I had an AI (Artificial Intelligence) company email me yesterday asking me to look at their tool. What it does is uses AI to help teachers generate worksheets. To be honest, I was horrified. We are using advanced technology to make worksheets faster? How does this improve learning? Does student engagement improve when a teacher can make a worksheet faster? We can certainly improve education beyond what was done in the 1980s and 1990s when I went to school. There has been a lot of educational research conducted since 1980 and technology has advanced greatly. So many new possibilities. It is important to ask as we design lessons and tools: “What improves learning over teaching methods from the 1990’s?”
It takes EFFORT to rethink what is possible.
It is Probable There Are Better Methods
I have been reading the book “Building Thinking Classrooms” by Peter Liljedahl. He started with the premise of wanting to improve the baseline. He did some experiments to throw out “what we’ve always done” and then test it to see if this new thing was the same, worse, or better. If it was better he would keep making adjustments until he felt it maximized the potential improvements. If it was worse, it would have been abandoned. Even if you do not teach math I recommend you check out this book for teaching methods that his research found that was effective.
Not only did Peter not find that desks in rows facing the front of the room was the best way to learn, but it turns out that getting rid of the desks all together was the most effective! Who would have thought!!
Life is full of things that seem counter intuitive. We think something is the way to do it, but then someone tries something weird and it can blow our mind at the results. Heck, this is possibly what drives half of YouTube 🙂 “Check out this crazy way to cook eggs without a pot” or something like that. With all of the crazy things people have tried in education, some of it is better than the old ways.
Being Comfortable Does Not Lead to Improvement
The person who reached out to me tried to make a counter argument that he was trying to help teachers feel comfortable. We have very different goals. I want to help teachers feel SUPPORTED to try new things. Helping someone feel comfortable means you are not helping them at all if the goal is to be a BETTER teacher. 100% of us can always improve. I do not know one teacher who says “I do not want to get better at teaching.” This job is so complex. The targets keep moving. And of course, each year we get different students than the students we had last year so what worked in the past might not work with one or several students you have this year.
If you want to improve you have to do something different.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. As Ginger Lewman says: “If it is not working, do something different.”
A Little Help from ChatGPT
I love ChatGPT. It saves me from staring at a blank page and helps me to get started. So I am using advanced technologies (AI) to help me get started so I can make an even better presentation. Here is what it suggested when I gave it the prompt “What Improves Learning Over Teaching Methods from the 1990’s?”
There are several improvements in teaching methods from the 1990s that have been shown to enhance learning. Some of these include:
Active learning, which involves students actively engaging with the material through activities such as group work, discussions, and hands-on projects, has been shown to be more effective than traditional, lecture-based teaching methods. This is because active learning allows students to apply what they are learning, which helps to solidify their understanding.
Personalized learning, which involves tailoring instruction to the individual needs and learning styles of each student, has become more popular in recent years. This approach has been shown to be more effective than traditional, one-size-fits-all instruction, as it allows students to learn at their own pace and in ways that are most appropriate for them.
Use of Technology:
The integration of technology in the classroom has improved teaching methods from the 1990s. The use of digital tools such as interactive whiteboards, tablets, and online resources has made it possible to deliver instruction in new and engaging ways. Technology has also enabled personalized and blended learning, which allows students to access resources and engage in activities at their own pace.
Project-based learning, which involves students working on real-world projects and problems, has become more popular in recent years. This approach has been shown to be more effective than traditional teaching methods, as it allows students to apply what they are learning to real-world situations, and it helps to develop critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork skills.
Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Learning:
(SEL) has become more popular in recent years. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga and breathing exercises have been shown to improve focus, attention and self-regulation in students and SEL instruction helps students develop emotional intelligence and empathy.
In summary, teaching methods from the 1990s have been improved by active learning, personalized learning, use of technology, project-based learning, mindfulness and SEL. These new methods put students at the center of the learning process, and they allow them to engage in activities that are more relevant, meaningful, and motivating.
What Improves Learning Over Teaching Methods from the 1990’s?
Notice none of the items listed to improve learning is “faster worksheets.” In fact, worksheets were not mentioned at all. Worksheets are easy to distribute. I can crank out a worksheet in under an hour and if I use AI, apparently I can do it in seconds.
The problem is improved methods often are MORE TIME CONSUMING and MORE EXPENSIVE.
My principal can pay for a website that cranks out math worksheets for me. This would probably be under $50. Providing resources for Project Based Learning (PBL) is not only a lot more money, it is more difficult than writing a single check for a website. It is a lot easier for me too. Printing out or pushing a digital website to Google Classroom is no doubt easier than setting up a Project Based Learning activity. A LOT EASIER.
To IMPROVE learning the shift is from the idea of putting information into student heads to getting students to think, reason, analyze, critique, etc…
Learning Styles is Not a Thing
DEBUNKED is the idea that each student has a particular learning style and we need to differentiate our instruction for the kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learner. Notice how prevalent this idea is in that ChatGPT was taught this. Note: Artificial Intelligence is trained based on samples from large data sets. AI does not have original ideas, it takes ideas that it has been taught and puts it together.
Does Technology Improve Learning?
Easy answer. NO.
Wait! What?! Technology Does Not Improve Learning?
Technology is a tool. If it is doing the same old thing in a digital format the learning will AT BEST be the same. Sometimes worse. If you’re taking something designed for paper and simply transferring it to a digital format…. this is a different medium. It was designed for paper. It was not designed for paper. So without CHANGES to take advantage of the technology, it can be worse in the different medium.
Smart™ Boards do NOT Improve Learning.
I’m sure some study paid for by the company might say otherwise, but simply installing a Smart™ Board or any interactive panel will have NO improvement on learning.
IF you change how you teach in response to installing an interactive board then MAYBE the learning will be improved.
Technology enhances student learning by providing interactive and engaging resources, facilitating communication and collaboration, and enabling personalized instruction.
Buying Technology Can Be a Waste of Money
Buying a bunch of interactive panels, Chromebooks, iPads, or whatever will feel like a giant waste of money unless these things are implemented
- Money is dedicated to supporting the devices.
- Purchase subscriptions for tools for the Chromebooks rather than relying on hacking free tools.
- TIME IS GIVEN to the teachers to design learning experiences with the tools.
- More than a one day PD
- Continuous support for shifts in teaching and learning practices is provided.
- More than a one day PD
Remember the phrase “Time is money.” Implementing technology tools that cause teachers to spend more time learning them detracts from the time teachers have to work with students. Does the school day look the same after buying all of the technology? Do not expect dramatic change school-wide as a result of the purchase. Not buying teacher time when buying technology results in teacher frustration and burn out.
Feel Good – Do Little
My friend Hedreich Nichols replied to a tweet with some things that have been done in schools with little results. Why? Change takes time and is expensive. For all of these things it is sometimes done at a superficial level without investing the TIME and the money to do it properly.
1:1 (lacks implementation/teacher development strategy); emoji check-ins (no depth/ followup); ‘restorative practice’ (no training or real implementation strategy); Walk-throughs (snapshot ‘data’ is sketchy)Hedreich Nichols
You know there's a character limit, right? NCLB (lacks efficacy); 1:1 (lacks implementation/teacher development strategy); emoji check-ins (no depth/ followup); 'restorative practice' (no training or real implementation strategy); Walk-throughs (snapshot 'data' is sketchy)— Hedreich Nichols🔜TCEA (@Hedreich) January 19, 2023
No Easy Magic Bullets
The bottom line is that the answer is complex. What improves learning over teaching methods from the 1990’s? This takes time, money, and serious effort to implement. Support has to come in the form of dramatic changes to the system.
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Possible Ways Technology Can Improve Learning
- By utilizing interactive software, students can actively engage with the material and retain information more effectively.
- Furthermore, technology allows for seamless collaboration and communication between students and teachers, fostering a more collaborative learning environment.
- Additionally, technology enables personalized instruction, allowing students to work at their own pace and receive customized feedback.
- Another way to improve learning is by providing access to vast amounts of information and resources through the internet, allowing students to explore and expand their knowledge.
- With the use of virtual and augmented reality, students can experience and interact with subjects in ways that would not have been possible before.
- Through online assessments and quizzes, students can receive immediate feedback and track their own progress more effectively.
- With the use of learning management systems, students can have access to all course materials, assignments, and grades in one convenient location.
- By using gamification and game-based learning, students can be motivated to learn while having fun.
- Through the use of web conferencing tools, students can participate in virtual classes and interact with classmates from anywhere.
- Finally, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can help to personalize learning experiences, provide adaptive feedback, and improve student outcomes.
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