Connected: A Cost Benefit Analysis

Technology’s Promise

Technology holds great promise for transforming our education system.  A few benefits of technology are as follows:

  • Instruction can be differentiated more readily; tailoring lessons to students’ academic needs and interests (Cuban, 2012).
  • Students can quickly access and compare facts and opinions using a variety of media and resources to suit their learning style.
  • While attending to multiple modes of communication during learning and building understanding students develop transliteracy skills (Thomas, 2007).
  • Students can collaborate with other students in the classroom or around the world to use various types of media to create knowledge.
  • Learning is more flexible, students can learn at their own pace and at varied times and in locations outside the school or on vacation around the world.

Technology’s Challenges

Technology use by students without training and guidance also poses several challenges:

  • students who are strictly web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy which greatly impedes the development of critical thinking skills (Rich, 2008).
  • the face-to-face setting classroom setting guided by a teacher is more conducive to to teaching social skills, morals and ethics; an important and historical purpose of tax-supported schools in a democracy (Cuban, 2012).
  • hand-held devices isolate some users from face-to-face human interaction, put more distance between people (Turkle, 2012).
  • technology may “connect”people but it leaves some users uncomfortable to be alone with their own thoughts, reducing opportunity for reflecting upon ideas necessary for learning or to change oneself and creating more loneliness among people. (Turkle, 2012).
  • there is an ongoing cost for families and schools to maintain internet service and to continually update technology.  This may create inequalities that impede learning.

Recommendations

Parents and teachers need to appropriately model, guide and monitor student use of technology starting at an early age.  As role-models and guides we must carefully leverage the benefits of technology for learning while providing a balanced approach to learning and living.  Kids must learn to appreciate being away from screens and enjoying activities such as:  being outdoors appreciating the natural world, developing friendships and enjoying a story told by a master story-teller.

References:

Cuban, L.(2012). The technology mistake: Confusing access to information with being educated.Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-technnology mistake-confusing -access-to-information-with-becoming-educated/2012/06/17/gJQAt8PFkV_blog.html

Rich, M.(2008). Liteacy debate: R U really reading?Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html?r=2&ex=1217908800&en=b2960ae3b8cce1b2&ei=5070&emc=etal&oref=slogin&

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S.,&Pullinger, K.(2007).  Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, Vol.12(12). Retrieved fromhttp://www.uic.edu.htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908

Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?r=0

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Reflection on Literacy Learning

During this short, intense and enriching learning experience I have learned a great deal about the new literacies and how they are interrelated.   Tool literacy, data literacy and visual literacy have made the most impact on me. Learning about these literacies has already created changes in my work as a teacher and I am excited to continue learning about them as I know that they’ll  enhance learning in my classroom come September.

This is the first technology related course that I have ever taken, so I entered this course with just enough knowledge and experience to cope in an online learning environment. During this course I have experienced a steep learning curve and have gained a lot more knowledge, experience and confidence with several applications. I had never used the Google platform before. Now I can create and share documents and presentations and know how to navigate the mail program. This will be very helpful at work since my District is moving to this platform next year. Some of my students are using this platform to collaborate and I’ll certainly promote its use in the future. I have never read, created or written a blog before.   Many blogs have been very good, concise resources and I will continue to read them. I see value in having my students create blogs as journals to review and reflect on their learning and want to try this. I also plan on creating a Twitter account and following other educators next year. Creating a website was another new and worthwhile experience, I like the versatile and non-linear approach to them. I will now be able to better support students as they work with websites and may create my own. On a personal note, during this course I also obtained my first smartphone and I’m committed to learning a great deal this summer to more fully utilize this productive tool.

As a science teacher I work with data on a regular basis. Researching data literacy helped me learn even more and extended my tool and visual literacies as well. Through research the key competencies behind the foundations of data literacy were revealed as well as the advanced use of this topic by researchers. It was surprising to learn about the minor role of data literacy in the math curriculum.  As a result, I will take a little more time to teach this in science class. The project that Trudi and I created will be shared with other teachers in my school and District. Infographics plays a significant role in data literacy. The visual literacy presentation reminded me how important graphics are for learning. In the research I learned the key steps for creating infographics. I experimented with Creately to make Venn diagrams and concept maps. After receiving an introduction to the program, I am eager to improve my skills over the summer. I gained a preview of other Web 2.0 tools and see practical use for some of them as well.

In terms of visual literacy I was reminded that there are more and more visual learners for whom images convey even more understanding than text.  In addition, there are an increasing number of English language learners in my school who could benefit from viewing more visuals in my classroom as well.  I can better utilize the Smartboard in my room to manipulate text and images.  The pecha kucha method intrigues me and I want to try presenting some lessons in this manner.

Furthermore, I have gained a great deal of insight by taking this course.  I have gained some confidence with several digital tools.  While researching data literacy I learned a lot about tool literacy and visual literacy which are intricately intertwined.  I have been reminded about the powerful impact of images on learning and have been inspired to use digital tools to create more infographics, get students writing more and be engaged with digital storytelling.

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The Write Opportunities

The Write Opportunities

As I write this blog, I realize that by publishing it online I have an opportunity and a responsibility.  The responsibility lies in getting my facts correct (with proper citation) and producing a piece that will in some way add value to others and contribute to their knowledge and learning.  The opportunity is the ability to organize my thoughts, as Jago (2009), states; writing requires students to pause and think hard to further their own learning.  I am motivated to write well for an audience.  Not only am I writing for my teacher, but my learned peers who are all very accomplished writers.

For some of the same reasons, I believe that digital technology can help motivate students to hone their writing style and write more.   Most students are very comfortable using technology to write and are doing so in and out of school.  According to NCTE data, (2009), over half of the respondents reported that students spent at least an hour per week writing online in a social network environment.  Furthermore, about half of the students claimed that they enjoyed non-school writing a great deal compared to only 17% of students who enjoyed writing at school.   Jenkins (2004), is a proponent of out of school writing, he claims that fanfiction offers an interested audience and a nurturing feedback network for developing writers.  Jenkins claims that school writing requirements are very restrictive for budding authors and that adults should value and respect the efforts of aspiring writers.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jago (2009), emphasizes a school-based, disciplined approach to writing.  She recommends that students be taught the meaning and use of literary terms.  Jago (2009), purports that students need to be guided through challenging texts to build knowledge, academic stamina and will eventually realize the intellectual rewards for doing so.

I believe that teachers can use civil discourse to both motivate students to write and teach them literary terms and writing strategies.  Herrington and Moran (2012), write about teachers who have used Youth Radio and the Voices for Darfur project to promote inquiry, critical thinking, media and writing skills.

Teachers now have many tools at their disposal for engaging students in the writing process.  A balanced approach along with ongoing feedback and encouragement will help develop confident writers.

References

Herrington A., Moran, C. (2012). Social deliberation and social action. Retrieved from http://digitalis.nwp.org/collection/civic-deliberation-and-social-action

Jenkins, H., (2004). Why heather can write. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?id=RlRVNikT06YC&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=Why+Heather+Can+Write&source=bl&ots=9A7FowWBLv&sig=rP_rhMI1rkKFQKu1ojO_MSwT9ss&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a_dmUZGBE8K0iwKH-YCYDQ&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Why%20Heather%20Can%20Write&f=false

National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Writing between the lines and everywhere else. Retrieved from

http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/WritingbetweentheLinesFinal.pdf 

National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Crash! The currency culture in American Culture. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Jago_final.pdf

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