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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

So much is written about encouraging STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects  in our schools today.

As I looked through at an article listing 11 top Israeli innovations for treating wounds I was in wonder at the ‘can do’ attitude to develop solutions for seemingly simple problems. From an adhesive bandage which has a breakable capsule that releases a multi-compound therapeutic substance onto the sterile pad to a pressure bandage which features a unique built-in pressure bar to stop bleeding, the developments listed here are quite mind blowing!

Perhaps motivation for students in our schools could be as simple as exposing them to high tech solutions to everyday problems such as these that have been developed or are in trial testing or patent pending stages of development in overseas countries.

The power of one may well inspire the power of many!

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I love it when I find confirmation of what I truly believe!

We’re never too old to learn!

Late last year a news article reported on research confirming that those over 50 have the ability to adapt to new jobs and their technology demands.

The survey of 5973 Australians aged 18 and over, conducted by Lonergan Research on behalf of insurance company Apia, found 77 per cent of people over 50 believe their creativity levels increase or stay the same with age.

The study found more than half (56 per cent) of people over 50 believe they can keep up with the latest trends in technology until at least the age of 80 …..”

80% of the third of Australians over the age of 50 are Baby Boomers, with the vast majority being technology literate and keen to learn and adjust to accommodate our rapidly changing world.  For so many, staying in contact with family and friends overseas via email, sharing photos online are a given.  So too are online shopping, banking and holiday planning.

Yet sadly, this article highlights the very real issue of age discrimination as demonstrated by employers who have a  reluctance to invest time retraining those who may have a limited number of years left in the labour market.  In short, this is a terrible loss for both prospective employers and employees, for business and for society as a whole.

Overcoming the stereotype that older workers take longer to learn new skills and are less technology savvy is a challenge that needs to be tackled.

A poke around the Australian Human Rights Commission: Age Discrimination website makes for some interesting reading as does an easy to read pdf titled: Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability which summaries the findings of a report undertaken by the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner.  Some of the conclusions reported upon can be read in the Commissioner’s foreward

The Inquiry found that too many people are shut out of work because of underlying assumptions, stereotypes or myths associated with their age or their disability. These beliefs lead to discriminatory behaviours during recruitment, in the workplace and in decisions about training, promotion and retirement, voluntary and involuntary. The cost and impact of this is high, for individuals and for our economy.

People who are willing to work but are denied the opportunity are also denied the personal and social benefits—of dignity, independence, a sense of purpose and the social connectedness—that work brings.

Discrimination has an impact on the health of individuals, their career and job opportunities, their financial situation and their families……

It also has consequences for workplaces. These include higher absenteeism, lower or lost productivity, higher staff turnover and increased recruitment costs, as well as lost business opportunities from abandoning experience and corporate knowledge…..”

It is because I constantly see the skills, talents and capabilities of older workers on a day-to-day basis that I find I am passionate about the need for society to recognize the value that older employees have to contribute to the work force. My passionate belief in the value of ongoing lifelong learning supports this stand.

Throughout my career, as I’ve stepped from job to job, I’ve found myself appreciating anew the power of the multigenerational staff with whom I work.  Indeed, as I penned some time ago: Older teachers rock!

Young employees have an unabashed enthusiasm for their work and a keenness to learn and experiment while older employees have a wealth of experience and foresight and a willingness to share and mentor.

The blend of the two is powerful beyond words!

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I know it’s a bit irreverent, but when was the last time you stopped to consider how technology has impacted on our lives?

These cartoons have recently done the rounds on social media.   My constant battle with email, makes this one a standout!   Check out the rest.

Email Struggle

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Perhaps like you, I’m often hit by the texting of our students which I’m unable to make head or tail of!

But John McWhorter, a linguistic, logically and methodically spells out a very convincing argument that what is happening today is the miraculous evolution of a language right under our noses!

Toward the end of the talk, his key points include:

….. what we’re seeing is a whole new way of writing that young people are developing which the’re using alongside their ordinary writing skills and that means that they are able to do two things.   Increasing evidence is that being bilingual is cognitively beneficial ….. (11.36)

….. so texting actually is evidence of a balancing act that young people are using today, not consciously of course, but it’s an expansion of their linguistic repertoire …..  (11.58)

….. a whole new language has developed among our young people doing something as mundane as what it looks like to us when they are batting around on their little devices ….. (12.40)

Have a listen:

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Like many of you, I’ve sat through numerous heavy discussions with ‘non believers’ about the value of technology in our schools.  The argument always goes the same way.  The ‘non believers’ state the “… when I was young argument” and the ‘convinced’ excitedly recount the dramatic change they see in their classrooms.

So when some publicity about ‘tangible proof’ hits the press, it’s great to be able to share it!

The introduction of a tailored learning program known as the LIFE Program – Lifelong Intergenerational Furthering Education – developed for tablet computers in a Primary School in the British Isles has seen students’ average reading ages increase by more than four years in a short time.  Digital classroom teaching has rasied self esteem, boosted self confidence, increased interest in learning and questioning and improved school attendance.

Commenting on the program and students’ success, Simon Pridham, the executive head at Casllwchwr Primary School in Wales said, “If you engage, enthuse and inspire a child, you can take him anywhere.”

With an element of peer to peer tutoring incorporated into this program, it is indeed ispiring to listen to the voices of students and parents:

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The value of social networking is profound!   I’m sure that without it, it would have taken me a while to discover instaGrok.

instaGrok – an interactive learning tool provides an expansive array of returns for each search.   Producing a spiral visual graph on the left pane, numerous links are simultaneously generated on the right hand panel and are neatly categorized under headings: key facts, websites, videos, images, quizzes and concepts.   With a tab to moderate the level of difficulty of results returned, this tool really has enourmous potential as a teaching tool.

The ‘about’ tab on the homepage, also tell us that instGrok

  • finds age-appropriate educational content on any topic presented with interactive multimedia interfaces
  • generates quiz questions based on student’s research activity and skill level
  • supports creation of research journals and concept maps for learning assessment

Just take a look at this short video which appears on the instaGrok homepage:

For those of us who lamented the disappearance of Wonder Wheel – that great tool which simply vanished from the Google suite of tools about a year ago – instaGrok sure looks to be a winner!

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Many would-be educational innovators treat technology as an end-all and be-all, making no effort to figure out how to integrate it into the classroom. “Computers, in and of themselves, do very little to aid learning,” Gavriel Salomon of the University of Haifa and David Perkins of Harvard observed in 1996. Placing them in the classroom “does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”

So wrote Michael Hilzik in in a recent Los Angeles Times article Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in the classroom?  More than once I’ve expressed my thinking on this topic.   No way can technology replace teachers.  No way can Google replace teachers.

It is without a doubt, I feel, that the role of teachers will continue to retain relevancy in our schools.   Indeed, it will be teachers who guide students in how technology can be successfully harnessed.  It will be teachers who will seize technology, adapting and innovating it as a tool for improved learning opportunities in our schools.   Integrating technology into the classroom and into the school curriculum is the domain of teachers, not the inventors of the technology.

My thoughts concur totally with Salomon’s words.  Placing computers in the classroom

does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”

A number of schools in Victoria are enjoying the recent bulk purchase of iPads.   They’ve been put into the hands of teachers with the intention of rolling them out to students in a couple of months.   The expectation, of course, is that teachers will use iPads to successfully engage students in the learning process.

Most definitely the approach is ambitious.  But then, aren’t all revolutions?

Hanging back, waiting for time to tick by, hoping that the latest new fad will pass us by, is a technique employed by many of us.   We’re all human, aren’t we?  Fear of failure is real.   Feeling intimidated by technology is understandable.  Changing teaching methods is threatening.  And with all the demands placed on teachers ….. well ….. it’s just plain inconceivable to find more hours in the day to take on more professional learning.

There’s not one of us who doesn’t employ the ‘tomorrow’ syndrome.

So the scenario that we’re seeing in many schools today can really be regarded as a clever ploy by our school administrators.   Give teachers the tools, give them a time frame, provide in house learning opportunities and re-shape the learning environment to include students as teachers really is a great way to inspire an educational revolution.

How great will it be to see the levelling of the playing field between teachers and students?   How great will it be when we all accept the fact that our ‘teacher’ title does not mean that we know it all?   How great will it be to have the confidence to walk into a classroom and ask our students for help and guidance?   How empowering will it be to both teachers and students to feel the joy of learning?     How great will it be for teachers to be role models to students, to show them – first hand – the joy that can be derived from lifelong learning!

Ensuring that teachers learn new skills and feel confident and competent to use these new tools in the classroom is a key to the successful integration of iPads into our schools.  Adopting some of these ideas may assit the process:

  1. Provide teachers with ‘chunks’ of time to sit down and play.  A snatched hour here or there, a staff meeting, or a short professional learning session on day one of the year, is simply not enough time for anyone, let alone the novice user, to embrace, learn and master the intricacies of a new tool such as the iPad.
  2. Don’t expect teachers to only pick up skills after hours.  While some teachers will embrace this opportunity, others will rightly throw up their hands saying the obvious: “I’ve got a life outside of work!”
  3. Create opportunities for teachers to meet and share.   Innovate, re-think and re-imagine previously tried professional learning formats.  Try introducing an AppChat in which teachers can share and chat about new apps discovered.
  4. Breakdown the barriers.  Put a call out to students asking who among them is an experienced iPad user and would like to work with a teacher to develop skills.
  5. Utilize the train the trainer model so that a teacher who has mastered a new app can train another teacher on how to use it as well as how it can be used in the classroom.
  6. Have teachers meet in small clusters either within subject departments or across subject departments so that they can chat and share.
  7. While using iPads in the classroom won’t change the content of what is taught in the classroom, it will change the way content is presented and the way students engage with the subject matter.  Set up brainstorming sessions in which teachers can look at an app and together come up with ways it can be employed in the classroom.
  8. Mix and match skills.  Have teachers rate their own skill and use this as the basis to provide staff with mentors or buddies with whom they can partner in their learning.
  9. Recognize that the process of learning in teachers echoes that of students.  Some learn more quickly, others more slowly.  Some are confident to play with the unknown, others are reticent.  Provide professional learning sessions that ensure teachers don’t feel like failures.
  10. Create situations in which all teachers feel empowered and excited by what they are learning.  Never forget that learning begets learning: the more you learn the more you want to learn.  If this is what we aim for among our students, why shouldn’t it be what we aim for among our teachers?

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