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Part III Technology and Education: So what do you want it to do?

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For me, that turned into a little more of online. The first three URLs are my websites. But I want to talk next about this fourth one. An example of how when you are trying to discover technology, how can we use technology? True story. Won’t give any names, but we’ve all maybe been there before. Whether it’s from technology or from some other English based lesson. A teacher came up to me and said, “Do you know Google books?” “No.” This was a couple of years ago. “No, not really. Google books?” “You don't know Google books?" "You’re a technology teacher. You’re teaching an English writing class using technology and you don’t know Google books?" “Sorry, I’m special. No, I don’t. I don't know Google books. Enlighten me.” Probably you’ve experienced that before. Whether it is technology or if it's a linguistic based thing or grammatical based thing. “How can you possibly exist as a native English speaker and not know how to explain to me the subjunctive verb?” “Because I don’t and I can’t.” “But how is that possible?” So how is it possible that a technology based teacher teaching an English writing class doesn’t know about Google books? Google books is a website that allows you to search through all of these different books. In some cases you can read full copies of them online. You can download a PDF, full file versions of them. You have all of these things, and I said, “Oh yeah. That’s great. That’s nice. That’s wonderful.” And I took this to the class and it absolutely, totally and completely... didn't change what I was doing. Why? Because he didn’t know my framework. He didn’t know what I was working from. He didn’t know how I was teaching the class. This next semester of English writing. The biggest part that I use with literature is to do it based on research of e-journals, electronic journals. We don’t use books because it is an English writing class. Students barely have enough time to keep up with all of their other classes. So you, Mr. Professor, are suggesting I should be asking them to find and download full books and to do research for that? For writing the papers? They don’t have time. When I use e-journals, I rarely even require that they use English-based journals. We go through the Japanese journals. Because the point and purpose of my class is to focus on English, research and writing. Not how well can you read a 20 or 30 page English journal article. So thank you Mr. Professor for pointing out how troubled I was, but this doesn’t work in my model, in my system. The idea is that you should be teaching what you test, testing what you teach. The promise that I try to make to students, and again I welcome attacks from the students if they find contradictions in what I’m doing. But basically the things that I’m testing in the class or things that I’m assessing or my expectations from the class are the things that I teach. And I would never test you on anything that I haven’t taught you. That we haven’t practiced. That we haven’t gone through. When I talk about technology in education, I come at it from this point of view. What’s your objective? What’s your goal? What’s your point? What’s your purpose? Forget about the technology, for now. Why are you showing a video for thirty minutes in your one hour class? Couldn't they possibly see that video on their own time outside of the class? And then maybe come back in and use it in a lecture or discussion? Why are you doing this big long video? Are you testing them on English listening? “No, it’s a communications class. I just thought it would be useful that they could watch people talking for 30 minutes. And it’s neat because they can watch a video.” Okay, I have a problem with that. For me, education is all about a personal framework. What I do with technology. What I do in my classes. What I do in my teaching is based on what I call a personal framework. My personal framework has some general rules that are open to change, but mostly based out of these four points. Teaching should be a profession where the teacher is continuously questioning the efficacy of what they do. At the end of every semester. At the end of every term. At every point, at every week, at the end of every lecture, walking out and saying, “Was that useful? Was that effective? Am I achieving what I thought this lesson was supposed to achieve? Am I teaching what I think I’m teaching?” You cannot really do this until you have clearly defined the boundaries of your own framework. You need to understand the system, the boundaries, the limitations. And this is one of the more interesting points for me. It’s one thing to hope for change at a group or system wide level, but people cannot ask for change from others until they have first demonstrated it in themselves. Case in point, example We’ll just call all of these people “Professor X” Professor X came to me and said, “We’re a bit disappointed once again with your English writing class.” “Your second year class.” My English writing class. It's a one year class, two semesters. Starting with second-year students. They know little to nothing about writing. Not English writing, just writing. Writing papers, writing reports. They know nothing about it. Why? They never learned it. They were never taught it. “These second year students take your class for one year. At the end of the year, some of these students receive a score of eighty or ninety percent. However, look at this!” "What’s that?" “This was your student two years ago. They are fourth year now, graduating. And they’ve written, as we require them, a ten to twelve page paper in English for their graduation thesis... ...and it’s terrible! Clearly, that’s your fault.” "Two years ago? How much English writing training did they have since they left my class?" “I give them paragraphs. I ask them to write paragraphs on occasion.” "How much English writing does everyone else require of them?" “Not much, but that’s what I’m saying!" "We need all the teachers to put more English writing in the classroom!” "And you believe that doing this, just write in the classroom, these students will now be able to produce a ten to twelve page English paper thesis?" This is a person that does not understand the boundaries of the system. The example that I give to that person is in terms of music. You are taking someone—and if you've never played music before—and say "Okay, I am going to teach you the piano." "And at the end of one year, we are going to have to know how to play a little bit of piano." "And at the end of your fourth year, you need to conduct a symphony." So why can you look at that example and say, “impossible” but why can’t you look at this example and also see it’s impossible? You haven’t really understood your own personal framework. And you cannot ask others, you cannot place blame and responsibility on others, saying “You’re the one.” without turning around and offering something in return. I’ve challenged this person on numerous occasions. “Tell me this miracle system of education that you have that will take complete beginners in second year and turn them into genius English writers in the given framework, in the time, the limitations, the boundaries." Taking into account that most of these students take how many classes? Sixteen? Seventeen? Osaka University, some of the majors there take as many as 23 (subjects per week). “When I was a student, we just worked harder.” “Yeah, and I’m still checking your English even today.” You’re not being realistic about the boundaries of the system. And if you are going to challenge me on what I’m doing, and this is fine if you are saying, “Where are we going with technology here, Bob?” If you are going to challenge somebody on the technology that they are using or they are not using just simply saying, “you should be using technology” is not enough. You have to demonstrate it. If you are going to criticize someone for using a particular system or model, you better be ready to be coming with big solutions of your own. And that’s one of the biggest gaps that we have with technology in education, or education in general. There’s lots of sniping and snarking that we have. That’s what so many journal articles are about. You’re reading that, “I would like to discuss how tasked-based learning is a completely inefficient method of education.” Then, “Oh! Here we go.” The next issue comes out and…“I’d like to address what that guy said in the other journal and…” Stop attacking. It’s not about that. It’s about "This is my personal framework. This is my belief. This is what I do and the reason that I do it is because I expect these objectives, these outcomes." You can disagree with what I am doing, but you better be coming to me with your own solutions, your own answers. And you better be very specific about that. Simply saying, “I don’t think that works” isn’t going to do it.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 37 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: English
Producer: Robert Perkins
Views: 82
Posted by: shoukoedu on Sep 4, 2011

Part III of a lecture given by Robert Perkins for Nara JALT August 20, 2011

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