Author: Anthony Carabache

Ten miles uphill in the snow?

I admit – it is very hard to reconcile how quickly our younger generation can access information while we often trudged ourselves to the library,  searched for that elusive microfiche only to find that the day the article was published, wasn’t available.   So are you upset that the children we teach will never feel quite the same frustration? Or is it more because it feels that our generation’s time was dedicated to information retrieval instead of information evaluation, application and creation? Frustrating because children are retrieving information more quickly than we can process. We must move away from farming content towards processing it for consumption! Think about moving away from the industrial perspective into the informational.

I know.. it hurts..

It’s no longer excusable for anyone to say “Do it the way we did it! That’ll teach ya some gumption! And you’ll feel more satisfied if you worked hard for your answer!”

You see? As educators, given the exponential growth of student knowledge or more importantly their access to it, we should concern ourselves less with the speed of information gathering and more with its processing and application. Believe you, me – the role of the teacher is more important now than ever before. We will finally be teaching the most crucial skill in our arsenal – that skill of critical thinking.

If we do not pass this skill on we will inadvertently create a generation of placid learners and surely doom intellectual growth – or relegate it to the very few free thinkers. It’s a lot like watching a movie with your eyes closed… almost impossible to do because your brain is conditioned to depend on someone else’s visualization of a story… think about it.

Educators should look at the demise of personal traditions right in the eye and skim the best part of those traditions off the top.

It’s not enough to hunt for the information – the rules of the hunt have changed and more importantly, the prize has changed.  The hunt itself has lost its luster and the time spent on it should now be used to process, critique and apply information.

On Demand Learning: The ever growing need for guidance.

It’s not enough to have access to the multitudes of applications and learning objects available. Have you looked at what Apple’s App store has to offer in way of educational apps? Someone has figured out that there is a generation of parents out there that feel less guilty about giving their two year old child an iPhone to play with if they are learning something.. but this behaviour may only be a gesture as the fallacy of learning by accident may open a harsh reality in the future of these children’ s learning continuum.

It would be very difficult for me to argue that mobile devices and learning apps are misguided since I have my two young children using the iPad as often as they wish… but I do so with deep involvement.  If there is one thing that will never change it is this: Adult supervision and guidance in learning, play and socialization will always be an advantage. And if all else fails, there is always the teacher…

I chuckle when I learn that teachers may be intimidated by the onset of wonderful technlogocial tools fearing for the future of their profession. Funny enough that I see it to be quite the opposite.  I have observed close to three thousand students this year as they operate in a wireless environment, continue to be at their teachers’ desks asking for guidance and ideas. I have also observed my own toddlers struggle quietly with a ‘learning’ app and wondered if I or my wife were not present, just how far the iPhone would fly across the room.

The calculator didn’t change the way students learned – it changed how they solved problems – all new technology is meant to diversify problem solving and access information – not change learning – ever – it’s just not possible.  Think about the myriad of learning styles, environments and levels of access to income which link to access to technology, caring parents and guardians… technology cannot bridge those gaps… at  least not yet. The ever-dominant processor that is the human being simply cannot be replaced in the realm of education.  Although we are constantly asked to change, our role has been accepted as all-too-necessary and as the teaching population becomes more educated about technology, we poise ourselves to be the single most influential profession in the world. We will guide our students into realms not yet invented and corporate civilization as we know it will come to depend on what our students produce even more so…


Social Evolution

Make no mistake about it – socialization as we know it has already changed. Some say for the better and some say for the worse… so which is it? Youth are engaged more deeply in networking and sharing information than ever before through a medium that they are native to. Texting, blogging, video scrapbooking, tweeting and facebooking are all new ways to interact and though they may seem to be counterproductive – this is simply not the case.

With the rapid development of communication tools, society has yet to establish proper protocol for appropriate social practice using technology. Even though we stay connected like never before, we have neglected the rules of social engagement within the technological medium. Many of these pitfalls can be avoided by establishing and practicing rules and expectations.

Facebook and Twitter are certainly the most popular social media networks, but if not used moderately, they can become more of a hindrance than tools for communication. Twitter is an excellent tool which can be likened to a river flowing past. Trying to catch all of the water as it rushes by is futile – but dipping a cup into the river of information every once in a while, will allow you to partake in smaller, more digestible morsels of information.

Don’t assume that the answers to these questions are obvious:
1. Would you consider it rude to chat on your cell phone while checking out at the grocery store?
2. Is it appropriate to text a friend when you are at home eating dinner?
3. How much time should a family spend separated while in the same space?
4. When is it appropriate to text instead of calling?
5. Why do people text more than talk or vice versa?

Wikipedia – A Teacher’s Sworn Enemy

So I thought I’d mix it up and challenge everyone to do a little side research (20 minutes) about Wikipedia. The ever popular website slowly became the focus of some discussions surrounding surface surfing. One of the great comments made was that we are now able to find information fast – crucial when no depth is required. We will be discussing this during our meeting on Monday, but ever so briefly.

I am sure that all teachers have researched Wikipedia before, but I’m hoping that everyone might explore the following anyway:

Who runs Wikipedia?
Can anyone post to Wikipedia?
Who edits Wikipedia?
What are the editorial restrictions on Wikipedia?
What are the editorial flags on Wikipedia regarding erroneous information?

Oh… please don’t use Wikipedia to answer those questions…

From Dark to Light! Part I

‘Cautiously Optimistic’ – For years I ridiculed this ludicrous phrase contending that it really had no meaning in the world of authentic language and yet here I am reflecting… And using this nonsensical phrase to describe my own feelings..

About 6 months ago, TCDSB rolled out a program like none other of its kind to grade 7 teachers and their students across the city.  Each grade 7 teacher was to receive a new laptop and each cohort was to receive a mobile cart, projector, wireless networks and 10 netbooks.
This rollout effectively took the TCDSB from the dark ages of technology to the forefront of its integration into the classroom. Lucky enough to be a contributor to this rollout, I was privy to the throes of this project’s developments and challenges, slowly causing me to become… cautiously optimistic!

Stay tuned for more as I share the challenges and successes of this incredible project.

Educators & Technology – Universities had better catch up!

Pre-Service Training Needed for Integration of Technology

I find it incredibly interesting when ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) makes it a mandate of theirs to create and support preservice training teachers how to use technology in the classroom.

Make no mistake that we are living in a period of flux and incredible change! This change is occurring at an alarming pace and teachers find themselves caught in between traditional delivery of education and the ever-increasing demand to modernize its delivery.

Stay tuned for more!

Your door is closed, but your class is not yours… anymore.

Once upon a time, teachers felt that they could close their classroom doors and hunker down to business with their students.  And despite the ministry’s best efforts to standardize and in-service teachers to the hilt, few still manage to find some sort of intimate connection with their students.

The tendency to work alone in the teaching profession has weakened over the past few years, but I would risk to say only in the elementary panel.  Unfortunately our friends in secondary still abide by an industrial ideology that compartmentalizes learning to meet the curriculum needs.  Interesting that secondary is often over looked when it comes to adopting ideologies and methodoligies that reflect the times – I wonder why..

Never-the-less, teachers are faced with a different type of challenge – an intrusion – into their once private realms  – their classrooms.  Ask any one who knows a teacher or works out of a school and you will easily determine that teachers are among the most territorial human beings in the modern world.  One can only speculate that our tendency to over-protect comes from a perception of lack.

Asking an educator to change is much different than asking anyone else.  At this point in time, over 90% of the workforce is a product of the ‘stand and lecture’, school bell ringing, subject by subject, birth year by birth year school system.  (and I don’t have any statistics to back that up… just a hunch..) The problem is that educators never really leave that system – they go right back into it, which perpetuates the problem magnanimously – it fuels a broken system.

The first step for teachers to become familiar with change is to begin in the smallest of ways: Team teach.  Team teaching has existed for many years and many teachers have been successful at it.  For the rest of the teaching population to succeed, we must provide new ways of collaboration, without the fear of judgement, evaluation or assessment.  Start with one subject, one project and move on from there.  In this light, even secondary teachers from different disciplines can begin to teach cross-curricular material – quite easily actually!

Provide teachers with an open access, free for all opportunity to collaborate and teachers will take the first step into the wonderful world of professional networking.

Technology and the Flexible Teacher

What does the teacher of the 21st century really look like?

You’re lucky because I’m going to give you a perfect description of the educator today.

The idea behind the 21st century educator relies on one very important characteristic: adaptability. The on-going trends in technology and the changes in media have caused teachers across North America and in Europe to struggle to keep up, but the real idea behind it is not to struggle with mastery of each tool, but rather to develop a sense of adaptability and readiness to accept new tools.

The spells doom for those unfortunate teacher candidates that look at teaching as a fallback profession.  The industry is now demanding a character trait that does not come easy to someone who does not take the profession seriously. It shouldn’t be a news flash that our students are asking – demanding – new ideas around learning, collaborating, self-checking, publishing and most importantly – contributing to the learning environment.

As the profession evolves it will take itself from the decrepit stage of ‘stand and lecture’ to a period in which the profession will morph into a leader in the industry of change itself.  Only the versatile teacher will survive the trends of change dictated by technology and the speed of technology that affects our industry so effectively. This, therefore put the onus on pre-service programs within the universities and colleges to create a program or a curriculum that addresses that very need: to develop a teacher that is flexible, adaptable and versatile.  This is not a new breed of educator – just a refined one.

Is that you?

Sorry to tell you – change won’t occur without planning…

Commit to the Plan!

Educators attempting to build an effective lesson often subscribe to the belief that the three-part lesson is the key to a successful day. Although the research has not been compiled as to what makes a lesson successful when it comes to the integration of technology ,there is a practice that is commonly overlooked by most educators.

Whether a teacher is tenured or straight out of a pre-service program, there seems to be a common failure to plan for a successful lesson. Incredibly, the quintessential practice itself – planning – is more than often overlooked when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom in a sustainable wayI can personally guarantee that planning for the integration of technology is NOT taught in colleges, universities and most, if not all, AQ courses provided across the country.

The classical arguement upheld by many educators surrounding the effectiveness or lack thereof of technology is difficult to disprove when educators refuse to formally make it a part of their plans. In this context, it is impossible to amass critical data regarding the effectiveness of technology in education.  Don’t get me wrong here – we already know that there is an inherent need for technology, but until data begins to support the obvious, it is difficult to navigate the ocean liner that is education on the sea of progress.

We often tiptoe around the idea behind creating a plan because of the professional courtesy that our roles purvey. However , if change is to be sustained the plan is an integral part of that change, that progress and most importantly its sustainability.

All new endeavours usually require a blueprint so it is mind-boggling to fathom why changes in education would not require the same. The plan does not just act as a guideline for the lesson but also acts as a silent contract between the educator and his or her students, a commitment to the change that is needed now more than ever before.