is really what it is all about.

BELLTONES: Computers as Mindtools–Homage to David JonassenBy Mary Ann Bell

Using Mindtools in Education THE Journal

Going Mobile

“Out in the woods
Or in the city
It’s all the same to me
… the world’s my home
When I’m mobile”
– The Who, Going Mobile

This summer I had the great pleasure to take the Integrating Mobile Devices into Learning Environments course at PSU World Campus. Besides getting me one step closer to my masters, it has really brought many concepts together from both my graduate work and my teaching/tech integration work, more so than in any other course I have taken.

It occurred to me two years ago, as we were just getting solid with the 1:1 tablet PC program in our school, that we really need to start integrating smart phones. The vast majority of high school students in my school have their own smartphone, or at least an iPod. There is so much information and learning power in that device, we have to find ways as educators to help students learn to leverage these devices for their personal as well as academic (and ultimately professional) learning. As teachers we need to embrace this technology ourselves, learn to use it ourselves for both informal and formal learning. Frankly, I am tired of the “we need to shift from sage on the stage to guide on the side” mantra, but it is true. We need to become facilitators of learning, rather than fonts of knowledge. And the fact that this mantra keeps getting chanted indicates we have a long way to go to make that change.

Change. We cannot grow without changing. And we cannot live if we don’t grow. Ooops, let me quickly hop off that soapbox.

Back to integrating mobile technology – students have access to a world full of blogs, videos, social media and any other information sources in the palm of their hands. At this point, a fairly good percentage of their parents have no idea of the power behind this, or even how to use it. Kids can self teach, they “know” a great deal about technology, we say they are “digital natives” (another phrase that has started to get under my skin) . Kids are great explorers. They self learn quite a bit, but it can be “swiss cheese” knowledge. What happens when they find things, and don’t have the experience or maturity to interpret it or handle it? How can they develop a deeper understanding if they just learn to do things, but now why and how they work? Adults, educators, need to help them to think critically about the tools they are learning, the information they are finding, the skills they are developing so they can think at a higher level, learn to create and develop, not just consume. In order to do that, educators need to become deeply familiar with the world of mobile technology. This is the next frontier of technology integration.

The course this summer has given me insight into integrating mobile learning into my own curriculum, and given me some thoughts about how to start helping other teachers to integrate it as well. The summary of our work can be found in my blog, MsMruk@PSU, which has entries topics such as Mobile Devices in every day life, the global context, identity, and  integrating mobile learning. My capstone project is based on using Socrative, Diigo, Google Docs, and UC Berkeley’s Snap! programming language to have students in my Computer Science Principles course create an app to help others learn about binary numbers.In the course of researching my project, I found some great information and studies on middle school students, mobile technology, and computer science, which I hope to incorporate this year, too.