Multitasking: Good or Bad?

Standard

Douglas Rushkoff, who has been famous for writing and conducting research about the internet, assisted Frontline’s staff with documenting their video on the evolution of a digital nation: Frontline: Digital Nation . Rushkoff visited students and interviewed several professors from universities all over the United States to get some insight on what others thought about the 21st century’s movement with technology. Frontline also had the opportunity to cover this movement outside of the US and have front row seats during some research studies and uses of technology. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but to relate everything to myself and my experiences with technology.

The first chapter of Frontline: Digital Nation was called “Distracted by everything” and it addressed the happenings of, ideas and research studies on multi-tasking. Frontline decided to take a look at the students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) on this matter. Everywhere on M.I.T.’s campus there were students looking at multiple screens. I laughed when they discussed this kind of multitasking as I sat at a computer watching the video, taking notes with my iPad, and checking alerts on my phone. A few students addressed the topic. They expressed how hard it was for them not to multitask. It was important to them to take care of their school work, as well as keeping up with everything else that was happening in their lives. One student explained that peers could be sitting at a table having a conversation and many of the participants may fade in and out of the discussion to check emails or their phones. He explained that students did not get offended by this and that they understood this behavior. Well, the teachers at M.I. T. had a different perspective on the multitasking.

Teachers talked about the struggle they have with keeping students engaged in the classroom. M.I.T. allows students to have laptops in the classroom under the teacher’s discretion. This permitting puts pressure on the professors to stimulate students enough so that they are not on the web or engaging in other technology tools during lessons. Sherry Turkle, who has been teaching for 25 years, says that “students need to be stimulated more than they did before”. “Students are doing a disservice to themselves by drinking the Kool-Aid and believing that a multitasking learning environment will serve their best purposes,” she exclaims. She goes on to say that there are more important things that have to be done when it’s still and cannot be done in conjunction with 15 other things.

Another professor had the same take on this issue. He gave students a midterm, in which he gave obvious questions and expected students to do extremely well on it; the students didn’t do very well at all. He states: You can test students on two things: How well they are paying attention during class and how well they are absorbing information during assigned reading.” This professor experienced that students weren’t doing well at either. He expresses that he doesn’t think that students aren’t doing well because they are not smart, but because they are distracted by everything else.

Research also supported the notion that multitasking is not as beneficial to students as they think it is. Rushkoff also visited Stanford University, where he observed a study on the brains of “multitaskers”. Professor Clifford Nass conducted a research study on a carefully chosen group of students who were known as “chronic multitaskers.” The study examined how fast students could identify numbers that were odd or even and letters that were vowels or consonants while switching tasks. The study showed that students’ performance was slower when they switched activities than when they were doing something consistently. Professor Nass states that multitaskers think they are very good at multitasking but are actually terrible at every aspect of multitasking; their memory is disorganized.  Even classic psychology says we can’t multitask. He expresses his concerns: “I worry that we are creating people who are unable to think well and clearly!”

I will admit that I am not that great at multitasking, as it often times seems. The idea of multitasking, reminds me of my ED 554: Technology in the classroom course. I experienced many classes of being overwhelmed with everything that was going on around me; everyone was doing different things. Many of the times, my professor would be giving us a tutorial of a technology tool or presented us with PowerPoints related to technology. We were all stationed at a computer. We were either expected to following along on our computers, write comments using a technology tool, or sign up for a program. I could not keep up half of the time and found myself being the last to leave the computer lab every session.

Multitasking, like most of the topics regarding technology, is very controversial. Although, research implies that it is not effective, how can we cut back on multi-tasking in a world that requires it? I have even seen job descriptions that have “the ability to multitask” as a requirement.  The way that we learn and perform is different today because the expectations the world has for us have changed. We are expected to take on many roles and different jobs that are restricted by time. In a lot of ways, we are almost forced to multitask. So how do we combat this issue? This topic requires further exploration of research and ideas on dealing with multitasking. This will definitely take some time to get it under control and hopefully by then, multitasking will not be too far out of reach.

I encourage readers to watch Frontline: Digital Nation. The video goes on to cover a gaming epidemic in South Korea, how Korea has put systems in place to combat PC addiction and teach students to use technology responsibly, some strategies and tools to meet students where they are with technology, the growth of virtual worlds, and how the US army uses technology for war and combating post-traumatic stress. The video provides viewers with all kinds of perspectives on the digital movement.  I started off watching the video with worry about how technology might change our world; I started my technology class the same way. But after completing the film and completing my technology course, I now think that technology will serve different purposes for different people. It may turn out bad for some and great for others. The way that an individual uses technology will impact the turnout. I think that Sherry Turkle (M.I.T. professor) said it best:

“Technology challenges us to assert our human values which mean that first of all, we have to figure out what they are and that’s not easy. Technology isn’t good or bad, it is powerful and it’s complicated. Take advantage of what it can do, learn what it can do, but also ask what it is doing to us. We’re going to slowly, slowly find our balance but it’s going to take time!”

Advertisements

5 Reasons to allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class

Standard

Cell phone use in schools is a very controversial subject.  I found myself straddling the fence when it came to this topic. Most of this objectiveness was due to my experiences with campers as a camp counselor. The staff found that students would not participate in planned activities and would rather spend time on their cell phones. We readjusted our expectations based on these occurrences. Students were now only permitted to use cell phones during extended hours, not during regular core hours. After reading 5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class by Michael Soskil, I think we could have used cell phones as a motivating tool to capture participation by coming up with activities that required the use.

Michael Soskil addressed some valid reasons as to why cell phones should not be banned from use in the classroom. I actually found myself adding to his list of reasons as I read his dissertation. His number one reason for permitting cell phone use in schools was preparing students for life after school. He makes valid points about the usage of cell phones in jobs and how convenient they have become for employers and employees. I just recently prepared my philosophy of education for one of my graduate courses. My main goal for my students was to prepare them for the post-secondary level, whether it is in the workforce or at the university level. I instantly thought about this goal of mine as an educator when I read this reason for not banning cell phones in schools. I also thought about how useful my cell phone has been for managing my obligations at work and school. I have my email accounts linked to my phone so that I keep track of important information and/or due dates. It also has played as a useful tool for taking notes.

His second reason was budget concerns for schools. Schools often express that one of the main reasons they lack technology use is because of budget restrictions. Michael Soskil brings up the valid point that cell phones could possibly eliminate this burden. As I was reading this, I also thought about the huge concern in the world about students not having the resources at home to complete assignments. I think most will concur that homes will be more likely to possess cell phones that any other technology.

The third reason for permitting cell phones in schools is using them to assist in teaching student 21st century skills, like collaboration. One of the examples that were given was videoconferencing amongst students during group projects.  I recall my first class of ED 503 Curriculum: Theory and Practice. My professor asked us to choose one person in the classroom that we would exchange numbers with. She explained that there will be times in our careers when we will have emergencies and need to have that go-to person to call and cover for you. An example would be someone who has bus duty and cannot make it for whatever reason. These types of things came to mind as I read his position on this.

As Michael Soskil gave his third reason, he also addressed the concern teachers have about cell phone use and cheating. I strongly agreed with him when he said that tests are not rigorous enough if students can share answers and/or look them up on their cell phones. I also agreed with his comment that read, “Tests of recall don’t prepare students for the world ahead. Kids know this-it’s why they think school is irrelevant.”

“As Kevin Honeycutt is fond of saying, ‘Students used to pass notes on paper. We never banned paper.’” –Michael Soskil

The last two reasons were pretty straightforward; reason four being double-standards and reason 5 being our responsibility to teach students how to be safe. Soskil talks about the use of cell phones amongst staff, pointing out administrators using their iPhone/iPad for classroom observations. Students may recognize the unequal aspect of this happening and create a negative perspective about people in charge. His fifth reason talks about educators having the opportunity to show students how to use cell phones responsibly instead of ignoring the fact that students are using cell phones, whether it is banned from school or not. It is important that they learn how to avoid the dangers of mobile use and we can teach them that!

This post gave me a different perspective on cell phone use in the classroom. I think about the many applications and programs that my ED 554: Technology in the classroom course has informed my about that can be accessed via cell phones. Instead of eliminating phones, I can use them as resources during classwork assignments and homework. I do fear that students will take advantage of the permitting of cell phones in the classroom. In order to reduce these happenings, I would advise educators to come up with very precise expectations for cell phone usage and make students take ownership of it. Create a mind-set that cell phone use is a privilege and it can be taken away if students do not use them responsibly. Hopefully, this will encourage students to use them appropriately. Schools conforming to cell phone use will not be an easy transition but I think addressing the issue, like 5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class did, is a start!

Andrew Blum: Discover the Physical Side of the Internet

Standard

Andrew Blum, a TED speaker and network author (learn more and TED: http://www.ted.com/about/our-organization), talks about his discoveries about the internet in the physical form in his video called Andrew Blum: Discover the Physical Side of the Internet. His journey began because of his concerns with how he was living; living on the internet that is. He started to notice that he was no longer visiting the physical forms of places, but instead he was spending more and more time on the internet and his IPhone. He wondered what it meant for his connections with people and if everyone was doing what he was doing, what did it mean for the world? He began to wonder what the internet really was and if it had a physical form.

Blum was given the opportunity to visit data places, where he was able to see how the internet worked in a physical aspect. He was able to see networks and how they were linked. He learned that the internet existed through cables that traveled through the ocean. He learned the history of the internet; how the internet went from being providing through one cable to multiple cables. He learned about the process of building tunnels that carried the cables from one side of the world to another and the workers who help build the internet, a process that had been around for a long time.

The things that Andrew Blum learned about the internet are worth sharing. It would beneficial to our students to know the history of the internet and how it works. As part of the history standards and curriculum for students today, teachers are responsible for educating students about the history of the world. Students are to learn what the past, present, and future means and what those tenses meant for the United States, and well as other countries around the world. Students are to learn the history of the world, major events that impacted it, and how the world has changed. The purpose behind these requirements is to teach students citizenship and to get them to care about the world that they live in. Now that technology is becoming a priority in schools, students should learn about the history of the internet and possibly other tools that have changed our culture like GOOGLE. This could lead into an introduction to students on how to use technology responsibility. Students may learn to appreciate the internet and what they put on there, if they know how the internet works. We should all know what our internet is and what connects us to the rest of the world!

“We Need More Patient Problem Solvers!”

Standard

Before I became a graduate student in pursuit of a masters in elementary education and before i received my bachelor of science in finance, I was a math major. One of the reasons why i decided to change my major was the lack of motivating experiences in the classroom. My love and passion for math was slowly drifting away from me because of the rote  and excessive computation and problem solving. Dan Meyer, a high school math teacher in NY, has a better solution for teaching math. In his exerpt, TEDxNYC – Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, Mr. Meyer addresses the lack of motivation students have toward today’s math curriculum and requirements.

Mr. Meyer begins by addressing the existence of impatient problem solving. Most people, especially students, look for quick and easy solutions and are averse to problems that require patience. He exclaims that with the proper delivery of math to today’s students, we can produce more patient problem solvers. He reminds us that our students are going to soon run the world we live in and need to be better prepared.

Meyer breaks math down into two categories: computation and math reasoning. He expresses that students do not retain information due to the students not having a strong grounding in math reasoning. The studemts lack iniative to start math problems on their own and are averse to word problems. Meyer refers to textbook problems we use to teach students today and how they enable students’ problem solving abilities.

The examples he shared provided student with all the given information to solve the problem and a reference to the equation they should use to solve the problem. What are the students really learning from this? Does this happen in real life? The answer is that it is not likely. Most of the problems in life that are worth solving have missing pieces and requires emense thinking and strategy. These are the type of problems students need to experience; problem that challenge them.

Meyer takes examples of problems that gives too much information to students and shows viewers how these problems can be effective by eliminating the given information, giving students a real life problem , and posing the question(s) you want students to solve. This way of teaching allows students to formualate their own problems and reasoning. He also discusses the importance of conversation in regards to math. Students become more involved in the process and begin to have a better understanding of what math and problem solving really is.

“Math makes sense of the world!” -Dan Meyer

Dan Meyers’ video really made me think about my experiences with math. I remembered wanting more than just solving math problems when i decided to change my focus to finance. Problem solving was elevated with finance and involved theory and practical problemsolving, like taking real data from fortune 500 companies and theoretically forcasting what business would be like for them over the next three years. This kind of work was rewarding to my classmates and me. It was effective in that it showed a relation to the real world.

I encourage my audience to take a look at some of the strategies Dan Meyer has to offer educators as i have provided the link above. Here are some tips he has for teaching students to become “patient problem solvers:

  1.  Use Multimedia
  2.  Encourage
  3.  Ask students the shortest question you can
  4.  Let students build the problem
  5. Be less helpful

Prezi: A New Way to Present

Standard

Prezi was created in 2009 as a new way to present ideas and tell stories. It is a cloud-based software that allow presenters to share ideas on a virtual canvas. NO MORE PROGRAMMING STEP-BY-STEP TRANSITIONS! Prezi provides a myriad selection of templates that feature zoom-in and zoom-out, swoop and glide components that help paint the bigger pictures for viewers. Prezi is also popular for it’s open and limitless layouts. Presenters who choose Prezi are no longer confined to slides! Educators often talk about hard difficult it is to engage students in PowerPoints today. I encourage the use of Prezi presentations; Its creative and fascinating designs are sure to keep viewers entertained!

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT!!!

Checkout a presentation I did on Helen Keller!!!!

http://prezi.com/d1g0jfze3f4c/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Sign-up today!

*IT IS FREE FOR EDUCATORS* all you need is a email that links you to education (schools, universities, etc.)

Extracurricular Empowerment

Standard

I recently viewed a video titled Extracurricular empowerment for my ED 554: Technology in the classroom course. In this clip, Scott McLeod tells stories about youth who used technology to impact the world, create a name for themselves, and/or expose their currencies to the world. The most important part about the video is the fact that students were self-driven and self-directed. Let’s look at Martha’s testimony:

Dissatisfied with her school lunch, 9 year old Martha started taking pictures of her trays and posting blogs about the school’s food selection. Martha began to draw the attention of people everywhere and started a movement for youth. Youth from all over the world began to post pictures of their school lunches and share comparisons. The media attention drawn to Martha’s school lunch experience reached other audiences as well. Martha created opportunities to meet with various celebrities; including chefs like Jamie Oliver. Even the news decided to cover a segment on school lunches and Martha’s experience. The school board tried to force Martha to stop taking pictures of the school’s lunches, but the media and other supporters backed Martha in the situation. The school board chose to acknowledge the happenings and reevaluate school lunches. Martha continued the movement by starting a fundraiser to improve school lunches. The money was donated to “Mary’s Meals”.

Martha’s experience was a great example of students’ ability to speak out about their concerns and make a difference in the world. One word that stood out for me during me viewings of Generation Likeand Extracurricular empowerment was empowerment. Empowerment is the” process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes”. In other words, we want to create leaders. We want to teach our students, not only how to make choices, but how to be creators of information. Students need to know that they have a voice and that they play a part in their education and their world. Too often, adults get stuck in their roles and have power struggles with students. As a result, students lose their voices and feel that they have no control over what they do and how they excel.

It is important that teachers, parents included, take interest in becoming aware of their student’s currencies and use this knowledge to motivate students to share, participate, and play a part in the education process. Education is meaningless if students can not relate to it. In both videos, Generation like and Extracurricular Empowerment, technology was used for personal reasons and interests. Teachers need to find ways to integrate technology in the classroom so that is still consistent with curriculum goals. We need to ask ourselves: “How do we use technology in the educational setting without shifting control from students to teachers?” This is when the Universal Design for learning comes into play. Give students options to how they present their learning. Take a chance on your students. See if they have unique ways of presenting information that aligns with your requirements. As much as we want patient learners and problem-solvers, we have to be patient teachers!

The video also share other technology experiences of other youth. I encourage my audience to take a look at how these individuals took their interests and shared them with the world. We all are learners, it is important that we know that learning is not subject to age; BE INSPIRED!