If you are looking for professional development and content focused around the Common Core, then check out ASCD’s (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development) courses and other resources via iTunes U. Courses cover a variety of content for Grades K-12 and are entirely free for teachers and other educators.
My good friend and former Professor, Bernie Frischer, Ph.D., just announced a game that resulted from his collaboration: Rome 320AD. You can see Bernie giving a brief overview of 4th century Rome in this Kahn Academy Video.
The app follows the lives of four Romans as they travel through the city on a summer day in 320 CE. You can explore 3D, interactive models of the city in high resolution and detail.
One of the most thought-provoking online tech journals, Hybrid Pedagogy, published this article today. It is incredibly thought provoking and articulate. I hope you will read it and comment on the article. It is reproduced here in its entirety in conjunction with their Creative Commons Licensing. If you enjoy the article, I recommend that you subscribe to their free journal.
On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the first of three articles that inspired that talk.
“There is no such thing as a neutral educational process.” ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
“Pedagogy is not ideologically neutral.” This line has been for me almost a mantra over the last several years. I’ve said variations of it on Twitter, on the About Us page of Hybrid Pedagogy, on the site for theHybrid Pedagogy Inc. non-profit, and in our recent CFP focused on Critical Digital Pedagogy. I’ve circled around this phrase, because I feel increasingly certain that the word “pedagogy” has been misread — that the project of education has been misdirected — that educators and students alike have found themselves more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community, outcomes over epiphanies. Education (and, to an even greater extent, edtech) has misrepresented itself as objective, quantifiable, apolitical.
Higher education teaching is particularly uncritical and under-theorized. Most college educators (at both traditional and non-traditional institutions) do little direct pedagogical work to prepare themselves as teachers. A commitment to teaching often goes unrewarded, and pedagogical writing (in most fields) is not counted as “research.”
The entire enterprise of education is too often engaged in teaching that is not pedagogical. There are a whole host of other words I’d use to describe this work: instruction, classroom management, training, outcomes-driven, standards-based, content delivery. Pedagogy, on the other hand, starts with learning as its center, not students or teachers, and the work of pedagogues is necessarily political, subjective, and humane.
What is Critical Pedagogy?
Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:
- Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
- Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
- Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
- Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
- Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.
Each of these registers distinguishes Critical Pedagogy from pedagogy; however, the current educational climate has made the terms, for me, increasingly coterminous (i.e. an ethical pedagogy must be a critical one). Pedagogy is praxis, insistently perched at the intersection between the philosophy and the practice of teaching. When teachers talk about teaching, we are not necessarily doing pedagogical work, and not every teaching method constitutes a pedagogy. Rather, pedagogy necessarily involves recursive, second-order, meta-level work. Teachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning. Critical Pedagogy suggests a specific kind of anti-capitalist, liberatory praxis. This is deeply personal and political work, through which pedagogues cannot and do not remain objective. Rather, pedagogy, and particularly Critical Pedagogy, is work to which we must bring our full selves, and work to which every learner must come with full agency.
In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire argues against the banking model, in which education “becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” This model emphasizes a one-sided transactional relationship, in which teachers are seen as content experts and students are positioned as sub-human receptacles. The use here of “sub-human” is intentional and not exaggeration; for in the tenets set out in Freire’s work (and the work of other Critical Pedagogues, including bell hooks and Henry Giroux), the banking model of education is part and parcel with efforts most clearly summed up in the term dehumanization. The banking model of education is efficient in that it maintains order and is bureaucratically neat and tidy. But efficiency, when it comes to teaching and learning, is not worth valorizing. Schools are not factories, nor are learning or learners products of the mill.
I immediately become deeply skeptical when I hear the word “content” in a discussion about education, particularly when it is accompanied by the word “packaged.” It is not that education is without content altogether, but that its content is co-constructed as part of and not in advance of the learning.
Critical Pedagogy is concerned less with knowing and more with a voracious not-knowing. It is an on-going and recursive process of discovery. For Freire, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Here, the language echoes the sort of learning Freire describes. With a flurry of adjectives and clauses separated by commas, his sentence circles around its subject, wandering, pushing restlessly at the edges of how words make meaning — not directly through literal translation into concepts, but in the way words rub curiously against one another, making meaning through a kind of friction. Knowledge emerges in the interplay between multiple people in conversation — brushing against one another in a mutual and charged exchange or dialogue. Freire writes, “Authentic education is not carried on by ‘A’ for ‘B’ or by ‘A’ about ‘B,’ but rather by ‘A’ with ‘B’.” It is through this impatient dialogue, and the implicit collaboration within it, that Critical Pedagogy finds its impetus toward change.
In place of the banking model, Freire advocates for “problem-posing education,” in which a classroom or learning environment becomes a space for asking questions — a space of cognition not information. Vertical (or hierarchical) relationships give way to more playful ones, in which students and teachers co-author together the parameters for their individual and collective learning. Problem-posing education offers a space of mutual creation not consumption. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” This is a lively and intimate space of creativity and inquiry — a space of listening as much as speaking.
What is Critical Digital Pedagogy?
My work has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space. Can the necessary reflective dialogue flourish within web-based tools, within social media platforms, within learning management systems, within MOOCs? What is digital agency? To what extent can social media function as a space of democratic participation? How can we build platforms that support learning across age, race, culture, ability, geography? What are the specific affordances and limitations of technology toward these ends? If, indeed, all learning is necessarily hybrid, as I’ve argued, to what extent are Critical Pedagogy and digital pedagogy becoming also coterminous?
The wondering at these questions is, in fact, not particularly new. In his forward to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Richard Shaull writes, “Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system […] The paradox is that the same technology that does this to us also creates a new sensitivity to what is happening.” And, John Dewey writes in Schools of To-Morrow, published decades earlier, “Unless the mass of workers are to be blind cogs and pinions in the apparatus they employ, they must have some understanding of the physical and social facts behind and ahead of the material and appliances with which they are dealing”. If we are to keep every educative endeavor from becoming mill-work — from becoming only a reflection of oppressive labor practices and uneven power relationships — we must engage deeply with its reality.
Increasingly, the web is a space of politics, a social space, a professional space, a space of community. And, for better or worse, more and more of our learning is happening there. For many of us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between our real selves and our virtual selves, and in fact, these distinctions are being altogether unsettled. In “The New Learning is Ancient”, Kathi Inman Berens writes, “It doesn’t matter to me if my classroom is a little rectangle in a building or a little rectangle above my keyboard. Doors are rectangles; rectangles are portals. We walk through.” When we learn online, our feet are usually still quite literally on ground. When we interact with a group of students via streaming video, the interaction is nevertheless face-to-face. The web is asking us to reimagine how we think about space, how and where we engage, and upon which platforms the bulk of our learning happens.
In Small Pieces Loosely Joined: a Unified Theory of the Web, David Weinberger writes, “We are the true ‘small pieces’ of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.” Ten years ago, following the publication of Weinberger’s book, I wouldn’t have imagined the learning networks I have now built with colleagues working together (sometimes simultaneously in real time) in places as seemingly remote as Portland, Madison, Manchester, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Cairo, and Hong Kong.
This is not to say, however, that there aren’t challenges to this sort of work. In On Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux argues,
Intellectuals have a responsibility to analyze how language, information, and meaning work to organize, legitimate, and circulate values, structure reality, and offer up particular notions of agency and identity. For public intellectuals, the latter challenge demands a new kind of literacy and critical understanding with respect to the emergence of the new media and electronic technologies, and the new and powerful role they play as instruments of public pedagogy.
Most digital technology, like social media or collaborative writing platforms or MOOCs, does not have its values coded into it in advance. These are tools merely, good only insofar as they are used. And platforms that do dictate too strongly how we might use them, or ones that remove our agency by too covertly reducing us and our work to commodified data, should be rooted out by a Critical Digital Pedagogy. Far too much work in educational technology starts with tools, when what we need to start with is humans.
We are better users of technology when we are thinking critically about the nature and effects of that technology. What we must do is work to encourage students and ourselves to think critically about new tools (and, more importantly, the tools we already use). And when we’re looking for solutions, what we most need to change is our thinking and not our tools.
In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:
- centers its practice on community and collaboration;
- must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
- will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
- must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.
A Critical Digital Pedagogy demands that open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full agents of their own learning.
Pete Rorabaugh writes in “Occupy the Digital: Critical Pedagogy and New Media”:
Critical Pedagogy, no matter how we define it, has a central place in the discussion of how learning is changing in the 21st century because Critical Pedagogy is primarily concerned with an equitable distribution of power. If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates them through a screen, they require an education that empowers them in that sphere, teaches them that language, and offers new opportunities of human connectivity.
Critical Pedagogy is as much a political approach as it is an educative one. As Sean Michael Morris writes, it is “a social justice movement first, and an educational movement second.”
So, Critical Digital Pedagogy must also be a method of resistance and humanization. It is not simply work done in the mind, on paper, or on screen. It is work that must be done on the ground. It is not ashamed of its rallying cry or its soapbox. Critical Digital Pedagogy eats aphorisms — like this one right here — for breakfast. But it is not afraid to incite, to post its manifestos, to light its torches.
My last session of the day is “Social Media is Learning Media” by Patrick Larkin. I have seen Patrick’s work at iPad Summits for years and I’m excited to see him present again. I’m always excited to see administrators talk about Social Media in a positive, empowering way.
Patrick talks about the power of Social Media in his own career. When he was building technology programs at Burlington High School, there were not a lot of people doing similar work in Massachusetts or even the Northeast. Using Social Media enabled him to connect with other educators around the world. Education can be a lonely and isolating job; we spend most of our time with children and adolescents. Social Media can enable us to expand our experiences outside of the classroom, schools, and districts.
Patrick begins by citing Will Richardson’s article, “My Kids are Illiterate. Most Likely, Yours are Too.” What he was talking about was the fact that kids these days are not able to use media in a meaningful way, to curate, asses, and analyze online content. For example, have you fallen for one of those online hoaxes, like “Modern Family Cancelled!” If you had basic digital literacy, you could have quickly assessed whether or not the source was valid (The Onion generally is not).
Patrick then explains his own journey with Twitter. He got online because he was told to check it out at a conference, but didn’t quite get it. However, when it they announced that the President was going to give a “big announcement”, he did a quick twitter search and learned before it went live that the announcement would be the death of bin Laden. You must know and understand how to assess a reputable source. People get duped all of the time. So we need to teach our kids how to assess online content.
As a principal at Burlington High School, Patrick focused on the school’s mission which included educating students to be good citizens. He then argued that students need to be good digital citizens as well.
As Patrick grew as an educator and administrator, he also learned the power of blogging. By posting blog articles about various tools and policies, others would reach out to him. When he first became a Principal, they had a no cell phone policy in the school. Teachers, however, were frustrated that students couldn’t use smartphones to do quick google searches or to look up content. So they changed their policy!
He then was able to guest post for Richard Byrnes on FreeTech4TEachers. As their programs expanded, he was able to host a respectful communication and commentary online via his Principal’s blog! He said that it also empowered them to celebrate their successes. With these web tools, you can put out good news every day, from classrooms to teachers to district wide!
In addition to posting a blog, learn to follow various blogs. I appreciate the shout out to mine Patrick! Using an RSS reader, you can set up your consumption tools. You can also tweet out content. Feedly is a great service for doing this.
Students can use these tools in powerful ways. “It’s amazing what students can do when we just step back a little!” What a powerful statement. We all went to “traditional” schools and classrooms, so backing off and allowing social learning to proceed can freak us out. Patrick notes that we can’t go without good educators, but that empowering students coupled with skilled educators.
Patrick also discusses with us how he created a Social Media PD day with his faculty. He sat them down over an hour, had them set up a twitter account, established a hashtag, and engaged in a twitter chat for an hour. That is just awesome! Patrick is a strong Twitter advocate. He tells us that you can find out anything you want on twitter. Check out the hashtag #edchat.
Social Media also makes us think about what learning environments look like. We can now take things out of the classroom. If a student is out of school for illness, they can Facetime with their partners and complete the assignment. students can physically leave a classroom and learn as a group in other environment.
Using tools like Google Drive, they were able to encompass more dynamic methods of teacher evaluations. Using 8 topics (listed above in his source tools), teachers could share their own examples of meeting those standards. Using a google form to assess walk-throughs.
Another great tool for administrative meeting is using Google Hangouts. I love Hangouts, they’re a great way to engage with users who are (physically) all over. They are now under the GAFE umbrella, which means you can use them with students. You can also check out unhangouts from MIT.
Patrick also highlights that we need to celebrate those who are willing to try and fail.
‘it’s no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it.” – Chris Lehmann. I also love Kevin Honeycutt’s “Stop being secret geniuses!” You need to share and engage with others. Participate in EdCamps, build your online presence, engage with others professionals.
Social Media often has a negative backlash. However, Patrick is quick to note that the issue is the person, not the tool. Bad people with bad intentions are going to use whatever tools available to them. Tools does not turn good people into monsters.
I’m excited to attend this next session “Metamorphosis of the Biology Textbook” with Morgan Ryan and Gaël McGill, Ph.D., co-creators of E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth, a new textbook created via iBooks Author and available on the iBooks bookstore (free).
The vision of the project was to create a series of vibrant textbooks in a new, media platform. The textbook is a standard Biology textbook, 41 chapters across 7 volumes. They wanted it to be standards based and familiar, but at the same time different than what people have seen before. Morgan tells us that what is great about an e-Textbook is that it allows the author to regularly update their content. Instead of printing a new volume, you can input new material.
In addition to the textbook, they also have included an iTunes U course in conjunction with the text. They can even gamify the course with badges. Very cool!
The Power of Scientific Visualization
Visualizing content is powerful in a teaching medium. It should not just be used to engage students, but strategically to impact learning. Gaël is now demonstrating for us several elements of the book. He says that it incorporates pedagogy, science, art, and design. Using iBooks Author, you can incorporate elegant design into building a textbook. With an eBook format, students are welcomed into the book with a short video. It’s simple, yet elegant. Just looking at the book, it is beautifully designed. The structure, colors, and layout are really striking. Gaël points out that the widgets in iBook author can be very basic or advanced and incorporate coding language.
Gaël says that he wants to empower students to consume data at their own pace. This can empower learners as they explore data and information. He says that in the book, they shifted the control of navigating the data to the students, not the textbook or even the teacher. I love tools that empower learners. In addition to included student guided directives, they also included well constructed documentaries for students to watch. He also emphasizes, however, that this is not a replacement for the lab experience!
I have to say, for me, this is a great example of what an eTextbook can be! It’s truly engaging, interactive, and exemplifies a variety of consumption and teaching methods.
Day two of the iPad Summit starts with a Keynote talk by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec), entitled Plato, Paper & iPads… As someone who has read Plato in the original Greek, I’m curious where he’s going here. I have known Greg for years and seen him present some amazing workshops and talks, so I am excited to see him present.
Greg tells us that this morning, he is going to tell us his story. Greg started teaching in 2005 at Plymouth South High School. When he started, he was wholly on the analogue side and not interested in implementing technology. One day while talking to a peer about a problem he was having, she suggested he check out some “web 2.0 tools.” He didnt’ even know what “web 2.0″ was so he went home and googled it. That was his introduction to integrating technology.
With smartboards, the technology is still teacher directed. Greg tells us that he got a group of old computers at one point where students could access a Wiki and send emails. He had zero compass and zero path. Many of us have been in the spot where we are using technology because the technology is available. We don’t know why we’re doing it. It doesn’t help students at all.
In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, prisoners see only shadows and believe it is reality. Finally, a prisoner breaks free, sees the fire, and sees the objects creating fire. His reality is shattered. So, as a teacher, where are we in the story? What is the world? Greg argues that if we don’t have a direction or a purpose, then we are living in shadows. We need to shift our focus to the meaning behind our purpose. What skills do we want our students to have? What do we want them to be able to do? So now that he is more meaningful in integration, he begins to use the tool that will work for his objectives, not just to use the technology. Students begin to make real world connections, interaction with the world, creation of ideas, connection to experts, collaboration, etc. The emphasis is completely different. He then asks us to share our stories; when did our perspective on using technology shift?
Greg then tells us about his experience with iPads. When they integrated the iPad into his classroom, he was back in the cave. He starts using the iPad because… it’s there. He starts focusing on apps, not on what you want students to do! If you want a great list, check out EdTechTeacher’s Tech Tools by subject and skill. The first iPads were very limited, you couldn’t even collaborate because Google Drive didn’t even exist! So initially, everything was focused on “the apps.” You got articles like, “Top 10 apps for History teachers!” We’re back in the cave, isolated.
Greg tells us that with the iPad 2, he realized that the iPad could let him be more creative. It was able to let him create content using the video camera, iMovie, and then publish it to the web! However, you’re still in
danger of the tool driving the creation. Greg highlights that language is important in this process. If you tell your students “Today we’re doing Keynotes!” or “Today we’re doing iMovies!” Be conscious of your language so that you do not get locked into the tool. We need to make a conscious decision about how we are using tools, including analogue. We need to look at all of the tools we use around us, including notebooks and paper, to look at our tasks and objectives. Sometimes, paper is more effective than digital tools. Sketchnoting has taken off as a means to capture information. So we should rethink what role an iPad should play in the classroom. Perhaps most of it should take place off line in a notebook. However, the iPad will allow you to create and share in a way that paper will not.
Greg shares with us his experiences with vinyl. He was a DJ, so feeling and manipulating records gave him a unique connection with the music that doesn’t happen with an iPod or an iPhone. So think about this, are we losing anything when we go digital? Greg next shares the ideal iPad Backpack, Blending Digital & Analog. You can use your iPad to organize digital content, use a paper notebook to capture ideas and sketch notes (even taking pics and dropping them into Google Drive or Evernote), and even a dry erase board with markers. Keep your classroom hybrid. Merge online and offline work. Find tools that are flexible and thoughtful, not using tools to drive your work. He demonstrates this with some sticky notes. He asked several participants to write ideas on a sticky note. He then collected them, used the Post-it App to collect them, shared the post it board, and opened it in Explain Everything!
What an energizing way to start the day!
The next session I’m attending is “Transforming Project Based Learning with iPad” by Ah-Young Song from Phillips Exeter Academy. Ah-Young tells us that she will be discussing some of the PBL projects she has implemented in her own classroom. She will be covering communication tools, gamification, audio/video tools, and media resources.
Ah-Young has just become teaching at Phillips Exeter, which is a harkness school. Harkness is a form of teaching that engages students collaboratively.
“Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.” – Buck Institute for Education.
Ah-Young believes that even without institutional support we can, as teachers,
advocate for our own students and innovate in our classrooms. Some examples of PBL projects include:
- track migratory species
- beautify space with a public art project
- meet with local officials to address local concerns
- create a tech start-up budget
- analyze and project sports statistics
There are numerous resources out there for PBL lessons. in the process of building a project based lesson, students develop a variety of skills, including:
- Critical Thinking
There are numerous tools that educators can use with their students as they develop their PBL. One of her favorites is Blogger, which students can use to post text, video, images, etc. By posting a blog, students can publish small writings and engage in collaborative feedback. She does this through a Google+ community.
Additionally, she likes to have students backchannel book discussions using Today’s Meet or SMS Generators to engage with a fictional character! She uses Google Sheets as a rubric for certain activities, such as a jury trial of Lady MacBeth. The jurors created the rubric for the trial and used it to assess the verdict.
She also uses Google Docs to create a paperless environment. She distributes content with Google Drive, grades on Google Drive, and returns content this way. However, Exeter is not a Google Apps for Education school. However, the students have their own accounts so it works.
If you want to gamify your classroom, there are several fun tools you can play with. You can run a Space Race using Socrative.
Another tool she shares is Qrafter, which lets you read and generate QR Codes (paid version). You can use this to create a scavenger hunt. Voice Record Pro 7 is a robust audio recording tool that will let you record audio and share with others. You can use it to teach language assessments, read poetry, or for students to engage in alternative assessments. Adobe Voice will let you build an audio slideshow. Canva is another really cool tool that will let you build posters and infographics.
She is going to have students produce vignettes using a tool like Canva or Penultimate to explain their learning.