What is true art anymore?

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After the last COETAIL class (which was amazing by the way to be able to play with photos for credit), I began to ask myself what is original art anymore? This came because I took pictures of trash on the curb outside of NIST in downtown Bangkok, and other similarly trivial items, and was able to put these photos into IPhoto and adjust them to look epic. What ever happened to being a good photographer based on taking an original image without needing to alter it? I still have a very nice film camera with telephoto lenses back in the States that I will most likely never use again. This is simply because it is too costly to shoot film and develop pictures that aren’t all quality instead of simply deleting them, and because I can’t tinker with them afterwards. I am really curious what true artists (those that consider them such and who get paid for their art) actually believe anymore.

Historically, great art included those talented individuals who could draw, paint, sculpt, etc. on the fly. Meaning that they were capable of picking up a brush, chisel or other tool and deliberately creating a flawless masterpiece their first attempt. I suppose it is significant to mention that many of these individuals were craftsman trained in one specific field over the course of their lifetime as an apprentice before venturing out to be commissioned. I remember hearing that many believed that the mark of a truly great artist was one who could draw a perfect circle without an implement to aid him/her. Apparently after some debate, the best-known artist who could do such a feat was Giotto Di Bondone, an Italian painter and architect during the Italian Renaissance. Just a fun fact for the day. I dabbled in college taking art classes, but I would never consider myself an artist. But what actually makes someone an artist anymore in the digital age? I now have images on Flickr that are Creative Common images that anyone can use (with attribution of course). If someone finds a photo that I have taken and shared online, and they believe that it would work well in a presentation of theirs, does that mean I too am an artist?

After web-surfing on individuals’ responses to what art and or being an artist is,  I have come up with a couple of key talking points to consider. They include:

  • Are you an artist if someone pays you for your work, thus making it your livelihood? Can you be considered an artist if you create original works for yourself solely, simply for the sake of creating and not for retail? Are you an ‘actual’ artist simply because your work has been utilized by others through various mediums and venues such as Flickr?

I am sure that we all know people who are incredibly talented artists and can create authentic works who do not do this as their day job. I am also certain that anyone who has looked up images on Flickr ever to utilize for a presentation or simply out of curiosity, have seen some atrocious examples of works of art. So, are the above considerations not significant? What about looking at art in a different light.

  • Is art simply about freedom of expression? Is art a medium of expressing oneself in a unique way that inspires others? Is a true artist someone who looks at the world in a different way?

The majority of the world’s population anymore has basic freedoms and liberties in expressing themselves openly. I know that this can be debated, but I would say simply the majority does. I continue to struggle personally in blogging because I never feel like what I have to say is worthwhile, because I don’t consider it inspiring. I look at technology as a tool to helping us in our everyday lives, through dispensing of information, making us more efficient, and lending convenience. I am rarely inspired by technology itself. I have noticed though, that the more programs and apps out there that allow me to alter my own works to make them more asthetically pleasing to the eye, the more I actually want to create. Whether or not the actual message is inspiring or not, I leave in the hands of those who judge, but sometimes it simply feels good to be proud of something you created. I really enjoyed one of the activities that we did in our previous COETAIL class, that being creating slides/ posters of matching specific given words with images. I do this in my own classes. As a Special Needs teacher, one of the ways to make sure all learning styles and multiple intelligences are included, is by ensuring information is taught in a variety of mediums (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.).  When new vocabulary is assigned, I ask my students to create a visual that includes the word, the definition, and a pictorial representation to aid the in remembering the word.

I  have included a couple of visual slides that I created at our last COETAIL class in the activity I previously mentioned to make a point. Teaching is about inspiring others to seek out knowledge and do something beneficial with that knowledge. Teachers know that teaching is not about rote-memorization and the more upper tier thinking towards meta-cognition you can possible instill in your students, the better. The activity we did can be altered in a number of ways to promote added critical thinking. You could ask students to find traditional images for various words, or ironic images. I added a couple of my images because it shows first a traditional view of the word bleak, that still needs mental engaging to interpret. The other however, is an ironic interpretation of the word filthy that has a political massage to it. I hope you enjoy, and if not, I am still proud of them.

Some rights reserved jajajillian

Some rights reserved jajajillian

I know that I got wrapped up into the idea of “what is art anymore?”, and I assume that I most likely didn’t help you come any closer to a definition. Sometimes blogging is for the journey rather than the destination in my case. I did want to leave you though with a very entertaining youtube video that has had an extraordinary amount of hits recently. Who says that technology can’t be inspiring? This fellow was inspired to sing a song with a new app on his IPhone called Siri. Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image
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Addressing Copyright Awareness on Campus

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Although Course 2 was short, it certainly was sweet. I valued the topics that we covered in this course and feel that it is really unfortunate we didn’t have more time to delve into them a bit deeper. The reason I have appreciated the topics of Copyright Law/ Creative Commons and Cyber-bullying is because they are very pertinent issues within schools in the 21st Century, and unfortunately, they are issues that I don’t believe the international school that I work at is addressing well. Although some activities have been done on campus, though only in the elementary and middle school on bullying and cyber-bullying, the campus hasn’t addresses issues related to Copyright violations on campus. This is a grave concern not only because we are educators, or because we need to protect ourselves from liabilities, but because we demand that students adhere to not violating Copyright law in ourAcceptable Use of Technology Policy on campus. It is specifically stated in our policy that an example of unacceptable use includes, “violations of copyrighted material.” That message is clear, but if you ask any student on campus what a violation of copyrighted material is, they won’t be able to tell you.

It would be seen as sacrilegious to not require students to cite resources in research papers and presentations because of plagiarism, but we aren’t doing enough on campus to cover the alternate forms of media we are utilizing. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason this is not happening is because the teachers and administrators aren’t even aware of how to do this, but nevertheless it needs to be addressed.

Our group project for Course 2 consists of mainly teachers who work at either Ruamrudee or Redeemer International School. We came together to collaborate and create a lesson plan that can be utilized on our campus with students to get the word out, now! Many of us teachers who are participating in the COETAIL BKK course have been doing an exceptional job of incorporating technology into our classes by having students blog and by teaching them proper search techniques on Google. We haven’t yet required students in our classes to properly cite images, videos, and music because we haven’t taught them how to do it and explain why it is important to do so. Our lesson plan will be implemented in classes that we COETAIL’ers teach on campus, and will hopefully only be the beginning of awareness on campus.

Each member of the group contributed to the overall lesson plan through design of the lesson, creating an online assessment, searching for resources, or creating a rubric . The final product the students are assigned to create within the lesson plan is a poster that not only educates others on campus about the importance of Copyright law, but also demonstrates how to properly cite a Creative Commons image. Overall, I believe our lesson to be user friendly and hopefully a resource that others can benefit from as well. We will go ahead and make it public on Google Docs and tag it so that other teachers who are tech savvy enough to find it, can use it. After all, isn’t that education is all about?

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Cyber-bullying Challenges

Most folks believe that their school campuses are safe from bullies, and if they were to confront a student bullying another, then of course they would jump in and take action. Well, what if there was no way for teachers to know if bullying was taking place or not? Traditional bullying in the schoolyard has changed to a new platform: cyber-bullying. Especially at the high school level, it is so much easier to talk badly about another student online, rather than to his or her face. This is done in a number of ways, but one of the biggest ways is on Facebook or other social media platforms.

I had a student let me know just last week that he was called “Emo” on a class-wide Google Document that his English class was utilizing as an all class study guide. It ruined his day.  The poor kid felt tormented and couldn’t get it out of his head. With the increasing ways to utilize new technology in the classroom also comes increasingly new ways to abuse these technologies at others’ expense. Having created my own ‘teacher’ Facebook page to keep connected easily with my Student Council students and soccer players, I am blatantly aware of what students are posting. It can be pretty appalling. I’m not sure if the students forget that what they are posting online can be seen by adults, or simply do not care.

I was curious just how many incidents of cyber-bullying the international school I work at (Ruamrudee) had within the past year. Upon asking, I was informed that there were a couple within the past year alone. These are only the cases that have made it all the way to the administrative level at school. How many have gone on without complaints to administration? One of the big issues that cyber-bullying presents for schools is deciding when a school should step in and intervene. Many times the bullying offense is happening off campus, and unless teachers hear about it from the students, we could never find out it happened at all. In fact, we most often than not don’t even have access to the cyber-bullying message without a student sharing this information. Many schools, including Ruamrudee, have a clause within their Acceptable Use of Technology Policy prohibiting harassment of any kind through the use of technology. Our policy states,

“Students may not send or receive anything that violates the Rumarudee International School Technology Code of Conduct, Policy handbook, Parent/Student Handbook or the laws of Thailand. This includes but is not limited to:

  • threatening material or messages
  • harassing material or messages…
  • sexist, racist, or inflammatory material or messages…
  • engaging in bullying or intimidation of any RIS community members through the use of technology on or off campus”

This statement is fairly comprehensive and continues to suggest that any student in violation of the above terms will be subjected to losing privileges to the school’s technology resources. I appreciate that our school includes both on AND off campus violations, but how is this monitored? If a situation comes to light though, and the student is an RIS student, then technically they can be held responsible for their actions off campus as well. I am guessing that the majority of RIS students aren’t even aware of this however. Although the students and their parents have signed an entrance document agreeing to school policies, there are so many of them and I am doubtful that the students actually have read through them all.

This means that the school should be responsible for ensuring that all the students attending fully understand the school policies and remind them of their responsibilities throughout the year. I asked the Director of Pupil Services at our school, who is also the facilitator of our WASC Safe & Secure Environment committee what we have done in regards to educating students about bullying, and more specifically cyber-bullying at school. He shared that the school has done quite a few activities within the home rooms both for the elementary and middle school, but not quite yet at the high school. He went on to mention that he has quite a bit of material after attending conferences specifically tailored to educating the school community on bullying, but that unfortunately under time constraints this hasn’t yet been addressed at the high school level. Considering our high school is a laptop school, issues addressing how to be a responsible digital citizen should be integrated into our curriculum. This can be done in a number of ways, but as the Student Council Adviser at the High School, the easiest way would be to utilize the homeroom representatives and home room teachers to simply even show an educational video and start a dialogue.

Last year I attended a training at Harrow International School run by a non-profit in the United Kingdom called CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online protection Centre. The training was the ICPN Safeguarding Children Training and they discussed at length issues relating to cyber-bullying and teaching students to use the internet safely and be responsible digital citizens. They have a website called Think You Know, which is a great resource for students, teachers, and parents.   CEOP also have quite a few videos on You Tube that can be used to educate students, and are appropriate for varying age groups. The video that I am going to try and utilize at the high school at RIS is titled “Exposed” and attached here. Enjoy. YouTube Preview Image

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Guilty or just hypocritical…

Obviously I am aware of what a copyright is. We see copyrighted material everyday: on books we use, products we consume, and in the media. Basically copyrights are all around us, but it wasn’t until recently that I have actually taken a closer look into what the copyright process is all about.

My first recent experience was in receiving a burned disk of photos from one of my friends. I had my stateside wedding this past summer and a good friend of mine is a semi-professional photographer. Considering this was our second wedding, we opted out of spending a fortune on a most likely cheesy, professional photographer and instead asked friends with talent to partake. A couple of our friends took photos, and one of these collected the choice photos and compiled them for me on a disk. Accompanying the disk was his personal business card and a written statement that said, “Copyright permission given by Jason Guglio”. In passing I thanked him and haven’t really thought too much about it since.

It wasn’t until our past COETAIL meeting that I have come to better understand what my friend Jason was doing, and that in reality he was covering my butt and basically giving me permission to use his photos. As an educator by profession, I am now aware that I am an incredibly guilty individual for utilizing others’ materials without their permission. In fact, what I have done is in fact illegal in some regards and could come back to haunt me. Without giving myself away too much, the last professional presentation that I gave included many visual images, and the majority of them were not from a Creative Commons site or hyperlinked. Even though I spent hours documenting in a bibliography where I pulled my research material from, I never once stopped to even consider that I needed to do this with the images that I borrowed from the Internet.

I believe that this is fairly common though. Teachers typically do a very thorough job teaching their students not to plagiarize.  We ensure that students are writing information in their own words and are documenting where they get ideas from, but we are missing the big picture. In a digital world, students are no longer simply writing traditional research essays with standard bibliographies in APA or MLA format. Students more often than not are assigned to give PowerPoint presentations, create videos, make brochures, etc. It is no longer others’ research, quotes, and ideas that we need to worry about, but rather images, music, and video clips.

This is an interesting topic regardless because of where we currently live: Thailand. Most people download their favorite movies or TV series at home on their laptop, or purchase pirated versions from someone selling them in town. I don’t know if I know anyone anymore that hasn’t ‘file shared’ music. We are all guilty of breaking copyright law individually in some way, even if slight. The real issue though, isn’t always what we are doing behind closed doors in the privacy of our own homes, but it IS an issue as professionals. As educators, we are role models, whether we wish to be categorized as such or not.  We are responsible for teaching others the ‘right’ way of doing things. What happens though if we don’t know what the ‘right’ way is? Whose responsibility is this?

It wasn’t until our first COETAIL class in course 2, that I was even aware of any of this. It blew my mind, and I realize that I am relatively ignorant to what is covered in copyright laws  and what exceptions there are to these. Basically to ensure the motivation for future innovations, copyright laws were put into place to give credit where credit is due, to the creator of a piece of work. This piece of work could be in the form of anything seen or heard basically, but not an idea, but a representation of an idea. Overall, people are not allowed to use this piece of work without the creator’s permission. The exception to the rule falls under what is know as ‘fair use.’ Fair use is not a simple black or white exception to the rule however. It is rather vague in its’ protection and is based on whether the overall “benefit to society outweighs the cost to the creator.” Fair use is determined by a couple of key points including: the amount of the work taken, the nature of its use (must be for specific purposes such as education), and whether or not the original work has been altered at all. For more information on understanding copyright follow the hyperlink.

Currently, I am a bit concerned that most educators may not be aware that any content they use, even if for educational purposes, should be cited and the ways of doing this for various mediums. If the teachers don’t understand proper copyright protocol, how can they expect their students to? Whose responsibility is this? I know that at the international school that I am currently working at (Ruamrudee International in Bangkok, Thailand), our Acceptable Use of Technology Policy explains that examples of unacceptable use includes “violations of copyrighted material.”  Without a clear understanding of what constitutes a violation of copyright, isn’t anyone using technology within the educational institution setting themselves up for a potentially sticky situation? And, if this is the case, who at the educational institution’s duty is it to ensure that this information is disseminated? Why have a policy that is not understood or misunderstood? I suppose the school itself is not liable because it vaguely states this in their technology policy, but are they responsible if their teachers violate copyright without knowledge of copyright protocol?

I am curious how many cases have been brought to court where educators have been charged for violations of copyright. I assume there are many. Now that I am personally aware of how copyright works and what ‘fair use’ is, instead of being paranoid, I would like to have a more solid grasp of understanding of what teachers need to watch out for. While searching for answers to this, I ran across a website titled Fair Use and Copyright for Teachers. This website not only has a couple of questions teachers should ask themselves regarding the piece of work they would be using, but also an easy to read chart explaining how to use different mediums. As an educator, do yourself a favor, check it out!

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COETAIL course 1 comes to a close.

As the first COETAIL course comes to a close, I am realizing that I have bittersweet feelings about this. As much as I am entirely looking forward to summer break and less work, I am also worried that I may not do much of anything to continue building and expanding my Personal Learning Network over the summer. I know how easy it is for me to disengage when I know that nothing is “due”, but I sincerely hope that by signing on to Twitter, creating a more user friendly RSS reader (through Netvibes as opposed to Google’s) and by actually coming into the group of using a smartphone (got mine hooked up last night), that I may continue to connect to the wider community of COETAILers and folks aspiring to enhance educational technology.

Overall, I believe that throughout the course I have learned a tremendous deal, and although I was already using a Google site with my students in the classroom, I feel as though I have opened up my understanding to what resources are available. I think I had a fairly sloped learning curve to get over initially because of the fact that I used to really kind of poo-poo the notion of blogging. Even though I consider myself an open-minded liberal, I can be quite traditional when it comes to technology. I think that this stems from my educational background in Environmental Education/Science and sustainability. Sometimes I feel like it is difficult to merge these worlds. My whole philosophy in the past was to get out and hit the woods in order to feel connected to our environment, and technology is doing this connection in a people oriented approach that isn’t natural at all. I still continue to struggle occasionally with how much I believe we should actually go down the road of technology, but despite my own personal beliefs, the world is headed in this direction and I appreciate all that I have recently learned.

My final project for Course 1 is a unit plan where High School students with special needs will be asked to create an individual blog and utilize this blog within a Study Skills class throughout the school year. There will be specific requirements as to the number of reflective posts and to the content of these. They will include the following:

  • Individual post (s) on individual strengths and limitations
  • Post (s) on individual learning styles and multiple intelligences
  • Personal narrative post (s) on successes and challenges both academically and/or socially
  • Problem solving post (s) on effective strategies for improving their academic and social successes by way of addressing their individual learning needs
  • Creating a Glogster poster on an individual with disabilities similar to their own who has positively influenced society
  • A Wordle post created by a free write on their views of disability awareness

Here is the complete unit plan in Understanding by Design (UbD) format to check out if you are interested.

 

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Implementing school-wide technology tools…

So, I am not sure how others are feeling right now, but I am sure we are all very aware that there is an extraordinary amount of technology resources and web 2.0 tools out there to utilize in the classroom. I am not now going to delve into how overwhelming this can be (that is personal and ranges from teacher to teacher), but I am going to reflect on how best schools should be in following it all. Obviously there is a very wide learning gap between teachers in the same school, section, and department on how much they know and what they are utilizing. I appreciate Ruamrudee’s last all school inservice that focused on technology and trying to “catch up” with the 21st Century learner. This is critical! But is that it? Is that where it stops from the “top down”? Our curriculum department did a fine job of tapping into teacher knowledge and encouraging the facilitation of techny know how, but then what?

I am kind of feeling that that just isn’t enough. Of course it is the curriculum department’s job of continuing professional development and spreading the knowledge, but what about the administrators job? The only reason I am really caught up in reflecting over all of this, is just that there doesn’t really seem to be any continuity, or for that matter, well, any standard and/or basic expectation. I can only imagine how weird it must be for some students to go into one class where they are utilizing a teacher’s online site, posting their homework on Edmodo, asked by the TEACHER to design posters on Glogster, and then go into the next class where everything is lecture based. You know, the old school model where teacher lectures and students listen. End of story. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I know teachers at our school (that should remain anonymous) that couldn’t figure out why their mouse wasn’t working and it ended up being the mouse pad was upside down. No kidding. When is it the administrations responsibility to ensure that teachers have a minimum expectation for use of technology in their classrooms? It is the 21st century, and even though I am aware that most of my students know much more about programs and apps to download software etc. than me, isn’t it the responsibility of teachers to not fall too far behind?

Then, there is the question of whether or not schools should be somehow integrated in what technology resources they are using. Again, it must be somewhat frustrating for students to have to remember what teacher uses what site and all of the various passwords that accompany them. Wouldn’t it make much more sense for a school to set a standard and ask that the teachers’ websites all be from the same resource? I know that maybe this isn’t that big of a deal, and forgive me if I am infringing upon individuals personal freedom of choice in technology tools, but doesn’t some sort of uniformity make sense? Our High School Math department does a great job utilizing Moodle, but everyone else has their own thing going? Is that too much to ask of students? Is it too much to ask of administration to utilize one place even where teachers’ websites can be linked? Unfortunately, at our school the use of Edline is an ongoing saga that incites near rage in most teachers because of its inefficiency. Perhaps within the next couple of years the school will change to Powerschool. Who knows….

Forgive me if I sound like I am ranting a bit, but I feel as though it is pertinent to the progress of the school to somehow address the use of technology with teachers. What is the standard? Do we even have a policy of what we can put on youtube as far as that which our students create? I can understand that in a burgeoning movement such as the use of technology in classes, many of us are simply trying to stay afloat, but isn’t it time for administrators to begin a dialogue and help lead the way? I am curious if anyone knows of policies implemented at their own schools and/or other schools that have proven successful.

 

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Utilizing technology in the classroom…

I have really enjoyed partaking in the COETAIL course because I believe the possibilities are almost endless in how teachers can nowadays utilize technology in the classroom. My mind continually is blown away by all of the new resources that keep coming up. Part of the reason I decided to take the course (aside from the continuing grad credits) was to really try and catch up with what is out there. I believe that I have only just begun to catch a glimpse of  what is out there on the horizon.

Teaching at an international school such as Ruamrudee, I am fortunate to have access to resources in the classroom, even as a Special Needs teacher. We are a laptop school where every student is required to have a laptop with them in each class in the high school. Next year I believe they have decided to pilot this with the 8th graders as well in the middle school. I can’t even imagine teaching without the ability of children going to websites for resources or checking out a link of what we are covering in the class. Just a couple of years ago I was teaching in a public school in the United States and students didn’t have this option. Not to say that many of them didn’t own a laptop or desktop computer at home, but it wasn’t as common. I wonder if things are changing back there to this end…..most likely not unfortunately. That is one of the reasons that charter schools set up from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were so popular on the West Coast before I left. Children had the ability to earn their own computer.

With this privilege of expecting students to have a laptop in the classroom, I see many teachers utilizing technology in the classroom, but probably not nearly enough. Almost everyone at our school has their class online via some sort of website including: Google sites, Wikipages, Moodle, Edmodo, etc. Students are able to access their assignments online and turn them in as well. Many times there are forums for discussions that can be continued outside of class, or Google documents that students can create together. Is this enough though? I do know some teachers that are in the forefront. Teachers that set up Facebook pages for the novels they are reading, or for the World Wars they are studying. Unfortunately though, there seems to be a real gap in teaching today as well. I know older teachers that can’t cut and paste on a Word document, let alone design a website. Where is the medium? Do schools have an obligation to ensure that teachers are in fact utilizing technology in the classroom?

I currently use a Google site for both of the classes that I teach. My Math Skills classes really entail using problems on the board and from a book, but all projects and test reviews are posted. My students in Study Skills class use my Google site everyday to post their daily assignment plan, and then repost towards the end of class to reflect on their progress. I am very interested in the idea though, of having them possibly use Edmodo instead next school year. I also like the idea of my students having to do their own blog that describes their interests, strengths, etc. I believe that this would be a very practical tool for students with Special Needs to self-actualize, as well as have a medium to incorporate self advocacy into it. I am thinking this is a good idea for my project this COETAIL course. I am also very hopeful (soon to be excited when it is ordered) to be getting a Mimio for my white board next year. It makes Math so much more interactive. Below is a quick Youtube clip showing how to use one in case you haven’t heard of them or seen them beforeYouTube Preview Image

I know that these are simply just little ways of incorporating technology into the classroom, and I cannot wait to keep learning of many more resources that I can use. I still do believe though that we are really standing on the precipice of this idea overlooking what is possible. In some ways maybe we are even a little ahead of the game when I think about public school sin the United States. We all know though that it is just going to continue….and I for one am glad that I will not be left behind.

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Ethics and Technology in Education Today

Being part of the COETAIL course has brought to my attention a new awareness of all of the technology actually used in the classroom today with our students. Before I started the course, I wasn’t reflecting and/or scrutinizing all of the various forms of technology both me and my students are using at school on a daily basis and for what purposes. In fact, even last night out in Bangkok with friends, I started to notice just how much one friend was involved with using her I-phone to take pictures, answer comments posted on Facebook in the middle of watching live music. Not to mention that she was immediately posting pictures of us out directly on Facebook. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed being directly connected to the world wide web to look up what restaurant we wanted to eat at, I believe that this rapid increase in utilizing technology brings up some pressing issues.

We are all aware that our students and admittedly us as teachers are engaged in using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues. These tools have broadened our perspective of the world and helped us easily keep connected to friends and family, but at what cost? It is so much easier to text a friend than it is to actually call, but I lose that intimacy. Chatting and texting leaves room for misinterpretation, but much more than that, social media basically posts your life online.

I believe that there should be some sort of safety and ethical instruction and dialogue initiated with our students. In fact, it shouldn’t be limited to the classroom context only. I really wonder how many parents are monitoring what their children’s internet searches entail or who they are chatting to online via Skype. Do they know what their son or daughter posts on their blog or what pictures are in the internet via Facebook of their loved ones. With this new technology comes a responsibility to use it as such, responsibly. For the amount of technology out there used to improve our quality of life, I am really curious if we have missed something.

I did a quick youtube search to see what is out there in terms of teaching ethics related to technology and didn’t find as much as I thought I would find. At our school Ruamrudee, all students are required to take either Religion (if they are Catholic) or Values class. I am honestly a bit disappointed that in Values class, to my knowledge that there isn’t a unit on ethics and technology. Unfortunately bullying on the playground still exists, but it has now moved to chat rooms and Facebook, where frankly many adults who would normally hear and help, can’t see it.

I am not really sure what the ideal solution is to all of this, but I think as educators we really need to make sure that if we are using technology in the classroom and/or allowing its use in our presence, that we should start an ongoing dialogue with our students about how to use it in a safe and respectful way. After all, even if our students are better at understanding and utilizing the technology, we are still responsible for capitalizing on “teachable moments.”

I have attached a short clip I found that addresses these issues and may be short enough to show students in a class just as a starting point for discussion. Enjoy. YouTube Preview Image

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Student example of technology

As a support teacher, I am privileged to help out in some quality classes. I currently support students in a 10th grade Biology class. The following is an exceptional example of how students were able to utilize technology to demonstrate their understanding of classroom material. Student were assigned a group and a topic, in this case Nucleic Acids, and asked to show their understanding in a creative way. A group chose to create a video, similar to those found on Khan Academy, though it is important to remember that these students are only 16 years old and creating this professional project. Please take a look and comment on what you think about this video. YouTube Preview Image

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How is technology impacting our students’ learning?

I hate to think it, but honestly I have recently been imagining what my parents must have felt like when the first computer came out. I can hear the words now, “just what will they come up with next?” This makes me feel old, or perhaps outdated in techy talk. It is amazing to look back on all of the technological advances that have come to be over the course of my relatively young lifetime (hey I am not that old at 32 yet). I grew up with cassette tapes, and was just a kid when the first clunker of a computer came out. I remember playing the “Oregon Trail” educational (or perhaps not so educational) computer game and learning to type with simple computer games in 2nd and 3rd grade. Looking back I was probably a more advanced typer then than I am now.  Anyways, then there was the CD which didn’t last long before music files on I-pods came to be. That clunky computer box is now a sleek handheld device capable of making phone calls, holding your music, keeping your appointments, updating your location to friends and more. In all of these ongoing changes one thing is certain; it is impossible to keep up with all of the new technologies available.

As an educator, and as an individual who grew up as these new technologies have come to pass, I wonder what is my role in all of this? The average student I come in contact with everyday knows much more than myself about the new features on the latest software and how best to download music, videos, etc. It is easy to feel entirely and utterly overwhelmed by this, but I believe that instead of shying away and recoiling in fear of the unknown, it is our responsibility as educators to also become students in order to better understand the new digital era. If we don’t, we will simply be left behind. End of story.

So, how is all of this new technology impacting our students’ learning? This is quite a debate in this day and age of online distractions and ready to use Powerpoints and Prezis. Do we look at the topic in terms of cost benefit analysis? Or, do we simply shrug it off and accept the fact that it is inevitable regardless? Honestly, who knows, but I would like to share my observations as a teacher.

The negative impacts on students’ learning I have observed include:

  • Students continued distractions in class as peers are chatting with them through Skype or Facebook.
  • Students quick fix of automatically going straight to Wikipedia when they need a question answered. (This is obviously a concern on many levels).
  • Students increasing inability to put information taken from the internet into their own words or worse simply cutting and pasting for projects/ assignments.
  • Students increasing inability to critically examine information and big ideas because so much of what they encounter anymore is “shallow” information online.
  • Students not getting adequate sleep at night because they are up too late either playing video games or chatting online with their friends about who said what to whom. (Though to be fair teenage girls did this before, just on the telephone).
  • The possibility of children of this generation developing more attention deficiencies because not everything in “real life” is as attention grabbing as it is online.

I am sure there are many more that I have not yet noticed or reflected upon, though it is important to note that this makes technology look like a bad thing. Obviously we know this not to be true. It is up to each individual person on how they use technology that matters most. There are many positive results of technology that need to be mentioned alongside.

The positive impacts on students’ learning that I have observed include:

  • The ability to access information online in seconds with just a couple of clicks.
  • The ability to work on group projects much more easily outside of school by simply chatting on Skype with their group members or putting a group paper on Google Docs
  • The increased professionalism of their ending products for the classroom. The Keynote, Prezi, videos, brochures, etc that they are capable of creating/ designing for school is unprecedented. (Ten years ago there was an entire career where individuals were paid to design brochures for good money that can now easily be created with simple software).
  • The increased student knowledge and awareness of events taking place around the world  due to their news feeds and Twitter accounts.

Again, I am sure there are so many more examples that I haven’t mentioned. With all of the effects and impacts on students’ learning both positively and negatively, how do we determine what’s best for students? I would be interested to learn about recent studies that have taken place showing the impact on the brain of technology for this generation. Regardless though of how we feel, technology is advancing at neck-breaking speeds and will continue to be integrated in increasing aspects of our everyday lives. What I wonder, is how educators can better incorporate newer technologies into the classroom and begin a dialogue with administration of what is the best and most responsible way of doing this. This is what 21st century education will look like.

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