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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Multimedia and the Brain

This article from eSchoolNews this week is most intriguing - it's about a meta review of studies (kind of a research mash-up) from the Metiri Group commissioned by Cisco on how "multimodal learning" using various strategies including multimedia, works better for learning than unimodal, more traditional learning. It talks about sensory, working and long-term memory, and includes references to Bransford's How People Learn among other works. The Bransford work was the basis of Chapter 8 in my book written by Dr. Donna DeGennaro synthesizing a lot of Bransford's ideas.

One thing I really like if you read the entire study "Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the Research Says," is the specifity of the recommendations. Every instructional designer ought to be reading this because it says where text and graphics should be placed on a page for maximum understanding, for instance. Maybe designers already are reading it, I don't know. But there still are plenty of applications that haven't really taken how the brain is stimulated into consideration when creating their interfaces. It's also a great answer to the critics of "edutainment" - motivation, engagement, multimodal learning and brain research all point to interactivity and visual appeal as integral to effectiveness. Of course lots of good teachers pretty much knew this viscerally anyway. But good that it's all pulled together in an accessible and well-written way.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Parallel Computing

So this announcement about parallel computing and Microsoft and money to step up the research is intriguing. I should be finishing an article for Technology & Learning right now, which is on a fascinating topic - the state of distance learning today (and it really is different than in the 90's) (will be in the May 2008 issue) but parallel computing as a tangent is pretty compelling.

A quote from the article above:

"if researchers can use programming to harness the capabilities of multi-core machines, it will give mobile devices the computing performance that today comes only from supercomputers."

So if parallel computing becomes a major factor in the future, and I think it will, and if computers can truly process multiple strands of complex code simultaneously, how much more will be possible in our day-to-day lives that we don't have right now. For instance, could I be compiling lots of relevant research on distance learning at the same time while writing this and while also researching parallel computing and maybe also getting my taxes filed and of course as always having Twitter running in the background ... and all on my cell phone. Is this different than multitasking windows and widgets? Is the real limit the human brain? Even though we use the term multitasking in reality what we're doing is just fast task switching because we only can do one thing at a time. How can we maximize parallel processing if we have to be the triggers for the processing and we can only start one thing at a time because we can't truly multitask?

I have to say I don't get it yet. But I do sense this is going to be big. What would the late Mark Weiser, who coined the term "ubiquitous computing" and his vision of the future with "tabs" and calm technology everywhere, think of parallel computing.

This feels like the Next Big Thing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

No Digital DNA

Conversation today with a colleague about Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants (did Prensky ever realize he would get this kind of continuing traction from his article?) and ranting just a bit that some seem to almost believe that their students have Digital DNA - that on the magic date of January 1, 1980 suddenly all babies were born with an extra deoxyribonucleic acid strand just for technology. The day before, and an hour before, those other babies, even though they may have physical proximity in the nursery ward - just missed the 1/1/80 digital DNA creation, so they are going to have to be analog all their lives.

Okay, an exaggeration, but the dichotimizing that occurs between "digital natives" and "non natives" isn't helpful or healthy or positive. Creating these labels when it comes to something as important as teaching and learning, and when this digital immigrant/digital native concept is not backed up by research, and when being "just a digital immigrant" gives an "out" to those who fear technology and don't want to use it (and unfortunately that does mean some teachers), well then it's time to find some new ideas.

And here's the other thing this colleague and I discussed: research takes persistence and is part of what we need to teach students. That the instant gratification of Google is not deep, thoughtful research - although it's often a start. We need to have students not just take the easy answer or the first "hit" on Google instead of going deeper, broader and further - instead of taking the time to do thorough research.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

1-to-1 Leadership, Vision, Support, Sustainability

This is my current rumination - how does leadership envision, support, and sustain 1-to-1 in particular and technology in general. Lately I've been reading and editing things for various purposes and organizations and am struck how often technology is an add-on. Something to include, it seems, if the teacher has time, or maybe as a "supplement" - showing some Web sites to kids, let's say.

But now we have Web 2.0 and now we have 1-to-1 and now we have the opportunities and the vehicles for technology to truly be ubiquitous in classrooms in terms of not just hardware, but in terms of creating content that is potentially seen by nearly anyone. We should be thinking of technology in broader strokes now because the means and the possibilities exist to take our classrooms so much further than before in terms of technology infusion and fluency.

That does mean leadership needs to step up to the plate in terms of the vision, the support, and the means and resources to sustain technology. But what does this vision look like, what are its attributes, how then to lead when teachers are at different starting points, are teaching different disciplines, and when expectations and the technology itself seem to continually shift.

The statistics say that students are learning about technology at home and not in school and colleges are finding their incoming freshmen are less prepared than they expected, so are assigning them to remedial technology classes.

Visionary, supportive leadership is vitally important to the success of educational technology everywhere so that this generation of children can step up to the plate when it's their turn at bat.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

1-to-1 book, 2nd edition

Having many friends and colleagues contribute to the 2nd edition of my book "1-to-1 Learning, Laptop Programs That Work" targetted for Fall, 2008 publication. It will have new chapters on Web 2.0, Tablet PC's, and 1-to-1 Leadership and a rewritten introduction.

It pays to know people and to have a strong personal learning network (read: Twitter, Classroom2.0, EdTech listserv, edACCESS, ISED-L, ISTE, Wizards, NYCIST, AALF) of smart educational technologists who understand the pulse of what is happening. Because of these networks, I have been fortunate enough to have contributing articles or interviews for the book from Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Dave Berque, Gwen Solomon, Alice Owen, Leslie Wilson, Steve Hargadon, Milt Dougherty, and possibly a few others. All by just asking. Amazing, powerful, much bigger and smarter and broader than any other way - enriching and deepening and extending the continual discourse around 1-to-1 learning. W00t and double w00t!