Sunday, May 29, 2011

Technology and Teaching: Where Business Meets Soul

A World of Professionals Comes TogetherThis week I attended the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) International Conference in Orlando.  This is the second time I have attended this event which brings together about 10,000 training professionals from around the world.  The conference has several tracks
including strategic impact of learning on business, instructional design, and delivery and assessment.  One message is quite clear from each presentation and class: The success of business hinges on strong education and training programs.

My entire Master’s program was validated on Tuesday, when the presenter Dr. Allison Rossett (of SDSU fame) asked the audience if they could name any theorist connected with Constructivism.  When I called out John Dewey, she actually turned around with her eyebrows raised (surprised to hear an answer), and said “Very good!  Well done! Congratulations for that!”  Ha!  You should all feel gratified, because I know you all would have been able to answer the same.
Web 2.0 Dominates the Discussion
The many classes and presentations helped me realize with even more emphasis that technology is changing how we deliver education and learning.  Web 2.0 technology dominated the classes at the conference and bookstore.  Most organizations are hiring staff that has experience using the technologies described in chapter five.  In our reading, the six general categories of software support tools show us the very many different tools we have at our fingertips for developing learning content.  The software helps us move the theories of learning into the practical world and provide teachers with a significant opportunity to reach out to students anywhere and anytime.  I expect
that these changes also impact the competencies required of teachers.  Over time, new teachers will need to have technical skills in these areas to not only interact with such technology, but actually create and deliver learning with them.

Technology is Only as Good as the Content:  The Experts Weigh In
I personally like the concept mapping software.  I think that it is very useful to have help in organizing the learning objectives and assessments.  It is critical that all of us understand that no matter how flashy the technology or slick the delivery, if we do not incorporate sound pedagogical and andragogical practices, the technology is useless.  A presentation, a movie, or a game can still be pointless and mundane.  Teachers still need to conceive powerful teaching concepts that reach students regardless of the delivery method.  I will quote some points from Dr. Rossett's class:
Instructional Design Greatness can only occur when the tool:
     1.  Shows the learner that the lesson is all about them and ties to their priorities and goals
2.  Is vivid and authentic, realistic, and close to the actions of their day
3.  Is full of experiences and examples with a progressively building checklist that leads to action
4.  Builds the learners confidence by allowing them to experience success, but also experience something that stretches them farther
5.  Provides a guidance system or systematic choices which give support, information or advice

Michael Allen of Allen Interactions ( is very well known in instructional design circles.  His company regularly creates compelling learning modules for organizations all over the world.  He said that teachers and instructional designers must use technology to create something meaningful, memorable and motivational.  He likes to use the Corrective Feedback Paradigm (CFP) as a method to teach students of all ages through repetition.

Dr. Jane Bozarth spoke about how teachers can use social media, like blogs and Facebook to teach. I purchased her book Social Learning and recommend you check it out.  Her message is that we shouldn’t use technology for the sake of saying we have and use that type of technology.  We need to really understand how that type of technology can improve the learning situation and we need to be able to demonstrate how that type of technology helps us achieve our outcomes.  She is using blogs and wikis in her work to help inspire connections with the group and collaboration.

Our learners are changing too.  They use these tools all the time for personal use, but maybe not in learning. We can harness their natural interest in these technologies and help them interact with us (and each other) on a new plane.

Multi-media has many impacts.  It definitely can provide rapid delivery and rapid consumption of content.  It also allows learners to learn based upon their own individual needs, motives, and
timeframes.  This relates to the learner control talked about in our book. Technology helps us meet many different learning styles and preferences, and it can be very flexible.  Through the learning technologies, students can access educational content anywhere and anytime.  Also, technology is becoming more cost-effective than traditional teaching mediums.

“The number one benefit of technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”  Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft 
We want to blend the power of technology with the soul of the teacher.  If we can do this, we can
reach any student anywhere.  Are you ready?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Teaching Digital Natives and Inspiring Others to Become Digital Immigrants

An old Chinese proverb says “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember;  involve me and I will understand.”  This is the crux of two videos which show us that learning and teaching methodology has changed irrevocably because of technology.  If you haven’t seen the videos, take a second to watch how digital media is making sweeping changes in what students need in order to learn.

Schools Use Games for Learning and Assessment

Digital Youth Portrait:  Sam

Benefits to Technology
As our textbook points out, authoring tools, instructional design software, and graphic design software are among many new types of tools which help instructors deliver a learning objective in an interactive way.  The advantages of using software to create learning modules is that computer-based training and education can be launched to a website and viewed or played with at any time.  Assessment tools can help teachers and administrators know if the module produced the desired results.  Another advantage is that this type of technology can be significantly cheaper in cost, without skimping on quality.  I will point to my last post (Kahn Academy) as a good example of that. 

Teachers Must Become Digital Immigrants
What Sam teaches us is that a new generation of learners is coming forward with great expectations to receive learning on their terms, whether that means their schedule or their pace, or their preferred delivery method.  Sam wants to download an audiobook and be read to.  It isn’t cheating, it’s her learning style.  We as teachers need to be flexible in allowing our students to choose their learning method.  This may mean that we must become digital natives ourselves, or perhaps “digital immigrants”.  We need to know what tools are out there and how they work before we can conceive lesson plans and learning objectives which can be effectively transmitted through gaming and technology.  It stands out that digital natives look to us to provide assignments that unleash their creativity in the learning process.  They want to express themselves in alternative worlds with avatars and self-created characters.  They want to be free to try something out and make mistakes until they master the concept.  The gaming aspect makes it fun.

A New Expression
If we are going to successfully teach a new generation of learners, we must get to know their preferences.  Sam said that she never calls, she texts.  Sam’s mom says that she approves of digital learning and finds that it teaches measurable skills.  Through Sam’s avatar on World of Warcraft, she is able to demonstrate artistic creativity, problem solving skills, and strategic planning.  I can think of a few companies who are searching for those skill sets.  “Schools Use of Games for Learning and Assessment” also says that engagement is a better way to learn.  They said that games help us to start learning new concepts as novices and then through practice (trial and error or guided journey) become experts and masters of the concept.  Gaming allows learners to integrate theoretical concepts into skill development.   For example, a math problem on a chalk board appears distant and esoteric to the student when it is compared to demonstrating that math concept through a game design.  In this way, students can immediately see the use and relevance of each concept. 

Adult Learners are Catching On
I teach adults regularly and as I have stated in earlier posts, many of them are uncomfortable or even scared of learning through technology.  But this is not true of everyone.  Adults are beginning to view gadgets as more than toys and they are noticing many new benefits and conveniences because of digital media.  They need a little push from us to fully grasp the vision of how digital media can help them learn.  The adage, “if you build it, they will come” holds true with adult learning and technology.  They don’t know they want it until they see it.  Then when they realize that learning presented in a digital format saves them time, produces excellent results as they practice and master new knowledge and skills, and helps them stay up-to-date on relevant information for their jobs, they become more than supporters of these learning tools, they become champions of the learning tools.

A Crystal Ball Might See
What does the future hold for learning and education?  It is hard to say.  But one might wager that the format of a classroom might be changing forever.  With about $5 billion, the United States could purchase a new iPad for every student in America.  This represents a small fraction of the almost $900 billion annual budget for the Department of Education.  If students of the future are armed with media tablets and the internet, will we need to print books anymore?  I don’t think we will.  Will every student need to be physically present in a classroom?  Probably not.  How will the role of teacher change?  It remains to be seen.  Yet change is here and we can be a part of the change, or go home. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Turning Education on its Head

If you haven't heard about Khan Acadmey, you should find out.  The lessons are free!  The concept is to have a lecture at home, then do homework in class.  More than that, he offers practice problems for every concept with hints and video lectures to help kids get the concept.  Kids and adults like it because they can pace themsleves and they don't have to admit in front of their peers that they haven't mastered the concept yet.  I have forwarded this to our school district and asked them to consider using this for our kids.  They have forwarded it to every member of the board and will be considering it in their next meeting.

1st:  Watch this summary (about 2 minute)

2nd:  Watch this presentation (about 20 minutes)

3rd:  Login for yourself

Technology: Toys or Tools?

Integrating technology into an adult classroom has an added layer of challenges.  For many adult learners, the thought of interacting with technology turns their stomach.  One woman attending class said that she was terrified to have to practice the new software in front of her co-workers.  She felt that it was unfair for the company to require her to learn new software so close to her retirement.  Companies face this kind of apprehension every day.  For teachers, it is very important that we include generation gaps in our technology integration strategies.  As the cartoon shows, many
adults view “gadgets” as toys and have a hard time seeing them as learning tools.  For many years, directed instructional models have been the standard for adult training programs.  Lectures, worksheets, job aids, and assessments make up the majority of training for the workplace.  In the last two decades, constructivist models have influenced training plans. For example, you might sit in a class for the company orientation, but when you learn how to process a file, you will actually practice it along-side a seasoned staff member who walks you through each step.  Fast forward to today and you will find that training directors are looking to technology to help them make learning more
interesting, but also more cost-effective and far reaching (especially if the company is national or global).  Later this month, I will be attending the conference for the American Society of
Training and Development (ASTD).  While at the conference, I expect to hear a lot from blended learning experts who are going to tell me how leading companies are using social media and iPads to
train new staff.  I will be meeting with technology experts and instructional designers who live and breathe TIP and TPACK as they create online simulations for adult learners in the workplace.  What I hope to bring home is a clearer understanding of the new tools used in learning.  I will look to the experts to help me adjust my own technology integration plan and include transition steps for the three
major generations at our workplace.  Let’s go back to the woman at the beginning of the post.  I told her that we were going to start teaching with iPads.  Her response, “Wait a few more months, until I have retired!”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

There is a light in the eyes which shines brighter when a person connects intellectually or emotionally with an instructional concept. If the light is not there, then learning has not happened.  Only in moments of true understanding does the light grow and you can see it spread in the mind and heart of the learner.  This miracle of learning, this true connection is what interests me most about teaching.  I usually spend some time getting acquainted with the students, because I am a better teacher when I know what their motives and passions are. The students really appreciate it when I take the time to use a story, example, or analogy which aligns with their experience or ideas.

In the corporate environment, teaching and training adults takes on a bigger challenge.  Often adults feel that they have all of the knowledge and experience that they need to do their work and don't want to be bothered with having any more training or education.  Even if you find adults who are interested in learning more, they struggle to find the time to dedicate to a full regimen of study.  Thus, one of my key interests in using technology to teach adults is providing learning tools which are easily accessible at any time of day or night so that those who want to learn, can do it on their own time table.  As for those who don't necessarily want to learn more, I want to use technology to engage them and entice them into learning in such a way that they hardly realize that they just completed a formal module.  For example, if I can use technology to build interactive blog sites which are connected to computer-based learning modules that include some gaming/animation and other interactions, they may actually take 5-10 minutes and complete a training course.  They many even retain it longer because they participated in the experience, rather than listening to a lecture.  I also want to encorporate an assessment and measurement tool within the learning tools.  This way I can gather informaiton about how effective the learning tool is, compared to the learning objectives.  Technology can help keep the light burning in the eyes of the learners.