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January 06, 2010

As I stressed in my prior post, if we are going to build effective learning environments, the thing we need to focus on is kids - not teachers, administrators, or even parents, but kids. And one of the most important things we must consider when building such environments is motivation, or more specifically, what motivates kids to learn.

Any study in human motivation will undoubtedly lead to Maslow's “Theory of Human Motivation”, which logically concludes that humans are essentially motivated by their needs. Knowing this, as well as how much the world has changed in the last decade, it might be tempting to assume that our students' needs have changed along with the world around them. But have they?

MaslowFor review, let's have another look at Maslow's theory and see what we can glean from it. According to Maslow, all human motivation is driven by a hierarchy of needs, which are typically represented in the form of a pyramid as in the figure to the right. The pyramid is functionally divided into two halves, with bottom half representing deficiency needs and the top half representing growth needs. While the growth needs are what we care most about as educators, it's important for us to understand the deficiency needs before we even talk about growth. 

The deficiency needs are what one might consider to be the obvious needs, with the bottom being the physiological - I need to eat, I need to sleep, etc. Once those physiological needs are met, then we are concerned about physical safety, followed by thoughts of love and belonging, and finally an interest in our self-esteem or sense of self worth. The important thing to remember is that these needs build on each other in such a way that the means to meet higher needs will not be sought until the lower needs are first met. A person will sacrifice their need for love/belonging, for example, if they feel physically threatened, and so on. The notion here is that the deficiency needs all have to be met before we can even start thinking about our growth needs. While schools are doing a pretty good job in these areas (although I have a particular beef with our obsessive over-emphasis on esteem, ie "everyone's a winner, noone's a loser"), we would be remiss if we didn't ask ourselves the tough questions: "Do my kids feel safe at school?", "Are they getting enough to eat?", "Do I create an environment where kids feel as though they belong?"

Once the deficiency needs are met, then an individual moves on to growth needs. In Maslow's original theory he only has one item above "esteem", and that is "self-actualization" or the desire for self-fulfillment and the ultimate reaching of one's potential. A deeper read into the matter, however, reveals that there are some important considerations that must be met on the road to self-actualization, and that there is an ultimate transcendent destination beyond it, which I have broken out in the chart above. He speaks of the cognitive needs - the need to learn, the need to know, the need to understand, and the need to explore. He uses the word "explore" or "exploration", which is something that I think we've lost much of today in education. Once one moves beyond the cognitive, they move towards aesthetics, such as recognizing beauty and the need for order and patterns. And only after that can one understand the nature of their abilities and endeavor to reach their true potential (self-actualization). But the ultimate goal, the one we should all be striving for, is that point where ego steps out of the way and we transcend to a level where we want to help others reach their potential.

Above all, the important detail to remember is that higher needs only gain focus when the lower needs are met, which means that a student's focus can be ever changing, depending on other influences in their life. It's hard to focus on math when you are worried about survival, but you are immensely interested in learning about survival. Likewise, the ultimate realization of a student's potential and consequential wisdom and transcendence will never be reached if we don't create environments where students fulfill their needs to know, understand, explore, and create.

But the interesting thing about all of this is that despite all the technology in their lives and all the changes in the world around them, kids' needs really haven't changed. They still need the same basic things. What has changed is the tools and influences around them that alter the mechanisms by which those needs are met...

More to follow in subsequent posts...

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Posted by Jim Klein | 13 comment(s) | Share This

November 22, 2009

toolsI'm a tech guy, as you have probably noticed, and as a tech guy I often find myself spending a lot of time talking about all sorts of great technologies, like social media and Web 2.0 tools, the latest hardware and gadgets, and how to use them to build online communities and develop collaborative practices in the education space. I attend and participate in a number of conferences and webinars on a regular basis, both as a presenter and attendee, and serve on a number of panels and implementation teams, all of which I believe to be valuable. But lately I have been struck by the fact that, even though everyone is gathering together to talk about education, we really aren't talking much about education. We're talking mostly about tools. Think about the last conference or webinar you attended - how much of the conversation revolved around tools and how to use them? I would bet the vast majority. While the geek in me really enjoys learning about what the hot new tool is and how I might make it work, I think as a whole we've jumped the shark on ed tech. Because when we think about ourselves as educators, what we do is not really about tools, is it? It's about kids. It's about helping kids to learn and grow, and to prepare them for the world they are about to enter.

kidsYet many of us seem to believe that if we can just get the right set of tools into the classroom we can solve all of education's problems. So we take out our whiteboards and replace them with super-whiteboards, and we swap out our overhead projectors for document cameras, and we sprinkle in some classroom responders, just for good measure. We do all this because we genuinely believe that it will make all the difference in the world, mostly because somebody told us that the reason kids aren't learning in the 21st century is because we aren't interesting enough. And I think that's wrong. I don't think that's right at all.

I think the problem that we're having is not that we haven't figured out the right set of tools, I think it's that we're not focusing on the right things. We're not taking a look at technology and it's role in the future of education and asking the right questions.

I was following along with a discussion panel this year at NECC (now ISTE) on social networking in education (which is a topic I often speak about) and panelist David Jakes posited what I believe is the right question. And it didn't have anything to do with social networking or web 2.0 or tools or technology. It was simply this: “What does it mean to be well educated in the 21st century?” I think that is the question we really need to start asking.

To answer that question, I believe we need to take a step back and look at how the world has changed all around us – step back and look at the world our kids are entering and consider what they will face when they get there. We need to look again at their needs, their motivations, and their influences and discover what drives them to learn and grow. Only when we do that, can we rightly challenge the assumptions we have used to build our education systems and consider what school in the 21st century should look like.

More to follow in subsequent posts...

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Posted by Jim Klein | 6 comment(s) | Share This

November 13, 2009

On November 12, students in Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class at Rio Vista school had the wonderful opportunity to speak with a soldier in Iraq about being in the military and his experiences there. It was an excellent example of what happens when technology meets learning and enables new experiences in the classroom. Below is a brief (rough) clip from the day. You can also review some of the students' blog posts (with more on the way) reflecting on the event at: http://students.saugususd.org/_weblog/everyone.php?filter=tag&filtervalue=iraq .

Students Skype with US Soldier in Iraq from Jim Klein on Vimeo.

 

Lots of great conversation followed about a whole host of topics, including discussions about the meaning of veterans day, what it's like to be a soldier, why there are delays between their questions and the soldier's responses, etc.

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On November 12, students in Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class at Rio Vista school had the wonderful opportunity to speak with a soldier in Iraq about being in the military and his experiences there. It was an excellent example of what happens when technology meets learning and enables new experiences in the classroom. Below is a brief (rough) clip from the day. You can also review some of the students' blog posts reflecting on the event at: http://students.saugususd.org/_weblog/everyone.php?filter=tag&filtervalue=iraq  . More student posts are sure to follow!

Students Skype with US Soldier in Iraq from Jim Klein on Vimeo.

 

 

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October 08, 2009

Ask any progressive educator the following question: "If you were to select just one tool to give to each student - one that you believe would have the greatest impact on their learning - what would it be?" Nine times out of ten the answer will be "a laptop." Sounds simple, right? And yet it's not. Why? Because, while we all recognize the potential of the technology to transform the learning environment, the implementation of individual student devices is fraught with complexity and impracticality. Those that have dared to tread down the path have been met with high costs, massive support requirements, and fragile hardware, all of which combine to create a toxic mix that, at best severely limits the technology's effectiveness in the classroom and, at worst leads to epic program failures that have been widely reported in the media. More ...

Keywords: 1:1, 21st Century Learning, FOSS, Free Software, Netbooks, one-to-one, Open Source

Posted by Jim Klein | 7 comment(s) | Share This

June 01, 2009

DVA_LogoOn May 16, 2009, the Saugus Union School District was recognized at the Digital Voice Awards in Pasadena, CA with an Innovative Program Award for our SWATTEC initiative. The Digital Voice Awards, hosted by the Los Angeles County Office of Education through its Instructional Technology Outreach program, recognizes exemplary classroom instructional technology projects taking place within schools and districts throughout Los Angeles County. From the awards program: "Instructional Technology Outreach (ITO) commends the winners for their hard work and dedication. Digital Voice Award recipients deserve to be praised for their achievements in 21st Century teaching and learning."

Congratulations to everyone involved in the SWATTEC project! You are a model of 21st century education for schools and districts across the country and around the world!

Keywords: 21st century learning, digital voice awards, swattec

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April 08, 2009

This last Thursday I had the opportunity to pitch the idea of parents purchasing laptops (Asus EeePCs) for our current batch of 4th grade students who are participating in the SWATTEC initiative, as they will soon be heading into the 5th grade. To be sure, this wasn't the first time I'd floated the idea, however it was the first time I believe it was perceived to be "real" to the administration team (principals and leadership), as the end of the school year is rapidly approaching and the components of the potential promotion are starting to come together. There was much insight and a lively discussion, which I believe will be tremendously valuable as we work our way through the possibilities. One comment, in particular, stood out to me, which I believe could be the greatest challenge to each of us as we move away from the model of school provided technology and into one in which students bring their own (which I believe to be inevitable). That comment was: "if we make that [the EeePC I was holding at the time] a part of the curriculum, then we must provide it to the students."

This, of course, got me thinking about exactly what part of "that" was actually part of the curriculum. And perhaps more importantly, what is "that" and how can we make it so that it does not interfere with or become the curriculum, so that the focus can be on what students do with it, rather than on the technology itself. In that sense, I think we are at a tipping point at which the fundamental components of a real technology infusion in the learning environment has the potential to become a practical reality for all of us, much more so than it ever has in the past. More ...

Keywords: 21st Century Learning, Learning Environments, Netbooks, Open Source, SWATTEC

Posted by Jim Klein | 107 comment(s) | Share This

March 18, 2009

In light of the current financial crisis and its inevitable impact on schools of all sorts, I worry about the near-term future of education and, more specifically, the role of education technology in the classroom. In particular, I'm concerned that, in most cases, we have failed to effectively integrate technology as an essential, strategic part of the educational process. 

Don't get me wrong, I believe we've been heading in the right direction with ed tech, albeit slowly. In fact, I have witnessed a number of programs that suggest the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in the use of education technology. More ...

Keywords: 21st Century Learning, Educational Technology, Leadership

Posted by Jim Klein | 4 comment(s) | Share This

August 11, 2008

We're very excited about our new 21st century learning initiative, SWATTEC: Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

We've created a public service announcement for our 4th grade teachers, which you can view below. A special thanks to Mary Mann, Jon Baker, and Arlene Anderson for helping with the video!

 

For further details, check out the SWATTEC wiki pages at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein/page/SWATTEC+Project

Posted by News | 1 comment(s) | Share This

We're very excited about our new 21st century learning initiative, SWATTEC: Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

We've created a public service announcement for our 4th grade teachers, which you can view below. A special thanks to Mary Mann, Jon Baker, and Arlene Anderson for helping with the video!

 

For further details, check out the SWATTEC wiki pages at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein/page/SWATTEC+Project

More ...

Posted by Jim Klein | 2 comment(s) | Share This

July 22, 2008

We are pleased to announce that our 21st century learning project, Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC), has been fully funded and will commence this fall. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive what we are referring to as an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

The SWATTEC project has been carefully conceived, backed by tremendous research, and will be comprehensively supported through extensive staff development, evaluation, and district-wide support. We embark on this journey with great anticipation and high expectation that the development of a sustainable, one-to-one environment, coupled with the power of Web 2.0 tools will create a culture of transparent technology integration and generate academic, personal, and social gains never before realized in elementary education. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

For more information about the project, check out the wiki pages at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein/page/SWATTEC+Project. Be sure to check back often for updates.

Posted by News | 0 comment(s) | Share This

We are pleased to announce that our 21st century learning project, Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC), has been fully funded and will commence this fall. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive what we are referring to as an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

The SWATTEC project has been carefully conceived, backed by tremendous research, and will be comprehensively supported through extensive staff development, evaluation, and district-wide support. We embark on this journey with great anticipation and high expectation that the development of a sustainable, one-to-one environment, coupled with the power of Web 2.0 tools will create a culture of transparent technology integration and generate academic, personal, and social gains never before realized in elementary education. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

Rather than post a number of blog entries on the project, I will instead post the details on my wiki pages at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein/page/SWATTEC+Project. Be sure to check back often for updates.

More ...

Keywords: 21st Century Learning, EeePC, Social Media, swatttec, Ultra Mobile Device, Web 2.0, Writing

Posted by Jim Klein | 13 comment(s) | Share This


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