Gerardo Lazaro is hyperthinking...

It has been a great ride since I started using technology in teaching in 2008. After a few months, I introduced myself to the universe of technology and its potentisal uses for education, communications and life in general.
However, something that I didn't realize until a few months ago, is that while I speak to friends and people in general, one of those moments that usually happen in your living room, and we're discussing about any topic, I constantly have hyperthoughts. What is hyperthinking? I'm not sure that's a valid word, but it's the best I can use to explain that everytime I'm thinking I'm having a series of hyperlink activity in my brain. I hear something about Peru, and I imagine the latest YouTube video about it. If I hear about psychology, then I share that there's a great course in iTunes that is free and available to anybody, and so on, and so on.
Is that a consequence? Or, is it part of the phenomenon that prompted me to use media and internet resources in general?
Is our brain getting used to think in terms of hyperlinks?
help me answer these questions and let me know if you go thorugh the same process, or is it about time to call the nearest psychiatrist?

Reengineering the search engines...a must in the era of overwhelming information

It is completely overwhelming to be immersed in the technological world and deal with the astoundingly growing amount of information that is available nowadays. As a heavy information user, I find myself swimming in this sea of data (text, images, videos, blog posts, podcasts,etc), and most of the time I spend while searching the resources I want to incliude in my classses is filtering among the search results from the different seach engines I use according to the nature of queries.
I have come up to summariza search engines depending on their specialty. Even though using multiple and specialized search engines is a great help, it has always been an incomplete experience.
I just enjoyed what is the new experience of search engines mixed up with a spreadsheet feeling of information classification.

Google Squared is one of the new services Google is offering for those of us who enjoy browsing through the vast oceans of information.
It gives you a new dynamic process when searching ands classifying your information. It certainly reduces your searching time and extends your options. You can add criteria by adding columns to enrich your search results.
I encourage you to incorporate it into your searching experience. Take a look at the following video:

Here are some of the search engines I use and recommend:


IMAGE Search Engines:
www.taggalaxy.com (Great to be used with an interactive whiteboard)

OTHER Search Engines:
www.soople.com (Easy expert search)
http://4me.sweetsearch.com/ (Sweet search 4 me)
www.ipl.org (Libraries' search engine)
www.rollyo.com (Customizable search engine)
www.blackle.com (Energy-saver search engine powered by Google)
www.2lingual.com (Bilingual Search engine)

I hope these search engines are of good use for you as a teacher or internet user.
If you have additional search engines, please contribute and post a comment.

This is an addition to the organization search engines can give you. I want to include Google Wonderwheel. It is a very graphic way to organize the information you're searching. I recommend you the post from Alan Simpson's blog, One year in the life of an English teacher. Here one of the images he used:


New approach to technology for children

I was very fortunate to participate in yesterday's VII International Seminary "Digital Brain". It happened in Lima, Peru and it was organized by Cerebrum (Neuroscience, Education and Human Development) a very active and renowned organization in charge of spreading knowledge and best educational practices based on neuroscience, pedagogy and psychology investigations. There were two speakers, Anna Lucia Campos and Gary Small, MD (www.drgarysmall.com), a world renowned neuroscientist with lots of publications on topics such as: nuerology, psychiatry, memory, brain and Alzheimer Disease.
During their presentations lots of interesting facts, investigations and proposals were considered. the best of all is that it changed the way I think about exposing young children to technology and the newest gadgets. For some of the comments from the presentations follow the hashtags: #CerebroDigital and #DigitalBrain in Twitter, or go to Cerebrum's twitter account: http://twitter.com/cerebrumdigital.
Even more by the fact that I saw some of Sugata Mitra's videos and investigations to ask myself a question: Should we radically change the way we teach and expose children to technology?

Take a few minutes by watching these videos, and help me answer that question:

Sugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselves

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education



Learning in the present, and near future

A few days ago I had to give my last presentation at my MEd class. It was a great experience. Not only because it marked the end of a very important step in my professional development, but also because it was achieving a 2-year program that had to fit into a very busy schedule.
In terms of learning I had a great deal of it, personally and as a member of a great group of professionals of different areas (interpreter/translator, librarian, teachers, dentists, police men, linguist, lawyer, graphic designer, and me, a biologist turned educator). The perspective to see many things was very rich coming from such a diverse group.
My last presentation was about the education in the future, in order to prepare for that I had to review a large amount of information from the past and try to set one of the possible scenarios for the near future of education, I don't think anybody can accurately predict the long term future of education, changes are too rapid and technologically strong to predict something for more than 15 years.
It was undeniable for me to foresee, as many others have done that the way we assess and evaluate students will not serve a real purpose in the long run. We´ve been assessing students' knowledge based on the amount of information they can remember. That might have been useful before, but nowadays anybody with internet access can have access to almost infinite amounts of information. Definetely, that is not the ideal way we want to make sure we're educating our students right. It is not how much information they may remember or memorize, it is what they can learn, create or produce from it that really matters.

The following video is a great way to see that, it is an experience called I Scientist in the UK:

I Scientist film from Storymakers TV on Vimeo.

The following video speaks for itself, let's democratize education and have mistakes being a part of the learning process.

These are some of the words I could type in my iPod while I was reading about learning theories and i think it's useful for my thesis that tries to link use of technology with learning strategies:
Education in the 21st century must not be restricted to theoretical and abstract knowledge acquisition. It is imperative to put even more emphasis in skills that promote obtaining, selecting and analysis of large quantities of information in short periods of time.
Learning must be active in the sense that any learner must have the capacity to take informed but fast decisions based on vast amounts of information presented in different formats, in order to produce analytical comments and recommendations presented in visually-frienly and attractive formats. 

Learning must be based on training of skills on the move, and the evaluation methods must be modified from assessing the amount of processes in what Vigoysky calls, the Zone of Real Development, and the Zone of Proximal Development. This is of great importance due to the fact that the amount of information available to anybody with Internet access is practically infinite. It would be counterproductive to pretend that society can determine the professionalism of a person, or the academic or developmental potential of an individual based solely on the amount of knowledge already acquired, instead of the potential production and creative solutions that individuals can provide if learning skills are directed and trained.
These skills are hardly obtained if the student is left untrained. And it is in this part where today's students are found in significant amounts. The economic constraints in developing countries imposed by superficial needs to follow the lifestyle of developed countries, obliges parents to maintain more than one job at the same time, leaving young students (teenagers) at the will of mass communication media and their own to overcome the academic exigencies imposed by public and private schools.
Once these young students are left alone or minimally supervised at home, they are prone to the actions of a massive avalanche of information that demands the information user to be developmentally mature, a blending between the concrete and abstract operational stages described by the famous psychologist Jean Piaget decades ago. 

It is the formation of the personality, organizational skills and academic goals,or their absence what will determine the perspective and desire of learning for the future life of young students.
The essential skills to be developed have to cover these gaps of parental attention and circumstancial solitude facing the academic demands. Cognitive and metacognitive skills, in that order take years of academic training, usually obtained in the years spent in higher education. However, the cultural,  economic and technological demands require education to be oriented towards the formation of an individual with order, positive attitude and ambitious goals supported by a solid academic basis.
Based on Vigotsky's theory, the proximal area of development is the area that 21st century education must concentrate its efforts, because it is now impossible to sum up information and knowledge as could be done only a few decades ago. The amount of information is doubling in less than 5 years already, this infinite amount of information could not be acquired using traditional educational methods, mostly based on memorization and classic repetition of information. It is the intense training of cognitive and metacognitive skills in conjuction with clear practical applications to what is being learned, bringing real-life applications to my class and out of it.


Dealing with Technology and Education

I've been very quiet with this blog in the last few months. I've been very busy between school work, BEd program, MEd program, family and others. However, there's always time for dealing with technology and education. I'm still working on designing a suitable questionnaire to be used with high school students and first-year college students based on their technology use and how that might have changed their learning strategies and academic performance, any help is well appreciated. Indeed, I commented this with Silvia Tolisano, and she suggested that I should request help via twitter and my PLN. It's a great idea, because I might be able to have students from other countries take my standardized learning styles test and my technology insertion questionnaire.
One of the things that keeps me alive in education and technology, is the firm belief that the future is our present and dealing with new generations and even harder, educating them to solve yet unknown problems in globalized environments is very difficult. But nothing is impossible, especially when creativity kicks in.
My education and creativity guru is Sir Ken Robinson. I saw his RSA Award receiving speech video about a month ago, it's a short animated video (little over 11 minutes). The animation significantly enhances the already remarkable message about Changing the Education Paradigms.
There's nothing more important than keeping fresh in our minds, why and how we are educating people.
Take a look at the animated and original videos:

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Original Receiving Speech

In his last book, Sir Ken Robinson writes about The Element, which is the inspirational and creative passion that makes us what we are, or what we would like to be. I recommend you to read it, you'll certainly enjoy the life experiences depicted there.


Global revolution...ing

How many times in your life can you say that you've been part of a global revolution? Not many, I would assume, or perhaps a lot, depending on which revolution you think i'm writing about. There are indeed many revolutions happening right now. Some can be summed up in Technology (Information, Communication), others in Science (Biology, Medicine), but all of them should have a commanding force: Education.

I read news, reports, journals and so on about Biology, Education, Technology and Culture in general, and every single day I get enough adrenaline to continue form one more year.
I regularly watch TED lectures, and there are two speakers that are my favorites: Sir Ken Robinson and Juan Enriquez, not only because they tell us the stories and things we must listen to and work on, but also because they speak from their hearts and minds with passion and humor.
This morning I watched 2007's Juan Enriquez wants to grow Energy, and agriculture was the centralized topic.

I have just finished watching 2010 Sir Ken Robinson's Bring on the learning revolution!, and again there was a central reference to agriculture, and this reference was metaphorically essential. We need to grow education, water students with appropriate learning environments, and harvest life-long learners eager to act on their and our world's problems to arise.

I dream about doing things better in my life, family and work, the beauty of being an educator is that even though we can make mistakes, we can offer knowledge and opportunities to students, and have a larger impact in other people's lives.

I am in the middle of revolutionary times, and so are you, I'll try my best, but if you are a student you have to at least match that effort. And yes, you can do it.



I participated in the organization of the Latin American Heads Conference (LAHC) Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Conference in Lima, Peru. This conference became something real with teachers and students participating in this event.  It is so rewarding to see something materialize from paper to actions.
This conference talked about many things, but the main theme and drive was to promote concrete actions for schools in Lima, Peru regarding a very important issue, educating our student with a Sustainable Development approach, perspective and creed. After all, doing that will help us take good care of our planet by consuming Fair Trade products, raise community awareness, organize and participate in students' activities, and overall, be responsible with ourselves and our planet.
You can find more information about this conference and the informatiuon that was made available through its wiki, click here.
Fair Trade is the approach to business by doing things in a sustainable way, better wages, giving things back to the community, which promotes further development and increases the production and helps businesses grow by taking good care of the planet. Find out more about fair trade from: Wikipedia, Fair Trade Foundation (UK), Fair trade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), Fair Trade Federation (US), and review some good examples of TransFair (US).

One of the impacting messages I took from this conference is to be aware of the products I and most of us consume. I'll follow this post with another one about Green Chemistry, but take the time to visit a very interesting website, The Story of Stuff, where you can watch Annie Leonard.

The best of all is that The Story of Stuff will help students raise awareness in their immediate community, and for us teachers, we'll be able to use their resources for teaching this and other lessons.
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