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Time Magazine

Well, it’s about time (hmm … that’s punny) a magazine like TIME acknowledges the people that really matter.

Time Magazine

My advice, I say go the whole hog and put this in your brag sheet. Don’t tell me you don’t deserve at least, that?

Just added a new post over at my Technopreneur blog. And it very much concerns you.

I share information about how to go about making a safe transaction online, whether it be making a bill payment to a bank, or buying a product from an e-commerce site like Amazon.  

Phishing is becoming a real threat to everyday netizens like us, so a certain amount of precaution must be exercised in order to protect ourselves from being victims of stolen identity.

Read on to find out, How To Transact Safely Online While Fly Phishing In A Tank.

Well, I’ll be darned! I put out a post on October 6 about ‘A Peek Into The School Of The Future’ and postulated if Singapore could follow suit; and to my amusement – Singapore is. Channel NewsAsia broke the story on October 11, ‘Education Ministry to partner foreign institutions to develop Schools of the Future‘.

The similarities to Philadelphia’s school of the future is uncanny, but then again, it shouldn’t be of any surprise, considering Microsoft is one of MOE’s industry partners. I can’t lie to you. I would have loved, to have taken credit for seeding the idea (nothing wrong with the occasional ego stroking), but it’s quite obvious that MOE had already set its sights on such a move, way back, as maybe, last year. Express IT! IN2015, seems to indicate so. iN2015 is a blueprint to get Singaporeans technologically savvy in probably every aspect of their daily living. It’s a grand vision. But, impressive and exciting nonetheless. Even more consequential, is MOE’s master plan for IT in education. And going by the ideas that some students are proposing, it’s fairly obvious they’re more than ready to embrace technology in education. Take this as a barometer to gauge the level of excitement students place in technology.

If you’ve been having your doubts about using technology in education, I hope the above is proof enough of technology’s significance in Singapore’s future educational structure.  

Radio took 38 years to seduce an audience of 50 million Americans. Television took 13 years. But the Web has taken less than four years from the moment Netscape’s Mosaic browser was made available for free to attract the same number. That difference counts for something. The usage growth of the Internet throughout the world between the years 2000 and 2006, has been measured at 200.9 %. Asia witnessed a growth of 245.5%. In Singapore, with our population at around 3.6 million, about 2.4 million of us are Internet users (Source: Internet World Stats). More than half of Singapore’s population is wired to the Internet. It’s a figure I expect to see rising over the coming years. 

Let’s not kid ourselves though. The cost of living in such a technology-rich world, with information being exchanged at lightning quick pace, comes at a high price. And I don’t mean in monetary terms. I’m talking about our futures.

The simplistic plans that our forefathers laid out for their futures and for their generation, were and cannot be the same as the future for today’s generation and generations to come. A prime example is job security. A victim of today’s progress, job security, like our forefathers, has joined the annals of history. It’s not something that you should be preparing your students for. Our future is not about reacting to our past. The myth of job security should be shattered, because your students deserve to know what the future really holds for them – opportunity. And that’s what you should be preparing your students for.

A future with opportunities requires the ability to research, communicate and solve problems, skills that some of the age-old methods of learning, such as the 3 Rs, cannot support. You have to retool your classroom to support this new vision of opportunities and grasp the context of technology’s role in this. I mentioned in a previous post about the learning behaviour of kids today. It is vital you take this into consideration when retooling your classroom. To keep churning out stimulated, independent thinkers and learners, understanding their learning patterns is key towards achieving this.

Take a look at Japan. Her schools have been scrapping homework over the last decade. Why? Have Japanese schools discovered something that the rest of the world has not caught on yet? It’s a subject worthy of critical analysis and honourable debate. Lessening the load on homework could create a new path to self-discovery, mining more time for engaging your students rather than enraging them.

In an information-driven economy, information overload becomes a reality. How to manage information, feed information that matters to your students. maneuvering your students attention to focus on pertinent subject matter rather than mundane ones, becomes your responsibility. That means more is required out of you. And that’s one more reason why, you should embrace technology with open arms. It will guide you towards achieving this quickly and efficiently.

Dare I say, as an educational professional, you own the future, and you’re on your way towards helping your students do the same.

It’s not often that I find myself mopping up the drool originated by news that somehow, manages to titillate my salivary glands.

But that was the case after reading Reuters article on the school of the future. Everything that I’d envisioned a school to be, has apparently been made possible in the form of a public high school in Philadelphia with the help from, guess who…Microsoft. Sweet.

Bill Gates On Oprah

I had a gut feeling Bill Gates was up to something when he was featured on Oprah, discussing the future of education in America.

And now this.

School Of The Future  

This is just the beginning for what I believe to be many more of such schools. Not just in the US, but across the globe.

Singapore could lead the way for Asia in this sector and I’m hoping it would; because contrary to popular reports, Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not the perfect couple. That whiff of flattery rightly belongs to technology and education.

I am about to tell you something that may be slightly offensive. If you’re not one of those who can handle truth too well, I suggest you click that ‘x’ on the top right hand corner of this page. 

Still here? Good. I knew you were too smart to miss out. 

Here it is – Stop teaching your students. 

 Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

You read that right. Stop teaching them. It’s old, out-dated and out-of-fashion. The days of being ‘the sage on stage’ are well and over. It can come in useful when educating kids younger than seven, but even that, I’m not so sure. 

Before calling the ‘looney-tunes’ brigade on me, maybe you would like to hear me out. Your students you see, are digital natives. They’re probably more digitally literate than you are. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s the reality of today’s brave new world. As such, this generation of digital natives is forming distinct patterns of learning behaviour. The wide array of new media technologies that are available to them and the speed at which information is published and opinions are exchanged means not everyone is able to keep up with everything. Hence, the new formation of learning behaviour. If that’s the case, then dropping pearls of wisdom to students is not concomitant with their methods of learning. Today, it’s more about conversation and collaboration. And that’s exactly what digital natives do online. Converse and collaborate. 

This is a generation that is extremely comfortable with sharing their insights, thoughts and experiences with the entire world – utilizing new media technologies like blogs, podcasts, and social-networking websites like MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, FriendSurfer and PeepsNation. You can read this 57-page report (it’s free and you’ll need the free Acrobat Reader to read it) that expounds on this progression in further detail.

Therefore, to achieve your educational objectives, you have to meet them in their natural habitat: cyberspace. Technology has forced your hand on this. You may not be comfortable with the concept of using technology in education and might want to bypass it altogether, but to pursue productive conversations for learning outcomes, you need to use today’s technologies. It opens a new channel of conversation with your students, which enables you to meet them on the same page. If developing countries are poised to pounce on the opportunities offered by online tools, then you know you’re not dealing with a passing fad. 

Today’s learning environment requires an infusion of community based learning which comprises of interconnectivity and social networking. Technology isn’t supposed to make this difficult. In fact, the place for technology is way at the back, hidden from plain sight. It’s not that it’s ugly to look at; it’s just that technology is meant to be transparent. That’s where it belongs.

Communication and collaboration on the other hand is at the forefront; and technology should not get in their way. So the push for intuitive simplicity using technology can only come with using it correctly. Simplicity is what humans strive for. But it is usually disguised in various forms. Technology, to the untrained eye, is a quagmire of sorts, but has earned enough of the respect of the majority to become an indispensable tool.

In an earlier post, I mentioned youths interacting more with gadgets than humans, interacting with information differently to adults. Northlight School has recognized this fact and created an environment which quite clearly, is exactly where students feel they’re at their best and most comfortable. Good stuff. No harm is done if more schools can ‘steal’ some of Northlight School’s approach to educating their students. Only time will tell how effective this approach will be. 

Going back to intuitive simplicity, I wrote about Moodle being a fantastic extension to your classroom materials. Drupal is another, which enhances this aspect of collaboration and conversation for learning purposes. But Drupal takes it further by allowing you to build a community – open conversations taken to the fore. Drupal creates an environment so transparent that your students will take a self- paid guilt trip if they fail to put in the effort asked for. Why? Because it becomes so blindingly obvious who are performing and who aren’t. The days of pounding down the door to get their assignments handed in may be over – if Drupal has anything to say about it.

You can build a personal web page with Drupal, create a forum, build a blog, or launch a community website as alluded to earlier. With most software, getting to grips with setting it up and coaxing the best out of it can be daunting. But there is always help with the supportive Drupal community. If not, there is David Mercer’s book on Drupal, which should get you on track, swimmingly.

I don’t have to remind you that Drupal is open-source (a.k.a. FREE) as well, do I?

 

Related Posts

Liz Lightfoot, Education Editor for the Telegraph, highlights a startling statistic – that more than 5 million children were subjected to flawed teaching methods in the areas of reading and mathematics. An admission by the British government, last Thursday.

This is not a revelation that will be too well-received by more than 5 million parents in Britain, I’m pretty sure of that. Tell me if these figures aren’t worrying:

  • 77,100 boys failed basic English test at age 11
  • The British government missed its 85 percent targets for mathematics and English for the ninth year in succession

More of these stats are published here.

It is fairly obvious that the government’s literacy program is flawed, if these statistics are anything to go by. And its the pupils who sadly, bear the brunt of this failure. Will these kids suspect it’s the government’s educational program at fault for their dismal performance? Obviously not.

More often than not, these children instantaneously believe that it’s only themselves to be blamed, believing they are not smart enough to make the grade, inevitably losing their motivation to push themselves further.

Parents on the other hand are quick to blame the teachers. The best of teachers can only do so much with the resources they have at their disposal. The blame, is mostly unjustified.

We’ll have to wait and see what measures the British government will take to correct these failures. It was only last month, when employers were laying the blame on the government and schools for the lack of basic skills in many school leavers. The alarm bells have sounded.

In Singapore, it’s fortunate that our government has a carefully monitored system in place, although there is always room for improvements. Lessons have to be learned from governments like Britain, to ensure we do not commit the same ones. At the same time, we can study what is working well in Britain and measure its effectiveness in Singapore, if we have not implemented it already.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. The system our government has put in place, is not within our control. But you are the frontline of success for your students. And this means you’ve the power to determine where their success, or failure lies.

Make use of the Internet (a very powerful weapon in your arsenal), to get your students motivated and engaged with the kind of interaction that only the Internet can provide (it’s importance is a rung below human interaction).

Take a leaf out of the gaming industry. Asking a child to choose between doing his homework or picking up his joystick – well… it’s obvious what the answer is. The gaming  industry knows what makes a child tick. I mean…of course there are probably more adults than children who are addicted to gaming. But let’s not go there.

So what if you were to combine both elements, and instead of gaming points as rewards, offer them something tangible? I’m sure many of you have thought about this. I’m sure that many more are already doing it. Let’s hear it. Share the tools you use with the rest of us. How effective has it been? Any proof of measured improvements?

I’ll be pointing out many resources for you to experiment with, and see if it can fit into your teaching methods. I say, if it works and makes a stark difference in results (for the better of course), then the extra effort on your part will be well worth it.

Steve Irwin

A True Educator

1962 – 2006

“He died doing what he loves best.”

Happy Teacher's Day 2006!

I know I told you I was going to reveal the free LMS tool in this post, but Channel News Asia’s screening of Classroom of My Time means it has to wait till my next post. Why? Because I have to give a quick shoutout to a teacher who was profiled in the show. 

If you are reading this Perrin, congratulations on finally getting your 15 minutes of fame. I don’t know what you promised your students for them to speak so fondly of you, but I know you truly deserve it anyways. Father would have been proud. And mother has finally something she can brag about to the neighbours.

It’s all good.

No Plans Of A Humanoid Takeover

Ok, so you now know that educational technology is a mainstay and is only going to grow in influence through the coming years. You can also rest in the comfort of knowing that your jobs will not be taken over by robots anytime soon; and you can thank the demise of Sony’s Aibo robodog for that. But, your job description is being re-defined as you read this.

Part of this redefinition will require you to be a part-time geek. Part-time because it doesn’t take a full-time geek to win over the confidence of your students and also because educational technology is not really about the technology.

It’s really about communicating and interacting through that technology. It’s about adding your warmth to the cold, heartless, odylic force of technology. Robots can’t do that. Humanoids can’t do that and although Superman is back, he certainly cannot do that (coz I’m finally convinced Superman doesn’t really exist. Oohhh the lies! the lies!).

Is Steve Part Of The Job Description?

Using technology as a communication tool does not require you to have the presentation pizzazz of Steve Jobs (though it certainly wouldn’t hurt), but more importantly, for communication to be effective with your students, it is useful to understand how adults and children interact with information. And surprisingly, there is a difference.

Students LearningAdults tend to absorb their information, choosing a cozy spot to cuddle up and read a good book or a magazine, free from distractions. The young and often the restless, use information as a form of collaboration with peers, as an interface for networking, sharing ideas and building experiences from it. Interacting with information occurs naturally for them. Watch a child (and I don’t mean your husband) play a video game and you’ll see what I mean. New research has also suggested that video games help develop children’s brains. It’s this innate ability to interact with information that influences a youngster’s creativity and propensity for stimulated learning.

 Tech Me Seriously

Armed with this information, I think you can deduce that there are three vital components to this whole equation:

Educational Technology + Your Human Touch + Understanding Style of Interaction = More ‘Teacher of the Year’ Awards

The manner of how information is accessed changes as technology evolves. There is nothing you can do to stop this. I doubt you want to anyway. You and your students will benefit hugely from this and the success that you seek as an educational professional will occur more regularly, when literacy in the vernacular of technology and education is taken more seriously.

My guess is, it’s just a matter of time. 

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