“A Vision of Students Today”

is the title to this video by Dr. Michael Wesch and the students of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology,  Class of Spring 2007 at Kansas State University:

which presents a question about how to effectively employ web technology in the classroom.

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image via Consumerist, from MoveOn

“What we’ve been doing is trying to teach people to do what Obama does during his speeches — to tell their own stories to motivate others,” he says. “You’re building this sense of commitment to both the values and people, but you’re structuring it purposefully to achieve goals like, ‘In this district, we need 2,000 votes.'”

Via Wired on October 29, 2008:

Obama is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organization that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale.

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“Adult learning theory” in the Kindergarten classroom

From the New York Times on October 8, 2008:

The IBPYP model is based on inquiry, participation in the process of learning, and exploration. It is learner-driven, not-teacher dominated. Teachers act as facilitators in the learning process and children’s questions and interests are at the center of the classroom.

… In the current national climate of testing, we have to make time for creative expression. It is urgent. Children need some constructive form of release.

… Children express their creativity and intelligence in a variety of ways. By allowing students to safely explore beyond their typical boundaries, we are encouraging them to express themselves in unique ways in a positive, safe, non-judgmental environment. Performance and open-ended inquiry help us move beyond traditional models of education. The arts, performance, and inquiry are small steps we take to help our students regain ownership of their learning.

I have not been comfortable making a significant distinction between adults and children when looking at the needs of learners for the purpose of developing an idea of what an online component of a classroom could look like.

I have tended to think of learners in a spectrum, and have found that the factor of a learner’s chronological age has not been particularly useful as a way to make distinctions between learners.  From a developmental standpoint, I know that it is a factor due to the physiological processes that happen as we age.  However, it has seemed clear that some children demonstrate adult learning needs, and some adults have learning needs that resemble the needs associated with children.

In this article, we have principles that I have come to associate with adult education now being applied to children in kindergarten.  Children are being encouraged to be self-directed learners.  The idea that children cannot “own” their education is being challenged.

In our classrooms, inquiry comes alive through performance. This week in our kindergarten we are starting a unit called “We are Peacemakers.” In this unit, the children learn about sharing, cooperation, conflict resolution, expressing feelings, and building community. We start the unit by asking the children what they know about peace and being a peacemaker. We then use their questions and interests to guide the inquiry process.

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A definition of “adult education”

In The Profession and Practice of Adult Education (2007), Sharan Merriam and Ralph Brockett broadly define “adult education” as “virtually any activity for adults designed to bring about learning” (8). More specifically, they define adult education as:

activities intentionally designed for the purpose of bringing about learning among those whose age, social roles, or self-perception define them as adults (8).

As to the difference between adult education and adult learning, Merriam and Brockett define adult learning as “a cognitive process internal to the learner,” and can include “unplanned” and “incidental” learning experiences (5-6).  This is different than “adult education,” which is a systematic, organized and planned activity, designed with an intent to facilitate learning (6).

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