Tag Archives: deep learning

Future Vision 2025 Students: Adios Highlighting

What future are we aiming at? This series of 6 posts, Future Vision 2025, describes some of my personal education mission milestones. These are not predictions, they are aspirational. They are framed as significant differences one could see or make by 2025. What’s noticeably different in 2025 when one examines students, parents, teachers, learning, assessment, media & society? How and when these milestones are reached are not addressed. Some milestones are indicated by the emergence of something ‘new’ (at least at robust scale), others by the fading away of something familiar and comfortable.

Studenhighlighted textbookts 2025

Afternoons and nights of laptop in lecturehunching over textbooks with highlighters, cramming facts and formulae, are no longer the dominant study mode – something new has finally supplanted it.

Lecture ‘absorption’ is no longer dominantly a note-taking exercise (by 2015, having gone ‘digital’ courtesy of Moore’s law and wi-fi to distraction-filled laptops).

Students believe in their capacity to achieve mastery over complex subject matter – whatever they set out to learn. Students believe their investment of time will be both efficient and productive. Students have the autonomy to choose the pace and depth of learning as appropriate to their purposes. They see learning as worthwhile and often exciting.

Student expectations of the learning process have expanded beyond the downloading of knowledge and acquisition of skills, to the opportunity to upload high quality “solutions” to real leading-edge problems, including creative works.

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The Digital Learning Revolution is not Glossy. (Or LTE.)

The Digital Learning Revolution Will Not Be Glossy. Or LTE.

First posted on Sums&Solutions blog.
Part one of a multi-part series

The true Digital Learning Revolution has not yet arrived. If you go into a classroom and see every student with an iPad on wifi, full 1:1, you are not necessarily seeing a Digital Learning Revolution. Counting what type and how glossy and how many are the digital devices is not how you tell.

Because the Digital Learning Revolution is not about digitizing conventional learning. Nor even about increasing access.

It’s not about digitized problem sets – even if they are gamified. Not even if the problems are scored instantly; nor even if the problem sequence can be varied based on responses (aka “adaptive learning”). Textbook-like problems presented digitally, no matter how entertainingly wrapped in back-story, music, interesting side-bar links, procedural hints and immersive 3-D exploration, are still just this: use previously memorized patterns and procedures to get THE right answer.

It’s not about digitized asynchronous lectures. By their nature they are not interactive. They are passive. Yes, even if talking heads and filmed overhead grease pen scrawls have moved from VHS-access in the 70’s to YouTube-access 40 years later, lectures are not the Digital Learning Revolution.

And it’s especially not about the advent of the latest digital hardware vehicles. Tsunamis of digital hardware have washed into many classrooms, many times. From Apple IIe’s in the 1980’s to Apple iPad II’s in the teens. With interactive whiteboards somewhere in between. First off, the change in how most subjects were taught day to day was minimal. Worse, it did not become the “new normal” for students or teachers to even just use them day to day. There was no killer app. No deep penetration. No Digital Learning Revolution – yet.

Of course, revolutionizing the learning itself depends on the content IN the digital vehicles, a point powerfully made in this excellent white paperChoosing Blindly, Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core, from the Brown Center on Educational Policy’s Chingos and Whitehurst.  And if that content is just a digitization of the conventional, then no matter how glossy and retina-resolution the screen, no matter how anywhere or anytime or speedy the access, the learning will still be “conventional” learning. By the way, how well has a focus on conventional learning, a focus where the content is considered a commodity, done over the last four decades?

Note moreover, that a narrow view of digital content + student, without taking into account the teacher’s interaction with new content and a new learning process, is also not the Digital Learning Revolution. Because as Chingos and Whitehurst point out, the Digital Learning Revolution occurs at the intersection of the student, and the content, and the teacher. So new digital vehicles, even conveying radically different content (such as interactive videogames), or, rather, especially when carrying radically different content, will not achieve the Digital Learning Revolution … without a comprehensive re-tooling of teacher understandings, processes, and goals.

Beyond Hardware

What about the other major digital game-changer of the 21st Century, you say – what about digitized access? Searchable access to the world’s libraries of content? Anywhere anytime access to the cloud through cheap personal hand-held devices?

You are a participant in that access revolution. So, look around you, what is your experience? Have you experienced, or seen a Digital Learning Revolution? A communication revolution to be sure – connectivity is off the charts. And it’s certainly a revolution in “find something, cut, and paste”. A plethora of small, disconnected written nuggets delivering instant gratification for quick trivia questions. Consumption from the cloud is off the charts. But, when you are looking for depth, you have not yet seen a revolution of learning. As I blogged here re speed v. depth, and here re googling.

The digital access revolution did not bring the Digital Learning Revolution along for the ride.

Again, the key is content. And that a Learning Revolution must involve three interacting components: student, content, and teacher. As I blogged here re blended learning. A Learning Revolution requires the teacher for social, evaluative, motivational, and yes, human communication. The Digital Learning Revolution will require humans. The best sort of humans: teachers who help others grow and improve

In the next installment: well anyhow, we should expect digital content for free, right?

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“There’s no achievement gap in videogames” – Quentin Lawson

I don’t want to learn how to play most videogames. By videogames I am thinking involved console games like Call of Duty, or MLB the Show. As a 50-something, that may not be surprising as I’m past the “shoot-em-up” or “race-car” ages (well maybe not real race cars). But truthfully, I would enjoy being able to give my my teenage sons a decent playing partner. The thing is, I know there would be a long and challenging learning curve. Because the learning is discovery/exploratory. And it’s not trivial or short, there is a lot to pick up. For me, it would be both mentally challenging and take significant amounts of time. And I already feel I have enough mental challenge-per-week to sink a battleship. I’m not looking for more. And I can’t afford to have significantly more time, or energy, sucked out of my days.

My point is: learning a console videogame like these is not easy, it takes focus, it takes effort, it takes mental agility, it takes perseverance, it takes time. Sorta like learning anything complex.

And here’s the point of this blog post: it would be ludicrous for anyone to propose that there’s an achievement gap for children to learn videogames. It would also be ludicrous to say that there is an engagement issue – at least for males with the games I mentioned. And it would be beyond incredible to say that kids have a lack of perseverance at solving the game’s problem scenarios.

I attribute this observation to Quentin Lawson, Executive Director of NABSE, the National Alliance of Black School Educators. I was demo’ing for him how all math concepts could be introduced a visual puzzles on a computer, which could be interacted with and animated to understand how to, for example, add fractions. He saw how this was like a videogame and, with young Black male students in mind, noted in an offhand way that “there’s no achievement gap in videogames,” so this could level the playing field. I have been quoting Quentin ever since.

Because how could anyone imagine that success for any child in learning any videogame could depend on:

  • their parents’ education level
  • their parents’ wealth
  • their neighborhood
  • the quality of their friends
  • how much their parents could “tutor” them on the game
  • their own success in school so far
  • the language they speak at home
  • or any other “subgroup” factor

It would be ludicrous; at the least I can’t imagine any such attributes being used by anyone as excuses why children couldn’t win at the game.

So, if productively engaging with challenging core content, like algebra, in a deep and mathematically rigorous way, that requires learner interaction and experiential learning, that starts easy and is gradually scaffolded, that develops problem-solving, perseverance, and confidence in ability to “win”, can be made into a videogame-like experience, then teachers can build-upon, cement and interconnect that mode of learning into deeper understanding and skills, without concern for any digital content achievement gap.

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Assessments are the Ultimate Game-Changer

“Real change in teaching and learning requires real change in assessment” – Justin Reich.

This arcsparks post is 100% inspired by EdWeek’s Justin Reich’s excellent post “Everything Hinges on Assessment“, which powerfully backs up, and shows examples in support of, his quote above. My post below was also left as a comment on Justin’s blog.

In other words one might say, to profoundly change the game we need to change the scoring. Then, how people play the game to win has to change too.

And the only scoring on K-12 frequent enough, direct, clear, important to all the players, and timely enough to matter to anyone at all is tests, whether in-course or end-of-course.

I”ve been with a non-profit working for 11 years to provide a digital tool for a changed game that very few if any are seriously playing yet.

Specifically math instructional software for blended learning to ensure that students deeply understand math concepts. In the absence of hard-edged assessment, that tests the highest-order conceptual student outcome results we’re spec’ing into our instructional design, we rely on the soft evaluations made by educators on a personal level – i.e. on specific visionary educators, whether at district, site, or class level, seriously insisting on more than is tested for.

Assuming that our program and the educator are actually successful together, this is still an unstable situation, susceptible to specific educators leaving the district/school, etc. to be replaced by another with de facto lower goals for student learning. To put it another way, sustained learning above a floor-level set by the assessments is an unstable exercise in defying gravity.

At my shop, our experience is that a good program will show results on any level of quality assessment of the content, and we are perfectly happy to see results show up (and they do) on fill-in-the-bubble assessments. Nonetheless our strategy is to design for max conceptual understanding, regardless of the assessment.

Quality in instructional materials and programs is extremely expensive – much more expensive than the market thinks it is. Economics alone would dictate designing as cheaply as possible, to the lowest quality required to meet the assessment spec: designed for the test. Fortunately for my shop, we’re a non-profit so our bottom line is learning, not earning and we avoid this temptation.

Bottom line: couldn’t agree more with the points in this post; dramatically raising the assessment’s requirements on student learning will be a profound, irresistable, stable game-changer for educators, students, parents, and all publishers.

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