Tag Archives: training

Oversimplifying Tech

12 Aug

There is a landslide of comments online on the various social media networks proclaiming, “Let kids use their phones.” It makes sense, there is more computing power in the current smart phones than there was on the space shuttle that landed on the moon in 1969. However, when I hear this phrase thrown around, I feel as if people have this mental image of a technological Moses descending upon their school with tablets and smart phones where he will utter the prophetic words, “Principal, let my students learn.” And in that one moment a pantheon of learning will take place unparalleled in the history of the world. We will enter a new renaissance which will foster in an age of discovery and advancement through mobile learning. I wish this was true. We give kids a lot of credit for being tech savvy – and we should – as they have not known any other way to live than with phones and computers. We should not get carried away in this “let them use tech they have” mentality because without training and good instruction, the technology will quickly run away on us and there will not be much teaching and learning going on in schools.

Looking at the recent history of social media, starting with MySpace, the internet was about creating a life you wish you had. Notice in the beginning it was about the number of friends kids had – even if you didn’t speak the same language – and the running gag was that everyone was Tom’s friend. Don’t have many friends in life, you can have 5000 online right now. Play a game, build up a farm or mafia. What, you got an A on your test, well my farm is bigger than yours and my mafia robbed you last night while you were studying, take that. Social media was about creating what you thought your life could be and then showing it off.

When Facebook came around, it was more about making connections. I went to a party or was at a bar, met this person I liked, when home and looked them up, “Hey, remember me, we met last night, let’s hang out.” Now, there was an evolution as Facebook, when it started, was more about connecting with people you already knew or had just met. Now, social media was about enhancing your already functioning life. Did you get a phone number? No worries, I’m sure he/she is on Facebook.

Phones have made this extended reality even more inviting. Currently, about ninety-six percent of college students on Facebook, it’s no surprise that most young people spend their time on the site. Email is no longer the primary way to communicate digitally. With a group of friends, about sixty percent of teens are more interested in the virtual friendships they have online then they are with the friendships of those sitting next to them. The phone has made it easier to be connected to more people at once. Remember that iconic scene from Bye Bye Birdie, right after Ann Margaret gets pinned in the bus (a while new meaning with today’s youth) and the whole teenage population is buzzing with excitement over the phone lines to learn the news and talk about it. Our kids are like that now, only with more typing than talking.

Talk to most safety experts, increased phone use leads to more communication between kids on campus over fights, between gangs (if you serve that population), drug sales in the bathroom and more instances of cyber bullying on campus. A few years back teacher-bating was a sport, where kids will try to make a teacher so mad they would blow-up, the kids could record it and then post to the web. These events and others are a direct result of having absolutely no plan on our campus to handle phones other than, “The handbook says they should be off, so I will take it if I see it. But since it’s off I don’t have to worry about it.”

This has been the plan for years, phones are a distraction so turn them off, end of story. The problem is that we are fighting a higher power. Parents buy phones for their kids so that they – the parents – can get a hold of Johnny or Suzy whenever he/she wants. Looking for proof, how many times has a student bypassed the office and met a car in the parking lot – usually mom – with lunch or a change of clothes for PE, between classes or at lunch? Sound like a safety concern, it is, but remember, en loco parentis may be true, the parent still out ranks you.

Then there is the friends, so many friends: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Kik, texting and the list goes on. There are so many ways for kids to stay connected that they want to, all the time, “I just had this idea, we must talk about it now!” In fact, kids spend so much time connected they don’t know how to turn it off. A 2007 study by the New York Times found that their employees who stopped what they were doing to answer an email or take a call spent, on average, about 15 minutes getting back on task. For many of our students this is all day.

While our students may spend all day online, many of our staff members do not. Some may or may not have Facebook, almost none of them Tweet and very few if any text unless they have kids or are under forty. In any workshop I do, there is always one comment, “go slow on this Twitter thing, I don’t even know what a tweet is and I’m not sure if I get it.” So now we have a staff that is unprepared to handle the tech demands of students who are so far ahead we can’t tell if the kids are texting or learning.

A little over a year ago I did a lesson with my students – focusing on my AP students. Embedded in the lesson was a QR code that would pop up at random times. Finally, a student asked what those boxes were. I explained, “That’s a QR code.” Out of sixty students only one knew what that meant. Many studies suggest that only about thirty-five percent of the population know what those QR codes even are when they see them. As with anything in school, kids need to be trained. Staff needs to be trained, and there needs to be systems and procedures in place to monitor and control the learning taking place in the classrooms.

As it is now, only about one in three students even knows how to use social networks for educational purposes.

One of the age-old arguments in education and technology is supplementation vs integration, it’s been around for a long time. The second argument is equal access which has been around a little bit longer. Sure, kids have phones, but how many students have smart phones? Most studies show fifty percent, but how many have smart phones on your campus? How many of your staff members have smart phones? What apps do your students and staff have on their phones? Do they know how to use them? I use Evernote to take notes in my class, before I made my students use it most of them didn’t know they could take notes on their phones or iTouch devices.

If we want kids to start using their phones we have to show them how. We need to have conversations about what is right and what is wrong to post online as well as conversations about when we can use our phones for personal time and when we need to be professional. Tell your kids to turn off their phones – and not just put them on silent – and when to turn them back on. We cannot assume they know anything. Show your students how to take notes, send a professional text to a boss – like yourself – and to use Twitter to gain insight into careers and research he/she may be interested in pursuing. We need to teach our students the value of a personal conversation and how the conversations we have online are direct extensions and enhancements of the ones we have in person.

I am a huge proponent of cell phones in the classroom and technology integration. I preach this constantly at staff developments, leadership trainings and anywhere else the conversation is taking place. Still, I hope people know it’s not as easy as “Just let them use their phones.” If technology use is not part of your classroom procedures then cell phones and BYOD (bring your own device) may not be for you. We have this fear of liability and students accessing sites they should not be on at all let alone at school – but kids are doing that anyway on their phones with 4G. That’s why we need AUP’s that state it is the student’s fault for accessing sites and not the gatekeeper who does not have much control any more.

Have these conversations with your students, have them with staff and have them with your parents. Having a smart phone does not make one smart, but utilizing a smart phone to gain access to information, produce content, track notes and collaborate just might make one a little more intelligent and successful.

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Blue Mountains and Absailing

21 Jul

Day 2, or day 3 if you are playing the home version, came with the leadership group Fullon out of New Zealand.

The three sisters in the Blue Mountains of Australia

We took a two hour drive up into the Blue Mountains of Australia.  Weather, perfect. Slightly cloudy, but warm, and fog in the valley’s which created some wonderful views of the mountain range and the scenery below.

We did a quick stop to see the three sisters.  The story goes that two tribes were fighting. To bring peace, the father of one tribe wanted his sons to marry the daughters of the other tribe.  This accord did not come to fruition and so the groups went to war.  To protect the daughters, a medicine man turned the daughters to stone.  Unfortunately, the medicine man was killed, and being the only one who could turn the sisters back, the sisters have remained in their current form for eternity.

At this point, I cannot say enough good things about Fullon, a highly interactive and well put together program.  We were fortunate enough to have Paul, founder of Fullon, lead our group of intrepid high school students.  We were also endowed with a couple of young leaders with a few years of experience with Fullon, Susan and Sandy, all from New Zealand.  Fullon runs programs in several countries: New Zealand, Australia, Italy, England, Scotland and many other parts of Europe.  Needless to say, if you are traveling abroad with a group, they are worth the call. Continue reading

iPad App Awareness

14 Jun

I recently had a great opportunity to participate in an iPad institute at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Moving past the basic commands like zooming in on text, copy and paste, or adding and removing apps, it is the sharing of apps and their use that I find the most helpful. I’ve been on iPad for about two years, but I am amazed at what I can continue to learn with a little insight. So, with good intentions, here is the beginning of my list of favorite iPad apps.

1. iBooks: In the beginning I did not like this app at all, I was all about the Kindle. However, over time, I found that iBooks had features that Kindle and other apps did not. Most books we read in English can be found online as PDF’s or in iBooks as free downloads, for example, The Scarlet Letter. On the iPad or in an iTouch, kids can highlight and annotate text directly in iBooks. I can assign a chapter in class, have kids annotate where they have questions, make connections or analyze a plot point or character interaction. Then, either at the end of class or the next day, I can choose a device at random and place it under my document camera. As a class, we can view the notes, offer feedback and see what other comments students may have made or could have made. Lastly, check out the CK-12 Foundation, they have many free textbooks for download in iBooks.

2. Qwiki: whatever you want to learn in your area or someplace you are traveling, there is Qwiki. A great app to learn about a region or just to see what is going on in your area. You could also research an area that has to do with a book or subject you are currently studying. The app offers video and text and is highly engaging.

3. Flipboard: this app allows you to interact with news sources and social media sites online just like they are a magazine. Flipboard is a news aggregator that goes out on the web and pulls information via an RSS feed and brings the information to you. Not sure what an RSS feed is or how it works, don’t worry, just think of the publications you like to read like O Magazine, Ted Talks, CNN and such. You just tell Flipboard you like those information sources and it brings you the information for free. You can also tell Flipboard to access your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. As an assignment, give your students a current event assignment to research or have them compare news stories from different media outlets like Huffington Post or Fox News.

4. Inkling: Many text books companies are going digital, and Inkling is helping to make that possible. The App is free, and many of the text books that are offered have free chapters for you to use and experiment with in your classroom prior to purchasing.

5. Shakespeare in Bits Romeo and Juliet: a great app for teaching about the Bard (the lite version is free). This app is great in that it offers definitions in the text, video and audio for student involvement. Students can also access character bios or a character relationship chart to see how the different characters in the play are related.

6. iTunes U: There are literally thousands of podcasts from various colleges and universities across the globe. There are also great resources from high school teachers in just about any subject you are looking for. Find some podcasts you like or have your students go out and search for podcasts they feel will enhance the learning experience for the specific subject you are working on in class. What a great way to get the kids thinking critically about the subject matter and and making connections to different media. Also, check the podcasts carefully as many come with downloadable written content as supplements to the audio/video podcast. don’t forget about the Khan Academy, thousands of videos on multiple subjects to for kids to access, practice and learn at their own rate.

7. Skype: a great tool to connect with classes, students or professionals anywhere in the globe. Check out education.Skype.com for a list of classes looking to have a conversation. This is a great way to practice language with native speakers or learn about other cultures. If calling a school in another country is too much, why not Skype with a class across the hall or another school in town for some great collaboration.

8. Dragon Dictation: a great app to practice speaking. Dictation software has come a long way the last few years and continues to improve. Dragon is great in that students can record what they say and have it transcribed directly on the iPad or iTouch. This is great practice for language learners or anyone preparing to do a presentation or speech.

9. Evernote: By far one of my favorite apps for note taking. You can organize notes by unit and create notebooks, great for research as students collect sources, and you can add pictures, links screen shots, video and audio right in the note. Notes and notebooks are easily shared between parties. Since Evernote is stored on the cloud, wherever you have wireless access and you have the Evernote app/software installed, your notes will be there. For more on Evernote, you can check out my previous post here https://soberandsaucy.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/my-top-10-uses-with-evernote/

10. Evernote Peek: fairly new and a great companion to Evernote, Evernote Peek is a flash card tool for the iPad. It takes advantage of your magnetic cover, so you can see the clue, but you have to figure out the answer. The title of your note in Evernote is the clue, the subject area is your answer. So, in Evernote, create a notebook for whatever you want to study: anatomy vocab, math formulas, literary characters … anything worth memorizing.

11. Dropbox: One of the best way to store large files on the cloud rather than your iPad. Memory is at a premium, so store those files on your Dropbox account and not your iPad. Dropbox is also a great way to share files with others: handouts, videos, pictures, or anything else.

12. Library of Congress: what a great way to give kids an opportunities to evaluate and research using primary source documents. This app offers high resolution examples of many historical documents not usually accessible to the public.

These are the few of the apps I have been playing with over the last few days. I have many more to review and share and I’m excited to see what I can do with them. If you have any apps you like to use please feel free to share. I will be adding more over the next few days and beyond.