Saturday, October 30, 2010

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Does Comcast use Outlook Express?"

Isn't it .. something.. that there is still such a persistent misunderstanding 'out there' about email? When you hear someone say that they can't get email any longer because they switched providers and, "... they don't use Outlook Express" then you know you're dealing with someone who still thinks this whole internet thing is just sheer magic.

Or when they say that they can receive email from their new provider but they can't send anything you know that they just have no idea how it works or why it works that way.

It made me wonder how many of our students know what an 'email client' is, or how it works. How many of your students would be able to effectively answer the question above - "Does Comcast use Outlook Express?"

One more thing before I leave this topic. Well, SORTA this topic. I heard an interesting story today on NPR's Weekend Edition about Captchas. Most of us have long known that those exist as a means of the user proving they're human. Only humans can read those things and enter the correct letters. A spammer's 'bot' can't do it. The article today told of spammers who hire people to decode those. They get paid $.75/1000 captchas successfully decoded. Just a couple bucks a day. But, the story said, it's more than in some textile sweat shops - and better working conditions.

Doesn't THAT speak volumes about SO many things of this world?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

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Friday, October 01, 2010

My thoughts on the ipad craze

I'd like to weigh in on this discussion of using the ipads in the classroom. There's been a lot of talk about it,  but I'm just not sold. I'd like to tell you why.

I should state for the record that I don't (yet?) own one, and I think that fact allows me to be a little less emotional about them. I do own an ipod touch and (finally) an iphone, so I'm familiar and comfortable with apps and how cool they are, etc. That's just to say that I'm not totally unfamiliar with them.

Here's what I keep coming back to. We KNOW what we need to do in the classroom that will do all the things that we know to be good things to do. The research has been there for many years. There are volumes of textbooks that are written on the subject. But, I venture to say that nowhere is it ever stated that what we REALLY need is some device that has yet to be invented. Like the ipad. "What we need is an ipad!"

We know, for example, what the power of Inquiry Based learning (IBL) can do, and the power of either Problem or Project Based Learning, yet how often is it done? We know that with today's technology we can communicate and collaborate with students from around the world, yet how often is that done? We know that we want our students to be producers of content rather than consumers. We know that we need to get away from scantron sheets with true/false or multiple choice questions. We know that we need to move towards a more student-centered environment, with the students being in charge of their learning - to the extent possible. And, we know that none of those changes would cost a penny - aside from the current technology in the buildings. Yet, it's a HUGE struggle to make those ideas a natural part of classroom life.

We've got laptop carts and carts of mini laptops that can do everything the ipad can do - and MORE - but we're often not using them for anything more than just a research and typing tool. But now we're saying that if we could only get the ipad then everything will be different? How so? They can't do everything the mini laptop can do and we're not using it to its fullest. They may be a great personal learning tool, where we consume the information of others, but they are NOT a tool for personal expression or creativity. Yes, there are lots of examples of artists using the painting tools, or musicians playing tunes together using ipads. And there are lots of teacher-created wikis that do a wonderful job listing hundreds of applications that kids and teachers could use. But, check out those lists. They're all - or mostly - apps that let the user consume information.

There are a LOT of logistical issues with the ipads in the classrooms, as well. For one, when the kids don't have admin access they can't install apps. Using a netbook or laptop they can just go to another website that offers that applet or activity. Try using your ipad with no admin rights. And, add to the cost of the purchase of these ipads the cost of carts for a charging station. And some other device that will let us project them - a document camera, maybe? And, we'll have to install something to let them print. And, what about connecting to the network? Updates, etc?

The device may be cool, but I'll also be willing to bet that it will become obsolete in half the time of a laptop due to its limited functions. Imagine using this ipad three years from now. You can still be using the same laptop, but I'll bet you won't be using the ipad in three years. One, the thrill will be long gone when new technology leapfrogs this one. Two, let's face it - it's a fad. It's NOT the answer to education's persistent questions. (Anyone think that sounds familiar? Guy Noir-ish, maybe? :-) ) How many of us have traded - or wish we could afford to trade- our year old ipod touches since the new ones are so much better?

I may be completely wrong. It won't be the first time. But, for my money, I'll spend it on better professional development on using the existing tools and on creating professional learning networks, etc. Someone is going to have to prove to me that the ipad is worth the expense.