Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Article: Does more technology equal less reading?

In the Tech and Learning, November 2, 2010 issue the article Does More Technology Equal Less Reading? Jumped out at me. I am an avid reader, and have often wondered about this. My son especially spends most of his time on the computer, ipod touch and DSi--and does not enjoy reading for pleasure. My daughter goes through phases, but lately she's been online more than not. She does, however, spend a good bit of this time on websites such as StoryBird--and with this, I take no issue.  The article states that research shows kids between the ages of six and seventeen spend more time texting or surfing than reading for fun. The authors quote a study done by Scholastic, "2010 Kids & Family Reading Report" which compares the percentages of time spent reading books, performing physical activities, and engaging with family, and how technology has stolen this time from these and other important activities.  However, that same study demonstrated that technology actually motivates children to read in different scenarios. A vast amount of students aged nine to seventeen report they would enjoy reading an e-book, and that they would actually be more likely to read using the same.

The report reads: While only 25% of kids have read a book on a digital device (including
computers), many more (57% of kids age 9-17) are interested in doing
so. When asked if they would read more books for fun if they had access
to eBooks, one-third of kids age 9-17 of kids said yes, including frequent
readers (34%), moderately frequent readers (36%), and even infrequent
readers (27%) http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr

Over the holidays my daughter (nine) asked me to go to the library for a book. They didn't have the book she wanted, so she wanted to go to the bookstore to buy it. I decided to first look on my NOOK to see if it was there. When I found it, I bought it immediately and surprised her with it. At first she was hesitant, and it took a long time for her to get used to the buttons and different feeling of the device. She ended up reading the entire book in two days and asked for another one. I did give in and ended up buying her two more. When we got to the third book, she asked if she could just "go back to reading real books". I honestly was shocked, but actually glad. Granted, she is a "reader", but I'm happy she didn't fall for this new "toy" as so many have. On the other hand, my four year old is reading because of her use of our IPAD. The games are easy to understand and fun to learn. She enjoys books, but I have a feeling she will be one of those who prefer technology to "real books". I'm not sure if I should do something to try to maintain balance--or just let it run it's course. I'm not sure what good this study does when there is still the issue of equal access to technology...and if it's a step in the right direction, or making excuses for kids who just don't want to read. I'm all for technology, and I do enjoy my Nook! However, how can we keep up? I've only had my device a few months, and there is already a much nicer version available. Is it that kids just want the newest "hot" thing, or is there something truly magical about reading something with virtual pages rather than paper ones? I have mixed feelings about this, but am glad the article got me thinking. By the time I'm in a classroom again, this query will most likely be moot anyway!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teachers need to provide equal access to the digital world to all learners...

The whole idea of technological equal access for students is spot on. However, many variables come into effect. Once a school system has the funding to provide enough computers to put in the classrooms, or even into a lab this can be one step closer to the goal. However, there is never a guarantee that any one student has the technology at home. When classwork become too dependent on technology, and students don't have the access, learning may be hindered. Many school systems are aiming for every high school student to have their own laptop. If/When this is finally set into place, the limitations will be lessened greatly. I'm not certain how a single teacher can take on providing equal access, but he/she can certainly make aware those to do make such decisions. If the only access to a computer a student has is at school, homework/projects need to be limited and more flexible. There could be an occasion where a school system cannot afford what might be needed to successfully "keep up" with the most current and up to date technology. When the teachers cannot have the access, it is impossible for students to have the same. Thus, it is imperative that those who do have this luxury demonstrate the true importance of moving forward in this technological world in which we live. There is a student in my child's class who is not allowed to use the one and only computer in their home. We live in a upper middle class town, and the schools are more than prepared to supply anything a student might need when it comes to technology. Yet, this student has one 30 minute session a week in a computer lab. Since the teacher is aware of the issue, it seems she would take the extra time during the week to enable this student to have ample time to master the basics. As it is, he spends the majority of the computer lab time asking questions, where the rest of the kids get that practice at home. On the other hand, I have a friend who teaches in a school in Arkansas where there are only two students who have home computers. They, too, have a computer lab. She spends the first ten minutes of class each time going over the basic steps, and she even has some student "experts" now. She allows them to use the classroom computer as much as possible, and makes sure everyone is comfortable with whatever new technology she introduces. She recently spoke to the school board defending the importance of technology in the classroom. She has no computer training herself, but defends its importance on a daily basis. To just assume that we live in the perfect little world where everyone is fortunate to have access to technology (or "too bad if you don't" as my child's teacher) is a tragic mistake. We should, as educators, always be seeking ways to improve, and setting the "equal access" goal as priority is a great start. It may not be easy, but knowing there is no escaping it should be a good shove in the right direction!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

K12 Online Conference: Learning on My Own

The title of this one grabbed me. I'm intrigued by the idea of allowing students to study what they choose--so was curious about this title. The more I listened, the more I "get it". The teacher had her students create Wiki accounts. I'm just learning about these myself...so it had my attention. She had one 3rd grade student who decided to write a review on a play he attended. A fifth grader saw it, then decided to run with the idea. He became a reviewer--critic so to speak of varying plays. He was inspired to see plays by his dad, who was in Iraq. his father was able to see his reviews, and make comments. This was a learning adventure! How amazing is technology where a student can start by doing something as an assignment, then make it into something completely enjoyable and meaningful for himself.  His teacher had decided that turning over ownership of learning to the student made all the difference in this child's life. He said that he became a better writer because he knew that others all around the world would be reading what he wrote--and he wanted them to be able to understand him. He learned how to be specific with his questions (online searches) in order to receive the best possible results from his query. This student blossomed because his teacher gave him guided freedom. He told her that she was his favorite teacher. When she asked why, he responded, "because you let me learn what I know is good for me to learn...and you trust me". This is so key to the education environment! Encouragement, motivation to learn, and support are the basis for a great education for all ages.

I'm not sure how to take this approach with every subject area, but in technology, this teacher nailed it.