The Digital Divide

I usually think that videos put on by multi-billion dollar corporations are corny, or unreasonable sappy but Bridging the Digital Divide was not one of those. As a consumer of technology, and user of technology in the classroom, this video put on by Comcast really grabbed at my heart. First I think it made me realize how compassionate a teacher really must be. In our teaching careers might have hundreds to thousands of students depending on how long we teach. We need to remember that all of our students have different situations. From the mother that sat with her kids for hours at McDonalds using their free WIFI to complete their homework, to the students who sits at home by themselves on the internet for hours not doing their homework because their parents aren’t around or supportive, we need to remember to be compassionate and know the needs of our students.

Second, we need to be making homework (if we give it) a worth while thing. Imagine that mother who treks across town to have her child sit at McDonalds the next time you give homework that is for homework sake. Have what you require of your students mean something.

More importantly and more on subject to the theme of the video though, is the fact that the internet and digital literacy is an critical part of persons skill set now and we need to be able to provide those skills for all of our students. I appreciated how the video states that just because a problem is so vast, that isn’t the excuse to shy away from it and not fix the problem. Even small advances helps some, helping to close that digital divide.

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Bringing Teachers Along

While reading the article How Can We Bring Teachers Along? by Karen Cator, I found a few things profoundly interesting. The first being the dual issue of investing in teachers and technology. The author makes the point that most teachers who are currently teaching are using technology in their personal lives every day. I would have to agree with this. As someone who owns a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop computer, high speed internet, a smart tv, and countless other pieces of technology, I think most would cinder me as a Digital Native. However, my first inclination in the classroom is not to jump right into technology. Why not? I feel like that question is going to take more self-introspection than we have in this blog post. However I do know that if I am not comfortable with the technology then there is little hope for me to spend countless hours trying to figure it out myself when I could just do it the old fashioned way. (Saying that makes me feel a little like my Grandmother).

The question is how do we bring teachers along into the digital age? Give them the technology and then spend the time to train them properly. As a Masters student, I have professors and teachers in classrooms I observe in with countless resources at their fingertips, fully integrated classrooms with Smartboards and sound systems, the latest and greatest computers, apps galore and most, if they try, get up and cannot correctly use the technology. Why not actually take the time to teach our teachers how to use and then teach with the technology?

The simple answer is probably because we don’t have the time. My counter to that argument would be, shouldn’t we make time to prepare our teachers? We spend time with teacher in-service meetings, team meetings, orientation meetings. We need to take some of that time to make them effective consumers and then teachers of technology. When we model the technology for our students it opens up a whole new world to them.

Digital Learning

I found that in the article Digital Learning 24/7 there were multiple areas that I agreed with and found interesting, the first of which were some of the statistics on Virtual Learning. The article mentions that some people are predicting a major increase in virtual classrooms and virtual learning in the next couple of years. While I agree that there will be growth in that area, I feel like there is going to be less of a shift to virtual  classes in the K-12, especially in the primary schools. I feel like parents of younger children see that social and group interactions for their students is a vital aspect of the learning process. Not only are you learning content in primary and secondary school, you are also learning social, behavioral and cultural norms and patterns. The article mentions that there are 30 states that have at lease one purely digital school. Where I do find this to be a great benefit, is for people who might have to travel extremely long distances to go to school, or where going to school on a daily basis is not possible (i.e. illness, or other extenuating circumstances). I don’t believe that digital schools will however, become the norm in education.

The article does address some of these issues. They admit that there are some drawbacks to an exclusively online education and students’ experiences with those programs. I do feel as if the drawbacks mentioned in the article are less as the student gets older.

One fact that I hand’t really thought about before was that digital learners were more likely to text message their teaching with homework questions. I think that this goes back to the debate we and last class period about educators and social media participation and presence. I do believe that teachers should be able to dictate their willingness or reluctancy to want to have students texting/emailing/calling them outside of school hours with questions. There is definitely a balance that each teacher and educator will need to find and although it can be difficult to define, once a routine and an expectation is set, then students can follow that lead.

Lastly, I found it important that the author talked about having high school students have the opportunity or requirement to participate in some kind of online class. I think that this is a wonderful idea as long as students are able to pick what kind of class/experience that they are having online. Obviously this is going to be easier for some students to do in certain subjects that other students. However, students should be able to access those resources available to them and be able to take part in a virtual learning experience. It makes us more well rounded learners.

What is the Internet?

The Ted Talk What is the Internet Really? by David Blum blew my mind a little. He begins by talking about the internet and what the internet actually is. He brings up the idea that the internet although seemingly a tangible thing – wires, cables, a modem, is in all actuality very abstract. What is the internet really? In all the massive implications of what the internet is or is not, there is a point, after another mind blowing picture review of how underwater internet cable is connected from the sea to the land (if there is any one thing in this world that will blow your mind, this has to be it), David Blum says, “…every time we put something on the Cloud we give up some responsibility for it, we are less connected to it. We let other people worry about it and that doesn’t seem right…wired people should know something about wires.”

This really hit me. As teachers, as sharers of information, we need to be foremost consumers of information. This, more than any other fact or figure, has shown me that we need to stay current on the information that we are relaying to our students and we need to stay current on how we relay that information. How can we do that if we do not or cannot embrace the technology of our day? As someone who would classify themselves as a traditionalist, I can see the importance of why technology needs to play a larger role in our classrooms that it currently does, and thanks do David Blum and his underwater internet cables, I have a much greater appreciation for why. So what is the internet really? Its our future.

BAM Radio Network: TABOO

I recently discovered BAM Radio Network that is host to copious amounts of Education podcasts. I would not hesitate to subscribe to a lot of these programs and use them for my educational learning in the future. There were so many topics covered on just this site with so many resources available on each one of them.

While searching throughout the site, I found one of the most insightful programs called Taboo. They proud themselves on discussing, “the topics we often avoid.” I feel like this program struck a chord with me because of some recent classroom observations where her students were less than perfectly behaved and the discussion that the teacher and I had afterwards. She was apologizing for her student’s behavior and I just had to thank her for allowing me to see the good and the bad days of teaching.

I often feel that as upcoming teachers, current teachers and our professors tell us how wonderful teaching is and how rewarding it can be. While those things are all true, not everyday is going to be the best day ever. The particular podcast that I listened to was titled Confession: I Don’t Like All My Students and Some I Really Dislike. I feel like at this point I am excited about teaching and I am still going into teaching with my naive rose colored glasses on; however, being able to observe in imperfect classrooms, with teachers who are imperfect, filled with students who are not perfect.

This podcast gave a realistic sense of how teachers feel sometimes. Sometimes as a teacher you don’t like all of your students. But what do you do when that happens? How do you deal with those students who you really struggle to reach? Who can you turn to for advice? This podcast addresses each of those issues. The biggest takeaways that I got from the podcast were that

1. Its normal to feel this way.

2. Talk to a mentor teacher that you trust.

3. Look for the positive in each of these students and spend the time getting to know them, they might need the most attention out of any of the students in your classroom.

Tagxedo

Have you ever wanted to to be able to have a high impact graphic that people can first quickly grasp but then they can delve deeper and get more out of? Tagxego allows you to easily create these thought provoking graphics in literally less than a minute. You can take your Twitter, a website or blog, search terms, or news articles and Tagxego will then create a word block with commonly used terms on those sites.

One way that I thought of using this in my classroom was to compare two people and their beliefs or what is important to them based on the words that they have spoken or written. You can enter the people in to the search terms and you can come up with graphics about the two individuals.

Another way to use this would be to make a synonym or antonym graphic and have a central word and then around it all the various words that could be used instead of that one word your students use too often. It could be in addition to, or to supplement a word wall.

For all the things that you can do with the website and its services, it does lack a certain depth. I would not use it to relay vital information to my students for the first time. I say this because it can be slightly overwhelming to process for the first time. Instead, I would maybe want my students to get creative at the end of a unit and make one to put as the cover of a unit journal, or as a reminder of the things that they had learned during that time period.

Changing The Extracurricular Into the Curricular

Scott McLeod’s video Extracurricular Empowerment brought up one really fascinating point for me. How do we change the extracurricular into the curricular or simply put, how do we teach our students how to succeed in a modern technologically savvy environment? How do we teach students to be prepared for technology that they will be the ones to create? For the most part, we are seeing a shift from the days where your education will teach you specific job related skills. I certainly use  the skills my college degree gave me in my every day life but I don’t use them in my current job. What I learned from my undergraduate education was really how to learn.

We need to be able to empower our students with the ability to create and to learn and really to find things out on their own. I could argue that I could teach myself how to do just about anything by watching a YouTube video. You would be surprised. Next time you need to know how to do something, don’t ask someone for help – first YouTube it and see if you can figure it out. I know that growing up we would have a technology class where we would go to the computer lab and use the latest technology, mainly playing Tetris or Oregon Trail on the computer but it got me comfortable with computers and technology. We need to be doing to same thing for our students and really letting them explore in a positive and safe environment what the internet and technology has to offer and then in turn what they can offer the internet and technology.

Digital Media Credibility and Classroom Instruction

One of the greatest ideas that comes from this video is about the digital Black Market. We all know what the Black Market is, but what is a digital Black Market? For us in the classroom, the digital Black Market would be sources in which our students are obtaining information from under the table, as you would. The video brings up the largest one – Wikipedia. Why is it considered the Black Market? Because the information isn’t always extremely credible. As educators we want the cold hard facts. We thrive on academia and peer reviewed journals, known academic institutions – all very credible in the information that they are putting out.

The video challenges the notion that maybe educators are the ones who have created this Black Market of digital information by holding on to the traditional academic ways.

How do we bridge the gap for our students though? How can we teach them that information that you find on the internet can be credible, and as David Whyte puts it, like a “very chaotic library?”

First, I think that we need to be aware that many students start off on informal avenues to begin to piece together information. A lot of times during research, especially research that I don’t have the current background in, informal blogs, articles, opinion pieces are a good way to hone in on the things that people are talking about. What about this topic is important? What basic understanding do I need to have to delve deeper into a certain topic. The web can be a fabulous place to start off. Then once you have that foundational understanding of a topic, you can then narrow the topic down and bit and get those questions you have answered from sources that might be more appropriate for the academic world.This way, we are teaching our students to decipher information for themselves, allow them to create their own opinions as well as see what others opinions are.

Maybe instead of it being a digital Black Market, we can make it a Golden Market filled with treasure if you’ll only go out and look for it.

#GenerationLike and the Classroom

 Our students are the Generation Like. What does that mean for us as teachers and how do we bring it into our classroom?

One of the most impressive messages from the Generation Like  video was the idea that Likes, Followers, Retweets, Reblogs, are the new social currency. The more likes you have, the more socially wealthy you are. But how does this translate into the classroom? First I think we can translate it into the classroom by becoming relevant and relatable to the students. Students are able to gather information so quickly through a myriad of resources it really changes the way that we educate our students. Long gone are the days that our students need to memorize information to have it readily accessible because there is more information readily accessible at their fingertips than we could possibly teach them over the course of all their education combined. Maybe its time we shift our focus on teaching students to recognize how they best learn, being problem solvers, creativity and being global citizens.

Students are no longer needing to be sought out for their opinions. They’re giving it for free. They are marketing the information and the content to their peers. Having this understanding can increase our students buy in to the material that we are teaching them. We need to be smart about how we market and advertise what goods we are pedaling (the goods of education). How can we have our students market education for us? Can we put hashtags on assignments? Have students share what they are learning with not only their classroom peers, but their community and network peers as well? I don’t see why not. One person in the video says that the social media empowers her and allows her to showcase her talents. With such a diverse set of talents in any given classroom, our students can be empowered by sharing that. It doesn’t just have to be the skateboarding talents or the singing talents that we associate Youtube with. Students can showcase any talents that they might have.

 

At the end of the video they talk about brand loyalty. As teachers, we should be able to create our own brand, market it to our students and have them have that brand loyalty to the things that we can teach them. What kind of brand do you want your students to see you as? Think about it. It might just change the way you think about your classroom and the students that occupy it.