Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You Smarter Than A First Grader?

     Sound like a game show? Maybe? A play on words? Perhaps? How I am feeling about now? A definite maybe.
     My AIC partner, Scott, and I have been charged with creating tech competencies for kids k-8, but we are starting with k-3 first. So the question is...what can a first grader do with technology? If they can't really read yet, how can they be expected to type? Seriously, what should a seven year old be able to do at the end of first grade with Word, saving, opening files, logging on, etc...
      ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) has some clear standards for students and teachers to obtain through the use of technology. The standards include such things as creativity, collaboration, research, problem solving,  digital citizenship, and tech operations. All great ways to look at integrating technology. Kind of our battle cry in the AIC office...'It's Not About the Technology'.
     I totally buy into the standards, but at what point do kids need to become adept at using programs such as Word, Excel, and other similar programs. It's supposed to be integrated, but for the little guys, how do you integrate without some basic instruction? Classroom teacher responsibility? Tech coaches?   Not really sure who it falls upon.  Lord knows that teachers have enough to do. To take the time to stop and do some log in instruction, formatting a page, how to save, etc...coupled with equipment that is a bit slow on the uptake, and a genuine concern arises. Wait, we haven't even mentioned the variable of those teachers that are comfortable with technology vs. those that are not.
     Think of your child being in the class whose teacher does not use technology or isn't tech savvy? Wouldn't you as a parent have the expectation that your child should have some type of tech education...even in first grade?
      Maybe it's in the expectation?  If we fear that they can't do it, or we are wasting time, or they will just sit there, then nothing will get done.  What if I just go into a first grade classroom, have them open up paint, and let them go to town?  What's the worst that could happen?  At least I have them on the computer!  More than I would guess some fist grade teachers are doing...but that's a whole other blog.
     So, that's the dilemma. What can the little guys do? What can't they do? Who has the responsibility to educate them in all areas of technology. Integration...absolutely. but unless I (we) can figure out some real specific goals for students to achieve, how do we know what to expect them to do??
    Did I say fifth special?

    Please leave a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back to the Stone Age...Really?

     As all good educators do, I subscribe to a newsletter to stay informed of trends, studies, and general education news.  eSchool News hits my e-mail in-box a few times a week.  When I get the chance to read through an article, I find that spending some time reflecting or discussing with my colleagues helps me to form an opinion on a particular topic.  Case in point, this weeks edition made me really stop and think about my role as a tech coach and the kids I interact with each day.

    The idea of back to the stone age comes from Pulitzer Prize nominee and New York Times bestseller Nicholas Carr's, book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain .  It was the focus of an eSchool News article this week.  In a nutshell, Carr explains that throughout history, man has had to make shifts as to how we process information.  Think about early maps and how man had to shift his thinking of the world around him.  Today, we have an unfathomable amount of information available to us and our mind has begun to shift.  Carr quotes in the article that according to recent studies,  "For an average adult, time devoted to looking at screens per day averaged 8.5 hours, whereas time devoted to reading from pages per day averaged 20 minutes."  Our mind has begun to shift on absorbing and organizing information, and not taking the time to process and evaluate.  

     Although I do not find this hard to believe, I do find my self wanting to jump from e-mail to twitter to facebook to EdModo to e-mail,,,,and the cycle continues.    As a colleague says, 'It's not multi-tasking. it's uni-tasking in micro-seconds'. 

     Carr raises concern that with all the technology to engage students now available, combined with info overload, students are moving away from the ability to develop intuitive thinking and problem solving.  The brain is constantly processing information and not taking the time to fully process.  Amen to that!  Maybe that explains when I get up from my desk to go do something, I can't remember what it was I got up to do!

      In the past two weeks, I've witnessed many students when being introduced to some new technology,(EdModo, Animoto) have little if any patience in waiting for things to load, or actually take the extra 30 seconds to process what they are actually reading on the screen. NO effort at all to problem solve, just a simple raise your hand, and claim 'I don't know what to do', or 'Mine doesn't work'. 

    As an avid follower of this blog, as I know so many of you are, my battle cry now and for the last who knows how many years, was 'Figure It Out For Yourself' I wanted kids to stop and think for a moment as to how they could solve a problem on their own.  Is it quite possible that students today are unable to FIOFY due to the technology that has bombarded them?  Are we teaching kids not to be able to think for themselves?  Come to think of it, why do we require kids to memorize things when all they have to do is 'Google' what information they need from the palm of their hand. 

     A tech coach lamenting the use of technology?  Really?  Well kind of.  As we meet with teachers and begin to discuss and explore new ways to engage students and have them collaborate, the discussion always turns to, 'It's not about the Technology'.  What do you want the kids to do?  Goal?  Objective?  Once clearly defined, then we can match the technology.  The district spends gobs of money for technology.  (not all wisely, in my opinion),  New Ipads, minis, Smartboards, etc...won't make them smarter, or score higher on the PSSA.  It's the teachers who lead, direct, and focus their students on ways to problem solve, think, and be creative.

   Now I don't think that we will regress to Stone Age thinking, although that was probably a much simpler time.  Carr makes some good points.  We do need to use technology more as a tool, rather than a crutch. We need to focus more on getting kids to think about the problem more and not just how quickly my laptop loads or how to change my profile picture. 

  I sure hope that "Figure It Out For Yourself' is not etched in stone.

eSchool News Article - Technology might be returning us to Stone-Age thinking