Tuesday, July 24, 2012

■5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class

I agree with Michael Soskil on most points, but I don't think that his argument in point 1 that students won't be prepared to use cell phones or other technology in their lives after school if they aren't exposed to it in school is a sound one. In fact, he basically argues against himself later in point 5, stating that, “Students are using cell hones whether we ban them in school or not.” I think the answer to allowing cell phones in school is finding a balance. I think they can be both a tool and a distraction. I don't know that students should be free to use their cell at any time. I think teachers should let students make use of the technology when it supports their learning, but not have their phones out during tests or during times when they need to be focused on instruction.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CommonSense Media

The lesson Powerful Passwords is designed to teach students strategies for creating secure passwords. The lesson begins with the teacher comparing a password to a combination lock, both using secret codes to keep things secure. The teacher has students think about how they'd feel if their privacy was violated. Students are then asked to complete a handout called “Dos and Don'ts of Powerful Passwords, that presents a list of statements for which the students are asked to insert Do or Don't as the initial word. The teacher then leads the class in reviewing and discussing their responses. Afterward, the teacher leads the students in a game called “Test Your Password,” in which password behaviors and characteristics are stated, and students are instructed to take a certain number of steps forward or backwards when they apply to their password. Next the students engage in a group activity where they create secure passwords. Working in groups of four, students write responses to six questions on a set of six index cards. The cards are collected and shuffled and each student is given four cards representing responses to four different questions. The students are then instructed to combine bits and pieces of the responses on the cards to create a new password, applying what they've learned about the characteristics of strong passwords. The group members then share their passwords within their groups, and each group votes on which password they think is strongest. Then each group shares its winning password with the class, and the class votes on the best password and they discuss why it is powerful. The teacher then asks questions to assess learning.
I think that this lesson and the entire Digital Literacy curriculum is essential learning for kids in today's online culture. I am often shocked at the deceptive practices that web sites employ to trick users into agreeing to more than meets the eye. I'm glad to know that young users are protected from these charlatans in the form of COPPA, but it's important that we teach kids to be savvy internet users early.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Response to EdWeek Blog Post

I read an interesting post on the EdWeek blog this week that reported findings from a recent survey conducted by technology solutions provider CDW-G called “Learn Now, Lecture Later.” The company surveyed 1,1015 students, faculty, and IT staff from high schools, colleges, universities, community colleges, and technical schools and found, not surprisingly, that students desire more technology-based learning as opposed to the traditional lecture model. The main barriers to making the transition were cited as money and the need for staff professional development.

I'm not surprised by either, although I personally don't view either as a major obstacle. As we've (I've) learned in this class, a lot can be done with technology that is widely available. For instance, I had no idea that I even had the applications Photo Story or Movie Maker on my computer, much less how to use them, and in two weeks' time I've become proficient enough in Movie Maker that I can flip a lesson. This is just to say that I had the technology at my disposal and it didn't take a great deal of training to make it work for me. Just reflecting on what I've been exposed over the short time our class has been meeting, I think that if schools sponsored half- or full-day technology workshops for their instructional staff, they could make great strides toward bridging the professional development gap. I imagine that there are many seasoned instructors who may not be as tech savvy as their gen-X counterparts, and who may suffer from technology anxiety (akin to math anxiety). I believe that just spending some hands-on time with the applications in a workshop could open minds to the possibilities, and I believe that once an educator can see the possibilities, the next steps of becoming a user and an advocate should follow naturally.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is Powerpoint Evil?

I don't think Powerpoint is evil, but I think it should be used judiciously, when it creates value for the student.  Powerpoint is presentation software, but I wouldn't require my students to format all of their presentations in Powerpoint, since I find the format rather bland, given the other options available.  For example, while Powerpoint can be used to create a story board, it wouldn't be my app of choice.  Beyond that, I think students should be exposed to various forms of expression so that realize that there isn't one right way to express oneself, and that part of the presentation process is deciding what the most effective delivery method will be from the options available.  If/when Powerpoint is the best/only option available, then it's a good choice.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How important is it to use visuals to support instruction?

In my opinion, very important. Today’s students have been raised in a multimedia society where we’re no longer limited to communicating with just words, nor are they accustomed to it. I think it's rare when words alone are as powerful or engaging as when accompanied by imagery. (I am reminded of how children choose books by flipping through the pages to find the ones with the most pictures.) Nor can words always convey meaning as effectively as an image can. Images“illustrate” what words may fail to convey or what might get lost in translation. Moreover, images transcend language barriers, which becomes increasingly important as our classrooms become ever more diverse. Education technology consultant, Bernajean Porter, asserts that, “For students to be effective communicators in the 21st century, they need to be sophisticated in expressing ideas with multiple communication technologies, not just the written word."  As teachers, I feel we need to model in our instruction the skills that we expect our students to develop.

For an interesting article on 21st century communications and digital storytelling, check out Beyond Words: The Craftsmanship of Digital Products at http://digitales.us/resources/bjps-books-articles#digitales