iTalk about the pioneers of the Future

I'm not much of a person for “gadget-lust,” however I am holding on to my old cell phone to get one of these iTalk iPod/phone hybrids. (This is just a “concept” video that is not officially endorsed by Apple.) With all this talk about laptops, we cannot forget the power of something like this in the hands of our students. (It's portable and guess what, it “boots up” in seconds.)

With an iTalk phone imagine this.

Students can:

  • Take photos to post to their blog.
  • Record podcasts.
  • Record teacher lectures and listen to them later.
  • Record their thoughts before starting a writing project.
  • Listen to podcasts they've subscribed to over iTunes.
  • Download public domain books to listen to.
  • Watch videos from their classmates about educational topics.
  • E-mail reminders from their teacher.
  • Access test calendars.
  • Text reminders of the work for the day.

Some of you would say, “Awww, that's supposed to be a fun gadget and you're using it for work.” Yes, it is a fun gadget and if you look at the specifications, it has more computing power than the TRS-80 I learned Basic on in the 70's.

Stop Fighting it, start using it. And if you don't believe me, read Time Magazine this week!

Defining LD in a new age

Folks, it is time to wake up. Our learning Lab teacher, pioneer Grace Adkins, has always told me that learning disabilities are defined by the present day. In the age of Socrates, the auditory learners were considered “bright.” Who knows, they could have all been dyslexic. They listened to and memorized their textbooks. (I and two of my children have problems with remembering things given to us auditorily and if we do not take notes, we literally do not remember. We would have been the dullards in the age of Socrates, however in the present age, we are considered “gifted” because we read and write effectively.)

Now, the brightest student of Socrates could flunk out because they were illiterate!

Today, the students who read and write effectively (like me) are rewarded while those who absorb information via video and podcast and have effective oral expression skills may not as rewarded. Isn't this the whole point of differentiated instruction (and assessment.?) Perhaps teachers have such a hard time with differentiated instruction because we are too homogeneous in our own learning styles?

In twenty years, perhaps the whole learning landscape will change.

Perhaps students who cannot perceive and remember via video will be vidolexic and we will have programs to help them learn from video. (Instead of “Johnny can't read and write” it will be “Why Johnny can't watch and speak.”)

I hope not! I hope that in the next twenty years by the time my daughter is teaching, that we can begin to focus on what students honestly learn, no matter the conduit/delivery mechanism of the day. Learning is a process that happens within a student, not to a student. This is not a clay pot we are shaping and firing into place, it is a process and one that must continue for a lifetime.

It is time to bring all of our students into the classroom and into a richer, more exciting learning environment.

It is time for educators to wake up and have a morning cup of wake up to modern society-juice.

I know its tough, but we do it because we want to be known as the generation of teachers that changed even when it was tough. It was tough for pioneers to go out West but they did because of their pioneering spirit and the hope of opportunity and profit. We must do the same.

After losing many of their kind to Indians and wild animals, the pioneers began to travel in wagon trains. They learned of the power of encouragement on dark roads and safety in numbers.

Yesterday, as we were chatting in the Wow2 edtechtalk, someone asked if it should be top-down or bottom-up for Web 2.0. I said it should be ME-out. The only person I can change is ME! I must reform. Web 2.0 is about social interactions and the way that web 2.0 spreads from one person to another is like the flu — from one person to another. If you are a newcomer, great, learn and share! Don't learn and sit on it!

And don't make excuses and say, “Well, that's fine for Vicki, everything is peachy for her.” Well let me tell you its not! I am a real teacher and those who push the envelope are misunderstood and criticized by many who fear change. That is life and nothing is more real than a classroom! I have never had enough money (why do you think I like things to be free) and never had enough time (I fix 100 computers and teach 5 classes and am involved in lots of outside activities), and never had enough encouragement (I stick to my “circle” of trust and take the pundits' thoughts with a grain of salt.) I know these tools work because of the improvement in my classroom and student performance. It is anecdotal evidence, yes, but it is real. The energy and excitement in my classroom is alive! It is a great, albeit tiring, place to be!

So, hitch up the wagons, let's go. A new day is ahead for education. And the students that prosper will be those who are getting the right kind of education now. The best educators will not be known by the test at the end of the year, but in twenty years when those who are successful call their names.

Remember your noble calling, teacher! It is not an easy job, but it is the greatest job in which the very future of mankind resides.

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3 thoughts on “iTalk about the pioneers of the Future

  1. As far as cell phones are concerned the future is already here. I have students doing most of the things you wrote in your list already. The latest generation of phones has video and audio recording capability plus mp3 players built in.

    This means, at least for second language teachers, a language lab that you can carry around with you in your pocket.

    Plus, it gives them the chance to take photos and video which can be put o their blogs.

  2. I want to pick up on your point about the relative nature of concepts such as giftedness and disability. This is a theme that interests me. I have posted on a related topic myself before: http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/2006/09/changing-face-of-literacy.html and http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/2006/09/more-on-changing-face-of-literacy.html

    A person’s level of literacy, intelligence, giftedness or disablity will always relate to the tenets of the age and culture in which that person lives.

    It’s not only about eras in history, though – it could also be about location. For example, my spelling is pretty good, but in North America, my work would be considered to be full of spelling errors: a whole bunch of U’s where they don’t belong, double letters in past and present continuous tenses, aluminium with the extra i… Then there would also be the idiomatic errors: I say I couldn’t care less while Americans say they could (I don’t understand that one!).

    Maybe there are people in China who are considered to be poor at whatever the equivalent is for spelling, who would have been gifted, had they only been born into a society with (by comparison) a mere handful of easily “drawn” characters from which to create all words. Or vice versa.

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder what other factors of one’s context might have bearing, and whether any of them might be reversible. And to what extent would it be appropriate to reverse them without pushing the envelope on ethical behaviour?

  3. This has been a hot topic lately within the educational podcasting community, http://www.techpodzone.com . Do we embrace the technology or do we forbid it. Education must get out of the island mentality. We must continue to embrace technology and be one of the first institues in our childrens lives to plant the seed of proper and fair use of technology. We seem to do it in everyother aspect of their lives. We do not allow our students to learn to drive a car from their peers do we, nor do we ban all students and employees from driving to school.
    I had an experience just this week with our administration over this very issue. We were in a kick off meeting for an Internet safety program. The discussion turned to cell phones very quickly. I then gave my typical pro tech speech and was quickly admonished for my views about cell phone use. “They just cause too much disruption.” I then asked “Well has anyone bothered to teach them about educational uses for their phone? No we have just out right banned it.” You should have seen the eyes roll. My superintendent then said, “I wish you weren’t so cutting edge!” I took that as a compliment, but now see that I have my work cut out for me!

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