How I have longed for a daily dose of goodness, and here it is – http://magazine.good.is/education I try not to watch or listen to news because it is always so depressing and dismal. I catch my brief little news soundbites from NPR while driving. Surely there must be good happening in the world. Why does the news seem to only report bad news?
I read Tod Perry’s article “Homeless Boy Studying in the Streets Gets a Scholarship” http://magazine.good.is/articles/studying-boy-inspires-nation with great interest. Daniel Cabrera was photographed by Joyce Torrefranca, a college student who was passing by, while he was studying on the sidewalk beside a McDonald’s. Daniel was using the light from the restaurant windows to complete his homework. Torrefranca’s photograph soon went viral on social media. As a result, Daniel has received a scholarship, school supplies, and financial donations from around the world.
It just thrills me to read stories such as Daniel’s. There is good in the world, and I am happy to hear about it. Yes, there is bad too – Daniel and millions of other children in the world live in extreme poverty – but, this story shows that there is goodness and kindness and hard work and tenacity in the world too. Daniel’s story and Torrefranca’s photograph show that there is hope.
The ongoing debate about the negative uses of social media just got dealt a hard blow. In Daniel’s case, social media was an unexpected blessing – both for Daniel’s family and for those of us lucky enough to have read his story.
I read, with interest, two articles related to equity and the rich-poor technology divide. According to the article “Digital Divide Is ‘Major Challenge’ In Teaching Low-Income Students, Survey Finds,” “56 percent of teachers who work with low-income students say that their students’ lack of access to digital technology is a “major challenge” to using quality online resources in their lessons.” This is a perplexing notion that caused me to wonder: Well, if a student does not have computer access at home, do not assign them homework that requires the internet. Just as we differentiate and accommodate the needs of students with disabilities, so too should we accommodate for children who do not have internet access. Clearly in this day having a computer at home even if one simply improves computer literacy, is a benefit. But, let’s be honest. If a child has a computer at home, the majority of the time on the computer would be for entertainment purposes, not education.
A differing point of view to the above study is discussed in “Study: Free Computers Don’t Close The Rich-Poor Education Gap.” The results of the study in which computers were give to students show that “computer ownership alone is unlikely to have much of an impact on short-term schooling outcomes for low-income children.” The study goes on to suggest that the likely culprit of the growing rich-poor education gap is parent expectations. Children who are raised in an environment that does not make education a priority are at a severe disadvantage, irrespective of computer ownership.
The expectations we place upon our students can be powerfully motivating and encouraging. It is incumbent upon parents and teachers alike to embed high educational expectations on our youngsters. History is full of stories of people born into hard times that used education as a way to improve themselves – Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln are two great examples. Having a computer at home is a wonderful privilege, but not having a computer should not be viewed in terms of a child’s chance of success or failure. Rather, guidance, encouragement, solid educational expectations, and computer access at school should be incorporating into helping every child succeed, regardless of family income and computer ownership.
The results of Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2014 Student Survey clearly show that students in blending learning environments link the use of digital tools to important learning goals. Middle schoolers site many benefits of digital learning including learning at their own pace, collaborating and communicating with peers, and importantly learning in a way that is meaningful.
Dr. Nasr writes in Whole Education of the need for filling the relevance gap. With digital natives, using technology is relevant and meaningful to students’ way of learning. While I recognize that technology is limited by what materials are available, I hope to be able to utilize technology in my future classroom.
Today’s students do want to learn. They are eager to absorb knowledge and learn new skills – they just like to do that using technology. They are very engaged when learning mirrors the holy trinity of the student vision for a 21st century educational experience: learning that is socially based and collaborative, learning that is untethered from traditional constraints, and learning that is digitally rich in context and relevancy. It is incumbent upon teachers and administrators to ensure that students have the technology that is necessary to fully recognize students’ academic drive and potential.
Ted Talks are just about the best thing since sliced bread. David Christian’s The History of the World in 18 Minutes was fabulous. Christian discusses the notion of “Big History” i.e. the history of the Earth and the Solar System. He begins with showing a video of unscrambling eggs as a way of illustrating how order moves towards disorder. He suggests many “Goldilocks Conditions” that were ‘just right’ – threshold moments that allowed for further complexity to develop. Sometime after 65 million years ago, mammals have thrived. Christian suggests that humans have thrived above all other mammals because of our gift of collective learning. It is what makes us different. Collective learning enabled humans to spread and migrate and interact and connect all over the world. Christian is fearful, however, that the Goldilocks Condition that allowed humans to become so staggeringly complex will also allow for the use of nuclear weapons and continued burning of fossil fuels.
Big History shows complexity, fragility, and power. Christian and his colleagues have developed a free Big History syllabus that they hope will be of use to youngsters as they grow up. Perhaps the Goldilocks Condition that allowed for humans to collectively learn will also help humans help each other be safe. Perhaps this online syllabus will help humans in years to come as they face the threshold moment in our beautiful planet.
This Ted Talk was deep and powerful. If it were on NPR, I’d say that I was having a ‘Driveway Moment.’ It is a tremendous notion to think that humans’ ability to collectively learn may also be a way to protect and preserve future human life.
||In this inaugural episode of Learning Differently, the chairman of the Special Olympics talks with us about pivotal themes involved in teaching students with learning disabilities and bringing out the best in all children.
I highly recommend listening to the podcast on BAM! Radio featuring Timothy Shriver. He is an educator, social activist, film producer, Chairman of the Special Olympics, and the author of Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most.
Shriver urges listeners to view people who have disabilities as being people with extraordinary abilities. He tells the story of a young wheelchair bound boy who competed at the Special Olympics. His task was to move a small object 18 inches on a table. This feat took several minutes to complete and the audience erupted in applause. This boy was heroic in his hard work and determination.
Shriver relates his belief that the world is a place that is hungry for inclusion without judgement. He urges listeners to be welcoming regardless of differences. As an educator, he believes that great teachers love their students. Educators must care first for the child before true teaching is possible. He speaks about a Curriculum of the Heart in which tolerance, kindness, generosity, trust, and vision are key.
His closing words are charmingly full of warm fuzzies – “You are more beautiful than you can possibly imagine. Trust the world with your dreams and purposes.” This will help one become fully alive.
Podcasts are a brilliant tool for professional learning and development. I am a true fan of NPR and have been known to have “Driveway Moments” in which I sit in the car after arriving at my destination to listen to the end of a segment. BAM! Radio features hundreds of podcasts that span the gamut of education as a profession. I look forward to listening to more discussions in the future, and I urge you to sign up for BAM! Radio too. http://www.bamradionetwork.com/
Oh, I had great fun playing on Big Huge Labs http://bighugelabs.com/. There are loads of creative and eye-catching options to enhance visual imagery in presentations and for use in class projects.
Using a photo from a recent family cruise, I created this pop art poster. I can see great use for this in class – how about a Founding Fathers pop art poster, or a poster of women from the suffrage movement? That would be so cool, and I think students would get a kick out of it.
Below is a “Motivational” type poster that I made using a picture I took years ago in a field of sunflowers. There are many titles that could be used; I chose “Perspective” because I think every child looks at the world in their own way. It is our job as teachers to figure out the ‘perspective’ with which our students view education.
The original title of this photograph was “Sonflower.” My son has Asperger’s and he often turns around and faces his classmates during circle time rather than looking at his teacher. This flower immediately reminded me of him.
Following on the above historic topics, students could create posters with creative captions and titles using photographs and illustrations from the past. Tapping into students’ interest in technology is a great motivator, and it could easily turn a dull lesson into something interesting and meaningful.
Scott McLeod’s Ted talk Extracurricular Empowerment presented a thought provoking look at tech and teenagers. He argues that teens have robust at home learning, but are not-so-robust at school. In the constant debate that follows technology, many teachers and parents are fearful and leery of tech and strive to limit its use. There are certainly valid arguments for limited use – spend time communicating one-on-one face-to-face, being able to actually turn the paper pages of a book, play outside, etc… But, there are many reasons to use technology for good outcomes as well. Martha, of food blogging fame, was able to raise money that she donated to a community in Malawi, Native American teenagers in South Dakota were able to spread their message about life on the reservation. Like all things in life, a balance is needed. What is the right balance for teenagers’ technology use? It is our job as teachers, parents, and community members to help guide teens and children in finding the balance that is right for them. We need to be brave enough to safely guide young people in the use of technology.
I am reminded of a scene in Finding Nemo when Marlin asks the turtle dad about when to ‘let go’:
Marlin: How do you know if they’re ready?
Crush: Well, you never really know, but when they know, you know, y’know?
The role of teachers and parents is to provide youngsters with tools and knowledge, and then have the strength to let our youngsters explore the world on their own.
P.S. I really liked how Scott smiled and used humor in his presentation. It hooked me. 🙂