Keynote: Mizuko Ito

Dr. Ito started by recognizing that teachers are bringing ideas of the world into practice.

Dr. Ito shared about her own experiences.  Her son participated in a Minecraft elective in a Middle School setting.  The students were elated when it started and it provided a great school/home link.  She was at a parent event and a parent asked “Why Minecraft?” Another parent offered that it offered creativity and problem solving opportunities.  We used to think of the recreational activities separate from learning and now they are falling in-line. Parents are becoming well informed about their child’s interest and education.

How can young people make the most of today’s abundance of information and social connection?  How do we as educators respond to these opportunities?  How can we make stronger connections between in school and out of school learning.  Learning is now more widely accessible, and we have tools to access the information.

Young people are readers.  Young people are more likely to read books than adults.  They are also writers.  “Everyone can be a writer – technology isn’t killing our ability to write, it’s reviving it.” – Andrea Lundsford    Kids actually do know the difference between writing text messages and writing meant for school work.

Now, kids are spending seven hours of media engagement per day and gaming is here to stay.  Women Game. Kids Game. Men Game.  It’s interactive entertainment.  Virtually all teens have access to the internet and most teens have mobile phones.  Peer to peer communication is dominated in teens with mobile devices.  100 texts a day for girls and 50 texts a day for boys! The future is here….. it is just unevenly distributed. Fascinating.

We (teachers, parents, mentors) should shape the use of these technologies, not assume they will positively shape our youth.   How can we bridge the adult world with teen value on social connection? There is a persistent difference between how adults and teens view connectivity.  Even if the adult values the technology personally they view the teen’s use as not as valuable.

What happens when these kids walk into a classroom?  It is not just teenage resistance to adult authority.  They are immersed in social connectivity and often the classroom does not offer these same opportunities.

Young people are learning a lot through their online participation.  Friendship participation = Facebook  The interactions socially are the same as before, just online.  (There are differences in privacy.)  Tumblr and Twitter are for creative kids, kids looking for information, looking for an authority, and contributions to a community. Kids are looking to these online communities to make connections with like-minded individuals, and this is game-changing for interest driven kids.  When young people have a connective interest-based learning experience, this will serve them best for the future.  Young people are learning to make good choices about connectivity, but not without educators who are committed to tying interest-based learning to career outcomes and their future.  Be open to these connections and make them more intentional. Often it is just the passionate learners who seek out input in these areas.  Others do not.

Inequalities exist in out of school learning experiences.  The poorest spend $100 a year to the richest spending 8,000-10,000 on out of school activites.  These experiences provide for their passionate interests, they learn how to be awesome at something that is uniquely their own.  Now, kids have to do these things in addition to being successful in school.  The most privileged families are also experiencing a rise in mental illness and anxiety because of these factors.  Can new technologies help close the gap in this inequality between the rich and the poor in interest based learning?

Device infiltration and growth of online learning resources are happening at the same time.  How can education take advantage of these?

“We were promised jet-packs and got lectures.” Justin Reich -student quote when devices were distributed in education. Often devices are distributed but not actually changing the way students are being educated.

MOOC’s have peaked, and now are declining because they started looking more like traditional lectures.  Lead with the learning goal, not the technology.  What are the principles that should guide our learning goals with technology?

1.  Meet learners where they are  (explosion of content communities, access to social communities that we never had access to before)  The very core of the content can be diverse.   With online learning everyone’s interests can be met somehow.  Some examples include: Starcraft – chess on steroids in real time.  Chess for this generation.  Kids are learning problem solving skills around their interests.  Harry Potter Alliance – finding social justice around a theme. Almost any interest is represented online.  Ravelry,  an online community developed around knitting and hand crafts.  Another example is the Quest to Learn school, which is centered on inquiry.

2. Tap the Power of peer-to-peer learning – the stage of school is wider than the classroom and the online world provides for that. Anyone can be a peer-to-peer mentor online to someone.  Q and A forums.  Everyday, you can wake up and ask the internet a question and someone out there has the answer.  For example, Stack Exchange, and Peer-to-Peer University, DS 106.

3.  Build connected maker spaces – There are so many more tools for this type of learning than in the past.  One example is the YOUmedia lab in Chicago.  This is a production lab within the library.  Students can play a rock band, check out books, and talk with mentors in different areas. With the addition of this space, the library has seen a huge increase in their teen and children’s book circulation. Another example is MinecraftEDU, and Scratch.  These online communities serve as a networked peer space.

4.  Seek recognition in the wider world – Participate.  For example, at the Library of Games kids can submit the games they have made to the community. This gives kids an audience.  Another example of providing an audience for students is after every unit at Quest to Learn their is a “boss level”  and they demonstrate their concept to the public. At Topcoder.com you can self-evaluate your programming skills, and there are measures of achievement.  This type of recognition will become valuable for kids to display their talents.  Another innovative concept is the Badges of Connected Learning – program in Chicago to demonstrate and motivate learning over the summer.

It’s not about particular technologies, but reconnecting with good learning and teaching.  There is not one device for the answer.  There is a growing movement of designers and educators that are promoting the support of connected learning. What might seem like a small change as an educator, make be life changing for a student in your classroom.  This experience could change their life-path.  When we ask people who are successful how they sought out their passion, they speak of these experiences.

Read another LiveBlog of Keynote: Mizuko Ito here from Jen Holland.

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