Hand It Over… But Why?

So about an hour ago, I was sitting in front of my computer thinking about what my last blog post for this semester should be about.  I was having some trouble coming up with a topic.  A couple of ideas crossed my mind, but those topics didn’t really interest me.  I needed to get away for a bit, so I put on my running shoes, plugged in my headphones, and pressed shuffle on my iPod.  Right then and there, I knew what topic I wanted to discuss… electronic devices in the classroom.

There is a rule in our school handbook that says cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices are to be put away during the school day.  Any student caught using their cell phone or listening to their iPod at any time between 8:00 and 3:05 is subject to their phone being taken away and a detention.  If it happens a second time, the electronic device must be picked up by a parent.

So “hand it over.”  But why?  Yes, I understand that these devices can be misused.  Of course I don’t want the 25 to 30 kids in my classroom texting, playing games, checking Facebook, or listening to music during class when they should be learning.  However, there can be a lot of value in these devices if we allow students to use them as learning tools.

There are so many educational apps available now that many students with smart phones can play games or view tutorials on different subjects.  Poll Everywhere allows students to text in responses, so the teacher can assess student understanding.  Students can listen to podcasts with their iPods as well as take photos and record videos, which can be edited.  Instead of looking at texting as the worst thing a student can do in a school, we should view it as another way for communicating ideas.  In addition, many cell phones are just as efficient as graphing calculators, if not better.

Students will be much more engaged in the classroom if they are allowed to use something that they couldn’t live without.  Last year, I was able to obtain a few iPads and iPod Touches for my Pre-Algebra classes.  At the time, we were discussing slope and linear equations, so we found an app on those topics.  Students were able to view and read an explanation, try some sample problems with immediate feedback, and then, test their understanding.  Every student in both of my Pre-Algebra classes were fully engaged in this hands-on activity.  I wish I had some data to work with to determine how effective the app was in their learning, but based on their engagement level, I felt that it was a success.

Will every student use these devices appropriately?  Probably not as it is not always possible to monitor what students are doing.  On the same note though, are all students taking notes when the teacher is in front of the room lecturing?

I know that this shift from no phones to using phones in classrooms is not going to be easy, but it is something that schools need to start considering.  The video below notes that some schools already allow cell phone use in classes.  It is obviously not something that is going away.  My prediction is that cell phones and other electronic devices will become a major component of the school curriculum.  The more students are allowed to use these devices in schools, the more they will be engaged in the classroom.  And the more that students are engaged in the classroom, there will be more learning and less misuse of electronic devices.

 

Cell Phones in the Classroom: Learning Tools for the 21st Century. (2009). Retrieved November 14, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXt_de2-HBE

Ramirez, M. (2010). No Cell Phones. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://www.educationandtech.com/2010/08/is-it-legal-for-schools-to-fine.html

My (Learning) Space

 

Remember watching the Jetsons and thinking the future is going to be awesome?  Well, I still believe the future will be awesome but for different reasons these days. As a kid, you can’t help but be fascinated with the flying hovercrafts, lack of roads, and aerial buildings.  Now, when I watch this opening theme, I notice the sleek and futuristic designs of the Little Dipper School for Elroy and Orbit High School for Judy.  The best thing is that we are not too far away from these designs.  Below are some pictures of current school buildings around the world.

Modern High School #9 in Los Angeles

University of Nottingham-Jubilee Campus in the UK

Green Roof Art School in Singapore

Each school has such unique aspects of their designs that it can be hard to believe that they are real.  While the outer design is pleasing to eye, its how the learning space inside is designed that is more important.  After all, this is where the magic of learning happens.

So I would like to propose what my ideal learning space in schools would look like in the future, and the more I think about it, my learning space resembles the design of a large mall.  First of all, school buildings in the future will have much more open space.  Instead of walking down confined hallways, students will walk around open grounds and walkways like the pathways in a mall.  For different levels in the building, you might see spiral staircases or escalators.

Henning Larsen University Campus Concept in Denmark

Included in these open spaces will be collaboration zones, where students can sit with laptops or iPads and work together on projects.  These zones resemble those commons areas in the mall where people sit and relax (or in my case, sit and wait for those who are still shopping).  It could look something like the circular stages in the picture below, which is from Orestad High School in Copenhagen.

Most of the learning and collaboration will occur in these zones as students work together to research, think, discuss, and create.  Although these spaces will become more prominent, I do believe there will still be classrooms (the stores in the mall).  These rooms will house many of today’s educational tools, such as interactive whiteboards, document cameras, projectors, etc.  These rooms will also include round tables with computer chairs to encourage more discussion and mobility.  These spaces will be mainly used as a resource rooms, where students can check in with teachers and teachers can view student progress and facilitate their learning.  Teacher and students can utilize the tools in the classroom to present information to each other.

Outside of these collaboration zones and resource rooms, schools will still have libraries (although it will be more of a multimedia center), auditoriums/theaters, and gyms/fields for sporting events.

Obviously, there will be some challenges to developing such high-tech and open buildings, such as cost, safety, and security, but I hope that some, if not all, of this vision will come true.  After all, the Jetsons did get my hopes up at such a young age.

Burn, D. (2008). Round Table. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://www.adpulp.com/table_it/

The Jetsons Opening (2011). Retrieved November 14, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8jQjuNWuTk

Steph (2009). Green Roof Art School. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://weburbanist.com/2009/04/21/15-cool-high-school-college-and-university-building-designs/

Steph (2009). Henning Larsen. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://weburbanist.com/2009/04/21/15-cool-high-school-college-and-university-building-designs/

Steph (2009). Modern High School #9. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://weburbanist.com/2009/04/21/15-cool-high-school-college-and-university-building-designs/

Steph (2009). Nottingham. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://weburbanist.com/2009/04/21/15-cool-high-school-college-and-university-building-designs/

Steph (2009). Orestad High School. Image. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://weburbanist.com/2009/04/21/15-cool-high-school-college-and-university-building-designs/

PYT: Pretty… I mean, PLE: Personal Learning Environments

So recently, I was asked to make a diagram of my Personal Learning Environment.  To do this, I had to start thinking about how I learn.  I began brainstorming my personal learning resources, which included online tools, media, the people i associate with, mobile apps, grad school, and much more.  I wanted to organize all of these aspects of my learning environment in an easy-to-read diagram, but as I brainstormed source after source, it became a little overwhelming.

Then, I thought I would just focus on where I feel I do a lot of my learning, which is online.  As a resource, I was able to scroll through several PLNs and PLEs already created by others at http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams and gained some ideas.

There were several creative and interesting diagrams, but one really caught my attention.  Cristóbal Suárez Guerrero’s PLE diagram matched what I was thinking of in terms of online tools.  I also liked how this diagram showed the connections that he was making throughout the Web.  On several occasions, I have gone online to search for something in particular, and after clicking link after link, I end up finding even more information (some of which may not relate to what I originally wanted, but interesting nonetheless).

So after viewing this diagram, I began to create mine.  I too thought about how many of my online source were interconnected.  Although I wanted a more easy-to-follow diagram, I ended up realizing that it was going to be messy no matter what, which was completely fine.

Dan Le’s PLE on Prezi

 

Using Prezi, I started with myself in the middle.  Then, I surrounded myself with the online tools that I use most frequently.  I wanted the tools to be grouped by similarities but that was a bit difficult since some tools are used for more than one purpose.  I surrounded myself with social networking, video, news, curation, blogging, and communication sites.  The blue arrows that point towards me represent information coming to me.  The double-sided blue arrows represent information coming in and information being posted by me.

Based on Guerrero’s PLE diagram, I began making connections between these tools.  For example, Blogger and Twitter posts go to my Scoop.it pages, which allows me curate the information coming in and keep what I want.  News from Yahoo and Google can be found on their own pages, but they can also be found on my Facebook news feeds, through e-mails, or through AIM.  I too will post some interesting articles using these tools as well.

I’m sure that I missed some connections here, but it was getting pretty hectic.  It wasn’t my intention, but the pink arrows somehow began to resemble a brain.  I could only hope that my brain is as information as all this.  Overall, I thought this assignment was beneficial to me because I was able to analyze where I get my information from and reflect on it.  It also opened my eyes to see that I only use a few resources, which is a miniscule percentage of everything that is out on the Web.

Two final side notes: 1) the picture of me is from Halloween and 2) I was listening to music as I was writing this and Michael Jackson’s “PYT” came on.  Hence, the title and video below.

 

PLE created with Prezi.

Suárez Guerrero, C. PLE Image. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams.

Curation of Information

Before I started my most recent graduate courses, I had never heard of “digital curation.”  After reading about it and trying some different online curating tools, I have found curation to be such an interesting topic.  The Web has always been a playground of information as numerous sites have emerged daily, and with the development of Web 2.0 tools, the amount of information now seems to be uncountable.  This is why I like the idea of curating information to find the most relevant and credible sources.

As an undergraduate student, I did some curating of information.  When conducting research, it was necessary to determine the credibility of sources that I encountered and using the ones that were most relevant to me or my assignment.  Today, there is so much information being poured out onto the Web through tweets, blogs, and other tools that it has become even more difficult to find the most appropriate sources.  With the development of sites like Tweeted Times, paper.li, and Scoop.it, the task of curating has become somewhat easier.

From my last grad class, I was introduced to Tweeted Times and paper.li.  Both tools could create “papers” of certain topics.  At the time, I liked paper.li better because I had control over what was displayed.  “Articles” that didn’t fit what I was looking for could easily be deleted.

Because of my peers and instructor of my current grad class, I was introduced to Scoop.it.  I had heard all positive things about it, so I decided to explore the benefits.  It really did take some exploration to really figure out how Scoop.it worked, but I was able to create a “paper” on Problem Based Learning resources, stories, and information.

 

Scoop.it is different from Tweeted Times and paper.li in that it allows the user to first choose what goes into the “paper” that they are creating.  With Tweeted Times and paper.li, the “articles” were automatically chosen, and the paper was created.

With Scoop.it, a list of sources are provided first, and the user can browse those sources and then “scoop” them to be in the “paper” that is being created.  Scoop.it then allows users to organize the articles, edit the descriptions, and tag them.  A nice feature with Scoop.it is that information can be pulled from a variety of sources.  It is not just limited to Twitter, but it can search for information from Digg, Facebook, YouTube, various blogs, and RSS feeds.  In addition, users can scoop sites that they find off of the Web and add it to their “paper.”  I especially like how the information that can be scooped show up in a list.  Personally, I just like that structure and organization instead of being bombarded with sources in different locations across the page.

In regards to classroom use, I am still a little concerned about some of the information that can show up on any of these curating sites.  When connecting to different Web 2.0 sources, some of the information can be unpredictable and may be inappropriate for students.  Although there weren’t many, Scoop.it did list some sites that I didn’t think were relevant to my key word searches and would be inappropriate for students.  I think that if I had my students use Scoop.it, I would maybe test out some possible searches first and see what came up.

Overall, I like Scoop.it because of its structure, and it makes a load of information seem much more manageable.

Scoop.it (2010, December). Video. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bnr6QKKcsII

Web 2.0 In The Classroom

Trying something new for the first time in the classroom is always exciting for me, especially if its a bigger assignment.  Soon I will have my students create pages in a wiki.  Using Wikispaces, students in my Honors Algebra 2 class will create a wiki all about factoring polynomials.  For a link to the wiki, click here.

After becoming more familiar with wikis in my last grad class, I found many benefits to using a wiki.

  • It is a tool in which students can work on collaboratively
  • Photos and videos can be embedded as well as several other widgets
  • It is user friendly
  • It allows users to be creative

I started off my teaching career teaching middle school math, and I am now in my third year of teaching high school math.  What I have learned in these years is that as the level of math gets higher, the more difficult it becomes to incorporate relevant and engaging lessons and activities.  Not all of my students are going into an engineering, math, or science-related field, so it becomes difficult to give a reason to some students as to why they have to know how to factor and graph polynomials.  Factoring is a very dry topic, but it is important for later units of analyzing graphs of polynomials and solving polynomial equations.

I usually spend about 2 to 3 weeks teaching factoring, and I try to incorporate review games or review activities during that time to break up the days in which its mainly lecture/discussion/analysis.  A benefit of using a wiki for this unit is that it will put the students in charge of their learning.  Students will be allowed to research, learn, and create a product, and I can be more of a facilitator and coach.  This project still may not give students a reason of why they need to learn how to factor, but it does give them a hands-on activity and is something different for them.  On second thought, it might be worth it in this activity to have students research how factoring is used and include it in the wiki.

For this project, I will need a set of mobile labs or time in the computer lab, so students can collaborate and edit the wiki.  Students will also need to have an e-mail address to register with wikispaces.

The home page of the wiki explains the criteria for each page.  I will also create a rubric and share it with the students, so they know how they will be graded and what is expected.  The overall goal is for students to understand how to factor and what it means to factor.  I have always been a believer that if you can explain/teach a topic to someone else, then you have learned the material well.  Essentially, students will be teaching others by creating a page that people can refer to and learn how to factor polynomials.  Again, the wiki may not necessarily give meaning to factoring or make students care about factoring, but hopefully it will be an engaging project that the students will enjoy and learn from… similar to the video below.

 

The 2025 Learning Environment

Its no secret that schools, classroom environments, and teaching/learning will be different in 2025.  I was a senior in high school ten years ago, and I currently teach at my alma mater.  When I was a student, I usually sat in my chair passively as the teachers would be the “sage on the stage.”  In some classes, I would be given the opportunity to work on projects and create.  Since then, I have seen a shift to more teachers (but not every teacher) allowing students to create and not be passive learners.  We want students to be engaged and are working to make the content more meaningful.  Today, our school has much more technology available for teachers and students to use.  We have a few sets of mobile labs, an interactive whiteboard in almost every classroom, document cameras, tablets, and the list goes on.  If you would have asked me ten years ago what I thought my high school would be like, I don’t think I would have predicted all that we currently have.

In ten years, I have seen a lot of change in my own high school.  I can only imagine what other changes will occur from now until 2025.  However, I do have some ideas.  First of all, I believe every teacher will have accepted and shaped their roles as a facilitator as the days of teachers presenting information while students frantically write down notes will be gone.  Instead, students will take ownership of their learning as they collaborate, create, make connections, use more technology tools, and analyze/synthesize information.  According to Christensen and Horn, online learning is already rising at a rapid pace, so we will see more online learning opportunities in the future (2008).

Learning is not going to be about memorizing facts.  It will be about developing the skills that are necessary to compete in a demanding digital world.  I even think schools won’t be so departmentalized.  The collaborative work that students will be doing will be cross-curricular.  Maybe its just my hope, but I see iPads or some form of a tablet for every student.  With this tablet, students can write notes for themselves, search for information, find “textbooks,” and communicate with others.  More tools will be available in classrooms, and interactive whiteboards will be used for much more than just a presentation device (which I believe are what the majority are used for right now).

Aspects of the current environment that I would keep include the technology that are being used in the classroom.  Technology is not going away, and we all know it is only going to grow in the next ten to fifteen years.  Many tools that are used in today’s classrooms will still have value in the future, such as iPads, interactive whiteboards, etc. (although they will be upgraded versions).  Along the lines of technology, another major aspect that needs to be kept and emphasized even more is digital citizenship.  We need to continue to teach students to respect copyright rules as more resources can be easily copied and used without proper permission.  In addition, we need to continue to teach students to become smarter online users.  They need to be able to distinguish between credible and faulty sources.

As far as changes, I want to see less focus on facts and more emphasis on research, collaboration, and application.  Even today, facts are attainable in an instant.  If a student needs to know how to find the area of a circle, they can look it up and quickly perform the calculation.  Instead, I want to see students focused on working together to solve a problem and/or produce something with meaningful results because these are the skills that they will need in the real world.  I also would like to see less focus on test scores and a more well-rounded assessment of student progress.  Something like an e-portfolio will truly give a picture as to what a student can do.

These changes will definitely have an affect on everyone involved in education.  All teachers are going to have to be accepting of technology and have it be a part of their classrooms.  Furthermore, teachers will have to accept that they are not the bearers of information anymore.  Teachers will need to communicate/collaborate with other teachers, be learners themselves, be flexible, and be willing to take risks (The 21st Century, 2011).  The classrooms of the future will put teachers in a position to try new things that they have not done before, so they will have to have a gung-ho attitude and do it.

We are already seeing some change with students not being completely passive learners.  In the future, students will need to be prepared to be pushed.  Learning will be in their control, and they will be put in messy and unclear situations, which will be uncomfortable for them.  However, this rigorous aspect of learning will truly help students develop the skills needed for the future.

Finally, these changes will definitely affect how schools will be held accountable Standardized tests will not be an affective way to assess student progress if students will not be memorizing facts, algorithms, and procedures.  The structure of schooling will change as subjects will not so divided by departments.  Students will be collaborating and incorporation content from various subjects.  There is no doubt that there will be a lot of change, but if I have one hope, its that I am still a “teacher” and haven’t been replaced by something else.

Christensen C. & Horn, M. (2008 August). Disrupting class: Student-centric education is the future.  Retrieved October 4, 2011, from http://www.edutopia.org/student-centric-education-technology

Education in 2025 (2008 November). Video. Retrieved October 6, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwbHn7gg1IE

The history of technology in education (2011 October). Video. Retrieved October 6, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFwWWsz_X9s

The 21st century skills teachers should have. (2011 January). Retrieved October 4, 2011, from http://educationaltech-med.blogspot.com/2011/01/21st-century-skills-teachers-should.html

Math Magic

"Why do students always need to be entertained?"  "Why does everything have to be fun for them to learn?"  "What happened to just being able to listen and take notes?"  These are some common questions/complaints that I hear when discussing students of today versus the past.

I know that teachers get frustrated with students at times because they have difficulties sitting still or want to put their head down during lectures.  But I can’t really blame the students.  Not having been too far removed from my undergrad and high school days, I remember times when I almost fell asleep in class or just started doodling on my paper.  I mean, those options were better than listening to someone lecture about wars of the 1600s and 1700s in the Ben Stein monotone voice.

Technology obviously has a lot to do with this change.  Animation, videos, video games, and all other sorts of entertainment have become so easy to access.  We have gone from watching a video on television to watching a video on a mobile handheld device.  Students are constantly being and wanting to be entertained.  Sure, life isn’t always fun and entertaining, but honestly, who doesn’t like to be entertained?

If teachers want to lecture, think about how the information is presented.  Take the video below for example.  This guy is technically just lecturing about deception, lies, and magic, but the way its presented through the use of technology is what captures the audience’s attention.

 

Teachers can still lecture, but if teachers can find a way to present information that captures students’ attentions and sparks curiosity, the lecture will be more successful.  Obviously, not all lessons can be entertaining, but I think its important to at least try to incorporate entertainment when we can.  Information can be obtained instantly, and there are so many online resources (videos, applications, games, simulations, etc.) available to choose from.  With patience and persistence in researching, a teacher could find a variety of materials on the web to use in the classroom.  Yes, it does cause more work on the teacher’s end, but teachers don’t go into this profession because its an easy job.

To effectively teach, influence students, and make a difference in education, teachers need to find new vehicles that will reach and engage students.  Students learn more efficiently if they are engaged in their learning, and entertainment is one vehicle to achieve this.

So I end this post with a little Math Magic… even old resources can still be used to entertain.

 

Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies (and iPods). (2011, August 12). Video. Retrieved September 7, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fumsXEuiLyk

Math magic. (2007, November 20). Video. Retrieved September 7, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXUxzPH6-4U

When am I ever going to use this?

As a high school math teacher, this may be the most common question I will get asked by students.  Whether its an honors class or a regular math class, this question will come up at some point during the school year.  This question is a difficult one to answer because 1) not every student is going into a math, science, or engineering related field and needs to know these topics, and 2) I don’t always know what some of these topics can actually be used for.

When I first started teaching, I would get annoyed by this question.  However, the more I think about that question, the more I feel that my students are right.  What is the point of learning the material, practicing the concepts, and studying for the test when you don’t understand how these topics can apply to you?  Its not that the students are lazy and don’t really want to learn the concepts (although this may be true for select few), but the students truly want to be able connect with the concepts and understand how they could actually apply them in their lives/future.

So today, I look at this question as more of a challenge for me.  How can I make matrix operations relevant to all of my students?  How can I show them that imaginary numbers can serve a purpose in their lives?  Why should they learn and understand conic sections?

Honestly, I can’t answer these questions right now, but I have realized that I can find some, if not all, of these answers through the use of several Web 2.0 tools.  I plan on using more of these online resources to make the concepts more relevant to my students.

First of all, there is YouTube.  You can find just about anything on YouTube, so this is definitely a source that I want to use more of.  As a beginning teacher, I taught in a more traditional way (after all, its how I was taught) with activities every now and again.  There is so much educational information available through YouTube, so with just some patience and research, I am confident that I will be able to find videos that are relevant to the topics I am covering.  Just through a simple search of “real life math,” I came across this video.

 

Wikipedia is another online tool that I will be able to utilize.  I used to be hesitant with Wikipedia because it could be edited by anyone.  My concern was with the legitimacy of the sources contributing to the site.  Now, I see that they are doing the best they can to provide the most accurate and truthful information through citations and notes on pages that state “citations are needed.”  Many math concepts that have a Wikipedia page provide an answer to “when am I ever going to use this?”  Some of these reasons may not make sense to my students now, but it does give some justification for using the topic.

Finally, I want to utilize Wikispaces.  Wikispaces does not provide the answers to “when am I ever going to use this?”  However, it does provide a way for students to answer their own question.  I can use Wikispaces by having students create pages on certain math topics.  By doing this, students are taking control of their learning and constructing their own meanings to the concepts.  Through research and collaboration, students can identify how certain topics can be used in their own lives or in the real world.

Relevance is a key factor in helping students learn.  When students see a purpose, can construct knowledge, and make connections, the most efficient learning will occur.  By using more of these Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, I hope to hear less of “when am I ever going to use this?” and more student questions that seek more knowledge and understanding.

Jasper, E. (2011, March 22). “Actions and Reactions” Image. Retrieved September 5, 2011, from http://www.emilyjasper.com/business/actions-and-reactions/

Real Life Math (2007, November 24). Video. Retrieved September 5, 2011, from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtqlIVN9bh8

It’s Not So Tricky To Use A Wiki…

I have now used Wikis twice in my lifetime.  The first time I used it was for a previous grad school class, and all I had to do was create a page in the Wiki and link ten educational online tools.  Editing a wiki is very simple as it shares many of the same text features as a Microsoft Word document.  So if you’re comfortable with Microsoft Word or any other word processing tool, it’s not so tricky to use a wiki.

For my most recent grad class, I had to contribute to a Wiki on different Instructional Design techniques.  It was while working on this assignment where I discovered the “fun” stuff.  Wikis allow users to embed a variety of “widgets.”  With Wikis, one can embed images, videos, calendars, spreadsheets, RSS feeds, maps, slideshows, and much more.  Because of these widgets, Wikis can be so much more informational.

I had never used the embedding code on YouTube videos prior to this assignment, but I guess I never really needed to embed videos before.  Generally, if I had ever wanted to share a link, I would copy and paste the link into a Facebook status, PowerPoint, or text message.  When I did embed a video into a PowerPoint, I would obtain the video file and insert it into the presentation.  The embedding feature is beneficial so that readers do not have to be sent to an site outside of the Wiki to watch a YouTube video.  I learned that it was just as easy to embed a YouTube video in a Wiki as it was to copy a link and insert it into Facebook.

There are many features of Wikis that make it a great resource to use.  As mentioned already, Wikis allow users to insert a variety of resources and tools.  What I liked most was how user-friendly Wikis were to work with.  The main toolbar lists the basic options, so it is not very overwhelming to the user.  Even when a user decides to insert a widget, the menus are very easy to follow.

Wikis makes it very easy for people to collaborate and create informational pages.  Collaboration is a nice feature in Wikis because it allows multiple users to input and share their resources and ideas.  By collaborating in a Wiki:

  • users can build off of each other’s entries,
  • an idea or concept that is missed by one person can be added by another, and
  • various perspectives can be presented, which is important because not everyone sees everything in the same way

While working collaboratively, users can communicate with each other in the Wiki’s Discussion feature.  A user could post a comment or question, and the others can respond.  In addition, there is a History feature that allows everyone to track who has been editing a page and when the editing was done.

A weakness of this collaborative work could be the “cleanliness” of the Wiki.  As a math guy, I like things very structured and organized.  I don’t prefer to look or read things that are too cluttered or looks messy.  When multiple people are editing a Wiki, the “cleanliness” of a page could get lost.  Various fonts, font colors, and font sizes could be used by different people, and spacing might be off.  Personally, I like the clean and professional look of a page instead of something that looks like the work of a 3-year old.  Additionally, because multiple people are working on a page, there could be the chance of repetitive information, which could cause a page to drag on.

In my classes, I could see myself creating a class Wiki and having students create pages on certain math concepts that go together.  In my Algebra 2 class, students could create an entire Wiki on different kinds of factoring.  In addition, a Wiki explaining the different trig functions and their reciprocal functions could also be created.  Since trig is very visual with graphs, a Wiki that distinguishes the functions and includes visuals might make the information more clear to students.

In addition, the idea of creating a Wiki in math class is something completely out of the box but is of value.  Students would have to take learning into their own hands in order to contribute to the Wiki.  Instead learning math the traditional way by paper and pencil, Wikis allow students to be involved with the topics and create instead of receive information.  As knowledgeable as students are today, they should not have any trouble contributing to a Wiki.

Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants vs Residents & Visitors

Digital Native - One who has spent his or her lifetime using computers, mp3 players, video games, and other digital devices; mainly today’s students in Kindergarten through college (Prensky, 2001)

Digital Immigrant - One who was not born surrounded by technology, but has learned to use many aspects of it (Prensky, 2001)

Resident - In terms of technology, one who spends a percentage of his or her time on the Internet; mainly on social-networking sites (White, 2008)

Visitor - In terms of technology, one who uses the Internet as a tool only when he or she needs to (White, 2008)

Which pair of terms best categorizes people today?  Personally, I prefer David White’s terms of Residents and Visitors.  The primary reason is that Marc Prensky’s terms seem to generalize certain groups of people as either Natives or Immigrants.

Since Prensky’s article was written in 2001, I would be grouped into the Digital Natives category as I was in high school at that time.  However, I was not born into technology, but instead, I have learned to use these items over time.  I clicked a mouse for the first time in grade school mainly for the purpose of playing educational games.  I used the Internet for the first time in junior high.  I had my first cell phone at age 16, and at that time, my phone was just a phone (no texting, surfing the web, etc.).  I downloaded my first song when I was a freshman in college, and I purchased my first iPod until I was a senior in college.

Because of my interest in technology, I have learned to use many digital tools very well, and they have become a part of my daily life.  Not everyone my age is like me though.  I have friends who fit Prensky’s definition of a Digital Immigrant.  Digital Immigrants are those who “read the manual first” and “turn to the Internet second.”  They print out e-mails and edit documents via pen and paper (Prensky, 2001).  Thus, it is difficult to place people into one of these categories based on their age.  Much more goes into it.

According to White (2008), not all adults over 55 are Visitors and not everyone under 25 are Residents.  Prensky makes it seem like most, if not all, teachers are Digital Immigrants and struggle to teach today’s students, the Digital Natives.  Prensky (2001) stated that Digital Immigrant teachers do not believe learning can be fun, and today’s students prefer to look at images instead of reading text.  Although these generalizations are probably true for some people, one cannot just label all teachers as Immigrants and all students as Natives.

Moffat (2008) reported that adults use the Internet more than students do.  Ipsos Reid conducted a study and found that adults use the Internet 19 hours per week compared to 13 hours of use by teenagers.  The study also found that adults between the ages of 35 to 55 use the Internet the most, and adults over 55 use the Internet the next most frequently (Moffat, 2008).  The following news report describes the growth in the the number of older adults using the Internet.

White (2008) describes a Resident as one who lives a percentage of his or her life online.  I definitely fit this category.  Sometimes, I get on the computer with no purpose in mind and just see what I come across.  I probably visit Facebook at least ten times a day, pay my bills online, search for information, and order items from the Internet (White, 2008).  As stated before, not everyone my age does these things.

I have co-workers in their mid-20s who do not use much technology in their personal lives.  They do not have a Facebook account, and they really just use the computer to check their e-mail a few times a day and create a worksheet or presentation.  I also see a number of students daily who carry a book with them at all times and read leisurely whenever they get chance.  Many students have even told me that they prefer step-by-step instructions as to how to solve problems.  So the generalizations that Prensky (2001) made do not hold true for everyone.

Although I do not agree with Prensky’s categorizations, he does make some valid points.  Most Digital Natives do want information fast and do not like to take the time to think through problems.  They are using technology more than students of the past.  In a study conducted in 2008 and 2009, researchers found that children, aged eight to eighteen, spent over seven and a half hours a day on media (Reinberg, 2010).  But how can we blame these Digital Natives for their way of thinking and attitudes toward traditional classrooms?  Technology has changed so rapidly that things are not even close to what they were ten years ago.  Almost any information one desires is attainable, and it can be found instantly.  Students know how to get what they need once a mouse is in their hands.  If they don’t have a mouse, they can quickly search for information or an image on one of the many smart phones out there.

Prensky (2001) also makes a valid point in his description of some teachers as Digital Immigrants.  I have heard teachers complain that students are not like they used to be, and why students always have to be entertained and expect fun.  As unfortunate as these comments are, I can honestly say there are less than a handful of teachers like this at my school and hope that most schools are like this as well.

Teachers should realize that technology is not a new thing.  It has always been evolving and changing for the better, and all teachers have had to adjust to new technologies at some point.  I wonder how teachers reacted when they had to use a motion picture projector for the first time.  Did they complain about having to use a projector to teach when they never learned that way?

I also wonder what will happen in twenty years when the current 5-year olds of the world become teachers.  Will they ever complain about changing technologies?  At some point, everyone will need to realize that technology will continue to change and affect schools.  When everyone does come to this realization, we may not need these terms of Natives, Immigrants, Residents, or Visitors anymore.  Hopefully, everyone will be a Resident and using technology correctly to enhance teaching and learning.

References

Download Thursday: Tech savvy seniors. (2011, May 12). Retrieved August 21, 2011, from YouTube Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y75L-lrbbuw

Hutchinson, R. (2009, June 17). “Cell phone evolution.” Image. Retrieved August 21, 2011, from Geeky Gadgets Web site: http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/russian-doll-cell-phone-evolution/

Moffat, C. (2008, March). Tech savvy teens vs. adults. Retrieved August 21, 2011, from Lilith-Ezine Web site: http://www.lilith-ezine.com/articles/technology/Tech-Savvy-Teens-Vs-Adults.html

Reinberg, S. (2010, January 20). U.S. kids using media almost 8 hours a day. Retrieved August 21, 2011, from Business Week Web site: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/635134.html

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On The Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. Retrieved August 14, 2011, from University of Illinois, College of Education Online Web site: http://learn.education.illinois.edu/file.php/1647/Digital_Natives_Digital_Immigrants.pdf

White, D. (2008, July 23). Not ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’ but ‘visitors’ and ‘residents.’ Retrieved August 14, 2011, from Tall Blog Web site: http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index.php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigrants-but-visitors-residents/