Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the last post for #IUP574?

So it looks like this is the last post for the semester. I guess I should reflect on my model and how it's changed.
Here's the original:

This was meant to be a metaphor of how time and timing is of utmost importance in implementing technology in classrooms. It also represents the cyclical nature of iterations. And as a bonus each of the pictures is a model of it's own. The light bulbs aren't only ideas but also thoughts.
Thoughts or principles like in the Computer Clubhouse we read about this week. The Computer Clubhouse was founded as an after-school center for inner-city low SES youth to gain experience with technology in a responsible and profesional manner.

Then I made this new model last week. It is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, which most people understood. But for those who didn't let me emphatically state that this is very satirical:

Here you can see the children of the world, a very peaceful and happy world, full of joy because they all have iPads. First of all, the iPad isn't really designed for empowering users to create media, it is much more about offering a unique and familiar way to consume media. This is the model is the opposite of the Computer Clubhouse. But look how happy those kids are!

I think there is merit to the iPad like this model claims. I think it would fit in very neatly with the technology described by Nichole Pinkard who designed software to boost African-American elementary age reading abilities. The games in the study are Reading Rapper and Say Say Oh Playmate. These games have users develop abilities with rhyming and rhythm that transfer out the ability to learn new words. In the words of my undergraduate mentor, "The more words you know the more words you can know".

I think both of my models address what these authors are pushing. Meet the students where they are. This sentiment is the root of all recruitment too, just a fun little fyi for you. If knowledge, or education rather, is about an enculturation into a dominant discourse then bringing students into that discourse, as effective as possible, is learning. If that means taking in extra-curricular interests like social media (as in my research) into the classroom to boost student engagement and standards based analysis skills, then that is learning. If having students mimic rappers to which they aspire to become, and in the process learning new words, then this too is learning.

The purpose of the model, be it classroom model, technology model, curriculum, or implementation plan, is to streamline the efficiency of said learning to the prescribed standards of the dominant discourse.


Reading about Say Say Oh Playmate made me crave some step dancing videos. So I did a little fishing and found some. Then I went ahead and thought about dominant discourse some more. It seems, in my novel yet fledgling research, that every discourse has some kind of fancy footwork rhythm dance style here is a few:

Stepping with the ladies of Z-Phi

Clogging at the Florida State Fair

Irish Step Dancing

If you haven't seen a Breslover dance, this is just the tip of the iceberg

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

why should a computer solve equity?

This week in P574 we are studying the Digital Divide in Information and Communicative Technologies (ICT)!

So for everyone who asks me, "Jeff what do you do in grad school?" This is what I do. We looked at 3 articles and one report on the difference in participation in technologies, covering race, class, gender, and geography. Yes, geography.

Mark Waschauer writes on the issue of access to the internet. The claim is geography based. The questions raised are, "First, is lack of ICT access a cause or effect of
poverty or other measures of social exclusion? Second, what does it
really mean to have access to ICTs? And third, what is the best approach
to dealing with unequal access?"

The chapter says that lack of access to ICT (computers, internet, etc...) is a causal to impoverishment. Whoa! So Mark is really saying, without the web, your aren't only worse off because you cant torrent "New Moon" but you also are going to be in poverty. I know what you're thinking, my great-great-great-grandparents didn't have a computer or an internet and they did all-right. But this is being written in comparison of countries like Malawi and the USA. But to put it into a local perspective, today I needed an optometrist. I went with the one who had the best website. You could argue that my new and friendly optometrist has more access to ICT and better support for ICT. This optometrist will not be living in squalor. ICT can predict this. I found it interesting that Mark talked about Egypt's aggressive campaign on getting the country wired. Here, the government grabbed the Ministry of Education together they build technology development centers. Now, Egypt has more capital than a country like Malawi and can invest in government programming. So what is Malawi to do? They need a change in the social environment to facilitate “the learning of new behaviors that propagate continuous improvements in conditions of living” (Corea 2000, 9). Well said Corea.

Carsataphen (1999) found that male members dominated online discussions. This is in looking at how male and female members differ in online discourse. What is bothering me is why people assume that computers will solve equity issues between genders? The authors mention that women are socially conditioned to avoid confrontation whereas men enjoy it as a game.

Are people expecting computers to solve issues of gender roles/equity in this digital divide?

I think that is a foolish claim. Those pushing this agenda, excluded from our course readings but I know you're out there, I would liken to OLPC (one laptop per child) folks. Those believing that putting computers in disadvantaged or marginalized populations will solve issues like education. It falls into an ideological category. It's ultimately up to teachers, and deisgners to institute this kind of ecology or value system.

Does this mean our society and our social ecology needs to learn new behaviors that propagate continuous improvements in the conditions of living? I think Corea would agree.

That's where John Ive comes in.

Wait you don't know who John Ive is? Look at this buff stud! Now I bet you wanna know him. He is the most important product designer in the world.

He is the lead designer from Apple Inc. Remember the unibody macs, this guy. The iPhone, his idea...err design. And iPad, once again this dude. He also is responsible (in part) for how you use this neat gizmo, the iPad.

I am of the Macheads/apple fanboys who believe the iPad will right every wrong technology has pervaded. I think the design is genius in that there is nothing saying, this is a boy toy or girl toy. None of that choose your happy meal with a barbie or hot wheels BS.

The intuitive user interface is so easy a 36 month old can use it. -Watch out Geico Cavemen, you're next. Just watch this clip. You don't need to watch the whole thing but enough to see her spell lion.

My educational model this week is a rip-off of a cliche. Deal with it. The iPad, this wonder tool, is the first of it's kind to interact with people implicitly on their individualized level. This is the development of a social ecology to contribute to benefiting the continuous improvement of conditions of living. I can't say it will solve every equity issue, but it is a leap in the right direction.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


This post is for those who come to this blog not for the educational models but for my reputation a bluegrass fanatic.

But check this out:

Del McCoury is a legend. I recommend you and your friends go to Maryland for DELfest, tix go up in price apr. 12 so hurry up.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Games/Learning/Billy Madison

I think this was one of the first Rated R movies I ever saw. I was 9.

I really cant describe the movie if you haven't seen it. I'll say it like this, if you haven't seen it, watch it. Right now. Then come back to this blog and read about how I will connect this to games and learning. Go ahead. I'll wait right here for you.

I know, funny movie right?! And what about that penguin? Great stuff.

The main part of the clip we are going to focus on is the bit with the date game. So Veronica asks Billy the year of events and as we saw his incentive is pretty clear. That in itself is a game learning ecology. Granted, it doesn't use any technology but it does answer the questions and theorems postulated by the authors this week in P574.

Gee asks:
How can we make learning in and out of school, with or without using games, more game-like in the sense of using the sorts of learning principles that young people see in good games every
day, when and if they are playing these games reflectively and strategically?

Squire wants to change school culture:
Organize curricula around driving questions of personal relevance to students and open-ended,
genuine intellectual merit

Quest Atlantis "makes learning fun" (Barab et al.)

Gee talks a bit about how games build investment and identity, Squire & Barab both talked about intrinsic motivation, and Billy exemplifies all of these. Furthermore, Billy became a better person, increased his sociability, and learned a heck-of-alot in using these mini-games to train for the academic decathlon.

Personally I think games are great in classrooms. I created a rhythm based clapping game for taking attendance with my 7th and 8th graders last year. This game obviously wasn't designed for learning but it did do the following: it allowed for production, interactions, and customization. It warmed up the students and built up there self-esteem. But the whole time they were fully aware that they are playing a game to take attendance.

The shortfall of games not addressed in the readings is that students sometimes fail to transfer out the skills they learned in the game. What I mean by that is best summarized by Schwartz, Bransford, and Brown.....but I'll paraphrase. Learning that remains as a "sequestered problem solving" concept is not as preferable as a concept that becomes "preparation for future learning". For example in the Ander City worked example students become "expert statisticians". Within their context and using transformational play students assume the role and perform the calculations. I know that students will naturally discover mean, median, and mode in context but my question naturally goes to this, if I ask one of those students to find the median of any given number set, can they do it?

Then again I guess that's the million dollar question of all learnign environments. And where most research is likely taking place.

I do agree that games can support learning, and promote all the beneficial cognitive skills that go along with it such as problem solving, and systems thinking but just like any technology, it must be the right tool for the job.

An overlooked and never mentioned piece to video gaming in classrooms is tech support. Therefore, my model this week will be a tribute to my old tech support buddies, Ryan & Richard.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Sony Walkman keeps you walking"

First a metaphorical model:

I was considering using a still image from the Wizard of Oz for an image of someone behind the curtain running the show, but I really wanted to push the idea of a puppet master. You see, what my problem is with constructionism is that there is this gap. Or maybe it's a distance thing. Either way every time I read about a constructionist implementation there is always a high degree of opacity between teachers, students, and researchers.

Let's go into the readings a little bit for examples. So in this Bers et. al. article about using robotics with children aged 3 and 4. We see Student-Teachers creating robotic tools that are supposed to help the children learn. In one group of 3-year-old's the student-teacher had the children placing a Lego Mindstorm brick, shaped like a heart, which triggered the puppet to move through phases. This taught metamorphosis.
In the next example discussing the life cycle a student-teacher created a rotating disc with a frame that clearly emphasized one of the stills in the cycle. From here students would place these chronologically on a line.
Yes, students learn and are engaged.

But they don't make the connection to robotics, nor are robotics the best use or tool. I have a hard time buying that robotics made a big difference in the student's learning. For all they know these items were pre-existing tools. They do not know that their student-teachers created this curriculum and lesson. They are ignorant of the 'man behind the curtain' pulling the strings and organizing this unit. It seems like this proposed methodology capitalizes on gimmickry. If this seems like an unfair criticism we'll look at another example.

Montemayor et. al. created these neat StoryRooms. They use physical space and encourage students to explore the room's items and create stories using them. Some items were computerized, others not, like chairs and stuffed animals. And students create stories like so:

"“Mr. Mouse, do you know a way back to my house?” Mr.
Mouse replied, “I do not know where your house is. Maybe
you should ask Mr. Koala.” Irene finds and goes up to Mr.
Koala. She sees a green hand next to it. So she squeezes it
and asks, “Mr. Koala, do you know the way to my home?”
(A green light placed next to a snake lights up.) Mr. Koala
said, “I do not know where your house is. Maybe you should
ask Mr. Snake.” Irene follows the green light and sees Mr.
Snake. She asks the same question. Finally, Mr. Snake says,
“Sure, I know just the way. Come, follow me back to your

And I thought of this great De la Soul song called 'Tread Water':

because its practically the same as the student's story.

The findings result that students can contribute more to a story, do a little physical programming, and be more more of an attentive audience than previously thought. Cool.

But I still am not sold that the students knew they were programming. Nor do I think the students had that intention, rather they were playing within a story. Again it feels like the researchers created this unit, with an opacity, and call it learning.

I think the students genuinely learn. I don't think it's the best way to teach. You need to have the right tool for the job. And it must be used in the most appropriate way, otherwise it will be a waste of time and resources, ranging from cost to education.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My girlfriend doesn't know what a wiki is...and she's still smarter than you

Seriously, My girlfriend is wicked smart. She wouldn't want me divulging her GPA or GRE score but believe me, she's doing swell. She's currently in an honor's symposium at her college where they are studying foundational texts in critical thinking, for example the first week they read some John Dewey. The cumulative project for this course is a wiki. Girlfriend (she didn't want her name here so she'll just be girlfriend of GF) then called me and said, "Everyone is supposed to work on the same document online and edit each other. Isn't that weird?"

I responded, "No. That's the benefit of using a wiki."

I'm not trying to rag on GF for not being tech savvy. The point I'm going to illustrate is that technology does not guarantee epistemic knowledge building, nor is technology even necessary in most cases. In lieu of some readings from IUP574 we saw some good examples and some bad examples, and I have been thinking of the pros and cons that I'd like to share, maybe even a solution or two.

First up is ExplanationConnector, lauded as an explanation-driven inquiry tool. EC is a journal, an electronic journal. Not wired to the internet or sharable just electronic. Students are guided from complex overarching inquiries to more narrow and "manageable" questions.

From the reading,
"The explicit links between questions, explanations, and data enable students to assess whether they have answered their current question, completed their current explanation, and provided evidence to support their claims."

My problem with this is there is no bridge moving from So What? to Now What?

I can do the same thing in ExplanationConnector in a well written lab manual. Keeping it all paper and pencil and lowering costs. ....wait a second don't I know someone who is in science, going into veterinary medicine, works in labs, takes lab courses, has never used a computer in lab, and is wicked smart? Girlfriend, that's who! I haven't found anything in ExplanationConnector that goes above and beyond anything someone will do in a lab manual. However, if you do, please leave a comment so we can dig into this deeper.

In another reading we looked at TinkerTools. TinkerTools is inherently different from EC, in that TT's starting premise was to capitalize on the affordances of technology and "how to use computer modeling and simulations to change our view of what it means to understand and engage in science."

Yeah dude, that's whats up!

Furthermore, in TT the researchers were pairing up classes of high and low achieving students to peer review each others reflections. This was super successful. In fact my research team at IU is doing the same thing in English classes. The point here is that they have taken technology to the next step and utilized it a way that could not be replicated without the use of computers.

I know what you're thinking, what about the GF? How is she going to use computers? Can she even use a word processor? yes, yes she can. So she and I are heading to the University of Illinois at the end of February for her vet school interview there. UI has a computer requirement of tablet PCs. As a bonus, they created an information session for interviewees explaining why they need tablets, and the software's accordance's that go beyond what anyone can do in a classroom. You betch'yer tuchas I'll be at that info session, blog post to follow thereafter.

But that is totally reasonable. EC didn't sell me on anything impressive like TT and didn't do anything you can't do well with paper and pen.

A solution I am working on. (Also my model for the week)

"Moving from CYA to CYS"
CYA or choose your own adventure is a genre of text where the reader gets to a crossroad and has to choose an option, from there more options, etc... until the reader reaches a conclusion.

CYS will be modeled simlarly, choose your own simulation. Modeled after a lab setting, readers -now viewers, will watch interactive flash animation or interactive videos and make decisions for themselves, based on available information, and complete experiments and simulations.
How is this more than paper and pencil? Because this software will let you run infinite simulations at zero cost -kind of like NetLogo. This software will also share results of every student, not just in the class but of every student who uses my simulation software. This will be shared on a really cool website.

Just to reiterate a common theme in my models, technology is not worthwhile unless it has high fidelity and can go beyond what you can do in an unplugged class.

Which one has the most constraints? What about accordance's?

UPDATE: Girlfriend felt this post made her look computer illiterate, which she is not. To prove this here is a picture of her using a computer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

History repeats itself

Some say history goes in circles, some say spirals. For more on this, check out Dr. Gerald Schroeder, the difference between the two led him to becoming a preeminent physicist and Talmudic scholar. I'm not going into that now, just a fun fact for you.

Either way, circle or spiral, history is redundant. We'll be looking at this redundancy through examining a tech model I made, and looking at a few articles examining technology in schools written at different times in the last 25 years.

It's a very interesting choice of articles this week. Staring with Larry Cuban, who wrote about the history of technology in schools up to 1984, then Rochelle et. al. talking about what it takes for technology to really "make it" in schools in 2000, and nicely wrapped up with a 2009 survey report by the U.S. D.O.E. This is extremely relevant to me because I started school in 1990, started High School in 2000, and taught in a Middle School in 2009. I had first hand experience of exactly what the authors we're talking about. I found that my model, which hasn't changed in the last week, agreed with Rochelle's argument, "The challenge is to ensure this technology is used effectively to enhance how and what children learn." No one can put a computer or other tech device into the hands of students and expect them to learn, or achieve great things without a great teacher, as Cuban states, "Teachers are the gatekeepers to technology".

Now this teacher isn't necessarily the old sage on a stage, nor the guide on the side, the teacher can be siblings, friends, parents, experts in forums, etc... The key is that it is a live person you are talking to or messaging or emailing, whatever. The key is people. People to people interactions. My model emphasizes this.
The first step to getting technology into your classroom is getting the monetary support to buy the equipment. This support is being either generated by or signed off by someone.

Next you need an idea, an activity, something to DO with the technology. If there is one thing all of the articles and chapters have in common and repeat implicitly is that YOU CAN NOT JUST PUT FLASHY TECH THINGS INTO STUDENTS HANDS AND EXPECT LEARNING TO HAPPEN! You need an ecosystem, structure, lesson plans, and ideas.

Naturally the next item down is the technology. I used Dell Netbooks here. I was under the impression when I made this model that the schools I work with on "Tweeting Character" were getting Dells, they got HP. The next model will correct this. More on T.C. coming soon...

These machines will be useless without access of course. As of 2007 only 63% of classes are wired for High-Speed Internet (see US DOE report below). I'm looking for a statistic of what it is now in 2010. If anyone has one, please let me know in the comments.

But no matter how cool, or fast, are rad your technology is, without teachers who are enthusiastic about using the technology and experienced and keep up with the training, and students who are eager or inspired, the technology will fail. Rochelle stressed this by talking about "Computer expertise" and a need for support of these teachers. I see that support in two possible ways. One way is through education of new software and tools. And the other is hardware support.

Hardware support is seen here as a caricature of Richard, my old IT guy. This is what Richard really looks like. Pretty good rendering on the model huh? - totally from memory too! Actually, Dick here wasn't my go-to-guy all the time. I worked very closely with his wife, Sherry, and their adopted son Ryan. A very tech savvy family. Some friendly advice for you, whenever you start at a new job or school more specifically, get close with IT and the lunch-ladies. No joke.

Up to this point in the model you have your tech, have a lesson plan, have access, got students excited and ready to learn, and you have your back-up. The next step is more ideas, more lessons, more engagement. Make the financial investment worthwhile! Because like one of the readings said, (paraphrasing) "The most cost effective form of education is paying one teacher to talk to 30 students." If you are a fan of technology you better make these things work and have lots of ideas, if you do not use you will lose it! Some other teacher will get your Netbook cart, or Richard will be busy when you need him, or you will be the last to et your machines updated, everyone will be zipping around on Windows 7 or Snow Leopard while you're chugging along through Windows ME. Or the new teacher comes in and gets an iPad while you're using a Newton, then you'll be S.O.L.

To prove it works, you need assessment. Assessment is portrayed here, in this model, as my adviser, Daniel Thomas Hickey Ph.D. He is an assessment expert (click on the model above for a high-res image and check out his shirt). He is also a metaphor. You don't actually need him, although I'm sure he'd love to help you out, but you need a fair, valid, and reliable assessment plan to show how your technology integration is salient.

Then you do it all again. Hence the redundancy.

If you looked close enough you will have noticed that this all takes place on a clock. Time is the biggest overarching barrier to bringing in technology into schools. Even time in the units. For example, ever teacher who has ever used computers, or a Netbook cart will complain about the time lost for simply logging-in. It is a very, very valid complaint. The point I am trying to make is that time will always be an issue in every step of the process, and in my opinion is one of the first things to consider before every attempting to include technology into a curriculum. It has always been an issue, and will be for sometime. However, in my reading I don't think it was mentioned. Did anyone see it anywhere else?

Readings for the week:

Larry Cuban: Teachers and Machines

Rochelle et. al. : Changing How and What Children Learn in School with Computer-Based Technologies

United States DOE: Evaluation of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program: Final Report
Report Highlights