Archive for the 'digital fluency' Category

Ok, I’ll bite.

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Screen plays/scripts always provide context at the beginning of the document, a way for the reader to mentally adjust to the environment of the piece of writing as well as the purpose. Well, here’s some context:

Ms. Stephens, who writes Musings from the Academy, asked why I hadn’t posted for a while. In response, I felt forced with my last writing (a review of the ASCD conference) and have been busy with class work, work and work. So, the writing bug just hasn’t hit me. THEN, she sends me this article by Lowell W. Monke from ‘Educational Leadership’ (a publication from the very ASCD organization itself) - ‘I think you should read the attached article and write about it on your blog.’

Ok, I’ll bite.

I’ve gotta tell ya’ - I am plain tired of the ‘techno-ego-centric, ‘they don’t know anything but’, ‘teenage biobots with super human text-message capable thumbs’ line. In fact, any time an educator refers to ‘them’, ‘they’ or ‘those kids’ - I shudder.

Now, normally, I would respond to this kind of article by laying out the good points and contrasting those with the bad points - but I’ve done too much of that for courses this semester and do not care to add to my list of pointless dead-end ‘publications’. This article, printed in a well respected publication, is harmful to education, primarily to those that look for pandering to one-sided perspectives in the development of national requirements, and even more importantly, budgets.

Nearly everything children do today involves technologies that distance them from direct contact with the living world.

Hmmm. ‘They’ are in trouble. ‘Those kids’ need to stop watching junk and learn. I just don’t understand ‘them’ - how can they isolate ‘them’selves like that? Oh….don’t even get me started - as if the adult political world is THAT much more connected to the ‘living world’?!?!

I heard a line recently that described how adults view text messaging compared to kids. Adults view it as very impersonal, even lacking ‘direct contact with the living world’. Interestingly enough, kids view text messaging as hyper-personal. They feel more in touch and more able to develop relationships. It seems that this may simply be an inability to see things from another Point of View (POV). I’ll come back to that.

With that in mind, lets move on to the real meat - the needed message. It is time that we stop looking at technology solely as an independent variable. Let me say that again.


Being the ‘Tech Monkey’ that I am (that is how we sometimes feel in Instructional Technology), this is a familiar concept to me. Study after study indicates the effect that computer integration has on test scores, on student thinking and every other possible dependent variable out there. It is as if one were to simply add the presence of computers (suspended from the ceiling, even!) to a classroom, that something will change. Test scores will get better or worse. Students will become more or less engaged. ‘Those’ kids will pay more attention or be more distracted. Don’t get me wrong - I am a firm believer in research, but where does research meet culture? When do we understand that these are real kids? When do we realize that it isn’t the technology that impacts the classroom, but THE TEACHING? When do we accept the fact that technology is merely an accelerant? Let’s run with that.

I read the book ‘Good to Great’ a while back and one of the last chapters struck me heavily. So much so, in fact, that I wrote the following (and previously unpublished) thoughts in March of 2003. Technology is merely an accelerant. It acts as a catalyst and makes things happen faster. However, not only does it make your communication quicker and your location of information speedier, it makes a good teacher better - faster. An effective teacher who uses current strategies to engage her students simply has more resources at her fingertips to utilize when designing/implementing a lesson. On the flip, and scarier side, technology also makes a poor teacher worse - faster. Have you heard stories about the management issues? Students being off task and not engaged? Do you really think that it is the technology that is the problem? This should be a HUGE red flag to the education world: If this is the case (technology as an accelerant), where, then, should our concern lie? NOT with the type of equipment; NOT with how well a teacher knows basic technology skills; NOT even with how technology is integrated into the curriculum. It is IMPERATIVE that our concern lie with, and HEAVILY with, the effectiveness of a teacher according to today’s definition of an effective teacher. If we do not place this concern as a priority, we are CREATING less effective teachers in our schools - FASTER. Don’t you see - it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is how we develop and embrace effective teaching.

What should we be doing? Teaching our kids through the use of POV. Getting our kids involved in the local, national and international community through the power of technology. Developing school systems that support and develop effective teachers. It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

Technology is NOT the problem. Lousy policies, a national administration with a lack of vision and a lack of a balanced POV, AND a lack of vision within the educational environment - these are the problems.

If nothing else, Monke’s article is merely munitions to cut a budget that has already been proposed for elimination. After all, it seems that the policy makers and the budget creators seem to only look for bits-and-pieces that support their own POV. Please, don’t give them the quick quotes that they are looking for.

Amazon in the classroom?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006 has some really great resources, and I have been tossing around the use of some of them in a classroom environment lately. I’ll just outline some thoughts - nothing polished (is anything anymore?).

  • Wishlist :: I LOVE the wishlist feature on Amazon’s site. I keep a list of books I want to read and add to it all the time. Often times, I’ll be driving down the road (probably listing to some show on KERA or one of NPR’s broadcasts) and I’ll grab my phone to record a book title that I want to dump into my wishlist. The best part of this feature on Amazon, in my opinion, is that it uses the evolving principles of social connections to recommend other book titles based on what you read. This is simply one more way for me to develop connections that I never would have known about before. So, what if a teacher had his/her kids do this and select a book title based on their topic of interest?
  • Book Reviews :: The book reviews are great on Amazon, and this seems to be a pretty easy integration. Why not have students start by reading reviews and tying that into a classroom lesson, and then posting/adding to the reviews that are currently online?

I’ll start there and leave it at that. …just some rough thoughts that need polishing and addition of thoughts. But I figured I better get them down before I run off the road.

And the two become one

Monday, March 20th, 2006

So, I had my first occurrence of online interactions meshing with the real world…hmmm…

I became passionate about ,wakeboarding a few years back (I really don’t like sports, but absolutely LOVE wakeboarding - this video will give you a general idea of what it is) and have been posting on the DallasWakeboarding site recently. Someone asked if anyone had a video, and I popped up with ‘yes’. Me met halfway a couple of days later and exchanged DVD’s.

I know. NOT a big deal. But it was still weird for me as it was a new experience. Kids are different, though. The funny thing is that when I asked who all had IM accounts in our church youth group the other night - they ALL raised their hands! I’ve mentioned this before, and David Warlik talks about being digital natives, but I was simply reminded of my immigrant status.

Online communities provide an avenue not possible before - connections with people we never would have met. It baffles me how these communities can be local or international, but still connect people in a way that we hadn’t even thought possible ten years ago. So, I’m not sure if this is where the left lane ends, but I’ll at least chalk up another experience and hopefully have a new buddy to throw down some tricks with…

Smart Kids…

Friday, March 10th, 2006

I loved this post titled ‘Nonlinear Thinking’ from Clarence Fisher on his blog, Remote Access.

Maybe you’ll get a kick out of it too!

A group of grade seven girls who are doing a podcast on things happening in our school asked me this morning if they could interview me for their piece. I agreed, but said that I couldn’t do it during class time as I was working with a few groups who were struggling with timing their music to edited vlogs. At the end of the class the girls asked if I could answer their questions at lunch time so they could get on with their editing after school. I said I could do that and asked them what time they wanted to meet.

“Oh, we don’t need to be there,” they told me, “we will just give you a list of the questions, you can answer them and then we’ll insert your answers later into the podcast. It all doesn’t need to be done in order you know.”

Smart kids….

Google is NOT your friend. Never has been, never will be.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Ok, I PROMISE that I wrote, saved and put this article into the ‘to write soon’ queue before I ran across this. Furthermore, I promise that I’ll tie this into education and teaching our kids before I am all said-and-done.

A story on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday prompted me to queue this piece for finishing in the near future. I should clarify - I had already been tossing around the whole story involving Google and current events. Listening to NPR locked it in for me, however.

You may be aware of the current situation where Google has been asked by the federal government to provide a certain amount of search history for evidence regarding child pornography. Google refused to do so and has wound up in a lawsuit. On what appeared to be the opposite side of their fight to protect digital rights, Google partnered willfully with the Chinese government to filter results on the Chinese version of Google. You can test this out yourself: Google America (results for Tiananmen square), and Google China (results for Tiananmen square). You may not be able to read Chinese, but do you see the difference in the results? Look for that magic total results number in the upper right hand corner of the Google results screen.

Initial reactions to Google’s apparent split response to online rights sparked many to wonder why they would work to ‘protect’ digital rights in one place and inhibit them elsewhere. This is where I firmly believe that the NPR story and the article published in ZDNet are right on target. Google is looking out for nothing but themselves in both cases. They are protecting their own search results for fear of releasing important pieces of the Google ‘recipe’, and protecting their relationship with the Chinese government because, heck, it is the biggest market in the world. Their response is consistent, and I would predict that this will be the continued response from Google in related issues revolving around digital rights in the future. If you take a look at the blog of Robert X. Cringley you might get a glimpse of why. Google makes money on advertising, and what they are poised to provide for the relatively ineffective mass marketing provided by radio and television is specific, spot marketing to individuals at any time and any place. (Remember Minority Report?) So, I sound like a conspiracy theorist. However, before you throw me out the window, I would advise that you take a look at the article that I first linked to. It advises you of your legal rights to all of the times you have searched, explored and grabbed anything via Google. In short, they have your data, and there are no laws (like there are –minimally - with email) that prevent them from using it however they like. Google is a corporation that makes a LOT of money. That’s what they do. Every time we search and use the service that they provide, we are making their ability to market to us more robust; making their ability to collect data about who we are and what we do easier; and making their ability to make money a piece of cake.

I promised I would tie this into education: We are in a tough time, as teachers. It is hard enough to teach our students to be fluent in digital literacy, to find information and then to verify it. I believe that we need to, at the very least, consider the ramifications of all of the data that is being collected, and how that plays into the decisions we make when we search and mine the internet. Why does Google provide this information to us? What happens when we compare it with other search engines? Do corporate motives get in the way of providing information in a non-biased manner? We are very far behind, I believe, in teaching our students to be fluent in digital literacy, and just because they can navigate the internet, text message on cell phones and play interactive networked games doesn’t mean they are fluent in digital literacy. We need to push forward in questioning the accuracy and validity of the way we construct our knowledge (through the use of Google , in this specific case) and teach our students to do the same.

You know those handy little grocery story cards that fit on your keychain? That barcode gets you a discount, but it is also a digital leash that tracks your every purchase and compiles them all into trends that you may not even be aware of. Letting corporations know private information about us wouldn’t be so bad if we knew they would use it appropriately - but power and money are a dangerous thing. So for me, every time I click ’search’ on that wonderfully clean and easy to use Google search screen, I feel my digital leash get a little bit more taught, and try to remember that Google is not providing the information that I am returned, simply out of the goodness of their hearts.

They might be on the path to make a lot of money, but I, for one, certainly don’t think Google is anywhere close to finding where the left lane ends.