Sunday, July 21, 2013

How long will written text be important?

Kelly Gallagher the author of Reversing Redicide (2010) said "Educators know the commonly cited culprits behind the decline of reading: poverty, lack of parent education, print-poor environments at home, second-language issues, the over scheduling of children, and competition from electronic media."

 I want to reflect upon my own household.  We are very fortunate to not be impacted by the first four culprits listed above;  however, we are severely impacted by the last two.  I have 3 children, all three have a passion to reading (I thank their mother for this).  I would like to study the habits of my oldest who is 9. He is currently reading at the 9th grade reading level in both fluency and comprehension.  The kid is scary smart.  Without sounding egotistical he got my natural gift as an auditory learner and his mother's passion for reading.   This passion for reading still takes a back seat to electronic media.  You give him a choice between the iPad or a book and it iPad 100% of the time.  What has been fostered in him though is that when the iPad is in "time out" the first thing he reaches for is a book.  The thing we struggle with at home is, how to teach him how to "self police" that.

Books are continually taking a back door to electronic media, even if the student has a love for reading. The big question I have is, "Is there a link between reading fluency and comprehension and audio visual fluency and comprehension?"  In other words can a poor reader still critically analyze film for example?  Also if you look at story telling over the course of history the medium has changed, from pictographs on caves, to oral tradition, to written.  These changes occurred over thousands of years.  It is hard to imagine, but are we in a transitional time from written form to a more audio visual form?

Technology has fostered each of those changes, and is it possible that technology is changing the medium again?  As digital media continues to become easier to create we are leveling the playing field for both authors and consumers of that type of content.  Will reading and writing ever become a "niche" art form and everything else is communicated audio visually, much like painting, and oral storytelling has become today? These are big questions that we have to answer, and are not going to be answered anytime soon, but in my mind these are huge questions that we need to answer.

Gallagher, K. (2010). Reversing readicide. Reading to Learn, 67(6), 36-41.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Instagram also on its way out? What we should be teaching students.

This has been my observation over the past year, what do you think? 

I will go on record and say that Instagram is also on its way out.  For those of you that don't know Instagram is now owned by Facebook and we will see it rolled deeper and deeper into their product until the Instagram name is no more.  In fact, the article says Instagram has seen no growth in teenage demographic over the past year.  Twitter has been a hot spot this year.  What I find funny is I first started talking to students about twitter when I joined 6 years ago.  They all mocked me and said twitter was dumb.  Well I guess I was correct.

Here is where this conversation is going.  How do these companies make money?  From the data they collect on you.  You are not the consumer, but the product.   They are selling your data to advertising companies.  This is why the adds  you see in these services are so relevant.  Now, most people don't think about that or don't care, but my second prediction is that eventually people will and we will see a backlash agains companies like google, facebook, and twitter.  The question is will it get to the point where people want a service like twitter and facebook, but privacy from advertisers.  That is where comes in.  This is my prediction.  We will get to the point where people want a social network that they have control of and be willing to pay "real money" in stead of their data. I bring this up for a few reasons.  It is really important that students wrestle with these topics and understand that someone is making money whatever the business model.  Servers don't run themselves for free.  

How far are we willing to go in terms of our privacy?  Are we willing to give up information about ourselves for a better experience?  Some would argue yes.  Look at the benefit we get from google.  In the "olden days" we would have to search for restaurant Summerlin or restaurant Las Vegas.  Now Google already knows you are in Las Vegas and will give you results for that.  However, it is really obnoxious when we are planning a trip and searching for restaurants in Boston then we need to specify to google that we want restaurants in Boston. This also affects how students do research.  A student that searches for American Revolution in Las Vegas will get different results from American Revolution search done by kids in Concord, MA or London.  Are we teaching these skills to students?  How do we get out of our private search bubbles that have been tailored to us? 

 If you are interested in these topics of privacy, research and filters please check out the following: I had the opportunity to see Eli Pariser keynote a conference last summer on Search Bubbles and Online Filters.  You can see his TED talk here: 

 You can also find a somewhat counter point of view in Jeff Jarvis's book Public Parts:How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live

 These are important things that we need to think about ourselves and with our students.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Reddit Series

There are many, many, many sites out there where users generate, share and vote on content.  One of the more popular ones in the past year has been  Like any other site like this there is a wealth of inappropriate and downright nasty content that is found and aggregated.  The content is not created by, but submitted to Reddit and voted on by its users.  There are also several reputable companies that use to get their content to viewers.

Wikipedia can explain better than I can,
"Reddit, is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of either a link or a text ("self") post. Other users then vote the submission "up" or "down", which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site's pages and front page." Users can then comment on t/,[stylized as reddit, is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of either a link or a text ("self") post. Other users then vote the submission "up" or "down", which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site's pages and front page."
 Users can then comment on those links.

Anyway, a section of the website that you should know about is the "Explain Like I'm Five" series.  It started, I believe, by users that are posting difficult questions and then asking that the answers are explained to them like they are five.  My guess would be mostly high school and college students.  You can view the series here . Then users would attempt to answer their questions as if the asker was "like they are five."  Some are actually really good and some are absolute garbage.  Some questions are not meant to be explained to a five year old, but the community known as the internet is trying.

As teachers we need to be aware of sites like this for a few reasons:

  1. Students and Learners in general are really cleaver in how they use online resources to get information that they need.  I think that this is really cool.
  2. We need to be aware about sites like this when designing assessments.  Asking yourself is that "googleable" not enough anymore.
  3. Sites like simply can't keep up with the content being generated at sites like this.
  4. If a student uses information from here how do we teach them to take it further and check the resources?
  5. How can we harness (not necessarily this style of learning in our classrooms?  Students today want to and do learn by being social.  It is actually their preferred method of learning.  I am not discounting the appropriateness of individual deep types of thinking, in fact that is also extremely important, but how are we meeting the needs of our diverse set of learners.

Finally, has turned some of the "Explain Like I'm Five" series into youtube videos.  You should be aware of these also.  The series is, like the written questions, taking extremely complex topics and boiling them down.  Whenever that happens people tend to "miss the mark."  These videos will become viral and might create simplistic misconceptions in your content area.  On the other hand they could be springboards into discussion.  I have not watched them all nor evaluated their appropriateness for all audiences, but I wanted to make you aware of them and their potential impact.The video series can be found here:
An example: