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Reflection 9

I do not think my opinion on integrating technology in the classroom has drastically changed over the course of the semester. I still believe the most lesson that one can learn about educational technology is that it should only be used when it can realistically improve student learning. Many teachers become enamored with specific tools because of their visual appeal or novelty value, but they must look past these distractions and focus on how the student will respond to the tool. In general, teachers should not pick a tool and try to adapt it for students. Instead, teachers should first identify a problem and then seek out a tool that appropriately solves that problem. Using this strategy, teachers can keep students in mind rather than technology.

As a result of taking EDIT 2000, I have become more open-minded to using technology in the classroom. During the mini-unit on interactive whiteboard (IWB) technology, I had somewhat of an epiphany, during which I finally understood the appeal of SMART Boards. I attended a small private school that could not afford to put a SMART Board in every classroom, so I had never spent time using one before this class. Because I lacked experience with IWBs, I had almost rejected them completely, telling myself that they were overpriced, buggy, and nonessential. After learning about them in EDIT, however, my disdain for them softened dramatically, and I now understand their broad appeal. This anecdote yields another important lesson: always evaluate the quality of a technological tool oneself instead of relying on the opinions of others.


Reflection 8

In his article “Are Interactive White Boards Dead?” Dr. Robert Leneway makes an excellent point about technology and pedagogy: “it should be remembered that it’s not the medium, but instructional methods that cause learning.” [1] In any discussion on the merits and pitfalls of interactive whiteboard (IWB) technology, the focus should be on the technology’s ability to foster meaningful learning. If a particular group of students does not learning better with an IWB than with a simple whiteboard and marker, then their instructor should not waste time trying to acclimate them.

In general, my opinion of SMART Boards has not changed very much. After watching tutorial videos and actually playing with the EDIT classroom’s SMART Board, I have come to appreciate the diverse capabilities of IWBs. Still, though, I am of the opinion that technological tools do not teach; teachers do. Technology is the medium, which can certainly improve or degrade the quality of instruction, but IWBs are a medium that should be handled with care. When school systems purchase IWBs for all classrooms, they are encouraging teachers to use them. One of the major issues surrounding IWBs, though, is that not all teachers know how to use them, and perhaps more importantly, not all teachers want to use them. The implementation of such expensive technology into classrooms can send a wrong signal and requires serious forethought.

If a school can afford IWBs and its teachers seriously believe that IWB technology can improve the education of their students, then I welcome the school to purchase the technology. Marshall McLuhan famously stated that “the medium is the message,” which means that the effectiveness of the message is contingent upon the medium. In understanding McLuhan, though, educators should remember that while the medium and message are both important, the most important consideration is the student.

Reflection 7

After reading the section on copyright, I have learned that copyright issues and fair use policies are perhaps more important now than ever before. The section mentions mash-ups, an example of which would be the “Fair(y) Use Tale” video that has become popular on YouTube. This video, like all mash-ups, demonstrates how easily media can be manipulated with technology. Yes, issues of repurposing have existed long before the twenty-first century, but computers and the advent of the Internet have made creating so-called “mash-ups” easier. I also learned about Creative Commons licenses, which aim to simplify copyright laws by offering multiple levels of protection to artists of any kind. As more people begin to discover Creative Commons, I believe that fair use as a concept will become more transport and easier to understand.

I want to teach my future students about copyright and fair use because these issues are particularly relevant for English students and writers. I will want them to read portions of U.S. copyright law, as I did in my Writing for the Web Class here at UGA, to gain a better understanding of what the law actually says. I also want them to consider the deeper issue underlying fair use: that of creative ownership. One can argue that copyrights should not exist because no idea is original, as all ideas are derived from other ideas. Another may argue, though, that abandoning copyright protection would lead to a devastation of art. Exploring such ideas is necessary to answer the why? questions rather than only the how? and what? ones.

Reflection 5

Before today, I had never heard of either the New Media Consortium or its Horizon Report series, but as a lover of technology, I am now very interested in the publications that this organization offers. Overall, I found the NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition useful, but I did not agree with all its assessments on the so-called educational tools of the future. For example, I do not see a place for game-based learning in higher educational settings in the near future. The kinds of games that students want to play are not those that would likely be manufactured by educational gaming companies. Games have remained in the consumer-driven sphere for this reason, and for games to become both exciting and educational would require amounts of effort, time, and money that most companies are not willing to expend. I do, however, agree that mobile apps are certainly on the near-term horizon. I have already used my smartphone in several of my classes. In EDIT 2000, I used the SCVNGR app to participate in a scavenger hunt in Aderhold. Also, in one of my English classes, I used the TurningPoint app in place of a physical clicker device.

The third significant challenge in the Horizon Report–that institutions undervalue digital media literacy–resonates with me. Last semester, I took a class in the English Department called Writing for the Web that also could have been called “Writing and Digital Media.” We discussed this issue several times, and I suggested that one day, all K-12 school systems will need to begin teaching digital media skills consistently from any early age. I think the wide implementation of such courses is inevitable, but the sooner that school systems realize this need, the better for educators and, as consequently, students living in a digital age. Also, I think the members of the Horizon Report advisory board were wise in ranking economic issues as the number one barrier to technology adoption. Even when scholars and educators have great ideas about using technology in the classroom, a lack of money often curtails the reality of imagination. I hope that in the future, more funding will become available for educational technology projects, as the successes of these can greatly influence the success of students.

Reflection 6

The Edutopia video focuses on one particular tool, a blackboard system, to achieve a larger goal: fostering effective communication between a teacher, students, and their parents. The video assumes–and I believe correctly–that in many of America’s school systems, the interdependent communication flow between these groups has become largely fractured. Even in my own elementary school days, I can recall angry parents complaining that they did not know about a class party because they never received a note. Usually, the note would have disappeared into that deep cloth vortex that is the student’s bookbag, but the child should not be singled out. Parents and teachers, too, are often responsible for disrupting communication channels. The blackboard system at Forest Lake Elementary appears to be successfully addressing this problem by allowing parents access to students’ grades, written work, and other valuable information. I like the idea of having an integrated student content system, but I fear that not every school district has the resources to design the necessary interfaces and maintain the data structure. Still, its popularity at one school suggests that its genre holds the potential to continue to improve communication.

In a high school English classroom, I would take first take advantage of Facebook. I think using Facebook, as opposed to a site like Scholastic Homepage Builder, is important because many students and parents already use Facebook and monitor their accounts often. Thus, if I created a classroom Facebook page, then parents and students would likely check it more often than they would a Scholastic site because they most of them already log on to Facebook regularly anyway. I would post homework assignments, reminders, polls, discussions, etc. The group would function as a place of discussion that continues after class has ended. If a student has a question about a project due the next day, he could post it on the class page and await responses from his peers or me. Parents would also be encouraged to join the page to check up on their students, as well as to engage in any classroom projects that require their attention or assistance.

I can also foresee using Google Calendar. Again, using this tool would streamline the amount of websites parents have to visit to get information about their students at school because they could link their own Google Account to the class calendar. Thus, they will be reminded to view the class calendar more often. As with Facebook, this tool would benefit students and parents, as I would update it with deadlines, class event dates, and reminders about upcoming school events, as well.

Reflection 4

Since Marc Prensky first introduced “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” in 2001 [1], many scholars have criticized his idea that those born before 1982 and those born after 1982 are inherently different in their ability to use technology. I believe that while Prensky’s concept of digital natives and immigrants does contain flaws, it is nevertheless useful in understanding the general disconnect between older and younger American technology users. The year that Prensky uses to discriminate between immigrants and natives, 1982, is arbitrary. Indeed, denying native status to someone born in 1981 seems illogical. The important part of Prensky’s theory is that in general, young people adapt more quickly to technology than their elders because they are born into a digital culture. More often than their older counterparts, youngsters openly embrace the culture, allowing them to quickly engage in enculturation.

Chris Betcher [2] and CNN’s Oliver Joy [3] raise concerns about Prensky’s digital natives and immigrants. For instance, both suggest that Prensky’s theory only makes sense for people living in the United States. Citizens of less developed countries, where access to technology is limited at best, usually become digital natives together. I agree with this claim, as age does not seem to matter much in these areas. When a technology becomes available in these countries, those born after 1982 and those born before that year tend to receive it uniformly, either clinging to it or rejecting it as a culture. In addition, Betcher warns readers not to buy into the so-called “myth” of immigrants and natives. Believing in Prensky’s theory, Belcher says, can lead to the incorrect assumption that all young people have pre-existing technology knowledge and do not need to be taught about technology in the classroom. This is a good point, and it leaves me to consider the true message that Prensky’s idea sends. Above all, I think one should use Prensky’s logic to explain American cultural phenomena, but his theory should not be used to support pedagogy that in any way limits technological instruction.

Reflection 3

I strongly resonated with Howland et al.’s discussion of the authentic attribute of learning. According to these authors, meaningful learning, the type of learning to which educators should aspire to instill in their students, requires this authentic component. The authors stress that authentic learning is based in real-world experiences, the type of experiences not often conducive to a classroom environment. Instead of merely lecturing to students, authentic learning’s proponents argue, teachers should pair this passive instruction with active, real-world learning. [1] A recent assignment for a class showed me how beneficial authentic learning can be.

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself pouring through the textbook for my Technical and Professional Communication class. As I was reading a chapter on writing e-mails, letters, and memos in the workplace, I asked myself, “How will I ever remember all of the unique stylistic devices used in these genres of writing?” I finished the chapter, retaining some of what I read but unable to recall all the steps necessary to draft a memo. Yesterday, though, my professor assigned an in-class authentic learning task, the object of which was to write a sample complaint memo to a university official. When I began writing, I heavily referenced the chapter that I had read for homework to ensure that I was formatting the document properly, but by the time I finished the assignment, I was confident in my ability to write a memo without having a template in front of me. I attribute this change to authentic learning and to the act of doing. Yes, passively reading the textbook taught me how to write a memo, but actually writing a memo actively allowed me to hone the skill, to practice, to remember. I believe the authentic component is an invaluable part of learning, a part that facilitates true, and meaningful, learning.

[1] Howland,  J.L., Jonassen, D., & Marra, R.M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology. (Fourth ed.). Boston, M.A.: Allyn.