Random Thoughts

My 25% PD- Prensky Podcast

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My 25% PD came in the form of an hour bus ride this morning. There was enough thought provoking information in that 1 hour, I feel, to be considered my 25% PD for the week.

I’m really starting to love this hour bus ride I have in the morning. Of course I’m not driving which makes all the difference, and I’m finally getting a system down for loading podcasts on my Palm T5. So yesterday I read Will’s post Engaging Teachers, and then went to Ewan’s site to get the link to the Marc Prensky podcast (There’s connectivism for ya!). So this morning I was excited to jump on the bus sit back and listen. Listen I did, but the sitting back part lasted about 2 minutes as I found myself quickly scrambling for a piece of paper to take notes on.

A Flat World: This hit me about 5 minutes into the podcast. Here I sit on a bus in Shanghai listening to a presentation that I would have never had the opportunity to listen to with such ease just 5 years ago. On top of that we talk about how information is becoming free, but in this case it’s actually saving me money. If I were to fly to Shropshire to actually attend Prensky’s presentation the flight alone would have cost me about $1,000. That doesn’t include hotel, food, etc. So I’m sure it’s about $2,000 by the time everything is said and done. Instead, I’ll spend that $2,000 while in South Africa this summer and still get the information. I thank Marc and the Shropshire County Council for saving me $2,000 and allowing me to listen in on the presentation.

“If people want to learn, they will find a way.”
Prensky says this at one point at the beginning of the podcast and makes reference to China. He is absolutely correct. I’m telling you, if you want to test out just how strong your firewall and proxy servers are, have an exchange student from China join your school. I have learned way more than I ever wanted to know about ways to get around a proxy or firewall. China is doing all it can to filter the information, but if you want to learn something or really want to go to this or that site, there’s a way to do it. If we engage our students in the learning process, make learning meaningful for them, they’ll learn it. It’s that “If you build it, they will come” attitude. If you put in place the educational structures for students to be engaged in learning, to have fun and for the learning to be relevant to their lives, than education takes on a whole new meaning.

Immigrants vs. Natives:
I know that most people feel this analogy is over done, and it probably is. But it still hits home with me. I wonder if that’s because I’ve been an immigrant and can relate to what Prensky is talking about. Have you ever been an immigrant? I was an immigrant to Saudi Arabia and now to China, and so maybe I have a different take on the message. When Prensky talks about ‘having an accent’ and that we carry that accent with us I understand what he’s talking about. I’m sure that others who have immigrated do as well. For me I think of it as taking a piece of the homeland with you. My favorite one lately is, “E-books are OK, but they’ll never replace a paper book.” That’s an immigrant that can’t let go of the homeland and has an accent. They’ve tried the new way, but it just can’t beat what they know. When you are immigrating to a new country, your home country all of a sudden doesn’t seem so bad. I only remember the good things about living in American and now in Saudi Arabia. Yesterday when it was raining my wife and I said on a number of occasions “I sure miss Saudi!” something we never thought we would say. We talk about customer service and how back in America the customer service is ‘wonderfu’ ‘awesome’ ‘customer’s always right’ etc. But we forget the three months it took just to get our cell phone bill’s address changed.

Not only do you have an accent the old way becomes better over time.

Will e-books ever replace paper books for immigrants? Not for those who have an accent in paper books. For them the hard to read, always looking for the right light, loosing your page number paper book is the only proper way to read a book. Immigrants have accents in different areas. We don’t all harp on the same thing. Some still print off e-mails, others will never use SMS, and Wikipedia will always be an unedited unreliable source. So maybe it’s because I live as an immigrant every day. The difference in language, in communication, and in knowing your way around, or your lack of it that leaves you with an accent whether it be technology or another country.

Prensky, with a couple slides, tells teachers not to waste time mastering new technology tools. That change is too rapid and by the time we learn how to use the tool and then how to implement the tool, the tool will be out of use. Instead allow the students to learn and use the tools. Something I’ve been thinking about is focusing on short term content. With content changing at such a rapid pace, should we not be teaching students how to find the information they need, use it, and then forget it? Isn’t this what we do in real life? A perfect example is my trip to South Africa this summer. Right now I can give you the best web site for finding flights, the different routes to and from Cape Town and who has the best rental car rates. But ask me in 3 months, I probably won’t be able to remember. That information is only relevant to me at this point in time. Another example: The 5th graders are deep into a Million Dollar Project created by the 5th grade team. These kids have to spend 1 million dollar with the only stipulation that they have to “do good” so we’re saving the tiger in India, building orphanages in China and bringing medicine to children in Zimbabwe. But after this project is over in two weeks what will they remember? They learned everything they needed to know about starving people in Zimbabwe, what they need, and how to help them. But when the project is over will they need that content? Or better yet, will they remember that content 1 year from now? Probably not, but will they remember the skills they learned about Excel and PowerPoint; how to create a graph and use multiple worksheets and how to put together a presentation that you don’t read slide by slide? Those are the skills they will walk away with. The content is just the vehicle to learn the skills. I’m not saying that content is not important, just less important than the skills learned. When this project is said and done the presenter might remember something about Zimbabwe, but there’s a pretty good chance the audience won’t.

We need to engage students in the learning process. Every good teacher knows that, but what we fail to do is engage them using their tools, their skills, and their knowledge. Instead we take our immigrant accent and how we believe things should be, and force it on the natives…I’d make an analogy here, but I’ll leave politics out of this. 😉

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.

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