Looking Toward the Future

xkcd

Last week, I read an interesting post on David Warlick’s 2¢ Worth blog. In “Becoming Future-Ready“, Warlick points out the trouble with predicting the future based on current knowledge through film interpretations of the future. Depictions of mobile computers space travel in 1984’s 2010 (sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey) were fairly inaccurate, almost laughable.

This happens often in film, literature, even in governmental and institutional policy-making. We make predictions based on what we already know. It is impossible to foresee every development or discovery that will change the direction of society and culture in the coming decades.

A good representation of the limitations of a particular time period looking toward future innovation comes in the satirical videos portraying current social media tools in the context of past decades. For example, here’s a look at Google had it been invented in the 1980’s:

Granted, this video is made with hindsight being as perfect as it is, but it is not beyond possibility that such predictions would have occurred 30 years ago. Based on the technology of that time period, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to have predicted what Google (among many other websites) would look like or function in the future. These predictions would have been limited by the constraints of the times.

Still, as Warlick points out, we insist on predicting what this future will look like for our students. This persistence to predict what students will need after they graduate and enter the workforce is even “arrogant.” How can we accurately predict what students will need to know 10, 15, 20 years from now with only the knowledge we currently possess?

Warlick summarizes what needs to happen perfectly:

How our children learn is critical today, not so much as a point of pedagogy, but for the development of a distinct and most important skill – learning.

Basing what and how we teach on the past is limiting for our students. What needs to be fostered is a love of learning that goes beyond rote memorization. After all, we are preparing them for a future we cannot comprehend. So why not prepare them for something bigger than a standardized test? Why not prepare them for life?

What skills and/or knowledge do you see as necessary for our students’ future? What do you do to prepare students for a future we can’t predict?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Forgotten Algebra

The above xkcd comic expresses a common sentiment. Adults sometimes look back at things they learned (and forgot) in school that they have never had to use since graduation. There’s almost a pride that goes along with forgetting everything one learned in school. I don’t know whether this is tied into anti-elitism or a sense of self-sufficiency, but we are proud that we forget how to do math (among other things) as adults.

Is it true that the knowledge taught in school has never been utilized since moving into the work force? Maybe. However, the difference might lie in how we use these skills or knowledge in school and how we may use them in the “real world.”

A comic like the one above should remind us just how important it is to make the work and learning students do in our classrooms as authentic as possible. We have to find ways in which to relate curricula so that students either won’t want to forget what is learned in class. Making content authentic does not guarantee better retention, but it will at least make the learning more meaningful and even more memorable than algebra was for the women in the xkcd comic.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

You’re One of Today’s Lucky 10,000

I saw this xkcd comic today and it got me thinking. Consider that 10,000 adults hear something for the first time every day in the US. Imagine what those numbers would be like for students in grades K-12. It certainly puts what we do for our students into perspective.

I don’t mean to say that teachers tease students for not knowing what we think is basic knowledge. Far from it. What often happens is that we expect a lot of our students even when they demonstrate that they just don’t know. Maybe they’ve heard it before, but have they heard it in a way that they can remember? What do we do when students don’t meet these expectations?

Sometimes, we have to actually teach our students. Student-centered doesn’t mean that the teacher is no longer involved in the learning. Facilitating learning doesn’t mean that there is never a need for direct instruction. When students don’t know, we have to teach them.

This issue often arises when students are unable to complete basic research, collaboration, or production strategies. In these cases, it’s important that we teach students how we expect them to act and what processes we expect them employ.

When student knowledge of concepts is missing to complete a task, we have to find ways to teach this information as well. Have we facilitated a lesson that allows them to discover the content? Have we ever directly stated what it is that we want them to know? Have we made the necessary resources available for students to gain the knowledge they seek? No matter how rudimentary some content may be, sometimes students just need to be presented the material, even if it is for a second or third time.

The bottom line is that we are in this business to teach. The major objective for teaching is that students learn all they can in the short time we have them. I realize this is simplistic, but sometimes this idea gets lost when students are constantly being measured and asked to perform constantly with little time left for actual learning.

How does the comic address a teacher’s persona as a “lifelong learner”? How can the idea that there will be students hearing something for the first time every day affect your approach to teaching? What’s something you’ve learned for the first time as an adult?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: Understanding SOPA

Even XKCD got in on the act. - Click for source.

You may have heard the news or noticed that many of your favorite websites this week blacked out their content in protest of the legislation known as SOPA and PIPA. These laws seek to protect copyright holders by censoring sites that share their copyrighted media. There are varying opinions on the issue, but, for the most part, internet companies and their users are against these bills.

Columbia, Missouri native and social media expert Clay Shirky lays out the legislation and why it’s bad.

[ted id=1329 lang=en]

For further insight into SOPA and PIPA, follow the links below as well as the video we posted on PIPA a while back here.

While protecting copyrighted material from pirating is an important issue, we must consider how this legislation as well as the media industry’s inevitable next attempt at clamping down on media sharing will affect how we use the internet in schools. Consider all the sites that depend on user-generated content such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and countless others. Then consider how we use these same sites in our schools. The value sites that enable sharing – copyrighted or otherwise – bring to the 21st century learner’s education is invaluable.

This isn’t really a political argument as most of the bills’ original backers are now backing out of their support. However, it is important for us to stay aware and be prepared for the next round of legislation proposing to do the same things SOPA and PIPA intended to accomplish.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Monday Message: September 26, 2011

Click for source.

Happy Monday! I just had to post the above comic when it crossed my Google Reader this morning. It brings the Shel Silverstein into a modern context.

Keep in mind that Networked Teaching and Learning comes at you five times a week. We also have a page on Facebook you should like as well as the eMINTS National Center group you should join. You can also follow me on Twitter for another way to stay in touch with eMINTS.

If you would like to contribute to our blog, click on the the link under “Contribute” to the right. It will take you to a form where you can submit resources, ideas, or even an entire blog post. In the meantime, feel free to participate here on the blog by leaving comments.

Have a fantastic week!

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.