Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Journal #9

Are Schools Inhibiting 21st Century Learning?
By Dave Nagel

In this article the author discusses the results of a survey, conducted by Project Tomorrow, which polled about 360,000 teachers, students, and administrators about the use of technology in schools. This survey has been conducted every year for the last five years. According to this article students are way ahead of their parents and teachers when it comes to their usage of technologies both in their personal lives and for educational purposes. Although the survey indicates that teachers, parents, and administrators are excited about the possibilities offered by technology and are eager to learn more about ways to explore these possibilities, there is nevertheless a disconnect between educators and students.
Many students feel that school "security" practices, such as Web filtering, are limiting their ability to take advantage of technology for learning. They feel that teachers and school IT departments are doing just throwing up barriers to learning with the very technology that's supposed to facilitate it. They are not satisfied with the manner and extent to which technology has been integrated into their education.

Students and teachers do share some views though. For example, both groups are enthusiastic about the possibilities that gaming offers in terms of addressing the needs of a wider variety of learning styles as well as making school and classes more fun. Students and educators also agree that the ability to use mobile technologies, and especially laptop computers, at school would be very beneficial to everyone. Moreover, teachers and administrators are becoming more willing to embrace tools such as blogging and social networking which they had previously seen as distractions rather than valuable tools for enhancing learning.

Overall, the results of this survey indicate that as technology becomes more and more pervasive students, teachers, and administrators are becoming more aware of the potential benefits of technology tools, and are more willing to educate themselves about how to utilize them in educational settings.

Question 1: What is the number 1 technology choice for teachers and administrators?

Answer: According to the survey, One to One laptop programs, programs where every student in the school has access to a laptop, are the number one technology choice for teachers and administrators.

Question 2: According to students, what are some of the benefits of using educational computer gaming?

Answer: Many high school and middle school students said that games make it easier to understand difficult concepts. They said that they would learn more about a subject if information were presented in a game format. Students also feel that the use of games in school would make it more interesting to practice problems and would help them learn how to work in teams and see the direct results of their problem solving activities.

Journal # 8

Envisioning the Future of Education: Learning While Mobile
By Mark Van’t Hooft

In this article the author, Mark Van’t Hooft discusses the increasingly mobile and connected technologies that have become embedded in almost every aspect of our lives, and their impact on education. Despite the fact that technologies such as cell phones, iPods, handheld computers, and laptops are relatively new, for many of us it is difficult to imagine life without them. Van’t Hooft explains that these technologies are extremely mobile and connected. They place a large of amount of control in the user’s hand, and they allow us to access, create, compile and share information in various formats anywhere, anytime. The implications of these technologies for education are that learning has become more personal, more collaborative, and more ubiquitous. Learning is now happening across contexts, people, and digital tools that are both mobile and static. Mobile and wireless technologies are enriching the learning experience by making it more student-centered, by connecting schools with the world, and by bridging the gap between formal and informal education. However, Van’t Hooft also mentions that, with these new tools, comes a need for new literacies. Students, he says, need to learn the skills required for dealing with increased collaboration and increased networking. They also need to learn how to navigate this new technological world in safe, ethical, and productive ways.

Question 1: This article brings up the interesting point of how increasingly connected and mobile technologies can help bridge the gap between informal and formal learning. What is an example of a digital tool that does this?

Answer: One example of a digital tool that can help bridge the gap between informal and formal learning is MyArtSpace, or any other social networking website or blog that allows students to reflect and expand on what they learn in school. With these websites students can design a space where they can express themselves creatively, share their thoughts with their peers, and reflect and comment on the thoughts of others. These websites help bridge the gap between formal and informal education by allowing students to direct their own learning according to their interests, and by extending education beyond the classroom.

Question 2: What are some concerns that parents and educators may have about these new technologies?

Answer: Educators and Parents are often concerned about the fact that they have little control over what children can do and be exposed to with these technologies. They worry that there may be negative side effects that they’re not even aware of because they are not as proficient as the kids when it comes to these new digital tools.

Journal # 7

Disabled Bodies, Able Minds: Giving Voice, Movement, and Independence to the Physically Challenged, by Diane Curtis
Published on 2/2/05 in The Journal

In this article the author, Diane Curtis, discusses the new opportunities available to students who live with disabilities as a result of the advances made in assistive technologies and alternative augmentative communication devices. The author also discusses the importance of making these new opportunities and technological resources available to the students who need them. Curtis says that “DO-IT, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and other widespread efforts and laws seem to have created a greater determination among students and parents to make sure disabled people are included in all activities”. Assistive technologies are a great way to allow kids who live with disabilities to participate in a wider of school activities. Moreover, in the past, students with special needs relied on aids to take notes, to take tests, to communicate, and so on. But with new assistive technologies, kids can do many of these tasks on their own. This empowers students and gives them some much needed independence.
I found this article interesting because it reminds us that assistive technologies, like other educational technologies, offer many horizons and opportunities for both teachers and students. Educators, schools, and districts need to educate themselves about what’s out there so that they can make the best out of the resources available, and provide all of their students with the best education possible.

Question 1:
Why is it that full time aids are not adequate substitutes for assistive technologies?

While classroom aids can be a very valuable resource for students who live with disabilities and their teachers, they are not a substitute for assistive technologies. If students have access to assistive technologies they can communicate on their own, they can do their own assignments both inside and outside of class, and they can participate in many activities without any need for constant adult supervision and assistance. This gives them some independence which may be important in developing their self-esteem, and their ability to socialize with their peers.

Question 2:
Assistive technologies are wonderful tools that help make education more equitable by empowering students who live with disabilities. What are some other ways that technology can be used to make education more equitable?

There are many ways that technology can be used to enrich education and make it more equitable. For instance technologies offer educators many tools for reaching children with a wide variety of learning styles and academic abilities, children with learning disabilities, and English language learners. Technology also provides many resources for teachers looking to broaden the scope of their curriculum and make their teaching more multicultural.