Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Journal Article #8: Technology & Social Justice

Social Justice: Choice or Necessity?
By Colleen Swain and David Edyburn
L&L March 2007

This article underscores the importance of equity in the classroom with regard to instructional technology for students of all backgrounds and abilities. It makes the case that equity refers not only to access but to expectations of fluency and the enhanced learning strategies made possible by the computer.
Colleen Swain and David Edyburn argue that while problems with limited or no access still persist in some schools, concern should also be raised that teachers need to ensure that all of their students receive the maximum benefits available through the use of instructional technology. In other words, just because the technology is present doesn’t mean a teacher has achieved social justice in the classroom. They like David Miller’s definition of social justice, which they quote as follows: “…how the good and bad things in life should be distributed among members of a human society.” So, for instance, a teacher should monitor computer time in the classroom to ensure boys don’t end up with more time than girls. A teacher should be mindful to offer challenging technological tasks to students with lower grades or scores and not just to the star pupils.
1. What can a teacher do at the outset to further technological equity in the classroom?
To achieve the best results possible, a teacher needs to know which students have access to a home computer and an internet connection, and which students do not. Per Swain and Edyburn, this information should be collected discreetly from each student. That way, a teacher can make sure to maximize the resources and time available for the student without home access.
2. What can a teacher do to ensure technological social justice for a student with special needs?
The laws and resources to provide maximum opportunities for children with special needs are now substantial. Therefore, one of the most important things a teacher can do is identify any children that might have special needs and recommend an IEP, if appropriate. Most children with special needs can be mainstreamed into the regular classroom, and still access special technology as needed.

Journal Article #7: Project-Based Learning


Project-Based Learning Around the World
Kristen Weatherby
L&L; February 2007

In this article, Kristen Weatherby discusses her work with Microsoft in creating project-based curriculum for teaching information and communication technologies (ICT) around the world. Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, which also includes ISTE, is a movement to create stakeholders worldwide---governments and education ministries that will use the program to teach students basic ICT skills and train teachers how to use technology by customizing learning projects.

With the help of ISTE, they developed a dozen learning projects or about 40 hours of classroom time. Then they went through a process of localization, where general themes were adopted for local use. Thus far, more than 200 “master trainers” in about 50 countries have been trained with the materials. Weatherby reports that the first adoption of the ISTE curriculum occurred in Denmark and that the program was highly successful.

1. Is project-based teaching an effective way to teach information and communications technologies?

It is! Based on my experience in EDUC 422, the technological realm, at least as much as any other academic area, is well-suited for project-based learning. Also, ICT is extremely useful for an interdisciplinary curriculum as created by ISTE.

2. Is project-based learning a feature of San Diego’s pubic schools?

I am familiar with High Tech High School in San Diego, which is a public charter school that emphasizes project-based learning and technology. From talking with faculty there, I understand that the results are mixed. The students tend to like it, but the faculty turnover rate is high because of the lack of structure. Teachers are given broad parameters and must decide what to teach and create project plans from scratch. Some love this, but many do not. Additionally, they eschew AP courses, and I don’t know if colleges are receptive to this.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Journal #6 Mapping Student Minds

The article, Mapping Students Minds, summarizes the experiences of a California middle school science teacher, Ariel Owen, who enhanced the learning experience of her students by studying a local creek using actual as well as virtual field trips. In their work, students were put together as teams and help to monitor the condition of the stream over time. Most importantly, the information they gathered allowed them to create a causal map, one that allowed them to observe and define cause and effect relationships.

1. Is this tool useful in all classroom settings, such as Social Science?

It seems that the observation element of the causal map suggests that this kind of learning experience is geared toward a science classroom. Nevertheless, I don't see why students wouldn't be able to map out causal elements in a World History classroom, for say, the spread of a plague and its effect on population, economic production and urbanization.

2. Is this model of learning useful for all students?

Ms. Owen suggested in her article that her gifted students seemed to benefit more from the experience. Therefore, perhaps an AP classroom setting is the most effective time to employ this kind of teaching. I do wonder, however, if it would make any difference if students worked individually instead of in pairs as she had them. The pairs basically sparred for their ideas about causation and effect. This clearly is the comfort zone of the more gifted kids. More normal kids might thrive more if not in the shadow of a more confident peer.

Journal #5 Can You Hear Me Now?

Wow, Sherry Turkle's article is a bulls-eye. Though her primary target isn't really the Verizon Guy with the thick glasses, the metaphor of the Verizon commercial (Can you hear me now) as representing our attempts to connect using technology---and yet really connecting less---summarizes the underlying argument of her article. Most of us recognize the benefits of technology more readily than the possible costs; specifically in how human interaction and personal reflection, in their natural forms, are relegated to obsolescence.

1. What can be done to ensure children are not ensconced in a virtual world where human interaction without the benefit of technology is totally absent?

Turkle points to the problem of children becoming so dependent ("tethered") on electronic connectedness that at times their independence is stymied. Anyone who has recently visited a Jamba Juice or other such place that teenagers frequent can't help but notice that every teenager in the shop has a cell phone in hand, and that every 30 seconds or so they anxiously glance at their phone to see if they have been texted. It is, as Turtle suggested, as if being connected electronically demonstrates identity, worth and certainly status.

As adults, parents or future teachers, we need to think of ways to ensure children learn to connect at least as well with their actual voices and body language, and can reflect on a deeper level. Most important is to model moderation. If we are unable to ignore a phone, a beep, or a chime during a face-to-face conversation, how can we expect children not to develop the "always on" attitude? Additionally, perhaps it would be a helpful idea for families to designate one "off" day a week, where all of the electronics get turned off, and everyone is forced to communicate the old-fashioned way.

2. The idea of multi-tasking as a mindset has grown in the last few decades. Is this a good thing?

I think it is misplaced. I believe this has more to do with the elevation of the business world in popular culture than with technology. Some CEOs are treated like rock-stars and their language has also been given a boost. "Multi-tasker", a buzz word for human resources departments everywhere, is almost obligatory on all resumes. But while computer might multi-task well, I don't believe most people do. This ties into Turkle's point about the increasing inability of people to reflect deeply. The pressure to multi-task means juggling superficial thoughts which inhibits thinking on a deeper, more singular level.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Journal #4 Moderating and Ethics

Journal #4
Moderating and Ethics for the Classroom Instruction Blog
Patricia Deubel, Ph.D.
1. Does a Classroom Blog offer advantages not available through the regular classroom modalities?
As Patricia Deubel nicely pointed out, it does. Most importantly, a classroom blog offers the opportunity to draw out the voices of classroom members who are seldom or never heard from. Everyone knows that in all classrooms, there are always a few dominate voices that are heard and who “monopolize the airwaves,” while other less assertive personalities go unheard. A blog is, in a sense, a more democratic way for the classroom to participate since you can’t really drown someone out with your keyboard! In the digital age, a powerful keystroke can be the equalizer to the powerful voice.
2. How can a Blog help a teacher to model digital citizenship?
Again, Deubel has provided a wealth of wisdom in this regard. By creating a gated environment and monitoring a posted code of ethics for the blog, a teacher can teach ethical principles that can have further use for students as digital citizens (Anyone who has attempted to respond to a newspaper blog regarding a controversial subject knows fully how desperately wanting digital behavior can be). Students can learn about the balance between free expression and decency toward others. They can learn about limits, self-control, truth, accuracy and respect for others.

Journal #3 Too Cool For School? No Way!

Journal #3
Too Cool for School? No Way!
Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler are clearly strong proponents of incorporating the latest technologies---including Web 2.0---into the classroom. They discuss people’s conception of technology and their initial discomfort with technology that is new to them. But they also suggest that incorporating new technology is not as simple as it seems. For much of the article, they attempt to construct an appropriate model of pedagogical theory that includes technology. They suggest several alternative search engines for the educational environment such as Viewzi and Clusty.
1. Is incorporating new technology as difficult as the author’s suggest?
Mishra and Koehler are trained theorists and appear to have a strong interest in the modeling aspect of pedagogy and technology. I think their fondness for creating new acronyms tends to over complicate the situation a bit. While it may be true that some technologies were not developed specifically for classroom application, that does not mean that a “specific kind of knowledge” is required to use them in the classroom. Application should be relatively straight-forward and not made to seem daunting.
2. Are many teachers intimidated by the new technology?
I believe they are. That is why it is important to offer teachers who are not yet comfortable with the technology classes such as the one I am taking. But I think a number of teachers are also concerned about Web content and what may be lurking a click away from a child’s fingers.