Change Agent of the Day: Gary Stager on Seymour Papert

Happy hump day, change agents!

Wednesday is the hump in the work week, the day when we start looking toward the weekend ahead and to consider what we can reasonably accomplish with the rest of our work week given where we stand at midweek and what we expect of ourselves – and others expect of us – on both the work and family fronts.

Assessing where we currently stand on the hypothetical “change scale” is the subject of today’s brief post.

In highlighting “What’s Transforming Teaching and Learning Today,” as I strive to do in this virtual space as regularly as possible, I have neglected to mention the efforts of one particularly important and often overlooked change agent who has a lot to say about where we currently stand: Dr. Seymour Papert.

Much earlier than most, Papert embraced epistemological pluralism and the empathetic notion that computers can empower each individual learner to find ways best suited to him/herself to learn new skills and material.

As Papert predicted, though, the traditional unidirectional teaching paradigm – lecture based, paper-wasting, and privileging primarily those with the courage to raise their hands for their all-knowing teacher – is alive and well in our schools. What exists in schools today is primarily sporadic and idiosyncratic technology integration more geared toward Substitution and Augmentation rather than actual Modification or Redefinition on Ruben Puentadura’s SAMR model.

In his TEDx talk entitled “Seymour Papert: Inventor of Everything,” Gary Stager offers a wonderful overview of Papert’s thoughts and body of work, and contemplates “the backlash against modernity and the things that are in the best interests of kids.” Stager defines constructionism, addresses the connections between the thoughts of Papert and John Dewey, and offers case studies of this “backlash against modernity.”

On hump day, I celebrate Gary Stager for highlighting Papert’s important contributions to the change movement. It leaves me with the feeling that I have much to accomplish before taking a weekend rest. Seymour Papert: Inventor of Everything

Makerspaces: Repurposing School and Community Spaces for Creation and Collaboration

Makerspaces are on the move, in schools and communities, both nationally and internationally, K-12 and beyond.

Our love for creation and collaboration through technology are at the core of the makerspace movement.

In some schools, storage closets and wings of libraries and other underutilized spaces are being repurposed as makerspaces to support 21st Century skills.

They are hands-on environments where students can gather to work on engineering or media projects. Beyond schools, they can be found in community centers and public libraries. There is even a small chain of commercial makerspaces. The “newish” crowdfunding phenomenon is making some of this possible.

With 3D printers becoming more affordable, students carrying their own (video)cameras in their pockets, and hands-on, project-based learning fully in vogue, the possibilities for maker spaces are practically limitless.

Davidson Logo

The best way to begin envisioning your own makerspace is to take a look at what others are already doing, and the best resource I have found thus far on the subject is available at http://makerspace.com/makerspace-directory.

Beyond the relatively straightforward question of whether a suitable physical space is available on your campus for a makerspace, the more difficult question arises of what kind of creation you hope to inspire in your makerspace. That, in turn, will determine the tools you will need in your makerspace.

Take a look at what Davidson College is doing with their maker space by clicking HERE.

BYOD: Vision, Rationale, Rollout

The work world is increasingly moving toward Bring Your Own Device models. Success in college and life beyond will be determined to no small degree by a student’s ability to adapt to different (technology infused) environments, and to use the technology in his/her hands to efficiently collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically and analytically. Schools are increasingly moving in this direction, as well. Here are some reasons why BYOD makes sense, and the steps and considerations schools should consider as they contemplate a move in the BYOD direction.

QR Code Adventures on the Small Screen

20140120-130742.jpgToday’s post expands on my previous link to Joe Dale’s thorough and thoughtful look at the trend toward QR Codes in the classroom.

QR codes are particularly relevant to those of us fortunate enough to work in 1:1 tablet teaching and learning environments. If you are among those, please proceed! If you prefer to go directly to my Explain Everything/YouTube video rather than to read, please simply scroll to the bottom of this post.

First, you don’t need a projector to make the most of this approach to active learning environments and potential differentiation. You can print your QR codes and supply each “pod” or group with its own QR code printout. Those codes could link to the same or different sites/activities, and they could link to some Google Forms for statistical sampling or self evaluation purposes. With regard to the latter, among the QR codes that live in a folder on my desktop are those that link to Google Forms allowing students to reflect on their class performance or to view samples of stellar student work from weeks or even years past. Responses on Google Forms are automatically compiled in tidy spreadsheets. This is a huge time saver!

If you’re like me and try to save yourself those trips to the copy machine (not to mention help save the planet through reduced paper use), then you will likely want to embed your QR codes into a Powerpoint or Keynote file. Kids can either get out of their seats and scan, or scan from practically wherever they are seated.

If you use DropBox to deliver assignments to your students, you can get the URL to that file simply enough. Click on a file in DropBox and the link to the right of that file. Click “Get Link” and, presto, you have the URL copied to your clipboard.

Next, head to any Web-based QR code generator if you’re on your laptop, or simply use your QR code reader on your iPad to generate a code. I use http://www.qrstuff.com/

Download the QR code generated, project, and you have just taken a small but significant step toward paperless, active teaching and learning environments. 

A Plea for a (paper.li) Holiday Gift!

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With the holidays already upon us this will likely be my final post of 2013. I hope that each of you who has visited my new blog this year has a safe and fun-filled holiday season!

Today’s post focuses on paper.li and also serves as a call for your support in building an invaluable online resource for those who share my passion for a profound paradigm shift in education. Consider it your holiday gift to me!

Paper.li – which describes itself on its Twitter page as “The curation platform that enables you to turn Twitter, Facebook & RSS into online papers and treat readers to fresh news, daily” – has considerable potential to enrich professional development and to facilitate dialogue in teaching and learning, as well as to help our students stay abreast of the very latest developments in whatever they may be researching for their senior project (K-12) or thesis (undergraduate/graduate student).

Based on your own source selections, paper.li pulls online content tailored to your specific interests and passions into a nice-looking cyber journal. You simply curate through your source selections, which you can edit at any time as you discover new and better sources.

At my school, where senior project serves as the culminating experience of each student’s high school education, this could really be a research game changer, provided plenty of guidance is supplied from project mentors on the subject of evaluation of Internet resources. It could put our students in touch with real leaders within their respective fields of study, with those who update us daily on new and exciting developments via social media channels.

In the past, I have developed a paper.li cyber journal for the school I currently serve that targets the passions of our particular student population. It gets regular retweets from a few devoted followers.

Last night, I spent considerable time putting together a new paper.li cyber journal geared toward my fellow educational technology enthusiasts, which I have called Educational Technology Today.

One of the stumbling blocks I encountered was the 25-source limit on paper.li. There are simply so many sources out there commenting regularly via social media on developments in the field of educational technology, which is both wonderful and challenging to the curator.

So, please consider giving me a holiday gift this year in the form of your curation suggestions. What Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds would you include among your sources? Feel free to email me at npjobe@gmail.com.

Happy holidays, all!