Technology as an Amplifier-The SciPad Technology as an Amplifier-The SciPad!
Technology can also improve the quality of our information by being more exacting. In science we call this quantifiable observations - observations that are quantities based on a standard of measurement. Qualitative observations that we make such as the water is warm or cold become temperatures that are much more meaningful. We are not relying on an ambiguous expression that is relevant only to some unexacting construct in the observer’s mind.
An Example of How Technology Amplifys a Student’s Understanding
A eighth grade science research student believes that the sound of a boat engine causes stress to aquatic organisms. We find a sound file of the sound of a boat engine, set it to loop as a Quicktime file. This audio file is played through a set of headphones clamped on the outside of the small tanks with 30 Daphnia (a small freshwater crustacean).
Technology Amplifies Our AbilitiesWe create a simple script on her Mac laptop in Automator to play and stop playing the file in iTunes. Then we create an event to run these Automator scripts for 5 days in iCal. On one computer the iCal events allow the looped file to play for 5 hours, On another computer, the motorboat file is set in iCal to run for 12 hours. A third group (the control group), there is no sound being played at all.
Technology Amplifies and Quantifies Our ObservationsSo we have an audio file playing at the same volume out of iTunes on six experimental groups – using six sets headphones. Or do we? How do we know the sound in the different tanks is the same sound? How do we characterize the sound? Is it loud? Medium loud? Primarily highs, lows or midrange tones? To have a clear and common understanding we need to use numbers that are based on a standard of measurement (common meaning so that other people can have a true sense of what the character of the sound is).
Sound is typically measured in decibels (dB) units. Decibels are units of pressure – but sound is also described in terms of frequency... so you could have a lot of sound ‘pressure’ at a low (bass, drum) frequency and have very little pressure at a high (tweeter, cymbal, flute) frequency. So sound is characterized by a combination of frequency (measured in Hz) and pressure (measured in dB).
Technology Allows Us To Monitor Things In Unusual PlacesNext we needed to monitor what the Daphnia were hearing in the water. It would be silly to stick our head in the water– we probably would introduce a whole new level of stress for these aquatic crustaceans, assuming our head fit. And we wouldn’t be able to quantify (provide number measurement of our observations) if we used only our ears.
So we had a hydrophone – a submersible microphone. But we needed a special type of meter that would measure sound, unfortunately I learned at the last minute that our $50 dB Meter from Radioshack was broken. Furthermore, we also looked at the specs and determined that the Radioshack device wouldn’t work to measure sounds below 50 dB, which was likely going to be an issue. Next day delivery on another $200 device from Amazon didn’t mention any external microphone port (for the hydrophone) and there were no reviews .
App Store & iPod Touch to the Rescue
Our set up included a Belkin microphone that plugged into the base of the iPod Touch (or iPhone). Research on the audio recording capabilities of the iPod Touch’s headphone/microphone input at the top of the device revealed that the Touch has a low frequency filter (probably to prevent wind noise) which was part of what we wanted to measure. The Belkin device has a miniplug (3.5-millimeter), stereo microphone adapter for an external microphone- our hydrophone in this case. This input will bypass the low frequency filter of the headphone/microphone jack at the top of the Touch.
When she was able to measure the sound levels in the tanks, our research found that the tanks that were supposed to have no sound had virtually the same audio characteristics as the tanks that were being treated with sound! It turned out that most of the sound was being conducted through the surface of the desk and since all the tanks were on the same desk surface, they were all being treated with the same sound. Our researcher was going to have to repeat the experiment and isolate the tanks so that the treatment was not transferred through all the tanks.
So end of story:
Technology helps us learn. Technology amplifiesOk, maybe I am not an amplifier, but with technology I can help others amplify their knowledge, understanding, senses, communication, and LIFE!
what we are capable of.
Troubleshooting Video Chats
This list assumes that your network engineers haven’t blocked the key ports that iChat uses for communication. And while I keep referring to ‘iChat’, most all of these troubleshooting techniques will work for Skype and other video chat programs. Keep in mind, this is a complicated task that you are asking your computer, your friends computer and the network in between to accomplish. There are a lot of variables and potential weak links. I have tried to list the ones that are under your control.
Some are actually kinda common sense things, but I tried to be thorough – when we are under pressure, sometimes the obvious isn’t.
- Use your fastest computer, with the most RAM and open HD space. Especially if you are hosting (initiating) with several others.
- Unless there is a compelling reason to go wireless (for mobility), ALWAYS use the fastest ethernet (wired) connection possible. You may ask your local tech specialist- sometimes one location on campus has a faster network connection than another.
- Obviously, you should test your connection prior to your big moment. Test to make sure you can connect with your partner.
- If there are issues (unable to connect or poor quality) Minimize or eliminate other network traffic locally- ie, ask colleagues to refrain from streaming video or audio, downloading updates, transferring large files etc. If possible, ensure that other computer labs on the local network aren't browsing the web.
- If you still can't connect, close out of iChat on at least your machine, relaunch, & retry.
- Try and video chat with someone else. See test accounts below.
- Check your System Preferences (under Apple Menubar), select Sharing (third row end), and make sure all of your options are deselected (no sharing) especially Internet Sharing!
- Restart your computer and make sure that only iChat is launched. If you don't need other programs, don't have them running.
- You may even need to reset your switch and or router in the network closet.
The last two choices sound extreme, but they may help reset or renegotiate the speed or duplexing of the port that your computer is connecting to.
- There are test accounts you can check with detailed in this article:
- Check your lighting. Soft, diffused, even lighting is preferred. Watch out for a bright window in the background.
- Simplify your background. The more objects, colors etc, the harder it is for the software to compress the video stream.
- Minimize movement in the camera view while streaming your video.
- Beware of background noise sources (air conditioners, fans, custodians blowing off the sidewalk )
By all means, if you have some other tips or troubleshooting suggestions, leave them below in the comments or email them to me, I will add them here and acknowledge your contribution.
- Have a great time!
More Musings on Technology Literacy
Any type of literacy implies a mastery of skills, fluency and application of knowledge to a variety of unrelated and dissimilar contexts. Someone who knows only how to read one book would not be considered literate. A student that is truly literate in numeracy must be capable of recognizing patterns, applying logic, and manipulation of quantities in many settings, not just using a chalkboard or pencil and paper. The task of literacy is much bigger than a tool. So why do we keep focusing on tools?
Any type of literacy implies a mastery of skills, fluency and application of knowledge to a variety of unrelated and dissimilar contexts.
We focus on the tools because they are the handle we use to demonstrate our literacies. Fluency, comprehension, synthesis, structure are visible in the evidence of what we create with tools. But we really must identify the essential evidences of literacy and ensure that we don’t marginalize the expertise of those that are clearly literate but they are coached with different tools.
While it irritates me that vendors define technology literacy as expertise using one tool, or one brand of tools, it does make sense that students have to start somewhere. Students (and learners of all ages) need to have some entry point where they begin to learn the conventions of spreadsheets for instance. They need exposure to one brand first, but I would argue that that to be truly literate, understanding that technology should transcend what the keyboard shortcut is to take the contents of one cell and fill it down. It is not the keyboard shortcut that makes them literate, it is the expectation that the program can do this for them, and the understanding of when to apply this functionality that moves the learner over into the literate category.
What do you think?
New Product or Special Design for ABC News?
More than once I have felt a mixture of disappointment, sympathy and dismay that my news team was equipped with Windows-based technology.
Yeah, I have my preferences and reserved judgements for those who don’t appreciate the Apple-branded product. So I was surprised and keenly curious when I saw the World News Tonight Anchor Diane Sawyer sitting at a modern glass desk with a very clean, austere, lines- no paper clutter, no legal pad, no ugly blockish, cheap ThinkPad, but WHAT?!!! is that an Apple MacBook Air?!!!
In another segment the papers, pencils and legal pad appear, but I can get another glance at that Apple Logo’ed product...
Second look, no, there is a Bluetooth Apple Keyboard and maybe some type of small display? Or is it... some sort of an iPad????!!! Front screen shots confirmed it was an iPad with typical app icons.
Why didn’t I immediately realize it was an iPad? I knew that ABC News was actively promoting its new iPad app. I certainly knew that the iPad app was flashy and has gotten a lot of media attention. But there was a minor detail that other bloggers had not discussed – the device appears to be about the size of an iPad, but it sure looks like it is in it’s landscape orientation, and the famous pome logo was upright!
So is this just case of lens distortion? Is it really vertical? Fascinating question of optics. Maybe part of the illusion is because it appears to be held by a Element Case Joule iPad Stand. A paltry $129 statement of good taste and design.
Social Learning, Careers, and Networks
These are questions for our students as we help them find their place in the world and develop them into life-long learners. I suspect we are not doing a very good job of emphasizing this which is one of the most important of the digital world citizen skills.
As I watch my 18 and 21 year old children, I recognize that their most important goals are assisted by social network technologies (texting, Facebook™, Flickr, etc.). Their priorities (currently) seem to be social ranking and grouping in general. I can only hope that they eventually will find their efforts gravitating towards expanding their ‘professional/intellectual/spiritual’ positions and leveraging their network to expand their realm of influence and circle of resources.
Is it a ‘new type’ of metacognition that I am engaging in here? As I am thinking about intentionally nurturing relationships I want to share my passion for learning and giving back to that same community. The key word I think is intentional - that is being mindful of how I am connecting. Understanding that there is real value in some connections and yet other connections are a distraction from growth. This seems to be an increasingly important self-evaluation that we and our students need to make.
Most of us who are parents encouraged our children to ‘choose their friends wisely’. We talked about friends that were bad influences and being a friend that was a good influence. Once again, technology amplifies the implications of real world opportunities, skills, and such in the virtual world of cyberspace.
“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”
President Obama • May 2010 Commencement Address • Hampton University, Virginia
I think it may be very hard (some say impossible) to teach ethics and values. Perhaps if we were to see more classrooms leveraging Web 2.0 and Social Networking technologies as learning tools; perhaps if more of our teachers were able to share how they themselves were networked, lifelong learners; perhaps then this issue of the distracted, networked learner would be alleviated and the double edged sword of technology would reap great benefits.
Disciplined networking and informed/evaluated access to others is what will determine the character of the 24/7 media environment that our President has referred to.
Another: What's Wrong With This Picture? Obama & The Space Program
I just watched a June 30th, 2010 Al Jazeera (Arabic World’s News Agency) interview with Charles Bolden- President Obama’s appointee in charge of our nation’s National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). In this video interview, NASA Director Bolden says “...before I became the NASA administrator, he (President Obama) charged me with three things, one- he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, (two) he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”
I understand that this might be a message specifically designed for the Muslim interviewer and his Muslim audience, but even if it is a ‘people pleaser’ statement, it causes me to question our elected and appointed leaders. I have previously blogged concerns about closing down manned space flight, and I wonder why the person in charge of our government’s space agency doesn’t have any immediate direction or goal to explore space. The idea of moving forward with space exploration and science is not even on his radar apparently – the ’Next Big Thing in Science’ doesn’t make his top three goals in any clear formulation.
All of this administraton’s goals are ‘feel good type goals’, although feeling good about things is important, how about some immediate, technology outcomes? Beyond the affective domain, where will human space flight be when you leave office, Mr. President? Are we moving forward or backward?
I guess that covers the 2nd goal that Director Bolden stated - the Obama plan is definitely expanding our international relationships!
So that leaves me to comment on the third goal. Yes, our numaric system is Aramaic. But should our once proud Space Exploration Agency hold up it’s foremost goal to “make them (Muslims) feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering”??!! Please!!!!
“”and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.””
NASA Director Charles Bolden
Talk about taking your eye off the ball! The agency that was once the embodiment of the modern American pioneering spirit, the international expert of technological innovation and application, the epitome of scientific endeavor now (under President Obama’s mandate) has as it’s foremost goal to try and make Muslims feel good about their contributions...
I did listen to the rest of the interview, but honestly feel a great deal of cynicsm based on the opening statements. I would probably not have been as upset if even one of the 3 goals that Director Bolden had provided had something to do with the United States showing some immediate leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) instead of just trying to make people feel good.
How different this President is compared to the President that kicked off this national endeavor...
“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.”
“We Choose to Go to the Moon”
President John F. Kennedy, 1962
What do you think?
Reflecting: ISTE 2010 Conference and Mobile Technology in a K12 Setting
Another technology conference has come and gone.
It is good to be home after two weeks of travel doing professional development in Minnesota and Iowa; then enjoying the companionship of like-minded ed tech’ers at ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
I’ve read a few reflections and take-aways from ISTE– one of the first was by a CIO in Illinois: Henry Thiele.
Thiele identified 5 Developing Themes from the conference. His 2nd item in his list: Personal Computing Devices.
“2. We are have some pretty big decisions looming on how we are going to handle an influx of personal mobile computing devices into our society. With the ipad, new iphone, android devices in both phone and tablet forms arriving, and the continued growth and popularity of netbooks, there are a lot more discussions of how we are going to respond to this trend as schools. These conversations center around network infrastructure, policy, instructional strategies, and preparing teachers for this change.”
credit: Henry Thiele
This was also major focus of my thoughts as I had just delivered the first iPad in Education workshop for Apple Professional Development and had participated in ISTE’s Leadership Bootcamp right before the general conference. It is another question that grows out of economics and the mandate placed on adult educators to manage the student’s learning experiences.
- It is difficult (particularly given today’s economic conditions) to pay for every student to have their own laptop.
- More and more students have portable devices that have more computing power than the systems that sent men to the moon.
- If this is what the students already have for learning and communicating devices, doesn’t it make sense to build on existing skills?
Ok, fine! It is hard to argue with the above... but taking the position of the average educator in the classroom (in spite of the fact we expect them to all be extraordinary)–
- If we rely on student/family provided technology, educators will no longer be an agent of leveling educational advantages- we will be amplifying the technology gap.
- We will not have consistent, or even similar technologies to engage the students with in our activities. In a very pluralistic society, how many different types of cell phones would you expect to see in a class of 25 students? How many different menuing systems? Different feature sets? Different service plans, ie: how many students have limited vs. unlimited texting? Can you imagine the average teacher having to navigate these waters? Troubleshoot all these devices?
- Processor power aside, many of these devices are at their core very specialized devices- meant primarily for allowing people to remain connected and informed of and by specific types of content. Even though the iPad’s touch keyboard is very good and nearly the same size as a laptop keyboard, a touch typist like myself cannot be as efficient composing an essay and formatting a term paper. Doing this on an iPod touch is like choosing a toothpick to dig a well with–it is the antithesis of choosing the right tool for the job.
- If we are relying on parent purchased / student owned hardware, not only are there issues with hardware consistencies / equalities, but software required for specialized activities such as concept (mind) mapping, video editing / conversion, etc. become impossible to manage. We have had a taste of this already with the average teachers getting frustrated over versions of software and interchangeability between file formats and installed fonts.
- Not only are these devices owned by individuals (not enterprises), but they are designed for use and management by individuals– so even if the students/parents were to provide “administrative” access to these devices- most of them do not permit or have the tools that enterprises are used to having for management/troubleshooting, etc.
- Finally, there is the reality of malware, theft, and physical damage that occurs to these devices while the students are under our supervision. If they voluntarily bring them to school there is still a limited level of liability– but if they are required or compelled to bring them to school we have just increased the school’s liability considerably.
One might argue that these are real world problems that students will encounter in the workplace and as adults, but even as an educational technology advocate, I think we need to be fair in our expectations of the teachers, administrators as well as what we are asking of our institutions.
Culture & Identity- "On the SpaceCoast of Florida"
They couldn’t come up with anything significant.
“What is the one thing that makes our school system different from every other school in the world?”
Maybe it was just the fact that I was born in Melbourne Hospital, the son of a space engineer who had begun working on the SpaceCoast in the early 1950’s. The first thing that leaps to my mind was that WE WERE THE SPACECOAST! And I got to stay up late to see Neil Armstrong on the moon.
Maybe as a nation we have had so many things that our media tells us we should be ashamed of, that we have forgotten what we should be proud of.
Maybe our entertainment / virtual reality movies, games, tv shows have become so good that we have lost a sense of being amazed when solid rocket boosters hurl living beings several hundred miles above the earth.
Our sense of adventure in space was seared by the last two shuttle accidents.
The many benefits of Space Exploration and the inventions of space related-technologies (velcro, metal alloys used in sporting events, insulating blankets, etc.) have virtual no popular association with the Space Program.
Our culture’s heros have changed. We no longer honor our astronauts as explorers and hero’s, we only see them in the news when they are part of a scandalous love triangle.
I don’t really know what it is... or maybe it is all of those reasons and more. All I know is that the students never identified the brand of their school with the location of being on the SpaceCoast. And now we are down to a very uncertain future as the SpaceCoast. Two more launches of the Space Shuttle are scheduled and there is no manned launch program in the plans. In fact, the once proud US of A is going to rent seats on a Russian space craft whenever have a need to get to the Space Station or the Hubble.
What seemed like a futuristic, high tech name for a blog has become a historical reference of antiquity. Maybe I need to reexamine my brand...
Ed Tech Thoughts from the Spacecoast
An Open Letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist
A notice came from friend today:
After years of effort the Florida Legislature has passed landmark legislation allowing traditional textbook dollars to be used for innovation and technology in the classroom! Tremendous thanks go to the hundreds and hundreds of supporters in and beyond the Sunshine State to make this happen. However, the legislation won't become law unless Florida Governor Charlie Crist approves it, and that remains uncertain at best.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING! We have until Friday, May 14 to make the case to Gov. Crist, so act now on behalf of students everywhere who will reap the benefits of this landmark bill.”
I am sure than many who read this blog already realize this, but for many decades, the textbook industry has fought furiously through their lobbyists to maintain their exclusive budget line in the state education budgets of the nation. Our world has changed tremendously since the internet revolution began just over 16 years ago... it it time that our classrooms changed as well.
I am proud that a friend, State Senator Thad Altman from Melbourne, Florida introduced this bill. Now it is our turn to let the governor know how important this is!
Please consider emailing our governor in support of this bill, we need his signature!
Send to: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com
The Honorable Charlie Crist
Governor, State of Florida
PL05 The Capitol
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Here is the letter I sent:
Dear Governor Crist,
I am a native Floridian and a career educator (28 years) in Florida's public schools and private college system. I have been nationally recognized as an educator several times and enjoy the privilege of traveling around our nation providing professional development for educators when I am not in the classroom in Melbourne, FL.
First I want to thank you for your veto of the SB6 last month. It was very gratifying see our state governor was willing to apply common sense to a very complicated issue. I was glad to hear that you recognized that there is a real problem, but the solution is not as simple as that bill made it seem.
Now I would like to call on you to provide school systems with the flexibility to move on to keep up the modern world with respect to learning tools. For years, our state and others, have been held financially hostage to state textbook adoption budgets, purchasing books that were outdated the day they were printed. With changes brought on largely by computer technology, our world is changing in many respects faster than new textbooks can be authored, typeset and printed, much less adopted, purchased, shipped and distributed.
I wouldn't suggest that textbooks are obsolete, or that there is no place for printed resources in our schools, but they no longer are the only way or always the best way to communicate and teach our children. eBooks can be instantly updated over the internet and they can contain multimedia such as 3D objects and movies as well as interactive exercises and self-grading quizzes and tests.
The fact is our schools have often felt obligated to purchase books that were really not needed since the previous adoption was in good shape. They felt obligated to purchase books because if they didn't, they would lose that money that was solely budgeted for textbook purchases. This is poor stewardship.
Please give your approval to CS/HB 5101which contains a proposal that will allow districts the flexibility to spend a portion of their educational materials budget to purchase technology for delivering digital content for classroom instruction.
This legislation will help establish Florida as a progressive, forward-thinking, fiscally responsible state that recognizes that the world is changing– and the way that we prepare our students for their future is changing as well.
A Bummer of A Day
After synagogue services, we broke our usual routine of rest and relaxation for the Shabbat in order to perform a good deed. A Zionist Christian friend had been holding a garage sale to raise money for some humanitarian work in Central America. We have helped her before by moving the stuff that didn’t sell over to another local mission that does homeless and alcohol rehab work for sale in their thrift shop.
It is already pretty hot and the thrift shop was only a couple miles away, but closing early. I agreed to make one run in our van while the gals organized and boxed up the second load. My wife notice her Torah bag with her dance shoes and other stuff was up against the back of passenger’s side front seat and started to move it, but I told her we could leave it in there, I would just watch and make sure it was not unloaded at the thrift store. I was concerned that if we took it out, (along with my bag), everything would shift and fall.
So when I got to the thrift store, there was only one young man there to help unload and he said they were just about to close up. I panicked and when into high gear to help him unload. In the heat and pressure of quickly unloading I forgot about our personal stuff until we had gotten most everything out of the van. And I had been unloading the opposite side of the van thinking (foolishly) about saving some ink cartridges which we recycle for a school fundraiser.
Now one would have thought that a high end black computer bag would not be included in a set of mismatched kitchen items, worn out Little Tyke kitchen toys, and shabby clothing. But one also would have expected a person who values and cares for technology would have had better sense that to leave it in the back of a van transporting garage sale rejects.
So after emptying the van, I noticed my bag missing and retrieved it and a broken iPad, the screen shattered. I was really quite upset, uttering a naughty word, which those who know will attest, I seldom do.
Amazingly, it still works!
(Albeit not with such astonishing beauty and splendor.)
It didn’t even occur to me to try it. I brought it home beset in somewhat of a funk... my son’s friend (who hadn’t seen it yet) saw me come in the door and immediately asked if he could see it. He didn’t know it was broken, but was just an Apple iPhone/Macbook user and and wanted to try out the new product.
I showed him and he immediately turned it on! Yikes!!!
I actually haven’t made the final decision yet, but found rather quickly that I can have Apple replace it for $269 (I bought the $499 model) or send it to a third party service company for $199.
Final Observations on the Survey
It was a simple survey that was really only asking two questions:
- What percentage of the teachers at your institution could be considered technology literate in personal practice?
- What percentage of the teachers at your institution use lesson plans that provide students with activities that incorporate 21st century technology?
This blog entry were also seven demographic types of questions, so that the responses to the two questions could be desegregated into subgroups. I will be real up front– I was both surprised and disappointed that the delta between the 1:1 schools and non-1:1 schools responses was not greater. On a scale of 1-10 Teacher Personal Use was only 1.16 points higher and Integration into Student Activities was only less than one point greater.
One would think that the ubiquitous access to computers would dictate a much more comprehensive, global use both in Personal, but especially in Student Activities!
These results are disappointing on several fronts. As referenced in my previous reflection on this survey, maybe the respondents to the survey needed more refined ways of qualifying instructional integration. It is clear there is room for more research (larger samples and better quality survey).
A Measure of Technology Integration
So I made a brash statement...
In a previous blog entry I lamented that 80% of today’s teachers don’t feel compelled or prepared to really integrate what could be considered 21st century technology skills.
As I wrote this, it occurred to me that this was really just a guess on my part. Although I have traveled to quite a few schools across the nation to do professional development, I had not read any research upon which to base such a statement. So the scientist in me said, “Let’s find out!”.
So I constructed a Google Doc’s Survey (survey now closed).
It was a simple survey that was really only asking two questions:
- What percentage of the teachers at your institution could be considered technology literate in personal practice?
- What percentage of the teachers at your institution use lesson plans that provide students with activities that incorporate 21st century technology?
Not a Perfectly Sound Scientific Study
I appreciate solid, well-thought-out research. This Google form was thrown together in a couple of hours with distractions. Here are some admitted weaknesses:
- Technology Literacy was defined in terms that for some people may be too limiting, and for others may have been too broad:
Web 2.0 defined as participating in social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. commenting, rating, tagging, shared collections of bookmarks, photos, videos, or blogs. 21st Century Skills would include such things as online text, audio and video conferencing and collaboration, a use and ability to edit digtital files such as video, photo or audio files. Standard computer skills include page layout, presentation design, use of spreadsheets and databases.
- The number of respondents over the 10 day period was only 124.
- The data collected reflects an opinion of an individual, as opposed to an objective measure of each school. So I really feel this type of survey might be useful to think about our teacher and student’s experience in terms of a generalized trend.
almost 20% of the respondents were from schools where each student was issued a computer
- The sample was not really ‘random’ by most measures. This survey was promoted primarily through Twitter followers many of whom were at the higher end of tech savvy educators. This was a mixed blessing– these survey respondents were probably better suited to answer these questions from an educated view point than (for example) a random parent who has limited direct experience with all the teachers at a given institution.
However, it also meant that almost 20% of the respondents were from schools where each student was issued a computer- a much higher ratio of technology per student than the national or international average. One would expect that teachers were teaching at a much higher level of technology integration in such a setting!
- It was pointed out to me (by a parent) that I had not included 0% in my scale for a possible answer. (What can I say?– I am an optimist and generally try and promote my profession)
Breadth of Survey Response Geographically
- 28 out of 50 states of the USA were represented
- 21 respondents were from countries other than the United States (leading the pack were 4 from both Canada and the United Kingdom and 3 from Australia)
Almost exactly 1/4 of the school respondents were from private schools.
Here we get down to the meat of the survey. I suspected that more teachers are personally using technology, and was pleased to see that 35% of the schools felt that at least half of the teachers were personally using technology extensively.
On the other hand, one wonders how schools that have only 10% of their teachers personally using technology are going lead their student population into the new decade. This group represented almost 20% of the schools!
The Real Question- How much of this Technology is Reaching the Students?!!
Next we have something of an answer to the real important question, because it is the students that matter. Is the opportunity to learn with technology reaching the students? When you look at this as a chance that one child will receive technology infused instruction, it is much better than I thought– but there is still a long way to go. Almost a third of the schools provide only one chance out of 10 to receive this experience. My next step is to isolate the responses from the Standard schools, I predict that the 1:1 schools have pushed the integration numbers up considerably. I think looking at the Standard schools will betray much lower technology integration in the average classroom.
What do these responses say to you? Please leave your comments below!
Technology = Amplify Capabilities
“For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.”Shaul, Letter to the Romans
So I set down to come up with three words that describe what I do, who I am. I decided to go with Amplifier, Truth Seeker, Visionist. I am not even sure that Visionist is a word, but I don’t really think of my self as a visionary, and visionist was the closest I could come to describe myself as one who watches trends and changes and looks for solutions beyond the current reality. Truth Seeker, betrays the cynical, scientific mind while honoring the deeply spiritual interests I carry. And Amplifier, well amplifier describes that part of my career and personal path that I get great satisfaction from.
I hope to help others enrich, improve, and experience greater results as they learn. And this is what an amplifier does, it takes a small thing and makes it bigger and hopefully better. A amplifier is faithful to produce that which it is amplifying, with the nuances of individual components of the original truth receiving equal attention to detail. A good amplifier is very efficient and productive with little wasted energy, virtually no distortion and faithfully reproducing all that was already present in what is being amplified. Amplification, properly used, can be tailored to the audience’s needs- it doesn’t have to be obnoxiously loud, and it can be adjusted to the context of the room or environment, so that all the characteristics of the subject can be appreciated.
I hope to help others enrich, improve, and experience greater results as they learn. And this is what an amplifier does, it takes a small thing and makes it bigger and hopefully better.
What is the Common Technology Curriculum?
I am currently deep in thought about this notion of a shared knowledge for the America People... I recently read an article by E.D. Hirsch in the Winter 2009-2010 issue of American Educator: “Creating a Curriculum for the American People”. Hirsch is a professor emeritus at Univ. of Virginia and accomplished author of bestsellers such as Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need.
Hirsch makes the case for a common core curriculum for all students. He points out that this is an unpopular position within the typical university schools of education– an accompanying article relating how his own university’s department of education strongly discouraged students from attending what he called a pro-curriculum view of the causes and cures for the achievement gap between, on one hand, blacks and Hispanics, and, on the other, whites and Asians.
The current educational landscape is shaped by a very fragmented, ‘laissez-faire attitude to the content of their schooling.’ Hirsch even takes the daring step of saying that student-focused approach to education will lead to inequities in that base knowledge (see accompanying quote). I think that he makes a valid point, but as with many things, taking any extreme position is good for making a point but not necessarily the best practice.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly, nor repeated too often, that the most important cause of our educational shortcomings is not laziness, unionism, waywardness, stupidity, or any moral fault among the leaders of our educational enterprise. Rather, it is a system of attractive but unsound ideas. Known to educational historians as the progressive movement, these ideas took over in the United States during the latter half of the 20th century and remain very popular. The strength of the progressive movement—its lasting contribution—is its empathy with childhood. Its fatal flaw is its belief that the child-centered schooling it envisions can only be accomplished by resisting a rigorous academic curriculum and encouraging children to develop their skills using whatever content they find engaging.”quote from the accompanying article The Anti-Curriculum Movement
Hirsch’s position was supported a couple of reading samples that are typical of standardized testing of reading comprehension. One of the passages used as an example reported on a cricket game– clearly comprehensible to British audience, but quite incomprehensible to most Americans. This provides a clear impetus for common curriculum.
Although the samples didn’t include particularly large or unusual words, they provide a powerful evidence of the importance of prior knowledge and common culture. They certainly make educational equity for different races and different economic groups a goal that is aided by a common opportunities.
What is the baseline... what is that common experience, skillset, minimum conceptual mastery level that we should ensure that all students have?I subscribe to what Psychologist Larry Crabb once coined as the mixed salad approach (he was speaking of Psychology Theories of counselling)- borrowing a little here, borrowing a little there, sometimes doing this, sometimes doing that. I think learning theories are also not monolithic, but deserving of equal time. So I appreciate the idea that Hirsch promoting that all students should have a common content- and it caused me to pause, and revisit that question for educational technology.
This is the stuff that standards
are constructed out of.
What is the baseline... what is that common experience, skillset, minimum conceptual mastery level that we should ensure that all students have? For instance, should all students understand the difference between a forced return and word wrap? How about an enhanced podcast and an video podcast? And after we decide what we need to sequence this knowledge and skill set, and determine grade levels that they should be mastered by.
I think it is clear that tomorrow’s citizens should have a common set of knowledge and skills, and as usual, education is the equalizer. This is the stuff that standards are constructed out of. This another one of those things that I don’t have a clear answer for, but I have been thinking about.