Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category


Thoughts on Taking Learning Seriously

May 9, 2010

An article, Taking Learning Seriously, by By Lee S. Schulman, president of The Carnegie Foundation for
the Advancement of Teaching and Professor of Education, Stanford University poses some interesting questions about learning and discusses what the author calls pathologies of learning.  The “major pathologies of learning involve malfunctions of memory, understanding, and application and can be called amnesia, fantasia, and inertia. Most interesting in this discussion is the author’s reference to another item termed nostalgia.

Nostalgia is an item which was discovered while studying the other pathlogies and is the item which aligns most deeply with my own educational frustrations. Nostalgia is “marked by a common symptom—the firm belief that whatever the educational problem, the best way to combat it is by reinstating the ways through which the observers had been taught when they were the same age as their students.” Of course, these methods often involve a back to basics approach and an emphasis on the rigor of course content- rigor being measured of course by the quantity of material presented and the quantity of the work performed by students.

With legislation like No Child Left Behind and the emphasis on standardized test scores school leaders more often turn to standardized teaching practices. But as the article states, “Teachers can teach in the same manner to three classes in a row and experience different consequences each time.” While this seems like a any easy conclusion to understand, teachers are continually burdened with more frequent testing and increased work load. Teach more and test more.

Being an educator concerned with the integration of technology in the classroom, the teach more test more plan is frustrating. Too often my use of technology has been seen as fluff or a distraction from curriculum rigor. Nostalgia makes no place for individuality and experimentation… gone is creativity and innovation because if it is not on the test than it can’t be worth anything.

When discussing student’s inability to succed in high level classes with teachers the reason often stated is that the student couldn’t ‘do the work’. Yet in my discussions with students regarding the same topic the most common problem is not completing the work but rather keeping up with the work load. Often, no one assignment is terribly difficult or beyond a student’s comprehension but when piled high with multiple assignments and readings only the most diligent and resilient succeed.

The following quote supports perfectly my belief that our focus as teachers must be on depth and not breadth. We must be more concerned by how we teach than how much we teach. As stated by Schulman, if we are to take learning seriously we must take teaching seriously.

“Our kids don’t match up well with their international counterparts. The very best explanation for the differences in performance lies in our very different ways of teaching. We define rigor as teaching our students more, however superficially. Other countries bring a much smaller set of ideas to students, then elaborate and deepen them pedagogically. They don’t cover as much material, but the students understand more robustly what they have studied.” ~Rob Kovi


iPad- forget talking about what it doesn’t do

May 9, 2010

I was sold on the iPad from the moment Steve Jobs unveiled it in January– to me it was the iPhone expanded. Every thing great that iPhone changed could be expanded to new areas where it just makes sense to have a larger screen.

While I weighed my decision to buy the iPad I listened a lot of naysayers with no shortage of reasons why I should pass. I wouldn’t buy one they’d say- no camera… no removable storage… no flash… it’s just a big ipod touch… can’t print with it… for the price you can buy a netbook… it doesn’t do anything new…

Well, silly me … I went ahead bought one anyway and I love it. My wife loves it too.

The naysayers are right. The iPad does not do anything I listed… not exactly, but for everything it can’t do there’s so much more. For some people these features are make or break, especially if we get nostalgic or stuck in the way we do things today.

I’ll concede on the camera. I can see, for example, what a great iChat or Skype tool it could be with a camera or that it’s always so much easier to snap a photo of something you want to remember than to make a note about it- but flash… yes, flash would certainly make better access to ‘current’ web content(only time can see the conclusion of this debate). This all aside, the most important thing is what the iPad does and will do.  It will change how we do things and how we interact with technology and despite those that claim that it’s not revolutionary or evolutionary, you’re wrong. The iPad will have a large impact and a long kill list.

One day we will be able to look back and see clearly how the iPad changed the game, just as 3.5 floppies or CD burning.  In a short time it’s completely changed where, when, and how I surf the web, access information, and think about technology. It’s been a creative inspiration for the way I think about what I do, what I will do and what others will do with technology in the future.

So what’s right about the iPad

The first thing is the Apple trinity. It only adds to the strong base of iPhone, iPod, and now iPad. As I reflect on the variety of other available products I’m not sure who can compete with this triple threat.

iWork apps for $10 each.  I love Keynote and it’s mobile app is outstanding. What an inspiration. I have visions of marketing execs and graphic designers sharing work with clients on a iPad, or a photographer or any other vendor at a wedding show, for example, passing potential clients examples of their work to be shown on that beautiful iPad screen. Everything it seems looks better on an iPad. These apps have the potential to shift the need for a new kind of ‘office’ suite.

Being an educator I have visions of books and textbooks on the iPad in full-color interactive glory. Textbook companies may be reluctant to give up selling bulky textbooks, as it is today you have to purchase hard copies of textbooks in order to receive the digital versions, but the demand is already there for digital textbooks. The first manufacturer that truly embraces the digital market will be king. The future is not in printed books. The iPad is the best option for digital texts.

In the classroom I would drop my laptop or net book in a second if there were apps that synced with our attendance and grading software. Connect this to a projector and along comes some great keynote material shared with my students. Put the device in the hands of the students with a few creative apps and you’ll locker full of books and n amazing student response system. Students can take notes and there would be no need for printed materials and documents. Teacher documents, memos, calendars and student work can all be sent to the iPad.

The last thing is the intangible feeling of satisfaction you get from using the device. Put this device in your hands and it somehow just feels right.  I’ve used plenty of laptops, net books, and none impress me like the iPad. Reading on a computer or a net book cannot compare to reading on an iPad and with the gorgeous screen combined with all the wonderful other things you can do with it blows away any ereader.

Apple has done it again.

~Rob Kovi


Ding Dong is Ning Dead?

May 4, 2010

If you’re an educator using Ning, like me, you’re probably disappointed to hear the news that Ning has decided to end its free service. I first discovered and began sharing Ning with teachers in the 08-09 school and it took some time for me to sell it.  This year many teachers have incorporated Ning in their classrooms, just in time for the free service to end.

An ominous e-mail broke the news of “new and exciting changes” coming to Ning in July. Generally it’s a bargain, $2.95 per month or $19.95 for a year, but many teachers have already expressed their concern for having to pay to use Ning. I just wish there was a way they would consider making Ning free for educators…  but wait! What’s this? There’s more.

Good News!! After exploring Ning’s site I discovered that “A major educational company has offered to sponsor Ning Mini Networks for educators globally in primary and secondary education. More details to come soon!”

Could my wish really come true?

~Rob Kovi