Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Final Blog- Using Technology in "Real" Classrooms

Nicole Darko
May 6, 2009
ENGL 518
Dr. Tryon

Using Technology in “Real” Classrooms

After completing this course I have a greater appreciation for the potential uses of technology in the classroom. I learned about using popular tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogging to enhance my classroom instruction. However, the reality of using these technologies leaves me less than enthusiastic about the sweeping phenomenon of incorporating technology in the classroom. The reality of most schools is that they don’t have enough computers or software to adequately incorporate technology in their schools. These lack of resources make most of the “technological revolution” unavailable nor unobtainable to the majority of students. This paper will explore the implications of a technological disparity among American students and how they can be rectified.
We all agree that incorporating technology is necessary and can create greater opportunities for learning. According to Colburn, in order for students to meet business, industry, and government expectations, they must be able, more than ever before, to reason, solve problems, apply their understanding, and write and speak well (National Education Goals Panel). Students should be able to “handle new situations and meet new intellectual challenges” (Salomon, 1993, p. 128). Additionally, researchers have stated that effective use of instructional technologies leads to positive outcomes for both students and teachers (Cradler, 1994; Office of Technology Assessment [OTA], 1995; PCAST, 1997). Technology has been advocated as a tool that supports constructivist approaches to instruction (Cradler; Honey & Moeller, 1990, online abstract; Means, 1994). Research on the benefits of using instructional technology has shown that frequently it is accompanied by a shift from a traditional direct instructional style to one that is more student centered. Current standards and recent reports support the promotion of generative learning and the use of constructivist approaches in K-12 classrooms (OTA; PCAST). Despite this consensus, there is an overwhelming number of students who never become partakers of increased outcomes as a result of technology.
According to the FCC Chairman Reed Hundt while giving a speech at the Technology and Learning Conference /National School Board Association in Dallas, Texas on October 24, 1996 he said,
“If we don't give schools and teachers all the tools and support they need, we risk making technology just another tantalizing apple of education -- always just out of reach for many schools. If, for example, we adopt a policy that just gave every school the exact same amount of money, for half the schools it would probably be more than they need and for the other half it wouldn't be enough. We need to have a policy that recognizes the disparities between schools and helps to bridge the gap. Schools on tight budgets can't strike a good deal on phone connections if they can't get monetary help on putting wiring into the classrooms. They can't learn with the Internet if they get a discount on a phone line but still have to pay high rates for usage. Indeed, it would be a cruel and all too usual punishment for our children if we said -- "Those of you whose parents or communities have deep pockets can get it; the rest of you, tough luck." This speech was given over ten years ago and every assertion holds true today. While greater uses of technology in the classroom have been heralded by many not much has been done to ensure that all students have the same access to these uses.
Research has been conducted by Somger, Lee & Kam, 2002 and quoted by Ashburn which states,“While many teachers across the nation struggle to incorporate technology into their classroom activities in meaningful ways, teachers in low-income, resource-poor urban classrooms often face particularly daunting challenges. These challenges include inadequate space, materials and equipment.”
How do we bridge the gap among the technological savvy and the novice technology users? According to the U.S. Department of Education "integrating technology into existing curricula means making technological tools, including computers, multimedia, the Internet, and digital input and output devices, integral to learning. It does not mean learning to use a given technology only for a particular task or function. For example, learning to use a word processor or to search the Internet are not examples of technology integration if the expected outcome are expertise with word processing or understanding of a search strategy. Learning how and why to use a word processor to better communicate ideas or to search the Internet for information related to curricular goals and activities enhances the curriculum and teaches literacies that students will need to know and be able to use." The study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education goes on to say that “while great strides have been made over the years in access to the Internet, a digital divide still occurs in the way technology is often used with low-income students. Providing universal access so that everyone can have access to the Internet regardless of income level or job status is only one part of the solution. Students must improve technology literacy so that they can participate intelligently and thoughtfully in the technical world around them. It is critical that students not only be given access, but training to better understand the Internet and its value, because the more likely they will be to make the effort to learn how to use it. The disparity in available computer hardware between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is striking.”
The solution to lessening the technological gap as proposed by Paige, 2003 is “providing every student with a laptop that can be taken home will have a tremendous impact upon those who are shut out from the world of technology, but only if we implement it fairly.” Maisie MacAdoo has summarized the importance of equity extending beyond boxes and wires. “The issue of equity now centers not on quality of equipment but on the quality of use. The computers are there, yes, but what is the real extent of access? What kind of software is available? How much computer training are teachers getting? And are schools able to raise not just students’ level of tech-nical proficiency, but also their level of inquiry, as advanced use of technology demands?” Finally, the article Bridge the Digital Divide states as its guiding principle, “all students must have access to appropriate tools and to challenging curriculum in order to bridge the digital divide by moving beyond basics and towards 21st century skills.”
As an educator I am hopeful that all students will be provided the opportunity to learn, use and become proficient at using technology to enhance their learning. While I'm hopeful I am also very aware that as long as money informs school, local, state and federal decisions their will always be a disparity among the haves and have-nots.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Daily We"

The article "Daily We" discusses how using the Internet is like a democracy. Cass R. Sustein talks about how people have so much freedom when it comes to using the Internet. I think the Internet is an excellent tool, when you want to find information. I use the Internet to search for the information I want and I only go to websites that I'm interested in. I think that this freedom is great! Why would I want to go to websites that I have no interest in? I don't feel that I'm limited in receiving information. The Internet exposes us to information a whole lot faster than ever before, which is a good thing. If I want to know something, I look it up on line. The news I want to learn about is ready and available. I also read the newspaper and watch the news. There are so many different ways to gather information. The articles that I find interesting in the newspaper, I read. When I'm watching the news I listen to what I think is important or what interests me. I agree that the Internet is like a democracy and I think it's great that we have the freedom to choose.

"The Daily We"

According to Cass R. Sunstein he agrees that the "developments he discussed makes life much more convenient and in some ways much better. But from the standpoint of democracy, filtering is a mixed blessing. An understanding of the mix will permit us to obtain a better sense of what makes for a well-functioning system of free expression. In a heterogeneous society, such a system requires something other than free, or publicly unrestricted, individual choices. On the contrary, it imposes two distinctive requirements. First, people should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance. Unanticipated encounters, involving topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find irritating, are central to democracy and even to freedom itself. Second, many or most citizens should have a range of common experiences. Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a more difficult time addressing social problems and understanding one another." While I understand Sunstein's point of view, I also think that his premise is a bit of a paradox because he is spouting democratic ideologies, yet he believes that the right for people to choose to "tailor" their existence is errorneous. If indeed it erroneous, it is their right to do so and shouldn't be deemed as dangerous or unpatriotic. I feel like the article was redundant and continued to address the same issue with various examples.

The Internet and Democracy/The Internet and Social Communities

The article “The Daily We,” by Cass R. Sunstein mentions ways in which the Internet can foster democracy. He provides examples of tools that can be used to make it more efficient to engage in entertainment and news. The user can customize music, movies, news, sports, and fashion programs. Programs can also be manipulated so that they can be recorded and viewed at the users will (e.g. TiVo). Because such a wealth of information is close at hand, Sunstein explains that this availability allows users to learn about so much more now than they have ever been able to before the Internet. This knowledge gives users not only a choice, but it also allows them to establish a voice. In this a la carte Internet world, Sunstein suggests that there may be a drawback in this design. Tailoring what we view and listen to actually limits democracy because it limits what we are aware of in the world and even in our own community. Disallowing these limits puts the user in a position to become conscious of issues and facts that they would have otherwise never known about. But allowing the user to filter unwanted material creates a less informative environment.
In chapter eight of the article, “Here Comes Everybody,” Clay Shirky mentions a lot of the things we discussed in class such as Wikipedia, the Wayback Machine, which is used for archiving sites. He also focuses on the need or importance of social communities. He suggests that participating in such communities benefits people by not only providing them with company, but it does more than that. It creates trust. Shirky seems to imply that this relativity may even prevent crime. This concept is logical. When someone knows you and they know that you know them, they are less likely to steal from you. My mom always said, “Get to know your neighbors.” Being a part of this type of community ensures that someone will be there for you more likely than if they do not know who you are. Moreover, you will more than likely be there for them. Shirky believes that the Internet can provide this and more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Reading

I'll post a second reading later today, but for now, you can start with Cass Sunstein's "The Daily We."

Update: For now, here is a Google Books version of Shirky's "Solving Social Dilemmas." If that link breaks, just Google "shirky solving social dilemmas" without the quotation marks. If you have Shirky's book, the reading is chapter eight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hoping to find some other examples, but here are some pedagogical uses of video games:

"The Classroom of Popular Culture"

While the premise that video games purposefully engage players to think critically while moving through the game, the article fails to fully explain how. As an educator, I advocate using technology to teach students critical thinking skills and key concepts related to my subject matter. However, merely stating that this can be accomplished without explaining in detail what skillls are being taught, how they're being taught and the instrument used to assess the effectiveness of the game leaves me scratching my head.
Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington
This was informative in that it exposes "Washington's agenda" to stack the deck in order to prove their point. While I do believe that the media has a big effect on the choices that some teens make, I do believe that all sides of the issue deserve to be heard and understood.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Video Games

The first and only comment that my daughter made to me as I read the article, “Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington” by Henry Jenkins was, “Why is it so black?” She was referring to the background that this article was written on. This display is something that I honestly did not notice. But it sealed my suspicious thoughts about Jenkins’ position on video games, and generally, his position on “popular culture.” Just like Congress, I was fooled into believing that he acknowledged the effects of video games on our youth. The title alone of his book from Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games evokes feelings of good versus evil. This tone was misleading. It led me to believe that Jenkins would take a more prosecutorial point of view on the topic of violence in video games much like the one Lloyd Garver took in his Newsweek article titled “A Veto on Video Games”. But in fact, he literally brings the very opposite to the table. He is defensive on the matter. I thought that the purpose of his testimony was to discuss the possible effects of popular media on the youth. But it didn’t. Even if his goal was to explain the devastating effects of children combining their own problems with this type of medium would have been understandable. But that is not what he did. Instead, he used this platform as an opportunity to vent on behalf of children who display all the socially unacceptable behaviors that lead to bullying and, consequently, retaliation. Congress called Jenkins to witness on the effects violent games have on children. In fact, he states in his speech to Congress that “[t]he mass media didn’t make Harris and Klebold [students who participated in retaliatory violence in Littleton, Colorado] violent and destructive… but it provided them both with the raw materials necessary to construct their fantasies.” Although this very comment suggests that violent games foster maladjusted behaviors and violent tendencies, Jenkins turns his attention to blaming everyone else for Harris’ and Klebold’s actions instead of the games. He suggests that if they were not feared or bullied and just accepted for who they are, then they would not have turned to such enabling tools that led to their violent acts. While Jenkins goes on to say that our fear and reactions to it will ultimately “…lead us down the wrong path,” he still does not own up to the fact that popular culture is leading many of our youth down the wrong path and encouraging them to stay there. After coming to the conclusion that Jenkins is comfortable with “…the very concept of giving yourself over to the ‘dark side,’” I see that there is no wonder why he chose black as his background color for his article to be written on. At the end of his speech, he urges us to “[l]isten to our children.” I agree that we should do that. But, instead of fearing them, I believe that we need to fear instead is what they listen to—and I believe that Jenkins falls somewhere in that category!
In James Paul Gee’s article, “The Classroom of Popular Culture: What video games can teach us about making students want to learn,” he talks about just that. While reading the article, I felt intimidated about the strong attraction video games have on students. I feel that we teachers cannot compete. This makes me think of the possibility that one day computers will take over the job of teaching our children. This must be the feeling that people got when new machinery came and took over jobs that factory workers once had. Still, it’s cool how video games allow children to participate in designing the game or strategies as they play. They can “…customize games to fit their learning.” This appeals to what we educators describe as multiple intelligences. It allows kids of all learning levels and styles to monitor and adjust their own learning. Another thing that appeals to the gamester is the fact that they can “…learn to view the virtual world through the eyes of a distinctive personality.” Players are also encouraged “to take risks” because “…they can start over…[which gives them] a real sense of…ownership, and control.” They learn and build concepts as they play. They build skills by learning and applying them to each sequential level of the game. These games also provide realistic experiences that foster real world skills. The only question, however, is how can we transfer this virtual world into our real classroom experiences.
In “The War between Effects and Meaning,” the author suggests that video games should not be banned. He states that video games do not teach gamers how to behave but allows each individual to gain his or her own meaning from it. Then he contradicts himself by quoting James Paul Gee and by proving examples of how video games can be used as learning tools. He practically says that hate games don’t encourage hate, but in fact “…encourage critical thinking about the roots of racism….” How crazy is that!!!!! He continues to contradict what he’s professing by quoting Kurt Squire and stating that “…game-based learning builds upon player’s existing beliefs…” So, if they believe that killing is OK, then these games will affirm their beliefs. He goes on to discuss the severity of violent games and how certain organizations and video designers are creating less violent games. While in the end of this article the author tends to admit the detriment violent games have on our youth, he begins the article by defending them. This sounds like Jenkins. Is it he???

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Classroom of Popular Culture

This article makes me think about my son, and how he loves to play his games. My son has X-box 360, Wii, Guitar Hero, Play Station, U-dance, and Nintendo DS. He can sit and play on all these systems hours at a time. However, being that I'm a concerned parent I don't allow him to do it! This is very common with most young people today, they love video games. I agree that if they could incorporate what is going on with the video games, into the classrooms, schools would probably close the achievement gaps. I have observed my son playing many of his games, and they are not easy to play. There are kids that play these same games and are able to master them, but are not able to sit still in a classroom and read for 30 minutes. What's going on? Well, the games are interesting. My son loves his X-box 360, one of his favorite games is WWE Smackdown vs. Raw. In this game you have over 40 wrestlers you can choose from and 20 different matches. You can create your own wrestler, change your skill level, create your own moves, and entrances to the ring. All of these things make this an enjoyable and challenging game for my son. Not to mention all the stuff you have to do with the control. All of these things require students to think, concentrate, read, and follow directions. Which in school, some of them act like that can't do any of the above. I think that we need to bottle the same devices that are being used in these video games. Maybe it would help students to become more disciplined learners in school.

Video Game Readings

Here are the video game readings for Wednesday:
  • "Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington" (you can also read the version in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers if you bought it).
  • "The Classroom of Popular Culture," James Gee.
  • For "The War Between Effects and Meanings," try this link to a Google Search that takes you to the chapter (you'll have to click through a "preview" page and then click the appropriate link for Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers). Let me know if this doesn't work. Again, if you have FBG, you should just read the chapter there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

English 110 Discussion

For English 110 students a couple of sample review links:
I'll post this to Blackboard later, but didn't want the links to be hidden/broken, which often happens on Blackboard.