Previous Blogs 1. More than: "What kinda map ya want?"
02 January 2008: Facts + Skills + Thinking: Applets and the Vitruvian Learner.
We want our learners to know facts, to have skills and to be able to think - a perfectly proportioned (Vitruvian) Learner.
I am preparing a new course on ICT* in Education. Most of the literature on this is depressing - no kidding. Everyone is still so enthusiastic about the future of ICT in education, but most admit that current integration has brought no significant breakthroughs in student learning. ARGH!
At the same time, I was just designing a set of math applets** for measuring angles with a protractor. This turns out to be an exercise for which there are many, many, many such programs available. ARGH!
Of course, I think my applets are different - they will bring the breakthroughs. But why should they? For the moment, let's assume that magically my applets are loved and are being used in every classroom in the land ...
What about these applets might bring a breakthrough in student learning?
To be effective:
The applet must be a perfect proportion of facts, skills and logical thinking processes both required to use and acquired from use and
• the required perfect proportion must apply to a large number of learners.
• the acquired perfect proportion must apply to a large number of curriculum.
One easy conclusion - the smaller and more focused the application - the better chance it has of meeting these requirements. Hence, applets and not mega applications probably are more practical.
Even more essential is communication with teachers because a teacher will not use ICT unless it can be used within the curriculum, i.e. within the framework of "this is what we know so far and this is our goal in this lesson".
So - just from the point of view of bringing a breakthrough in learning - and before designing an applet, we must ask.
• What are the facts one needs to know to use and what facts will be learned?
• What are the skills one needs to know to use and what skills will be learned?
• What types of logical thinking process are required? What thinking processes will be learned?
Then: Do these answers fit a broad spectrum of learners and curriculum?
Yes? On to the next checklist ...- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* ICT: Information and Communication Technology, sometimes just IT.
** applet: A little application frequently run from a browser window with limited features that requires limited memory resources.
We all know the story about the kid who couldn't find Iraq on any map, but when asked to find Iraq on the Internet, the kid said "What kinda map ya want?". Oh cool - our kids are so smart. But is this the end of the story?
- Is it enough for our kids to be able to say "What kinda map ya want?" ?
I think not.
The right idea: As teachers, parents and citizens we complain our kids can't find Iraq on the map. Now, we are told that this is the wrong quiz question for this generation and - in fact - the wrong quiz question for any generation. I can find countries on a map; I can drag out my 35 year-old NG atlas and probably give you alot of information from it without even looking. But I will have to be very, very lucky if I can answer a real question with that information.
- Eureka! What we really need is all kinds of maps at our finger-tips so that we can find the right map that answers the question.
The (not-quite-whole) story: Just yesterday my son needed to use the formula for the chemical process of a car battery. He could not understand the explanation in his textbook. It took us 5 minutes to find it online; we found several references so that he was able to confirm the formula (different from the incorrect/incomplete one in his textbook). Then he looked through the different explanations, printed out the one he could best understand, reread it, annotated it and started successfully solving the problems.
- Eureka! What we really need is a new technology so that our kids will be able to quickly find all kinds of maps.
The (not-quite-right) conclusion:
Our kids can find any map - hence they are learning the right stuff.
Bad deduction - just the bad kind of mathematics I hate. No thinking involved!
The real story: Notice the "it took us 5 minutes to find it online". There is a whole story here (and many wasted hours and frustration) before we got to this point and it was me - the old lady teacher, with no knowledge at all about chemistry - that was able to get the right stuff and show him how to use it.
Why? Because whatever and however I got it and whether it is library book or internet based -
- My education taught me the thinking-steps to use to get me with confidence from question to answer.
Neither question: "Where on the map?" and "What kinda map ya want?" is the right kind of education.
- What we really want is to hear our kids say: "Yes! Here's the map I need!"
If we are going to use ICT in Education then we must design and employ specific, step-by-step, ready-to-use, free stuff using technology that can help get our children get to this "Yes!".
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