Sunday, October 05, 2014

Technology, Education and Poverty

In Ontario, there's a plan to provide every kid from grade 4 to 12 with access to technology (iPad, tablet etc). There's this idea that with technology in the classroom, school is going to be the "great equalizer" at last.
We are not so naive as to believe that access to technology in education will level the playing field and poor kids will miraculously have the same opportunities their wealthier peers have.

But while handing out ipads will not overcome poverty, access to technology will empower poor students in learning. Access to technology via ipads will offer opportunities for children to work together, research, and collaborate in areas that interest them.

Take for example Sugata Mitra’s experiment in Indian villages. Mitra installed a computer in a wall and documented illiterate slum children figuring out how to use it, and then actually using it to learn and share knowledge.
Mitra has since designed ‘School in the Cloud,’ a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other —no teachers present—using resources and mentoring from the cloud. Mitra proposes Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), which he defines as “broadband, collaboration and encouragement put together.”

Fact is, school, as we know it is history. School is obsolete (especially relevant for poor kids). Done. Terminated.  Can I say it any more succinctly?
Today, students are called on to be the drivers of their own learning.

The internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to do so. We can find out what we want to know in seconds. We can connect in groups and across the world, with others who share similar interests and concerns.

Open Source Learning

Another way to understand where education is heading, what’s stirring in the Zeitgeist and taking hold of the imagination can be understood as ‘open-source learning.’
We have heard of the concept 'open-source' in internet circles; anything can be learned over the internet. There is a new openness to educational resources. Institutions of higher learning are offering free online course materials. MIT (Open CourseWare) has over 2000 gratuitous course materials, their motto being "Unlocking knowledge, empowering minds."
Open source learning is based on extending this idea to all learning, to everyone. It's a term that I believe was coined by none other than John Taylor Gatto.
Technology is lowering the costs of education: expensive textbooks will no longer be a barrier to education.

Joint Collective Agencies and Communities of Practice

It is happening everywhere; learning in communities, work groups and collaborations. ‘Communities of practice’—a term coined by John Seely Brown—is the new learning spaces and places representative of this new culture of learning.
Kids getting together and pursuing their passions in joint collective agency, is the revolutionary wave in education. Learning in community, engaging one another, practicing 'deep tinkering' 'marinating in the experience' are some of the ideas for a new culture of learning that Seely-Brown is popularizing.

My teen has been participating in virtual communities for years now, first following her interests in the arts and now focusing on anti-oppression, social justice activism. Exchanging conversation, picking up ideas, reciprocating with her fellow bloggers, the amount of learning she is doing through social media like tumblr is astounding.

Here’s where she goes to dialogue, critic, share, challenge and be challenged. Her virtual community supports the work she does and she in turn supports the work of its members. I never realized how powerful this tool for learning is until I saw the comments and feedback she gets from fellow ‘social justice warriors’—spurring her on to further work.
Online communities can provide the support that a kid might not otherwise be able to access (for example, children questioning gender). Shared experiences all factor into building the self-esteem that is critical in order to overcome abuse and injustices and yes, the trauma of poverty itself.

Not what you know but who you know.

Do you have a linkedin account? I do. We all know that developing personal networks is invaluable for professional growth. Who knows? We might get discovered or at least, land a job.
There’s the concept of personal learning network’ (PLN) to describe the cultivating of personal networks for learning opportunities. PLNs are those connections individual learners make to suit their specific learning needs.

Connections are being made on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Google Hangouts and more. Ahead of the adults, young people connect online in a social context as well as a more strategic, intentional way in order to share, grow opportunities and stay involved and connected

For younger children, it is important to have the guidance and support of caring, knowledgeable, and trusted adults.

To wrap this up, I’d like to offer a quote from Mitra who says, “we need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. If you allow the educational process to self-organize, then learning emerges. It's not about making learning happen. It's about letting it happen. The teacher sets the process in motion and then she stands back in awe and watches as learning happens.”

Hand kids the technology, guide and counsel them, support their interests, facilitate their networking opportunities, and poverty will become less of a barrier to being educated.
Education is something that you have to want to pursue; no one can do it for you. But educators can pave the way.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Book Talk about Unschooling and Autonomy in Education: September 4th.

Book talk on Unschooling and Autonomy in Education today, September 4th at 6.30pm, Westdale library.
Listen to a first hand experience of unschooling then hear excerpts from the book.

Humans are natural learners. This collection of essays challenges much of mainstream beliefs about how people learn, encouraging the reader to consider deeply the need for learners to be trusted and listened to. Many of the authors in the book begin from a learner-centered, democratic perspective. Divided into three sections, the first part of the book deals with what constitutes a learner-centered approach to education. The second section addresses how some have implemented this approach. In the last section, learners who have lived learner-centred learning share narratives about their experiences.

To read more about the book, follow this link:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The internet is the new battleground for fighting oppression.

Have you checked your privilege today?

It's getting a whole lot harder to avoid the inevitable 'calling out' of privilege.

In response to the rise of internet culture, social justice analysis and action has migrated to the internet, where it counteracts the culture of misogyny, racism, homophobia, trans*phobia, ableism, and general bigotry.

This internet culture is examining and challenging privilege starting of course with white skin privilege to the intersectionality of all forms of oppression.

The results of all this is that social justice internet culture is helping to shape contemporary discourse and influencing popular culture.

“The internet is the new battleground for fighting oppression,” my daughter insists.

Many young people utilize the social medium of Tumblr as a platform to promote and explore social justice issues. My 18 year old daughter is a huge tumblr blogger and from her experience it seems to be young women who are predominantly what they are calling 'Tumblr Social Justice Warriors' (TSJW—a derogatory label that people who blog about these issues are called by their critics, but who are reclaiming the name).

At last, non-privileged perspectives are beginning to present in mainstream culture—I think because of the speed at which everything happens faster via the internet; and examining one’s privilege is a starting point on the road to overcoming oppression in our societies.

My daughter’s community discusses, analyses, critiques popular culture in the context of oppression. It is a community that pushes her to stretch her thinking. It's an online space that for some participants is the only place where they can openly discuss their views, their very lives—away from the omnipresent lens of white culture.

They blog, reblog, quotes, images, essays and generally get and offer others an ongoing education on oppression and getting beyond it.

John Seely Brown writes about 'communities of practice' and 'joint collective agencies' based on passions and interests and how this is the future of education. Tumblr social justice is one such example where engaging one another, the participants practice what Seely Brown describes as  'deep tinkering' and 'marinating in the experience.'
What an education they are creating for themselves!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book discussion and reading: Natural Born Learners. Learn about Unschooling!

Book reading/discussion
Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education
Thursday, August 7th, at 2:00 pm.
Hamilton Public Library
Locke St. Branch.
All welcome!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Book Promotion

***BOOK PROMOTION of Natural Born Learners***
Kindle count down deal starts AUGUST 01 at 0.99 cents (48 hours in duration).
3 increments takes us to August 7th at the original price of 3.99.
Stay tuned!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Self-Determined Education, Unschooling and Activism

I sometimes think about self-directed learning, unschooling and autonomy in education in terms of ‘quiet’ activism. It’s about advocating for our children's freedom to learn as they want to and helping them to take responsibility for being in the world, right from the beginning of their life and on. Unschoolers and practitioners of autonomous education are actively demonstrating another way to attain education. We are redefining the way education is understood, what it means to be educated, what learning in an atmosphere of freedom looks like; that it can be done.
This can feel uncomfortable; especially when we ourselves are still deschooling our minds, trying got rid ourselves of doubts, mistrust in our children's ability to learn, uncertainty about if we are doing it right, if it will work....
Not surprisingly, many unschoolers are living lives under the radar, by no means attempting to influence others or trying to prove ourselves. But there are also a significant number of us who continuously seek to 'up' the noise level; writing about, documenting and advocating for unschooling lifestyles and philosophies. The results of these activities are seeping into the mainstream conscience, both indirectly and directly.
It might be a little ambitious to say that it is a movement as yet, but there is certainly an enormous interest in the concepts and ideas of unschooling (I had over 10,000 downloads of my book in the 5 day free book promotion).
Parents are catching on that there is this thing happening, and it sounds pretty intriguing and it makes sense and how do I get some for my kid? Educators are frustrated at the exploratory and creative limitations set for their students by the powers on high, and crave more freedom in learning within the classroom--and outside of it. They know that their charges are getting shortchanged.
When it comes to the traditional understanding of activism (being engaged and about engaging in social and environmental issues), unschoolers have a fantastic opportunity to be get involved and participate in creating change. It is fitting because unschooling is the epitome of justice and respect towards some of the most vulnerable in our society, children. Why not extend that concern to include other vulnerable and oppressed groups? Unschoolers can become strong, world citizens at any age. It is never too late to discuss justice issues, local politics, environmental concerns, and to bring your children along to events, meetings and activities.
I am very interested in hearing from readers about their experiences with social justice, environmentalism, and anti-oppression work/awareness in their unschooling practices. Do you think that you are stronger citizens because of your unschooling lifestyle and believes? Do you think unschooling has opened areas of inquiry into justice issues? Tell me!

On TV!

I think both unschooling and deschooling are about creating and reclaiming places and events for adults and children of all ages to live and learn together.
- Susannah Sheffer and Pat Farenga,“Reflecting on Growing Without Schooling” Vimukt Shiksha 2002

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Skellig: A book with an unschooled kid.

One of the favourite things I've always loved about being a parent is reading to my kids. Sadly as they grow older there are fewer opportunities to do so-and the kids prefer to go off and read their own books by then. Still, I am lucky to have the attention of my youngest kid yet and I just finished reading a most wonderful book called Skellig by David Almond.

How surprising it was and exciting to discover a girl (Mina) living the unschooled life; who moves in the world and learns following her natural curiosity so thoroughly and whose experience, contrasted against the schooled life really brings forth the 'rightness' of what authentic learning is about.

It is now school that is portrayed as un-natural, a curiosity to wonder about (rather than self-directed learning). When Michael (the protagonist) is working on his school work (after missing school due to the distress he is in because of his very sick baby sister), Mina looks at the worksheets; It is thought that Man is d-----------------from the apes. This is the Theory of E--------------This theory was developed by Charles D--------------. There was sentence after sentence like that. Mina read the sentences out loud. She said, "Blank blank blank," in a singsong voice when she came to the dashes. She stopped after the first three sentences and just looked at me.
"Is this really the kind of thing you do all day?" she said.

When she flicks through the book that Michael and his class are reading she asks about the red sticker.
"It's for confident readers," I said. "It's to do with reading age."
And what if other readers want to read it?"
"And where would William Blake fit in?" said Mina. "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night." Is that for the best reader of the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"..."and if it were for the worst readers would the best readers not bother with it because it would be too stupid for them?"she said.

If you're looking to get inspired about life, beauty, the extraordinariness of things get ye a copy of this book!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...