February 2, 2016
Transforming Learning: Beyond the $1,000 Pencil – LIVE Blog of Alan November Keynote
Alan November (@GlobalLearner) opened up the inaugural EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit. An international leader in education technology, Alan began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. In 1984, while working a computer science teacher in Lexington, MA, he became one of the first teachers in the world to have a student project online - a database for the handicapped. In his career, he has been director of an alternative high school, computer coordinator, technology consultant, and university lecturer. Today, he helps schools, governments, and industry leaders improve the quality of education through technology. "I've been in this business for a long time." Begins Alan. "If you were going to ask one question about the impact of technology on learning as you visited any school, the answer to this question - if you frame it correctly - would lead you to believe that this school is using technology as a $1,000 pencil (doing old work with new schools) or would lead you to believe that this school is transforming learning with technology." Alan is concerned that we are asking the wrong questions. Alan then shows an image of a smart toilet. He then tells the story of his experience in a "smart" store to try out this smart toilet. On top of having a remote control, then toilet also has a computer chip in the bowl that analyzes what ends up in there and then sends data to your doctor. Alan then says to imagine what may come to the Apple Watch. How this idea of technology detection could change the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Currently, the patient receives information from the doctor. However, with this smart technology, the information comes directly to the patient and by-passes the doctor. As we move into the future, we will start to have the Internet of Things. This notion that all objects will speak to each other and constantly provide data to the end user. We're moving towards this connected world - the flow of information will become the revolution. Not the device.
Who Owns the Learning?Alan thinks that the big revolution may be the shift of control. Think about the story of the toilet. In our current state, the doctor has the control in a doctor-patient relationship. Not with the smart toilet. This same thing now applies to our current state of education. However, who owns the learning? What is the role of the teacher now that the Internet has been invented. The big story is the shift of control, but that only works if the end-user (the student, the guy with the toilet) knows what to do with that information. Right now, Alan owns the learning. We are all sitting here listening to him.
Are Students Being Given the Right Information at the Right Time to be the Best Students that They can be?The flow of information is critical. Who gets it, who had it, and what do they do with it? We know that immediate feedback is more powerful than waiting 24 hours for a teacher to give back an assessment. Currently, schools are designed to delay feedback. However, the human mind is predetermined to receive feedback within a half of a second. We need to move feedback and assessment to the student in order to support learning. With game theory, it was only when computer screens could display inside a half of a second that video games took off. Think about coding. It's the ultimate example of immediate feedback. Students can instantly get feedback when they write a code. Imagine if a real coder had to wait two days to get feedback about a line of code. Nothing would ever move forward. Students thrive with coding because of the immediacy of the feedback. While Alan said that there is nothing wrong with giving students assignments and then returning it later, it is a detriment to their learning. He then shows Wolfram Alpha. Think about how it changes the shift of control from teachers to learners as it can compute every math problem, balance every equation, or provide every derivative of a word. He tells the story of explaining Wolfram Alpha to a calculus student. After realizing that he could have typed every equation into the search engine and then received immediate feedback, the student was angry. He had essentially been two days behind for the entire year, trying to understand, and waiting for feedback.
Alan thinks that teachers should talk less and listen more. Students should come into class and allow the students to just get to work. In Singapore, the mantra is "teach less and learn more." They constantly study, research, and work to improve teaching and learning. Going back to the story of explaining Wolfram Alpha to the group of calculus students. The teachers in the school were outraged that Alan had taught the students "how to copy. How to cheat faster." Right now, learning as we have defined it is based on memorization and a predetermined set of problems. Maybe the challenge is to give more authentic problems. Day one of school, according to Alan, is the most important day for teaching students to ask questions. He then tells the story of a teacher named Jessica Cavainess (@MrsJCavainess) who teaches all of her math students by providing problems and then asking them to figure out the equations. Rather than keep the same problem, we need to change the nature of the problems. The Internet has shifted the control of the classroom. It has created an environment for problem seeking in that it provides for immediate feedback.
The Transformational 6 QuestionsAlan thinks that if the answer is "no" to all of these questions, then all of the technology being used in a school is just new tools doing old jobs.
- Capacity for critical thinking?
- New lines of inquiry?
- Making Thinking Visible?
- Authentic Conversations?
- Contribution or purposeful work?
- Best (exemplar) in the world?