Happy Holidays!

I wish everyone out there a very Happy Holiday season!

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Bridging the Digital Divide – Part II

The online education blog site that I subscribed to is Medium.com, and once I completed my registration and started finding some different articles, one popped out that seemed to sum up several of the threads we’ve been continually discussing in our class this semester: bridging the digital divide.

In my previous blog post, I talked a little bit about bridging this divide, and making sure that students and teachers who haven’t been using technology in their classrooms have the opportunities for an authentic and meaningful digital experience. In the article I read, entitled “How Should We Approach Education’s Digital Divide?” two educators named Karen Cator and David Liu have an ongoing dialogue about the digital divide. Click here to read the article

One way that the authors feel the digital divide can be bridged is through teachers modeling for other teachers, and not administrators forcing technology on people. As the authors point out, “There are many teachers who embrace technology with open arms. There are others who are more skeptical. Let’s encourage schools to make use of these technology evangelists to show other teachers first-hand how tech can make their jobs easier.” If teachers are having success with the technology in their classrooms, they might be in the best position to share their knowledge with others.

A Teacher’s Attempt to Using Technology – Don’t Let This Be You!

Ultimately, tech should be a catalyst for success, and not a chore or obligation for teachers and students. All too often, technology is clumsily forced on teachers and students, and the experience is wasted. A class like ours this past semester is a great space for us as educators to learn some new skills and technologies, and perhaps we’ll be the ones teaching it to our colleagues at the beginning of the next school year!

Bridging the Digital Divide

After reading and viewing some of the content on the Digital Divide this week, I was struck by what Michael Mills said in his presentation: “it’s up to teachers to bridge the digital divide.” This quote isn’t particular earth-shattering or groundbreaking by any stretch, but it should force us as educators to really think about how we are asking students to use technology.

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The social learning tool that I covered for class is Pocket.com, which I think can be a great resource for students when they’re doing research projects. By creating tags for all the different content they’re finding, they can easily save everything in one location, and then curate the content later on. But the resource isn’t much help if you don’t have a device to access it! I certainly hope that a teacher doesn’t ask his or her students to research a project outside of class, without gauging who might need help bridging the digital divide at home.

Before you even get started on a research project with your students, you’ll need to figure out some strategies. First, if you want your students to use technology outside of class, do they all have access to it at home? If they don’t have access to it at home, does your school have a library or computer lab which they can easily access? If they don’t have a desktop computer, is there a mobile device they can use, like an iPad or tablet? Are there tablets available in the school? So much of teaching is planning purposefully, so in this way, teachers must be well prepared for the prospect of students not having access to technology, and providing them with avenues to bridge the digital divide.

Image result for the digital divide

2014 SpeakUp Survey – My Thoughts

After reading the SpeakUp 2014 report Digital Learning: Understanding Technology-Enhanced Learning in the Lives of Today’s Students, I was struck by one particular statistic: “almost three-quarters of students…believe that every student should be able to use a mobile device during the school day for learning” (6).

I see two huge challenges with implementing more mobile devices and technology in my classroom: access and accountability. In terms of access, not every student will have home access to a mobile device (here, mobile device will refer to laptop, tablet, and smart phone). A student likely has at least one of these items – the Pew Research Center estimates that 78 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 18 have a mobile phone, half of which are smart phones (http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/03/13/teens-and-technology-2013/). Even with these numbers, there are still gaps in the number of students that have access to these items. For example, they might have a home computer, but it’s shared with multiple family members, and might not be portable. We as teachers need to come up with inventive ways to get these tools in the hands of students who can’t bring them to the classroom.

The other challenge is accountability. Now that you’ve got these devices in your classroom, how are you going to police them? Presumably, your school will have filters for web browsing to restrict access to inappropriate websites. Perhaps access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is prohibited. But as a teacher, how can we make the distinction between using your phone to text someone, and using your phone to research something for a project? I think the solution is creating clear rules and expectations for your classroom. Maybe there are certain times where you’re able to use a device. If students are going to use tablets or laptops to take notes, we will likely need to do more “floating” around the room to ensure proper usage. We need to be clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior (for example, instant messaging your friend in another class about what you’re going to do after school wouldn’t be all right in my book). If a student does use the device improperly, there need to be disciplinary consequences.

In conclusion, the SpeakUp report confirms information we probably already know: students are eager to use this technology in any way they can, and they’re particularly interested in how it will impact their academic experience, both positively and negatively.

Why Am I Learning Box and Whisker Plots?

Chris Lehmann’s Ted Talk entitled “Education is Broken” was a really interesting watch, and he discussed several elements that we’ve been discussing in our Technology class this semester, including the “what” and “why” of teaching specific content. In particular, Lehmann’s comment on Box and Whisker plots made me chuckle. I can remember doing box and whisker plots in elementary school, and making sure I understood every facet of them and how to answer the questions correctly. But did I really learn anything from the whole experience? I learned how to interpret them so I could get a good grade on the worksheet, and that was it. As Lehmann points out in his Ted Talk, “when was the last time you did a Box and Whisker plot at work?”

Does anyone really know how to read this?

Social studies teachers are constantly being asked, “why do I need to learn about these people?” As I’ve noted in previous posts, most historical figures that we study are white, privileged, and dead. How can students relate to these figures? Or why do they need to learn about wars that happened hundreds of years ago?

History…or hate speech?

By now, we’ve all seen the above image from late last week in Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina. In the wake of the shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, citizens protested the fact that the U.S. and South Carolina state flags were at half staff, but the Confederate battle flag remained fully raised. Why is all of this so important? It’s because there is HISTORY behind this flag, and citizens have carved out opinions on both sides of the debate. We can’t have a dialogue about why the flag should or should not be flown if we don’t understand its place in history.

Despite the protestations of students who bemoan the study of old white guys, I often think it’s easier for social studies teachers to frame history into current events and make the content valuable to today’s students. Threads of thought continue to run through the tapestry of history – the Confederate flag debate clearly shows us that. But I would imagine the calculus teacher or the physics teacher may face an up-hill battle. Why do I need to learn these equations, the student will ask? As Chris Lehmann points out, it should be less about knowing how to do the problem, and more to do with “teaching us how to learn.”

 

Podcasts: Will I Continue to Use Them?

One of the podcasts that I listened to on the BAM! Radio website was a podcast entitled The Flip Side with Jon Bergmann: http://www.bamradionetwork.com/the-flip-side-with-jon-bergmann/ As the name suggests, Bergmann’s focus here is all about the flipped classroom, and it offers tips and tricks on how teachers can flip their classrooms, best practices, and common things to avoid. One of the podcasts, which was broken up into three parts, offered common mistakes teachers make when flipping their classroom, including making their videos too long.

One thing I did like about most of Bergmann’s podcasts is that they’re relatively short (8-10 min. long), so they don’t require a huge time commitment. Another nice part of podcast learning is the ubiquity of podcasts now – so many people are listening to This American LifeSerial, or some other weekly/daily podcasts, that’s it easy to integrate new podcasts into your library.

But I think this is where the challenge lies: the way we consume podcasts is very similar to how we consume the radio; it’s on in the background, we’re sort of casually listening, and we’re not actively absorbing the information. I found myself doing this with one of the Flip Side podcasts – while it was playing on my desktop, I was surfing around and doing a couple other things on my computer, including checking e-mail. If pressed, I’m not sure how much of the podcast I actually took in. But perhaps that has more to do with my listening skills, or perhaps a lack thereof.

Like so many of the technology tools we’ve worked with in class, I think podcast learning could work in the classroom, but the teacher has to have a specific plan for how the podcast will be used. I could definitely see a podcast being made as a sort of “crash course” or review component, but I’d personally be hesitant to use podcasts for the introduction of new material, just based on how we consume podcasts for entertainment purposes.

Infographics!

For this week’s class, the resource I chose to review was the infographic design site easel.ly, which can be found at http://www.easel.ly. On Easel, you can create a free account, which then gives you access to several free infographic templates (if you want additional templates, you can upgrade to a “pro” account which costs $3 per month).

After picking one of the free templates, I started playing around with the page a little bit. The interface is pretty user-friendly, and it’s also forgiving. If you make a mistake with your editing or typing, it’s relatively easy to fix your mistakes. The interface is similar to Microsoft programs, so if you have some familiarity with Word or PowerPoint, you should be in good shape. Below is a screen shot of Easel.

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I’ve also included link to a PDF of a finished product. Click Here!

I’m currently working on a project at work regarding the types of charitable contributions that are made within our workplace giving campaign. Who knows, maybe I’ll use this infographic is a presentation here at the office!