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EdTech Update





BFTP: Brooks on aging

I suspect few of us like to acknowledge that we are getting older. Most mornings I look in the mirror and just ask, "Who the hell is that old guy?" And winter seems to exacerbate the little aches of aging joints and muscles.

But I have lately been wondering why it seems that the older I've gotten, the happier I've become. I just assumed one was supposed to get grumpier and grumpier until you were parked in a nursing home with a drool bucket tied around your neck with only the paid help still willing to speak to you once or twice a day.

So I found The Geezers' Crusade, (NYT, Feb 1, 2010) by conservative columnist David Brooks about chronologically-gifted Americans very interesting. A few key points:

People are most unhappy in middle age and report being happier as they get older. This could be because as people age they pay less attention to negative emotional stimuli, according to a study by the psychologists Mara Mather, Turhan Canli and others.

Yes. "Well, shit happens" is probably the most common response I have to problems that I deem trivial. And an increasing number of problems seem very trivial indeed.

The research [on aging] paints a comforting picture. And the nicest part is that virtue is rewarded. One of the keys to healthy aging is what George Vaillant of Harvard calls “generativity” — providing for future generations. Seniors who perform service for the young have more positive lives and better marriages than those who don’t. As Vaillant writes in his book “Aging Well,” “Biology flows downhill.” We are naturally inclined to serve those who come after and thrive when performing that role.

One of my biggest pleasures is playing "mentor" to younger writers, speakers, librarians, techies, etc. In some sense, that is kind of what this blog is about. I'd considered it an extension of being a teacher, but maybe it is just sign of aging?

The odd thing is that when you turn to political life, we are living in an age of reverse-generativity. Far from serving the young, the old are now taking from them. First, they are taking money. According to Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for each $1 it spends on children.

I do my best to avoid politics in my writing and in my personal life. I find liberals only slightly less awful than conservatives. But I will say that Brooks is right when he suggests:

It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change. The young lack the political power. Only the old can lead a generativity revolution — millions of people demanding changes in health care spending and the retirement age to make life better for their grandchildren.

Watch it, politicians. I am voting in the best interest of my grandchildren. We geezers can take care of ourselves, thank you very much.

After all, we know "shit happens."


As I repost this - five years closer to my great reward - the idea of generativity is more important than ever. I've been wondering why issues of equity and cultural proficiency have seemed so important to me lately. I think it is the realization that if I can improve society for all children, I will have significantly improved it for my own grandchildren as well. It's socio-genetics, not altruism, at work. Hmmmmmmm...

Original post, February 3, 2010.


Marginalizing the marginalized with filtering

While [ISTE. AASL] standards tend to emphasize learning and work skills, there is a growing concern that students who do not master communication and collaboration enabling technologies will not be able to full participate in modern cultural and political life. As described by Henry Jenkins of MIT:
We are using participation as a term that cuts across educational practices, creative processes, community life, and democratic citizenship. Our goals should be to encourage youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture.

Jenkins warns:
A growing body of scholarship suggests potential benefits of these forms of participatory culture, including opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship. Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace.

Social networking, not only teaches and improves skills, but can be used to improve the instruction processes necessary to developing higher order thinking skills in the content areas.

Reynard observes that:
Students who understand that their knowledge is socially constructed can benefit immensely from the integration of social networking into their learning process. It cannot be understated that the sooner students understand that their knowledge is not an isolated construct, the sooner they will develop skills of negotiation, debate (an almost forgotten academic skill), critical inquiry, and cognitive positioning – all of which are essential in becoming successful lifelong learners as well as developing expertise in their discipline.

Reynard concludes that “the inclusive educator stimulates student customization of their own learning environment while retaining accountability.” True “differentiated instruction,” individualized learning plans, resources and activities can be accomplished using social networks that are in large part designed by the learner himself.

Social networking tools are not just helpful in teaching 21st century skills. They are critical. Connections for Learning, a SayWire White Paper on social networking tools in education, 2009.
By blocking social networking tools in our schools, to whom are we really denying access? All kids or only those who cannot afford home Internet access? Are we marginalizing the already marginalized in our society by preventing them from the only opportunity (in school) they may have to participate in a participatory culture by filtering? 



Obstructing change with fear

Potential theft of the device is a reason often cited for schools not engaging in a 1:1 initiative - especially in low-income districts. But just how real is that fear?

From Securely://'s tech brief 1:1 Device Theft in Schools:

Device theft is 1 in 700? It seems to me theft is a manufactured fear created by those who simply want to block change. Were we really concerned about the economic impact of theft on schools, we sure as hell wouldn't let kids take 3 or 4 $125 textbooks home with them each night! (But then again, who in their right mind would want to steal a textbook?)

We as humans don't really understand statistical odds. A superintendent gets on call and she thinks every parent thinks the same way. One wacko tries to carry explosives on to an airplane and we all now take off our shoes before boarding. A couple kids do something stupid on Facebook and it gets banned in an entire school.

The fear mongers are pretty dang good at preventing change.

How do you counter-act them?