Reimagining Online Learning

During the course CEP812 I was introduced to the concept of wicked problems or problems that are so complicated it really isn’t possible to create a solution to.  The new Media Consortium created a white paper that highlights 5 of the top wicked problems facing education today.  Working with Nathan Jacques and Kaitlin Rhonda we decided to work on brainstorming possible ways to reimagine online learning, on of the top 5 wicked problems in education today.  Here is what we came up with during our brainstorming sessions.  I especially want to thank Nate for all his wonderful artwork, the project turned out better than I had imagined it could.

RSA style summary

White Paper

It is no secret that there are many problems in education today. Some problems can be solved easily, while others take some work. And then there are problems, the wicked problems, that seem impossible to tackle.   Koehler & Mishra (2008) define wicked problems as a problem that has

incomplete, changing, and contradictory requirements. Solutions to wicked problems are often difficult to realize (or maybe even recognize) because of complex interdependencies among a large number of contextually bound variables. Wicked problems, they argue, cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion because the problem definition itself evolves as new solutions are considered and/or implemented. (p.10)

Lately, online learning has been a focal point in education reform, but online learning is not always successful. Why is this the case? Reimagining online learning is a wicked problem, one of the top five affecting education as identified by the New Media Consortium (2013). They challenge educators to re-imagine online learning.  However, there is no one way to reimagine online learning in a way that will be successful in every school district. The formula has to change with each particular classroom. Online learning is also constantly changing and it is difficult to stay on top of the latest trends. It’s even more difficult to determine if these latest trends are indeed effective means of teaching! Finally, the success of online learning has so many different variables, that there could literally be thousands of different successful approaches.

Different districts have different policies regarding which devices, technology, and programs are usable, which also makes this problem a little more wicked.  Many schools allow the use of cellphones or other personal devices for the purpose of text message polling, social media in the classroom, and other forms of educational communication. Other school districts have banned the use of cellphones and other personal devices for reasons from abusing the privilege to violence issues. Regardless, it is up to the school district to determine how and what technology can be used, which greatly affects the success of online learning.

 Our potential solution to this wicked problem revolves around the idea of getting students plugged into their own learning! What does this mean?

 We love the idea of “digital gaming” in education. What is gaming in education. Gaming or the “gamification” of lessons use game-like mechanisms to increase motivation and involvement. These mechanisms include, earning experience points/badges, having “lives” in an activity, and a video game element where students have to work through a series of tasks in order to “win” or be successful. Digital gaming allows for students to work at their own pace.  By allowing students to work at their own pace, all students can achieve to their highest potential not falling behind because the class pace is too quick for understanding or bored due to the class pace being too slow.

Digital Gaming also creates an environment where students can make mistakes and try again until they are successful. In a typical video game, a player can make a mistake, die, and come back to life to try again. In a classroom setting, students should be able to make mistakes and build off of that to be successful.

Digital gaming also adds an element of entertainment that is similar to what they are doing outside of school. Developing a gaming lesson that gets all students actively involved can be a wicked problem in and of itself. However, the chances of students being more involved in an interactive learning game over taking traditional pen and paper notes on a lecture is highly probable. Many students who put in little effort into their school days will go home and spend a lot of time and effort into learning new information to be successful in the online environment.  We think education needs to tap into the potential for student motivation found online.  The idea of gaming appeals to student interest, even those who may not be “gamers” by definition. Gaming can be individual, for those who like the challenge of accomplishing goals/tasks. It can also be group-oriented, for those who thrive off competition and teamwork.

Within this, online learning needs to matter to students. It is also important that learning is connected to the real world. Gee (2013) says, “Often students can see no clear and compelling goal for learning in formal classrooms beyond grades and graduation. They often do not care about the material in any deep way.” (p. 16) Students need to be able to find meaning in what they are learning. If students don’t see a real world connection, it is likely they won’t put effort into learning it long-term. If we make online learning fun and realistic, online learning can be a powerful thing.

 What that experience will look like for every student, is still a wicked problem that needs to be solved.  With the circumstances of each student being different from access to technology, teacher comfort, teacher knowledge, school policy, board policy, state or provincial mandates, it is improbable that a single vision for what online learning looks like is possible to create.  What may be possible is an amalgamation of practices that are anchored to educational research from which teachers could choose from to suit the needs of their particular students. Here is the start of a possible list of strategies to keep students highly involved throughout a gaming scenario:

 1) Daily reflection and Debate through Twitter, Blogs, Posts, and Surveys

2) Conscious implementation of devices into assignments and projects

3) Project based learning through the maker culture. Innovation through mistakes

4) Sharing Web 2.0 applications and attempts to fit into content delivery

5) Learning through teaching. Use technology to research and then return information to peers

In the end, the only thing that matters is the students.  Something that needs to be at the forefront of all interested in educational reform.

References

Gee, James Paul (2013) The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning [Ibook edition] New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

New Media Consortium (2013) The Future of Education: The 2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communique Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2013-Horizon-Project-Summit-Communique.pdf

Passion and Curiosity Quotients in my work

This week in CEp812 looks at an article by Thomas L Friedman that talks about his belief that the Passion Quotient and Curiosity Quotient will be as helpful and in some cases more helpful in the future than Intelligent Quotient at having the right people doing the right jobs.  While I do not think the situation is as dire as he makes it out to be I agree that passion and curiosity are valuable traits to have and to foster in my students.

We were asked in response to this article to create something with some digital technology that shows our passion and curiosity in our job and how we use digital technology to foster that passion and creativity in our students.  When I got this assignment I was really at a loss as to what to do to show my P.Q. and C.Q. that I have for my work but I knew without a doubt that I show them everyday at work.  When talking to my colleagues at lunch they said just film yourself doing anything and that will be good enough, but I was not satisfied with that.

This year I was inspired to try gamification in my classroom using points and badges to monitor formative assessment and to leave the marks that go on the report cards to summative assessments.  I knew I wanted to do this but I struggled with what that was going to look like.  That is when I discovered the blog of Michael Matera.  He has created a system that mimics the points, levels, and badges found in many digital games.  I purchased his set of google spreadsheets and got started setting up my classes with it. Since I started investigating gamification in the classroom I have seen many iMovie trailers on youtube.  So for this project I decided to make one for myself.  I had never used iMovie before but I felt confident I could do it, not to mention curious about the old fashion map animations I saw, so I got started.  I decided to create the trailer to whet the curiosity of my students about what they could expect math to be like this year in the gamification world called Foxhaven.

My students asked to watch it a 2nd and sometimes a third time and kept asking what the different pictures meant.  The excitement was palpable in the room today. I hope it continues as the year progresses.  I can’t wait to start the exploration of Foxhaven in my classroom, hopefully it will help to foster curiosity in learning mathematics and create students who are passionate about learning as much as they possibly can.  I do not look at the work I do as a job but as a calling so I love what I do.  Every year the learning needs of my students increase and as a result I need to be curious to figure out what exactly will work for each child.  While Friedman labeled the CQ as curiosity quotient I think it would be better served to be Creativity Quotient.  Nothing changes if you are just curious it takes creativity to make the changes you want in the world.

Friedman, T (2013, January 29) It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times Opinion Pages. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0

References from the iMovie trailer in order of appearance to make it easier to find what you want.

NASA/JPL-Caltech. (2005) NASA Scientist Finds World With Triple Sunsets [image file] Retrieved from  http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/newworlds/threesun-071305a.html

Tangient LLC (2013) Landing on Mars [image file] retrieved from Mars 1650 wikispaces at  http://mars1650.wikispaces.com/Landing+On+Mars

4EL Classroom connection (2013) 33078-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Female-Math-Teacher-And-Students-With-A-Calculator-And-Numbers Retrieved from http://teachers.saschina.org/elau/2013/04/08/math-survey/33078-clipart-illustration-of-a-female-math-teacher-and-students-with-a-calculator-and-numbers/

Wohl Isard (2013, August 22) OMG-AIMS [image file] Retrieved from Raising Arizona Kids http://rakadd.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/omg-aims/

The Physical Educator (2011, October 21) Responsibility Badges in Physical Education [image file]Retrieved from http://www.thephysicaleducator.com/blog/files/responsibility_badges.html

geralt (2006) learn note sign directory direction arrows street [image file] Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/learn-note-sign-directory-64058/

We Want To Know AS (2013) Dragonbox algebra http://dragonboxapp.com/

ABCya.com (2012) Virtual Manipulatives https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/virtual-manipulatives!/id471341079?mt=8

Tetz (2013) Education as a force for equality Retrieved from https://mathrocks4life.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/education-as-a-force-for-equality/

The Math Learning Center (2012) Geoboard https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/geoboard-by-math-learning/id519896952?mt=8

Thirteen (2011) Cyberchase http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/videos/

Holladay, Justin (2012) 4 Dice: Fraction Games https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/4-dice-fraction-games/id583546023?ls=1&mt=8

Launchpad Toys (n.d.)  Toontastic https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/toontastic/id404693282?mt=8

AR Entertainment (n.d.) Grid Drawing for Kids Lite https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/grid-drawing-for-kids-lite/id581373862?mt=8

Brainingcamp, LLC (2012) Algebra Tiles https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/algebra-tiles/id568896224?mt=8

DigitWhiz Inc. (2013) DigitWhiz http://digitwhiz.com/

Alberta Education (2003) Math Continuum Retrieved from Learn Alberta http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/mec/html/index.html?launch=true#

Technology Integration in My School

This week in CEP812 we were asked to send a survey to our colleagues asking them about how they use technology in their classroom and how they would like to improve that integration in the future.  This year at my school we are moving from separate computer classes to tech integration so this survey comes at a perfect time for useful feedback for change in my school.

I created a survey and sent it out to my colleagues using our school email.  Below you can see the survey questions.

Survey page 1 Survey page 2 Survey page3 Survey page 4

Unfortunately, I am enrolled in CEP811 during the summer and a single week is not enough time to get feedback especially during the last week of summer holidays.  So the results I  will be talking about will be conclusions based on only 4 of the 30 people who work at my school, so not enough of a sample size to make real conclusions to base changes in our school on.  However, that being said, My school heads back to work on Monday, and my Assistant Principle is going to ask everyone to complete it then so that he can use this information to plan Professional Development and Technology Integration for the year.

Due to not having many responses to my survey, there is only one area that has clear enough results to make any conclusions about and that is the section on what type of professional development they feel will work best to further their learning.  I create an info-graphic to show what the results were.  You can view them on the web here.   Using this information I have found out that the staff that answered prefer Professional development to occur, from most to least, time to explore themselves, time to work with colleagues in development, study group, provided by teacher, provided by company, and offsite.  This says to me that professional development that occurs around technology during this school year should be in the form of teachers exploring on their own or exploring with their colleagues and that my admin team should not spend money to have technology training done by the company or one offsite.

I am rally interested to see if these results hold up after all participants have a chance to answer.

My InfoDiet

During CEP812, we have been exploring Gee(2013) ideas that it takes a group of unlike minded people to solve the worlds biggest problems.  Yes that is correct, unlike minded people.  Gee has stated that most of the world’s problems are created or are not yet solved because only people who think the same way work together to try and solve problems.  As a result, these problem solving groups do not have enough diversity to have ideas bounce off each other to allow the creation of new ideas.  This week in CEP812 we were introduced to the idea of a filter bubble (Pariser, 2011).

The concept of filter bubble is the idea that the algorithms that control many sites on the web including Google filter your query results based on your previous interactions with Google.  I can honestly tell you I was shocked.  I knew that what I received on Twitter or Feedly were restricted by who I chose to follow.  But Google…that really made me go hummm.  This week we were challenged to add three new sites to our RSS feed to help expand the information making it to us through our filter bubble.

When I started CEp810, it was the first time I had used twitter for a professional learning community, and the first time I had used an RSS feed.  I was really unclear how to choose sites to go into my RSS feeds and so I just looked at the sites that Feedly gave me when I typed in key words.  I was looking for sites that would support how I viewed teaching, especially teaching of mathematics and teaching using gamification.  You might think this narrowed my filter bubble to just things that interested me, but in a more profound way it has expanded my understanding of what teaching mathematics can be, what gamification of learning could be, and how to integrate technology into my classroom.  You wonder, how can finding what is the same help to broaden your understanding of things not restrict it?  It expands my understanding because it gives me new ideas to ponder, new techniques to try, and new understandings of how to teach in this ever changing world.  It allows new ideas to collide with my own to create something new to try and explore.  I do not get this collision of ideas at work, not because my colleagues aren’t good teachers, but because we view the world of teaching mathematics very differently and rather than value the diversity, it is often rejected as too outside the box.  Fortunately my principal is willing to allow me the freedom to experiment with new ideas to find ones that work for my students and I, we just know that rarely will those new insights extend beyond my classroom.

So to find three new sites to expand my info diet, was challenging.  I really needed to think about what three new sites would expand what I was getting from the other 21 sites presently in my Feedly feed.  TO do that I first had to look at what I had.  I found that I had math educator blogs but no researchers in the field of mathematics education.  I found that I had a lot of American content but little Canadian, this really distressed me and I wonder why my filter bubble focuses more on American content.  I found that had I had education sites from  a variety of disciplines but no non-educational sites.

I decided for my non-educational site I would add the site Pariser co-founded called Upworthy.  Upworthy is a site where videos that are deemed to matter are gathered in one place.  If the videos matter to you is up to the viewer, but seeing the variety of videos present expands my view of what matters to beyond just an educational one. The first video I watch from that site, ended up being one that is close to my heart.  I have been a gamer/geek since I was 8 years old, and have often faced the comments that are behind the creation of the video.

I am still working on RSS feeds for notable mathematics education researchers.  I added Jo Boaler’s blog only to realize that it hasn’t been updated in a year.  Marian Small does not have a blog to add.  I also tried John Mason and Anne Watson, who I had the privilege of learning from last summer, but no luck their either.  As for, Canadian math educators I have added three to my RSS feed, however they have published little, probably due to it being summer, so I can not comment on how they add to my Info diet.

I have found the flow  of information on Feedly staggering at times, not to mention twitter.  I have come up with a system where I spend 5 minutes looking through all the new items and then favourite those that I think might expand my understanding of something.  Then I go through them all later when I have time to actually comb through the items.  Additionally, every session that I go through the new items, I have been choosing to pick 3 things that I think might be interesting, or might offer a different perspective to try and widen my info diet.  I can honestly say that not everything that I have picked has been something I will keep on my favourite list, but the few that have remained have helped me to see the world through slightly different eyes.

The ideas in today’s blogpost remind me of a poem, I read in junior high.

OUTWITTED by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

1350525607_c743c91f6c

The question now becomes, if Google and other algorithmic filters are shutting us out from  all of the information out there that contradicts our present view point, what can we do to change that so that these filter work for us, to create a more complex conglomeration of information to base our decisions and viewpoints on.

Beer, Andreas (2007, September 9) Circle [Image File].  Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sauerlandthemen/1350525607/sizes/m/in/photolist-34kNdg-36VoTt-3aspKF-3ecdXD-3egAaW-3egAWA-3i94MB-3oFAmM-3pPJL3-3rArFX-3xn1kg-3BtS48-3EXndB-3JDi6h-3S3EZL-42CRRb-4b59LF-4bDd7P-4csxia-4exiaR-4gG9cm-4iBDCF-4iBEhP-4iYXWo-4jkGoB-4mSuyK-4nr2rZ-4qiBFr-4resUJ-4A4zZr-4AHDSe-4BxHGF-4DH8CX-4DH8Lg-4DH8ST-4DH8Zz-4DH972-4F2xt2-4FqEWe-4GxJHC-4J7C6t-4PUxUR-4R3wjS-4SrycX-4SryUX-4SvKPA-4SvKRS-4UWHN3-4Y9QDp-4YVrFA-4Z8Wnq/

Gee, James Paul (2013) The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning [Ibook edition] New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

Markham, Edwin (1901) Outwitted part of the Epigrams Retrieved from http://ebooks.gutenberg.us/Poetry_Collection/mark01.html#2

Pariser (2011) Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” [TED Talks Video file] Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html?embed=true

The Doubleclicks (2013, July 23) Nothing to Prove – Geek Girls & The Doubleclicks [Video file]. Retieved from http://www.upworthy.com/some-geek-boys-called-these-geek-girls-fake-they-certainly-wont-be-making-that-mistake-again-7?c=fea

Using Technology to Support students who are Hard of Hearing

Hearing loss and deafness have many causes including among others trauma, genetics, and ear infections(American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, n.d.).  Hearing loss can also  occur at any time in ones life. Some hearing loss is congenital, meaning it is present at birth, some hearing loss occurs slowly over time, and some occurs suddenly.  Whatever the cause, hearing loss causes difficulties for students in an academic setting.

When I was a young child of about three, my brother adopted the neighbour lady as his and thus my grandmother.   Shortly after her adoption by my brother she became a family friend.  Her and her husband moved into a housing complex for people who were deaf or hard of hearing as the facility operators.  I used to love to go visit because I had learned to finger spell and introduce myself in ASL so the residents used to show me off and teach me new things.  To me, at that age, sign language was a wonderful new adventure but I did not understand the implications of having a hearing deficit in a mostly hearing world.

My first exposure to teaching a student with a hearing loss came during the time I was studying to become an educator and was tutoring on the side to pay for school.  The daughter of my Mum’s friend had had fraternal twins who were born prematurely.  The boy had to be put on a ventilator and as a result of the air pressure had hearing loss.  After I had been working with him for about a year he got hearing aids and was being encouraged to learn sign language.  I had never seen such anger from a third grader before.  He didn’t want to be different, even though it would help him.  He wanted to be the same as everyone else and he felt that having to sign or having someone sign to him during class would mark him as other.  Which is a common concern noted among children who use the FM system at school (Franks, 2008).

My second exposure to teaching a student with a hearing loss came two years ago.  I had a girl transfer into my grade 7 math class who had just recently been diagnosed with a hearing deficit, which after the testing was complete appeared to have been with her since birth.  She is a remarkable person in her own right but I admire her greatly for what she was able to achieve with no  technology or accommodations being made for her.  She was an honours students through the sheer will to succeed, she lip read what the teachers were saying, copied everything down that was written, looked off the notes of her seat mates, asked for help when she needed to.  During the year , we got use of an FM system called a sound field.  FM is the abbreviation for frequency modulation and is a common form of radio transmission.  The FM system amplifies whatever is said into the microphone and outputs through a speaker that is either external or internal to the hearing aids.   With that small addition to the classroom she became more animated in class discussions.  She told me that she felt more confident to participate if she knew what was going on. The only drawback was the speaker was large and heavy so it was only used in two of her four academic classes which were across the hall from each other.  She was without support in all of her other classes. At the end of the school year, she finally recieved her hearing aids and now had a FM system that went directly from a teacher microphone to her hearing aids.  While I know it is better for her, I do miss the class speaker because I felt it focused everyone more and I know my voice liked the lack of strain necessary to be heard.  Research has shown that using sound field amplification can also help students who experience short term hearing loss due to ear infections, English Language Learners and students with Attention Deficit Disorder(Millett, 2008).  It is unfortunate that it is not possible to have both systems in the classroom following the concept of Universal design, where what is good for students with disabilities of any kind is good for everyone Millett, 2009)This year I was fortunate to have her in my grade 8 math class.  This year she is even more active in class discussions and more outgoing with school events.  It is interesting to see what one small technology can go to help change a students ability to be more successful.

Here in Alberta, students with any learning needs require an Individual Program Plan (IPP) to talk about the modification and adaptations that need to be in place for a student to be successful.  Because of her need for the FM system and Hearing Aids, this student needs an IPP.  Part of the process of an IPP is creating goals to help the student be successful at school.  She is already been successful and needs little support to use her new technology to continue to be successful.  So her IPP becomes  one of self-advocacy instead of teacher driven.  Even though this student requires no more support than talking two seconds to put the FM microphone around your neck, the teachers, who will teach her in the fall, were noticeably unhappy when notified of her audiology meeting.  I can honestly say hers is the easiest accommodation I have ever had to make.  I have also been notified that I will also have new student in the fall that is also hard of hearing.  I am interested to see what is similar and what is the same for this new student.  Each child is different, so the label hard of hearing is not a label that defines what challenges or triumphs you will experience while working with the student.  I think of the educational categories as adjectives like short or tall.  While these adjectives give you some vague notion of what to expect they really tell you little.  I guess that is why I Love teaching, every day and every student you teach is a new adventure.  As teachers, we must look to how we can help all students to be successful because “fair does not mean equal” (Wormeli, 2006) and it is our job to find what can make the playing field for our students as fair as possible, and in today’s society means finding the technology that best supports our students.

As I do not have access to the FM system during the summer I found a video that shows the difference between what school is like for a student with a hearing impairment with and without an FM system.

Another new technology I found is TediSubtitle which has the TED talks with subtitles.  It is a $0.99 app that will allow students with hearing deficits and even my English language Learners to match what is being said with the words in the subtitles.  I am looking forward to using it in my classroom this year.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.) Causes of Hearing Loss in Children Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/causes.htm

Franks, Jennifer Lynn, “Why Do Students with Hearing Impairment Resist Wearing FM Amplification?” (2008). Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. Paper 205.

Millette, P (2008) Sound Field Amplification Research Summary.  York University

Millette, P. (2009, November) What Works? Research into Practice:  Using Classroom Amplification in a Universal Design Model to Enhance Hearing and Listening. Research Monograph 23 Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/WW_Classroom_Amplification.pdf

Pediatric Audiology Project (2010, September 27) Hearing Loss in the Classroom [Video file] http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ln8NHzVfJkQ#at=264

Wormeli (2006) Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers

Why People are Stupid

anti education eraThis week in my CEP812 course we were asked to read the preface, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 15, 16 of the book by James Paul Gee (2013) entitled The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning.  I will preface my summary and discussion about this reading by saying that I had already read this book for a previous master’s course so while I will try to keep my thoughts to the first part of this book, I may stray over into the second part at times as it is difficult to separate something after you have read it together.

While in CEP810, I was fortunate to be able to listen to James Paul Gee talk live about his book.  It was a wonderful talk as he highlighted what he felt was most important about the key concepts of the book.  I have embedded the video here as it will give those of you who have not read the book some context for the title of this blog, Why People are Stupid, as well as for what is to follow.

What limitations prevent us from solving big complex ideas smartly?

I will start with a quote from the preface of this book that will set the stage for this discussion.  Gee (2013a) states that he is intrigued “by how a species named for its intelligence (Homo sapiens: wise or knowing man) can sometimes be so stupid.  Depending on how you look at it, humans are either marvelously intelligent or amazingly stupid” (preface, par 1). While being stupid as a species is nothing new, Gee challenges that the consequences of our species being stupid in the present are more catastrophic due to the more complex nature of today’s global world.  Gee is a proponent of harnessing the power of digital technology to improve our ability to solve big problems, but caveats technology use with the idea that technology alone will only make use dumber, how we use it needs to change in order to become smarter through the use of digital technology.

The first limitation that prevents us from solving big complex ideas smartly is the difference between what the education system is presently and what it needs to be to support learners at the start of the 21st century.  He questions what education needs to look like to produce a person who is “a producer and not just a consumer, a participant and not just a spectator, an agent and not a victim in a world full of ideology, risk, fear, and uncertainty”(preface, par 28).  Gee believes that focusing on school policy and school reform will not change the system.  To change the system the focus must move from skill and drill based school to schools that focus on what students need to know to be active participants in making their life, their community, and the world better.  By having agency (Gee, 2005) in their life; students will participate more fully, make what they do count, and thus in Gee’s opinion become smarter.

The second limitation that prevents us from solving big complex ideas smartly is the perception that technology by itself will fix society with no effort on our part being necessary.  Gee argues that in order for technology to help make us smarter it needs to be a tool used by people to connect themselves in spaces for cooperative learning, which during his book talk he called “affinity spaces”(2013b).  He also discusses that the gap between richer and poorer kids is widening due to the education debt (Ladson-Billings, 2006).  Students who are in lower socio-economic standings have less exposure to the skills necessary to use technology to make us smarter, those of “innovation, system thinking, design, technical learning, and using technology for production” ( Gee, 2013a, preface, par 32).  He highlights this gap as one of the ways that education has lost sight of its mandate to provide means for all people to equally participate and count in our society.

The third limitation that prevents us from solving big complex ideas smartly is the concept of having an opinion and then having evidence to back up that opinion.  Gee states that most people only look for evidence that supports their point of view.  He urges that in order to able to solve big complex problems smartly people need to look for information that not only supports their claim, but evidence that disagrees with that point of view in order to find evidence to strengthen or change their previous opinion.  Gee believes that to be smart, we need to extend beyond what is comfortable and familiar to find new or more complete knowledge through the wisdom of others.  Then and only then, through the respectful interchange of well supported ideas is it possible for old ideas collide to let new ideas emerge that are a combination of what is best or smartest from the old ideas.  Gee cautions, however, that when looking for support for our opinions we must look for the quality of the information we are using.  In order to create smarter solutions the quality of all the thoughts needs to be the best we have to offer as a global community.  Gee also challenges the idea that educational institutes, especially at universities and colleges, are frozen in their thinking and do not welcome and at times actively seek to suppress the idea of questioning the status quo.  Those that initial start with new innovative solutions to problems are slowly forced to give them up to become part of the very institutions they seek to change.  This concept reminds me of the first part of Newton’s first law of motion.  When I googled it I found this version of the law that I feel best highlights my point “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force” (Louviere, 2006).  The reason I like this version of the law is that educational institutions are bodies at rest, very little has changes since their inception, and it will take more than just a little force but an unbalanced force for them to change.  It will take a large group of people who desire the change at the same time in order to enact any change in the system.

The fourth and last limitation that I want to highlight, though there are more to consider, is the idea that while people seek simple solutions to problems to complex situations, it is embracing the complex solutions to complex ideas that is necessary to solve them.  In order to do this all of the disparate parts need to work together on a common goal.  Gee urges us to refocus ourselves to view what is different about us as strengths to use together instead of things to keep us apart.  To be willing to pool all our knowledge from different disciplines, cultures, and ways of life.  To be willing to use all tools at our disposal, both new and old, to see a solution.  Moreover, he urges us to move past critiques of what is to posit realistic solutions of what could be.  Gee has stated that in order to solve big complex problems smartly the world must move from individual categories based on religion, race, sexuality, political leanings, culture, academic discipline, and opinion to a singular group.  A move that Gee posits will return us to the meaning of the name Homo sapiens.

My thoughts on the Anti-Education Era

Since I started my journey in the graduate level education courses two years ago I have been reading the work of James Paul Gee.  I gravitated towards his work as my Master’s Capstone project was looking at the theories behind creating a math multi player online roleplaying game.  The work of Gee figured highly in the development of that work.  This book was a departure from hs previous work at first glance.  At first glance, this book seemed more abrupt and I was a little put off by the concept of people being stupid.  After thinking about why as a linguist he would choose the languaging he did, I started to get to his underlying message.  We as a group are stupid, I do not know how many committee meeting I have gone to where nothing was different at the end of the meeting than it was at the start.  Committees seem to be more about saying you are doing something than actually doing something.  I think this is in part to most committees being created of like-minded people.  Thus with no diversity, as identified by Gee as imperative, no new ideas can emerge.

After re-reading part 1 of this book, I marvel at how stupid we as a group of people have become.  I also marvel at how much difference people will have to let go of in order for us to start to solve big complex problems smartly.  In a world that seems to thrive on labeling everything that makes us different, in order to become smarter we must let go of the labels that separate us from each other in order to use that diversity as food for change.  The biggest limitation, I believe, is convincing people that letting go of labels will not make them less, but would make our world more.

(not sure what is going on with the spacing of my references, as I can not get them to separate)

Gee, James Paul (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning.Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85 (2), 33-37.

Gee, James Paul (2013a) The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning [Ibook edition] New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

Gee, James Paul (2013b, June 5) TTT#352 James Paul Gee on The Anti-Education Era [Video file] Retrieved from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryAt38lJjH8

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Educational Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. American Educational Research Association Annual
Meeting, (p. Presidential Address). San Francisco, CA
Louviere, G. (2006). Newton’s Laws of Motion. Retrieved from Georgia Louviere’s Website: http://teachertech.rice.edu/Participants/louviere/Newton/index.html

Adding Mixed Numbers with Unlike Denominators

I will start by saying that three minutes sounded like a long time when I first got this assignment but it turns out it is not…either I am long winded or I just had a lot to say.  After editing the video multiple times I got it down to 3 minutes but  I am sure I glossed over many points so I will go through the points again here after the video for clarity. I chose to explore how technology could support student learning of adding mixed numbers with unlike denominators.  I originally was looking at adding and subtracting mixed numbers with unlike denominators as this is the final end game for grade 7 students here in Alberta with fractions but I found that subtraction didn’t fit into my three minutes so I paired it back to just addition.

While most of my students master the individual skills that combine to solve this problem, putting them all together into one problem seems very complex to most students.  Then to add to the complexity there is more than one way to get to the final answer.  This problem becomes more than just a solution to a math question, it becomes equally about organizing work for others to follow it, being able to show thinking in such a way that it doesn’t cause students to lose where they are in the question, and about the ability to recognize that multiple ways to do something can be all valid choices. Koehler and Mishra (2008) state that in order for students to solve complex problems the require “flexible access to, and application of highly organized systems of knowledge that must continually shift and evolve based on the contexts within which they are applied”(p. 4).  I would like to get my students to a place where they have multiple ways to solve a problem and the ability to decide when each solution is most useful.

I started my quest to find a technology to support student learning by exploring many versions of mind maps.  However, I found that creating math number sentences and formulae were difficult and in some almost impossible.  Then I turned to Microsoft Word because it has the equation editor embedded into the program.  I use the Smart Art feature in Word, quite often for many different uses.  In this version I liked that I could set up the steps running down the page, as this is a skill many of my friends that teach high school math have said they wish their students arrived with.  Additionally, I like the ability to colour code the steps to fit with different skills.  This provides students with a visual cue to remember what skill is required next.  Moreover, I could create a different template for each path with little effort, as all I would need to change is the colour coding.  My school has a digital assignment drive where I could house these templates.  Then students could download the template to their own drive for use.  With different versions available, students could self-select which path of skills worked best for them or even try an new path, with  the visual support there to get started.  Furthermore, using Microsoft Word would allow me to quickly scaffold (Vygotsky, 1978) for student learning needs.  I could make the version with the most scaffolding first, then delete supports until all the scaffolding is removed.  With all the different versions in the digital assignments drive, students would have the availability of selecting a template that supports them to be successful.

Something that I did forget to talk about in the video, is the set of paths would not be given to the students but created as a class from the work students do as we are working through the first versions of these problems.  If a particular path was not identified, I would pose “is it possible to” questions such as is it possible to solve the question if you put the skills in different orders, is it possible to separate these skills and not do them together, to foster the exploration of what skills need to be used together and which can be separated.  I see this activity as one way for me to be 36 places at once, to help support students as they tackle this complex problem.

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3-29). New York: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interactions between Learning and Development. In Mind In Society (M. Cole, Trans., pp. 79-91). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.