The three most important things I learned in Units 1-3 of course EDU510 are: Technology in the future, the difference between logic and rules, and how our learning styles are determined based on the way our brains process things through neural connections.
“Can a machine develop ‘consciousness’ and creative operations? Can it become an ‘individual’? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’. The ability to idealise about everything else, and itself, is unique to human consciousness. ” (Partharkar, 2011)
When considering educational technology of the future, it is impossible to ignore the huge impact technology has had on the field of education. I believe that there are certain things that a computer can do just as well, if not better than humans, but I also believe there are challenges and limitations. When I taught in 8th grade, we did an entire English Language Arts Unit on “The Future”, reading books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and a whole slew of short stories, most notably “The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov (see link below). This unit not only hit the kids hard, but me as well. I taught 8th grade almost 3 years ago, and the questions and theories that we created as a class are still so vivid to me. I was able to take a class of special education students, who absolutely despised all things school, and made reading and learning, learning and discussing fun for them. They used to BEG me to keep reading the next chapter so we could learn what was going to end up happening to the main character, Guy, from Farhenheit 451, and we laughed at how absurd it seemed for a robot to take over as a teacher, like in “The Fun They Had.” Ridiculous as they may have seemed, these stories allowed us to contemplate what would happen if it did. How would we feel? Would we be as successful?
Because of my experience teaching student about the effects of technology in the classroom, I was able to deduce that technology has its place, but we are no where near ready as an educational establishment to forgo traditional teachers for robot prototypes. We discussed how the most difficult thing for computers to reproduce would be creativity and individuality because those things cannot be programmed. I see that creativity is something you are born with, not something you can force or become. Everyone has a different level of creativity; some have a little and some have a lot, but you cannot say “I want to be creative!” and suddenly become that. I also have doubts about computers having a sense of individuality because just like people and our personalities and fingerprints, we are all unique. I am not sure that computers can take on their own individual personalities or character traits the way a person can. We can program them to be a certain way, but computers will not have the life experiences that humans do, and will never evolve as an individual does throughout their life.
Personally, I think it is really cool that computers are beginning to replace certain things, However, I would approach the idea of technology overtaking the classroom with great caution. I think if there is a balance between technology enhancing the classroom and technology as an instructional tool, we will be okay.
Logic is the reasoning that is done based on the reasonableness or validity of a situation or conclusion. It is important because without logic, it would be somewhat difficult to ascertain correct answers from incorrect answers and justify with reasoning effectively. Inferencing would also not be possible. Logic applies to my teaching environment because I have a job of teaching students Math and Science which are two subjects that rely heavily on logical reasoning. Additionally, I teach a self contained language arts class, and I am trying to get my intellectually disabled students to understand how to make inferences, which taps into the logic part of the brain. Inference making is necessary for college readiness, as well as different careers, and social interactions, therefore, I feel that logic is among the most important mental representations discussed in Unit 2.
Rules are a set of principals that are used to regulate and govern. Thagard, 2014 describes Rules as an “IF….THEN” type of thing. Rules are important because, let’s face it, without rules, chaos very likely could ensue!. Rules apply to my own teaching environment because just about everything I teach has to do with rules. For example, there are decoding rules, such as when a “g” and an “n” are next to each other as in “gn” the g is silent. There really is no LOGIC to that, but it is a rule. It is kind of like a “because I said so” attitude. I think that rules are the hardest thing to teach, because they can be very challenging to explain to kids! There are also divisibility rules, classroom rules and procedures, etc. Rules do not only exist in the classroom, though. There are rules of the road, rules of the park and rules of the law which make the concept of rule making and abiding so very important.
In my 6th grade classroom, we are reading the novel Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Bud is a young boy living in the time of the depression not only as a poor child, but also an orphan destined to find out who is father is based on clues his mother left to him. In the book, Bud periodically lists his “Rules to Live by” based on his life experiences. As a class, we watched the Steve Jobs speech at Stanford University and determined what his rules to live by and compared Bud and Steve’s rules to our own set of values and beliefs from the life experiences we have had. We are currently writing out own speech that we could give to a group of students. One of my students wrote today “When you’re younger, rules are like dust in the wind because you know they are there but you don’t seem to care much. When you are older, rules are an insight into your dreams.” I immediately made the connection between my course materials and my student’s understanding of the word “rules.” Bud Not Buddy has opened up my eyes to a new way of thinking about rules and the integration of rules into every day life.
According to Society for Neuroscience, 2011, our brains rely on neurotransmitters to send a signal from one brain cell to another:
Every millisecond of every day, a remarkable string of events occurs in the brain: billions of brain cells called neurons transmit signals to each other. And they do it at trillions of junctions called synapses. It is an extremely fast and efficient process — one central to everything the brain does, including learning, memorizing, planning, reasoning, and enabling movement (Society for Neuroscience, 2011).
This relates directly to my teaching area of special education because it has been theorized and researched that Autism is a result of problems at the synapse. Autism is so prevalent now in this day and age, therefore, studies involving the brain can be very helpful in determining how these students best learn. For example, the school psychologist at my school does a multitude of different tests on students involving the areas of cognitive abilities and processing speeds. She is a crucial part of our special education determination team and assists us with any questions relating to the cognitive ability of our students. She understands that the transmitters are not firing off at the correct speed and give us all helpful suggestions on which learning style will meet an individual student best. Usually, her suggestion relates to the kinesthetic and visual learning styles.
Brain processing and learning styles go had in hand, because in order to help our brains process information to the best of our ability, we need to understand how out minds learn best. For example, if you are a visual learner, you wouldn’t want to put together a piece of furniture using just directions with words…you would want to see a picture of how the piece of furniture is supposed to look in the end. According to the article “NeuroScience For Kids A Computer in Your Head?” “When a computer is turned on, electrical signals either reach parts of the machine or they do not.” The way I see it is if you’re trying to turn your brain on for learning, but the way the information is being given to you is not conducive to the way you learn, the information will never get to your brain in the most effective way and learning will not truly take place. As teachers, we need to allow for the synapses to fire in the most practical way.
In my educational environment, I try to appeal to the different learning styles in each and every lesson, but sometimes it is difficult to do that, depending on the lesson. The video “Teaching Strategies-LearningStyles” was helpful in finding techniques to engage kinesthetic, visual learners and auditory learners such as letting kinesthetic learners have access to hands on activities, providing visual learners with various opportunities for writing within the classroom, and letting auditory learners engage within discussion groups. I like the motto from the aforementioned video “write it, say it and do it” when thinking of classroom lessons because that was I will know that I am reaching the three different (or all three!) learning styles.
It is interesting to note that there is a counterargument for the idea of learning styles. Some believe that learning styles are, in fact, nonexistent and that students are successful because of good teaching. While I do not think there is a substitute for good teaching, I do not believe in this theory wholeheartedly and therefore, choose to believe in the idea that there are learning styles that are best reached through various methods and strategies.
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Heritagecollegevideos. (2009, December 14). Teaching Strategies – LearningStyles. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/oNxCporOofo
Neuroscience For Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/computer.html
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Patharkar M., (2011), From Data Processing to Mental Organs: An Interdisciplinary Path to Cognitive Neuroscience. In: Brain, Mind and Consciousness: An International, Interdisciplinary Perspective(A.R. Singh and S.A. Singh eds.), MSM, 9(1), p218-224.
Robot Teacher Wins Kindergarten Kids’ Hearts [Video]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://tokyotek.com/robot-teacher-wins-kindergarten-kids-hearts-video/
Society for Neuroscience. (2011, May 16). Neurotransmitters: How Brain Cells Use Chemicals to Communicate. Retrieved from http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-basics/cell-communication/articles/2011/neurotransmitters-how-brain-cells-use-chemicals-to-communicate/
Thagard, Paul, “Cognitive Science”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/cognitive-science/>.