Sunday, July 15, 2012

In response to "Five Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class" via The Innovative Educator

Here's the article, for those who want to follow along:

I'm going to go point by point for each reason, as I feel a global response would be inadequate.

1. "Not preparing our students for [a mobile technology-filled] world is negligent."  This hit home to me, because I think it's true.  It's also a soft spot for most teachers, as we often work extra hard NOT to be negligent.  This point's implication of responsibility should also be shared with parents, who may be just as reticent as us to allow use of a technology we don't quite understand.

2. "We can go a long way towards solving the problem [of tight school budgets] by using technology that is available for free and probably in a majority of HS students' pockets." That's great, if your student body's SES is at a point where the overwhelming majority of parents can afford to and do buy smartphones for their children.  Families are often facing the same difficulties as schools are, though, so is it entirely fair to place the technological funding squarely on their shoulders?

3. "Tests of recall don't prepare our students for the world ahead.  Kids know this - it's why they think school is irrelevant." SOLs are a mixture of recall and application.  Have we as teachers demonstrated to students the importance of recall, or did we assume the motivation was implicit when it was actually externally applied?

3b. "As Kevin Honeycutt is fond of saying, "Students used to pass notes on paper.  We never banned paper."" This particular idea neutralizes the anecdotal argument, but doesn't provide an answer to the core problem.  The medium was never the problem, it's the distractions and unmonitored communications that worry teachers most.

4. "Double standards are not OK." Amen.  A teacher, administrator, or any authority figure for that matter, should not enact any policy they can't adhere to themselves.  It sends the message that rules can be overcome by an abuse of power which is commensurate with authority.

5. "The dangers and pitfalls of using mobile devices aren't going away.  Isn't it our responsibility to teach our students to be safe?" This gets back to points 1 and 3b, so I'm not sure it should really stand on its own.  It's the shared responsibility of schools and parents to teach children to be safe.  Wouldn't these reasons and concepts of responsible uses of technology be stronger if they were agreed upon and reinforced by the home?

As for images, I dislike the language in this picture, but the teacher (and cartoon)'s heart is in the right place.

In response to "PowerPoint Is Evil," by Edward Tufte

A link for the article being referenced:

This is a dated and biased article.  What Tufte describes is not the PowerPoint of 2012, but the PP of 2003.  Further, for what little constructive insight and perspective there is, it is drowned out by a cacophony of rants at particularly lazy or convoluted examples of PP presentations.  Mr. Tufte needed a more professional editor, as the robustness of the article's argument was weak, and Wired often holds itself to higher standards than the article demonstrates.

Those criticisms aside, there is a decent amount of good advice in this article that holds up after almost a decade, and I think my professor would agree.  The following quotes tie into the general concept of addressing problems in the organization of the material itself to solve its lack of efficacy, a situation not unique to PowerPoint but relevant to all presentations. 

1. "Visual reasoning usually works more effectively when relevant information is shown side by side. Often, the more intense the detail, the greater the clarity and understanding." This is very germane, as irrelevant information is often coupled with relevant data, and the audience is left to parse the details themselves, having to take on the supposed role of the presenter in order to make sense of the material for themselves.

2. "At a minimum, a presentation format should do no harm." How often have we read powerpoint presentations that are damaged by their own attempts at whizbangery, or overstuffed because of a presenter's inability to filter out irrelevant data?

3. "Such misuse ignores the most important rule of speaking: respect your audience." How Mr. Tufte defines of as respect for one's audience and how I define it may not often overlap, the shared goal is paramount.  Graduate students are incredibly guilty of not paying attention to the basic needs and desires of their audiences, who are most often fellow classmates.  I am definitely guilty of this for more than half of my presentations at Marymount.

Many of these points are not necessarily aimed at graduate-level students, but at all individuals learning to use the medium to its full extent.  A more appropriate use of this article might be for high school or middle school students just learning how to create a PP presentation to start a discussion on unspoken rules of PP.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Lesson Plan from Common Sense Media: Digital Life 102

For ease of use, I'm linking the article here:

From the get-go, this lesson had me interested. Its basic structure is this:
1. Pair students up, then distribute a digital media quiz. Students answer, tally points, and discuss with each other through teacher prompts.
2. After introducing and modelling the concept of similes, students create written similes to describe how digital media relates to their life.  They are encouraged next to create collages, videos, songs, or other forms of media to represent these written similes.
3. Next, the students watch a video related to teens and their digital life.  There is a long series of questions (which the teacher can omit or expand on as they see fit).  These questions are used in what the lesson infers is whole class discussion, but I personally think small groups would be more appropriate.
4. The students will then tweet answers to three final assessment questions concerning digital media in their lives, as well as the strengths of their similes.
5. For an extension activity, students will track their media usage every day for a week.  For homework, they will watch "any of the winning videos from the Trend Micro “What’s Your Story" contest. The goal of the contest is for teens to make videos educating others to stay safe and secure online." The students will either create a response to a video or make their own.

For high school students, I can see this being a home run lesson if prepared correctly and followed through with.  If I were a student in a class that had this, it would change how I think about digital media in my life.  What more could you realistically want from a lesson plan?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Revisiting a blog from Week 1: Fried Technology

I checked in on Fried Technology, and the author, Amy Mayer, has kept herself fairly busy. There have been eight more posts since I visited, most of which are quotes or other sayings related to teachers' handling of technology. Two particular posts stuck out, though.  First, her description of Coppell ISD's superintendent Dr. Jeff Turner's speech about administrators needing to do a "day-in-the-life walkthrough" of a few random students' schedules was very interesting.  I'd be curious to know how many schools have administrators that do this actively.  Second, her most recent post concerning Google Video was very informative, and seemed to provide a good answer to the problem of how schools can cope with a limited video budget while making it available across the school. The problem of a 100 person maximum domain is still thorny, but Mayer's embedded Youtube video explaining how to operate it was very welcome.