Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

I came across this video a year or so ago and think it’s very funny and eye-opening. It is amazing how far we have come and how spoiled we are by technology.  Enjoy!

Louis C.K. talks on Conan O’brien about technology from Vimeo.


RSS Feeds

I’ve been using Google Reader for some time now. I used to just use bookmarks in Firefox and visit the sites I liked each day to see if there were updates. Then I realized there was a way easier way to do this!! I have been using Gmail for a few years so setting up a Google Reader account was easy and with Firefox, a click of a button adds a particular website to my Reader in no time.

I found that when I was on vacation, I got backed up on reading all the posts I missed while I was gone and am still catching up! I try to only follow blogs where I enjoy reading the posts, if it’s something I just like to look at every now and then, I just bookmark it and visit when I don’t have anything in my reader.

Also, not related to RSS feeds, but multitasking so just thought I would share this for you Firefox users (might work in IE too). If you use the tabbed browsing, you can do Ctrl + the number and it will take you to that tab. If you’re like me and you can have like 20 tabs open at once, Ctrl + 9 will take you to the last tab. Just a neat little trick that Nick showed me. Another tip – related to Google Reader is that if you hit j on your keyboard it will take you to the next post, k will take you to the previous one. Enjoy!

Learning 2.0

I didn’t think we had a blog this week because it wasn’t on the schedule on BB, so I apologize if this is late…

I did go back and do some more reflection on my technology log and was talking with some colleagues last night and reflecting on really how eye-opening it is to look at my use of technology.

I’m currently in St. Michaels, MD at the AIMS (Association of Independent Maryland Schools) Technology Conference and we’re talking about Learning 2.0 and a lot of the new technologies that are available on the web for learning and playing.  We’ve also talked a lot about how playing is learning, especially with technology.  I am one of those people that really needs to use and play with something before I can decide if it’s worthwhile.

During one of the keynote presentations by Helene Blowers, she showed us the following chart:

I was very interested to see the spread of how people are using these technologies and who is using them.  She also told us that the age/gender group that is currently joining Facebook most frequently is women who are 55+ I would never have guessed that this would be the fastest growing population on FB.  On the other hand I think it’s great that this social network is reaching across lines it probably wasn’t expecting to get (not that they don’t expect that audience at some level, but I would guess that if FB was to predict who would be the population that was growing at this time, I don’t think they would pick this population).

To be continued…

Module 7

Sounds like the name of a fancy new operating system…

It’s been interesting to have the discussions with the ISTC 717 students regarding their feelings toward implementation of online courses for freshman at Faber.  I find myself going back and forth on my feeling for it, part of me is for it and part of me is against.  Each time I read the opinion of another “student” or “faculty member” I change my mind again.  I think I see both the positives and negatives of the issue.

Having been on the other side of this issue as a faculty member where they tried to implement a similar plan, I know of some of the issues that will arise before it’s fully implemented.  One of those was already discussed on the discussion board and deals with the time that teachers are given to create their courses.  This was one of the major issues that we dealt with when we were implementing Moodle.  In addition to this we dealt with philosophical issues of having students spend more time in front of the computer.  It doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue at the college level, more the argument for the necessity of face to face interaction with their peers and teachers.  I feel that this is comfortable, but also understand why Faber would want to develop these DE courses for the Gen Ed requirements.  These are classes that are generally basis and don’t deal with the abstract ideas that some major courses do.

Something else to consider is that DE courses lend themselves better to some subjects than others.  It doesn’t seem as easy to teach and Anatomy & Physiology course (one of my gen eds in college) online as it might be to teach an English course.  In English we presume that most of the coursework would deal with reading and writing, where as some of the A&P work would deal with hands on work (I remember a lab where we took each others blood pressure and learned to find the systolic and diastolic beats to come up with the 120/80ish number.  It doesn’t seem like something that could be done as easily online.  Though they could develop an interactive piece that mimics this and you listen to a recording, it probably wouldn’t be as reliable a method of teaching this or as fun of a lab.

This brings us to another issue that I haven’t seen discussed yet on the board (though it may have been discussed since I last read all the posts) but the fact that making gen eds all DE courses pretty much requires that a student have a personal computer and Internet connection.  I know that most colleges assume this is the case, but I think there are still students that depend on using the library and other labs to do their computer work on this equipment.  This was an issue that was discussed at our school and it’s easy to assume that if a family is paying $21K to send their child to school, they should certainly have these items available to their child.  On the other hand, those families that attend Friends primarily on financial aid would be provided with a computer and Internet connection to deal with this issue.  However, I don’t see anywhere that Faber has considered this obstacle.

All in all, it’s been interesting to hear the opinions of the teachers and students.  It would have been interesting to participate in a similar exercise prior to our implementation of Moodle at Friends.  It probably would have helped us to avoid a lot of issues and take into consideration more ideas and opinions than we initially did.

Tech Log

Technology Intended Purpose Estimated Time Spent Actual Time Spent
Computer Work Related 2 hours 2.25 hours
Teaching Classes 5 hours 6.5 hours
Free time 2 hours 2.5 hours
Cell Phone Contact friends 10 minutes 1 minute (text)6 min 38sec (talk)
Satellite Radio News/Information 1 hour 48 minutes
Television News/Entertainment 1 hour 1 hour watching1 hour on in background

Reflection: I spend too much of my free time on the computer, I also spend a lot of time on the computer homesearchwith the television on in the background.  I would say if I wasn’t house hunting that I probably wouldn’t spend as much time online in the evening.  I could look in the newspaper for house listings but would be limited to the number of pictures I could view of the house and also quickly determining the location.  As for the news, I could also get that from the newspaper, but it wouldn’t be as up to date.  Also I can listen to the news on the radio while I drive, but I can’t read the newspaper and drive – but I’ve seen other people do it.

ETA: On this particular day, I ended up subbing two additional classes for a coworker so a time where I normally might not have been using my computer, I was because I was helping students with a project for this class that happened to be on the computer.  This might have skewed my numbers, but I do know if I had my planning period that day, I still would have spent a portion of that period using my computer for work related things.  I also gave a friend a ride to Towson and instead of listening to the radio for that portion of the ride, I turned it off and we talked instead (how novel!).

Even as I write this, I’ve got the television on in the background.  I like to use it as a way to take breaks from my work, I’m also a multi-tasker.  I’ll be checking my email, facebook, cell phone etc. just while working on something like this.  I don’t feel as if there is a negative impact of this as I can still write a blog entry that I think is fairly intelligent and do these other things to relieve my brain when necessary.

Bill wanted us to touch on some of the negative outcomes of our technology use.  I do think there are some, one is that it might be perceived that ‘m not giving my full attention to things if I am multi-tasking while doing them.  However, I think I have a good idea of when I need to make sure there are no distractions and when I can handle some.  Since I have been teaching, I‘ve also learned to tolerate more noise and can better drown out noises that may have bothered me in the past.  In addition to this, a potential negative outcome that is more physical is that I do feel as though my vision is worsening, however, I’d have a hard time attributing this only to technology and my use of it.  Me and 2 of my siblings sight started to get worse around the same time, starting my senior year of high school (1999).  So, it could very well be the hereditary issue.  In addition to this, I sometimes have wrist pain from using the touch pad on my laptop instead of the external mouse I am used to work with at work.

Another negative outcome is that I feel I might be too dependent on some of these technologies, like email and my cell phone.  I no longer have a land line at home and rely only on my cell phone.  With email, I am much more likely to send an email than make a phone call.  I do make a conscious effort to go to talk to coworkers rather than email them most of the time, unless it is something that I’d like to have in writing so that I can refer to it later.

I might be dependent on getting my news from satellite radio, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.  It allows me to be up to date on current events without giving up or finding time during the day by listening to it on the way to and from work.

In a few weeks I will go on a field trip with 24 7th graders to a house on the Chesapeake Bay, during this trip I will have no access to technology, we’re even asked to remove our watches.  We’re in the middle of no where with little to no cell service and absolutely no computers, it’s usually a nice little retreat away from technology…

Have you heard about CB2?

No, not the more affordable Crate & Barrel store, but the child like robot.

I saw it on the news the other night and it reminded me of Turkle’s discussion of Rodney Brook’s Cog.  CB2 is capable of watching faces and other actions and is currently learning to walk.  Not only does this thing look scary, but it’s odd to think that we can teach a robot to talk and perform other actions.  Also, as “Trix” stated in a comment on the story:

As interesting as this is…did people not learn from films like AI and I, Robot? Nothing good can come from clever robot people, they will always turn on you…. Plus its freaky looking!

Clearly, “Trix” is friends with the person who posted the top answer to the question about computers taking over the world, our friend “wild man of Borneo.”  OR maybe Trix is the wild man of Borneo and Trix is just another one of his alter egos that s/he portrays online.  Turkle’s discussion of virtual reality and the roles people play online versus their real life roles reminded me of analyzing dreams.  You know, your desire to stay in control of a situation is why you had that dream about flying last night.  Your desire to learn to fly is why you portray yourself as an airline pilot in one of your online worlds…or something like that.

Through virtual reality they [computers] enable us to spend more of our time in our dreams.

So is virtual reality just an extension of our dream state?  Or is it more like a lucid dream where we control what happens next and at the same time realize it’s “just a dream.”

I enjoyed Turkle’s discussion of using the virtual world as an extension of the real world.  Her story about Ava was inspiring to think that virtual reality could help someone feel comfortable with themselves in a way that most other softwares, technologies or even counseling could.

We don’t have to reject life on the screen, but we don’t have to treat it as an alternative life either. We can use it as a space for growth.

This goes back again to online classes and students opening up more online than they do face to face.  You might have a student who is virtually silent in the classroom but is one of the “loudest voices” in your online forums or communities.  It’s great that these types of interactions can allow people to open up in way that they otherwise would not.

How to Teach, What to Teach?

In the last chapter of Roszak’s The Cult of Information he focuses on the power of thought and where thoughts come from.   The origin of ideas and the way our lives and the things that we do are setup as “projects.”

“…our life is made up of a hierarchy of projects, some trivial and repetitive, some special and spectacular.” (p. 237)

He compares our minds to computers and how we do register data, as computers do, but we are much more “selective” in the way that we do and we decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore, we form the projects.  These are things that the computer is not capable of, this type of higher learning.

Roszak discusses the teaching of values, how it was done by the Greeks and other societies.  We seem to give little thought to the way in which we teach these values now.  In the past we used mythology and fables to teach these values to our children.

“…images never lose the redeeming complexity of real life. The heroes keep just enough of their human frailties to stay close to the flesh and blood.” (p. 240)

Now, we often leave it up to television and movies to deliver these rules and morals.  Most time, these media do a poor job at delivering these ideas or have buried them so far beneath the terrible acting and comic relief that they go unnoticed.  So we have here a case where we know what we want to teach our children (values), but have trouble deciding how to teach it – in a way that will be meaningful and lasting…and also keep their interest.

Roszak goes on to discuss the use of computer in schools and places emphasis on the fact that if we are going to have students using computers, we must make the important distinction that computers will never possess the true power of human thought.

“…the mind thinks, not with data, but with ideas whose creation and elaboration cannot be reduced to a set of predictable rules.” (p. 244)

If we are going to use computers to teach, we need to determine how and what we are trying to teach.  This is an issue that often comes up when we talk about testing in our school or final projects for a class.  We come up with these arbitrary ways of making sure students know information that we can easily grade, but sometimes pay less attention to what we are hoping they will walk away with.  Do we want children to memorize when Abraham Lincoln was president or is it more important for them to know the impact he had on our country?  If a child can answer the question of when he was president, do they really know anything about him or have they just memorized a series of dates and maybe the first few lines of the Gettysburg address… If the goal is to have children understand the impact of this great president then dates really aren’t important, his ideals and the changes he made are much more significant.

“…all socieities, modern and traditional, have had to decide what to teach their children before they could ask how to teach them. Content before means, the message before the medium.” (p. 241)

Students might enjoy creating a photo montage of Lincoln while playing a voiceover recording of one of his speeches, but are they truly going to come away from this project knowing what Lincoln stood for or are they going to know a few lines and have compiled a good collection of pictures (that they likely can’t identify the importance of these photos).  Could they just as easily hand write an essay and discuss Lincoln’s speeches and their importance?  Are they likely to come away from that project with a better understanding of his presidency than if we allow them to get wrapped up in the technological details of the first project?  I think they would.

I agree with Roszak when he says the following:

“…skills of unquestionable value which the technology makes available — word processing, rapid computation, data base searching…” (p. 243)

These are certainly important skills, but there is a time and place for them, too many times I see projects that incorporate the use of a computer because it’s something different, the students have a more vested interest in creating something on a computer than by hand.  We again have to ask, what are we trying to teach them?