Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

Author

Jeff Utecht

Browsing

Have you ever had one of those moments where a thought pops into your head that just makes you laugh? I had one last night over microwave popcorn.

As I stood in front of the microwave waiting for the popcorn to finish I started thinking about kids today growing up with technology and how it’s difficult for older generations to realize just how much technology is a part of their daily lives.
Microwave
I remember when my dad brought home our first microwave. It had to be 1982 or so. I remember how HUGE of a deal it was, this ‘thing’ was going to change everything. I remember when I was really little making popcorn with an air popper and in 1982 never imagined that the microwave one day would replace the air popper along with many other appliances.

My generation grew up with microwaves; we have evolved with it, learning how to utilize it to make everything from TV dinners to popcorn, to defrosting the nightly dinner. We don’t think about using the microwave, we just do. Why? Because it has been around all our lives, we know how to use it and how to run it without thinking about it.

Computers and the Internet are the same with today’s kids. They won’t know how to live without it because it has always been there. It keeps improving, making life easier to the point, like the microwave, you don’t know how to function without it. Nobody had to show me how to use a microwave, in fact today I can walk up to a microwave and within a minute or so know how to run it. Generations that did not grow up with the microwave, might find this frustrating. Kids and computers today are the same. We don’t need to teach kids about computers, they already know how to use them (something I’m reminded about on a daily basis with my 5th graders) we just need to utilize the tool, like we have the microwave, to use it to its fullest potential.

Just thinking out loud

In a recent article from eschool news talks about Yahoo’s approach to putting copyrighted books online, while at the same time appeasing publishers. Something Google hasn’t been able to do.

My feeling is we are doing something new here,” Mandelbrot said. “We are building a collaborative effort that will make a great deal of copyrighted material available in a way that’s acceptable to the creators. That is novel.

I have been really excited the past couple of days as more and more teachers here about the Blogs we have started here at the school and the upstart of our Moodle site. I have teachers approaching me asking what it is, how they do that, etc. What a great feeling knowing there are teachers at your school who are thirsting for technology. I look forward to the coming weeks when I can sit down with them and really start to look at how best to use these Web 2.0 tools. I’m excited to start working with these teachers on using technology to enhance their programs.

Just got back from a relaxing weekend on the Island of Hainan. Took some time to catch up on some reading that I’ve been meaning to do.

Ian Jukes

“Education at the Crossroads”
“Moving the Educational Debate”
“Beyond Technology to the New Literacy/Shifting Gears Workshop”

Marc Prensky
“Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”
“Do They Really Think Differently”

Carr, David, K. (1996) “Managing the Change Process: A Field Book for Change Agents, Consultants, Tem Leaders, and Reengineering Managers. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York

I did however find myself itching to get back to a computer and catch up on my blog reading. I have made reading Blogs a daily habit and found that when I had some spare time by the pool, I wish I would have had a wireless connection so I could have caught up on that reading as well. Now it’s back to working on preparing students for the 21st century.

My 5th graders have been blogging for about 2 weeks now. As much as I understand and read about this generation of digital kids, they still amaze me. I use the Blogmeister software which has been a great and easy way to manage my student blog entries. Today I came into school to find 34 blog articles waiting for review. That is 34 out of my 130 students who blogged on their own time after school. It’s been fun to watch the students writing improve as they get the hang of exactly what should be written on a blog. What to write, how to write, and when to write. In two weeks time they have learned more about writing to a worldly audience then I have.

I had a teacher come in today and tell me that a parent stopped her in the hallway to say how wonderful the blog has been for her son. He comes home every night and writes the happenings about the school day, or another part of the story that he is working on. The parent loves that she can check her son’s blog, and keeps track of what’s going on in his head. She’s even responded to her son with questions and encouragement. She said that she use to fight with her son about writing during his free time, now he asks if he can.

All we have done is give a digital kid digital tools. Now that he has tools that he knows how to us, and enjoys using writing has become an enjoyable subject.

The great part for me is, this teacher is now really getting into the blogging world, and looking for ways to incorporate the blogs even more into her classroom. I’ve had some great conversations lately with teachers, librarians, other technology teachers about ways they might use blogs.

What I love about the blogs is the teachable moments it has created. Today thanks to David Warlick’s post on 2 Cents Worth. I started the conversations with the 5th graders about being a journalist to a worldly audience. What does that mean and what their responsibilities are as a journalist. I just wish I was able to see my students more then the allotted 45 minutes every 6 days. Technology needs more attention then 45 minutes, but with the pressure that teachers are under these days, 45 minutes is truly all they can spare until the mindset is changed that technology is learning not just another subject.

A recent article at missoulian.com discusses at what age should schools start teaching typing. Some schools wait until as late as 5th or 6th grade to teach typing, while other schools start at grade 2.

“The quandary is: Are we creating a world of hunt-and-peck keyboard users by waiting too long to give formal typing instruction? Or might keyboarding lessons sacrifice time on spelling and sentence structure to teach something better learned in later years? “

The problem with this statement is you can teach keyboarding without sacrificing time on spelling and sentence structure. Why not make the spelling lesson to type the words three times instead of write them three times. Or do the common DOL (Daily Oral Language) on the computer rather than on paper. Computers are the tool that replaces the pencil and paper, not something that you have to do.

I’ve struggled with this at my last two schools. At my last school we started teaching typing in second grade with a hunt and peck method and moving to home row and ‘true typing’ in 4th grade. At my current school, students start typing in 1st grade using the hunt and peck method and ‘true typing’ in 3rd grade. All

I know is by 5th grade most of our students are typing in the 20-30 words per minute range and some as high as 50 wpm with 80% accuracy.

The thing that I ponder is; should we really be teaching our students how to type? I look at the Kindergarteners I have and think by the time they’re ready to type, keyboards could be obsolete. With the huge strides that are being made in speech to type software and voice recognition software, I can see the end of the keyboard is not to far off.

For the 5th Wednesday in a row now I have sent out what I call Wacky Wednesday’s Websites (WWW). This is basically an e-mail to teachers explaining some sort of tech tip and a couple web sites I feel might be interesting to them.

I started by only sending the WWW to the grade level teachers I taught, word got out and now WWW is sent to over 50 people in my district every Wednesday.

I have heard and read others say they do not feel this is a good way to communicate technology to staff. I think it has to do with what you are trying to accomplish with the e-mail. I have found that the staff respond very positively to the e-mails, because it’s not forced upon them. Teachers can either read and try the tech tip and look at the sites I recommend, or they can delete the message. Teachers tell me they feel free to explore the web sites and the tech tip on their own with out feeling pressured to ‘have to do it’.

Is it a replacement for true Tech PD? No. But it is a way to get people talking about technology. People will pass me in the hall and say how much they enjoyed this tip or that web site. Today I’ve had two different people come to my room to ask about how to do things in Word that was sparked by a tech tip.

We’re not talking Web 2.0 here, but we are talking about building skills in teachers and getting the language of technology flowing around the school. From there we can build on the discussions and start looking at ways of bringing more technology into the classroom. Communication is the key, and if an e-mail every Wednesday is what it take to get people thinking technology, then it is worth my time each week to put it together.

In a recent article: Mind the Gap, Jeffrey Piontek writes:

“We must refocus our efforts to address the new sets of skills and deficiencies that children of the information age are bringing into our schools. Whether or not we use computers to do this is irrelevant. We must be conversant with the language of the information age – not to magically improve our lesson plans or to keep students on task – but to keep ourselves current with what is going on inside their heads, which, Birkerts stresses, is changing both developmentally and emotionally. As educators, we are responsible for addressing the new digital divide – the growing rift between students and teachers.”

There is a new digital divide happening in our schools. The phrase ‘Digital Divide’ was coined when talking about the divide between those that had access to technology and the information that it offered and those that did not, mostly based on social economic factors.
Today, schools face a new digital divide: The divide between teacher’s knowledge of the student’s world and student’s knowledge of their own world. More then ever, teachers are feeling out of touch with their students. The problem lays in the use of technology. Students today live, breathe, and interact with technology on a level that most teachers don’t even know exists.
Case in point: Yesterday I showed a class of 5th graders how to publish to their own personal blog that I have set up for them using Blog Meister. Within 10 minutes students were posting their thoughts on the web. Better yet, half of the students went home that night and submitted more thoughts and feeling about their school day on the blog.
Two weeks ago, I took an hour to show teachers how to post to the same Blogs. They all successfully posted by the time the hour was up, but not one teacher has added to their blog since that initial training session.
Students want to use the technology, know how to use the technology, and if they don’t know how to do something, they have the skills and knowledge to figure it out.
So this brings me back to my point on the use of technology in schools. There is a digital divide between the teachers and students; a divide that is causing both teachers and students to be frustrated in the classroom. The new divide is not between the haves and have nots, but between generations. A generation that has grown up with and tried to adapt to technology and a generation that lives technology.