The two videos were very interesting to watch and both focused on different aspects of technology. For those who haven't viewed them yet, the Jukes Video focuses more on our present state of technology and how it affects very young children (from the start) and the Richardson Video attempts to predict the future outcome of classrooms and recommends where as a society we need to make changes to education in order to get there.
a) After viewing Juke’s video, do you believe that this generation is fundamentally different than previous generations because of neuroplasticity or are there other factors to consider?
There are always multiple factors to consider when comparing one generation to the next, but I agree that our current level of technology has to be the one that stands out the most. I say this based on Juke's statistic that only 50% of the brain is wired at birth while most of the remainder is wired during the first three years of life. I watch 2-3 year old children with iPads who know exactly where to touch the screen to make something happen, or elegantly move something on a touch-screen with more skill than my parents.
b) Do you think that schools will change as dramatically as Richardson forecasts as a result of the new technology currently available in schools? Do you think that a change in school culture to use the technology tools starts with the teachers, the students or others?
I definitely agree that schools will change dramatically, but I'm not convinced it will be exactly as Richardson predicted. No matter how much technology exists, we can't learn in a 100% online environment (I don't want my surgeon to tell me that he did his entire education online). As a biology teacher, technology is an invaluable resourse, but even my most hesitant students agree that there's something a "real" dissection adds to their education that a virtual one cannot provide. As for who starts this wave, I would say this trend begins mostly with the students. Students bring technology into the classroom anyway, and teachers know that the only way to keep up is to utilize it. We also know that it is a great way to appeal to their interests and retain attention.
c) As students today, do you feel that you are provided with opportunities to collaborate with others via the
Internet? Why or why not? If yes, how have you used the tools?
The opportunities exist to collaborate through the internet, but since technology is advancing so quickly it is helpful when teachers aid this process. For example, setting up wikis to post information, setting up disscusion boards, skyping review sessions, etc (all of which I've done as a student and teacher). Most students will not take it upon themselves to set these up or keep them maintained.
d) Do you think all classrooms should have thin walls? Why or why not?
Absolutely all classrooms should be wired to allow students to explore and share information beyond their physical classroom. This is true for all subjects and grade levels from Pre-K through college. However, as I said before I think there is a great need for a physical space as well; we cannot abandon face-to-face learning/teaching and "hands-on" activities are not the same when your hands are only on a keyboard.
I agree that keeping a classroom "real" will be an important aspect of learning that teachers will need to be aware of. We cannot give up the 'touch and feel' aspect of learning, ever. I have observed classrooms were the "real" was gone. The atmosphere contained a hostile sterility due to poor attitudes of learning or lack of program funds. Many of these districts struggled with poor student performance. They did not value that "real" authentic learning atmosphere that works to create and increase student achievement. So, until we meet the technology that rivals Star Trek's holodeck, we teachers will need to keep it real. And, if we do ever see a holodeck in our lifetime, I hope there will still be the question, "Is a holodeck 'real' enough?"
I also think this idea of "real learning" connects to your idea that students will always need a space to keep the atmosphere of learning real. As I sit here responding to these posts in an online class (even though I'm sitting on a nice comfy couch) I am missing the social interaction of "real" discussions within a classroom. Facial expressions and personal nuances go along way to making conversations meaningful.
I could not agree more that we could not move to a 100% online classroom as this would be a huge detriment to our students. It is essential that students learn by doing, and this means touching, experimenting, and manipulating. However, I was thinking about the word “authentic” that LeEtta was using; it is one that I use a lot as well. I think there is a great need to make learning authentic; we all brig different backgrounds and experiences to our learning, and unless it relates to our students, it is not as engaging or as meaningful. However, I worry about what is becoming authentic to our students; many of them do spend much if not all of their time on their computers, watching TV, or playing video games. We buy things on the internet rather than going to a store and physically dealing with money. We send a quick email rather than writing a letter, buying a stamp and going to the post office. What I am trying to say is that our students “authentic” is changing rapidly with technology and becoming less and less hands on in their real lives. However, I think this makes it all the more important for us to bring the hands on into our classrooms!
LeEtta, I concur about missing the feeling of being in a classroom, surveying the room of people that are in the same boat as you, and having the face-to-face contact. The comraderie among the classmates was a great factor about the courses I took. It will be a very interesting venture to create that same connection here within our group with just our avatars to connect with each other (and mine is just a large-eyed cat...). We need to work hard to make this online class a "real" experience that we are used to.
Of course there are the communication resources that Steve mentioned, like Skype where we can have that face-to-face communication, or AV by AOL (which I've used to video chat with a group of people at the same time), wikis or Google documents where we can share work as if we were sitting in groups together in one place.
I also feel that Steve's example of toddlers being able to use hand held devices easily as a great way to explain Juke's point that we need to look at the neurological make up of children differently; it is not the set number of synapses established by 3 or 4 years old anymore. We should either consider the possibility of creating even more synapses in the brain, or the biological predetermined number of synapses may be larger to include the abilities of understanding technology (compared to the past).
Hands-on is the only real approach that works in the age group that I teach. I work with Pre-K through K and the learning is 100% hands on. As these students grow older and are able to handle abstract concepts and have longer attention spans, it is practical to teach using more lecture, reading, etc to impart information. However, I feel that a center-based structure, as we have at the preschool level, could bring a lot to older students. Allowing them to take a break from the traditional classroom environment and dive right in to a task that they choose freely but also enhances the subject they are working on. I am not a math teacher (or a very good math student for that matter) but just for the sake of example - the ability to hold a 3-D shape would allow better understanding in geometry (where often the only learning tool is a flat picture in a book), getting their hands on some fencing material to build a pen for Farmer McDoogal (Oh, those word problems), or walking around school to take a survey in order to create a chart; all of these opportunities would create authentic experiences with the content being taught and might assist in answering, "Why do I need to learn this?"