Week 2 post

For centuries, education was “done” pretty much the same way it has been done in the past. But, in the 21st century, with the outbreak of technology and its availability to the masses, learning and education is now being rethought, redesigned.

 I agree wholeheartedly with the statement in Learning in the 21st century that students are woefully unprepared in facing the challenges of the job market when they leave school. So, I’m really glad to hear that the Partnership for 21st century skills is working towards bridge that gap.

 As I went through the list of six key elements of 21st century learning, I particularly appreciated the emphasis on instilling learning skills in students. Knowledge that is now available to students is exploding that it might not always be possible for educators to actually teach them everything they need to know. But, ensuring that students know how to learn on their own ensures that they can keep up with the latest.       

I also love #4—teach and learn in a 21st century context. Although this seems like a no-brainer, right now, it seems liked educators need to play catch-up in the instructional methods and strategies they are using. If your students prefer using e-readers to books, or using the internet, instead of objecting to it, ensure they do it right.

I hadn’t quite realized that all these changes in how learning is done means that measuring students’ skills also needs to change. 

In Part 1—The need for Change, the authors highlight the importance of lifelong skills development. As I was re-doing my resume recently, I just realized something. In each of the past 4 jobs (spanning over 61/2 years), I’ve used a different software to get the same kind of job done. No wonder my head hurts sometimes.

So far, I agreed with most things in the report. But, I must admit I’m a little disappointed to read that standardized tests are here to stay (even though they may look very different from previous avatars). But, it’s a relief that more study is being done to evaluate their effectiveness.

From the report, the most encouraging bit of news is that going forward, education is going to be a collaborative effort that includes partners from outside the field of education.

Onto the three E’s of education article–the section on mobile learning trends piqued my interest. I can see why teachers might  think of handheld-devices as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, students are more engaged, and can benefit from personalized learning. On the other hand, these gadgets can be used to cheat on tests.

Hmm, so BYOT bombed? Can’t say I’m surprised. After all there’s no way the teacher would be well-versed in every device available out there. But, I can’t help wonder whether this program could have been saved with a few modifications. How about using it for self-learning segment of the course? And, just show the instructor the final product—don’t involve him or her in the process at all.

 Ok, I end with a question. Why is the extension of the learning day a benefit of learning using digital content? If we are being more effective in our learning, shouldn’t we also focus on efficiency and speed? Just saying.


Week 4 post

Last year, on a plane ride from San Jose to Raleigh-Durham, NC, I noticed a young medical student medical putting her time on the plane to very good use. She was glued to her Ipad, trying to memorize the names of all the muscles in the human body. I don’t know what application she was using, but it was really neat to see her touch on different parts of the image of a human body, and then pick the right name for the muscle from a list of choices given. Now, that is knowledge at your fingertips.

I began this week’s reading with McCarthy’s article. And, the first thing that struck me as interesting was his comment that digital books, unlike digital music, forces people to interact with the content differently, thereby making it a more complicated process. I hadn’t quite thought along those lines till now. So, I decided to spend some “quality time” with my Kindle to make a conscious note of the differences between reading an e-book and a regular one.

Right off the bat, I realized that when I sit down with my Kindle, I’m no longer sitting down with just one book! I am instead sitting down with my entire e-library! So, now I can leap from fiction to non-fiction, or from magazines to newspapers. Also, once inside a book, the TOC is no longer at the beginning, and neither is the Index at the back. You can pull it up anytime you like no matter which page you are on. I also have an instant dictionary/thesaurus at my disposal. And, if I wanted more in-depth information on a topic, I can simply jump to another e-book, and find more there.

So far, so good. But, McCarthy points out college students love dog-earing their textbooks, highlighting what’s relevant, and adding notes. Guess what! You can do that on your e-readers too (not on all e-readers perhaps, but the more recent ones do have these features). Granted it’s not exactly the same, but serves the same purpose quite well. So, I can’t say I agree with McCarthy’s opinion that e-readers don’t serve students quite as well as they ought to. Am I missing something?

Having said that, I do agree with McCarthy that the e-books (not just the textbooks) available right now lack fizz, and are flat. Perhaps with further advances in technology, the day will soon come when e-books are richer in interactive capabilities.

And, that’s one of the main points in the article, “Digital Texts and the Future of Education: Why Books?” The study conducted on students who used Statistics1 indicates that the users preferred this application to learn statistics because it provided them with a new learning experience. And it’s nice to know that the students appreciated the pedagogical designing that went into building the app.

While richer interactivity is one advantage, I think that lower costs of e-books is another attracting factor, especially students with tuition to pay. I was shocked to read in “A Campus-Wide E-textbook Initiative” that many students don’t even buy textbooks because it’s so expensive.

I was also surprised by some of the findings from the feasibility study conducted at Northwest U. Why are e-readers attention getters, but not attention keepers (Phase 1 result)? And, in Phase 2, even with the better e-reading options, students claim to have read more when using old-fashioned textbooks.

I agree with the authors of this article though that it will take time to switch students over to e-reading. And, it’s heartening to see the huge technological strides in this field. Imagine every person having access to every book, journal, or article ever written in their hands!