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Examining Generational Differences

The following post is based on a writing prompt for BSU’s EDTECH597: As educational technologists, what did you take away from these generational differences readings?  How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?

Jumping into the readings in week two of EDTECH 597 brought me to a comfortable and familiar place with the statement, “It is amazing to me how in all the hoopla and debate these days about the decline of education in the US we ignore the most fundamental of its causes. Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky, 2001).   After reading this statement and the rest of the article by Prensky I thought to myself, oh that was a nice review of information I already knew. Ready, set, go!  Time to continue designing lessons and professional development  based on the premise of students being Digital Natives and teachers being Digital Immigrants.

SCREEeeeeeccchh..sound of tires skidding to a stop.  Much to my surprise research does not support the notion of generational differences in learners.  I have heard so much of the inherent differences in learners through professional development seminars, at conferences, and in the media that I assumed it was true.  Reeves states (2008), “Generational differences are evident in the workplace, they are not salient enough to warrant the specification of different instructional designs or the use of different learning technologies.

So what are educators to do?  Reeves recommends (2008), “instructional designers and educational technology researchers working closely with practitioners and subject matter experts should begin by identifying the needs of any given set of learners, design the best possible prototype learning environments in situ, and then conduct iterative cycles of formative evaluation and refinement to optimize the solution and reveal robust design principles.

What this means for teachers that believe in the notion of generational differences is that they need to re-examine their students.  Best-case scenario would be working with an instructional designer to create a needs assessment to understand their learning community.  Keeping in mind that a multitude of variables go into how our students learn and that technology is a tool.  Technology is not and will never be a magic bullet that raises student achievement by itself.  Teachers are responsible for creating the best learning experiences for the students regardless of the use of technology.

I would also suggest that educators do more research after participating in professional development opportunities verifying the information presented.  Is there credible data that supports what was taught and might possibly be implemented in your school?  If not, question decision makers on what they based their decision on.  The culture of K-12 education needs to change and become more focused on sound research rather than cultural trends.

Stepping down from soap box…

Ultimately the reading makes me worry about an educational system that seems to be dominated by loose research and private corporations looking to sell their latest and greatest gadgets to schools.  The articles  caused me to come away with more questions than answers.

  • How did we get to this point?
  • How do myths such as these gain so much traction in a field that should be guided by reliable data?
  • How do we undo what has already been done with educators and society believing in generational differences?
  • How do we learn from this, and change the current and future climate of K-12 education?

If anyone reading the post has thoughts or answers to these questions I would love to hear from you!

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in EdTech

 

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Technology in Education: A Mother’s Perspective

This guest post is contributed by Tesi Klipsch who is an accomplished blogger and mother to five adorable children.  Her blog states: “I’m no writer, I assure you. Just a woman with a few things on her mind. A mom that makes mistakes, a wife that loves her husband more than words can say and a woman constantly seeing God in the everyday.”

When I started thinking about what role I want technology to play in my kids’s education I looked around and found a few things. My husband on his iPad, me on my iMac and my iPod sitting next to me uploading podcasts I listen to daily.

Hmmm.

It’s an interesting question for a semi-hippie like myself. My husband is a Director of a YMCA camp in the Midwest. This means we live, year ’round, on 250 acres. 20 minutes from the closest city. And we really like it this way. This seclusion has led to many things, but arguably my favorite would be that my kids are literal best friends with each other. Every day there are no fewer than 3 baseball games being played between the 5 of them, no fewer than 4 bugs caught and shown to mom and no fewer than 10,000 steps taken by each. We live and breath nature and it.is.awesome.

That said, I do want them to know about technology. (Side note: my kids’ ages are 8, 7, 6, 5, 4). As of right now they don’t ever play on the computers but Zach and I agree that as they get older they will be allowed to. We’ve implemented a “no screen” rule in their rooms. We’re not going to allow phones, computers, games or TVs in their rooms, there are just too many ways they could get in trouble with that business happening.

But if I’m being honest, a good portion of my relationships are now through some sort of technology. So I know if they aren’t taught this form of communication and if they are left to figure it out on their own, there is a higher degree of misuse than if we were to allow them to delve into this technology-as-relationship situation.

At my kids’ school they already use a lot of really interesting technology. Smart boards, Bluetooth microphones, multiple computer labs, etc. These add tremendous value to their learning experience as well as (I’m sure) make the teachers’ lives easier.

My concern with technology (at the risk of sounding 80-years-old) is that our teachers start using it too much. That they take creativity out of their curriculum and just use standardized/computerized software instead. My concern is that my kids start to rely too much on technology and less on their own creativity or intelligence as they become more and more interactive with various forms of technology. I know it’s not just a concern but a reality that is happening everywhere, I just don’t want it to happen here to my kids (remember the semi-hippie thing?)

If it seems I’m all over the place on this, it’s because I am. When talking with Zach about this we both were. We realize as middle-class citizens we have luxuries in our home that many lower/lower-middle class families would not have if technology was not taught in the classroom. It needs to be taught in schools so that every child gets the same opportunities with regards to learning new technologies. I know that learning new technology and being exposed to it will greatly help the future of our kids, I don’t want to make that exclusive to only kids that can afford it at home.

I believe there is a happy medium, I just don’t know what that is and who does know what that is.

I also believe it falls on us, as parents, to instill basic values and parameters at home so our kids learn to live within a society that is technology focused but to also be able to put it away and have real relationships outside of their screens. I think a healthy balance, both in schools and at home is what I want for my kids. The way to achieve that is up in the air for me. In general I’ve found the more open the schools are with me about what and why they are teaching my kids the things they are teaching, it’s been easier for me to understand. Perhaps that’s best case scenario for technology as well.

I really love the discussion in general (I have it with other moms a lot actually). But for now it’s time to put away my screen and go do some gardening. My midwest soil has just pumped out some delicious looking tomatoes that appear to be perfect for our lunch!

Tesi

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2011 in EdTech

 

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Children on Facebook

Disclosures: I do not have children and I am not advocating breaking the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, I understand Omar’s article is satire.

In Omar L. Gallaga’s recent article on What will happen if Generation Dora overruns Facebook he details what he finds to be the scary proposition of young children overrunning Facebook.

A simple fix to most of his worries is corrected by:

  1. Not accepting friends who are inclined to the habits listed in his post
  2. Hiding all posts from that particular user
  3. Hide specific posts from third party apps
  4. Defriend the user all together.

Also, Omar thinks 20 somethings are going to leave Facebook because of younger users.  I say us 20 somethings are not going to leave Facebook because of younger users but of older narrow minded oldies like Omar.

What he is really getting at is keeping his own children away from the site.  If his kids already have an interest in Facebook they will join the site with or without his blessings.  From an outsider’s perspective it looks like a valuable teaching experience.  Omar’s article reminds me of a recent letter by Anthony Ocini, the principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in New Jersey, stating “There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site.”  I wonder if he bans all communication on the playground, lunchroom, and classroom as well?

What I would teach my children about Facebook:

  • Privacy:  Assume everything going out on the Internet is public regardless of what checkbox you click to make it private.  Only accept friends that you know.
  • Be part of the community: Facebook and social networking sites are about building a network.  Teach your children to contribute to the community.  As young children maybe this is providing a link to a fun toy, website, or help for homework.
  • Be respectful: Be respectful of others opinions, be respectful by using appropriate language, and be respectful by not spamming friends with game invites or updates.

I also would advocate for the use of parental settings, a monitoring tool on the device, monitor friend lists, and put limits on amount of time the child uses Facebook.

How do you feel about children joining social networking sites?

 
8 Comments

Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Social Networking

 

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School Filtering Policy?

One of the constant challenges being a network administrator in schools is working with and creating filtering policies.  I  remember reading a blog post a couple of years ago written by Dr. Barbara Schroeder asking the Boise Schools to change their filtering policies.

The topic I would like to explore: should blogging, social networking and video sites, along with other potentially collaborative web based sites (e.g. Google Docs) be open to students in school?

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Blogs, Social Networking, YouTube

 

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List Post: 5 iPad Apps for Secondary Students

The Elements: A Visual Exploration: If you think you’ve seen the periodic table, think again. The Elements: A Visual Exploration lets you experience the beauty and fascination of the building blocks of our universe in a way you’ve never seen before. And as the first really new ebook developed from the ground up for iPad, The Elements beautifully shows off the capabilities of this lovely devic

Skype: Call, video call and instant message anyone else on Skype for free with Skype for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.  When partnered with Skype in the Classroom it becomes a powerful global collaboration tool!

Flipboard:Named Appple’s iPAd App of the year in 2010.  Flipboard is a fast, and beautiful way to flip through new, photos, videos, and updated your contacts are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, and Instagram.  Excellent way for students to stay on top of current events!

Dragon Dictation: Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard.With Dragon Dictation you can also dictate status updates directly to your Social Networking applications (Facebook and Twitter) or send notes and reminders to yourself….all using your voice.  So when you’re on-the-go, stop typing and start speaking – from short text messages to longer email messages, and anything in between.

The Civil War Today: 150 years after the start of the American Civil War, HISTORY presents The Civil War Today, a ground-breaking app created by Bottle Rocket Apps exclusively for the iPad. Experience the war as it unfolded, one day at a time, with daily updates that let you live the events in “real-time” over the course of four years.  The Civil War Today leverages the iPad multi-touch interface to enable app users to feel and explore thousands of original documents, photos, maps, diary entries, quotes, and newspaper broadsheets like never before.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Apps, iPad, Mobile Learning

 

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Mobile Learning Links

The following links feature mobile learning.  Topics range from authoring mobile content, implementing mobile learning in the classroom, information on iPads in education, and application information.  Enjoy!

Webinar-Best Practices in Mobile Learning Authoring

Mobile Learning Revolution – Round Up of Our Best mLearning Posts

iPads for Learning Getting Started

5 Mobile Learning Implementation Tips

6 Ways to Use Mobile Learning in Your Class Today

7 Things You Should Know About Mobile Learning Apps for Learning

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Apps, iPad, Mobile Learning

 

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Support the Use of Blogs

This was created for an assignment in BSU’s EDTECH597 course, but could be used in the future to support teachers that would like to blog in their classrooms.

Blog Proposal

What is a Blog?

Google defines a blog as “a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.”  I would also add that a blog is a writing tool, a reflective exercise, and a portfolio for student work.

Blogging Tool

Mrs. Meinert’s class will use the blogging tool called Blogger (http://goo.gl/fOChk).  There are many advantages for using this platform.  The first being that our students will be able to use their school provided email and Google App accounts.  This will allow the district to have more oversight and control over student accounts.

Blogger is also similar to the Google Docs layout and formatting that many of our students are already familiar with or will be in the future. This will cut down on the amount of time teaching how to use the tool, thus being able to use it immediately for academic purposes. Blogger is run by Google, which allows it to have consistent updates that improve the service.

Blogger is frequently referred to as the easiest blogging platform to use.  If a student can send an email or use Google Docs they will feel right at home using the Blogger platform.

Royal Pingdom tested five blogs for reliability and ranked Blogger as having the least amount of down time.

Student Safety

Mrs. Meinert’s students will have proper parent permission before accessing the Internet and setting up their blogs.  The first year students will have private blogs.  This means they will need to invite each viewer to their blog via an email.  This will give students the ability to have an active blog, but will also insulate them from potential dangers.  Since the students are using the school district’s domain for Blogger and Google Apps a teacher or tech staff member can check the viewers of a student’s blog at anytime.  If you would like to learn more about this process please visit the following links: http://goo.gl/7jvoR or http://goo.gl/xHCeG

Students will be blogging under their own names because one of the strengths of the blogging platform is the built in authenticity and accountability for bloggers.  When students understand their content is going out to an audience beyond the scope of their teachers it encourages them to critically think about their content and make edits to improve their writings.  With this said they will still need to follow the district rules outlined in the Acceptable User Policy that discusses misusing school equipment, software (blogs, email, etc), and the network.  Consequences for misuse are detailed in the document, and will be enforced in a consistent manner.

Mrs. Meinert plans to focus on digital citizenship skills as part of the ongoing use of student blogs.  This will teach the students how to be responsible and safe when using the Internet and networking tools.  An added benefit of students creating blogs when entering high school is beginning a positive web presence or brand that can be used in the future to assist with entrance to colleges or the workforce.

In future years when students understand the implications, both positive and negative, of their blogs the AEBSD will consider encouraging students to make their blogs public.  This will allow anyone to read the content students post to his or her blog.  With an increased readership come new challenges of interacting with the readers via responding to comments on the blog.  More information will be available to the board at this stage of the deployment.

Use of Blogs

Mrs. Meinert will use student blogs in the following ways:

  • Writing Prompts:  Short blog entries will be required as bell ringer activities.  Students will complete these short prompts at least once a week.
  • Free Writes: Students will be required to write a weekly blog entry around a topic or theme they have chosen at the beginning of the quarter.  Students can only change their theme with instructor approval.  The free writes will range from 200-800 words.
  • Reflection: A powerful use of blogs is allowing students to reflect on their learning.  This can be done at the end of a class, lesson, or unit.  A minimum of 8 reflective entries will be required per student per semester.
  • Portfolio: Students will begin using their blogs to collect and showcase the work they are completing in high school.  This can be helpful when applying to colleges as it shows a more detailed view of a student’s ability than letter grades.

Why Blogs

At this point some of you might be thinking well what you have said is all well and good but can’t this be accomplished offline?  The answer to this is yes, but blogs have advantages.

  • Authentic Writing:  Blogs provide students with authentic writing experiences.  Once leaving school our students’ writings are going to be read, critiqued, and analyzed by bosses, colleagues, and clients, not just one teacher.  Schools should be preparing students to write for a wider audience.
  • Digital Contributor:  The Internet is no longer a place that users just consume.  We must teach our students to be responsible and worthwhile contributors on the web.  When our students’ names are Googled we want their school blog to come up rather than some embarrassing moments on Facebook or other social networking sites.
  • Global Workforce: Blogs can help students understand the future.  Isn’t the objective of schools to prepare students to succeed once leaving our ivory towers?  If so then they need to understand and feel comfortable working and collaborating with a global community.
 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Blogs, Google Apps

 

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