Monday, June 26, 2006

Digital natives and immigrants

There is a great post over at Assorted Stuff about this divide between digital natives and digital immigrants. He feels that the idea of the divide is actually hurting the discussion about using technology in schools. He says:
For example, I'’ve noticed that too many people who are supposed to be instructional leaders seem to be trying to use the concept as a crutch, as an excuse for why they can'’t understand a specific piece of technology (or don'’t want to try).
He concludes with:
It'’s time for all educators to stop invoking the digital immigrant tag to write off their lack of understanding.
I think that he is right on the money with this. My son may have all music on his MP3 player while I still listen to CDs, but I understand about iPods and similar players. My grandchildren may pick up some new technology more easily than I do. That does not, however, mean that I cannot pick it up. I may choose not to use a particular technology in my own life, but I need to know about it if I am in the classroom because it will all be part of my students' lives.

Personally, I am committed to trying to stayinformed as I can. I don't want to be one of those people who always throws up his or her hands and says, "I'm too old for that!" It is actually fun to learn about the newest technology and its applications in the classroom.

Unless you really think you are too old to learn, why should age be an excuse for not at least becoming acquainted with what's going on out there?

Monday, June 19, 2006


I know everyone else has already talked about Gliffy, but I wanted to add to the discussion. I have been using it to create graphics for lessons, and I am really impressed. The most recent one was on using clues in the textbook (pictures, tables, headings, etc.) to help you prepare for the actual reading. This graphic is one of the ones I included in the lesson. It isn't spectacular or anything, but I like it!

Check Gliffy out if you haven't. It is really cool!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Another benefit of blogging

I am taking my first online course this summer. I have designed online courses but never taken one before. (I know! Shame on me!) I am really enjoying the experience.

What I have noticed is that I am one of only 3 students in the course who is commenting on the posts of other students on the discussion board. The instructor continuously asks us to do that, but it isn't happening much.

Without a doubt it is easy for me to do because of blogging. Read what others write and comment on it -- What could be more natural?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Here's an odd one, for you...

Before posting it, I ran spell check on my last post. The only word it didn't like was "Blogger". Does that strike anyone else as odd?

A question about blog sites

A friend of mine is looking for a place to set up a blog. She is a Catholic religious (a nun to most of us), and she wants to set a blog up to talk about her ministry. She is looking for as family-friendly a site as possible. I showed her my blog, and she liked the looks of Blogger. She is worried, though, that it might be blocked in some schools. (Any site with the word "blog" in it was blocked by our server until last year, and we don't know that the Catholic schools around here would let it through even now.) Would any of you have any suggestions for free blog sites that might fit her needs? I would really appreciate any advice you might be able to give us.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Electronic editing and other related topics

Miguel has a great post where he asks for input on the question of electronic editing vs. hard copy editing. I couldn't resist commenting there, and I decided to carry the conversation over here, as well.

Let me reface this by saying that I am 55 for two more months. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a member of the net generation. Heck, my children aren't even! What I am going to say may sound odd for someone my age, but that's the way it is.

Ten years ago I was in grad school. I hadn't written papers on anything but an old manual typewriter until that time. I always hand wrote everything, edited profusely and then typed it up and turned it in. That is how I started grad school. Before the first semester was out, I discovered that I wasn't going to be able to do it that way if I wanted to get everything done. I struggled until I learned to compose and edit electronically, bypassing paper until it was time to print and turn it in. Once I learned, though, it was just as easy to be ruthless with my writing on the computer as on a piece of paper. I have been extremely grateful for that training ever since then.

As an educator, I write papers, reports, proposal, memos, and many other types of documents. As a person, I blog and write letters and emails. I do all of those things exclusively on the computer. I have even pretty much stopped journaling on paper, moving the reflective parts of that to my blog and most of the rest to the recycle bin. Do I feel bad about this? No. Do I think I have compromised my standards somehow? No. Is my writing any worse because I am not editing ruthlessly? No; it is actually better because I am writing so much more.

But how can I work with students on their papers without hard copies? I almost always "mark up" their papers electronically. It is easier for me than hanging on to a zillion pieces of paper. If the students email the paper to me, I make comments and email the paper back. Last semester, I did not receive a single hard copy paper from my writing students. It was all turned in on Moodle.

What I like to do with my students is use one of the collaborative writing sites like Writely to actually sit down and have a conference with the student while we are each looking at the paper on our own computer screens. I can indicate where I think there is a problem and the student can attempt a change and I can give him instant feedback. Some of our best classes have been a group of us sitting at computers, with me going from paper to paper marking things up and them trying to fix the errors before I get back to them. It makes editing and revision much less boring.

I think teachers need to give serious thought to who their students are. It is the teachers who are hung up on hard copies, not the students. We have to give up trying to teach the students we were and, instead, teach the students we have.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fighting against technology in the classroom

A great post over at Assorted Stuff about the debate over technology in college classrooms. He says:
A growing number of schools are turning off wifi in classrooms or even banning laptops from classrooms in an attempt to persuade students to pay attention to whatever it is the professor is talking about.
and then goes on to quote Ken Fisher at Ars Technica, who wrote:

While calls to make education "more interesting" are commonly offered as the solution to what ails the classroom full of web surfers, such demagoguery falls flat on its face the minute one remembers that students' interests are as broad if not broader than the collegiate curriculum itself. ...

The bigger question is, if Joe Baccalaureate got through Econ 101 with an "A" while spending his time manicuring his rotisserie-style fantasy baseball team in lecture, what was the lecture for to begin with?

I think this is actually a much more revolutionary idea than it might appear on the surface. As a student, I sat through too many lectures that were merely an outline of the chapter than we were supposed to have read. In grad school I even had a professor who read the book to us! Why should students pay attention if there is nothing new offered in a lecture?

There is a need to rethink education at all levels. I don't think we can really force laptops and wifi out of our classrooms. I don't even think we should. But we need to see if there isn't a way we can use the technology to our advantage.

And we need to think about what we do as instructors. I need to ask myself, "Did my students learn something today that they couldn't have gotten anywhere else?" The answer won't always be yes,I'm sure, but it should be at least some of the time!