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Posts tagged ‘education’

12
Apr

What is Deep Learning Anyway?

The terms ‘deep learning’ and ‘deeper learning’ are de rigueur these days.

Watch the video for some clarification! 🙂

  • Deep learning is a term that has morphed over the years.
  • One of the main aspects of deeper learning is that of transfer…perhaps of a ‘mental model’ to another scenario (to another domain for example)
  • The idea of near transfer and far transfer have been around for a long time
  • Design environments to cultivate deeper learning.
    • I set up an online, collaborative, journal writing environment for students—actually back in the late 80s 😉
  • Each, and every, student has a responsibility to ‘kick it up a notch’ for themselves and for others
  • Metaphoria is a game I play with kids that helps them to create mental models with which to think
  • Make transfer explicit for your students
  • “Specialization is for insects.” We have segregated subjects into ‘subject areas’. This is a human invention. The problems of the world today require an integrated, holistic solution.

The video is from the learning exchange—a site of the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education. It was recorded at The Quest 2016 conference – Deep Learning in a Digital World.

9
Sep

Global Dignity Day 2016

gdd logo

…students learn about the importance of dignity…

Hello teachers and other school leaders!

On Wednesday, October 12th, 2016, schools and organizations from around the world will once again celebrate Global Dignity Day (GD). This year’s celebration marks the tenth anniversary of Global Dignity Day in Canada, and we hope you will celebrate with us from coast-to-coast-to-coast!

Global Dignity (www.globaldignity.org) is an independent, international, non-political and non-partisan organization focused on empowering individuals with the concept that every human being has the universal right to lead a dignified life. It is celebrated every year in October and now has over 500,000 participants in 60 countries around the world.

Established in 2005, by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Pekka Himanen, GD is linked to the 2020 process of the World Economic Forum, in which leaders from politics, business, academia, and civil society join efforts to improve the state of the world.

Last year Global Dignity Day connected 2,000 students and young leaders across Canada, in eight schools, from Nova Scotia to Nunavut. Along with our organizational partners and event sponsor, The Samuel Family Foundation, we were also joined in celebration by Rwandan Genocide survivor and public speaker, Emery Rutagonya and National Role Model, Ashley Callingbull, Mrs. Universe 2015, who both shared their dignity stories.

Every year, throughout the GD celebrations, students learn about the importance of dignity in their own lives and the lives of others. From there, they learn how to express what dignity means for them and how their own dignity is mutually dependent on the dignity of others.

A decade after its first Global Dignity Day event in Canada, the movement has impacted over 1.5 million young people around the world and aims to impact many more in the years ahead.  Overall, it is our hope that by acknowledging existing inequalities, students will see that they have the ability to impact and enrich the lives of others through their own actions and choices, thereby promoting awareness and a social consciousness during a key time in their development.

For more information please visit www.globaldignity.ca, or click here to register your school or organization for this year’s celebration on October 12th, 2016. You may also wish to share this invitation with any individuals, groups and organizations who may be interested in supporting, volunteering or encouraging more people to participate in this important movement. Kindly register your school by October 5th at the latest if you intend to participate.

Thank you for supporting our youth!

14
Aug

Remembering Seymour Papert in Ontario Education

PapertAs a long time member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (since 1980), I wish to express my appreciation for the life and work of Seymour Papert. He contributed widely and significantly to Ontario education through those who have learned from him since the late 1970s. Countless Ontario students grew up with Logo and Lego TC Logo robotics—and, more importantly, in learning environments that honoured their freedom to invent, to err, to create and to tinker in wonderment.

This is rather a personal glimpse although I shall provide many wonderful tributes and resources from other members of this wonderful, brilliant community.

Many of you may know Seymour Papert as the co-creator of Logo. If you don’t know about Logo or Seymour’s role in its development, there are some resources below.

Dr. Seymour Papert has often been recognized as the Father of Educational Computing. His impact on the early world of information technologies in schools is legendary for it was borne from his collaboration with Jean Piaget, theories of constructivism, and the ‘tutee’ concept within Tool, Tutor, and Tutee.

But Seymour has been much bigger than Logo.

Papert & Negroponte

Seymour Papert & Nicholas Negroponte, Founder & Chairman of ‘One Laptop Per Child’ – photo by Bud the Teacher (by sa nc)

What You May Not Know

But what you possibly don’t know about Seymour Papert is his significant contribution to the field of cognitive science. With Marvin Minsky, he cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.  He collaborated with Marvin Minsky on Perceptrons (1969), which temporarily reduced the focus on neural networks and encouraged increased study of symbolic models.  Indeed, in the early 80’s, the exploration of neural networks rebounded and became a prominent force in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development. I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of these very technical arguments among the Newell & Simon cognitivists, artificial intelligence supporters, and cyberneticists.  However, these times were central to the creation of the current theories of cognitive science.

The Human Side

I had the good fortune of spending some time with Seymour Papert.  I wish I’d had more time and I wish that I’d had more opportunities for debate with him—not about cognitive science but about cognitive psychology and his dreams for schools and children’s learning.

Conference Adventures

We were at a conference together in Israel in 1987 (Second International Congress on Early Childhood Education: Childhood in the Technological Era. I helped usher him away from the throngs of people after his presentation to his hotel in another city. He was always deluged in those days and he valued his privacy. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind driving his rental car for him. He found it crazy to drive there and, of course, I was happy to oblige. On the way, we stopped in the old city and were happily walking along, browsing at the stalls. Then, I turned around and he was gone! Oh my goodness! It took me some 20-30 minutes to find him.  He was contentedly sipping tea with a shopkeeper and deeply involved in a wonderful conversation about the state of the world.

RCX Programmable BrickMedia Lab Inquiries

Another meeting was at the Media Lab when he invited me to sit in with his graduate students to discuss the social implications of a group (gathering) of untethered, programmable turtles! You see, Fred Martin (one of his graduate students) had created what became the RCX programmable brick controlled by an IR sensor which received instructions from the computer. So the turtle no longer needed to be connected via cables! Freedom! 🙂

Seymour was asking the students to think what might happen if we tried to replicate human interactions based on cultural differences. Turtles could be designed differently in some way and the sensors on each could detect the differences. People across cultures have different comfort levels with proximity to other people. Some don’t mind being close. Others like to have a little more personal space. Could we replicate that with a turtle community? This was a fascinating time for me because, once again, it revealed to me Seymour’s humanitarian sensibilities blended with his expertise in artificial intelligence.

LCSI (Logo Computer Systems Incorporated)

I started using Logo with my Grade 2s in 1980. Seymour, Brian Silverman and others started LCSI (Logo Computer Systems Incorporated) in 1981. It is based in Montreal, Canada. I switched to using LCSI’s logo shortly after that. Then my job changed in North York Schools. I became a centrally-assigned instructional leader and was able to make central purchases and decisions about professional learning at the district level. This gave me the opportunity to become friends with the folks at LCSI—including Susan Einhorn and Michael Quinn (current president). Now, that sounds like a conflict of interest (LOL), but the reality was that we were all part of the Logo community and ended up at the Logo conferences at MIT through the 80s.

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO)

I regret that we never had Seymour at our ECOO conference. I don’t know why! It was an error. I take some responsibility for that as I was involved with both the ECOO Board and conference committees over the years (since 1980).


Look to the Learner Poster SmallerSIG Logo

But, we did have a Special Interest Group for Logo (SIG-Logo) from approximately 1983 – 1989 or so. I was honoured to be its leader for most of that. In 1986, we had a wonderful conference called Look to the Learner. Many of the famous Logophiles of the day presented. (See So You Want Kids to Code! Why? for the agenda—along with some other Logo bits and pieces.)

Many influenced by Seymour have spoken at ECOO

Gary Stager (keynote many times), Sylvia Martinez (keynoted in 2015), Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman (keynoted and ran Minds On Media centre in 2014), David Thornburg (featured speaker several times), Norma Thornburg, Bonnie Bracey (featured), Mitch Resnick (keynote), Ron Canuel, Judi Harris, Margaret Riel,  Brenda Sherry, and many more have shared his work and his influence on their own practice over the years. Indeed, I also have shared much Logo related work and thinking many times as a speaker—both featured and regular.

I miss Seymour’s presence. He was severely injured in a motorcycle accident several years ago. His strength of passion and genius should not be missed. Read his work.

A Last Word about Logo

If you have not explored using Logo with kids, I can still recommend that you do this.  I am sure it must fit a 21st Century Skill or two.  🙂  There are many versions available.  Seymour Papert was the Chair of the Board of LCSI for many years and they have, in my opinion, made the best versions of this computer language.

Check out MicroWorlds EX and MicroWorlds Jr (the latter is for primary kids). Also consider Turtle Art. It is a lovely version of the turtle graphics aspect of Logo and is elegant in its simplicity.

Please check out some of these wonderful resources and tributes to this revolutionary educator.

RESOURCES

 

Thank you Seymour.

And thank you to all in that community who have impacted children in Ontario and beyond.

 

 

1
Apr

The Design of Everyday Things: Think about your classroom culture

What affordances do technologies provide for deep learning in students?

One of my favourite books ever – got a revision in 2013!

design of everyday thingsThe Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman is a must-read, in my humble opinion, for every educator. It’s really a book about the intersection between design and human interaction/behaviour.

I will quote the simple example I have repeated for years as a teaser for you to think about your classroom and how it is designed. Also, think about working with your students to understand design as they are making their artifacts in these revised constructionist classroom cultures of design thinking.

This book will also help you to think seriously about the affordances that newer technologies provide for deep learning within, and among, students. The book is not focused on that topic—but might be a provocation for you to think about it!

“If I were placed in the cockpit of a modern jet airliner, my inability to perform well would neither surprise nor bother me. But why should I have trouble with doors and light switches, water faucets and stoves? ‘Doors?’ I can hear the reader saying. ‘You have trouble opening doors?’ Yes. I push doors that are meant to be pulled, pull doors that are meant to be pushed, and walk into doors that neither pull or push, but slide. Moreover, I see others having the same troubles—unnecessary troubles.”

door-handles pull sliding door handleHe continues to explain that the “design of the door should indicate how to work it without any need for signs, certainly without any need for trial and error.” In other words, a flat panel on the door tells you to push whereas a rounded bar tells you to pull. An indented handle invites sliding the door. But this is often not the case!

So, read the book just for your own interest!

But, more importantly, think about what you provide to students and how it invites their actions.

24
Jan

Deep Learning: Philosophically Speaking ;-)

I don’t often cross-post from other sources—but, I really think this is an interesting perspective on much that we are attempting to re-invent given our focus on critical thinking, inquiry, creativity, visible thinking, even thinking all by itself (once again!).  Perhaps we need to revisit what philosophy can offer for helping our students in these areas.


 

What philosophy can tell Davos about educating for a better future

Angela Hobbs, University of Sheffield

How do you create a generation that can think its way out of problems and face the challenges of a rapidly changing world? The Davos meeting this year is all about how we can cope with the immense challenges posed by the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – an era of rapid and complex technological change, where our role in the world is resting on shifting sands.

The next generation of workers will have to be properly equipped to meet these enormous challenges. I believe that, if well-taught and using high-quality materials, philosophy classes can grant children, in Britain and across the world, extraordinary benefits as that era unfolds.

I will be taking part in several panel discussions at the World Economic Forum 2016 at Davos and as part of this, I will be trying to convince the policy makers and power brokers at the Swiss ski resort that we must insert practical philosophy into the heart of schooling.

Through my roles in the British Philosophical Association and the Philosophy in Education project (PEP), I support the continuation of a philosophy A Level and the introduction of a philosophy GCSE. I would also like to see the introduction of at least a year – ideally many more – of non-examined philosophy classes for all children aged between seven and 14.

The range of ideas and arguments on offer in philosophy classes can show children that there are different ways of thinking and living than those immediately on offer in their own postcode. Philosophy is one of the main subjects which extends a child’s imaginative range of possible lives, and this is true for children from all socio-economic backgrounds.

We are not just products of our genetic inheritance and environment; reason can provide at least a partial way out – but only if reason is properly trained. The challenge is then to avoid circularity: is such a training only possible if one is lucky enough to go to a good school (or, in other words, is the development of reason in fact wholly dependent on one’s immediate environment after all)?

Opening doors.
Klearchos Kapoutsis, CC BY-SA

This is true only up to a point. There are excellent materials widely available, including online. But children do at the very least need to be aware that such materials exist, that there are doors to open.

Questions of belief

Crucially, philosophy can provide children with a superb training in how to ask questions, analyse concepts, analyse and construct both inductive and deductive arguments and, in general, consider whether there are any good reasons to believe whatever it is they are being told. It helps them to develop good habits of reasoning and thinking for themselves.

This would suggest that philosophy might give children a better chance of resisting any attempts to brainwash them, whether from political or religious extremists, advertisers, or indeed teachers. It is difficult to find hard data on this as yet, but research from Britain’s Department for Education does speak of “reported impacts”.

This idea would seem to have informed a recent British Council paper on education and extremism. The education department’s own research in 2010 also suggested a link between philosophy teaching materials available from the group Philosophy for Children (P4C) and protection against indocrination. There is currently a working party exploring whether P4C is useful for the Prevent strategy, but I am not sure whether that specific question is necessarily the right one to be asking.

Teaching a way to leave the herd.
REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Philosophy classes pitched at the right level have the merit of being inclusive, whereas some have criticised the Prevent programme for being divisive. My point is that it is healthy for children to be encouraged to question and think for themselves – and philosophy is one of the subjects that is particularly good at this, irrespective of any particular agenda.

Rigour and flair

Philosophy hones both speaking and listening skills – and it fosters the ability to engage in robust yet respectful dialogue. It allows children to understand that you can disagree with someone without coming to blows and it encourages them to separate intellectual criticisms from personal attacks. It may therefore have a role to play in encouraging resilience and strength of character.

Both the clear, rigorous thinking and suppleness and flexibility of mind that philosophy requires and fosters will be key skills in a 21st-century workplace defined by constant innovation.

But, important though this is, philosophy does much more than train pupils for work. I believe that the activity of philosophy can in itself form one of the components of a flourishing life for children, both individually and collectively. This flourishing is not just a goal for their future adult selves, but also something that is important for them throughout their education.

Making happy grown-ups.
Henrik Sandklef, CC BY-SA

As schoolchildren mature, philosophy can help them reflect on such issues as flourishing, happiness and pleasure and how they may (or may not) interrelate. Philosophy can thus help children work out their own life goals.

Encouraging doubt

Those at Davos who are concerned about how the future of education should look in this age of uncertainty can find solace in philosophy. It can help children understand that ethical decisions have always had to be made in conditions of uncertainty and that technological advances have not changed that (though they may have deceived us into thinking that life is more predictable than it is).

Philosophy can also help children develop conceptions of flourishing which can exist in uncertain times and it can help provide them with the mental agility and adaptability that uncertain times require. It is not excess of doubt that is currently causing so many problems around the world – quite the reverse.

The Conversation

Angela Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

23
Jan

‘Dignity’ – A Difficult Concept Made Easy

Global Dignity Day: making ‘dignity’ understandable for students

One of our goals as educators is to nurture students into becoming decent human beings who will make the world a better place—for themselves and for others.

This is why many teachers are engaging in global projects that are authentic and, therefore, meaningful to young people.

The Global Dignity Day initiative achieves this and it allows people to get involved with as much effort as you wish. You can do a little—or you can do a lot. This makes it very accessible to all of us and still results in deep understanding of what dignity means to people across a wide range of our global experiences.

You can see lots more detail about Global Dignity Day at the main site or at your specific country site. Canadian educators, please check Global Dignity Day Canada. It has been my privilege to serve on this committee for the past several years along with some wonderful Canadians who care deeply about our young people.

For a quick visual overview, watch this amazing video from Global Dignity Day Canada 2015. If you wish to know more, or have any questions, please check the sites or simply ask me. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

It would be wonderful to have you join us this year for Global Dignity Day 2016!

6
Jul

It’s NOT about the Tools? Really?

It is very much about the tools:

and their impact—both intended and unintended.

Once again, as a result of the ISTE conference, the issue represented by statements such as, “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the pedagogy” has come to the fore. (See Stop It Already by @dougpete and Not Everyone is You by @gcouros.)

I have spoken about this before in “It’s Not About the Tool”—A Naïve Myth.” In that post I share some thoughts related to computers as cognitive partners, ‘effects of’ vs ‘effects with,’ drip effects of technology, blue dye plus water or blue water and other McLuhanist-type thoughts.

As I mentioned there, I understand the intent of these kinds of statements. I believe they arise from the focusing on the skills required to use the tool rather than on the learning at hand. So, yes, that would be an issue. I totally understand that problem. That’s why, in 2002, I presented a session at a CUE conference titled Mindstrokes—Not Keystrokes.

However, it is very much about the tools.

As described in that post, tools shape behaviours. Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

caveman-159359_640Let’s face it, eras of humankind have historically been defined by tool creation and use (the Three Age System)! We have the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age. Then came the Industrial Age, and, now, the Digital Era. In fairness, these descriptors vary regionally and are constantly under revision as many cultures use reference to other types of technologies.

So to simplistically say that it isn’t about the tools, is in my opinion, digital age doodoo.

“If the role of the computer is so slight that the rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.”

Seymour Papert in Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking, 1987

22
Jan

Knowledge Building: What is it Really?

Isn’t it really just learning by another name?

CC BY Mark Brennan (Flickr) NC SA

We hear a lot about knowledge building in education circles these days!

What is it anyway? Why don’t we just call it learning? Where did this term knowledge building come from?

When I first started speaking of knowledge building (KB), people looked at me as if I had two heads! People thought the term to be officious and puffed-up. But, now—now it’s ever-so-cool. Everyone is using it—but, perhaps without any deep understanding of its roots, its meaning—beyond that of learning. In fairness, this is actually a fairly common phenomenon as new concepts and words come into our everyday lexicon. It is known as lexical or semantic drift. Meanings change from the original intent.

So it is with knowledge building.

The purpose of this article is to briefly familiarize readers with the origins and intended meaning. Links to other sites and articles will help to broaden and deepen your understanding of the complexity of knowledge building, of creating knowledge building communities and of KB technological environments. It certainly won’t all be explained here! 😉

Learning vs Knowledge Building

This graphic (courtesy of IKIT) delineates the conceptual differences between learning and knowledge building.

What does a Knowledge Building classroom look like?

A Little History

The origins of knowledge building in education arise out of the work of Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter at OISE/UT. Their work in knowledge transforming and intentional learning—as it relates to the development of expertise—has been the foundation of their coining the term knowledge building. This work goes back to the mid 1970s and their development of CSILE—Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments in the mid 80s.

People often equate knowledge building theory with that of constructivist learning, but Scardamalia and Bereiter make these distinctions:

Intentionality. Most of learning is unconscious, and a constructivist view of learning does not alter this fact. However, people engaged in Knowledge Building know they are doing it and advances are purposeful.

Community & knowledge. Learning is a personal matter, but Knowledge Building is done for the benefit of the community.

In other words, students engaged in knowledge building are intentional about their learning—they treat knowledge as an entity that is discussable. It is something about which they reflect and build upon. Also, students can be said not just to be in charge of their own learning, but also have responsibility for the learning of the group.
History of Knowledge Building

1977-1983: Knowledge-Telling versus Knowledge-Transforming

As described in detail in A Brief History of Knowledge Building (pdf), between 1977-1983 the research focus was on examining the differences between knowledge-telling and knowledge-transforming. So when you are using wikis with students for collaboration and knowledge-building, ask yourself, “When students post information on their various wiki pages, are they simply telling knowledge or are they transforming that knowledge by thinking about it, questioning it, reworking it, combining it with other pieces of information to make new understandings and revelations?”

I describe here a situation where true collaboration occurred between two students (visible to all students) in which the questioning by one student (Heather) led the other (Larissa) to rethink and to rework her driving question for her project on potato production in Prince Edward Island. She needed to do more than knowledge telling. She was required to build new schema by a deeper transformation of the information at hand.

1983-1989: Intentional Learning

Between 1983-1989 the research focus switched to intentional learning and cognition. “Intentional cognition is something more than ‘self-regulated learning’, more like the active pursuit of a mental life.” Intentional learning had several characteristics which pointed towards knowledge building. These included:

  1. Higher levels of agency. Students take responsibility not only for meeting learning objectives set by the teacher but for managing the long term acquisition of knowledge and competencies.
  1. Existing classroom communication patterns and practices as obstacles to intentional cognition. Even though teachers may try to encourage inquiry and independent learning and thinking, common characteristics of the classroom environment militate against it and instead increase dependence on the teacher (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).


It was during this time that CSILE was developed. Originally, it was a text-based system and I, personally, was challenged by a text only environment—as I was a recent HyperCard enthusiast and enjoyed, and saw cognitive benefits for, graphical interfaces and hypermedia. As part of the CSILE team, I made a case for multiple representations of knowledge—beyond text only.

This was a time rich in studying expertise, the differences between expert and novice behaviour and, indeed, how one encourages and supports the development of expert learners—both face to face and in online spaces. Protocols and procedural facilitations were developed to scaffold the execution of higher level strategies by students.

It was recognized, as we hear so much now, that teachers may indeed be a bottleneck in the advancement of knowledge creation by students. However, it’s not merely about student agency—that is necessary, but not sufficient. Students must learn the skills, develop the attitudes and build/participate in the community.

1988-present: Knowledge Building

As the research into intentional learning developed, the researchers noticed something else happening in the CSILE classrooms that involved all the students. They noticed that the kids became really involved in contributing to the knowledge problems that arose. In fact, to be part of the classroom community, you really needed to contribute. So it seemed that a great motivator and sustainer of intentional learning behaviour was ‘the simple and virtually universal desire to belong’.

“This conceptual step yielded a definite separation between intentional learning and Knowledge Building. Intentional learning is the deliberate enhancement of skills and mental content. Knowledge Building is the creation and improvement of knowledge of value to one’s community. You can have intentional learning without Knowledge Building and, in principle at least, Knowledge Building without intentional learning; but the two together make a powerful combination.”

Twelve knowledge building principles have been articulated. I will mention them here, but I suggest you read the complete descriptions or watch these videos because the headings won’t tell you too much! I include them in this graphic to illustrate the depth and complexity of the term knowledge building.

12 Knowledge Building Principles

Knowledge Forum

Knowledge Forum evolved out of CSILE and is available to support you in developing knowledge building classrooms.

Here is a brief video from a classroom using Knowledge Forum. (Note: This is fairly old—the technologies have improved! But, great overview!)

So in summary…

One cannot equate learning with knowledge building.

The terms are not interchangeable and I believe we need to be careful when we appropriate language and use it casually. I have the same concern with other current, common constructs such as inquiry, collaboration, and project-based learning.

I am absolutely certain that I do the same thing with many expressions and terms where that domain is not my area of expertise!

Please be patient with me when I do so, but please also gently point me to resources that will deepen my understandings.

Call to Action

Given the topic of this post, I will now ask you to do a little reflection on the ideas presented here, on your previous and current thoughts about learning versus knowledge building, on your own practice, and on the dominant classroom and school culture in relation to these ideas.

  • What have you learned?
  • What might change for your practice?
  • What steps might you take to move forward?
  • What confusions/questions do you have?

I encourage you to do this publicly—here or in another online space where we might further our collective understandings.


Resources for Follow-Up

A Brief History of Knowledge Building: A Brief History of Knowledge Building is a great place to start reading about knowledge building.

Knowledge Building: Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge Building. In Encyclopedia of Education. (2nd ed., pp. 1370-1373). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Professional Development: Knowledge Building: The Professional Development: Knowledge Building site is a superb site developed by the OISE originators. Find out what a knowledge building classroom looks like, how to get started, assessment strategies, etc.

IKIT (Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology): “The Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology conducts research, develops technology and helps build communities aimed at advancing beyond “best practice” in education, knowledge work, and knowledge creation.”

Knowledge Forum: Knowledge Forum is available for purchase and implementation in your school or classroom.

Natural Curiosity: Natural Curiosity is a resource that has been developed for teachers. There are wonderful classroom videos online describing ideas about developing a knowledge building culture and knowledge building discourse among students. You can also download a Natural Curiosity handbook.

Learn Teach Lead: LearnTeachLead, of the Ontario Ministry’s Student Achievement Division, has produced and posted some excellent videos including interviews with Marlene Scardamalia.

Visible Thinking: I would also recommend the book, Visible Thinking, by Harvard’s Project Zero group. The Visible Thinking website also has some worthwhile resources.

ThinkingLand: In the mid 80s, as a graduate student in the CSILE group, I developed a networked version of HyperCard called ThinkingLand. It was based on the metaphor of a journal and so could be considered as an online, collaborative, and scaffolded journal writing environment. It was implemented in a sixth grade classroom for research purposes.

Journal Zone: In 2000, LCSI (of Logo fame!) contracted me to lead the design of Journal Zone—which was based on ThinkingLand. It was an awesome online environment, but was not commercially successfully as it launched just at the same time as blogging arrived on the scene. People went blogging—without all the scaffolding and procedural facilitations we had built into Journal Zone. (It is no longer available.) See Using Visible Thinking Strategies to Develop Expert Learners for a description of the practical elements of Journal Zone which you can build into your classroom practice.

Journal Zone

First posted at Big Ideas in Education and at Inquire Within

4
Dec

Graphic Organizers, Outliners and Transferable Thinking

Teaching for Durable Mental Models

Many years ago, I devised ways to have my students make their thinking explicit for all to see and to discuss! One technique I created was Watch Me Think! We dreamed up as many ways as we could to make this possible.

We tried public journal writing and collaborative idea mapping (as we called it then). I have written much about the former, and wish to address the latter here.

Idea mapping, in my view, comes in two varieties:

  • traditional outliners that are hierarchical & linear in nature (as you would find in any wordprocessor like MS Word or Pages—but not Google), and
  • graphic organizers which may be used hierarchically or in a web-based manner and are graphical in nature. Many graphic organizers also allow for the creation of mind-maps and concept-maps (which can show a relationship among the nodes of of the map).
    • In fact, may of these graphic organizers will also export to an outliner—often a handy feature!

Both categories of these tools are extremely useful—perhaps in different ways. Many excellent resources are available to support you in using them with your students.

Effects With versus Effects Of

However, I wish for deeper and more transferable understandings that students can learn when they are creating mind-maps, concept-maps or outlines. I want both effects with and effects of. It is wonderful that graphic organizers and outliners can improve the quality of students’ work as they use these tools (effects with), but it is as important for these tools to have a more robust impact on student thinking. If students develop mental models as a result of having used graphic organizers or outliners, they are able to apply these in other situations (effects of)—even when computers are not on hand. The model resides in the head.

…place thinking at the centre of the educational enterprise…

Placing thinking at the centre of the educational enterprise in classrooms is very much at the heart of the knowledge-building and visible thinking movement, and so, it makes a lot of sense to make these graphic organizers and outlines as visible as possible within your classroom. Sometimes this might be in your physical space. Other times, they may be, in fact, collaborative documents that are shared and discussable online.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.05.20 PM

The outliner allows students to capture main and supporting ideas at the same time.

Outliners

Does wordprocessing make students better writers?

Research has indicated that students write better whenever they use word processors. Their work is longer, better revised and edited, and so forth. This would constitute effects with.

But can they subsequently write better after having used word processors?

Can they write better without the use of a word processor?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.05.45 PM

Shaded bullets allow students to understand organization at a glance.

The answer to these questions is likely dependent on both the connections teachers explicitly make in class as well as the types of activities in which students are engaged while using word processors.

For example, if they use an outlining tool within a word processor or presentation software, they would then have a functional mental structure to carry with them to other tasks.

…helps students develop portable mental models they can carry to other tasks…

How does using the outliner tool differ from just using indents and hard returns? The ability to expand and collapse the headings and subheadings provides, in my opinion, a significant mental model—a model that is durable and independent of the computer. It is what Gavriel Salomon would call a residual effect. How might this be implemented in a classroom? Look at two examples here.

Courtesy: Inspiration website

Graphic Organizers

Similarly, graphic organizers may provide students with the capacity to think differently even when they are not using a computer. They may have the capability to see webs of ideas, and relationships among ideas, as a graphical representation in their mind. This is a tool with which to think—an alternate way of representing knowledge that they may not have at their disposal if they hadn’t used graphic organizers.

In fact, if they move their knowledge from a graphic organizer to an outline for a different view and then back again, they will start to develop a schema of how information can be structured. This is a valuable mental model—a wonderful effect of having used the tools.

Caution: Be careful these activities don’t become yet another worksheet! 🙂

My own experience shows that if outlining and mapping become routinized—like yet another ‘worksheet’—they become ‘something to get done’ and they, therefore, are not done mindfully or intentionally and the intended benefits are lost. Once again we need to understand that learning is strongly affected by the predominant culture of the classroom. So, be sure to value the efforts through conversation and the public discussions related to the thinking involved.

Thinking needs to be a highly valued activity and that should be explicitly and implicitly understood by all in the classroom. John Seely Brown has eloquently stated that learning is often a product of the ambient culture rather than of explicit teaching.

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NOTE for Ontario Teachers:

OSAPAC has announced the release of a new Mind Mapping tool, called Mindomo. Brenda Sherry gives some of her thoughts in NEW! Mindomo Mind Mapping for Ontario Learners.

 

 

24
Oct

The Butterfly Defect: Technology and the Wandering Mind

Dwight Sipler-Flickr

Dwight Sipler-Flickr

Gavriel Salomon wrote the following piece in 1998 – several years after the World Wide Web was launched but years before the recent distractibility of the Internet – with Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media attention-getters!

It is clear that technology shapes our behaviour in ways we may, or may not, understand. The Butterfly Defect is worth considering if you are responsible for students.

This is not just about attention issues but rather speaks about habits of mind.

These technologies, like other things in our environment, provide us with models with which to think – not always knowingly and not always beneficially.

This section is from an essay called “Novel Constructivist Learning Environments and Novel Technologies: Some Issues to Be Concerned With”.

“The Butterfly Defect

This raises yet other questions. Hypermedia programs of the kind widely touted and widely used in education are non-linear, perhaps the way cognitive webs of meaning are. However, the connections they display, and particularly the ones students build into them, are anything but logical. In fact, such programs are deliberately based on casual associations and on visual fascination, luring the user to wander from one item to another which happens to be associated with it. In fact, this is not just a private case of hypermedia and multimedia; it is the defining attribute of the hottest thing in town: The Internet.

There is nothing wrong with bouncing around, as hypermedia and the Internet invite one to do, except that this is typical of bottom-up, unguided exploratory behavior, as contrasted with the developmentally more advanced search behavior which is top-down, metacognitively guided and goal directed (Wright & Vliestra, 1975). Search, unlike exploration, is neither guided by the lure of shiny buttons, nor does the finding of simple associations satisfy it. If students can emulate the organization of information in hypermedia for the organization of knowledge in their minds, matching their maps of meaning to those they construct on the computer, would they not organize it in the same associationistic way hypermedia are organized?

The questions thus concern two interrelated developments. One development concerns the structure of students’ webs of meaning. Could students’ cognitive webs of meaning come to reflect hypermedia characteristics, consisting of flimsy associationistic connections? The second development concerns the mental activity associated with those webs: Would students come to acquire a tendency to mentally hop around their own cognitive webs in a hypermedia-like manner?

These possibilities can be called The Butterfly Defect: Coming to think or to prefer the style of thinking in a hypermedia mode—”touch, but don’t touch, and just move on to make something out of it”. A teacher recently interviewed by Oppenheimer for a biting article about educational computing in The Atlantic Monthly (1997), proudly announced that his students have come to think in a multimedia manner. If he is right, then the danger of a Butterfly Defect may be more imminent than we think.”

 

  • Are we doing our kids a disservice if we are not teaching them about the effects of technologies on how they are learning and, in fact, behaving?
  • Is the ‘butterfly defect’ yet another unanticipated effect of new technologies – a ‘second-order’ or drip effect’ as Salomon would say?
  • Is this dealt with significantly in the myriad ‘media literacy’ documents produced?

Gavriel, I miss you being part of this community. I miss your voice.

I encourage you to read the whole article: Novel Constructivist Learning Environments and Novel Technologies: Some Issues to Be Concerned With. It is available for purchase here.

Disclaimer: I really believe that butterflies are effective in their mission, otherwise they would not survive. 🙂 Such is the nature of metaphor!

(This paper is based on the author’s Keynote Address presented at the EARLI Meeting, Athens, August 1997)

Gavriel Salomon, Haifa University, Israel 1998