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Should we be trying to digitize teaching and learning? Is it even possible?

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I watched this video “Let’s digitize, not memorize”, from a middle school. promoted by TEDxUBC,

Ten years ago I would not have been able to put my critique into words. Now I can: “Most teaching and learning cannot and should not be digitized.”

Here’s what I thought after seeing this video:

Nicely done in terms of production. Here’s a critical comment, though: It’s also an excellent anti-example, reflecting a prevailing and ill-considered emphasis on style over substance. Neither in students’ learning nor in professional / academic communication is “digitize it, don’t memorize it” a pedagogically-proven approach. Sounds great. Catchy, But If we fail to foster development of a range of cognitive skills, including memorization, and focus instead on making so-called old-school curriculum more appealing to young people by providing “academic” “reasons” for using digital tools, then we risk diverting learners’ energies by having them focus on media tools.

In one group I studied, participants reported that the technology “put the brakes on learning” (Reid, 2010). It is possible, but nowhere near easy, to use digital tools well. When teachers present students with well-structured experiences in which the use of digital tools is embedded in a supported and intensive multimodal engagement with the subject matter, teachers and students alike have to engage the subject matter deeply and perhaps even get involved in communities of practice before producing digital products. In other words, memorize it before, when, and after you digitize it. Otherwise the result can be anti-climactic at best, and more often a waste of time masked by a brief excitement.

What do you think? Can digitizing be primary? Here’s an interesting related discussion from the 21st Century Collaborative

Categories: Pieces

Five minutes to focus

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Now and then I want to get some professional writing or editing done, starting right away. But it can be hard to focus, especially if there is little in the way of discovery, exploration, or fun in the task. Some practical writing doesn’t have the same appeal as researching or trying to sort out a specific question.

Howe Sound from Copper Cove photo Morgan Reid

Editing for format, for example. Yawn/ack. What else could I do instead? Of course, once I’m on it, it gets interesting and satisfying, but getting around to it can be a very creative dance with the millions of more appealing things to do. So, how to focus, and start a boring task? “Five minutes to focus,” that’s how. I’ll write more about this over time, but for now, my point is this: taking five minutes to meditate is effective and refreshing. And I do mean “meditate.” Just let everything slide past on the river of time. Works almost every time.

If you want to try it, or you do it yourself, let us know what works for you.

Here’s a good article from Psyblog about attention.

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