Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover

It has been a while since I posted. Sorry about that. However, you have to see this Ted talk by Dan Meyer. He does a brilliant job talking about what needs to change in today’s math classroom. As one who had trouble with math as a student and deeply regrets the way I was taught, this speaks to me. It is worth a watch.

An Open Letter to Educators

I just watched Dan Brown’s (not the author of The Da Vinci Code) thought provoking video on YouTube. His message is one that we really should take to heart as we discuss/plan/think about the future of education.

On a personal note I can’t help but be bewildered and frustrated. This message contains ideas I subscribe to in my educational/learning philosophy. I feel it is accurate in its call for a recognition that change is needed or else institutionalized education will find itself holding the torch of yesteryear. I am bewildered and frustrated because a program I feel is helping to bring this needed change is at risk. For those of you who don’t know, I teach at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine in the Instructional Technology program. To be clear, our program isn’t focused on leaning how to use technology. Instead it is focused on moving the art and science of teaching and learning forward using technology. Our program is about looking forward at what teaching and learning will become and engaging our students in that process. I am bewildered and frustrated because our program has recently been tagged for elimination by the recent UMaine “Achieving Sustainability” report. I am bewildered and frustrated because cutting a program such as ours (in a state with 1 to 1 access for grades 7-12 no less) represents a severe ignorance of the type of change that is needed to move learning into the 21st century. Society is moving and changing. How does institutionalized education move forward with society? We certainly don’t do it by burning the bridge that gets us there.

I certainly understand the budget constraints we are all under. There is less money to go around and something has to go. I certainly don’t profess to understand the complexities of the budgetary process at the University. I certainly don’t profess to understand how cutting a program with students in it saves money. However, I do understand that the future is here and change is needed now. If institutionalized education continues to stick its head in the sand and hope for the best it will find itself kicked to the curb and irrelevant. Getting rid of programs that are about engaging in the future will only hasten the process.

What I am looking forward to in Moodle 2.0

Ah, the smell of Moodle 2.0 is in the air. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and pure awesomeness is right around the corner.

I have been using Moodle since version 1.4 and have loved it the entire way. I have recently been playing with the yet-to-be-released version and it is certainly going to be worthy of the shiny new 2.0. Even though Moodle 2.0 isn’t even in beta yet (currently the beta is scheduled for a February 2010 release) the development version shows the direction the project is headed and there are many new things that Moodle users are going to love. I thought I would share some of the features I am most excited about. Continue reading

12 minutes that could change the way you see the world

I am subscribed to TedTalks for the wealth of inspiration and ideas that come from the phenomenal conference. Every once in a while there is a talk that stands above the rest and I have to share with others. Today I saw one such talk.

Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories, as well as her own, and calls for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives.

The most striking words for me:

Don’t tell me 100 ways you can’t not respond to this problem. Can you apply your mind to that one way that you can respond to the problem?

Please take 12 minutes of your day to watch this and ask yourself what you can do to make a difference in the world.

This Isn’t Just MY Problem, Friend

Last night I was stumbling around the Internet and came across a great article from Paul Grobstein, a Biologist from Bryn Mawr College. Entitled This Isn’t Just MY Problem, Friend, Grobstein ruminates on science education, education, American culture, and what to do about it.

This article is from 1991 and his thoughts couldn’t be more applicable to today’s learning environments. He makes great points on how we should be teaching students how to think. How students should be given chances to think for themselves and heaven forbid learn from mistakes they will make along the way. In a world where regurgitating facts and the schooling process are paramount, Grobstein’s poignant arguments our certainly needed more then ever.

My favorite passage from the article exemplifies everything I think is wrong with education today.

But you know what they come home showing me? Worksheets where they got everything right. That’s what they think they’re SUPPOSED to be proud of. That they can sit, and concentrate, and finish what they’re doing (they don’t get to go out to recess unless they do), and get everything right. Well, dammit, THAT’s not thinking. That’s learning to be efficient and get the answers you’re supposed to get. Thinking is something else entirely. Its being curious, and being wrong most of the time, and maybe, just maybe coming up with something you’ve made that you’re proud of and pleased with, something all your own (even if it turns out later that someone else had thought of it too).

If you care about changing the way learners learn I urge you to take a look at the full article here.

RIP: A remix Manifesto – A reaction – Part 12 of 13

This is part 12 of 13 of my reaction to RIP: A remix Manifesto. You can find previous posts here: Part 0, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11.

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This part of the documentary makes it’s argument clear. Intellectual property is out of control. I am sure the conservatives out there will probably have issue with many of the points made in this section. As a libertarian leaning Independent, I lean towards less corporate control over culture. I see too many negative side effects of tight control by a select few.

Placing patents on life. How has it come to this? We have swung way past a reasonable control structure and into the redonkulous. Patents should be granted only to human inventions, not discoveries. Existing living organisms – plants and animals as well as their genes – are no-one’s invention and should therefore never be patented and put under private control. Vast, unsubstantiated patent claims on DNA also deter scientists from research in areas that have already been claimed by big companies with large legal budgets. This isn’t capitalism. This is corporatism. Corporations should have no ownership over any part of my body. Yet, this is common practice.

The kids rapping really hit home with me. The learning activities they were participating in matches what we are now calling 21st Century Literacy. Learning through these methods help kids gain a sense of global literacy, problem solving, collaboration, innovation and creativity. An open culture of ideas only helps to support learning in an information economy.

The imagery of trademarked logos not being able to be photographed is a powerful one. We are not that far away from it becoming a reality. YouTube can already auto-disable your videos if it contains an infringing song. Adobe PhotoShop will not let you open an image of money for fear you will become a counterfeiter. If we continue on this path, what will become media produced by the masses.

Universal access to human knowledge. What could we accomplish?

RIP: A remix Manifesto – A reaction – Part 11 of 13

This is part 11 of 13 of my reaction to RIP: A remix Manifesto. You can find previous posts here: Part 0, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10. Who knew it would take me 6 months to react to all of them. I see that version 2.0 of this documentary is out. I better get blogging.

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It would be very easy for a person in favor of strong copyright control to push Girl Talk to the periphery of culture. To say he is just some dumb kid who doesn’t understand how the world works. It is interesting to see what Greg Gillis does for a living. Even more interesting is his run in with other types of intellectual property control, patents. Copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Oh, my.

I did a bit of Googling on Amplive and found that an agreement had been reached with all parties involved. The album is available for free download here.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows album is a landmark in music distribution. They were the first big band to try the “name your price” model. You could download the music for any price. They also offered a higher quality physical discbox with more tracks and artwork for $80. This discbox went on to sell over 100,000 copies.

As mentioned in this part of Remix, they also got involved with their fans.  At radioheadremix.com fans downloaded the song Nude, remixed it, uploaded it, and the band voted on the top remixes. This is a level of fan engagement the world hadn’t seen before. They are also currently in the midst of another contest with another song.

Personally, my favorite remix was done by 23 year old James Huston while he was a student at the Glaskow School of Art. He uses and old Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, Epson LX-81, HP Scanjet 3c, and a bunch of hard drives as his instruments. It doesn’t get more creative than this.

Netflix Rocks

Netflix is one of my favorite companies. I have been a subscriber since 2001. I love the value that I get for my $17 dollars a month. They are also one of the only companies I can think of that has actually lowered prices in recent years. They are a forward thinking company who is constantly progressing their business and making customers happy.

That is how I felt before reading the now famous internal memo that has recently gone viral around the web. I now have an even deeper appreciation of how they operate. They talk the talk and walk the walk. It would be worth your time to read through the preso. I include it here on edutim because there are many good lessons educators can take to heart.

The Art of Cordial Debate

I love a good debate. There is something about it that boils a topic down to its basic framework and allows me a deeper understanding. It goes further than reading a fact sheet on either side of an issue. The act of representing one side of an  argument is a fantastic learning tool that we don’t use enough. Maybe it is because we are being overly polite and politically correct.

I want to encourage learners to engage in debate. I want them to debate the opposite side of their belief for the sake of learning and understanding. I want them to gain the ability to engage others outside their realm of belief in a cordial way. A way that allows people who believe in different things to coexist and even like each other.

I had this thought watching a debate between Richard Dawkins and Wendy Wright on the subject of Evolution vs Creationism/Intelligent Design. It reminds me that there is nothing wrong with disagreement. Disagreement encourages us to look at the facts and interpolate truth. Dawkins and Wright are certainly on different pages on the topic yet remain quite nice to one another even in the most uncomfortable situations. We need to encourage this type of behavior in our students.

If you are interested in the debate I have posted the seven parts I found on YouTube below. It is worth the 65 minutes if you are into the topic. Full disclosure, I am an agnostic atheist.