Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts on Papert: Kid Power?


I thought I was on Seymour Papert's side within the interview "Ghost In The Machine" until he made this rather bold prediction: "This fragmentation of the day into periods devoted to different subjects will go away. Curriculum-driven structure of learning, by which I mean you learn something because it is the day in which you are supposed to learn that. As opposed to project- or application-driven learning, you learn it when you've got a need for it." As much as I would like to believe this, it will not happen for a looonggggg time, if it ever does. Schools are historically slow to reform themselves, so to believe that a change of this magnitude will occur anytime within the next decade or so is deliriously Pollyanna. Furthermore, his notion that "it just takes a sprinkling of kids in every class who know there is a better way of learning, have experienced it, and so can make a bigger demand in the classroom" is equally absurd. I'm all for teachers tailoring their lessons to be more kid-friendly, but to argue that kids have a better understanding of how they can learn a concept better than their teacher is pushing it. I agree with him on reinforcing both the constructional and informational sides of learning through one another, as well as the general idea of technology making the learning shift "less abrupt," but many of his ideas revolve around student motivation, which has no easy answer.

What Is At Stake For Millenials?





There are two sides to the Pew Research Center's results regarding whether or not millenials will benefit or suffer from their overconnected lives. Optimists say that "many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects." Pessimists, however, "express concerns that trends are leading to a future in which most people are shallow consumers of information, and some mentioned George Orwell's 1984 or expressed their fears of control by powerful interests in an age of entertaining distractions." While I feel that ultimately it will be a balance (however precarious) of these two options, the latter seems more likely. As mentioned last week in the article regarding Google making us "stupid," the attention spans of even relatively smart people is shrinking rapidly. We aren't learning as much from the information we are getting, but rather looking for more and more of it, when we need time to process our thoughts. As mentioned in the results, some believe that "they lack deep-thinking capabilities; they lack face-to-face social skills; they depend in unhealthy ways on the internet and mobile devices to function," and this is very true to me. Students, and myself included, are almost too reliant on the internet for just about every task imaginable, and it is hard to disconnect when necessary. 

There were two points in particular that I agreed with. The first was media scholar Danah Boyd, who writes that "I suspect we're going to see an increased class division around labor and skills and attention." This is not only true, but equally terrifying. Again, I suspect I am not the only one who tends to procrastinate when I am online, so for this to be just another thing to separate us is disconcerting. Second, futurist Marcel Bullinga focuses on the educational reform aspect of it, saying "educators should teach the management of multiple information streams, emphasizing the skills of filtering, analyzing, and synthesizing information." I recently gave a WebQuest on A Christmas Carol to my students, and to see the amount of plagiarism is stunning, despite the fact that the directions were to put your answers "in your own words," believing that changing a few words would suffice. It is important to find the information, but it is equally important to show that you know it rather than do a simple copy/paste.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The saddest movie death scene? Possibly.

"In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That's the essence of Kubrick's dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence." So says Nicholas Carr within his Atlantic article, and it is hard to disagree with much that he says. In fact, his own experiences (along with those of his friends mentioned in the article) regarding deep reading reflect my own troubles. As an English major who actually enjoys reading, it has become increasingly difficult to just sit down and focus; my mind is always somewhere else, and it takes a lot more effort than should be required to get me back in the right frame of mind. Much of this can be blamed on the Internet's suspect code of ethics: through various avenues, specifically "content" on top of more content, it is in their (insert company here) "economic interest to drive us to distraction." More page views equal more dollars.

Within the article, Carr cites Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University. She makes two excellent points: that "deep reading... is indistinguishable from deep thinking," and that "the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts 'efficiency' and 'immediacy' above all else, may be weakening our capacity" for deep reading / deep thinking. This is troubling, especially its implications on schools. Is the answer to disregard any sort of deep reading activities? Hopefully not. How any English class will survive if that is the option is beyond me. Literacy is still just as important as ever, yet it doesn't mean that one needs to be able to read, but that one needs to read well, i.e. comprehend and analyze a given piece. In my class, we have begun to read A Christmas Carol. My mentor teacher has the kids read in-class, but with an audio version playing along, and she will occasionally stop the recording to ask the students various questions. This provides students with short bursts of reading, along with informal assessments to see if they are following along and comprehending the material. The downside to this, however, is that if this were utilized with every reading, it would not only become stale, but it would slow down the reading process considerably. It allows everyone to read at the same pace, but gifted students may not feel properly challenged.

One thing that isn't mentioned in the article, however, is something else entirely: that our intelligence is declining as we evolve. In a recent study, Stanford researcher Gerald Crabtree posits that "evolution is, in fact, making us dumber — and that human intelligence may have actually peaked before our hunter-gatherer predecessors left Africa." However, Crabtree adds that "no matter how deteriorated our intellectual abilities may have become over the millennia, advancements in technology will someday render these changes insignificant." Enter Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google's founders who believe that "if you had all the world's information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you'd be better off." It's terrifying to think how prescient Kubrick was with 2001.
evolution is, in fact, making us dumber — and that human intelligence may have actually peaked before our hunter-gatherer predecessors left Africa

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/15/research-suggests-humans-are-evolving-to-be-dumber/#ixzz2DFn79e3p
evolution is, in fact, making us dumber — and that human intelligence may have actually peaked before our hunter-gatherer predecessors left Africa

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/15/research-suggests-humans-are-evolving-to-be-dumber/#ixzz2DFn79e3p

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reflecting on Prensky


Out of all of the essays and articles we have read in this class, it seems like Marc Prensky gets it the most. "Passion is the students' true motivator. Once a student has a passion to know or do something - anything - the chances are excellent that he or she will do much, on their own, to follow it." As great as technology is and can be, it's useless without people who are operating it with no direction or dedication. Most students have the tools necessary, but self-motivation is critical. 

However, it is equally important that teachers teach these students how to use basic technology. As Prensky mentions in Teaching the Right Stuff, "even where the things are going the best, where the new tools are being fully utilized by all students... the students are already behind the technological curve. Because we are not teaching our students the tools of tomorrow." This past week, a class of my students did a pre-assessment activity by going to the computer lab and working on a webquest related to Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol. The complete lack of any technological literacy was dispiriting, to say the least. The entire class of 7th graders had no idea how to double space a document in Word. The concept of tabbed browsing went right over their heads. When I told them that they could email the document to themselves or post it into their backpack on EdModo, they were clueless. This is basic technological know-how, yet whatever it is they are learning in their Computer Literacy class is obviously insufficient. And these are the things that Prensky wants us to move away from, in favor of video, virtual communities, and programming, three things that require a strong computer-literate foundation.

If there is one thing I disagree with, it's Prensky's assertion that being able to write a good letter, report, or essay is worthless for today's job seekers. I find it hard to believe that essays and reports are going away, and arguing that "at the most I would write blog posts, or perhaps articles" seems to be more of an issue of semantics. Good writing leads to good thinking, and being able to incorporate all forms of writing, and not just shorter text mediums like blog posts or emails, would be best for student development.   



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Khan Academy: How Good Is It?






While I definitely find Khan Academy to be a useful supplement, I have several issues with the program itself. First, there is nothing of value for English teachers. There are numerous subjects within the domain of English Language Arts that could be elaborated on in a ten- or fifteen-minute video, yet the subject itself has yet to be explored by Khan. The only way an English teacher could potentially utilize the site would be through one of the history or science videos, specifically if the text that an ELA class is studying involves said video. But why do that when there are tons of other great resources available both online and off?

This brings up another issue: the history section is lacking. There are few videos and worksheets, and this may be an issue that Khan may have an issue addressing. Whereas the math and science videos are capable of solving and explaining problems and concepts within a small window, history can be so comprehensive that it cannot be properly covered in a six-minute video (especially the video on Lincoln's assassination above). 

Khan's bread and butter is his math and science section videos, and he should be commended for his intentions, yet his arrogance towards those who correct him (see this article) is appalling. One of the goals of all teachers is self-assessment, and Khan seems to lack this. For a guy (with no education background) who is admittedly winging it with each video to proceed and denounce those who challenge the veracity of his "lessons" is more than off-putting. The goal isn't merely to have student's learn at home but to have them learn correctly.

I'm all for changing the status quo in education, and I like some ideals of Khan Academy and the flipped classroom in general, yet it can only go so far. It is up to teachers and parents to motivate and excite our kids; furthermore, kids need to be willing to work and accept some responsibility for their own learning. Students also need to be able to decompress from learning, so having them watch a series of videos at home is not going to do much if they don't have the motivation or time to do so.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1931 vs. 2012: Assessments


While this test could not be used at the current 8th grade level, there are some elements that I find rather admirable. First of all, while some of the questions are merely testing whether or not certain trivial information was remembered, this is still an important and prevalent part of student testing (the material not so much). Students need to know the basics, and this is certainly effective. I also liked how there were no multiple choice questions (which is the worst) and was predominantly short answer or essay questions. Strong writers often become strong thinkers, and tests like this help teachers assess a student's critical thinking capabilities.

Yes, it is obvious that this test would not work for current 8th graders. However, context is important. Living in 1931 West Virginia at the height of the Depression was probably not the time schools were terribly focused on educating children, and children were probably far too busy and stressed to worry about a silly test. We might scoff at some of the questions (especially those about hygiene, penmanship, and what your county is known for producing), but these questions were certainly relevant and important to know at the time. A few of my kids could certainly go over the basics of penmanship and hygiene.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on "Leveraging the Power of Social Media in the Classroom"



Of the many presentations available through the K12 Online Conference, the one that jumped out at me was Elaine Plybon's "Leveraging the Power of Social Media in the Classroom." There is no ignoring the force that social media is becoming, so to potentially find a resource that utilizes its potential capabilities in the classroom definitely piqued my interest.

This presentation did not meet the expectations I had in mind. Prior to viewing Plybon's video, I thought it would focus on how to actually use the likes of Facebook and Twitter within class, and perhaps as a way to further discussion outside of the class as well. Instead, it was merely her telling about "educational" fake websites like FakeBook, MyFakeWall and FakeTweetBuilder that supposedly engage students. In my experience with these websites, there is very little actual learning being done. As a way to potentially reflect on a lesson, it may stoke a student's creativity, but it predominantly does nothing more than parrot back surface-level pieces of learning. For example, look at the Facebook and Twitter projects Plybon displays. What higher order thinking skills are being illustrated? Both also use textspeak, something we as teachers should be actively dissuading our students from doing rather than reinforcing through projects that any (read: most to all) tech-savvy and tech-literate students could accomplish within a short period of time.

I did however like the idea of the Pinterest board as a tool. While it may not be as visually stimulating as a PowerPoint or Prezi, I definitely think it could be effective within the classroom. Same goes for a blog, whether a student is reflecting on their own thoughts or using it as if they were a person from the past or literary character. There is a greater opportunity for depth and exploring further complexities in these two tools when compared with a fake Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Yet according to one person in the comments thread of that video, "I would never want to write another biography paper again if I had the option creating a project like this instead." This is a terrifying thought. Maybe I am a bit biased as an aspiring English teacher, but the need to effectively communicate will always be an important tool, especially for developing minds. Good writing leads to good reading and good thinking. Students (and adults) can always further hone this skill, so to ignore it in favor of projects like this does more harm than good.

As for these videos as a tool for teacher professional development, I see no real problem with it. Whether you agree with the content or not, it is important that teachers remain curious, assess their own abilities, and try to better themselves whenever possible.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Questionable

Reflecting on reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology chapters 7 through 10, I will focus on ideas and concepts that I thought were either good, bad, or questionable.

The Good


Recognizing that "lifelong learning requires moving away from highly structured schooling institutions... [since] learners will need to develop the skills to judge the quality of learning venues and the kinds of social networks that provide guidance and advice" (130) is an imperative. It should be a school's / teacher's job to foster the intellectual curiosity we were all born with, rather than snuff it out with busy work and topics that are not relatable or uninteresting to each student. Student choice is a necessity. One idea proposed by Collins and Halverson that I found quite interesting was the apprenticeship / credential model. When I was in high school, it seemed like the only option presented by teachers, counselors, and administration was college, despite the fact that many students would be better served with other options. The inability to even present vocational schools or apprenticeships as an equally worthy choice only makes those students more uninterested and unwilling to learn, which in turn creates a flawed learning environment. Students will focus on what interests them, all while learning basic literacies needed to communicate and think, as well as going to a job and creating their own identity. Why keep students in the class if they feel they have no reason to be there?

The Bad


As much as I love video games, I have to disagree vehemently with Collins and Halverson regarding their benefits. Yes, there are several games out there that truly challenge and engender one's critical thinking skills and creativity. Unfortunately, these games are few and far between; just like any other medium, be it books, movies, television shows, music, etc., there is a glut of garbage out there. To quote:

For example, the people who play massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), such as World of Warcraft and Lineage, use basic literacy practices to develop a whole range of other applied literacy skills, such as negotiating, bargaining, forming alliances, strategizing and outwitting opponents, calculating which approach is most likely to work, and communicating with different kinds of people. These applied literacy skills occur naturally in MMOGs but are difficult to maintain in traditional school environments. Yet, because we think of literacy skill development as being directly tied to traditional school content, most people regard gamers as wasting their time playing these multiplayer games (134).

This would be the surface-level truth to two men who have little to no idea what comprises gaming culture. There are those who fully maximize the social potential within games like WoW, but they are very, very few. The devotion and amount of time needed for this endeavor is staggering. I talked with a friend who played WoW for several years and quit playing within the last year. To sum up his thoughts: WoW is strictly seen as entertainment. "There are some skills to be gained, but ultimately it is a time sink." A lot of the game is essentially monotonous busy work. You do communicate and strategize, but it is not always productive, and with most people keeping anonymity through avatars, online civility is often nonexistent. Furthermore, as these games become more popular, the objectives become watered down so these companies can sell more copies of the game.

Also, Leeroy Jenkins isn't exactly the ne plus ultra of collaboration (language NSFW):


The Questionable


The authors note that "for the first time in history, children are more comfortable, knowledgeable, and literate than their parents about an innovation central to society ... they are a force for transformation" (122). This is only partly true. There are adults who are well-versed and literate and can further enrich children. Yet Collins and Halverson argue that "the virtue of communities of kids with shared passions is that they can take place without any involvement of schools and with little adult involvement" (124). Adults, especially those who know how to operate certain technologies, can provide wisdom and help steer children away from making mistakes, not to mention the obvious (that parental and adult involvement can keep children safe from those who may be interacting with them). Rather than disregard parents and adults in the learning process, they are just as integral, and can encourage their kids / students while monitoring and assessing their progress.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

21st Century Learning: How Do We Get There?

First of all, I have to wholeheartedly agree with the idea of teaching 21st century subject themes including "financial, health, and environmental literacy" (45). I certainly did not have this type of education six years ago after finishing high school, and I would love it if I did. Providing students with a basic understanding of how the world works is a necessity.

Furthermore, if "critical thinking and problem solving are considered by many to be the new basics of 21st century learning," (50), I'm a little more than disappointed that this wasn't already the case. While I do not have a great deal of experience within the classroom, it seems to me that a majority of teachers still tend to ignore engaging a student's higher order thinking skills. Considering the glacial rate of change with any of the numerous school movements that have swept the country, I can only imagine that critical thinking and problem solving will be the new basics by the end of the 21st century.

The only thing that can seemingly quicken this pace is the technology available today "for accessing, searching, analyzing, storing, managing, creating, and communicating information to support critical thinking and problem solving" (53). While this is all well and good, there are still major hurdles. First, the issue regarding equity; so many students and poorer districts cannot afford to maintain or keep up with the ever changing technology produced. Second, is the technology even there yet so that we can fully maximize its potential? I don't think it is. The article mentions that "students can now reach experts by email [and] text message" (53), which seems like it could cause students to be distracted by the amount of knowledge.

Ultimately, there is one piece from the article that I found to be the most important takeaway:

These skills [communication and collaboration] can be learned through a wide variety of methods, but they are best learned socially - by directly communicating and collaborating with others, either physically, face-to-face, or virtually, through technology. Team learning projects that intense communication and collaboration during the course of the project are excellent ways to develop these skills (56).

I understand and embrace the push for greater technology use in the classroom, but there can certainly be times when it is too much. The number of teachers I have seen sit at their desks to type notes on the board is astounding; there is little to no enthusiasm when this happens. Students need to feel like what they are learning is important, and not just told. Right now, the technology available in most classrooms is more of a bauble than something of actual practicality. The technology needs to serve a purpose and allow for a student to think critically.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning How To Learn



There was one particular excerpt from the reading within Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology that resonated strongly. Collins and Halverson describe how learning how to learn and learning how to find useful resources as arguably the most important skills we must teach our students, allowing us to focus "more on generic skills, such as problem solving and communication in different media, on interpersonal skills in order to interact with people from different backgrounds, and on learning to find information and resources and to learn from them" (95). This, in many ways, is a return to apprenticeship, labeled as the first era of American education. Rather than continue the mass-production pedagogy of the second era, "the pedagogy of the lifelong-learning era is evolving towards reliance on interaction" (97). There are students of all ages, but most are confined and grouped based upon where he/she is with the respective content. In my (albeit exceeding limited) experience within the classroom, group work is where students find most success in learning content. There is less pressure, and students tend to be less judgmental than teachers (unfortunately) when helping their fellow struggling students. Within this new learning standard, the teacher can serve as an overarching "master" of the content's direction, answer questions, and provide potential sources and avenues for further instruction / information.

Unfortunately, there is one major caveat to this style of learning outlined within the chapter, and Collins and Halverson try to underplay its significance. The two mention how revolutionary this way of teaching and learning is / may be / will be, yet admit that "the downside is that learners working in such environments may become more isolated from social interaction with other people" (98). This is a substantial concern. Schools are not merely outlets for content and disciplinary knowledge, but an area where people learn social etiquette and mores. Collins and Halverson previously stated how the SCANS report argued for a student's skill set to be equipped with "basic skills, thinking skills, and interpersonal qualities, such as responsibility and integrity" [emphasis mine] (96). There is something to be said for technology within education; in fact, there could be classes based on Internet civility, something that is certainly lacking when reading the comments on a YouTube video or a newspaper article.

While we may be connected to the Internet at all times, the vast majority of our daily lives are spent interacting with people in one form or another. The outlets of education are changing, but teachers are not replaceable. As mentioned near the end of the chapter, "computer systems have limited understanding of students as individuals and do not provide the warmth and support of a good human teacher" (103). Good teachers show themselves to students as good role models. I don't want to simply dismiss the value of incorporating technology within the lifelong-learning mode; I have been extremely fortunate and learned a ton of new things through the Internet. However, there needs to be a more balanced line of thought. Collins and Halverson seem far too optimistic about how soon this lifelong-learning model will reach its apotheosis. To me, it seems like its decades away, for far too many reasons, whether it's a matter of the infrastructure being suitable and equitable or various bureaucracies and governments being afraid to adapt / change. It is still something to work towards.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Connected Learning

One significant takeaway from the graphic above is that the best learning comes from "actively producing, creating, experimenting, and designing." This is a lesson that can be useful not just with technology, but with normal everyday learning or teaching within the classroom. We as teachers should be promoting projects that make students want to learn, or at the very least find a way to utilize students' higher order thinking abilities. Not every lesson can be fun, but it can be made interesting if you can help students find and hone their creative outlets. Creativity and experimentation breeds better learners.

Google Forms Test

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth...

Will Richardson: "Do we really want our kids being prepared for their futures
by a system that hasn't fundamentally changed in 125 years?"

The above quote is a fair summation of Will Richardson's TED talk regarding the United States' public school model. Within his presentation, Richardson lambastes the current standardized-testing system. The government, be it at the local, state, or federal level, have looked to make schools "better," which Richardson has aptly decoded as "raising test scores." As an alternative, Richardson has proposed a "different" paradigm, one that utilizes current and future technology, a world where we are instantly connected to "2 billion teachers and the sum of human knowledge," ergo schools are no longer the de facto institution where students learn. Richardson continues that schools are not about test preparation, but life preparation, and that schools should serve as the primary conduit into a student's burgeoning curiosity and passions. 

It is very hard to disagree with any of this. It is obvious that schools are not providing the necessary life preparation for its students. Schools, teachers, and parents should be focused on good kids, not good test-takers, yet the focus is solely on whether every Tom, Dick, and Harry can pass his MCAS, SAT, and/or ACT. Because of this, we are snuffing out any creativity or outside-the-box, critical thinking skills that are imperative for "life prep." Teachers are being held hostage by the pressures of teaching to the test that they can no longer adequately teach.

Richardson also mentions the Common Core movement that is just now taking root. Richardson remarks that the Common Core has everyone "learning the same thing... kinda this one-size-fits-all curriculum, and that will probably lead to a national assessment that will make it really easy for us to make sure the kids in Louisiana are achieving at the same rate as the kids in Massachusetts." While I understand the point Richardson is trying to make (outside classroom factors that inhibit learning), I do not agree with this at all. To me, this sounds like Richardson is in favor of watering down the standards by state, a notion that should not be promoted. The sound of a national assessment does not sound appealing at all, but to chalk up the socioeconomic deficiencies by state as the reason for a student's or school's failure is ridiculous. We need to do whatever necessary to get students to reach the standards we have set out.

Another issue I had with Richardson's presentation is the lack of alternatives for standardized testing. I had to go to his website (http://weblogg-ed.com/2011/tedxnyed-talk/#comment-88248) to find his endorsement of "performance, artifacts, oral/written defense, [or] art," yet he undercuts his own point by mentioning that the "problem is they all take more time and expense to do well." Schools receive their funding from the government. The government wants to see a return on its investment, therefore standardized testing has been the "best" barometer. I agree with and understand Richardson's point, yet the likelihood of it happening any time soon makes it difficult to support. Furthermore, test-taking is an important skill to learn. Most professionals (doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) have to take tests. Rather than simply label test-taking the enemy, perhaps a balance of Richardson's alternatives and the current model would work best.

Ultimately schools will have to make a change. Teachers will have to embrace some, if not all, forms of technology. This is not a bad thing. Yet in a perfect world, standardized testing would be de-emphasized, and teachers focus solely on not just making students learn the material, but breed creativity and higher order thinking skills, and even inspire students to find their respective passions. Richardson's sentiment is easy to cheer, but challenging to hope for coming to fruition.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Enthusiasts vs. Skeptics: A Chapter 3 Reflection

After reading chapter 2 in Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, I had a lot of doubts regarding how effective various technologies could be used within the classroom setting. Some of it sounds ideal and useful, while others sound a bit more Pollyanna and unfeasible, particularly those that weigh heavily on school budgets. Having read chapter 3, "The Technology Skeptic's Argument," I definitely feel that I'm more on the side of the Skeptics', but not to the point of being considered a Luddite.

We live in an age of pre-planned obsolescence. Every piece of technology inevitably reaches a point of expiration, as companies prepare to create the new "latest and greatest" while already in the process of releasing their latest products. By no means am I against this; rather, it is more a point on how glacial some (read: most/all) school systems react toward any potential changes or movements. Lee Shulman mentions the "pedagogical content knowledge" that is fiercely protected and cherished by veteran teachers (35), which may be a combination of teachers either being unable or unwilling to learn every new technology that is introduced within the school. The reality is that most teachers are set in their ways, for better or worse. Some teachers do not need technology and can still be great teachers, and some teachers can be great with technology and terrible teachers.

Another huge obstacle to overcome is standardized testing. As written in chapter 3, "the contemporary demand for standardized curriculum and assessment in K-12 education makes adoption of new instructional directions based on information technologies even more unlikely" (37). I'm sure most of us (and most teachers) would be ecstatic if MCAS and other standardized testing were eliminated, but that is not happening anytime soon, especially when it can be used as a means of victory by politicians (http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20220918deval_hails_mcas_results/).  Furthermore, the reliance on technology for written assignments has been proven to be a significant issue; "Michael Russell and Walter Haney have shown that writing on computers actually leads to decreasing scores on pencil-and-paper writing tests, even when student writing improves as tested on computers" (37). Until standardized testing either goes away or is changed so that students can type, this is a serious issue that needs to be properly addressed. And as an aspiring English teacher, there are many benefits to pen-and-paper writing (drafting, outlining, pre-writing) that are usually ignored by those who begin with the computer.

However, the most convincing argument posited by the Skeptics regards classroom management. "When students are working on computers, particularly when they are working in groups, there tends to be a lot of interaction and noise with students sharing ideas and helping one another" (39-40). Teachers need to be respected, and they need to have the complete attention of not just one student, but every student for proper learning. The Internet makes that nigh impossible; I am writing this blog post with multiple other tabs up, whether it's rewatching "Open Gangnam Style" or preparing for Week 3 of fantasy football. If the technology were in place where schools could disable the Internet while students work, I may be convinced. However, most schools are running an outdated version of Windows, and tech-savvy students know how to work around whatever restrictions the school has in place.

This may sound like I am completely against the idea of technology in schools. This could not be further from the truth. At one point in chapter 3, it is written that "these incompatibilities make it very unlikely that technology will have a large impact on schools in the foreseeable future" (43), which is just plain wrong. It's a matter of the technology (and the accompanying educational movements) being properly refined and changed so that it is easy to learn for students and teachers, and available to as many school districts as possible. I am definitely open to changing my mind on the issue at hand. Two people who are way, way, way smarter than I, Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway, advocate the benefits of mobile technology in the video below. A few years prior, they were skeptics, cited for arguing that "for technology to make real inroads in instruction, the student to computer ratio in schools has to be 1:1" (37). The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model they encourage is promising; hopefully the price on tablets continues to drop.





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Skeptic's Viewpoint

Having read the various positions of the technology enthusiasts within Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, I am slowly warming up to some of their stances. However, there are several views that still sound overly idealistic and unfeasible. I think the notion of all students inevitably being on an IEP is highly unlikely. The idea of a couple thousand kids in a given high school with their own plans, restrictions and limitations seems like an impossibility, especially with the Common Core just now being established within certain school systems. This could potentially water down standards to the point that students only need to know the basics. The fact is that a majority of students in a given grade or class tend to be at the same level of learning, so to tease them with technology as another way to learn is disingenuous, especially when the technology is not completely there yet.

In my own (albeit extremely limited) teaching experience, I am an aide to a student with Asperger's syndrome. He is on an IEP, and deservedly so. There are other students in his classes, however, who are just completely uninterested in a given lesson; in most cases, it is a matter of motivation. When a teacher spends the first 20+ minutes of a lesson taking attendance, or spends an entire lesson passing out one worksheet, going over it, then passing out another worksheet (and giving that as homework), I can't really blame the students.

In short, I am still skeptical.