week 8 Readings

Mabry & Snow

I found the Mabry & Snow article interesting because they worked with ESL learners  and underperforming students. The use of laptops in any classroom on any kind of regular basis is still hotly debated. For the Cooltown project, the use of laptops gave these students a differing environment in which to learn. At one point, a student who is disorganized suddenly becomes organized through the use of a laptop computer. This was amazing and I wanted to know more of the details about what made the computer a better organizing tool. Alas, the study does not specifically tell us what changed for this student. Was it a certain program, different kind of access, or something like the physical use of a keyboard?

In ED256 we have discussed what might happen when the novelty of using technology in a classroom wanes. What I liked about this project was that it occurred over a period of a couple of years. The Cooltown classrooms appear to remain consistently stimulating.

Finally, the results of using peer reviewers was also encouraging. This seems to me to be a great way to engage students in a collaborative dialogue. The most difficult issue this article highlights as being a challenge to solve, and one that all of us as educators need to constantly address, is how to commingle classroom standards and personalization. If students are stimulated by concepts that teach to each and every student (individual work), then standards are going to have to accommodate us as individuals.

Blumenfeld, et al.

Blumenfeld et al have a study that attempts to theorize on the feasibility of implementing new learning ideas into education systems that are generally resistant to change. Regarding instructional interventions, the authors note: “If such an intervention departs from conventional practice, particularly if it has ambitious goals for student understanding and complex thinking, it is more likely to engender other problems regarding policies, practices, and cultural conditions that support its enactment” (152).

The authors then provide an in-depth approach to explain how to implement new innovative educational tools into an entire education system. Quite a task!

The cultural aspect of change seems to me to be one of the most difficult to crack: “The third axis, culture, describes the extent to which an innovation adheres to or diverges from the existing norms, beliefs, values, and expectations for practice at different levels of the system or organization” (154). The level of infiltration for change is enormous: “Plans for enactment must be developed at all levels of the system with mechanisms aimed at integration and coordination so that everyone sees the innovation as part of district rather than outside efforts and strives to make it work” (160). The authors also note they believe it is not wise to implement these innovations in a smaller number of schools within a district. I think a smaller scale implementation might be better than having no change occur at all. If a few schools note progress with innovations, why could they not influence other schools within their own district?

The most encouraging and important part of this study by Blumenfeld et al. is this: “The field can continue to search for the Holy Grail of the best method, or we can learn from our collective experiences and begin to create a new approach to research knowledge” (162). I applaud these authors for tackling an issue that will never change, unless – like the work we are trying to do in the classroom through collaboration – all of us are invested in improving the health of our students.

Even Yahoo believes this is a better way to work. They recently announced that they were doing away with their work-from-home policy. The backlash on this change of policy will linger for a while, but apparently face-to-face interaction is valued over telecommuting when it comes to this business.

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