The Effects of Technology

Each generation has a common theme attached to them. For us and the generation below us, it’s technology. My very first post on this blog is about technology in the classroom so I don’t want to hammer that down too much (I encourage you to scroll down and read it). I mostly talked about a more student directed classroom and never went into much detail. Katrina Schwartz talks about how we can use the exponentially growing technology field to our advantage and to the students’ advantage.

I think she brings up an excellent point about not only getting students interested in doing coursework, but maybe more importantly getting to connect with students. In order to make it most effective, teachers should be playing those games with their class. Games are also a great way to motivate those under-performing students who are awaiting that extra push from their teacher.

With all of this theoretical thinking of how to implement technology, let’s be more realistic. We all know that technology is only as good as the one implementing it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.27.23 PMI highly encourage you all to follow Matthew Lynch and receive many articles and blogs about the various issues with education. One of his articles on The Edvocate talks about how the record high graduation rate may be due to the technological upgrade. Personally, I would never say this high rate is solely due to technology, but I will agree that the technology helps directly when students are able to access more material and be in better communication with their learning. I also believe it helps indirectly when teachers can use it to share resources with each other, to collaborate with other educators, and even to better animate mathematical, economical, and historical models.

Technology is an fast growing tool that needs to be taken advantage of in many expertise, but most importantly: education. I want to leave you with a question; How fast will education affect our education? Skim through another one of Lynch’s posts and see if you agree.

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How much do you make?

Going into education, I’m sure it’s obvious that I have been questioned. The money is not big. The fortune is pretty limited. Personally, I understand that $50,000/year might not be much in today’s society. It is definitely an income that can get families many things they want. Think about the families who work 12 months out of the year and are only making a mere $20,000. As teachers, we know the benefits: summers off, weekends to relax, a few days off here and there. That’s why I do not see an issue with the salary of a teacher. We are working 9 – 10 months (maybe more) and getting paid more than some professions that work 12 months. The biggest issue I hear is the phrase, “Teacher’s do not make a lot.” Well Mr. Taylor Mali has a few words for you.

I think all educators can agree that we aren’t doing this for the paycheck. What else can we make as teachers? I think one of the most important things to make is a safe environment. Students will not be able to pursue their dreams if they do not feel safe at the start. We talk a lot about how race can affect classroom situations, but what about gender and sexuality? There are many hidden queues especially within math problems that discriminate against LGBT+ youth such as having a male and female being together rather than a male and male, or female and female, or even those who don’t identify with either binary gender.

When these safe environments are not created, students’ lives are in danger. A staggering statistic coming from the LA Times is,

“A whopping 41% of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide sometime in their lives, nearly nine times the national average, according to a sweeping survey released three years ago.”

This is what needs to stop. Bullying and cyberbullying is a huge issue in American schools and schools across the world, but what can we as teachers do to help lower that rate? I believe it starts in a safe environment. Teachers can create a safe classroom by being more inclusive, while being respectful. The training we receive on how to react to religious issues, LGBT+ issues, gender issues, etc is vital in order to create a classroom where all students are welcomed.

Teachers have a large influence on their student body and any slip up can be detrimental to building a lasting relationship with students. This lasting relationship is crucial so for the entirety of the students career so the students always knows they have a safe place to be within their school.

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Group Punishment

There are a couple of things that stood out to me while reading Everyday Antiracism, a book I am reading for one of my courses. The first is when Beth Rubin talks about group work and scaffolding. The dreaded two words that many students cringe when hearing is group work or group project. For some, it means carrying the group and doing the majority of the work. We can see this a lot in Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. I got the impression from business courses I took that group work to Carlson means putting students in a group and giving them case studies or projects to do together. I believe this is where we see a lot of resentment towards working in groups. Rubin also says, “First, go smaller. Overuse of the same group work format can create cynicism and frustration among students” (p 93). We grew up learning material on our own and having the lecturer stand at the front and “pour” knowledge into our heads. Why should I have to do work with other students when I can learn it on my own?

Luckily the University of Minnesota built a new oddly shaped building currently called STSS (name change in progress) which stand for Science, Teaching, and Student Services. I work in a pre-calculus 2 lecture where students watch lecture videos online and do their skill training and material mastery in the lecture. The curriculum and room is designed for the students to split into smaller groups and discuss activities, worksheets, and concepts and then they are able to form a larger group to expand their discussion with other groups. The curriculum focuses on individuals where if a student does not get a certain score on their weekly quiz, they have to retake a different version until they pass otherwise they will not pass the course. It seems harsh, but if a student is not able to master the first concept, then how are they expected to move on and learn about deeper concepts? This is a form of scaffolding that “breaks down complex tasks and intentionally builds competencies in each student” (p 94). Students seems to have the resentment at first and as the semester progresses I can still see the frustration, but that frustration keeps happening because of the discussions the groups are having. Dr. Mike Weimerskirch, the professor who designed this course, says that we should let the students get lost until they have to find their way back to the mistake and realize what they did wrong. He uses the analogy of the woods. If two students are wandering in the woods and we guide one onto the right path and they are able to find their way to the end using the path. The other gets lost. They are roaming frantically through the woods trying to find the path and eventually gets there and makes way to the end. Which student knows more about the woods?

Navigating Woods

Lastly, I would like to talk about punishment. A few posts ago I talked about corporal punishment, but this is not the topic I would like to discuss. This is as simple as sending a student in the hallway or to the principles office. I will try to be as vague as I can to hide identity, but I know of a young preschool student who would throw fits in class and the school would send her home. First, the school chose to remove the student from and educational setting depriving them of social interaction which is vital at that age. Luckily for the student, she was able to go home and play so why not keep throwing fits at school right? In my opinion, and I know I’m not alone, the school is taking an easy way out that will have a detrimental effect on the student’s future. There are many more alternatives rather than sending the student home or even to the hallway. Pedro Noguera says, “Alternatives are essential if schools are to stop using discipline as a strategy for weeding out those they deem undesirable or difficult to teach and instead to use discipline to reconnect students to learning” (p 133). The options taken by the school are taking the opportunity for that student to learn from their misbehavior. I will end with a quote I found online:

“Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other – on the contrary they breed and reinforce each other.” Haim G. Ginott

Everyday Antiracism is a book edited by Mica Pollock about the various issues in our school system still today. It is mostly about racism, but also has spectacular insight on many other topics in education. I will be referencing this book in the posts following.

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“When will I ever use this?”

It’s been a while since I’ve been on for many reasons, one being school. Obviously it is something important to me and something I need to encourage others to take as important since that will be my profession sooner or later. There were a lot of topics I wanted to write about the past couple weeks. I was going to talk about a new school system called Gateway. I was also going to mention a new fad called a “flipped classroom” (I will talk about that eventually). Did you hear about the ACT law that may be passed in Minnesota Schools (if it wasn’t already). There also was an idea of social media and why our generation is so fascinated about it. Is there a competition to get the most likes on Facebook? If you don’t get at least 10 retweets do you delete your tweet because no one thought it was funny. Get off your attention high and utilize those networks for something a little more useful. Well some of you might be asking, “Why the hell are you writing a blog?” Good question. I like to write. And you’re not going to hear that from a math major too often.

What I really want to talk about is a question that bugs the hell out of me, but it’s something that I can totally relate to. “Teacher. When will I ever need to know this?” That is it. That is why educators are supposed to be in the classroom right? The student has every right to know what the heck they are learning. Relating the material to students’ interests and every day life is why we should be in the front of the classroom. Wait, I should rephrase that. Should we be at the front of the classroom? Should we just open up the students’ heads and pour the quadratic or distance formula in like water in a Black and Decker? It seems so obvious when I write it but in practice it may be a lot tougher than we think. If students are constructing their own knowledge then they can easily relate it to what they want. Students in today’s society are relying on teachers too much. With my experiences facilitating learning at the University of Minnesota (notice facilitating learning) all of the students look at me when they have questions. Why? Because that is what they are raised doing. That is a perfect time for them to turn to their classmates and rely on their colleagues for help. I can direct them to a resource, but I don’t just give them what they need. Then they are not learning, but memorizing. A professor I work for told me a week or so ago, “Don’t be a sage on the stage, be a guide on the side.” It is our job to eliminate the current system and let the students create their own system. I guess I kind of am talking about Gateway indirectly.

I am having a similar issue to this with the courses I am required to take. I haven’t taken a course I will be teaching in about 2 years. Why do I have to take the theoretical mathematics courses talking about isometries and Barycentric coordinates when high school students will not come close to talking about those in their K-12 education. I am taking an optional course that will have a much larger impact on my career than my 5000 level math courses. So I can relate to the students asking why they need to take a math course if they are a design or psychology major. The critical thinking in math courses is crucial to everyday life. When we look at a paragraph on words and have to figure out an equation, how can that relate to anything. I just want to find out what the hell ‘x’ is and be done with it. Well to start, students need to interpret the wording, determine what they are even looking for (not just a letter), formulate an equation, and relate it to the word problem. In a sense, they are answering their own question of when they will need to know the material. Every problem can be turned into a word problem and vice-versa. I know I have been rambling my thoughts because I am really just procrastinating on learning about those isometries I was talking about earlier. I’ll get to the point of the whole guide on the side thing.

When students are creating their own system of learning and essentially creating their own curriculum with our ‘guidance’ then they can answer their own question. “When will I ever need to know this.” That’s when we, as facilitators to the students learning, respond: “You tell me.”

Follow me @MichaelTKlein or on linkedin because if I don’t get to a certain amount of followers I’ll just delete them.

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Put Your Phone Away!

How many times have we been told as students to put our phone away. I believe I had my phone taken away about a total of 5 times in high school. I think I did a damn good job at hiding it if you ask me. Technology in the classroom has always been “banned”. Except computer lab of course, but why is it that students cannot use their phones during class? Will they cheat? Of course! What makes it any better if we let them use computers with the same internet access and solutions available online? Many schools across the country are beginning to integrate technology in the classroom in a much more brilliant way than Oregon Trail. Before continuing reading, take a look at this article in the Pioneer Press about St. Paul Public Schools.

All-day kindergarten program leaves little room for napping

The article brings up a lot of good points. It talks a lot about technology and activity based learning for these Kindergarten students. Students at all ages need this type of activity based learning. It is most important at younger ages where students are not able to sit still like how the article calls “traditional” style learning. Our country is stuck in this strange idea that rigorous courses need repetition, practice, and memorization. I absolutely agree with practice. My current boss told me one day, “practice makes better.” I thought to myself, doesn’t practice make perfection? Before I could mutter a word she said “we can never reach perfection because we can always get better.” This idea of perfection can drive students deeper and deeper into a hole where they keep seeking something they will never reach. Now repetition is key, but it better be relevant repetition. Repetition can be closely related to memorization by continuing the same process with the same numbers and the same formula and so on. It is key to have repetition in order to bring the pieces of the puzzle together. What do I mean by this? In order to understand the large picture, students must understand what builds that picture. Students may be able to rip off the quadratic formula in some cheesy pop goes the weasel tune, but the question is, why are you using that formula? When students can verbalize the motives for concepts and explain to other student the reason why that particular concept exists then they (hopefully) understand why the pieces of the puzzle are arranged in a particular order.

Okay so I ranted a little off topic, but this video of Dr. Aaron Doering giving a TED talk will help bring us on track.

Yeah he’s pretty cool. He travels the world for something he calls adventure learning. Notice how Dr. Doering does not teach from the classroom. It would be absurd to say that the students he interacts with are not positively impacted. The Pioneer Press article talks about how students are able to dress as policemen and firefighters to help them learn more about their community.

“That’s how 5-year-olds learn, which is by exploring and playing. The (new) model lends itself to more student-directed than teacher-directed.” Vicki Turner, the district’s assistant director of early learning.

I believe that is what Dr. Doering is dedicating his life to achieve. A student-directed classroom will be much more engaging and much more beneficial for our society. Today, we need to make a change in our education. As a future teacher, I will need to be a part of this process. I may not see the end result and honestly I hope I don’t because our education system should be constantly changing to meet the needs of the youth.

Thank you for making it through my first post. I can’t promise that future postings will be longer or shorter. Hell, I can’t even decide when my next post will be. Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter @MichaelTKlein.

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