Course of Mind

How technology can make education more human

July 16, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
Course of Mind
How technology can make education more human
Chapters
Course of Mind
How technology can make education more human
Jul 16, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
ISTE
Hosts and Bror Saxberg talk about the future of technology in the classroom and how it can improve education in non-technological ways
Show Notes Transcript

In this final episode of Season 1, Course of Mind unearths a question to ponder - What if the best use of technology in the classroom is to make education more human? In this second part of conversation with Dr. Bror Saxberg, Vice President of Learning Sciences at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Course of Mind podcast looks at the future of technology and education. Yes, advances in technology will no doubt deliver highly tailored learning for each student. But for Saxberg, the most exciting prospect is using technology to free up teachers to spend more time with students. Teachers could then focus on building a stress-free environment that's most conducive to learning. Saxberg also says technology could give teachers a holistic picture of how a class is faring. Finally, Saxberg sees technology helping teachers to find evidence-based solutions for their toughest learning problems.

This podcast is produced by NarayanKripa Sundararajan (@KripaSundar) as part of the Course of Mind project, an ISTE initiative made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.



Speaker 1:
0:00
This is it.
Speaker 2:
0:02
The last stop on our course of mind, we've learned about the importance of psychosocial and physical safety, teacher efficacy, multimedia recall practice working memory and other key findings from learning sciences. What's more, we've learned about the learning sciences themselves. We've tackled what we mean by the term learning sciences and how considering findings from research in the field can help us to improve our own classroom practice in the primmer. That is this podcast. We've hit almost all the bases. Hi, I'm Shana White. I'm Zack Chase and you're listening to course of mind, the learning sciences podcast from misty. In this, our final episode, we bring you the second part of our conversation with Dr. Brewer Sax Berg for one last key learning. You may remember, brewer is vice president of learning sciences at the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. In this conversation, we examine the potential implications to be found at the intersection of technology, learning sciences and individualized instruction. How might technology help you better meet unique learner needs?
Speaker 3:
1:13
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
1:13
how might it help us remove barriers to learning? What might all of this mean or the human element of learning and teaching?
Speaker 3:
1:21
Oh,
Speaker 2:
1:22
welcome to course of mine.
Speaker 3:
1:30
[inaudible]
Speaker 4:
1:33
I wanted to go back to what you talked about with the usage of technology and it impacting, not only kind of like that feedback loop helping teachers, uh, you leverage technology to help provide students feedback like in a timely manner as they're working through, you know, math problems or whatever the case may be. And then you also mentioned, um, with Zack as far as like, it can help leverage as far as changing the location that I'm learning. So if I have like a handheld device, I might be able to sit on the floor instead of sitting at a desktop computer or whatever the case may be. How does that kind of impact agency for students because you're kind of empowering them to control their learning by giving them prompt feedback, giving them kind of autonomy as far as the location they're going to learn. And then does that agency impact their efficacy, um, around a particular content area or subject?
Speaker 1:
2:20
The basic starting point is what we talked about earlier, which is, uh, you know, getting sufficient practice and feedback, uh, running in working memory so that you begin to build a longterm memory, uh, of various skills and patterns and things that you can put there. So it turns out you really have to be active. You have to make decisions, you have to try things, get feedback on them and try them again in order for that process to work. So, uh, it, it doesn't have to be through technology. You know, it can be done without technology, but technology does absolutely provide, uh, new ways to be helpful, uh, in, uh, uh, pursuing practice and feedback, um, and can provide, uh, extra help, extra feedback. It can customize the feedback it's giving. Um, it can, uh, with some kinds of feedback. It can do it quickly because it doesn't have to flow through a teacher before coming back to the student.
Speaker 1:
3:26
Um, and there may be more of that as time goes on and technology gets more and more capable. Um, and then I think as you were maybe potentially suggesting, uh, you can even start to use the technology in the field. You bring, uh, laptops or iPhones or other technologies with you, uh, on a field trip. And you know, there will come a time when things like augmented reality may allow students to have kind of customized views of a museum setting where each student is getting information that pushes them, uh, beyond their, what's known as the zone of proximal development. But one student may have something much different than another student because of what the technology and the teachers already know are the capacities, interests, things that the student has, you know, has already mastered. And wouldn't that be fascinating to have students be looking at the same events or looking at the same, uh, natural scene, uh, or, or, you know, pond or plant and, and actually then being pushed in different ways based on how technology, uh, helps them. It is very much what the best teachers have done for Millennia, which is knowing a student and then challenging them with what is most valuable for them in the setting they're in. But it has not been scalable for so many students until perhaps now when technology in partnership with teachers can actually be really helpful that way.
Speaker 5:
5:00
That last sentence, uh, red is kind of key because one of the main conversations that we hear, and I have this conversation with a lot of teachers, a lot of different places, is they hear what you just described as giving the teacher role to technology. And I think even earlier on when you were talking about three of that, the technology can help create a, a more constant flow of information about students to teachers that that piece feels a little bit like taking the human element out of, out of teaching. I don't think that's what you're saying, but I would anticipate some listeners would hear what you're saying and think, oh, so he wants to get rid of teachers. Uh, so again, I don't think that's what you're saying, but, but how do we find that that line and how do we make sure that we bring teachers into that conversation? How do we make sure teachers have seats at that table to say, no, this is the part that is uniquely human. And so we don't do this. I'm thinking about if, I don't know if either of you are star Trek Fan fans, but I'm thinking about where the Vulcan children go to learn and their, and their little hemispheres and all the information's just coming at them and people are walking around with futuristic clipboards. That's, I think that is people's worst fear about what we're talking about right now.
Speaker 1:
6:16
So, so the way I think about it is, is differently, which is I see no reason to reduce, uh, the time that expert teachers are spending with classes and students maybe even the opposite, you know, trying to push that up. And you know, those are the affordability questions. But when you ask and what are those hours being spent on, um, what would be powerful is to change what those hours are being spent on from kind of broadcast work, which can be done by technology and, but rather have the teacher spending those hours now on a specific diagnostic work, specific nonacademic kinds of work, you know, work on identity, work on social and emotional skills, uh, modeling of various kinds. Uh, the, the conversations in detail around motivation. For example, I think teachers in classes today don't have enough time to be able to engage often with their students, uh, in understanding their circumstances and what's happening.
Speaker 1:
7:26
Um, uh, you know, and there are some, you know, really good models that are trying to do better at this, especially out of the research on the things like toxic stress. The idea that if you live in a, in a world in which you are family and you are under stress, a lot of the time that the stress hormone cortisol literally blocks, you know, the neuro, the neural machinery of learning from working. It's a chemical problem. And so you really do need teachers to have the time to set up a safe environment that's welcoming to lower stress levels of students coming into it, um, who may have high stress levels elsewhere. Right? Well, so to get that time a to, to handle this wide array of work that only people can do. Um, it's great to be able to have technology begin to take on what it can do and then provide information to teachers to help teachers know how it's going and whether to step in again, uh, or not.
Speaker 1:
8:28
And depending on the skill area and the, you know, the type of learning, you know, there may be more or less that technology can start to do, uh, you know, some basic things around some fluencies, whether it's vocabulary or whether it's, um, a number of facts and things. Those are things that technology can probably give enough practice and feedback pretty quickly and don't and can free up teachers from a lot of that potentially. But as soon as you start to get into complex problem or writing, writing things out, then I think you really start to need the conversations with teachers, uh, to, to help to have an peers to see divergent viewpoints, different ways of approaching the problems. How are those similar? How are those different? And all of that is mediated by trained teachers. And the challenge is how do you get them enough time to be able to do that? Work it. Yeah. Okay. So that is, that is a helpful
Speaker 5:
9:22
way of thinking about this. And I think part of it is what I hear you saying is we are going to have to shift just the use of teachers' time in the day and that, and I would anticipate that letting go of some of those things that honestly don't require the most human aspects of a teacher is also going to be difficult because it's come to be a large piece of our identities. It's worth
Speaker 1:
9:42
saying at this point, you know, this is going to sound silly, but we often forget that teachers have mines too, right? And so everything we just talked about in terms of, you know, the cognitive architecture of what's in longterm memory, working memory and then the motivational piece, you know, applies to teachers tackling new things too. And so we really do have to pay attention to, uh, as we, uh, you know, are bringing in new tools, new approaches and so forth. We really do have to pay attention teacher by teacher, you know, what's going to be in their way to start, persist and put in mental effort and, and be thoughtful about how we train and making sure we do provide enough practice and feedback as well as enough, uh, motivation, uh, so that teachers can end up doing their best work and developing a new set of, uh, skills and capacities, uh, between longterm, their longterm memory and their working memory too. And I would argue an awful lot of professional development looks as if it assumes teachers are just like, you know, recording devices and do not give enough space for teachers to really master these things. And also to, you know, to, to, to become motivated by conversations with others like themselves that they can do this too.
Speaker 5:
11:04
Well, this what you're talking about, uh, really ties almost exactly with one of our previous guests. Uh, Dr Vanessa Rodriguez out of NYU, uh, talking about, uh, we have the conversation around student centeredness, but if you put the student at the center, where is the teacher? And so that whole thinking of let's, let's put nothing at the center but think of all these other pieces as being interconnected. Um, so there's just a really fascinating way of saying there are roles for everybody and that those, the pieces might, might be shifting as we kind of offload some of the pieces that to free teachers to do the work that we are often saying relating to your, to your previous kind of four pieces. Oh, I don't have enough time to learn how to do that with kids to say no, but I'm going to give you that time by automating this thing that doesn't really require that the intense training and thinking that you're doing
Speaker 1:
11:53
what's of on the horizon.
Speaker 4:
11:55
Um, as it relates to learning sciences that has you really excited and then who are some really good people and maybe literature that we can point teachers in the directions of as far as reading some of these new exciting things that are coming on the horizon within learning sciences.
Speaker 1:
12:09
I, I think, um, one of the areas that is really exciting and very important is, uh, and I mentioned it before is this question of how do you handle stress in students in classrooms and what is the impact of that kind of stress, uh, on, uh, on students and teachers. I mean, that's the other interesting thing. There's, uh, an example, uh, out here in the A in California, um, a school called roses in concrete, um, that is helping teachers, uh, deal with students that come in from high stress environments. And one of the first things that they do is they actually work with the teachers first on their own stress levels. Because any, any of your listeners who are teachers in high stress environments of students knows that that makes for, can make for a stressful environment for the teachers themselves. And so you really have to take care of teachers and give them the grace of recognizing that this is, this is a challenging performance, a profession that they are in.
Speaker 1:
13:11
Um, and so, uh, thinking that through holistically I think is just really exciting. Um, another piece I think that is very exciting is the work on trying to follow, uh, students over time, uh, in multiple dimensions of development at once. So you are simultaneously following academic development, identity development, uh, things about their attention and their working memory and how they understand learning, uh, and, and social emotional skills. And if you start to follow those over time, you can start to see if there are patterns in how all of that develops at once, rather than just, I'm looking for a pattern in today's, uh, you know, math scores. I'm now looking for patterns in how does the development of math and the development of identity as a math using person, how do they coexist, what happens to them? So that notion of looking at multiple dimensions at once.
Speaker 1:
14:14
It's complicated, but I think it has some real prospects of, uh, leading to some new ideas, new help for teachers and students, uh, to, to make a difference. Um, I also think, uh, one of the areas that is still a ways off is just better information for everybody about, uh, some of these nonacademic skills. Um, things like your identity and your social emotional skills. A lot of the measures we have now are kind of self reports and that's okay, but it's not great to repeatedly ask a kid the same question over and over again about their, their, their mental state or their emotional state or whatever. So we just need better ways to gather information, um, about how everybody's doing so that teachers can wind up with the best possible picture of how the whole class is actually fairing, uh, on these, uh, on these different dimensions.
Speaker 1:
15:13
Um, and then I do think there's just going to be ongoing work over the long haul in using neuroscience, trying to understand how the brain works at a deep level, um, and beginning to use that to suggest, uh, new ideas for interventions for understanding how to help students, um, that, that have not yet come out from some of the cognitive psychology work, um, that looks at just how people behave and learn in controlled settings. So I think there, there's a range of really engaging neuroscience findings. Um, and then finally I come back to professional development. Um, I think there is just a tremendous need to really up the ante, uh, in terms of, uh, in service and pre-service training for teachers to understand more of what we spent the hour talking about. How does learning actually work? We haven't even tried to go down paths of what do we know about how to improve writing instruction? What do we know about early math? W you know, there are now the reading wars are continuing. Well, what do we actually know? The evidence says about reading, which has gotten a little bit of prominence, uh, recently. So I think, you know, teachers both pre-service but all, especially in service, we've got to figure out better ways for teachers to, um, discover evidence-based solutions to some of their toughest learning problems and to have the practice and feedback they need to be able to really help the students, uh, succeed.
Speaker 5:
16:49
If that is what is on the horizon. I'm enjoying looking at toward that sunrise. And one of the pieces that strikes me as a kind of overarching theme in, in all of those pieces that you just mentioned is, is the humanity of it. Um, and I think that, right just kind of in reference to my previous question, uh, that we're looking at learning sciences to not better necessarily the machinery of learning, but to say, how can the machinery make, make room for more humanity to those pieces? Um, totally agree. Totally. And I, and I don't think that that's a, I think that oftentimes we, we, we come at that question from a very fearful perspective. I think that when we talk about things like AI and machine learning, what we are worried about is, uh, very much, uh, the kind of the science fiction version of the machines taking over. Um, we're all waiting for our, this is the second science fiction reference I've made in this episode. I do apologize. Well, that's right. I'll, I'll give you, I'll give you a classical reference. It turns out, please
Speaker 1:
17:59
turns out, uh, as I understand it, uh, Aristotle was incredibly annoyed with Plato about Plato's fascination with the new technology, the book, because Aristotle said, Plato, you're going to destroy human memory. That that technology is going to stop people from being able to remember, you know, huge amounts of information. You've got to put that technology down. You've got to stop using it. Well, we know how it turned out. Yes. Human memory is not what it was in the days of Aristotle. And yet that technology also enabled a whole range of other capacities and capabilities. Unimagined arguably by either Plato or Aristotle at the time. So this argument about is technology going to hurt learning or help learning has gone on for a really long time. And I like how you put it. The trick is to use the technology humanely and to focus it on how learning actually works and and improving the learning experiences minds have through technology and people.
Speaker 5:
19:18
Hi, Dr. Brewer Sachs Berg. This has been an absolute delight. Uh, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us today. Thank you. It's been a true pleasure. My pleasure.
Speaker 6:
19:35
[inaudible]
Speaker 5:
19:38
taking the most impactful and effective practices of the best teachers to scale
Speaker 2:
19:43
meeting students within the individual zones of proximal development. The future of learning, teaching and science is still being written. What might the future mean for the human element of education? What do Dr Sachs Spurs ideas have you considering or wondering
Speaker 5:
20:02
how do we make sure teachers, researchers and engineers are all at the table together in designing the future of learning?
Speaker 2:
20:10
We want to hear from you, share your thinking with us on Twitter at course of mine and let us know your thoughts and questions on the future of learning. And the learning sciences. How do we Marshall the best of what we know to help our students and teachers be the best versions of themselves? Also find out more information and research on the topics each of our guests have spoken about on our website@courseofmine.org
Speaker 3:
20:38
okay.
Speaker 2:
20:44
Of course of mine is an Esti podcast made possible in part by grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative d a f and advise fun of Silicon Valley's community foundation. Our producer is cripple Sundar, our editor and music maestro is Trevor Stout. You can find Shana on Twitter at Shayna v White and you can find me at Mr. Chase. [inaudible] is at purpose Sundar, and as always, for more information on how the learning sciences can inform your practice. Check out the course of mine Twitter feed at course of mine and our website, of course, of mine.org where you can learn about how other educators have applied learning sciences in the classroom and learn what we're learning.