Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transforming Education

Technology enabled classrooms should have self-directed learners and teachers who can manage their classrooms. Every child learns differently and children should be allowed to learn at their own pace. If we expect students to learn how to solve problems, collaborate and communicate then we need a new way for them to learn through the use of technology. To prepare for the 21st century learning must take place inside and outside the classroom using technology to improve the learning outcomes for all students.

Students need to be self-directed learners who “select, manage, and assess their own learning activities” and are given the freedom to pursue learning “at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age.” Teachers would “emphasize skills, processes and systems instead of content coverage and tests.” So how can this be done?

The article listed three essentials:
  1. Learning must move from teacher-centered to student-centered – this isn’t a new concept in education but how many teachers really know what this means and how to accomplish this in the classroom?
  2. Students must take charge of their own learning – again not a new concept, but how many students want to be in charge of their own learning? How do we create an environment where students want to be involved learners?
  3. Assessments must be formative and summative – formative assessments provide feedback to the students by addressing learning gaps showing teachers where to re-teach concepts. Summative assessments show the proficiency level reached by the student.
The article outlined four ideas.
  1. Create – teacher created multimedia lessons – hands on, collaborative learning activities
  2. Teach – keep students focused on the lesson and learning
  3. Learn – allow students time to collaborate, interact with the materials and create meaning from the lesson
  4. Assess – formative assessments giving students feedback throughout the lesson – re-teaching and providing additional materials as needed
One of the best ways for teachers to accomplish these goals is through classroom-management system software but what if your school district doesn’t use a classroom-management system? Teachers could begin by building more student-centered activities through project-based learning. As I read through the following list it was easy to see the similarities.

Project-Based Learning outline from Wikipedia:
  1. Organized around an open-ended Driving Question or Challenge – (Create)
  2. Creates a need to know essential content and skills – (Teach)
  3. Requires inquiry to learn and/or create something new – (Learn)
  4. Requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication – (Learn)
  5. Allows some degree of student voice and choice – (Learn)
  6. Incorporates feedback and revision – (Assess)
  7. Results in a publicly presented product or performance – (Assess)
I compared this list to a recent posting I wrote about project-based learning.  Here are the steps as outlined from Edutopia.  http://www.edutopia.org/maine-project-learning-six-steps-planning

Six Steps for Planning a Successful Project
  1. Develop a compelling topic that covers state standards - (Create)
  2. Develop or design a comprehensive final product that each student will have a role in creating - (Create & Learn)
  3. Involve professional organizations and professionals from the community to connect the academic study with the real world - (Teach & Learn)
  4. Identify and organize the major learning resources (Teach & Learn)
  5. Coordinate calendars and allow enough time for each component to be done well - (Learn)
  6. Plan a final experience or culminating event - (Assess)
You can find lots of information about project-based learning, problem-based learning and inquiry-based learning on the internet. To help teachers find ways to transform education, build 21st century skills and prepare all students for the future take a look at these links.

Project-Based Learning Links
Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century- http://www.bie.org/
Project-Based Learning from Edutopia - http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning
Project-Based Learning - http://pbl-online.org/
Problem-Based Learning - http://livebinders.com/play/play/19470
Build Project-Based Learning Checklists and Evaluations - http://pblchecklist.4teachers.org/checklist.shtml

To read the article Transforming Education:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Robot Technology

In Los Angeles a young boy with autism is learning to mimic the moves of a robot. Around the world computer scientists are developing robots that can engage people, teaching simple skills, household tasks, vocabulary words and imitation. Researchers are also looking at robotics as instructors for foreign language or for developmental problems such as autism.

South Korea is using hundreds of robots as teacher aides in the classroom. According to Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, “with the right kind of technology at a critical period in a child’s development, they (robots) could supplement learning in the classroom.”

In one study children with autism spent thirty minutes with a robot when programmed to be socially engaging and another thirty minutes when the robot was programmed to behave randomly. When programmed to be socially engaging the children spent more time directly interacting with the robot. What does this tell us? When the robot acted more human the children responded better to the robot.

Timing the robot’s responses was also very important. If the robot responded too fast or too slow to the child this disrupted the interaction between them so the physical rhythm of the robot is crucial. When the robot was able to bob or shake in rhythm with an autistic child, the child would be less fearful to engage with the robot. “Simple mimicry seems to build a kind of trust, and increase sociability”, said Anjana Bhat, an assistant professor in the department of education.

For robots to be truly effective guides with children, robots will have to learn from students. According to Andrea Thomaz, assistant professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech, if ”scientists could equip a machine to understand the nonverbal cues that signal “I’m confused” or “I have a question” — giving it some ability to monitor how its lesson is being received” then the robot could accumulate knowledge through experience.

Researchers would like to find ways that “robots can learn to learn, on their own and without instruction.” Then can a robot be programmed to be “responsive to the needs of a class, even an individual child.”

Not sure if a robot could replace a teacher, what do you think?
To learn more about the robots mentioned in this posting please check out the links below.
To read this article please click on one of the links below:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/07/12/students-meet-your-new-teacher-mr-robot/ http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/science/11robots.html?_r=2&emc=eta1

Images from Bandit Robot, CosmoBot Robot and Nao Robot sites.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Students Design World Fixing Solutions

Have you heard about Imagine Cup, the student technology competition? The competition was developed by Microsoft to encourage young people to use their imaginations, their passion and creativity to design technology innovations that can make a difference in the world today.

Each team is challenged to come up with solutions that improve health, reduce poverty or boost literacy based on the UN Millennium Goals. To learn more about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals - http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

The competition hopes to inspire more students to become interested in technical careers and prepare them for future careers. To view some of this year’s finalist videos click on the link and select a country - http://www.msstudentlounge.com/studentrally/tabid/81/Default.aspx

The competition categories are: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Design, Digital Media and IT Challenge. To read about each teams’ projects - http://imaginecup.com/Competition/Finalists.aspx

Although this is a global competition how can you inspire your students to become passionate about learning and making a difference in the world? What project-based activities could you do with your students next school year? Do you want to design a student-centered project from scratch or find project-based activities online? Here’s some help with available project-based ideas from the internet –
There are many other sites on the internet that guide teachers in developing project-based activities and many sites that offer examples of project-based activities. This summer is a great time to revamp your lesson plans and incorporate project-based activities throughout the school year.

To learn more about Imagine Cup - http://imaginecup.com/
To view videos from Imagine Cup 2010 -

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Project-Based Learning

I recently came across two articles and three videos dealing with project learning from Edutopia. We all know that students need to be engaged learners and project-based learning is not a new concept for teachers but many teachers may not fully understand how to create a meaningful project that includes all content areas. The video examples showcased a learning expedition where students and teachers spent up to a semester working on a learning project.

The first article Six Steps for Planning a Successful Project provides the steps and examples of how to create a project from beginning to final product. The next article “Five Questions to Ask Before You Start a Project” posed questions the teachers should consider to make sure there are enough resources and examples to make the project meaningful for all students.

Each of the videos detailed a project the students worked on and presented to parents and the community. The projects involved community resources, teachers from universities and experts in various fields. The learning expeditions were real for the students who interviewed people, took pictures in the community and presented the projects from their perspectives and point of view.

Here are the videos:
It’s important for teachers to remember that these learning expeditions can be tailored to fit the time and resources available in their communities. A learning project doesn’t have to include an entire grade level of teachers; a well-planned project could be carried out by a couple of teachers. Also, think about including technology resources such as Skype and available free software that could be utilized for the project. Students need to learn from real-world situations; students need to learn how to explore, problem-solve, collaborate and work as a team; teachers need to know how to use technology as a tool to change the nature of learning; and students who participate in learning expeditions will turn into investigators, problem-solvers, scientists, writers, artists, multimedia experts, presenters and communicators.

One guiding principle was prevalent throughout the articles and videos - after designing the learning project the teachers went through every step of the project, investigating, collaborating, designing and presenting a final product to the group. The teachers learned how to scaffold the tasks and learning of new skills so the students would be successful each step of the way through the learning expedition. This was a key factor in the success of the project – teachers taking the time to work through the learning project and completing a final product because what looks great on paper in reality may not work.

To read the articles and view the videos please go to Edutopia: