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Tuesday , December 18 2018
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Home | Tag Archives: holtthink

Tag Archives: holtthink

Op-Ed: Remembering the Kiss

I bet, if you thought about it you could remember your first real kiss. I am not talking Tia Maria pecking you on the cheek. I’m talking that someone that you were so hot for back in the day. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were worried. Even if it happened decades ago you probably remember the place, the time, the person, everything about that first, real, slobber-rama of a kiss.

I bet you also can remember your driver’s test. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were worried. Think back now, to all of your science classes. What was the one lab you remember to this day? I bet that it was the frog dissection. You were nervous, you were excited, you were sweating, you were grossed-out. Yuck!

Now, think back to the kiss you had, oh say, fifteen kisses ago. Where were you? Why did you kiss? Were you saying goodbye? Hello? Were you nervous, or excited, or sweating, or worried. Probably not.

And I bet you that you had a harder time remembering kiss # 12458 than you did kiss #1. You still remember kiss #1. Kiss #12458, not so much.

Where did you drive Saturday evening three weeks ago? Were you nervous, or excited, or sweating, or worried. Probably not. And I bet you that you had a harder time remembering drive #10458 than you did your driver’s license test.

Funny how the brain works isn’t it? We can remember something from three decades ago, yet we can’t remember something that happened three weeks ago, or maybe even three days ago.

So what is the difference between what happened all those years ago and what happened just a few days ago?

Emotion.

There was emotion attached to that learning process. I am not saying you were not emotionally attached to the person that you kissed fifteen kisses ago; I am saying that you probably weren’t as emotionally attached to the ACT of kissing fifteen kisses ago.

I was first introduced to the idea that in order for long-term, deep learning to take place, the “brain has to make an emotional connection” idea by a gentleman named Bill Stepien.

Bill was a slight man, white hair and white beard, who is one of those rarities in education: A researcher who actually practiced what he researched. At the time Bill was doing some professional development for my school district on the concept of Problem Based Learning or PBL.

While the concept of PBL was very interesting, it was his thoughts on the emotional connection to learning that really made me think about how we need to change how we teach.

Bill would say “It doesn’t mean you have to make students laugh all the time. Or cry. It just means that you have to get some type of reaction out of them. Make them make an emotional attachment to what is being taught.” Any reaction to learning I think Bill would agree, is better than no reaction at all.

That was why Problem Based Learning was so interesting to me. The context of problem caused students to become real-world problem solvers and, if done correctly, would allow them to make emotional attachments to the learning. They would remember the kiss or learning.

PBLs put kids into real-life situations. For instance, a first grader learning about animal habitats, might be put into the role of a wild animal expert, and have to determine if the animal hanging in grandma’s tree was a good thing to bring to school. (The animal was a bat but the students didn’t know that.) They were given the adult role, presented with a problem, in the form of a letter from “Billy” asking if he should bring the animal, which he didn’t know what it was, to school for show and tell.

The kids were given minimal information and not only had to determine what the animal was using “Billy’s” blurry picture, they had to come up with what questions had to be answered in order to solve the problem. PBLs always ended with some type of product, in this case, a letter back to “Billy” explaining their answer on why or why not he should bring the animal in Grandma’s tree to class.

The best PBLs are taken right out of the headlines or what is happening in a city. For instance, in a unit about first amendment rights, the students might be asked to be on a committee determining if Robert E. Lee school or Street, should be renamed.

Students act as different members of the community, a civil rights activist, a history professor, a person that thinks we should never destroy “our history.” Real world, real connections, real learning. They would remember the kiss of learning the First Amendment.

The PBL process, where kids were given adult roles to solve real-world questions, almost automatically lends itself to creating the emotional attachment to learning scenario. That in turn, leads to long-term learning. They remember the lesson. Just like you remembered the kiss. It’s all about the emotions.

So what does this all have to do with my forte, Education Technology? Recently I have noticed that there are a growing number of adults saying that all that ed tech that we spend billions of dollars on and throw in front of children in schools doesn’t amount to a hill of beans with learners. Recently, even the New York Times recently ran an editorial about how taking notes on a laptop was a not effective during lectures. (Ironically, I read that article on my laptop.)

The implication of course, is that technology in schools is a waste of time and money. And of course it is, when it is used to do the same

Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball

thing that we have always done in a classroom. Why use technology simply to do exactly what has always been done?

Drill and kill worksheets on a computer are no different than drill and kill on paper. I once saw a set of slides where the presenter showed a research paper assignment on a blackboard (1940), the same assignment on an overhead projector (1975) and the same assignment on a PowerPoint slide (2010).

The point was, that the teaching had not changed with the times. The message and the delivery was stuck in 1940 while the kids, and the world, were in the 21st century.

Are we allowing technology to give students an emotional attachment to learning by using the tools in ways we have never done before, or are we just teaching the same things in the same ways with more expensive equipment?

I once had a teacher tell me “The kids really got excited when I brought out the digital cameras to record our experiment.” “Then then why the heck aren’t we bringing out the digital cameras every day?” I asked “Oh, I’m too busy.” she said without the slightest thought about how the learning should be about the students, and not the teacher.

I have seen how learning with digital tools gets kids excited. It is real and it happens everyday in classrooms. But not in enough classrooms. Why aren’t we allowing multimedia science fair projects? Why do we still have kids glue papers to cardboard backboards?

Why aren’t we saying “You know, I think a movie instead of a research paper is called for here?” PBL’s are ripe with opportunities to integrate technology into the learning. The final projects can be commercials, movies, songs, cool SWAY presentations, web pages, anything! And the technology becomes secondary to the learning process, not “instead of” the learning process.

Long-term-in-your-gut learning has to be emotional, has to be real, and has to be “authentic.” We have to present learning, and especially learning with technology, as something that will forge the long-term neuron-bonding that leads to life long understanding.

The literature is full of examples of the emotion/learning connection, and now the literature is beginning to say there is a connection between proper technology use and learning.

Perhaps the connection is there between technology and learning BECAUSE of the emotional connection the kids have to the technology. I think adults only show emotional attachment to technology when they lose their cell phones, or their satellite TV goes out during the big game. Other than that…

Are we teaching for the kiss from fifteen kisses ago, or are we teaching for that first kiss?

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.

Op-Ed: You Now Have No Excuse Not To Learn

Recently, a local opinion columnist wrote that he had “…no appetite for anything modern.” In 600 words he was able to castigate modern movies, sports, music, women who are “no longer coy,” the #takeaknee movement, and basically anything that has happened in the world after say, 1955 as being culturally irrelevant, vulgar, or corrupt.

Beethoven: Okay.

Roll Over Beethoven: Not Okay.

Shakespear: Okay.

Shakespear in Love: Not Okay.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup: Okay.

Warhol’s Tomato Soup Can: Not Okay.

Women silently playing tennis: Okay.

Women making noises while playing tennis: Not Okay.

You get the idea. Some older people are like that. The “good old days” will always be better than today in that fog of memory that reminisces on the good and expunges the bad.

“Never mind we had polio and segregation, dammit women stayed at home and wore dresses!” Such as it has always been with older people. But like Carly Simon once sang “…I’ll stay right here, cuz these are the good old days.”

Years from now, some grumpy columnist will write about how back in 2017, things were better that they are now. (The irony of course is that his “I hate everything modern” screed was delivered over the internet.)

It is too bad that he has that idea of “everything new is bad, everything old is good.” Actually, by almost any matrix he could think of, the world is far better off today than at anytime in the past despite all of those ungrateful, kneeling, grunting athletes.

According to Our World in Data, right now, the world has the lowest levels of people living in extreme poverty, illiterate citizens, childhood mortality, people living in totalitarian societies, the number of children per mother, and the amount of education each person on the planet is receiving.

Those are not numbers from the last fifty or one hundred years. Those are numbers across all of human history. EVER. You and I are literally living in the greatest time in mankind’s history. Really. You may feel it is a Dickensonian worst of times, but on the big picture level, it really is the best of times.

One sign of the “things are better now than ever before” is the availability to almost anyone on the planet of free educational materials that had never been available before. Because of advances in technology, complete courses at the high school and college level on almost any topic are readily accessible to anyone with a connection to the internet.

Would you like to take a course on Classical Mechanics from Stanford University with Professor Leonard Susskind? Just click here. How about a Public Economics course from Harvard?

Apple created iTunes U several years ago as a repository for free courses from postsecondary schools from across the globe. Since then, literally thousands of complete courses have been uploaded.

Got an iPad or an iPhone? You can go to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Open University, even NMSU. Hundreds of universities participate. All for free. You don’t get the college credit, but you can take the course at anytime, at any age.

A 15 year old interested in Aerodynamics can challenge herself with by taking a free course from Harvard.

In addition to the free courses in iTunes U, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are giant online courses open to anyone in the world that wants to take them.

In 2011, Stanford University opened a MOOC on Artificial Intelligence that had over 160,000 students from all over the world attending, all for free.

Since then, organizations like EdX (edx.org) have created hundreds of courses, most for free, all online, for anyone anywhere. There for the taking, like a giant buffet of learning. All you have to do is load your plate.

I pity anyone that has no appetite for “the modern.” “The modern” has allowed us to bring learning to anyone, anywhere for little or no cost. The playing field, where once only the elite or the chosen had access to knowledge is quickly being leveled because of “the modern.”

You can afford free. You can make time for anywhere, anytime learning.

You are out of meaningful excuses. You have no excuse not to learn, to improve yourself, and at the same time your little slice of humanity.

I have a great appetite for that kind of modernity.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.

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