Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
Opinion from the technical trenches.
Technology Disrupts Educaton...
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About this blog
By Robert Handley
Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last ...
Please Stay Tuned...
Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last several years I've concentrated on simplifying and securing small business technology. I intend that complexity stay inside the machine, and that your experience outside it be productive and pleasant. When you make technology decisions there are many sources for information and advice, but it's sometimes overwhelming to sift through. So I'll render fact, opinion and personal experience into palatable portions that I hope you'll find helpful. I'm not a tech evangelist, rather I play a balancing act, because it's easy to collect a closet full of expensive, planet killing junk. Please stay tuned...
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Aug. 1, 2012 12:01 a.m.

From the previous post:
If we don’t take care of our mess some clever opportunist will. If we fail some other entity will succeed. If our children are left behind our nation will be left in the dust. We're not going to cure our social ills or back out of our economic corner overnight, that may be the responsibility of the next ruling generation. Let's hope we have taken care of them adequately, trained them ahead of the curve, we wouldn't want the next generation of power to think that they've been shortchanged.
I am neither educator nor mentor, merely a humble geek. So I dive into the broad technology/education debate two for three, that is, I am student and technologist, not teacher. So if you’re a teacher please don’t get your nose in a snoot, two for three can be a valid credential for commentary, by example, many teachers have decided to embrace or consider technology aided education but can't service a their connected devices or write code, so they're also two for three.
The technologist piece of me would prefer that we evolve the human/machine interface more quickly. I prefer to plug in a personal umbilical and data dump the sum total of human knowledge directly into the brain. If this dump were to be conferred on others, I would also like for the dumpee to be infused with standards, an overlay of consciousness on the raw information, like responsibility, safety, honor, self-defense. But alas, we're still in the stone age of connected information, the naive and capacious mind (read student) must rather be enjoined by standard inputs (aka senses, a complete complement not required), a combination of color, animation, tease, sounds, success, elevation of challenge. In the right combinations these elements can be provided with a connected device, and that mostly looks like an iPad today. Even without a single bit of external software or content installed, iPad (Android Nexus soon?) is intuitive and easy to use, just ask an infant or a cat.
If we want to watch television we're advantaged if using a modern model. The newest fads include direct connection to online content (like Netflix) and have the same HD resolution as a theater screen. If we were to attempt construction of modern TV with old circuitry it would be bigger than a house and really buggy. TV is only one example of technology disruption, or how expectations change as new technology evolves; a new TV is still a box that presents content, but a much different box inside, and so goes education.
Adult humans can be placed in a classroom and paid to teach, some will be much better than others. A device, however, is devoid of personal deficiency, accent, annoying habits, drool, chalk dust/white board ink, yadayada. But to be a productive substitute the device must be as effective or superior in the primary goal, the data dump phase. This is high requirement, so software designers (includes teachers) must create material with accurate, relevant content, correctly segregate what works from what doesn’t and acquire ruthless editorial habits.
Even after new electronic teaching resources are dumped into an unregulated space, the teacher should (must?) integrate only the best course materials. So curation of materials is huge because they're being produced in fantastic quantity. Curation is where I dive out of this discussion, because many teaching professionals (even if two for three) have embraced the technology and have valuable, substantive opinions.
Futurework skills will need a constant refresh of skill set, particularly as we extend life span. In the anachronistic American education plan, retirement (as it was once known) would occur at approximately the same time as our meaningful period of productivity might expire. An intellectual skill set was thought to remain relevant until age 65 or more, but a bricklayer might be beaten up and finished at age 40. When a worker is suddenly caught without income our current economy/nation-state won't/can't rescue, we are mere statistics to the corporate/government overlords. It's social Darwinism, no less cruel or more unnatural than lions eating antelope (or human) for lunch. But what if I don't see my children as lion lunch, can I enable them rise above? Can we all rise above?
Perhaps public education can pull us out of collective diminution, there are certainly examples of how viable, contemporary, forward reaching public systems can succeed, experiments are being tried every day, results examined and published. As an analog, I observe that arts don't thrive in a state of happiness and satisfaction, perhaps the same is true with institutional innovation. We think and are therefore distinguished from less sentient(?) life forms, so we shouldn’t accept that fate was settled at the first moment of time. We continue to hope, even when the odds seem impossible and implacable, and the times they are a'changin'.
Consider one education innovation that caught my attention, called Flip Teaching: Homework isn’t the boring stuff of wrote and drill, rather students can be sent home to use iPads or conventional computers, obtaining their data dump in reverse. That is, information normally presented in lecture (sometimes boring?) is first consumed as homework, but as polished, consistent, engaging presentation, perhaps as an interactive game, or animation, and can even include a really interesting talking head.
Many types of electronic homework can/will evaluate performance, comprehension, whether or not the student even participated. The device uploads that student's responses to the material, creating a comprehensive measure of the lesson. The homework/software feeds a database (could be anonymous), the database instantly informs teachers about the status of individuals in their milieu.
When the next class is convened the teaching professional already knows something about who studied, success of the assignment, who got it, who didn’t. Then, instead of beginning a lecture with no prior knowledge of whether homework was comprehensible and/or digested, breakouts can occur immediately, based on individual performance. Teacher becomes tutor, lecture becomes individualized. Students, if interested, can excel beyond their grade, supposed IQ or imposed work load. Those students who might struggle can be identified and approached individually or in small groups. Of course, and sadly, this doesn’t cure the problem of social segregation, wherein the persons of lesser ability are stalked by the more successful population, but that’s a matter of classroom discipline, where social Darwinism can be shifted.
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