Who teaches the teacher?

What did I learn today?

That I really need to lift my game in the ‘self motivation/management’ department. Especially if that’s what I expect of my students.

As I see it, the scope for integration of technology in education is increasing at a very rapid rate. Inventor and Futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that there will be artificial intelligences capable of passing the Turing test by 2029, and that 2045 will herald the ‘singularity’ – a point at which technology will have progressed so far and be improving so fast that the lines between human and computer/machine will be all but eradicated. In an interview on C-Span some time ago (the interview is available on iTunes) Kurzweil was asked about the possibility of artificial intelligences being used as teachers. His response was that a Turing-level AI would possibly be able to fill such a role, although there would probably be a lot of work to be done in shaping understandings of educational processes in such a computer for it to be of any significant use as an entity capable f independently directing a students education.

Whether these predictions come true to the date or not, it is obvious that as the western world becomes increasingly enmeshed and immersed in information technology, the way that we interact can only continue to change – so to deny it or accept a conservative mindset is to only risk becoming obsolete that much faster.

My own personal foray into the world of digital education began tonight as I completed the orientation session of an online course, ‘Intel Teach Essentials Online’. Not the catchiest of names, but it means that the course is focussing on developing ICT focussed units of work and learning about how blogs, wikis, and other online tools can be used effectively in education. The course is being delivered through Moodle – which I am thankfully already familiar with, and so the scheduled 3 hour orientation exercises took me a little over an hour, as many of them were just about learning how to navigate the online environment. The course is expected to run for six months in this fashion.

What I really drew out of it was the importance of self awareness and self-management skills. I know that I am a horrible procrastinator, and that I have spent so many years doing multiple things at once that I sometimes find it genuinely difficult to focus on a single task for an extended period of time. Tonight, for the first time in a while, I managed to shut down all other streams of input (I usually joke that I can’t function with less than 3 things happening around me at once) and just got on with the course. What prompted this particular line of self-reflection, however, was this table from one of the introductory documents:

What Makes a Successful PT Candidate for the Intel® Teach Essentials Online Course

Consider the following:

1.

I wish to further develop my pedagogical knowledge to support quality student learning opportunities in my classroom/school

2.

I wish to develop/extend my technology skills and understanding so that I can better integrate into my curriculum program.

3.

I can manage my time effectively

3.

I have uninterrupted study time (home or school) to devote to an online course.

4.

I believe face-to-face communication is important, but not essential to quality learning.

5.

I consider myself self-disciplined, self-motivated, and organized: I manage my schedule well, meet deadlines and do not tend to procrastinate.

6.

I have access to a high performance computer with Internet access and Apple system software version OSX v 10.4* or later or Microsoft Windows 2000* or later or Microsoft Windows XP* installed

7.

I wish to develop my skills in teaching and learning skills in an online environment. I am comfortable asking questions, collaborating, and asking for clarification when I don’t understand someone’s comments.  I ask for help and provide opinions.

So… my responses to these personal affirmation statements?

  1. Yes I do.
  2. Yes, I do.
  3. Errr… define ‘effectively’. Everything gets done… eventually? (actually, no, it doesn’t)
  4. I HAVE the time… but can I use it without interrupting myself?
  5. Yeah – I’m still coming around to this point of view.
  6. YES I DO! (I think this course document is a little dated – it was recommending a 200Mhz processor…)
  7. Yes I do, am and will.

If online learning is going to become a larger part of education at all levels (and the DER initiative in Australia certainly is in indication of the technological Zeitgeist of education) then teaching students how to effectively manage their time, their ability to focus, and their ability to self-motivate seems paramount. Otherwise we’ll end up with a bunch of bored teenagers simply mucking around on computers knowing that their lessons are ‘out there somewhere’ but right now there’s too many fun videos of skaters stacking in rails.

What I do know is that if I am to ever try and instil these abilities in students so as to be able to better use such technology in the classroom, I really need to better master them myself!

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