Posted in 1.2 Message Design, 501 Introduction to Educational Technology

Elements of Educational Technology

Originally Published October, 2011

In my discussions about educational technologies I’ve found people often use the same term to talk about very different practices. Robert Reiser talks about some of the difficulties linguistics play in defining a field in his article History of Instructional
 Design and Technology:
Part I: A History of Instructional Media. He points out that, for many people, the term instructional technologies conjured up ideas limited to instructional technologies such as CD-ROMS, computers, and projectors. (Reiser & Ely, 1997). Herein he points out that how we define a subject frames future conversations.

According to The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) the current definition of educational technologies is, “The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 1). This definition encompasses management systems, design, learning tools, and instructional media. Yet, to establish a common starting point for discussion we should look at the role of each element individually.

For me, the components of this definition have a hierarchy. Improving performance is the goal. Managing the process outlines the path; the study, creation, facilitation, and usage all provide a means to the end. Prioritizing element helps drill through a complex term with a broad meaning. As the former employee of a corporate e-learning company, our conversations with new clients followed this same sequence. What is your company’s mission? How does management support that? What gaps need to be filled? What content do you need delivered? What is the best delivery method for your employees? We had to ask questions in this manner to evaluate how well our product could meet their needs. When it comes to educational technology not enough conversation happens around how it can be used to better manage the education process.

As I reflect on life as an educator, I’m amazed at how the road map to success twists–and then twists again. Objectives shift from preparing student for a 21st century work force to raising test scores. In my observations, a clear vision and well thought-out implementation plan for adoption of educational technologies leads to authentic integration.

The US Department of Education states their mission is to:

  • Strengthen the Federal commitment to assure access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
  • Increased involvement in public education of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
  • Promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education
  • Improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
  • Improve the management of Federal education activities; and
  • Increase the accountability of Federal education programs

Based on this vision, the discussion should be how are we managing the implementation of educational technologies to meet these goals.

If we look to other large US agencies we can see how common vision and management implementation are critical for the organizations ability to function properly. In the 911 Commission Report published August 2004, the Commission revealed a systemic problem within the intelligence community.

The U.S. government did not find a way of sharing intelligence and using it to guide the planning and assignment of responsibilities for joint operations involving entities as disparate as the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the military, and the agencies involved in homeland security.

Similar to the problem highlighted by 911 Commission, our education system needs to reassess how we pool information and resources to ensure equal access to quality education.

The landscape of the 21st century is entirely different from it was at the birth of American education system. One teacher delivering content to classroom 25-30 students is a model developed at time when information could only be delivered to the masses through people and print. Through years of research, we now know that learners have different learning styles, intelligences, skills, disabilities, points of motivation, and interests. To apply this knowledge in a meaningful ways we need to analyze how technology can help us improve how we manage the education process.

To summarize, improved management through technology has the ability to advance processes. Educators face the daily challenge of meeting each individual’s needs with “just-in-time” tools and resources. Technologies like learning/content management systems and data collection have already transformed the way corporations train employees and market to consumers. These same applications applied to education will leverage resources and increase student success.

References

Reiser, R.A., & Ely, D.P. (1997). The field of educational technology as reflected through its definitions. Edu- cational Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 63-72.

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 – 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.

US Department of Education. (2011), Overview, Mission http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/mission/mission.html

The 911 Commission. (2004), The 911 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States–EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Exec.htm

Posted in 1. Instructional Systems Design, 503 Instructional Design for Educators

Teacher vs. Instructional Designer

Introduction

I’ve thought a good deal about the differences between a teaching job and an instructional designers job. Ironically, my first hand experience in both fields makes it more difficult for me to see the distinction between the two.  As a teacher, I regularly fall back on my instructional design skills to plan effective learning units.

1. What are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?

I’ve been asked to answer the questionWhat are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?”  In short, teachers traditionally are looked at as people who deliver content.  Some key additional responsibilities include building relationships with students, communicating with parents, maintaining students’ personal records, collecting, analyzing, and reporting on performance, grading assignments, and establishing personal behavior and learning plans.  Teachers also need to complete a teacher certification program show mastery over the content areas they teach.  Contrary, as an instructional designer, I relied on subject matter experts (SME) to outline the content for course development.

2. What are instructional designers expected to that teachers are not?

To the second question I’ve been asked to analyze, “What are instructional designers expected to do that teachers are not?” I have a harder time delineating.  The basic answer is that instructional designers make decisions about how content is delivered.  They need to understand how to use different authoring tools, plan scope and sequence, write scripts, choose supportive media, and develop assessments.

By the same token, as a teacher short on time, I scavenger for material I can stitch together.  Instructional designers need to create their own material from scratch or purchase copyrights because often their work is created for a profit.  As a constructivist, it’s critical for me to design my own content so that I understand the logic behind the design. My teaching philosophy is that educators should build scenarios for students to discover new information and use the best platform possible to do that.

3. What are three major differences between instructional designers and teachers?
Three major differences between a teacher and an instructional designer are practical experience, focus, and expectations. Instructional designers must stay abreast of new technologies like graphics programs, mobile learning, podcasting, and interactive media.  Conversely, teachers gain experience in helping students fill gaps to construct new knowledge.  A second difference is instructional designers are required focus on content development and delivery.  While as a teacher, I received 6 weeks of training on Promethean’s authoring tool ActivInspire.  However, there was no requirement for me to incorporate this tool in my daily duties.  A teacher’s primary focus is on showing student growth.  Finally, Instructional designers are expected to design content and teachers are expected to deliver it.

Posted in 5.1 Problem Analysis, 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation, 5.4 Long-Range Planning, 501 Introduction to Educational Technology

School Evaluation Project

For my organization assessment I measure the district and local school site using the Maturity Benchmark Model. This rubric model offers evaluation of a schools technology adoption and integration under five different filters including: Connectivity, Administration, Curricular, Support, and Innovation.  This project addresses the AECT standards 5 in the following ways.

STANDARD 5: EVALUATION

Candidates demonstrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions to evaluate the adequacy of instruction and learning by applying principles of problem analysis, criterion-referenced measurement, formative and summative evaluation, and long-range planning.

  • 5.1 Problem Analysis
    Problem analysis involves determining the nature and parameters of the problem by using information-gathering and decision-making strategies.

 

  • 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation
    Formative evaluation involves gathering information on adequacy and using this information as a basis for further development. Summative evaluation involves gathering information on adequacy and using this information to make decisions about utilization.

 

  • 5.4 Long-Range Planning
    Long-range planning that focuses on the organization as a whole is strategic planning….Long-range is usually defined as a future period of about three to five years or longer. During strategic planning, managers are trying to decide in the present what must be done to ensure organizational success in the future.

School Demographics
ABC Elementary School is Title 1 School located in coastal Georgia. The school was built 15 years ago and is nearing its capacity of 700 students. The average class size is 25. The principal is in his second year of leadership.

School Background
Five years ago the district received $300 million in funding from a ESPLOST (Education Specialize Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) to make physical structure improvements to school buildings. As a result schools in the district have a 5:1 ratio of students to computers. The school was part of a redistricting at the end of the 2009 school year creating a surge in population primarily of Hispanics in pre-k and kindergarten.

About the Evaluation Summary
The summary is organized in order from tier one, or top “emergent” or “island” priorities to lower tier two priorities or “integrated” or “intelligent” ratings. The principal of ABC school as well as the Networking Engineer, Director or Technology and Media Integration, and multiple teachers were consulted on this survey.

Overall Ratings
1. Administrative Integrated
2. Support Emergent
3. Curricular Emergent
4. Connectivity Intelligent
5. Innovation Integrated

Tier I Priority: Emergent or Island rating.
Support-Emergent

Stakeholder

  • Behavior= Island.
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Emergent

Summary: The Technology Planning Committee consists of 4 member: Chief Data & Information Officer, Networking Engineer, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Director of Technology and Media Integration. The original 5 year EPLOST technology use plan was designed by these individuals and voted on by the board of education. Future planning should involvement key stakeholders including: parents, administration, teacher, students, business partners, and community members.

Admin Support = Island

Summary: This rating scale should be redefined to be more specific. Statements like limited support, peripheral involvement, ongoing discussions, and extensive involvement must be clearly defined to be measured accurately. In my survey, I specified how often and the way in which administration is involved in district wide technology use planning. For example, were they involved in pre-planning survey, brainstorming, drafting, or pre- publication previews? Additionally, how much time is set aside for planning and implementation support? What kind of support systems, if any are in place?
I found administration is not directly involved in any of the long-term district wide planning outside of their schools. Principals and district staff may share ideas about how to use technology informally. However, there is no process in place or dedicated time for technology use planning.

Tier II Priority: Integrated Rating
Support

Training

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Intelligent

Technology & Infrastructure Support

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Intelligent

Summary: The district requires staff to attend many technology trainings such as Power Teacher for grading and attendance and integration of new CPS clickers. Other trainings like Neos, use of Moodle and website development are optional. Some training includes stipends to encourage staff to participate. The district provides all formal technology training. Training is introductory in nature and follow-up trainings on new technology are provided on certain types of technology like the district grading software. The Media technology coordinator has conducted two school professional development sessions over the course of three years. One consideration that should be taken to account teachers movement from positions and grade levels year to year and often miss trainings that have are relevant.
The district is outfitted with a Help Desk for tech support issues Monday-Friday. Most staff utilizes formal support provided by the district in terms of training and maintenance. Grade level teams share information both formally and informally about curriculum, data, and planning in their classroom. Information about how technology is being used often comes up in these conversations though there is no requirement that technology use is discussed formally.

Administration

Policy

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Intelligent

Planning

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Integrated

Budget

  • Behavior= Intelligent
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Integrated

Administrative Information

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Intelligent.

Summary: A formalized process has been integrated to use technology to maintain grades, take attendance, communicate through email with other staff members, and manage the library and cafeteria management systems. In addition, the district’s acceptable use policy describing how students and faculty can use the school equipment are available online.  However some systems such as tardiness, students excuses overlap between paper and electronic processing.

The school’s Yearly Improvement Plan is reviewed by the district and must be aligned with district initiatives. School-wide comprehensive planning receives informal review also because it is often connected to school-wide funding. Schools often look to the district and adopt technologies they have recommended. There is no formal review and no opportunity for faculty to view how technology adoptions are related to other planning in the school or district. Janitors, long-term subs don’t have access to email. Long term subs can’t access gradebook, attendance, copiers, or email. All students 1-5 access computers for 40 minutes 2 times per week. Free internet activities and school purchase

Curricular

Electronic Information

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Integrated

Assessment

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Integrated

Curriculum Integration

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Intelligent

Teacher Use

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure = Intelligent

Student Use

  • Behavior = Integrated
  • Resource/Infrastructure = Integrated

Summary: Teachers use technology in their daily activities to email, read district news, access standards and curriculum maps. Teachers also use Power School for grades and benchmarks assessment are scored electronically. Teachers in 2nd and 4th grade use Study Island to assess student needs based on standard area. Assessment reporting tools are integrated within products like this but are not integrated into the students’ personal records or year-to-year reporting. Many free Internet activities are also accessible but not all teachers seek them out or use them. Curriculum and instruction are not dependent upon technology.
Students access programs paid for through the district like Brainpop, Education City, Study Island, and United Streaming. All students grades 1-5 access computers for 40 minutes 2 times per week. The Internet provides resources on every area covered by standards. Not all classrooms have access to student computers or computer projection systems and student performance outcomes are not hinged on use of technology. The district purchases equipment for test grade levels first and then purchases equipment on an as needs basis for other grade levels.

Innovation

New Technologies

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Integrated

Comprehensive Technologies

  • Behavior= Integrated
  • Resource/ Infrastructure= Integrated

Summary: Many staff members accept new technologies. Experimentation could happen during planning periods, or while instructing students. However no systems are in place for surveying teachers to find out how often or how they integrate technology into their daily instruction.

Connectivity-Intelligent

Local Area Network

  • Behavioral: Intelligent
  • Resource/Infrastructure: Intelligent

District Area Network

  • Behavioral: Intelligent
  • Resource/Infrastructure: Intelligent

Internet Access

  • Behavioral: Integrated
  • Resource/Infrastructure: Intelligent

Communication Systems

  • Behavioral: Intelligent
  • Resource/Infrastructure: Intelligent

Summary: Staff use available networks for practice activities for students and content delivery. The use differs between faculty depending on their comfort level. All computers are connected with high-speed access to all working environments. comprehensive and expandable for data, voice, and video according to District Network Engineer.

 

 

Posted in 501 Introduction to Educational Technology

Acceptable Use Policies

Acceptable Use Policies, or AUP, can be likened to the “Terms of Service” agreements people sign off on when they access online software. The intention of the AUP is provide a framework for specific information security standards. AUP’s should be succinct, yet also cover how users are and aren’t able to use the IT system. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, the trick for many organizations is to find the balance between excessively restrictive policies and those that fall short of their legal obligations.

The purpose of AUPs is two-fold. The first is to protect people in a learning environment from malicious material. The second purpose is to open doors for students to learn and teachers to teach. Keeping AUPs aligned with web 2.0 tools requires constant attention. Some districts update AUPs when the Technology Plan is drafted. Others update yearly, and still others update multiple times in a single year. Some districts use generic language to allow their policies encompass new products.

Tips for Covering the bases with AUPs

  • Consistent enforcement among all staff and faculty
  • Clearly define if tools will be used as learning tools or personal tools
  • Specifically define how certain tools should be used such as a common class Google accounts or material recorded on cameras.
  • Compel all parents and teachers to know, teach, and enforce the districts AUPs.
  • Compose a copy of computer use rules at age appropriate levels in all computer labs.
  • Use computer lab rules that answer “how,” “who” and “when” to adapt to the changing technological landscape.

Here are some examples of AUPs that tackle mobile learning in different ways:

Speers Point Public School Mobile Phone Policy

Mercer County Mobile Device Acceptable Use Policy

Broward County School and District Technology Use

Chatham County Acceptable Policy Use

Resources

Consortium for School Networking. (Sept. 2011). Acceptable use policies in the web 2.0 and mobile era. Learning, Leadership & Policy A CoSn Leadership Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?tabid=8139

Scrogan, L. (Jul. 2007) AUPs in a web 2.0 world. EDTECH Focus on K12. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2007/07/aups-in-a-web-20-world

Nagel, D. (Jan. 2011). A better approach to AUP’s for mobile devices: 5 questions with Anthony luscre. The Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/01/06/a-better-approach-to-aups-for-mobile-devices-5-questions-with-anthony-luscre.aspx

Posted in 504 Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology

2012 Vision Statement

Roadmap

According to Cathy Davidson, prior Duke University Professor and co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, “65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet.”  Fifteen years ago Facebook, Google, iPhone, apps, YouTube, Twitter, and Wikipedia didn’t even exist.  Yet now these tools have become household names.  These inventions are not only shaping a new work force, but they are shifting the very way we conduct our lives.

With this in mind, a 21st century education is one that reflects our extreme access to information and interactions.  It equips students to decisively sieve through massive quantities of information.  It prepares them to evaluative new applications and adopts new skills daily.  These students will mange large complex communication networks and use technology tools for virtual collaboration.  Preparation for these skills requires we revitalize certain notions about the landscapes of education.

The US Department of Education National Education Technology Plan identified 21st learning frontiers as: inquiry/adventure based, online collabortories, mapping, augmented reality platforms, crowd sourcing, mobile applications, published content, and interactive simulations.  Contrary to today model, these environments often define the role of teacher as facilitator and student as explorer.

Technology use simply, is not technology integration.  In fact, authentic technology integration is when a teacher and a child don’t stop to think they’re integrating technology into learning (Edutopia).  The focus for educators now must be how to bridge the gap between technology integration in the real life vs. school life.

References

MindShift. (n.d.). How Do We Prepare Our Children for What’s Next? Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/tag/school-day-of-the-future/

U.S. Department of Education. (2010) National Education Technology Plan 2010. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

Edutopia. (n.d.). What is technology integration? Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description

Posted in 504 Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology, All

Teaching Beliefs vs Practices

Originally Posted February 2012

I fell into teaching in an unlikely way.  I was a kid who didn’t like school, so my rationale for becoming a teacher was to make the system better than it was when I went through it.  “If I was president,” I used to say, “schools would be places where kids could learn about things they were interested in.”  Somehow by the time I was in the 7th grade, the word “learn” equaled “school” which equaled “rigid and boring.”   “My classroom,” I said with confidence after a few years of homeschooling, “will be a place are really interested in the work that they do.”

Now that I’ve been invested on the other end I realize how complex educating really is.  When my classroom is functioning best my students have choices. They can choose seats, work with different partners,  pick projects to work on, and gather resources around the room as they see fit.  When I’m patient and listen I see my kids explore, struggle, discuss, and finally discover for themselves. These are the moments when I feel like a real educator. But these moments seem to be more and more difficult to justify.

Unfortunately, while students who are primarily engaged in Project-Based learning turn out to be better field practitioners, they don’t score as well as kids who follow a main stream classroom models on standardized tests as.  As a novice teacher I steal time from students’ discovery process to drill so I can guarantee they’ll be ready to pass state mandated tests.   Test dates can’t be prolonged for discovery processes to unfold and so we prepare our kids to take and pass tests.

Below I’ve created a graph to represent my beliefs vs. what actually happens in the classroom.  The text in blue represents technology I use to achieve these two very different learning goals.  Double click to enlarge it in a new window.

Posted in 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Pros and Cons of Blended Learning

Blended learning has been a hot topic in corporate training where terms like “learning management systems,” “blended learning,” and “content management systems” have been kicking around for some time now. The lingo hasn’t quite caught on in the k-12. The reason? Without access to computers, it seems silly to talk about blended learning. But with programs like Bring Your Own Device, which our district launched last year, that paradigm is changing and it’s changing quickly. So for me, the question is not will blending learning come to k-12 education, but rather when.

Computers can do some really amazing things, and I know teachers who fear classrooms will one day be filled with students being taught by computers. But we’re a long way off from that and we’ll get into the reasons why in a minute. For now, let’s put that debate about computer-based learning aside and focus on what the computer and teacher do well that makes their partnership such a great guide for learners.

Here’s how computers come in handy for learning:

  • Accessibility to a mass amount of content in many different forms: music, video, photo, text, interactive simulations, graphics, publishing etc.
  • Organization by creating structure for tracking assignments, grades, feedback, etc.
  • Searchability through data bases by categorizing/tagging/grouping/sorting
  • Aggregating massive amounts of data

So with just a computer we can access content, organize it, add to it, and gather data that may give us some insights to better instruction. But the computer is only the half of it. Here’s where teachers come in.

  • Building relationships: It’s the cornerstone of being human, something most of us don’t do well without.
  • Identifying nuances and misconceptions: Right now a computer can tell you if your answer to a division problem is right or wrong. But a teacher can pin-point exactly where the mistake is being made for example is it a multiplication error, understanding of place value, or misunderstanding of order of operations.
  • Tweaking: Computers use algorithms to “learn,” but it’s teachers who tweak and experiment to find new effective ways to motivate and break through barriers.
  • Scaffolding and leading learning: Again this gets back to recognizing nuances and making inferences. A teacher can fill in gaps students may have from lack of personal experience.

The disadvantages of blending learning tend to be in rooted in design, class management, and social issues. Blended learning is not simply pre-recording lectures and power points and putting them online for students to access. Teachers need consider what is the best method to teach the concept and then use this information to design the course. Some teachers have reported that planning for both live classes and online environments is taxing. Others say having an LMS makes their class management much easier. Depending on the structure of the class, some students have reported feeling isolated. These issues however, can for the most part be address through training and design. The key thing for us to remember is that there is no foolproof design, but there are tools at our disposable and we do the best service to learners when we think about how we can use those tools to their highest and best utility.

Posted in 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Reflections of Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Last year one of the small successes I celebrated was getting a group of math teachers together from across the district to help each other out. Five teachers took time out of their day, drove across town and spent an hour talking about challenges with a new curriculum, strategies for teaching certain concepts, as well as clarifying each other’s misconceptions. It was the kind of discussion that releases tension, nurtures, comforts, and invigorates all at the same time, and frankly I’m dying to see more of it.

I’m excited I got to explore how to host web conferences and will be using this format to try to encourage more of these healthy conversations across our district this year. Last year I had the experience of finishing a 7 part how-to series only to have the entire format of the website revamped the following day. During the making of the screencast, my prior experience taunted me, but as of this date, the process for setting up a paperless classroom in Google haven’t changed. Ironically enough, in week five, I found the how-to video clip for one of the apps I featured had been removed. I’m guessing they made changes and had to pull it. The world is just changing that fast now.

By far, playing on Moodle was the most interesting work. I really enjoyed experimenting with different types of activities and was glad to learn that there is more to Moodle than I’ve been exposed to. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m somewhat obsessed with learning management systems and how they can help teachers and students manage their learning. This was a great insight to see what’s possible and confirm thoughts that we still have big strides to make in this industry. Best of all, I’m looking forward to seeing it all unfold from a front row seat.

Posted in 1.3 Instructional Strategies, 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies, 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Web Conferencing

Reflection Post Web Conferencing

I enjoy taking the opportunity to use new 2.0 tools to reflect on and expand my learning environment and experiences. I find the challenge of synthesizing new information using a new tool brings my learning experience to a whole new level. It makes me think about not only new information, but also question the best tool to help me digest and share what I’ve learned.

For this assignment, there was no question conducting a web conference would be the way to share what I learned. This is something I’m hoping to introduce as a professional development option for teachers this coming year. Though I’ve used Google Hangouts before, I was hoping to get familiar with some other tools. Unfortunately this week is my first week as a distance-learning student with extremely limited Internet connection. In my summer travels, I’ve been reduced to one hour of Internet per week. This experience has been humbling for someone who spends 95% of computer time online. Some of the challenges I’ve run into are waiting for classmates presentations to load, finding photos to use in my presentation, accessing additional research, exploring web-based web conferencing tools, copying and pasting assignment instructions, and limited awareness of peers progress.

As we get ready to introduce Chromebooks in our district next year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I would have completed these assignments if I had taken the ever so light Chromebook on my European vacation. Anyway I think it’s been a good experience to remember what it was like to operate offline and should I have some precautions I’ll be putting in place to make next week go a little smoother.

Web Conferencing

 

Posted in 1.4 Learner Characteristics, 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners, DESIGN

Andragogy: The Structure & Process of Engaging Adult Learners

AndragogyYesterday, the principal’s at a school I serve addressed his leadership team about the critical importance of raising the graduation rate. “Everything we do,” he said, “must lead back to helping our students get to graduation.” This year, just 46% of their seniors crossed the finish line. There was a time in my life when I was dangerously close to joining the statistics of those who failed to finish. It wasn’t because I  wasn’t bright or curious. But by age 13, I thought of schools as baby sitting centers and was totally unengaged.

As these stories often unfold, the point of pain becomes a driving force in ones life. So now, I spend my days working to improve the student experience in our public schools by coaching teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. The use of technology in education is not just to utilize this digital social currency, but also to create learning opportunities that might otherwise be impossible to manage. I envision high schools as a place were we prepare students to be life long learners: setting personal goals, problem-solving, and finding real world relevance in the act of studying.

Malcolm Knowles, a man credited for making the distinctions between Adult and child education popular today, lays out six assumptions about adult learners. These assumptions say that learners adult learners are 1. self-directed, 2. enriched and informed by their personal life experience, 3. that readiness to learn is influenced by the relevancy of the topic to the individual’s circumstances, 4  that their motivation level seeds from a need to apply the learned skills immediately, 5 that their motivation is anchored in increasing self-esteems and accomplishing goals, and 6 that adults learn best when they understand why the information is pertinent.  (Forrest III & Peterson, 2006; Kidd, 1973; Knowles, 1984a, 1984b; Knowles et al., 1998; Lindeman, 1926; Ozuah, 2005; Thompson & Deis, 2004)

In looking at Knowles’s characteristics of adult learners, I wonder if our failure to recognize these as more general characteristics of learners accounts for the over 3 million students who dropped out of school last year. According to Taylor and Kroth (2009), Andragogy faces several criticisms. Among them are a lack of ability to be measured, inability to define clear procedures of andragogical practices, that andragogy means a lack of testing and grades and is therefore impossible to measure, and that these characteristics are not always found in adults and are sometimes found in children.

I believe that technology used to capture and study learner analytics can play a critical role in developing ways to measure learner characteristics above and beyond grades and tests. I also think that all educational experiences have more value when students of any age understand why the learning task is relevant and related to personal growth. Based on my own experience, I agree with the criticism that these “adult characteristics” are not just limited to adults. My own critic of my education experience of at a young age demonstrate that I exhibited these “adult learner characteristics” even with limited life experience. As with all learning theories, from behaviorism to constructivism, each carry some truth about learners, not in isolation but woven together to understand the complexity of the human brain. By understanding the characteristics of such theories, they enable us to reach more learners by designing more relevant and engaging learning experiences.

References

Taylor, B & Kroth, M. (2009) Andragogy’s transition into the future: meta-analysis of andragogy and its search for a measurable instrument. Journal of Adult Education, 38 (1).