Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Here’s the follow up to the story of the student who faced expulsion for running a Facebook study group for his chemistry class.  He was not expelled but does have to take a course in academic honesty.  In addition, he’ll get a zero for the homework, which counts as 10% of the grade.

This sounds like a triumph for digital natives over digital immigrants.  But, unlike when I made the first post, now I’m not so sure what I think.  I talked to some of the teachers I was working with this week, and they pointed out that unlike a face to face study group that usually has 5 to 10 members, this group had 146 members.  And, the follow up article makes a crucial point: “The professor had asked that students perform their work independently.”

That sentence hit me hard because I am always arguing that the piece where the immigrants can have an influence on students is in the ethics department.  There is certainly no way that we could argue that working with a group of students in Facebook could be considered doing your work independently.  And, if it was an unstated assumption, then I could back them up.  But, in this case, the professor stated that he expected independent work. Doesn’t he have a right to punish students who violate that stated expectation?

I suppose we could argue about the expectation itself.  We live in a networked world in which the traditional view of a solitary student studying seem outdated.  We live in a world in which students will be working collaboratively to solve problems.  But, we also live in a world in which, now and then, you are expected to work alone.  We live in a world in which we are expected to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  In this case, considering the prof’s expectations, the right thing to do seems to be that you work alone.

I think the most frustrating part of this for me is that we are hearing everything second hand.  The first article did not mention the fact that the prof expected them to work alone.  And, that one sentence doesn’t give enough information: work alone on projects? work alone on homework?


Brenda Dyck, over at wwwedu, posted a link to this article about a Canadian college student accused of cheating because he organized a Facebook study group where students worked together on their homework. Turns out it is the university’s responsibility to make sure that students do their own homework. As the students rightly point out, there are many face to face study groups in which students are working on homework, but none of them have been expelled.

To me, it seems like a clear case of the “digital divide” between young people and adults, with the latter having a misunderstanding of social networking. I’m impressed that students are using Facebook for more than just idle chatter. In addition, I would guess that these future chemists will be collaborating with others throughout their careers so they are getting a good start on that skill as well.

Maybe part of the concern is that once the homework problems are posted this semester, students in future courses won’t have to actually do the homework. Hmm…you mean the instructor might have to find new problems? Or reconsider how to teach the course using Facebook as part of the curriculum rather than banning it?

Just finished reading The American West by Dee Brown, who is probably best known for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the classic history of Native Americans. The American West is a collection of short historical pieces roughly organized in chronological order. It reviews much of the Native American history but also covers railroads, cowboys, and the rise and fall of Western towns. I really enjoyed it, despite having a pretty solid knowledge of much that it covers. My husband and I have explored a good bit of the territory that Brown describes, mostly during our Lewis and Clark trip in 1998.

Part of what made The American West so good was the extensive use of photographs and maps. I think history is often a dull subject to students because it the materials tend to text-based, and unless you’ve got an engaging writer like Brown, the endless dates, names and locations can be overwhelming.  For me,  history lives in the stories that Brown tells and those photographs and maps helped flesh out the story for me.

This morning, I sat down to add the book the my LibraryThing catalog and then started poking around the Library of Congress website. What a treasure trove of visual representations! The site covers not just items in the LOC collection but also links to other sites, such as the University of Washington’s online exhibit about the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. These repositories offer a wealth of materials for the teacher to use but also for digital storytelling projects as well.

I searched the Google maps directory and was surprised that I couldn’t find an overlay about Native Americans or even western history.  What a great project that would be for students who are studying history.  It helps make the link between geography and history.  For instance, the National Park Service has an interactive map for the Battle of Little Bighorn that can be used with Google maps satellite view to better understand the terrain and the battle itself.   I was never very good at deciphering battles from text descriptions so this offers some new understanding.

 I’ve been reading Native American history lately, and I have a draft of a blog post about the American West waiting for a little more work.  So, I eagerly clicked on the link in my gmail this morning that took me to this Discovery Channel article about new archaeological discoveries related to Native Americans.  It seems that, based on mitochondrial DNA, they can be traced to six founding mothers.  The article itself is worth a look, especially for educators, since at the bottom of the first page there is a nice video about the “cool” job of archaeology.

Here’s my question on this early Sunday morning: how did Google know?  Or, was it just a coincidence?  I’m used to the links at the top of the page being related to my email.  In fact, it’s even funny sometimes how they find just the right link to go with whatever I’m reading.  But, as far as I know, I haven’t either sent or received email related to Native Americans.  I have, however, done several Google searches so perhaps that’s where it’s coming from.  Or, maybe, it is just a coincidence.  And, while it worries me a little that Google seems to know a lot about me, I’m also sort of happy since I probably wouldn’t have found the article on my own.

I would like to start by saying that I love my job. Right now, I am preparing for a digital storytelling workshop that I’ll provide over the next two weeks. It is Windows based so I fired up the Dell laptop I’ve got and have spent the last few days playing with PhotoStory and MovieMaker.  I’ll post both video sonce they’re uploaded to YouTube.  (I’ve got them on TeacherTube but didn’t have any luck with embedding them.)  First, I’ll reflect a little bit on the process.

I should start by confessing up front that I use Mac computers exclusively and have even managed to avoid Backpack. I had done a little work with MovieMaker but had only every seen demos of PhotoStory. I was prepared to like the latter program but was sure I would be unimpressed with MovieMaker. I was wrong.

First, I should say that I did like PhotoStory. I drew from digital photos that I already had available and it took about three hours to put together a fully narrated story with a music soundtrack. The only problem I ran into was in using the built-in music creator. I really liked the idea, but it crashed my computer each and every time I tried to save the movie file. I finally resorted to a public domain song I already had and the export worked just fine. Editing was easy, and I’m very happy with the final results.

This morning, I was up early prepared to tackle MovieMaker. I drew on the only material I’ve got: my yard. I shot all the video with my Flip Camera since that’s what my workshop participants will have available. I’ve used the Flip with my macintosh and had only so so results. It seemed much easier with MovieMaker. I just imported the files I had saved from the camera, renamed them, then did some basic editing. A few titles and then I needed some music.

Vivaldi seemed like a good choice. The Mutopia Project had a midi file licensed under the BSD license. I had to convert the midi to wma and used jetAudio, from Cowon to do the conversion.

All in all, I have had a wonderful two days making stories. I put together a wiki page as well.

A colleague posted a link to the TED 2008 video about the Worldwide Telescope. What a fabulous project!

Her video led me to the TED website. What an amazing collection of videos of smart people thinking about the issues of our world. I chose the technology topic and found this video of Peter Gabriel from TED 2006. I’ve been a Gabriel fan since his Genesis days, and he is the reason I’ve been an Amnesty International member for some 20 years. In this video, he describes his WITNESS project, which trains people to use digital cameras to document human rights abuses. The group also works to get these videos distributed and provides a hub where visitors can upload their own videos and view others. It’s a different take on how technology can change the world:

These stories always push me towards those big life questions: why me? why here? My video camera is usually right beside me on the desk, not to capture torture, but to capture birds. What a bucolic life I lead. But, I can add my voice to those who say that this is wrong and who are finding ways to use these collaborative technologies to make it impossible to hide human rights abuses.

So, here’s one of those weird conjunctions of old and new technologies. The website is called Flashcard Friends and allows users to create, tag, and share sets of flashcards. The cards can include audio, video, and images. I did a quick browse and found everything from Spanish to medicine. As someone who has used flashcards to study as recently as a semester or two ago, I’m a firm believer in them as a content learning tool. And, of course, I like just about anything that digitizes a formerly analog process, so this makes sense. But I feel just a little ambivalent as well. I mean, we have this technology that can change everything about how we teach and learn, and what are we using if for? Flashcards! On the other hand, as someone who works with teachers and administrators who are all along the continuum of educational technology awareness and use, this might be the low threshold application that gets them in the door.

Today I am doing a workshop for principals about integrating technology. This is the third workshop with this group: they’ve had the big picture (globalization, 21st century skills), been introduced to some Web 2.0 tools, and now the job is to put all that together and figure out what it looks like in the classroom. If you want a peek at what I’m doing, here’s the link to the wikispaces page.

The page includes a quote from Education Week, January 30, 2008:
“Technologically literate students not only know how to operate hardware and software, they can also analyze the information flowing through it, evaluate that digital content’s relative merit and relevance, and use it creatively and ethically in communicating with others.”

Boy, that’s got to be one of the best summaries of the skills our students need as they move into their lives.  And, according to the article, we are not assessing these skills at all. Oh, there are tests out there, but because NCLB does not require testing, most schools and states are not interested.  Plus, as someone who was involved in Virginia’s SOL technology test, I would argue that a paper/pencil test is not the way to do that assessment.  These kinds of skills must be integrated into everything kids do in school and assessed formatively rather than summatively.

No Limits

An excellent article from my colleague, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach.  I’m am becoming increasingly convinced that getting technology into schools in powerful ways in going to happen one classroom, one teacher, and one school at a time.  And, the best way for that to happen is the way Sheryl is doing it and the way I hope VSTE will do it:  telling stories.

From a colleague of mine as part of a discussion of protecting privacy:

Sorry, if you’re offended that I embedded it, but you need the effect before the story. Here’s the AP version. And, here’s Doug Feaver’s take on it at the Washington Post. Feaver reviews comments from readers on the story. He says, “I’m with the kid, but of course a recording of whatever message he left has not been made available so perhaps I would have a different view if it were.” That’s what I thought was interesting. The only person who can publish Kori’s message is the administrator’s wife. And, as long as we can’t hear Kori’s message, we really can’t judge for ourselves. Did she delete it? Or, is she just not adding fuel? Or was it a pretty reasonable message and she just overreacted? In the end, it probably doesn’t matter, but like, Feaver, I wonder in whose favor the pendulum of public opinion would swing if we heard the original phone message.

Here were two of my favorite back and forth comments about the incident:

readerny said, “I don’t agree with the tirade by the woman who answered the call, BUT as an employer of young adults, I can say that there are some (not all) who are overempowered and think that they know the whole story, or more than you do, and should be running the show themselves…”

But Nicester wrote, “Overempowered kid” and “self-centered youth” – OK, that’s one perspective. Sounds a bit like “whippersnapper” or whatever the Greatest Generation was calling the Baby Boomers when they were dropping acid and rolling in the mud at Woodstock…”

I just feel sorry for this woman, sacrificed on the altar of the digital generation gap. And, like the story about Heath Ledger and the blogs, it’s a story about the future of “news” in the 21st century. What if the kid hadn’t had access to the Internet? He might have sent the tape to the television news, but they have may have demanded to have his recording. He gets to bypass all those gatekeepers and tell his side of the story in a way that kids have never been able to do.

In the end, I find her tirade to be funny rather than offensive. “Snot-nosed brats” was the worst of it. It is more important as a reminder that digital recording and distribution is almost transparent, and perhaps will finally lead to people living by the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” We have left behind the era of deniability.

I’m tagging this one 21st century skills because I wonder how this fits in? I’m also going to tag it adult learning 😉