Technology and Children

Blog about new technologies and their impact on education, incorporating a focus on innovation and STEAM.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Schools in the Age of Artificial Intelligence #IMMOOC #LCInnovation

Continuing my reflection on what I am reading in Katie's book, I came across the chapter on teachers as learners (Chapter 5) and especially this part on rethinking traditions: (page 144) "As AI becomes increasingly capable of doing things that humans once did, jobs that require pattern recognition, following instructions, or recalling content are likely to be taken over by the machine. Yet these skills are the basis of what is taught in many schools today. Instead of setting up our students to compete with machines, we also need to focus on helping them develop the aspects that make humans unique." And she cites an article from the Harvard Business Review - In the AI Age, Being Smart Will Mean Something Completely Different by Ed Hess: "What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level. Technology cannot replace the human connection, the relationship and the guidance and support that we are meant to provide do one another."

This is what I call a hard truth. It is very serious. It has been my experience as well that the more technology we use, the more we need to develop our human uniqueness. Deepen our social emotional skills, develop our critical thinking. We are free from rote tasks to be able to explore our humanity as never before, because we've gone beyond the survival level. Of course this isn't true for everyone. Many people are still figuring out what they will eat and where they will live. That is why it is even more so the responsibility of those who have access to another level of living to be prepared to progress and help even more those others in need. That's why we need to teach them to be sensitive to others, find a purpose and learn to contribute positively to improve life for everyone.

We, as educators, have to take a good hard look at the materials we are using to teach, the lesson plans and the strategies, and ask ourselves if these are truly helping the student to learn and become smart as Ed Hess defined in his article. For them to learn this, we need to provide them with the opportunity to practice this in a safe, guided environment. No better place than the school!

When we implemented our STEAM curriculum in my last school, we created opportunities for students to learn to listen to each other and give each other feedback as they developed their projects. We also created opportunities for them to self-evaluate and talk about their learning experience. We used simple tools such as a poster which was built as a class activity where they built a "shared contract" of the values we would strive for. Then, at the end of the quarter, based on that contract, students would receive a sheet with three emoticons drawn on them: a big smiley face, a big neutral face and a big frowning face. They then had to write down where they saw themselves in terms of the values they had committed to. On the back they justified their choice. The teacher would then sit down with them and talk about why they thought they had done well or not. They also used this tool to put down where their group was in terms of that value, and share with each other their point of view. It was interesting to see how each one saw the group in the process. It was a simple tool but very powerful in terms of teaching kids how to talk to each other, listen actively and think critically about their own responsibility in their learning process. Since we were dealing with High School students, this was all very new to them. They had never learned to reflect deeply on how they were learning and collaborating with others, or building their relationships. For me, this is one of the most important things we incorporated into the PBL, because it's when they were learning to be more human, more mature, more caring and more unique.

Monday, March 05, 2018

What Conditions are Critical to support learning and Innovation? #IMMOOC #LCInnovation Season 4 Episode 2

This week we had two questions to prompt our reflection. So here goes...
How might you create or improve your innovation ecosystem that is described in Chapter 2?
To improve the innovation ecosystem, you should start by building a shared vision, starting from the administrators and including all the people involved (teachers, students, support staff, parents). You have to decide what you think education is about and what the role of the school is. You have to know where you want to go so you can think about the roads you will need to build to get there. And you have to know why you are doing this, who it is for! As Katie says: “We can have the latest technology or the best curriculum, but if we are not obsessed with who learners are, how to best serve them, and how to partner with them to move forward, we can fail to make the impact that we desire and are working so hard to achieve. Part of being learner obsessed is ensuing that the teachers have time, support, and trust to do what is best for learners and their classrooms and throughout the school.” (page 51) I love how she is calling attention to the important role of the administrators in making this possible. Many times, we are putting so much weight on teachers to change and forgetting that we are inserted in a whole ecosystem that needs to be involved. Teachers are only a piece of that puzzle. As Katie cited in page 60 Gene Wilhoit’s The Vision: “Teachers teach more effectively when they work in professional cultures where their opinions and input are valued. In such environments, administrators support teachers as they exchange ideas and strategies, problem-solve collaboratively, and consult with expert colleagues.” I love this sentence (page 64): “Empowered teachers empower their students.” Administrators empower teachers so they can empower their students!
Another aspect I have found is challenging when bringing in this change is thinking about assessment. In page 60 Katie states that “What you measure and value influences the type of learners and citizens your systems are designed to create.” She also points out that “To truly integrate new learning, it is critical to carve out time to allow for trial and error, collaboration, and especially coaching and feedback.” That is not what was happening in the school until recently. It is one of the hardest aspects for educators to think about (teachers, parents, and, why not, the students themselves!) in light of this new approach. Until now we associated assessment to grades that measured concrete chunks of knowledge that students spat out after “memorizing” the content they should learn. It was an end product, not a process. If we are to change the ecosystem, we have to rethink how we assess the process and what we measure in learning. We must redefine what we consider “success”. Katie sums it up pretty nicely in page 85: “If we are honest, anything that is worth doing and learning takes time, feedback, critique, and multiple revisions to improve. To maximize learning opportunities, not only do we need to allow room for mistakes, but we need to create a culture that relies on learning from others and build in opportunities to reflect, revise, and improve.” That is what I see as significant education!
What does your ideal classroom look like? What examples do you have that you can connect to the learner-centered experiences described in chapter 4?
Katie talks about building a desired graduate profile. When we first started planning our STEAM curriculum, we had a Saturday workshop for all the teachers involved. There we did some hands-on activities to build our “ideal” student. Basically, we built the person we wanted him/her to become as an outcome of the experiences he/she would have with us. It was a great experience because it not only gave us clarity of who we wanted our students to become, but it also helped us communicate this to the other stakeholders who were not participating as intimately in the process. It was also an opportunity for the teachers experience as students the type of hands-on activity we wanted them to later do with their own students.
This was the result:
We did something very close to what Katie described in the Significant Learning strategy for building a shared vision of what we want our classroom to look like and what type of student we want to graduate. (pages 104-105) And our conclusion was also very similar to hers, where she describes: “Most often, the learning and growth required productive struggle, risk, guidance, and mentorship.”
 So, we designed lessons using Project Based Learning as our methodology, looking at our curriculum and bringing the lessons into a context that would be close to student interests. Our goal was to reach what Katie describes in page 106: “When we focus on learners and connect to their interests, needs, and goals, we can create experiences that spark curiosity, ignite passion, and unleash genius.” That’s what we aimed for.
As we designed the challenges and then the lessons that would help the students reach their goals, we were studying books such as The Innovators Mindset, From STEM to STEAM, Invent to Learn, Social Emotional Learning Handbook amongst others to help build our own list of characteristics that would define the learning experience we were designing. I loved Katie’s summary of the “10 characteristics of learner-centered experiences: personal, agency, inquiry, collaboration, authentic, critique+revision, productive struggle, goals+accountability, models, reflection.” (page 107) Ours was pretty close to that as well. We called this list the essence of what we believed STEAM should be (it was the “soul” of the curriculum). Our list included: autonomy and protagonism, critical thinking, design thinking, hands-on solidary learning, contextualized peer learning, entrepreneurial attitude and creative attitude.  But we incorporated many of the characteristics in Katie’s list into our lesson plans. We found that having models, allowing time for critique and revision and making sure to include time and activities for reflection made a huge difference in students’ perception of their own learning process and helped them understand this new culture of learning. We had to make their learning process explicit to them so they could bridge the gap between what they thought they knew about education and the transformations we were bringing them.
To finish off this post, I’d like to comment on what Katie wrote in page 114 – “Build the Foundation, not the Ceiling (loved this!!!) – The best teachers do not use a single approach or follow one curriculum; they create the context and experiences for diverse students to learn and grow.” That’s what is so amazing about designing these experiences – you just add the starting point. It’s beautiful to watch the students taking off from there and reaching for the sky! That’s what teaching is all about!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Why is innovation in education necessary? Or not? #IMMOOC #LCInnovation

This post is the first of a series of posts related to the #IMMOOC Season 4 on Innovation in Education. Here we reflect on the readings (in my case I am reading Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin). Each week we receive questions to prompt our reflection, and those will be explored here. So, let's go to the questions related to the Forward and Chapter 1: 

Why is it critical to spark curiosity and ignite passions in learners? 

Katie mentions that teaching to the tests and standards are making kids bored with school, they feel unattached, disconnected from what they do in class in relation to what they do out of school. If you are in a classroom, you probably have felt this as well. Kids distracted, doing the basic to get by and "get a grade", counting the minutes for the bell to ring so they can get out of there. We end up getting caught up in the curriculum and assignments, the bureaucratic tasks of teaching. But we don't want to fall into the trap of getting compliance as Katie says. Here I quote her: "When we empower learners to investigate how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem solvers and innovators."(p.5)

We want to see our students become successful, happy and to find their purpose. We want them to dream. We want them to make an impact locally and globally. We want them to be ready for any challenge and emotionally mature. We want them to be able to find their place in the world and leave their mark. We want them to be able to look at others in need and find a way to help them. We, as teachers, have many dreams for them. And the school system and curriculum, as is, is not getting us there anymore. 

When you spark curiosity, you teach kids to continue exploring, learning, pushing their limits. When you ignite passions you are on the track for helping them find their purpose. This is the true role of education. We want to look at the whole human being, not just their academic skills. The world today is asking for this. Society has changed. The job requirements have changed. How we relate to people has changed. We need to change as well.  

How have you embraced the evolving role of the educator? What would you add or revise in the graphic shared in chapter 1?

I have been exploring best practices ever since I started teaching. Even though I was a very compliant student, I knew that most of my friends did not learn that way. I saw them struggle and knew we had many ways of learning that were not being explored. Since I always explored the use of technology in my classroom, I was always trying out new strategies to make the best use possible of these technologies that allowed me to have students participating actively in the learning, and not just sitting back and listening to me speak. I also believed learning should be fun, that we remember better experiences that are attached to emotions and fun. 

As I studied more and more the role of technology in education, I realized that it was the teacher who was the most important piece in the classroom.  As Katie says in page 11: "People, not programs or tools, drive change in schools." I also agree with what she says in page 20: "Learning is messy. Today's technology provides easy access to  answers, but if we focus only on the answers and not on thinking, questioning, and solving, we rob students (and ourselves) of great learning experiences. Perhaps, more significantly, we fail to develop the critical behaviors that will empower them (and us) to be life-long learners." This expresses exactly how I see the use of technology in the school.

As for the graphic in Chapter 1, it has been my experience that it captures the most powerful ideas needed for true innovation in a school. When I was designing a new STEAM curriculum at my last school, I was working with 21 teachers who would have to teach the classes. I decided to co-design the course with them. Everyone was involved in the process, from start to finish. And it was truly an empowering process. Everyone felt engaged and took ownership. In the end, I had a team of partners who were as engaged as I was in making the new curriculum work. And it was not an easy adaptation, because we went from classic lab classes with the teacher in front to Project Based Learning where the teachers became partners in learning. They sat down beside the students and modeled learning for them. They also became community developers as the students chose their projects and needed to make connections with the community in order to be able to research and apply their ideas. Parents became more involved. But one of the most powerful ideas this graph brings is the idea of the teacher as an Activator. It took a while for some teachers to understand that the students now needed them more than ever, even though they were not just transmitting information as before. They couldn't just leave the students to struggle on their own, they had to provide feedback, help students set goals, verbalize and monitor their own learning. This, I think, was one of the hardest parts of the new role the teachers were taking on. It's a thin line between empowering students to become lifelong learners and abandoning them in their learning experience. 

Katie's concluding thoughts summarize exactly what my experience has shown me (page 41): "Learners have more access than ever to information through technology. As such, the role of the educator has and will continue to shift. No longer do students need to access teachers for content, but they desperately need teachers to guide them as they develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be lifelong learners and critical consumers. students need teachers to help them make sense of information so that they can create new and better ideas that will move us all forward. As teachers, your greatest power comes from knowing your learners."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Novo modelo do Laptop de US$100

O Nicholas Negroponte não parou o seu projeto. Eles continuam inovando e contribuindo de forma fantástica para o desenvolvimento de uma ferramenta para incluir crianças no mundo digital.

Para ver a reportagem completa sobre o lançamento desta nova idéia, visite o link

O que eu gostei deste modelo é que não só ele resolve problemas de fragilidade de teclado, mas também trabalha com o conceito de colaboração, facilitando o uso por mais de um usuário simultaneamente. Mais uma vez vemos um projeto que pensa em tecnologia sem esquecer da pedagogia. A filosofia educacional está inserida no design, algo que não se vê em computadores normais, feitos para a indústria e empresas.

O conceito de comercialização também é includente. Todos podem ter um. Você compra um para você, e paga por um que será dado para uma criança carente. Ninguém fica sem!

Estarei aqui torcendo para que dê tudo certo, e já estou na fila para comprar o meu! :-)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Visita ao Media Lab do MIT

Para quem gosta de tecnologia e criança como eu, visitar o Media Lab do MIT foi um sonho realizado! Tive oportunidade de ir conversar com o Mitchel Resnick na sexta feira dia 28 de março (estava em Boston participando de uma conferência internacional para professores de ciências, o NSTA), e ele mostrou a linha de pesquisa que estão seguindo para fazer melhor uso da tecnologia e promover uma maior aprendizagem, especialmente com crianças pequenas. O grupo dele, chamado de Lifelong Kindergarten, foca trabalhar a criatividade, a pesquisa e a aprendizagem através de brincadeiras gostosas.

Desenvolveram o Scratch (que já mencionei em post anterior) e o Cricket (também já mencionado). Estão agora em fase de implantação, buscando escolas parceiras para testar as suas idéias, sua aplicabilidade, avaliar seu verdadeiro impacto e contribuição.

Para terem uma idéia de como é o laboratório e a filosofia de trabalho, vejam essa reportagem sobre Ciência e Tecnologia da Globo (,,GIM810002-7823-O+SUPRASUMO+DA+TECNOLOGIA,00.html).
Trabalhar as habilidades e competências que eles estão desenvolvendo vai bem de encontro à filosofia da Web 2.0 e empregos que estão aparecendo no século 21. Para quem tem interesse em saber quais os melhores usos da tecnologia junto às crianças, ver o trabalho desse grupo de pesquisadores é imprescindível. Espero que outros também possam ter o privilégio que eu tive de ir ver de perto onde todas as idéias fantásticas são geradas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Os mini-computadores estão chegando!

A Innovation for Learning, empresa baseada em Chicago, já está testando um novo modelo de handheld para crianças - o Teachermate. Não é um PDA, mas sim um computador super simples, mais parecido com os jogos que as crianças tanto adoram, só que com softwares educacionais desenvolvidos por eles mesmos, e testados e avaliados por pesquisadores independentes. O mais impressionante é o custo - apenas US$ 50,00!
A idéia é reforçar a aprendizagem da leitura e da matemática. Ao jogar, a criança está aprendendo sem nem perceber.
A empresa já vem fabricando software educacional há muitos anos, e o maior impecílio para que as escolas os adotassem era o fato de não terem computadores para as crianças usarem. Ou eram máquinas muito velhas, ou eram muito poucas, ou nem funcionavam. Então a Innovation decidiu fazer o aparelho acessível para que seus softwares pudessem ser usados, e aí sim o impacto na aprendizagem pudesse ser medido. Foi juntar a fome com a vontade de comer.
Vai valer a pena continuar acompanhando as pesquisas sendo feitas pelas universidades em cima desse programa. Como eu acabei de falar no meu post anterior, a tendência é simplificar e baratear, tornar a tecnologia realmente acessível e ubíqua. Esse parece ser mais um caminho interessante sendo explorado. E o melhor de tudo é que, com cada iniciativa e novidade, quem vai sair ganhando são as crianças!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Computação 1:1

A discussão continua aquecida quanto ao uso do modelo 1:1 na sala de aula. Já foi feito um primeiro leilão do governo para ver que computador seria adotado no programa da UCA, e a Intel acabou ganhando com o Classmate. Mas no final, ainda não se chegou a uma decisão definitiva.
O uso de um laptop leve e barato com certeza trará muitos benefícios para os alunos, suas famílias, e até para a comunidade na qual estão inseridos, principalmente em regiões que não têm recursos. Será uma maneira de incluir os isolados da globalização, abrir novos mundos e novas possibilidades para eles.
Agora, outra tecnologia que está entrando espontaneamente na sala de aula são os smartphones (como esse da Apple, e muitos outros já disponíveis). Esses aparelhos trazem toda a conectividade que um jovem poderia desejar! Tem diversão (música, vídeos), conexão (wi-fi ou por telefone), navegação (internet, messenger, etc), e até funciona como telefone! :-) Os aparelhos com Windows Mobile oferecem todos os programas da Microsoft, calendário, lista de tarefas, email, word, pdf, powerpoint... acho que já deu para ver o leque de possibilidades que isso abre.
Já estamos vendo alunos espontaneamente fazendo pesquisas do assunto que o professor está explicando, complementando a aula com dados atuais. Outros alunos já baixam o material do site para o seu smartphone, para poder ir lendo tanto na hora, como depois.
Para o modelo de aula mais expositiva, estes aparelhos são perfeitos complementos. O preço é acessível, e são aparelhos que os jovens já manipulam, tornando sua adoção natural, intuitiva. Uma verdadeira tecnologia ubíqua e transparente (o sonho dos que trabalham com tecnologia educacional).
Claro que tem suas limitações, e vai se encaixar melhor em certos modelos de aula. Essa é a beleza de ter tantas escolhas de tecnologia. Uma complementa a outra, supre o que faltar na outra.
As escolas precisam já ficar atentas a essa nova tecnologia, celulares 3G, PDAs, etc. Os sites das escolas e os materiais digitais oferecidos precisam estar prontos para serem visualizados nas pequenas telas.
Esses aparelhos são mais uma prova de que o futuro já chegou. Estamos preparados?