I've been on a bit of a hiatus this summer and early fall, partly due to travel, both personal and professional, and partly because I've been collecting thoughts, resources, online mentors (yes, it's no longer necessary in this day and age to know or access mentors physically!), books, and blogs. I'm constantly amazed by the level of the free, online discourse on transformative education available to any of us today. For instance, two of my favorite independent school educators, Jonathan E. Martin and Grant Lichtman, are prolific bloggers and thinkers who are always challenging my understanding of innovation and pushing boundaries and opening up neural pathways in my brain. Another person I'm deeply intrigued by right now is the new Head of Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, John G. Palfrey. His blog and the work he intends to do with his faculty and staff at PA is going to be nothing short of revolutionary. PA's theme for the year is Connected Learning. Given John's previous focus, I imagine that the faculty at PA will be exploring digital connections both in and out of the classrooms, and how technology can be utilized to achieve time-honored pedagogical goals of developing excellence, character, and compassion.
At the 5th grade parent coffee today, we had a fascinating discussion about the appropriate role of technology today. Should students still learn how to use a physical textbook and paper planner? What is the purpose of each and how does a physical format facilitate acquisition of learning objectives different from an online or iPad textbook? How will we as teachers and as an institution assess our achievements as we allow more and more technology to infuse our classrooms? Expect more questions and thoughts and links to other writers on such topics in the near future.
We are clearly a society in transition; the only thing certain right now is more excitement on this journey.
Michael Tsai on Apple’s Textbooks Announcement:
Kids are bored. The iPad is fun and engaging, Schiller explained. This is the same contention made for decades, and I challenge readers to find any longitudinal studies tracking students who have used or are using packaged multimedia-enhanced instruction showed measured and consistent improvement over control groups.
This immediately made me think of a quote from Steve Jobs:
I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.
Based on my experience with iBooks 2 on an iPad 1, I much prefer paper textbooks. This is not to say that electronic textbooks are a bad idea. The speed and resolution will improve. In the last year, I came to prefer reading non-textbooks on a Kindle. In time, I presume that tablets will catch up to paper textbooks.
But, like Fleishman, I do not see this as a revolution in education.
via Michael Tsai – Blog – Apple’s Textbook Plan Feels Like a Blast From the Past.
This blog post and the arguments outlined herein seem misleading to me, akin to being a good writer if you have a Mont Blanc pen. That’s all that iBooks 2 and digital interactive textbooks can promise – to provide the possibility of engaging lessons and interactive learning, but they cannot replace a good teacher or a motivated student. The medium and the user are not one here and no current technology at least can promise to fuse both. So Steve Jobs and Glenn Fleishman (and Michael Tsai) are right: “what’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology,” but technology can and does help in the hands of the right user. Would anybody argue that Web 2.0 tools as simple as blogs and wikis have not changed how many teachers teach? Would anybody complain about the use of video, mind-mapping tools like Inspiration and, even more basic than all of those, the internet in the classroom? Sure there are issues, but as with any tool, let’s place the responsibility where it truly lies – with the user.