Saturday, November 26, 2011

Taken from my new tumblr

Hi, my name is Peter, and I'm really interested in the ways the internet is changing the world. After reading a lot about the ways DIY Education people are really utilizing social networks to learn and better themselves, I felt I should jump on that bandwagon.

A bit about myself, I'm a 26 year old graduate student in Tacoma, working as a mental health worker and tutor. I attend the University of Washington's Tacoma campus, and am finishing my Masters in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction. I initially started the program seeking to be a science and math teacher, but after a really terrible experience student teaching, I realizing that perhaps teaching in conventional public schools wasn't for me. I then began reading about the DIY Education movement, Edupunk, and all that amazing stuff, and have since realizing that as the schools continue to consistently fail students by pursuing this testing paradigm, a lot of kids are taking their learning into their own hands. Occupy Wallstreet is a prime example of that- nobody is teaching those kids how to be revolutionaries, or teaching them anything about social justice. Their schools have been training them to be test taking drones so they won't get screwed over by NCLB. So, where is this coming from? The internet. The internet is teaching people how to be human beings, how to recognize oppression and injustice, how to network with others, and how to better yourself without any adult. Information literacy is probably the most important thing a kid can learn in schools, but right now the general mood is to cut as many electives as possible, while ramming test taking skills down their throats, all with the hopes of getting better funding, which is currently a pipe dream in most districts.

The world is changing, and education must change with it. Khan Academy is one example of how technology can really change the way students learn, at least in mathematics. If you take the Khan Academy math curriculum seriously, you can teach and test yourself on any number of mathematics curricula, and if paired with a tutor or teacher, the chance of you really getting a good understanding of this stuff is increased. Furthermore, the data culture of Khan Academy allows for amazing troubleshooting ability for teachers- where previously they were stuck with just knowing that Billy got questions 2, 5, and 6 wrong on the test, they can now see that he spent 2 minutes on 2, and 5 seconds on 5 and 6, and what those problems were, and so forth and so on. Furthermore, Billy won't be able to pass onto the next concept until he has shown mastery of the concept, which involves getting a streak of 10 questions correct. He might need to do 50 problems to get that down, but by the time he's got that, chances are he really understands that.

That's just one way the tools of the information age are changing schooling. I envision a student centered school, where the first few hours of the day are spent doing the basics, reading, writing, mathematics, and then the next few hours are spent with students working online to connect with experts in various fields, get internships, and take ownership of their own education, rather than letting the neighborhood they grow up in determine the quality of their educational experience. A student interested in automotive repair might connect with some auto technicians currently working on higher level certifications. A student who has a learning disorder might connect with other people on a newsgroup and exchange ways of coping with their disorder and successfully learning difficult concepts. A student interested in astrophysics would seek out doctoral students as mentors, and students interested in social justice might seek out activists and political bloggers. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, but now we have the entire planet, and with the internet, experts everywhere are willing to mentor and connect with people across the globe. It is a crime that with this amazing tool, students are being forced to learn prescribed curricula that teaches to tests (that are not particularly valid or reliable) designed to determine the economic strength of a country.

I met a high school librarian recently. He worked in a poor district, but had been given a grant to recreate the school's library, turning it from some dusty place with untouched books and sleeping teenagers to a large information center, complete with rows of computers. Now, when I see teenagers on computers, I expect to see facebook and flash games, but these were nowhere to be seen- instead, students were looking at websites and blogs. I asked him what he had done to make this happen, and he told me that his job was to collaborate with teachers to make web-quests that teachers could incorporate into their curricula. Students would learn how to google, how to review information, and how to analyze the validity of websites. He was teaching them how to learn without a teacher, a skill that too many people do not have, and instead see the only way to improve their lives is funneling money into the educational system, which, while providing nice letters behind your name, is no longer necessary.

So, that's what I'm all about. I don't know what I want to do with this passion, although over the next few months I intend to do a lot of research on the information age's impact on education as a focus for my Master's project. Perhaps that will give me some direction. In the mean time, I'd also like to teach myself how to do tech support and networking. I worked in IT years ago, and really enjoyed it, and as a personal project, as a sort of proof of concept that DIY education actually works, I would like to get some sort of network certification on my own, using the internet as a primary resource.

Anyway, if you are into DIY education, information literacy, virtual academies, information technology, networking, education, science and math education, academia, or are just a really interesting person, I want to talk to you.