Yesterday, 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.
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).
The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, at The University of Colorado defines cognitive disabilities as, “a substantial limitation in one’s capacity to think, including conceptualizing, planning and sequencing thoughts and actions, remembering, and interpreting the meaning of social and emotional cues, and of numbers and symbols.”
Retrieved from: https://www.cu.edu/ColemanInstitute/background.html (Published December 14, 2006)
Word prediction software dramatically reduces the number of keystrokes required to type text. The predictive text helps students with sequencing of letters and offers cues to remember word spellings or suffixes. Predictions are based on spelling, syntax, and frequent or recent use. This prompts kids who struggle with writing to use proper spelling, grammar, and word choices, with fewer keystrokes.
Keyboards for Dyslexia. Dyslexia makes it difficult to spell words according to letters alone, therefore students may find using a keyboard to be a very tricky task. One type of assistive keyboard uses a combination of red, green and blue lights to backlight the keys thus switching the focus from symbols to colors making it easier for the user to identify the key they are looking for. Other options that may help students recognize letters are keyboards with white lettering on black keys or black lettering on white keys.
The World Health Organization defines physical disabilities as “an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an acitivity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task of action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individaul in involvement of life situions. Thus a disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.”
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_disabilities
Voice recognition software turns speech into text without needing to use a keyboard or mouse. This allows students to dictate to the computer what they would like to say and watch their words turn to text. Students can use this software to compose documents, letters, emails, and collaborate with others in remote locations. This technology can help students with limited mobility and also allows them to control computer functions such as opening files and saving documents.
BookShare houses 125,000 digital books (including 6,000 textbooks), teacher recommended readings, periodicals, and assistive technology tools. These materials are available in several formats, including HTML, text, braille and DAISY (Digital Accessible Information Systems). This alternative offers accessible options for the blind, low vision, a physical disability like CP or a reading disability like dyslexia. The ipad app version, Read2Go has built-in audio and visual support, allowing users to listen to text read aloud as it is highlighted on screen.
The Work Family and Researchers Network published this definition of sensory disability, “A person with a disability that has any of the long-lasting conditions such as blindness, deafness, or a severe vision or hearing impairment (Erickson & Lee, 2008).”
Magnification Devices enlarge text for students who have visual impairments. Many students struggle to read because they’ve lost their glasses or a family can’t pay for them. Magnification devices allow students to scan text and then view them in a larger font. Some magnification devices also allow students to take and store pictures of text, thereby acting as a tool for note taking.
Magic Touch Screens connect the student with computer screen by making the monitor a touch screen. This makes the computer interactive via the screen and is good for students who have difficulty with fine motor skills. Another use is for students who are learning how to use a computer and have trouble controlling the mouse, and for students who need to touch the screen or have a sensory impairment.
US Legal defines at-risk students as “students who are not experiencing success in school and are potential dropouts. Usually, they are low academic achievers who exhibit low self-esteem. Generally they are from low socioeconomic status families. At-risk students tend not to participate in school activities and have a minimal identification with the school. They have disciplinary and truancy problems that lead to credit problems. They exhibit impulsive behavior and their peer relationships are problematic. Family problems, drug addictions, pregnancies, and other problems prevent them from participating successfully in school. As they experience failure and fall behind their peers, school becomes a negative environment that reinforces their low self-esteem.”
Retrieved from http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/at-risk-students/
Podcasts invite students to hear stories or learn new information independently. Podcasts can be listened to through mobile devices and allow students to “escape” with headphones. At risk students have reported that music also offers guidance in their lives and helps control moods. Students can also use podcasting to document their own unique personal stories. Podcasting offers a platform for students to express themselves and process the often challenging situations they face.
Photo Story Presentations offer another way for students to express their thoughts and emotion through images. Photo stories can offer an alternative to essay writing, or verbal presentations but still allow students to demonstrate understanding of particular concepts. Photo stories also allow students to explore ways to communicate a message through images. Another benefit is that students can visually track their growth as they develop more complex story boards.
Gifted and Talented Students
The US Department of Education defines gifted and talented students as, “Children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment.”
Retreived from http://www.nsgt.org/articles/index.asp
Mobile Devices allow gifted and talented students to continue to ask questions about the world around them. A mobile device also provides students the opportunity to engage in independent learning or dig deeper into subjects of interest. This can be used for student designed projects or to expand on a topic introduced in class.
Multimedia presentation software allows gifted and talented to practice a multitude of skills simultaneously. Video, photo, web, and podcasting offer students an opportunity to explore working with different technology presentation formats while demonstrating what they have learned within a specific content area. The variety of multimedia presentation including video, text, hyperlinks, images, and auto will give students a diverse foundation in using 21st century presentation skills.
Technology is evolving at the speed of light and no matter what your experience levels is it can feel impossible to keep up with all the latest gadgets and tool. But sometimes, especially when it comes to technology, being the jack-of-all-trades won’t give you or your students the best pay off. So this semester, lets get off the cyber super highway and zero in on one tool that will make some serious gains in the classroom. Choose either Learing Adventure one or two and then complete the Final Mission.
Create a Professional Learning Network: Twitter PLN
Regular positive encounters with other educators can make the difference between feeling like an isolated island or that you have an army of support behind you. So how do you develop you Professional Learning Network, or PLN? Believe it or not, Twitter has become amazing tools for connecting people quickly. Today, if you’re not already a member, you get to see what all the hype is about.
Learner’s Adventure #1
- Browse the Twitter Resources below
- Sign up for a Twitter account & record your login info.
- Find me and follow me @ FrankEducator.
- Post your first tweet.
What’s a PLN? Sketchy Explaination: Starting a PLN
Edutopia “How to use Twitter to Grow Ur PLN.”
Claim Your Space in The Cloud: Diigo Social Bookmark
Diigo is a bookmarking tool that allows you to flag items of interest and then later access them from any computer or phone when you log on to your Diigo account. You can see what other people are bookmarking and have access to all webpages of interest from anywhere. If you don’t have a Diigo account, today is the day you will join the cloud.
Learner’s Adventure #2
- Browse the Diigo Resources below
- Sign up for a Diigo account and record your login info.
- Start bookmarking your favorite education sites.
- Share your bookmark with your teaching team and invite them join.
Using Diigo: Adding Bookmarks to Your Library
Final Mission-Wall Wisher
Either or the tools you explored today have a lot of components and many options you can use for bringing them into the classroom. To wrap up the day, we’ll share our ah-ha’s, road blocks, and outstanding questions on Wallwisher. This site works just like Post-It’s.
- Follow this link to our Wallwishers wrapup.
- Create and account and record your login info
- Post an ah-ha, a roadblock you faced, and a question you still have (they can all be on the same post)
- Review the resources below to see if Wallwisher has a place in your classroom.
Thanks for participating!