Harvard University is one of the most distinguished names in education. In addition to its brick and mortar classes, they offer a variety of online courses. In fact, a number of their courses are offered for free! If you would like to stoke your passions for Shakespeare, you can take a course on Hamlet. If you are interested in public health, check out the course on the Opioid Epidemic. There are hundreds of courses to choose from. You can browse and search on their website.
Mindfulness meditation is enjoying a moment in education. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” and is often paired with meditation practices. Once viewed as a new-age fad, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have be backed by science, which have found that it helps reduce stress and provides relief for a variety of ailments from insomnia to pain relief. You can find some peer-reviewed studies from the National Institute of Health. Additionally, Harvard recently published findings that brain scans show that the brains of meditators have more gray matter (linked to enhanced senses, increased memory, and executive decision making).
With these findings, it’s no surprise that meditation and mindfulness are enjoying some attention in the education. KQED Mind|Shift has published a series of articles on the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation practices in schools for both students and teachers. Also, Edutopia has published a series of articles to help introduce these tools in classrooms. Many educators are implementing these exercises to help students manage stress and anxiety, improve memory, and address behavior in their schools.
Several years ago, I came across mindfulness and meditation practices in a few educational conferences. It wasn’t until I had a series of stressful events that I listened to my friend Larry Kahn and decided to give it a try myself. It has now become a regular practice for me and I can attest to its benefits. Recently, I learned that one of my very apps (I am a paid subscriber), Calm, has implemented The Calm Classroom Initiative to help bring meditation and mindfulness to classroom across america.
After you are accepted into the Calm Classroom Initiative, they will send you “tips, suggestions, and best practices to introduce mindfulness to your classroom and get your students excited about meditation.” This is a great way to bring these resources for both you and your students. Please note that Calm has in no way provided me incentives (financial or otherwise) to promote their program. This is a personal attestation to the value of their tool.
It’s time to kick off the iPad Summit! This year’s keynote speaker is David Weinberger, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and Senior Researcher for the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
David begins by telling us that he would like to discuss how we raise children to be good citizens and that we must recognize that the new digital environment in which we live provides us not only new obligations, but a new opportunity. He highlights that there is a temptation among educators to look at the internet as a collection of information, much of which is “bad.” If that is how we view it, then we focus on the need of filtering, controlling, and managing the environment. However, this approach ignores an important fact – that our minds are finite. As such, it’s not possible to fully understand and “know” the world around us. So to succeed, at some level, we must narrow our focus. Therefore, knowledge is filtered, it is settled (what is known and nailed down), orderly (even if it actually isn’t), a private endeavor, and in our culture knowledge is a series of stopping points. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica had to “throw out” knowledge because it wouldn’t fit in the book! Now, with the internet, knowledge has a new medium that is unlimited. Looking at Wikipedia (the online Encyclopedia) we are no longer restricted for content based on size and media. Not only do we have a repository of words, but images, video, sound files, and external resources and sources (look at the bibliography at the bottom of a Wikipedia article). We now have the ability for millions of people contributing to a website to build and edit our understanding. In spite of popular perception, these sites (including Wikipedia) actually work quite well. Now learning is no longer a private endeavor, but participating in the public sphere. We now make things public by publishing Open Access or Creative Commons. Now David mentions his concerns about the limited and closed nature of the iPad – that it does not generally allow for open access and public endeavors – quite a statement for an iPad conference!
Until recent times, access to information was highly limited. For example, if you wanted to learn about “that Einstein kid” in the early 20th century, you were limited to what was published in newspapers. Or, you had to wait several years for a peer-reviewed journal article (that was only available to subscribers). Now, researchers can use tools like arXiv, hosted by Cornell University, to publish ideas and research at any level. What gives environments like this value is not that the information is all the same, but rather they are inconsistent and in constant disagreement. While agreement is wonderful, it doesn’t scale. If you want knowledge to get big, then you have to give up on the ideal of agreement! This is where the issue of filtering comes into play – it limits the ability of learners to filter and curate for themselves! You cannot effectively filter what your readers/users are going to find valuable or interesting. Knowledge and learning is an individual endeavor in this way. So here is the cycle of knowledge in the public world:
- Bounded & Divided –> Linked
- Settled –> Unsettled
- Work in Private –> Public
- Curated –> Filtering Forward (after publication)
- Orderly –> Rich ‘n’ Messy
David highlights that while mastery is a wonderful and even necessary in many ways, it should not be the end all be all. Mastery leads to boundaries then to canon then
to certification and then to testing which we hold as “accountability.” By the way, a room full of educators are always thrilled when standardized testing is cut down! Mastery is how “we cut the world down to our size.” However, it does not let us connect. In an Internet world there is room for all of this content and ways for us to communicate with one another about this content. “Mastery does not scale.” Still, this does not mean that we should give up on mastery. If you want to be a Chemist, for example, you must master the Periodic Table. Mastery has its place, but we should be cautious about its implementation in education. Expertise should not be shunned or condemned and it will likely continue. Experts (most of them anyway) are now on the web – which not only allows them to be engaged with others, but to contribute their understanding and build our shared repository of knowledge. We want to have “your nerds arguing with my nerds.” Commons allow engagement and discussion about resources and conclusions that are in dispute.
Now with the internet, there is a new “civic good.” David asks:
If knowledge lives in the commons, how do we educate our children to live in the commons?
Students should be learning and collaborating in network commons. Our schools must help our children to be positive, creative, curious, contributors to what they perceive as a public commons built by all of us.
I don’t listen to a lot of live radio anymore. Instead, I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts. I can find content specific to my area and take it with me on the go. Here is a great list of podcasts for Educators (all for free and in no particular order):
Edutopia Webinars – Edutopia presents engaging webinars hosted exclusively for our audience of educators, parents, and administrators throughout the year. These interactive events are free and universally accessible thanks to support from foundations, advertisers, and donors. Each webinar is designed to connect our valued audience with thought leaders in the movement for educational reform, providing opportunities to learn about the latest research, tools, and ideas from experts in the field. Note: Most Edutopia Webinars are large files, approximately an hour long.
Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University – The Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning supports the effective communication of knowledge and the love of learning by faculty inside and outside the classroom, by graduate students in their roles as apprentice scholar/teachers, and by undergraduates as they take their place in the community of scholars.
Google Tools – Google is much more than a search engine. It is a suite of free software and services that can enhance learning, engage students, and make the work of teachers easier. This series of podcasts demonstrates the usefulness and applications for some of Google’s most innovative products including custom search engines, Google earth, iGoogle, Google Calendar and Google Docs. Each podcast will consist of a screencast demonstrating the product in action and suggesting applications for use in the classroom.
Department of Education Public Seminars at Oxford University – Public seminars from the Department of Education. Oxford has been making a major contribution to the field of education for over 100 years and today this Department has a world class reputation for research, for teacher education and for its Masters and doctoral programmes. Our aim is to provide an intellectually rich but supportive environment in which to study, to research and to teach and, through our work, to contribute to the improvement of all phases of public education, both in the UK and internationally.
Technology Integration by Edutopia – Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.
Harvard EdCast – The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber, the Harvard EdCast will serve as a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.
NPR Education – From NPR: perspectives on great teachers, the science of learning, classroom dynamics and more. The best of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other award-winning NPR programs.
For 13 days in October 1862, the world watched and waited as two super-powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, held a nuclear stand-off over missiles positioned just 90 miles off of the coast of Florida. President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev engaged in high-stakes negotiation over nuclear arms during what would be termed the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Harvard University via iTunes U is offering an extensive course on the Cuban Missile Crisis, entitled: Cuban Missile Crisis: 50 Years Later. The course is described as follows:
The material presented offers a multi-media narrative of the related events leading up to, during, and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the 50th Anniversary of the Crisis approaching, this framework is designed for viewers to assess the lessons learned from the most dangerous moment in human history, when the United States and Soviet Union came to the precipice of nuclear war.
This module incorporates original historical documents, photos, videos, and audio clips — some of which have only recently been declassified. The material, and much more, is available on www.cubanmissilecrisis.org, a website created by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Beifer Center for Science and International Affairs to commemorate the anniversary.
I was recently visiting with a friend of mine who was expressing dissatisfaction in her career and was telling me about her new plan to do a complete career shift. Now, we are in our 30s, well educated, and the thought of going back to school (and adding to already crippling loan debt) can be rather daunting. Instead, she told me that she was planning to take some free classes via iTunes U and MIT OpenCourseware. I had never even considered the potential of these courses for career changes – especially for those who already have college and graduate degrees. However, the opportunities for those who wish to do their own professional development in field as well as broadening their own opportunities are truly boundless.
There are many resources out there, the most famous of course being iTunes U. With access to an iOS device or simply a computer with iTunes (free software), anyone can listen in (audit) classes on a variety of topics: history, philosophy, computer programming, marketing, business, and more. These are not cheap or hapless classes – rather, they’re from world famous institutions like Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford (to name a limited few). Heck, if you’re interested in the Classical World, you can listen to my own educational podcasts (from my years at TCU).
One of the most famous recent announcements has been the Harvard-MIT EdX initiative. Harvard and MIT have come together to offer online course enrollment for a grade (but no degree) for those interested. So, ‘regular joes’ can enroll in some of the most prestigious university courses for no cost and even receive a grade (although no credit).
So while you may not get a Harvard Degree, these courses are an excellent way for adults to hone their own professional skills, indulge a hobby or interest, or even give you the prominent background understanding to change careers!
Harvard Professor Chris Dede is encouraging teachers to embrace the mobile technology in the classroom in order to engage more students and to involve them in our evolving and fast paced economy.
“Can you imagine a student standing in the middle of the real world, with all its confusion and challenges, but they have a device with them that knows who they are, how they learn, where they are, what around them has been augmented for learning, who they like to learn with, and how to reach those people? That’s a very intriguing vision.”