Sunday, November 30, 2008

The World School Model of Learning

The World School Model of Learning is the design for a unique and well-planned educational program.  It is a design whose time has come.

Based on ideals of learning for the sake of learning, where, on the global front, everyone is simultaneously a student and a stakeholder, the World School Model promotes and supports lifelong learning for all members of society.  Individuals of all ages are both students and teachers; striving to learn, while seeking solutions to the challenges facing our world.  The design enables project based, constructive learning in all areas.

While the World School Model provides fully equipped high-tech classrooms in which students meet to work together, learning is recognized as a non-stop, fluid endeavor that takes place in all environments, twenty-four hours a day.  Student access to various critical technologies is facilitated through the school's partnership with the business world both locally and abroad.

Movement from ideas and ideals, to the design of our new learning model, took place over time and with the support of numerous technologies.  We enjoyed the application of project based, constructive learning in our own growth during this process, and recognized its value. Therefore, we determined that it was key in the development of the World School Model.
Use of  an assortment of technologies including blogs, wikis, e mail, text messaging, internet links, and skype enabled our ongoing discussion throughout the development of the World School Model; promoting the sharing of ideas with immediacy and relevancy in real time, without negotiating travel and other challenges faced by distance learners.  These are also key components of the World School Model. 
Throughout the development of our new program, however, the most fruitful of our engagements were spent together.  These face to face encounters clarified our values, cemented ideas, and engaged our vision.  The moments spent together built our relationship in ways that no means of technology can be expected to.  This is recognized and expected to be a critical component of the World School program design. 
I am once again amazed and impressed with the adventure this quarter has provided.  I have learned new things and challenged myself to be tested in new technologies.  By endeavoring into these uncharted waters, I have learned more about the world of technology (a positive result, particularly since this class was intended for this purpose!).  I have also stretched and grown by taking the necessary steps with an assortment of technology tools to move forward to complete the assignments.  While I feel that I have learned a great deal, I continue to see that there is more to know.  The difference is that now I have no fear of the unknown of technology... I welcome it.      


Monday, November 17, 2008

Project-Based Learning

This week I was struck by the sudden convergence of the readings we have done, our discussion in class, and the movement toward conceptualizing and determining the future learning environments we are developing in our groups. 

Articles, blogs, and wikis all seemed to be essential and meaningful tools to "get the job done" for weekly assignments this quarter ...but somewhat in isolation.  I realized the importance of each of these components in their own right at various junctures along the way, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to test myself by entering into personally uncharted realms of technological access.  But the links between these tools (and those that they will likely beget) and learning designs and implementations for the future were not explicit in my understanding.
Then, it was as if the clouds parted...

Working with my group, we discussed the four Cs of our learning environment.  As we worked and planned, it became apparent that, woven within the tapestry of the culture, climate, context, and content must be both the cutting edge technology necessary for student success in a global economy of the future, and the element of human exchange and interaction that these tools will enable and elicit. 
In considering the environment for the learning institution we are creating, our group discussed the need to engage students in both their understanding and knowledge, and their investment in their own learning.  (That this is essential may seem obvious; however, the commitment to doing so is often less of a given in the educational community.)  Engagement is an essential component in the process of learning and in caring about learning.
And so engaged, I recognized how my own learning in developing this project and over the course of this quarter has been a process.  That that process is bringing me through stages of wondering how to complete the simplest of tasks in the realm of technology, to doing so; and from reading-related wanderings concerned with how a world of technology would allow for a world of humanity seems to be a great unfolding in itself... In the midst of this revelation I recognize that there is more (much more) to learn.
But the beauty of it is, now I am engaged.  And I am beginning to learn in real time.           

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Age of the Unprecedented

Haven't we always lived in an age of the unprecedented?  With all due respect to Lewis Perelman, it seems that, while virtually everything we know is new, and technologies are morphing at a remarkable pace, this has always been true.  There has always been an evolution of learning and development and change.  The speed of these changes is relative.  Generations throughout time have watched in amazement as technologies have provided more than people ever dreamed possible - first to a select sector, and then to the common individual.  Perhaps the uniqueness of this generation's developments have been that, among the improvements have been vast advancements in global communication, making it possible for all to see (and participate in) the newest developments as they occur.  
Under the premise of the Lifelong Learning article, if such notions of limiting learning to schools and children, and a willingness to settle for mediocrity exist, it is small wonder that the National Education Act of 2015 will have come to pass!  [For such an Act to succeed, with competition among its most important foundational components, the design and function of teachers' unions will necessarily be altered in order for government-run educational enterprises to continue to compete successfully in this new educational marketplace.  While this paper suggests obliteration of the public education system as we know it, one is caused to wonder if this is a realistic possibility - given the influence of local and national teachers' unions.]
While it is certainly true that mediocre models of teaching are tolerated, and that some (many?) are content to relegate learning to institutions and finite time frames, that cannot be the context within which most are comfortable.  If it were, would the thirst for knowledge that has led great minds to pursue the next uncharted territory have been quietly quenched, and would the rest of us be satisfied in following to that realm as a point of completion?

Far from mediocre, the Phoenix Odyssey appears to provide a student-centered concept for lifelong learning.  This program, outlined in a paper written in 1993, must have seemed outside the realm of reality to the reader at that time.  Even now, one questions the possibility of such a program, both generally and with regard to its touted services!  Does this model truly offer the Nordstrom's customer service approach, or will it simply provide a representative that knows your profile?  It claims to "coordinate all your learning needs... skills, knowledge, social, and emotional".  How can this be accomplished?  While the personal hologram guide clearly provides a wonderful tool that makes learning come alive, it is merely a hologram.  It is virtual reality, not really reality; it is a hologram, not a sufficient replacement for social and emotional learning.
The reading was interesting and provocative.  Envisioning learning in the Phoenix Odyssey model provides fascinating possibilities... In conjunction with the project that we are developing, it opens so many doors of potential to consider!  Lifelong learning, complete with holograms and learning facilitators, connection to a global network of resources, and a commitment to client success are among its key marketing ingredients.  Understandably so.
Implications for our group projects are indicative of the delicate balance between embracing technology without losing sight of the human dynamic.  How do we remain visionary while maintaining our humanity?  Can we facilitate forward thinking and positive change, while simultaneously ensuring that the human element is central to the vision?  It is clear that we must.    

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Learning as we go...

Much of this week's reading focused on the results of surveys and research regarding unfolding trends in the use and preferences of use of IT by students - in both their academic and personal lives.  
The results of these studies indicate that students seem to want to delineate between the use of IM and other typically personal tools, and internet searches, video games, and simulations when accessing IT for academic purposes.  However, this must not be thought to be the expression of all, nor can it be considered the final say, or even a definitive trend.  Further, professors will need to be mindful of the individual needs of their students, considering those on the leading edge as well as those on the trailing edge of technology awareness, comfort, and use.  
Expecting students from all backgrounds to be equally prepared to jump in at the same level of readiness and participation seems akin to expecting English Language Learners to perform at the level of proficient or advanced on spring standards tests before they have mastered the English language.  Without exposure, support, and the time necessary to master the basics, it would be an unreasonable expectation.
Professors need to help in the process of discernment about what is and is not cutting edge - and even essential - in the realm of technology.  Many tools initially thought helpful, key, and important, are quickly relegated to the non-essential.  We have witnessed this as SAKAI, a year one necessity for cohort five, was replaced by moodle overnight.  Will moodle soon be found obsolete?
One of the most interesting facets of the research outlined in this week's readings revealed that respondents seem to want (and need) a balance between the use of technology and the ability to interface with their colleagues and professors.  While most of those surveyed appreciate using IT in their academic and personal lives, nearly 60% indicated their preference for a moderate amount in their courses.  This is supported by comments regarding the importance of "face time" in student retention and sense of inclusion and integration in the learning environment.  In small measure this is evidenced in the students on my campus that seek human interaction from adults in both academic and human interchanges.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

Paper never refused ink...

This week's readings brought to mind a phrase made familiar to me by my grandmother and mom throughout my childhood... paper never refused ink.  In teaching me to be an analytical thinker, they reminded me to examine what I read and hear, questioning its validity and integrity along the way.  Their lessons have taught me well; anything can be said or written, regardless of its accuracy.  We have seen this throughout our coursework in this program, as we marvel at the many ways that the same data may be manipulated to tell different versions of the truth.  
The articles assigned this week bring this notion to light in another arena.  As net generation students utilize the many facets of online access, they are often without pause to consider the integrity of the information they have gleaned, thus leaving themselves open to using inaccurate, possibly unchecked resources in their own research.  Further, they may be susceptible to unethical use of resources - albeit unintentionally - because they have not been adequately instructed on the appropriate use and citing of online material.  
Currently, standardization of such ethical practices does not exist.  As educational leaders, the responsibility of creating such standards and guiding our students both in their understanding and adherence of these guidelines rests upon our shoulders.  
Much like the two intelligent women in my own family guided me, it is up to us to direct the net generation toward online use and access that will benefit and protect them.  We shudder to think what might be when individuals trust what they read and see on the internet, knowing that their very safety may hang in the balance.  We watch as reputations are sullied by someone else's interjection of "facts" that change the impressions left on blogs, MySpace, and other personal accounts.  
It is necessary for us to instruct our students regarding the nuances of online access in order to encourage their critical thinking skills and ethics.  It is also essential that we guide them regarding matters related to their safety.  
The words of my mom and grandmother ring loudly as we can consider the experience of Joe the Plumber this past week...   

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's on the Horizon...

Over the weekend, it was necessary that I travel out of town.  On the plane, while reading the Horizon Reports, I noticed that the gentleman next to me was apparently carrying on the same student oriented activities - reading and highlighting - throughout the journey.  When he closed his book, I noted the title, "Teach Yourself TCP/IP".  I smiled.  Later I noticed that the airline magazine for October was dedicated to technology, with a variety of articles providing information related to innovations geared to connecting people and simplifying their work and personal lives.  While initially it struck me that this was an interesting coincidence, as the weekend progressed and I continued to read from the reports, it struck me that this is not a coincidence nor is it a trend... It is the way of the world. 
I read the reports in chronological order.  Beginning in 2005, which sounds like recent history, I am amazed to see how much has changed and progressed in these few short years.  Technology that was then looked at in terms of trends for the future are, in many cases, commonplace for a wide variety of people today; the 2008 report indicates that trends projected to take longer have already taken hold.  And I, a relative non-tech individual, am amazed that, as I read, I found that there are many ways that I am already engaging in some fairly forward thinking technologies in my work and personal life.  
Through the JDP we are engaged in an extended learning opportunity that has allowed several among us to participate in a doctoral program who might not otherwise have been able to so at this time... the Polycom system has made it possible.  Woven into that program are many other expectations to engage in various activities including (formerly) SAKAI, moodle, wikis, and bolgspots.  Initially these expectations feel a bit out of my comfort zone.  However, the guidance has been, for the most part, patient and encouraging, and I have risen to the challenge.  In reading the Horizon Reports, I am reminded of the importance of moving forward in my own knowledge of the technologies that are connecting this world.  As an educational leader, I recognize and understand the need for innovation and leadership in connecting my students and staff in greater, more meaningful ways.  It is my responsibility to lead that charge.
For much of the weekend, while reading the Horizon documents, I found myself feeling out of touch with the many advancements in technology that were described.  I wondered about the need for so many technologies and their impact on the human connection.  The reports tout the ways that technology informs and unites us, but I felt skeptical.  
Then, I received an e mail alert on my cell phone.  A major challenge at work had been resolved.  I was now free to enjoy the remainder of my weekend.          

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Constructivist Learning in the Age of Accountability

Constructivism makes sense.  In the article from EdWeb, the analogy of learning to ride a bike vs. reading a book about riding bikes is the perfect illustration of this...  Learning is active, not passive; learners of all ages need to be engaged for their brains to connect and engage with the concepts.  If we know this about ourselves, surely we recognize that it is counter-intuitive to suggest it would not be true of the students we serve.
Quiet classrooms where diligent students are completing projects that check for understanding following a structured lesson have long been thought to be evidence that an effective instructional model is in place.  The emphasis on classroom control is key in this scenario; student behaviors are linear, predictable, and monitored by a sequence of activities that repeat itself throughout the day (K-12) and term (post-secondary).  In a standards-driven world, this structure may feel necessary because it tempers student behaviors, allows for systematic dissemination of information, and implies that a system of accountability is in place.  Effort is followed by production and the accuracy and value of the product can easily be measured.
Constructive learning is active and engaging by definition.  Within this model, students are building their own knowledge and understanding.  Students that are asking questions, testing hypotheses, and challenging boundaries are learning by doing.  As they dig progressively deeper to gain understanding and uncover solutions, their energy is everywhere.  This classroom is not quiet... Nor should it be!
Can constructivism and an accountability-driven machine coexist?  Indeed, there is a delicate balance.  But it lies with us to be counter weights in the midst of the broader community that looks to test scores as the sole measure of success.  Those among us that feel handcuffed by the expectations of an accountability system that quiets classrooms and the learning that should take place in them need to strive for ways to rise above these perceived restrictions.  
It can be done.  In this class while there are not "standards" in the traditional way that we think of them, there are specific benchmarks that we are being given opportunities to achieve.  Building this blog is among them.  For me, the supportive, encouraging attitude coupled with just enough information to inspire me to begin encouraged me to take the risk.  By digging in and attempting it - taking the plunge in safe territory - I learned more than if I had simply read about it.  
There are challenges and risks of providing constructive opportunities for learning.  But anything having is worth working for.  Educators may feel that they have lost control when the noise level rises and learning takes its own shape as it is built.  They may even feel threatened by students that have learned more than they themselves know.  The energized, electric, active atmosphere is worth taking a step out on a ledge for.  It is felt acutely when students say, "I get it" in their recognition of real life applications and confidence in their competence.

Monday, September 29, 2008

and now it begins...

Thoughts of crisp, brightly colored leaves and freshly sharpened pencils typically set the stage for my back to school meanderings... However, fall 2008 is all about stretching and growing for me... Technology, constructivism, and my very first blog. I must be growing up!