Technology a critical cog in our machine of life

Bird Droppings December 2, 2011
Technology a critical cog in our machine of life

A year ago we were waiting on word of a new grandbaby. It was the third till my wife and I could make our way to Panama City Florida where my son and his wife were living at the time. Needless to say our world was turned upside down in that first moment of seeing our grandbaby Charlotte. So here I am sitting after walking out into a cold morning chill frost on everything today although not freezing it was silent. Crickets and tree frogs did not get up today with the morning. Sitting here listening to Carlos Nakai on cedar flute and running water of my aquariums it is peaceful at school before the masses of humanity begin spilling into the hallways. I am really looking forward to a birthday party tomorrow for my granddaughter.
However back to the grind and as I look forward to the end of a semester and all of the testing that goes with it, I recalled a quote from a few years back. I have been a fan of Einstein’s human side for some time and in reading his essays and letters about various nonscientific topics some interesting thoughts. As I look at the educational system we are trying to fulfill and wonder are we succeeding in truly improving learning or are we simply improving test scores.

“Are we succeeding in truly improving learning or are we simply improving test scores.” Frank Bird Ed. S. D.D. High School Teacher

A good friend in a recent note addressed education and how no increase in money will improve it. I would have to agree even though as I get my pay check on the stub there are the furlough days here in Georgia still showing as negative amounts off of my pay check. For education to change it is not a new policy or law that is needed but attitude of all involved. It will take a teacher, administrator, school board, state education board and National Department of Education attitude change along with some adjustments with students as well. So is it possible yes is it probable probably not.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Sometimes it does take shifting gears, so often I watch parents and teachers simply approach an issue just as it occurred sort of like fighting fire with fire. Generally the flames just get bigger. A key is the success and or digress of education today is technology. Technology is a great tool and only a few years back many teachers were still fighting to avoid or prolong their certification in technology. Just having that certification however does not mean teachers will use technology and or provide student access to technology. As I talked with a student yesterday I found in our teach to the test mentality driven by demands of educational law and standards kids are losing the desire and or ability to be creative.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

As I talk with teachers it is not so much the task of manipulating a digital camera or power point but the imagination that is required to put it into action. This is actually for me a very sad situation. How can we instill creativity and imagination and have nothing to show or indicate an example and or modeling. If teachers are not using and unwilling to use and or not allowing time due to cramming for tests how can imagination can come into play.

“How can I use this in class?” the famous question – How can you not should be the real question – “Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.” George Orwell

“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.” J. G. Ballard

It was not that many years ago some teachers argued against white boards versus black boards. Chalk dust rules! We have access to tools for education that can enhance, improve, stimulate and multiply learning. Sadly these are often simple tools. I had a student who is functionally illiterate yet could in a few moments generate powerful PowerPoint presentations on most any subject, just pulling from his own stash of photos and now knowing where to go to find more.
I have had several teachers argue is he really learning. Several days ago I had an essay as an assignment 250 words, he stopped at 181 and asked if that would do. Fall semester last year when I first asked for an essay, his two lines of type were a different language. He could read it back to me which was strange in and of its self and for a while I found I could decipher his words but we worked on it. He found to get to point B on a computer you had to be able to read, this essay of 181 words I read and anyone could have read, slowly he is learning to read and function. I credit his reading teacher as well who has been working with him, but now reading has context and relevance for him. Today he emails me on a regular basis or picks on my various blogs.

“However far modern science and techniques have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.” Lewis Mumford

Years ago I recall my father telling me if we could think of it, it was possible. We need to embrace that notion in education and in learning, because it is true. Limitations often are simply those placed on a child by a teacher along the way somewhere. They can’t do it is a challenge or should be to prove that person or teacher wrong. Several days ago I was in a conversation with several students who were in an ECE, Early Childhood Education class. We have a demonstration class of four year olds that high school student’s work with and learn how to teach. More than once I have said this is my favorite group of students in the school. When I said this the other day all of my high school kids looked at me like how come? I explained they still question all of you guys have forgotten how. We teachers tend to stifle questioning early on and I told this group of high school kids when you become a teacher let your students ask questions. This is the biggest learning experience in life. That question is of importance to you and how a teacher responds often sets the precedent for the rest of the educational life of the student. Which hopefully is their entire life?

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

We tend to allow others to provide our own interpretation of the world albeit teachers in a class room. Teachers need to be the most imaginative and open people alive. I enjoy this quote of still waters reflecting. Often I refer to setting the example, students can become a mirror image of what they see and hear and can limit their own intake of reality on what they have been shown and seen.

“The way we imagine ourselves to appear to another person is an essential element in our conception of ourselves. In other words, I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” Robert Bierstedt

I hear fifty times a day “I am stupid”, in my class room, in the hallways, and in the lunch room. Many times students feel that from teachers as well. My immediate response is generally since when, or as compared to whom. Then I get serious and ask why they think that, and some will respond. Several years ago during a summer school session one student caught my attention. For several sessions and during regular school classes I had emphasized vocabulary in science classes.
The goal of the program was to get 60-69 grade students in regular session passing in two weeks of intense classes. They had one class, mine and only could get to a 70 in this program but it would replace their failing grade. All students took a pretest and posttest which was the department’s final exam. In three years everyone passed who attended these classes with me, most with very good grades. My secret I would concentrate on vocabulary. Every day we would take a pretest of that days words and every afternoon a post test. In four years I have never had a student who did not improve up until this one. This student would get a 20 in the morning and a 21 in the afternoon, everyone else would average about a score of 80.
I tried talking and he had a very low self-esteem about school. I tried different approaches, and on one day technology. I used an LCD projector and power point of the day’s words. That day he looked at the power point several times when he had a chance would look again. That after noon on his quiz he scored 100. Every day after there out as I used power point as a tool for him all other grades went up as well. It was a simple answer perhaps. It could be in how he sees or perceives that bigger version made a more of an impression.

“Pictures help you to form the mental mold…” Robert Collier

Each person is unique in how they perceive and see the world. I literally preach this daily in my own classes as I go.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal handling in the world. She has designed and engineered seventy five percent of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism. Dr. Grandin is autistic herself. Unfortunately I missed another chance not too long ago to hear Dr. Grandin in Atlanta.

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very good early intervention with very good teachers, starting at age 2 1/2 years. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers just have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

In going back to my student who through my Power Point learned his vocabulary, it is about using ideas and imagination in dealing with students. It is opening doors finding that one thing that works in that one instance and looking for other solutions as well constantly.
“There is no single magic bullet” as Dr. Grandin states, but if we keep our eyes and ears open we can find another and another and all children can succeed. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks.

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