Friday, May 12, 2017

Tech Rationing 2017; What's in the Bag?

Last week, Aaron Davis asked, "what are your ed-tech survival rations?" What are those items that would cause you to turn the car around and head home to retrieve? In his post, "My #EdTech Rations", Davis quotes David Hopkins, "what are those essential devices that connect our personal and professional lives?"  - #EdTechRations

The times that I go into "airplane mode" are refreshing but few and far between. In fact, I feel completely naked and uncomfortable without my cell phone and my Fitbit. At the risk of being too honest, I fear public nudity far less than digital disconnectedness. Initially, I thought Davis was playing on my minimalistic sensibilities, then I began to consider my daily packing and preparations. Are my tendencies more "mobile-istic", than minimalistic? It's safe to say that I'm at least 2:1 with mobile devices almost every day.

With the #EdTech conference season in full gear, this interactive image, created with Thinglink, shows my essential "tech rations"; my carry-on bag. I comply with F.A.A. airport regulations, so I never leave my bag unattended. With these items, I feel prepared to present or fully participate in any session. The only items not included in this picture are my Bluetooth speaker, wireless headphones, and of course, my smartphone used to take this picture. Call me crazy, but I need access to music at all times. My most recent playlist digs into Junior Brown, The Derailers, and BR5-49.

Click on the picture for more tech ration detail.

  • Help me scratch my minimalist itch, how many of these items can be replaced by the creative use of a smartphone?

Use the comments section to play along. What devices constitute your essential tech rations?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Learning Sciences; Driving Evidence-based Instruction

How do people learn?

For centuries, educators and philosophers have wrestled with this simply stated, but confounding, question. Understanding how the mind works were left mostly to introspection or analogous comparisons with hydraulic systems, telephone switchboards, and computer circuitry. Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, and author of "Why Don't Students Like School?" mentions these representations aren't based on scientific investigation or research.
"Is it possible many of our long-held beliefs about teaching and learning are based on supposition, opinion, and anecdotal insight into how the mind works?"

Technology and scientific research is changing what we thought we knew about brain development and functions of the mind. Teaching and learning will undoubtedly change as this new information becomes readily available to educators. 

In an article recently published in ISTE's magazine, Entrsekt, Jennifer Fink tells us, "Learning sciences are an interdisciplinary science, informed by neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, and computer science." Simply, learning sciences, a relatively new field of research, is the study of how people learn.



Our minds and our learning are always changing. Learning sciences are revealing new methodologies and new resources for teachers. Instructional designer, Mindy Johnson, says it's important for educators to adapt their instruction according to what science is teaching us about learning.

Learning sciences is busting some myths about the inner workings of our minds:
  • Information processing is distributed across both hemispheres of the brain.
  • Brain development continues well into adulthood and neural density can increase or decrease throughout our lifespan.
  • Background knowledge significantly impacts current and future learning.
  • Learning styles theories, while often criticized, provide experiential relevance to the class content.
Surprisingly, the brain is not designed for thinking, rather it's designed to save us from having to think. It's automaticity that allows us to do everyday tasks, like driving, without thinking about them. Dr. Willingham says people are intrigued by solvable problems. In other words, curiosity and relevance are key factors of engaged thinking. "The difficulty of a problem", says Willingham, "is enormously important." This means our minds do not readily engage when presented with problems that are either too easy or too difficult to solve. Understandably, differentiation and personalization of learning are supported by learning science research.

In a world where students can acquire information easily and almost instantly, it's essential for students to learn how to learn, and to learn more about their own learning. This knowledge will make learners better able to adjust and thrive in a rapidly changing modern environment. Metacognition and reflection will raise awareness about a student's thought processes and learning techniques. Learning sciences indicate the importance of personal relevance and social interaction to engaged thinking. Immediate, meaningful feedback is proving to be very helpful in advancing student learning.

Learning sciences are a new and evolving field of study. Scientific research of the brain is helping us gain a better understanding of the mind. This new knowledge will help educators take guess work out of some long-standing classroom practices, many which have no basis in science or research. Ultimately, this will lead to increased student engagement, greater personal fulfillment, and strategies that cultivate life-long learning. Perpetuating learning in a modern world, where would you rank this on your list of meaningful school endeavors?

Photo Credit: Elisa Rivas, Pixabay CC0

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Four Reasons Why a Library Makerspace Makes Perfect Sense

"Making in the library is about offering students opportunities to move from simply being users and consumers to being creators, by providing them with the spaces, tools, and resources they need."  - Laura Fleming


Under what conditions does your best learning occur? Many folks, myself included, say their best learning happens when they create something previously non-existent. Where are the places in your school where learning happens, not through instruction and a prescribed curriculum, but through inquiry and exploration? Where is the central hub of your school learning community? A maker space may be just the thing for breathing relevancy and energy into your school library, or media center. According to Nick Provenzano, aka "The Nerdy Teacher," these are the four essential reasons why a media center makerspace makes sense; space, furniture, supervision, and access.
  • School media centers provide open, flexible space. Collaboration, interaction, and hands-on engagement need space for versatility and movement. Visible, transparent learning will ignite curiosity and interest from teachers and students.
  • Tables and chairs that offer flexibility and comfort send signals that the media center is an inviting space for freedom, creativity, and innovation. To create unique areas, look for furniture that slides or rolls. Oversized pillows and carpet squares provide spaces for students to sit comfortably while making. Writable surfaces and Lego walls provide opportunities for visible, design thinking.
  • The library staff provides watchful eyes to help students feel safe and supported. Much like the shifting role of the classroom teacher, library personnel should be asking driving questions instead of providing answers. Making is a personal, participatory adventure that doesn't require regimented guidance.
  • Extended hours and almost limitless availability mean more time for creativity and innovation. It strikes a special chord when students become so engrossed in their making that they lose track of time and don't want to leave.
An inviting, engaging makerspace will significantly alter the media center climate. Ultimately, the library makerspace will impact a school-wide learning culture. Makerspaces provide the conditions for some of our best learning. For many schools, the library provides the best fit for accessible, participatory learning. I've shared four important reasons for hosting a makerspace in your school library. Of course, there are more. I invite you to turn this post into a discussion by sharing your thoughts on media center maker spaces in the comments section.

References and Resources

Fleming, Laura. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a SAGE, 2015.

Provenzano, Nicholas. Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. United States: Blend Education, 2016.

"Why Personalized Learning Should Start in School Libraries." ESchool News. 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Photo credit: DigitalsKennedy, Pixabay CC0 Public Domain