Monday, February 15, 2010

eSN Special Report: Convergent Education

When students are multitasking are they learning? As an educator what do you think? According to Barbara Kurshan, students are leaning the way we work in the business space and she gives this example:

While visiting a friend’s home she observed several middle grades students who were on the computer, texting on mobile phones and on Facebook. When she asked the students what they were doing, they replied, “Studying.” The students had been given a problem set and they were collaborating on how to find the answer by working together and reaching out to their friends.

Students today learn in formal settings (school) and informally (within their communities, online and other ways). Unfortunately, linear teaching with just a textbook and teaching to the test has caused an increase in dropout rates. By not allowing students to use social networks or mobile devices, many students feel that a public school education is less relevant and meaningful to their lives. Students are bored and disengaged in a traditional lecture environment. Caleb Schutz, president of the Jason Project, found in a recent survey that sixty-six percent of today’s students are bored in class and a major problem science teachers’ face is a lack of motivation among students to learn science.

Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking, sees the problem with students becoming bored and disengaged increasing in middle and high school students who feel that school is a prison where they have to power down when they enter school and prepare for a traditional lecture environment. One problem is the existing school system infrastructure with pacing guides that dictate what teachers will do, according to Schutz. But pacing guides are a guideline that teachers follow. Technology and other resources can certainly be infused into the curriculum and pacing guides. The Jason Project is one example of developing multimedia science curricula providing teachers the tools and resources to improve science teaching.

But there are trends in innovative technology that is beginning to make changes in education called convergent education. What is convergent education? According to Gregg W. Downey, Editor of eSchool News, convergent education features diverse learning opportunities delivered via multiple media platforms combined with field trips (virtual or real), live streaming video, interactive archived video, educational gaming, student collaboration, animation, celebrity lectures and adventures, project-based instruction with student-managed data, virtual demonstrations and experiments, continuous monitoring of student engagement and learner satisfaction, and classic, in-the-classroom instruction.

This convergent-education, which is a series of developments aided by technology, is changing education and the way we teach. One trend is the availability of educational content for teachers and students. Much of this content is free and includes, audio, video, simulations and games making learning more fun and interactive. Distance and online learning is providing opportunities for students to take courses outside of the traditional setting. Another trend is the use of Blogs, Wikis and Skype as collaborative tools and the use of mobile devices.

Today’s students don’t need to just memorize facts they need to engage in critical problem-solving and critical thinking to better understand the content being taught. Teaching needs to be differentiated to better meet the needs of the students. Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has a new educational site called, a directory of educational videos for students that teachers can access to better differentiate instruction. Another way teachers can differentiate instruction is to know their students better and their learning approach. Cheryl Lemke, CEO of the Metiri Group, thinks that teachers who do interest inventories with their students are better able to know which teaching approach to use with students to better differentiate the instruction for all students.

The world has changed and education needs to change. School systems and teachers need to look at ways to engage students by using online resources and technology to excite and motivate student learning creating a convergent-education for all students.

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