Journal

Web-Conference: The Wonders of Modern Technology. Dec 13th 2014

This, my first reflective journal entry for the Foundations of Adult Education module is centred on the Trends and Roles Blog assignment, specifically, the web conference experience. As a social person I wouldn’t say that the prospect of meeting a total stranger via Skype was daunting, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch anxious about the whole affair. As luck would have it, my learning partner and I had allot more in common than I could have hoped for and within minutes of our first Skype session, any feelings of anxiety were suitably quashed.

Our conversation, pitched and rolled around the issues within our respective workplaces and it soon became apparent that we faced similar challenges. Our students were of the same generation (y/z) and most were entering into the workplace for the first time. One of the points that we continually stumbled over was the need for our students to open their minds and think critically due to the nature of our work. After a very productive 80 minutes or so, we decided that our subject should be just that – How can we as educators encourage our students to think more critically? With that, we parted ways to reflect, research and eventually reconvene.

Today we had our ‘teaching back’ session which was a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience. Our research had taken us on very different paths but brought us back to the same juncture. Admittedly, our subject was very broad but our research found us drawing the same points of interest, allowing us both to expand on and debate each others findings. My learning partner not only emphasised my own key points but taught me a few really interesting things which I will certainly use in my future practice.

The first was a strategy called the ‘Muddiest Point’ (Angelo and Cross, 1993). This entails encouraging your students to ask themselves the question “What was most confusing to me about the material being explored in class today?”. From here, both the student and the teacher can explore this question to gain clarity as needed. In addition, it allows the teacher to gauge what issues their students have with classroom material.

Next was asking your students to recall how they felt about a subject before and after a lesson or topic. Similar to the Muddiest Point it reinforces learning and encourages meta-cognition. In time the student will naturally become more reflective.

In summary, REFLECT REFLECT REFLECT. We as educators must encourage our students (and ourselves for that matter) to think deeper, reflect on experience which will allow them to become more critical thinkers. The web conference experience has been one which I would willingly participate in again. Having the opportunity to bounce ideas and experiences of a like minded individual has really helped broaden my understanding of a topic which I took for granted.

 

 

Roles/New Insights: Wizard vs Lizard.  Dec 15th 2014.

If there is one pertinent point to take away from researching ‘how to teach students to think critically’ then it is that critical thinking must be nurtured, not taught. Through experience, we (well, most) as adults do the following as critical thinkers:

  • Understand the logical connections between ideas
  • Identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • Detect inconsistencies and common  mistakes in reasoning
  • Solve problems systematically
  • Identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • Reflect on the justification of ones beliefs and values.  (Lau, J.Y.F. 2011)

Throughout my teaching career so far I have predominantly taught school leavers in the age bracket of 18 – 21; relatively inexperienced individuals. Of course there are always exceptions but the vast majority of my students have lacked depth in their ability to think critically. Research shows that teenagers are simply not equipped to think through things in the same way as adults due to the development of the brain, in particular the frontal lobe.

Brainwise® 10 Ways introduced me to the lizard brain over wizard brain concept. In summary, the lizard brain is the amygdala, the part of the brain which triggers a non-thinking response. It is responsible for fear, anger, negativity and the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. The wizard brain refers to the frontal lobe which deals with behavior inhibition, right and wrong, cause and effect.

Our role as educators is to steer our students past the lizard brain and to engage the wizard brain. We need to encourage self doubt, acknowledge its existence and use it as a tool to probe deeper for a solution. We need to ‘get emotional’ and pass on our experiences, give relevance, and help to ‘stock up’ the students experience stores. Before asking a question we should ensure that we have explored all possible outcomes so we can slow discussion and offer well reasoned alternatives as necessary.

 

 

Trends: Critical thinking, there’s an app for that! Dec 15th 2014.

I am now aware that a lack of life experience is largely to blame for my students lack of critical thinking skills, but is this the sole reason?

As Thomas Friedman has said many times “we went from a connected world to a hyperconnected world”. One of the traits of Generation Z and younger Generation Y’ers (or the millennials) is that they have a need for instant gratification which is likely due to this high speed, hyper connected world.  There is almost no need to think for ourselves as any problem can be ‘Googled’ to resolution in nanoseconds. I found it interesting to read that Generation Y are very visual learners due to having access to the internet since being weened. For this very reason, they use YouTube like it is Google. The statistics on how quickly the information on such websites increases is simply mind boggling. Is technology to be the demise of societies ability to think deeply and critically in finding  solution? This debate is still in its infancy yet there is reason to debate such.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading declined 10 percentage points from 1982 to 2002 and the rate of decline is accelerating. Many, including Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, believe that a greater focus on visual media exacts a toll. “A drop-off in reading has possibly contributed to a decline in critical thinking,” she says.

It is my opinion that, as faster, slimmer, more aesthetically pleasing technological devices are invented and rolled out to the youth, these encyclopedia come fashion accessories, can only serve to diminish critical thinking skills even more. Of course there is a place for technology in every classroom as can be a effective learning tool allowing students to connect with a vast array of information and opinion. This article by Jenna Anderson and Lee Rainie discusses a survey conducted by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. The survey was  on the potential impact of technology on younger users. The outcome was a fairly even split between it yielding helpful and baleful results. These results were based on opinion and speculation but certainly both sides of the debate have strong predictions for the future.

As educators we must be mindful and accepting of change. We must utilise the known positives of technology whilst (as mentioned in my earlier journal entry) nurturing the skills (such as critical thinking) that our students lack. At this early stage I think it is difficult to say whether technology is impacting younger generations ability to think critically however, in these ever-changing and exciting times, how long will it be before there really is an app (if there isn’t already), for that?

 

 

 

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