Category Archives: Technological World

Cellphone Use in Classroom topic on a roll

I rushed to the CTV studios right after school yesterday and did the taping for Province Wide. I was 15 minutes late after getting out of the building and then finding on my drive that Wellington Street was closed. I was a little frazzled but managed to shake it.

Daiene asked me what I thought about banning cell phone use in schools and I explained I felt it was sad that some boards that ban the devices are missing out on opportunities to teach students about appropriate use. We chatted about parents who don’t know how to set boundaries as role models for students and how students need to work through their compulsion so they don’t end up like the generation before them. What a great opportunity for education to guide them through this. By the way, Daiene’s cell phone went off during the taping and we had to re-start a question. Her daughter needed a ride home and I had probably kept her later since I came in a little late. It really wasn’t her fault, but it was still pretty funny.

After supper, my husband showed me a news post on the Internet that Premiere Dalton McGuinty had been asked by Toronto reporters what he thought about cell phones in the classroom. The Toronto Board had just announced it had decided to review its cell phone policy. I immediately thought, “Yeah Neil!” Neil Andersen, who appears in my documentary is a retired media consultant for the Toronto Board of Ed. I was so glad that people were starting to talk about the issue. It’s been a long time coming.

This morning I was surprised to see a negative backlash to what McGuinty had said. All he had said was that schools need to help students find appropriate use for ell phones in the classroom and that we need to consider a place for them. That’s exactly what I had been saying Tuesday morning. I guess the fear-mongers ran with that one and attacked him for not considering the distraction of cell phones in the class. It’s strange how people can twist things out of proportion because bringing them in to class is what we needed to do in order to deal with the compulsion to be on call. I wish people could see my documentary so they could understand the issued a lot better.

Before lunch, I got another call from the office that the CBC had been trying to get a hold of me again. CBC’s radio syndicate requested 11 interviews for between 3 and 6 PM. I’m so glad I got up early this morning to write down some of the counter talk I could expect from people. It came in handy on the circuit. Some interviews went easily with talk show hosts that were open to the issues, but a couple went much tougher with the announced out in Halifax calling himself a curmudgeon and David Gray calling me crazy. I think David was just upset because I caught him on one of his own points. He said that teens shouldn’t have cell phones in the classroom to use as tools because it’s unfair to the ones who don’t have them. I said it was an easy fix and that I had never had a problem with it. Students work in groups and the ones that have them are quite happy to share. He asked me if I really thought it was okay to ask the kids who have cell phones be asked to share with the ones who don’t. I explained again that the haves are quite willing to share with the have-nots if you ask them, it’s not a requirement. The haves don’t mind sharing their phones while working in groups and don’t see it as a big deal. It’s all in how you use them in class and that’s something the teacher can set up with the students; is how and when to use them. David asked “isn’t that drawing a line between the haves and the have-nots? Shouldn’t we level the playing field?” I said, “Are you saying that students should miss out on deeper opportunities for learning just to level the playing field when teachers can create equal learning opportunities through putting students into groups? He quickly changed the question.

There’s several more points I made through 3 hours of talks. The battle with David Gray really stuck out because he challenged me. I have taped some of the interviews and will go over them to accumulate some of the issues that were raised and post them later. I also want to write about the questions my students had for me today. We had a great discussion on the fears that people have around texting. I could tell they had been sitting around the supper table talking with their parents about it. Great questions included: “is texting making us become more anti-social?” and “is texting ruining our ability to spell correctly and use proper grammar?” I will save these discussions for the next post as this one is getting quite long.

The Lone Shooter

I miss having my friend Mike with me on shoots. We were a great team. Mike took the stills and looked after the audio while I operated the camera. This year I have been filming on my own a lot. I feel like one of those one-man bands with a drum attached to my front and a drumstick rigged to my arm, harmonica at my lips, tambourines in between my knees and a horn on my belt. I often wonder if that’s kind of how I look to people when I go out on shoots.

I find it tough to have to think about and monitor all the equipment myself. I’ve been interviewing people while having an ear bud placed in my ear to monitor for interfering background sounds. I am constantly scanning the camera viewer for proper headroom, noseroom, leadroom, light balance, tonal mergers and the audio v/u levels. My mic stand holds the boom now and I’m constantly checking it so that it’s not in my shot, so that it’s pointed in the right direction, so that it’s not placed where someone will trip over it.

Over the next two months I will be flying solo to Boston, Vancouver and the U.K. to shoot my documentary. I’m having nightmares already of forgetting to white balance, charge my batteries, put a battery in the boom, plug my XLR in all the way, forgetting to check for stereo sound and failing to format my SDHC card properly. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a shoot, especially when there’s no one else looking out for you. Just as the airplane pilots will be doing before taking me away to shoot my doc, I’m going to follow a standard checklist. I’ll post it once it’s finished, though it’s specific to my equipment set-up. Maybe I’ll even have a story later on about how the checklist saved a shoot.

Teetering between Digital Immigrant and Digital Native

photosteve101 / Foter.com / CC BY

The initial panic is wearing off from being back at school. I think I’ve come to terms with the the fact that I won’t see my family again until August.

There is a lot of reading, which I initially tried to read off the computer screen. I have since printed off the articles, highlighted passages and written notes in the margin. I do have the technology to write sticky notes in the columns of PDFs and highlight text but I don’t seem to retain the information in the same way. There’s something about feeling the paper in hand and putting the geographical positioning of the passages into photographic memory that makes me connect better with the text than a screen scroll on a computer. This brings to question whether it’s a digital native versus digital immigrant issue. I don’t think that it is.

My brain has seemed to re-wire itself over the past 10 years though I am considered a digital immigrant. I have much evidence of this transition, especially since going back to school. I had to re-learn how to write with a pen. Yes, I know how strange that sounds, but it took a long time to 1. choose between printing and cursive for speed and legibility, and 2. I couldn’t remember what my style of hand-writing looked like. The only time I had been using pen and paper was to write short shopping lists and to-do lists.

So far, I have discussed only the use of tools, but even my processing of information is slowly changing back. I am a little better able to focus on individual tasks one at a time again. Since, re-gaining this skill, I found my level of comprehension has gone up. Before, I had gotten to the point of multi-tasking so much with technology that I couldn’t even remember what other tasks needed completion.

Three weeks ago, I was trying to read an article for school on my computer when I came across a word I needed to look up. The word was “inchoate” (which is quite funny, because that’s how I’ve been through this whole transformation). I ended up searching the Internet for the meaning of the word and got lost in different information as links led to other links, leading me away and on to other topics.

I made a point of disciplining myself and returned to read my article and my thoughts drifted to another class of mine. We had been discussing how Facebook looks at your profile and tailors the sidebar advertisements to your interests. That reminded me of a great book I read called, “Feed”. (spoiler alert) The book was about a futuristic society in which when children when born, typically, they were implanted with a chip. The chip monitored a person’s interests and formed demographic and psychographic profiles in order to offer geographical services and products right to the brain throughout life. “Feed” focused on two teenaged characters. One had a late implant and as a result, she could at times, willingly disconnect herself from the feed. Because she was still able to think for herself, she ended up playing with the system and giving out messages to the chip that she was interested in things outside her demographic and psychographic profile like expensive cars and things that didn’t make sense for her lifestlye. It was an informal experiment she was trying out (I won’t spoil the book entirely, but the act leads to her demise). The other teen had the implant from birth and couldn’t decide things for himself, couldn’t concentrate, and couldn’t form coherent full sentences. He let the feed guide his movements and activities. Ironically, I couldn’t remember the author’s name, but I was trying so hard to finish my reading that I resisted looking up the information. When I got to the end of the article, I couldn’t remember what it was I wanted to look for. I even posted on Facebook that I was having difficulty remembering something I knew I wanted to look up, complaining and blaming multi-tasking with technology. When I stepped away from the computer and went to have a shower, it was while rinsing my hair that I remembered what I wanted to look up.

I am frightened for the digital natives. Their ability to retain information in their long term memory by connecting and making attachments is at risk largely due to the distractions precipitated by the act of technological multi-tasking and short spans of time with information. Stephen Kotler wrote an article in the May 2009 edition of Psychology Today in which he wrote,

“The harm being done by Twitter is the harm it’s doing to the brain. The average user goes tweet-tweet all day long. This tunes the brain to reading and comprehending information 140 characters at a time.

No one’s yet done the research, but I’m willing to bet my lunch-money, that if you take a Twitter-addicted teen and give them a reading comprehension test, their comprehension levels will plunge once they pass the 140 word mark.”

Kevin Parrish wrote an article in Tom’s Guide, published in September of 2009 about research done by Dr. Alloway, that suggests that Kotler is right.

“As reported by the Telegraph, Dr. Tracy Alloway, working out of the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that working memory is the ability to remember information, and actually put that information to use. After extensive research in working memory, she believes that success and happiness stem from this ability rather than having high IQs. She also believes that certain video games can train working memory, especially those that involve planning and strategy.

Although Facebook offers “thinking” games such as Sudoku, managing friends and dates on the social website exercises the working memory. Twitter, YouTube and texting, on the other hand, isn’t exactly healthy. “On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct,” said Dr Alloway. ”You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.””

Alloway’s work was done with 11-14 year old test subjects. Perhaps, it would also be beneficial to study those of us that teeter on the wall between the digital natives and digital immigrants. It might also be worth studying younger teachers for the added benefit of revealing the impact on the development of a new “educational model”.

Digital Divide

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About 6 years ago, I noticed a real change in my students. They were refusing to write notes in class, claiming they could keep all the information in their heads and anything they didn’t understand they could just look up on the Internet later. They also started sneaking cell phones into class and trying to text eachother under the table. Even parents were calling their cell phones while they were in class. Surely, these students were learning, thinking, and communicating in a different way. This made me wonder how we as teachers need to change our teaching methods to “speak in the same language” as our youth.

My goal at Ryerson is to produce a documentary that explores the digital divide between generations in the form of a documentary.