Guest Post: Technology in the Classroom; Where Should the Line be Drawn

Guest Post by: Will Clevett

Having laptops and tablets in classrooms has been a muchNo Laptops debated subject, with many studies done on both sides of the fence, showing both the benefits and drawbacks from students having computers in class. The potential benefits are already being used to great effect in forms such as distance learning. For future uses of technology, we could find adaptive teaching techniques allowing children to effectively have their own digital tutor which can adapt and change the level and techniques being used to help that child learn, based on their responses to previous work, and apply pressure to continue stretching the boundaries of their learning.

Many naysayers say that technology provides too many distractions and makes people less knowledgeable, as they rely on their technology to store data rather than their memory. However, this is an age-old argument which was first recorded in approximately 370 BC by Plato in his conversation with Socrates, quoting an Egyptian king:

“For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality” ~ Plato

Naturally this isn’t about computers or the internet; this was about the downsides to writing and the change that the written word presented to the world, though it’s also disconcertingly easy to apply to modern trends in technology, with the rise of the internet and mobile devices allowing people to connect constantly. While the above statement appears to have been wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain so for the internet age.

The key distinction is the difference between using technology to support learning efforts and using that reason as an excuse to keep up to date on Facebook, and it may be true that having such easy access to social media platforms and other sources of information may just be too distracting. Google have reported that the average Android user checks their phone around 150 times a day and, despite being a middleweight phone user, I can’t deny that my usage fits into this ballpark.

This has led to many teachers banning technology in their classrooms, most commonly the mobile phone for the distractions they can cause everybody else, but following a study done by Professor Cliff Nass in 2009, it actually looks like people who try to multitask with technology are actually worse at concentrating on any of the tasks than people who don’t try to multitask. This study even led to a lecturer in social media (of all things) at New York University banning laptops and tablets in their classes unless actually required for the work.

The fact is that, for most people, computers are an everyday part of life and, as such, this should be reflected in teaching as it has been. The growth of technology has been especially helpful to many further education institutions, such as universities, allowing many students to remote control equipment from half a world away. This gives students opportunities they otherwise simply wouldn’t have had. For example, astronomers often require facilities a long way from light pollution and they may often need to take measurements from the other hemisphere, which is all now possible with the internet. Such skills are very transferable as well, with most jobs requiring proficiency with computers, at the very least, and many jobs in industrial computing requiring the remote access of equipment.

So at the end of the day, it looks like technology is going to be a massively important tool going forward in teaching at all levels. It is, however, also something which will need to be used responsibly and innovatively to structure learning rather than as a quick solution to problems.

Guest Post: Why Should You Teach 7-Year-Olds To Touch Type?

Guest Post by: Chassie Lee

Your day is already full of things you’re required to teach to your second-grade students. They’re focused on learning how to print letters and spell words correctly, filling page after wide-ruled page with their newly-learned vocabulary. Some of your students are still having trouble with reading simple texts, much less writing them out – and you haven’t even started the lessons on cursive handwriting. So why would you want to take time away from these basic skills to teach your class how to use a computer keyboard to type their words instead? Because it’s a skill they’ll need in the future, and that future is as close as their next school year.

The new Common Core tests for English Language Arts and general writing skills are computer-based. Starting in the third grade, students will need to know how to use a mouse, how to navigate through computer screens, and how to type longer text passages. While the younger grades will still be able to get by with point-and-click selection and easier fill-in-the-blank test questions, third-graders need to be able to type in their own answers to questions. By the fourth grade, each student is expected to be able to type a full page without stopping; in the fifth grade, that’s increased to two pages, and by sixth grade every student must be able to type at least three pages in one session at the computer. The longer it takes for them to type out their texts and test answers, the less time they’ll have to think about the questions they’re trying to answer.

It’s easy to assume that children already know how to use a keyboard to type, because many children own and use tablets and smartphones on a daily basis. A recent study by The NPD Group confirms that the majority of US families own at least one smartphone, and as NPD states in their report titled “Kids and CE: 2014,” a third of those families said that their children use smartphones. However, while devices like tables and smartphones will help children get familiar with using the internet and computer hardware and software in general, it doesn’t help them learn how to type on a keyboard. Even if they see the standard QWERTY layout on a smartphone screen, they’re using their thumbs to select the letters, and the auto-complete feature eliminates the need to type complete words. This isn’t going to help when these children are put in front of a computer to take an online exam using a full keyboard.

Fortunately, there are time-efficient and cost-effective ways to introduce keyboarding in your classroom. When you use professionally-designed typing tutor software that combines kid-friendly games with touch typing instruction, you won’t have to develop your own course outlines or typing tests. Depending on the software, you may even be able to let most of the class work on their own, while you focus on helping the students who are having the most trouble.

Look for touch typing software that is suitable for children of any age, so that your students will want to continue to improve their typing skills over the next few years. Since they’ll have to use the computer for online research and writing assignments all the way through high school, their typing skills need to keep up with their class requirements. If your school is looking for a way to teach keyboarding at all grade levels, pick a software product that can be scaled to the size of the student population each year, and one that allows each teacher to manage their own students by grade, by class grouping, and one on one.

By teaching your students to master touch typing early on, you’ll help them get the skills they need to master the tests and exams they’ll be facing in the future, and you’ll prepare them to enter a job market where nearly everyone is required to use touch typing to communicate and collaborate.

 

About the Author: Chassie Lee is the Content Expert for eReflect – creator of Ultimate Typing EDU which is currently being used by tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.

 

Guest Post: Using Smartphones in Classrooms – the Emerging Trend

If you are a teacher and if you are a regular smartphone user, chances are that you have come across a plethora of education websites and apps. You may not, however, have realized that many of these can be feasibly used inside the classroom to improve learning. Most of your students (unless you are a primary school teacher) must also have access to smartphones and tablets and know their way around the internet and the app world. You may be the type with a zero tolerance policy when you see a phone out during class, but how do you know that the student is necessarily communicating with friends, and not trying to Google a word or phrase you just uttered, and which he or she doesn’t understand? Maybe the student is even brushing up on the topic of the lesson. How about trying to integrate all of this and create a more enriching teaching experience?

Step 1: Use Smartphone Apps

There are countless smartphone or tablet apps that you can use to supplement your teaching and add to your reference material database for the benefit of your students. For example, a language app called Courses123 allows the user to learn five new languages. It offers vocabulary training, definitions, pronunciation and usage guides. Wolfram Alpha, the big brother of learning apps, works like a search engine. Additionally, it answers factual queries in a unique way. It uses curated database of knowledge websites or pages to directly calculate and display the answer. So it is also an answer engine. School Fuel Apps connects teachers and students and acts as a learning platform, in the classroom and on the move. If you are a science teacher, you can recommend apps such as Science Glossary, Atomium and Skeptical Science to your students. Science Glossary is an extensive science dictionary app that provides definitions, short biographies and education modules. The Atomium periodic table app provides information about every element, while Skeptical Science addresses climate change.

Step 2: Access Online Resources

Websites, online tools and other such resources could be of huge help to both students and teachers. HippoCampus, for example, is a knowledge rich website where you can find instructional videos that are arranged by subject. The Jefferson Lab website contains knowledge resources and content on high school science. It is divided into a student zone and teacher resources, and also offers games and puzzles. Discovery Education gives you the best links to other educational sites, and lets you create your own classroom clip art and word puzzles. There is also a huge number of education blogs that you can find. E-pals lets you arrange safe online interaction and communication between your students and other students around the world. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) blogs include Kalinago English, EFL 2.0, TEFLtastic with Alex Case, Jamie Keddie.com and so on.

Step 3: Use Cloud Storage and Sharing

Cloud storage has given a facelift to teaching methods. For example, Dropbox and Sugarsync are resources that allow you to back up files and sync them across connected devices. You get to carry around all your teaching material with you, via these applications. With such effective utilization of cloud storage, you don’t need to worry about losing your data even when you lose a device. You can also share saved data and resources in the classroom, or with your students who have accounts in, say, Dropbox.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more things you can do with smartphones in the classroom. If every other kind of technology is being allowed for teaching, why not smartphones or handheld devices? And with a more enjoyable classroom experience, there will be fewer chances of students being easily distracted.

Author’s Bio: Lynda Scott is an educationist, social media evangelist, and an ESL English specialist. She writes primarily on education and technology related topics.

Guest Post: How Technology Shape Academic Learning

Guest Post Written By: Ethan Harvell

In the past, students have to do a lot of things in order to write their writing assignments or study for an exam. They have to go to libraries, check dictionaries, read the encyclopedia or type on a type writer. Thanks to technological development, students now experience a fast and convenient life as a student.

Other Side of Technology

Some say that technology (e.g computers, Internet or tabs) affects the concentration of students. BBC News even report that Internet usage made the attention span of people, much shorter. They even compare it to that of a goldfish. The focus of people becomes very weak because of the millions of data they consume on-line. These also promoted multitasking, with multiple tabs when people are searching on-line, which lessen the efficiency of people.

However technological inventions are not made to distract people. Its purpose is to help people have better lives. Internet is now used in learning. Since most students today were born in an era when computers are already used in every field of life, they have a sense of dependency towards computers. They rely on it for intellectual learning and even skills development. Even professors note the importance of technology in reaching Millennial students.

Let us take a closer look on how technology shapes academic learning:

Tablets For Learning

Recently Google introduced the benefits of the use of tablet applications in teaching. They note the importance of making students actively participate in class discussions and activities, which focus on Google Play applications downloaded on tablets.

Among the activities they do, are: quizzes, puzzles, reading books and spelling tests. Visual and auditory learners get to learn through visual aids while, haptic learners benefits from games and hands-on application. Class discussion also follows to access the learning of students.

E-books also became popular. It makes studying easier because students can bring their tablets anywhere. They can easily highlight and bookmark important parts of the book. Although only 21% of K-12 schools today uses digital textbooks, a huge increase of digital textbook users is expected, with 36.5% of schools, planning to move into digital books in the next few years.

Social Media Incorporated in Learning

Social media  used to be a distraction to intellectual growth and learning. But modern educators now incorporate it to class projects.

How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation,” written by A. Adam Glenn notes that Andrew Lih University of Southern California, uses Pinterest as source of generating idea for business and entrepreneur students. The “mood boards” that these students create are easily done through the sites clip board function. The site also promotes data curation, beneficial to journalism, digital media aggregation assignment, and content writing.

Google+ Hangouts are used by students for academic group discussions. Students from Boise State University incorporates YouTube videos in this groups and teach themselves with mathematical equations.

College blogs are also becoming very popular, not only for social sharing but also for social learning. Students can write their own contents and engage in commenting on other people’s work too. This leads to healthy discussions. Aside from that, reasoning, creativity and critical thinking skills are developed through blogging

Popularity of On-line Schools and Blended Learning

The increasing cost of attending a classroom facility encouraged people to enroll in on-line classes. Aside from monetary reasons, online classes  became popular because of these few reasons:

Flexibility– Students can take courses according to a schedule convenient to them. They can easily balance their personal life and school classes, without getting stressed.

Save Time– No need to waste time in going from one class to another; or driving from home to school, and vise-versa. You can efficiently use this time in studying instead.

Several Courses at Once– If you have a particular course that you want to take, but not in your program, you cannot take it on a typical class. But on-line programs allow you to expand your interest and enroll classes beyond the given course list.

Accessibility– Internet is easily available and students can attend classes at any convenient time they want.

Same Job Opportunity– You get the same job opportunity as students attending classroom lessons. Is an on-line program different from their usual classes? If the school is reputable, their method of teaching is basically the same, no matter how they deliver it.

Clayton Christensen on his theory of disruptive innovation tells that “by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered on-line.” Most classes today are already leaning towards technology-based teaching methods because of its effectiveness.

Flipped classroom is one of these blended learning strategies. Students are given lesson materials at home and they study it with an instructional video. In class, they join class activities related to that topic.
Although technology has its negative effect on students learning, it is undoubtedly, a very important tool in making academic learning much effective and efficient.

Author’s Bio

Ethan Harvell is resident of Fremont, California and is a journalist, philanthropist, and a volunteer teacher. He is currently a freelance writer for an essay writing service.

iPad as the Teacher’s Pet: An Infographic

This infographic was created by @TonyVincent.  It is the most thorough, most informative, and most helpful iPad app infographic for education that I have seen.   This infographic is more than just a .jpg or .png file; it was uploaded to Scribd, so that the included links to the apps or other websites would work.

On Tony’s blog entry for this infographic he also posted links to download a 6-page version to print or a very large 24-page version to piece together to make a poster.

Teens and Technology

I recently read a blog post on Big Think entitled, “When Does Teen Mobile Usage Become an Addiction?  How to Mitigate Excessive Use” and it brought up some points I’ve been hearing either for quite some time or have recently been hearing around the digital water cooler.

There have been expert opinions tossed around, parent opinions, and teen opinions; however, I’ve found the teacher opinions to be a bit underrepresented in the conversation.  I think teachers have a perspective that needs to be acknowledged and considered when parents and lawmakers are making decisions regarding teen “addiction” to their mobile devices.

The first point the article made was the definition of an addiction.  It has become common for people to causally throw the word “addiction” around, for example, “I’m addicted to Castle.” or “I’m so addicted to diet Pepsi.”  Are we really addicted to it, or are we just using the word “addicted” to mean “really like something”.  An addiction is, “something that interferes with you living your life”.

Some examples [of addiction] include the following: inability to keep a job because of the addiction; harmed and/or lost relationships as a result of lying to justify the chosen addiction; [and] positive growth such as staying healthy, creating healthy relationships, and progressing in life are all made secondary to the habit.  So when it comes to your teen’s “addiction” to their cell phone, it probably isn’t a true addiction, per se.

If an electronic device is severely harming your life, then there is cause for concern and drastic measures.  If the student has been fired from her part-time job at the local grocery store because she can’t put her phone away when asked repeatedly, that’s a problem.  However, if she’s still doing all her homework and performing well in school, yet she picks up her phone in the middle of dinner to check a message when her phone just chirped, this is a different problem entirely.  There is a difference between rude behavior and addiction.

Respect Conversations With Others: Texting and tweeting shouldn’t come between real human contact, thus being distracted by a phone can harm relationships.

You should always put “real human contact”, as in physical, person-to-person contact, above texting and tweeting.  However, texting and tweeting allow you to open up your social circle to access people you may not otherwise be able to access.  It allows you to multitask.  Perhaps you don’t have the time to sit down and spend two hours visiting with someone.  But, you are able to work at your computer (or cook dinner, or do laundry, other household chores, etc.) and talk via text message…this human interaction is better than none at all.  I’ve spent time person-to-person with someone and left feeling like I’ve wasted my time and that we could have just talked via messaging or by phone.   In other words, before you disregard texting and tweeting for real human contact, examine who are you are talking with, what are you talking about, and how much time you have available.  Before you yell at your teen to get off her phone, be sure to ask if she’s being productive first.  She could be tweeting me, her teacher, with a question about tonight’s homework.

Never use the phone in the car, especially while driving: This is a given, but distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths on the roadway. If your teen learns not to use the phone in the car, a lot of tragedy can be avoided.

As an English teacher, my only issues are with the way these sentences are worded.  If you are the driver, you should never use your phone to check text messages, emails, or the like.  Your eyes should never be taken off the road.  However, if you don’t know where you are going and you can set your phone up before you put your car in drive with talking directions on how to get you to where you are going and then put your phone where you can hear it but don’t touch it, you should do this.  Why?  Because how much more distracted are you by looking down at the printed directions or map?  A bit more.  Use the phone to reduce distractions, not create more.  Oh, and again with the wording…never use it in the car?  If you’re the passenger, first try to use your phone to assist the driver in reducing any problems, after that, you can use your phone…just don’t distract the driver by telling him to look at this cute cat video you just found.

Learn To Recognize Bad Habits: One reason teens turn to smart phones is boredom, causing this behavior to become a habit. Realizing this can help your teen resist checking their phone out of habit.

I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have some sort of habit they do when they’re bored.  Some people bite their fingernails.  Some pick their nose.  Some teens have engaged in activities that have created children.  Some people check their phone and read a few articles.  I’d opt for the reading articles.  Reading is reading.  Some people just aren’t the type to grab a book, sit down and read for two hours.  I am; however, I rarely have the time to.  Some people read in their spare moments.  I do this frequently.

Use a Bucket to Enforce No-Phone Family Time: One effective way is to get a bucket and have everyone place their deactivated devices inside it during family time (meal times, relative visits, board game nights, etc.). Not only will this help to teach your teens about phone etiquette, but it will also allow you to set an example by abstaining from your own phone usage.

I think this is a great idea…except you shouldn’t deactivate/turn off the devices.  Why?  With more and more people eliminating their house phone in favor of cell phones, what happens when an emergency arises?  You may be eating dinner, but what if someone is trying to contact you?  (My mom used to do this about 4-5 years ago, turned her phone off unless she needed to make a phone call…didn’t work well when I needed to call her). What if your teen’s classmate forgot to write the homework down and her parents have told them to text their friend from the class to get the homework, and your teen’s phone is off?  Phones are two-way communication devices.  Remember if you turn it off, you are restricting access to you.  If someone is relying on you, you are now penalizing them.  This goes for parents too; setting an example is great, but don’t let it come at the cost of your job.  Make sure you’re not the one on-call that night.  An alternative can be to leave your device on, but in the other room so that you’re not checking it constantly, but you can hear it if it rings.

Consider Pre-Paid Phones Instead of Prohibition: For habitual violators, you could consider using a pre-paid plan instead of instituting outright phone prohibition. That way your teen still gets the opportunity to exercise discipline and learn to ration their phone usage. And if they fail to do this, the phone will become a useless brick until you choose to add more time and data. Thus, a logical set of consequences will result from their overusing the phone.

This is a great alternative idea.  Prohibition or taking a device away can cause more harm than you think.  Let me give you an example.  Your teen spends too much time on social media sites.  You feel it is excessive and have given ample warnings about consequences.  Your teen may have said it was school-related, but you weren’t buying it.  So, you decide to take away your teen’s laptop for the week.  The same laptop that he brings to school every day.  The same laptop he uses for working on homework.  You tell him that he can use the general home computer where you can watch him, if he “really needs it”.  You think you’ve done a good job.  In fact, you’ve punished his grade.  What you didn’t know was that he needed his laptop in school that week for writing a paper.  His teacher was giving them class time to work on the paper and without the laptop (he planned to have), he’ll lose participation points.  Or, perhaps he was working on a group project in which all his part of the work was saved on the hard drive.  Or, the most important thing, his teacher was relying on him to bring his laptop because there weren’t enough laptops in the laptop carts for class use and your son popped up and said, “no worries, I can bring my own”.  Now his teacher will have to figure out where to find another computer, at the last-minute, for him to use.

Electronic devices are not just for fun.  Many people use them for entertainment, but many people use them also for work/school work.  Restricting the access to these devices will do you or your student no benefit…unless you have done your “homework” to ensure your student will not be penalized.  If you feel that restricting access to a particular technology is necessary because the student is abusing it, and the student didn’t pay for it in the first place, as a parent, you have that right.  However, do not make the situation into a bigger issue.  Email your student’s teachers to inform them that your child has been restricted from the use of a device or that your child only can use the internet for two hours a night to be sure you and the teacher can work out something that will allow the student to not be penalized far beyond what you intended.  Additionally, arming yourself with information from your student’s teacher will let you know if your student really does have a paper due Friday…or if he is just pulling your leg to weasel his computer back.

In summary: phones, laptops, tablets, computers, etc. are all two-way devices that can be used for leisure, but many teens use them to work. Teaching responsible use of technology instead of outright prohibition is imperative because as a teacher, I rely on my students and their technology.  If a student says he will bring his laptop tomorrow…I’m expecting him to bring his laptop.

Digital Textbooks

There has been a big push towards using digital textbooks in schools across America and the globe.  Apple just recently gave the movement a giant shove toward digitalization with revamped iBooks app and  iTunes U.  But I haven’t pronounced the print textbooks market dead yet.

Sure I’d love to eliminate having my student’s lugging around a 6lbs literature textbook among 5 other textbooks in their backpack.  Perhaps phasing out of individual copies of textbooks and only having one classroom set would be a feasible idea – but what if the student does not have access to a computer or tablet?  Or that if lending the student the device would require a parent to sign a form that says they will be liable for all damages, including loss – and the parent says no?  Digital textbooks have a promising market in the middle to upper class schools and charter schools, but not in poor neighborhoods.  Thus, there will be a decent market for print textbooks, albeit smaller than it is now.

All the digital textbook information I see right now ties textbooks to specific devices.  Textbooks published through Apple’s iBooks can be published elsewhere, but Apple still takes its large fee.  Textbooks on the Nook and Kindle are pretty much only for their devices.  If the tablet market isn’t going to let all textbooks be available on all devices, the print textbook market will never die.  Perhaps the publishing companies will sell their own tablet for their own books.  Instead of 6 heavy textbooks, students will carry 3-4 tablet devices.  Still pretty expensive and not entirely what the digital textbook market is aiming to do.

Oh but wait, aren’t students supposed to take notes and read textbooks at the same time?  True students can flip between the textbook app and the notebook app to write notes, but what about drawing charts?  I’m all for typing notes in class, but sometimes it’s just quick to have a piece of paper and a pencil to scribble my notes and diagrams on.  We would be wasting time trying to teach kids how to make a ven diagram on their notebook app than it would take to draw the circles on a paper.  Speed is important, especially with the hundreds of benchmarks the government continues to thrust at teachers to have students be proficient in their education.

Just as eReaders and tablets will never kill the paperback book, they will not kill the textbook market either.

What do you think, will digital textbooks completely kill the print textbook market?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 

Sources:

Bilton, Ricardo. “Apple’s textbook plan’s biggest flaw is that it’s tied to the iPad | ZDNet .” Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals | ZDNet. ZDnet.com, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.   Link to article

Faas, Ryan. “Apple’s new vision of education.” computerworld 21 Jan. 2012: n. pag. ComputerWorld. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.   Link to article

 

eReader Poll

I’ve been spending the majority of the day reading Wuthering Heights on my Kindle app for my iPad.  I love using my iPad to read the book.  It lessens the fatigue of my hands while reading which I believe increases my reading speed and focus.  Of course, the drawback is it sucks up battery rather rapidly (but not a bad rate) and I cannot use it outside in the sun.  I do have a paperback edition I will use for quoting and if I need to read outside, but it is very effective for siting for a long period to read.  I will not be completely sold on eReaders though.  I agree they have their uses and many positives.  But I just cannot forget the feeling of a new book in my hand, opening its cover and bringing its story to life.  I do feel the sense of accomplishment in the visual comparison of how much I have read and how much I have left.  Also an eBook (at least the Kindle version of Wuthering Heights does not have page numbers because you can increase the size of the text which thus alters the page numbers and creates an issue for citations.

I’m going to go more in depth on eReaders in another post so please – comment, email, facebook, whichever your preferred medium is – your thoughts and experiences on eReaders vs. paperbooks.  Or simply answer the following poll.

What is your preferred type of eReader?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...