MOOCs! The Greatest Development in Education since the Pencil

Massive open online courses (MOOC) are making education available to everyone! No longer is educational advantage determined by high test scores, grade point averages or lengthy and cumbersome application processes.  A person of any background or situation can find educational opportunities through MOOCs without being burdened with student loans or high expenses.

MOOCs are changing the stigma of learning for a piece of paper, to learning for self improvement and learners are able to pursue interests that are not tied up in diplomas and money.  It will be exciting to see how traditional educational institutions respond to the increase of free/ inexpensive educational courses from qualified teachers and experts.

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Training and Technology or Technology Training?

The modern crutch for educators is technology.  No longer is it push play, kick back and relax.  Now it has become push power, login and kick back and relax.  Technology without proper training is a waste of money and resources.  Tying technology with objectives and standards is something that educators must do in order for the learning to be meaningful.  Schools must invest in properly training their faculty to use technology in the classroom; otherwise, teachers will continue to only assign essays using Word or presentations using PowerPoint and the occasional app thrown in for good measure.  Check out the article There’s No App for Good Teaching for some general tips on how to implement technology fluidly into a classroom.

A paint brush in the hands of an untrained individual is just a stick with bristles, but in the hands of a master artist, it is a tool that can unlock the beauty of the world.

It is crucial that we remember technology is a tool that we must learn how to use properly.

PARCC: ants at a picnic or just a stroll through the park?

With the new state testing requirements, many people are crying out against Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but is there a valid reason for the outcry, or is this just people jumping on the bandwagon without knowing why?  It is important to state early on that I am neither for nor against the assessment.  There are pros and cons to be considered for each side.  The importance is that people consider each side for themselves as opposed to following the other lemmings off the cliff without a second thought.  The below pros and cons are from my own experiences proctoring the test this last week.

Pros of PARCC

  • Ability to compare students across the state and certain other states
  • Accountability of teachers
  • It is not a traditional scantron/ fill in the blank type of test
  • Gages college readiness by matching content to current incoming college freshmen standards
  • Has taken less time to administer than TCAP or CSAP tests (at least at my school)
  • Two testing sessions show growth within one year
  • Preparation for other high stakes tests (SAT and ACT)
  • Use technology to administer and are more interactive than traditional tests

Cons of PARCC

  • No student incentive
  • Time away from instruction
  • Contributes to testing burnout and anxiety
  • Current testing windows do not provide an accurate snapshot of student growth over the whole year

There is audio of a townhall meeting concerning PARCC with pros and cons beneath the that sheds additional light on the topic  http://nj1015.com/parcc-a-look-at-the-pros-and-cons-cited-by-advocates-and-critics/.

Now that the field has been leveled, is PARCC an ant at your picnic, or just a stroll through the park?

No Longer Just a Playground Bully

According to a study done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 81% of teens use social media. With these staggering numbers, lunch room squabbles and bullying is no longer limited to just the cafeteria. Social media is providing teens with an unmonitored forum where anything can be said without direct intervention from parents or teachers. 95% of teen social media users have witnessed inappropriate and severely patronizing comments in social forums as stated on internetsafety101. Online bullying is becoming an epidemic in schools across the nation with very little support being provided by counselors and other school employees. Awareness needs to be raised both for students as well as parents.

It is important for teens and all social media users to remember that in the digital world words may speak louder than actions.

Connectivism: Taking Education by a storm of Googling

The learning theory of Connectivism revolves around the idea of knowing where to find information and connecting to sources outside of a learner’s brain.   This is in strong contrast of Constructivism which deals with the building of connections in an individual’s mind between past and current content.

The largest drawback of connectivism is it does not revolve around the acquisition of knowledge.  Connectivism focuses on the establishing of a network and knowing where to find information, not necessarily having it accessible 24/7 in one’s mind.  I see this on a regular basis with my students.  Their first inclination is to reach for their phone and google something as opposed to reflecting on past lessons and making connections within prior schemas as is seen in the constructivism learning theory.  Students prefer to make connections via the internet rather than mental connections.  This lack of reflection and dependence on the internet is spurring a lack of retention and the reliance on the internet.

I personally find the reliance on the int

ernet for knowledge concerning.  It has been shown that knowledge that is taxing to comprehend and learn resonates more firmly with the learner.  Information that is quickly and easily obtained is quickly forgotten.  Much of what learners find on the internet falls into the latter category.  Finding information through online networking is a very valuable resource, but the learning must develop beyond and focus on retention, application and mastery.I believe that knowledge must be acquired to be mastered, and therefore mastery would be very difficult to obtain within a connectivism theory.

Quora Fails to Answer the Big Question of “Why Bother?”

Quora is a question and answer based site that depends on non verified public contributions to expand topics and content.
Bluntly, I am not impressed.  Quora is merely a forum that has myriad topics with no real focus or guarantee of expertise. It appears to be an attempt

between twitter and a typical discussion forum.  Unfortunately, it lacks the big names Twitter has attracted and does not have the technical expertise a focused discussion forum contains.  When searching for answers or researching, I prefer information that comes from verified experts in that particular field.  Quora is lacking this reliability and is attempting more of a social approach where anyone can contribute to any posted question.

Professionally, I see very little value for this network.  It doesn’t appear that there are any true networking capabilities, besides following friends.  Profiles of “experts” who answered questions is limited and often does not address how they are qualified to answer the question anyways.  The bottom line is that the information runs the risk of being spurious and therefore makes it near obsolete.

On a personal level, I could see Quora being entertaining after a few drinks, much the way youtube can grab your attention.  Other than that, I don’t see much merit in it.  My recommendation is that if you are looking for answers to a question, go to a site that is specific to that field and don’t waste your time with Quora.