Tag Archives: technology

STEM in early childhood classrooms – readilearn

Making space for STEM in early childhood classrooms is easy; or should be.

Children are naturally curious about the world. They want to know:

  • Why is it so?
  • How does it work?
  • What will happen if?
  • How can I?

It is important to harness their curiosity, explore their questions, engage their interests and inspire their imaginations.

Provide them with opportunities to investigate objects and phenomena in the world around them. Don’t always be in a rush to provide answers to their questions. Help them explore ways of finding the answer for themselves, if possible, or conduct the research with them.

A story reported by Michael Rosen in his book Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher inspires me. The story explains that, as a child, David Attenborough took an interest in bones. If he was out walking and found some bones, he would take them home and ask his father about them.

His father, who was a GP and would have known, didn’t just tell him. Wanting his son to be curious and interested in finding things out for himself, he responded, for example: “I wonder if we can work it out . . .” They would then look through books about zoology and anatomy and try to identify the bone’s origin.

However, the answers don’t always have to be found in a book or on the internet. Some answers can be discovered through explorations and experimentation. Experts can also be consulted.

In a stimulating early childhood classroom where children have access to a range of resources and opportunities

Continue reading: STEM in early childhood classrooms – readilearn

I’ll just look that up: lazy or smart thinking?

1 (5)

I often lament that I was born too soon. I love what can be done with information technology and am constantly learning more of its uses. I am in awe of what can be achieved with the aid of digital tools. Unfortunately, some things, because they can be done, are vastly overdone.

I remember being at an education conference in the early 80s, at the time when computers were becoming more common in classrooms and in homes. A presenter at the conference excited us about the wonders of digital technology and its ability to ease our work load. He predicted that computers would be used to do so many of our menial tasks that by the year 2000 we would have so much spare time we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

His prediction, in my opinion, was way off the mark. While the use of computers has greatly enhanced our capabilities and our knowledge, it has also driven us to constantly do more. I notice this particularly with data collection in schools. If it can be quantified, then it must be quantified, analysed and compared. Whether what is being measured is of any value is of no consequence. If it can be done, it will be done.

1985 was the year I first used a computer at school and bought my first computer for home. They were Apple IIe (huge) desktop computers. I can remember how excited I was to be able to program little games using BASIC coding language. There were some good problem solving software programs on floppy disks I used with children at school; and my son played his way through the series of Ultima role playing games.

Back then, the thought of having a computer that could be carried in a pocket was as absurd, to the general population, as having a phone that wasn’t attached to a wall. Fortunately, there were others with imagination and vision who were able to make these things a reality.

I recently read a post on Daniel Willingham’s blog Science and education entitled The brain in your pocket. The brain that he is talking about I carry in my handbag. In fact, I often have two with me, though I’m not convinced that this supports the theory that two brains are better than one.

In the post Willingham shares some observations about our current use of technology to replace thinking. He suggests that, as thinking requires effort, people don’t like to engage it and find ways to avoid it. He referred to this as “miserly thinking”, a term coined by Robyn Dawes in the 1970s.

Two strategies for avoiding thinking include use of:

  • Memory – repeating earlier actions or doing things the way you’ve always done them; such as ordering the same item from a menu or always travelling the same route to work
  • Associations – using strategies that worked in other similar situations.

Willingham then shared this question as a test of miserly thinking:

bat and ball question

He suggested that if you, like many others, answered 10 cents you were using miserly thinking triggered by the word “more”, immediately thinking that subtraction was required and not checking to see if the answer was correct.

He used this to demonstrate a similar effect that use of the internet has had upon thinking in recent years, when answers to many questions are just a motion (click, tap or swipe) away. In more recent years of course nearly everyone is carrying a smartphone in a pocket or handbag, that is, if it’s not grasped firmly in hand. This easy access, he suggests, makes people less reliant on their own memories as they look to the internet for a quick answer.

1 (8)

Research cited by Willingham suggests that a higher use of the internet for answers reduces the ability to solve problems like the bat and ball question shown above. He says thatpeople who are more cognitively miserly are more likely to search information out on their smartphone.” He adds that “The reason is not clear. It may be that low-cognitive-ability people seek information—look up a word meaning, calculate a tip—that high-ability people have in their heads.

He asks the questions:

daniel willingham questions

What do you think?

I love having the “external memory” that I can use to find out what I want to know when I want to know it. Previously I would have had to remember to look it up at some other time. If I didn’t know the right question to ask, or the appropriate term to look under, I may have been left in the dark forever.

I love being able to spell check my work or check a dictionary or thesaurus to confirm that I have used a word correctly. These things enhance my knowledge and improve my skills. I am a bit peeved at the idea that it is those with low cognitive ability who look things up. I thought it was a smart thing to do!

Do these actions make me a miserly thinker and decrease my cognitive skills? I really don’t want to think about that, but I sincerely hope not!

I first became familiar with Willingham’s work through his book Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. I thought I had mentioned it in a previous post, but if I have, my search feature, upon which I am reliant, couldn’t find it. I’ll have to remember to do so in the future!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Power tools

 

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. I open this post with a quote by Jackie French I used to close my previous post.

Jackie French - books - tools

Books are a great tool. So is the ability to think creatively.

Being literate is a key that opens many doors. Being able to think opens many more. You could say they are the power tools of education and success.

In his book The Outliers (recommended to me by Rowena who blogs at Beyond the Flow), Malcolm Gladwell talks about the role of intelligence in success. He says that “intelligence only matters up to a point”, and that “past that point, other things — things that have nothing to do with intelligence — must start to matter more”. He raises the question of what those things are.

He makes a suggestion to

“Write down as many different uses that you can think of for the following objects:

  1. a brick
  2. a blanket”

and calls it a “divergence test”. Rather than asking you to come up with a one right answer, a divergence test “requires you to use your imagination and take your mind in as many different directions as possible.”

Gladwell describes the test as a measure of creativity, of the ability to come up with imaginative and unique responses rather than a list of commonplace uses. He considers this imaginative thinking combined with intelligence, not intelligence alone, to be what is required to make new discoveries such as those that may be awarded Nobel Prizes.

Can this sort of creative thinking be taught?

Edward de Bono certainly thinks so. As long ago, dare I say, as the late 60s I read (and did) The Five Day Course in Thinking, a series of puzzles to help readers (thinkers) understand their thinking strategies. The puzzles in the book are divided into three sections: Insight Thinking, Sequential Thinking, and Strategic Thinking.

Over the years I read a number of de Bono’s books including but not limited to Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats, How to Have a Beautiful Mind, Teach Your Child How to Think, Textbook of Wisdom and Why I Want to Be King of Australia. I had a thirst for learning how to think, as thinking had not been encouraged and memorising content had not come easily in my younger years. Discovering that I was able to think, and think outside the box, was empowering.

I enjoyed using de Bono’s strategies and teaching them to my own children as well as to children in my classrooms over the years. His Six Thinking Hats are used in classrooms worldwide as are many others of his thinking strategies.

six hats

In this video de Bono talks about creativity, creative thinking, and thinking “outside the box”:

Tony Ryan is another educator who believes it can. He has published a number of books that aim to get students thinking in creative ways. His Thinkers Keys “a powerful program for teaching children to become extraordinary thinkers” is designed to do just that.

Tony Ryan says that we now need to think beyond the square and think “outside the dodecahedron”.

In a comment on a previous post about Lifetime Changes, Steven linked to an amusing video showing the reactions of 21st century children to our earliest computers, tools of technology. This is it in case you missed it:

I combined the notions of books, creative thinking and technology as tools for learning, productivity and success with a little bit of backward (historical) thinking to inspire my futuristic flash this week. I hope you enjoy it.

tools for learning

Relic

The family shuffled amongst the haphazard collection of primitive artefacts without attempting to disguise disinterest or disdain. The waiting seemed interminable in this “so-last-century” outpost.

Haven’s seen one of these before,” they’d been told. “I’ll need to order a specialized tool as well as the part. Shouldn’t take long though. Look around while you wait.”

Confidence in the simpleton’s tools “upstairs”, even if the correct parts arrived, was as low as their interest.

Hey look!” one called. “Is this …?”

Can’t be.”

All destroyed centuries ago.”

Would be worth a fortune though.’’

They opened it.

A book!” they gasped.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.