Tag Archives: technology

Evolving role of technology in Differentiated Instruction

culinary-fruits-front-view_lAuditory, kinesthetic, visual. Why is it that when we talk about differentiated learning, we so often focus on just the sensory aspect of communicating how we learn best? Applying Dr. Howard Gardner’s inventory of multiple intelligences towards differentiated learning and instruction adds another layer through manipulating interest-driven categories for the sake of engagement and identifying strengths and skills. This is all good stuff and we could all put our heads together and write a huge list of technological tools that would aid us in meeting goals of differentiated instruction on this basis. Heck, we could even Google it. But how else can technology be used to aid our various learners?

We talk about the engagement and input/output communication pieces in differentiated learning. But, we don’t always talk about differentiating the “processing” piece on the road to cognition. We see the words, “more time needed” under accommodations on IEPs, but this really just addresses the issue of speed and has little to do with key entry points of time during the learning process. This is where technology’s strength comes in. Besides holding various forms of communication (sensory included), technology’s brawniness is in it’s access, and access allows us to play with time. Instead of focusing on just the speed of processing, we could be thinking about how technology can help us manipulate “when” in the learning the differentiated aids for processing can step in.

The processing entry points we’re all most familiar with take place during and after the lesson, a carry-over practice from the late 20th century. I believe part of the reason why “flipped learning” has become so popular is because it addresses an earlier point of entry by allowing learners to “play” with the content first and make their own meaning and connections with it. Technology allows us to post content in an effort to initiate learning before that content is addressed in a face-to-face location. It also serves to lengthen the time of processing between learning stages by adding reflection time. This is a key strategy for some learners who may rely heavily on this early stage in the learning process for fuller comprehension.  It’s also worth noting that flipped learning could employ more than just posting videos before class. Remember, teachers are working to address all types of learners at various stages in the learning process.

How are you using technology to aid differentiated learners through these stages of process and reflection? If you use the flipped learning model, do you continue to use technology in differentiated ways through these stages to reach all learners? Would love to hear some of your stories.

Thanks to Carlo Fusco, Christy Wood, and Elaine McKenzie for challenging me to think more about technology’s role in differentiated learning while at the very recent Eduhop event in Kitchener.

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC BY

Music Albums: Down in a “Blaze of Glory”

 

Jon Bon Jovi told the London Sunday Times magazine that iPods and other digital mediums have destroyed the business, saying, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like…God, it was a magical, magical time. A generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ “ He added, “Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

 

Jobs actually saved what was left of the music industry by helping artists find a way to monetize what was left after illegal downloading nearly finished it off. Though digital technology finished killing off the music album of our beloved past, it certainly didn’t start here. Remember making mixed tapes for your friends and lovers? “Theme” tapes were popularized in the 80’s when recordable audiocassettes became widely available. Couples would pull their albums off the shelf and select songs that helped them express how they really felt for that special someone. Others would make party tapes of the greatest hits, recording off the radio, off other tapes, and of course off vinyl albums. My brother would argue that the gleaning of thematic or top-rated songs from albums happened even earlier in time, as his friend’s father was a D.J. in the 70’s and used his reel to reel machine to create mixes, but notice I’ve used the word “popularized” to describe the recording of mixes in the 80’s, as production of this blank recording media took off.

 

In Canada, recording artists demanded that the government add a special surcharge to each blank tape sold, called a Private Copying Levy that is set by the Copyright Board of Canada and currently collected by the Canadian Private Copying Collective. Still, music lovers everywhere abused, and continue to abuse the privilege to make a personal private copy of their albums. CD ripping and digital file sharing has just amplified the “pick and choose” landscape that had already begun with the proliferation of making mixed collections on blank cassette tapes.

 

Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the old music album of our youth. Can you genuinely name a recent album that has come close to the ones we worshipped way back when? I’m not knocking today’s music. I just think we’ve entered a new era of “singles”, “doubles”, and maybe if the music is hot enough, “triples”. So, what did those long albums have back then, that others today don’t? Two of my favourites, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love both tell stories throughout their albums. This single narrative weaving its way through the entire album had a cohesiveness that would have been sacrilege to separate. But, do today’s youth listen to albums the same way we did? Research shows more than ever, that youth are prone to flipping through music, often not even finishing a song before going on to the next. The music trough is so full and the market so saturated with choice, that when you combine the wide availability with the way hyper-mediated youth switch their attentions so much quicker than we did, the dying of the music album seems like an obvious end.

 

So, what’s left then? The simple answer is the consumptive experience. Bon Jovi is just going to have to get used to hitting the road for more tours, ‘cause that’s where the money’s at.

(photo courtesy of: By Maxime Felder (originally posted to Flickr as iPod Battle 2) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Technological Determinism VS Social Determinism in Education

Greg Williams, Creative Commons

I work in education, an area that is slow to roll with the times of change. Technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our students, as youth continue to embrace mobile technologies. Yet, there are many educators who just want to shut the door on technology, claiming that it is too much of a distraction. Common are the complaints about texting at inappropriate times, teen compulsion to stay connected 24/7, and the disruptive nature of incoming calls and texts… and the complainants are absolutely right. It is disruptive. There is no disputing that. But we need to ask, “why is technology disruptive?”

 

The shorter answer has its beginnings in big businesses’ quest for ultimate productivity carried over from the turn of this century when it was thought that multi-tasking meant more work would always get done. The longer and more pertinent answer to the question at hand is that technology is not being used for its greatest benefits because adults haven’t been around to guide youth in setting boundaries and defining good purpose for use. We’ve left youth out on a limb to discover possibly the most life-altering evolution of their lives all on their own. This, at a time when McLuhan’s description of technology being extensions of the self has never had more resonance.

 

Technological determinism does not happen in isolation. Human beings have the opportunity to mold technology just as much as technology has to mold us. Teachers need to help set the parameters for use by embracing technology, teaching good purpose, and modeling appropriate use both academically and socially.

Cellphones in the Classroom: A Response

I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity around using cell phones in the classroom. I thought it time to respond to some of the statements I commonly hear:

“I think cell phones don’t belong in the classroom. They are a major distraction and are not worth the trouble they can cause. How can you regulate a student’s personal cell phone? How can you keep them from texting each other and help them to remain on task? What do you do about students who don’t have cell phones? How will they participate? What happens to their self esteem when they don’t have a cell phone to pull out with the rest of the class? What about the students with really nice phones? How do you keep them from getting stolen? I could go on and on… cell phones in the classroom are not a good idea.”

Here’s my response:

We can’t forget that cellphones are powerful mobile mini-computers. There is a period of normalization that occurs with any new technology. We need to guide students through digital citizenship and appropriate use. We also need to get to the point in which students are self-regulating, which means some initial guiding and regulation on our part as teachers working with students. I guess what we have to ask ourselves is “do we want to pretend we don’t know students are texting behind our backs anyway” or do we want to be open and find an opportunity to teach them appropriate use and guide them towards self-regulation by helping them manage their attention?

Try putting students in groups when not all your students have cell phones. You’ll find the “haves” are willing to share with the “have-nots” during this time as many have data plans (though you should never insist on sharing and I can bet it would be a very rare case that someone objects anyway). This way everyone gets an opportunity for deeper learning, instead of no one. Working in groups of 3 or 4 is great. If you’re worried about the self-esteem of the ones who don’t have phones, it’s not like they don’t already know who the “have” and “have-nots” are. I remember back in high school when many of the girls around me were wearing designer clothes and I was wearing regular clothes. It’s a life lesson they’ve already learned.

I’ve actually never had a cell phone stolen in class before. When they’re out in the open, it’s pretty obvious which phone belongs to whom and kids rarely let them out of their sights. Though yes, it is a potential problem and you would need to share those risks with your students.

Right now students are texting with their phones because it’s a great tool in their social world, as they look for ways to keep adults out of a space while they work to find their identities. They engage in shifting social circles as they try to establish long-lasting friendships like the ones we now have in adulthood. I have spoken with students who feel pressured by their friends to text back immediately upon receipt. They get into a dangerous cycle of compulsion that is full of internal interruptions and social pressure. This is very different from how adults use texting. We can take our time getting back to people without feeling quite the same stress. As teachers we can try to get rid of the external interruptions in their environment but they will find ways around it. Controlling their external environment by banning cell phones does nothing to quell the internal interruptions that take place in the head, repeatedly popping up and reminding them to “take a look at that screen” and check where they stand in each other’s friends’ lists. In order to help kids control their compulsion, we need to teach them how to become autonomous.

We need to teach kids how to become self-regulators and how to engage in appropriate social etiquette. This can happen through allowing use at appropriate times during class, guided by helping them manage the type of attention required of the task at hand. We do this through adult guidance, attention cuing, mentorship, and teaching digital citizenship. You can’t teach these when you ignore what they’re doing anyway and your risk putting yourself outside of their world.

I produced a 37-minute documentary on this topic for my Masters. I interviewed David Buckingham, author and Director of the London Knowledge Learning Lab; Danah Boyd, author, Berkeley fellow and researcher for Microsoft and Harvard; Linda Stone, retired Executive from Apple and Microsoft; Dr. David Meyer, Psychology professor at the University of Michigan; and Neil Andersen, author, media consultant, and speaker with the Association for Media Literacy. I also interviewed teachers and school administrators, parents, and most of all..teens. You can view some of the clips from my documentary at www.janemitchinson.ca

The Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory / Stock Photos

The story out of Vancouver this week about visuals of the gang rape of a teen-aged girl being passed around Facebook and cell phones was so horrifyingly sad. The speed of transfer of information can seriously amplify situations when teens are not taught digital rights and responsibilities. We have to remember that it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the use of the technology. The user’s values dictate the way a medium is used. This is why we need adults to be present in teen social space as guides. We can do this partly through the implementation of a mandatory digital citizenship and literacy course in all our schools. Teens need adults who are available to them and can be trusted to act on their behalf.

I do not advocate for complete invasion of teen social space, but we need to have a presence. This is a very delicate balance since teens need some of their own private space to practice socializing within youth circles and for finding their identities. If they feel adults are encroaching too far into this territory, they will look for alternate spaces to keep adults out. That’s what made texting among youth popular in the first place.

The lack of empathy and humanity these youth showed is heart-breaking. The keen interest and voyeurism displayed over such a violent act -alarming. We have to ask ourselves what society will look like in the future if we fail to find the delicate balance of adult presence in teens’ online and linked worlds.