Many of you know I am extremely passionate about how people learn and how we need to be designing school instructional experiences that actually work. I’ve followed Edutopia for quite a while now, which was started by George Lucas (yes, Star Wars) in response to his own experiences growing up and watching his kids in school. They have lots of examples where schools and teachers are designing engaging and effective learning activities that ought to be the role model for all schools. If you care about children’s education, this is one source to check out.
We just wrapped up the Psychology of Music Learning grad course today – they’re all music teachers in the schools, and it’s an amazing time of stepping back from what we all do and re-think what’s important about music education, what students really need and want, and how to go about doing that – all in the context of understanding how people learn new things. We talk a lot about learning theories, mental models, and such, but in a way that makes it relevant-real-to their situations. They’re a great group of individuals who you’d be proud to have teaching your kids. If I have time I might post a few more thoughts about what we discuss…stay tuned.
When we talk about great ideas like having students collaborate and publish rich content in blogs, wikis, etc, educators are often understandably concerned about security – do we really want students’ stuff available out there? In some case the answer is YES – that’s the whole point, so they can get feedback from people in the community, such as professionals in a particular field. However, often we need a system that provides the power of Web 2.0 tools, but within a secure, closed system. Google, who seems to have an answer for everything these days, offers a special service for education institutions that includes GoogleApps, calendar and email, websites, and other tools. Here’s the URL: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/collaboration.html
I’ll be presenting the idea of using card sorts for assessing students’ mental models at the AECT conference in Louisville this October. I did this last year at the Teaching Professor Conference in Orlando, and the concept is that card sorts can be used for a quick check of how well students are packaging the course material. It can also be used for more in-depth analysis for serious assessment purposes at the class or program/department level. The beauty of using card sorts is that you find out where students are coming from – you really need to get their picture and slant on things rather than seeing how much they’ve memorized for an exam. It’s a powerful complement to traditional assessment techniques – and it’s easy to do. I’ve used this technique in a variety of academic fields including recording engineering, music history, and physical therapy. If you are coming to AECT drop by and join the conversation. Meantime, you can find out more at my mental model assessment website.
Earlier this semester I created a ning professional network site for music educators – I get to work with K-12 music teachers in our grad program at LVC, and one of the things I try to encourage for them is thinking outside the box. Why does it always have to be based around trombones and oboes? Why does it mostly revolve around “serious” music? Music education should be culturally relevant – most kids I know love music, but often there’s not much in our music ed programs that they can initially relate to. Let them explore new ways of creating music (iPhones, Guitar Hero, Garageband), let them experience different styles of music, let them publish their own music through websites, CDs, and iTunes, and yes, gasp, let them perform in an iPhone band during the spring concert. Do we still use trombones and oboes? Of course – it’s all good. Just broaden our horizons and stop wondering why student enrollment in music programs has dropped.
If educational institutions had to stay alive like real businesses do, we’d be long gone. What I mean is that a business has to stay on top of the current climate: economic issues, culture changes, customer/client needs, etc. If they don’t, they go under. If colleges and universities don’t, they applaud themselves as maintaining a long-standing tradition of excellence…and continue forever. Change is glacially slow…but then it’s logarithmic as well, which means that when you finally get that snowball started and rolling, it eventually picks up steam (ok, snowballs and steam don’t mix…stay focused here). Part of what I do at the college is show faculty the great things they can be doing that actually relate to the real world out there. Sometimes they get it, many times they don’t. It’s most often a major paradigm shift, and nobody handles that very well. But we have to keep trying…
One of the most powerful features of Twitter and the “What are you doing now?” function on Facebook is the concept of real-time updates. Knowing what your friend’s cat just ate for dinner is a complete waste of time…but in class, having people post questions, comments, links to relevant material, etc can foster a really dynamic, interactive environment. The goal is to reduce the one-way stream from instructor to student. What you do is set up a separate overhead screen that shows the Twitter stream so everybody can see updates…and then respond or bring it up in class. Very interesting.
Since I had several people decide to follow me on Twitter, I figured I should do something to entertain you. I’ve set this up so I can post entries on my personal WordPress website which then gets fed to my Twitter account using twitterfeed.com. I won’t post a great deal, but every so often I’ll send a nugget your way. Send me comments and enjoy the discussion.