Learning Matters

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ian Jukes: Learning in the New Digital Landscape

TTWWADI: That's the way we've always done it. It's a fact of life, even outside of schools. Ian Jukes begins with an extended anecdote connecting the space shuttle to Roman war chariots. I won't go into further detail because I can't do it justice. However, he also points out that in 1935 the school year in the United States was similar to today's 180 days and was the longest in the developed world. Today, it is the shortest in the developed world. Why do we have an extended summer vacation? Is it research based? No, it is TTWWADI. See also Foss's poem, "The Calf Path."

Digital kids in the New Digital Landscape. A key theme of this presentation is that the digital life children experience today provides digital learning experiences (almost always separate from the formal education experience) that result in different patterns of cognitive development than "digital immigrants" from older generations might have. Jukes says that greater visual memory is one possible result. He cites research I am not familiar with that includes fMRI studies showing slightly different patterns of activation between digital natives and digital immigrants.

Ian Jukes recommends Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You (noted in his last session) and Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind : Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

Gaming is a major aspect of many students' experiences. Will digital kids have spent more time by 21 years of age gaming than reading books or sitting in class? And what are the implications? For society? For schools? For our children?

Jukes reminds us of the value of useful failure, practice, and repeated feedback in the learning process. Are these more present in traditional forms of instruction or in games. He references the The impact of media and technology in schools: A research report prepared for The Bertelsmann Foundation, a study from the late 1990's. One of the findings was that while traditional instruction and technology/media infused instruction might have similar initial results on achievement tests, retesting one year later indicated that most of the content delivered via a traditional model was not retained, but that most of the content delivered using media and technology infused instruction was. It's not the case that basic skills and integrated project based learning are mutually exclusive.

Jukes closed by reminding everyone that aligning instructional practices with the needs of digital natives should matter to all of us. Children may be 20% of the population, but they are 100% of our future. No matter how attached we are to the past, real or imagined, we should recognized that schools the way they used to be may not be effective in preparing students for the world to come. The last metaphor Jukes leaves us with is the comparison of how a blue whale turns (hint, slowly over a long stretch) vs. a large school of sardines (fast, tight radius). It happens because a few individuals in the school shift in a new direction, creating some dissonance until the school turns. He notes, hopefully, that we have seen social changes toward tobacco in a generation or two. The Berlin Wall fell suddenly.

He quoted Hellen Keller, noting that the only thing worse than not being able to see is being able to see and having no vision.

Change, Jukes reminds, is possible. But who, when, and where?

Ian Jukes on New Visions for Teaching and Learning

Ian Jukes is a busy man today, working hard for his money. In addition to two keynotes, he is offering a sectional presentation too. It's a big sectional, held in a lecture hall where Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know is usually broadcast from.

New Visions for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century, is also on his website. Ian Jukes introduced the focus as how we can help our students be digitally literate with 21st Century Skills and meet traditional academic expectations at the same time. Starting metaphor is learning as a seven layer dip: content, process, tools, school to career (the skills to be successful in the workplace are different from those in school and higher ed), community, home (the most important factor in student success), assessment (quantitative and qualitative, summative and formative).

Today, Jukes notes, academic and performance assessment is central to the learning process. But will traditional forms of instruction support student learning that can be retained and exhibited on a form of assessments by our students? Can we in a structured manner teach process skills and critical thinking. Jukes offers up the example of a classroom learning project of an exotic pet store where they can learn science content, math content, language arts content, etc., but in the context of career and life skills and applied tools. Call it embedded instruction, project based learning, integrated units, woven instruction, killing two or multiple birds with a single stone, it is key approach. But are we, collectively, in education prepared to do this as the rule and not the exception? We know that learning by doing keeps well, and there is value in the doing. The real life connections also offer opportunities to engage parents and other community members in the learning process, which is a benefit to the students and also the school institution. Jukes provides another example of an integrative activity, the tattoo artist, that incorporates science, math, language, ethics, and workplace skills.

Now, this more demanding in terms of preparation than teaching out of a textbook or prepackaged curriculum if it is to be done well. Professional development, collaboration, and planning time are indispensable, even with a good list of borrowed resources to use as templates. Ian Jukes closed by highlighting three useful resources, including the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which has very extensive resources for educators on research, projects, and instructional modules. Edutopia also has print and electronic publications available free. I subscribe to these had they are indeed high quality, and the price is right.

As he came to the end, Jukes recommended several books for further reading. These were Ted McCain's Teaching for Tomorrow, Donna Walker Tileston's What Every Teacher Should Know: The 10 Book Collection, Mike Schmoker's Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement, Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design, Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, and Sheryl Feinstein's Secrets of the Teenage Brain.

Great one hour download! Never miss an opportunity to see Jukes if it presents itself.

Ian Jukes on Change

The last two days I have been attending a conference on closing the achievement gap sponsored by our state education agency. It has been a strong conference so far and I have been impressed by the state's succcess in planning the conference.

Today, we have Ian Jukes delivering keynotes at both ends of the day. He is also conducting a sectional. It has been quite some time since I've posted, so I'm going to try liveblogging Jukes. Ian Jukes has the notes to this presentation available online here.

I have seen Jukes before and read some fo his writing. He is an engaging speaker and is a good anchor when you want to help an audience consider things outside the proverbial "box." Early in the presentation, Jukes is highlighting four exponential trends. The first is Moore's Law, the observation that computing power doubles every 18 months or so. The second trend is the law of the photon, which is the rapidly increasing bandwidth trend. Jukes points out the 2400 baud modems were pretty good in the mid to late 1980's, but residences now have DSL, and the industry is rapidly increasing in the ability to pack wavelengths into fiberoptics and that we are quickly ascending the staircase from gigabit to 10 gig to 100 gig and beyond. Coupled with the exponential increase in wired speed, wireless bandwidth is rapidly increasing in capacity, with huge impacts on portability and ubiquity. An important impact of the the bandwidth revolution is how it facilitates globalization of economic activity. To the extent that work can be done at a distance, and that is an increasingly large segment of economic activity, jobs can be located anywhere. This is an important takeaway for those in the audience that haven't considered this before. If you are an American with marginal, or submarginal, employability, geography cannot be counted upon to help you acquire a job. Also, the Internet provides many new methods for communication that out students embrace more rapidly than we are doing.

His fourth trend was InfoWhelm. One point he suggests is that technical knowledge is somewhat less valuable because it is changing and growing so rapidly. Personally, I am optimistic that collaborative practices like blogs and wikis can help us filter InfoWhelm into a manageable understanding of the world we chose to live in.