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Oh to dream… in a world where budgets would not be the deciding factor and student learning would dictate resources, my ideal classroom would look vastly different.

                In my educational utopia, there would be a very small class size, 15 or less. There would be true Educational Program Assistants (not just provided for students who have toileting needs or who are flight risks), who could assist in the learning of students who have a diagnosed learning disorder or those who just need that extra boost to keep on track. There would be an FM system in each classroom and a teacher computer that had an LCD/ Smart board. There would be enough computers available at all times for the whole class to use and learn with.  Students would have the use of cameras and video equipment, headsets with microphones. The software on computers would be cross curricular with an emphasis on the sciences, health and social studies as these subjects often seem to receive less funding, resources and PD time. Teachers would have access to PD opportunities throughout the year and on software of choice.  ‘Experts’ or those more comfortable with a certain software or technology would be available to come into classrooms and help students/teachers in learning how to use the program. Technology would be valued as important skills and knowledge. Technology would be validated as imperative to education by being assessed and added to the report card process.

The Elderly and Technology

 

                While the elderly in the past have been overlooked as technology users, it has become apparent that many seniors want and perhaps need to use technology to thrive into their older years.  My parents, once complete technophobes, (like the kind that didn’t know how to use ATM’s up until a few short years ago!), now Skype with us often to see their grandchild. My 86 year old grandfather took a ‘Computers for the Terrified’ course at the local community college and now loves to print off emailed pictures and to send email that updates us of his outings!

http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/01/15/new-technology-helps-to-remotely-monitor-the-health-of-the-elderly-around-the-clock/ 

Systems like the one described above could allow elderly persons to live independently longer and still let their families and medical staff know how they are doing without feeling like they are being constantly monitored.  

 http://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/combat-loneliness-in-elders/

Loneliness and boredom can be a frustrating part of growing older. Some ideas for helping elderly members of one’s family to stay connected via technology are highlighted at the above website.  

As banks proceed to provide fewer face to face services it’s important for seniors to be ‘in the know’ about banking fees and online banking. Most banks have a special information section for seniors. As some seniors may be new to online banking, they may not fully understand fraud attempts and other banking security issues. Sites like the ones below may be helpful for online protection and shedding light on important issues that come with using technology for banking purposes.

http://fwnextweb1.fortwayne.com/adv/special/2010/seniors/article0002.html

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cmc-cmc.nsf/eng/fe00105.html

Thinking Computers

                The more plugged into technology that we get, the less plugged in to one another we become. I remember my sister telling me a story about going for ride in her friend’s car with three others present. All four people were using their cell phones to speak or text yet no one was talking to anyone else in the car!

                All too often our present society offers a way for people to live completely out of touch with others through their computers.  We can order in food online (take out or like the UK’s TESCO grocery delivery). We can rent movies (think Net Flicks) and we can chat via text, email, chat rooms, and blogs about our day to day lives. Some people even have the ability to work completely from home as well as take care of personal items such as banking, all from the comfort of their lazy boy! So, is there a trend that perhaps lessens our beliefs in technology and culture? Yes, I think many people have become aware of the pervasiveness of technology and have seen the dangers of allowing technology to become too much a part of our lives. Humans are social beings and perhaps it is unhealthy to live in such seclusion, perhaps that existence is not living at all! I think the pendulum has simply started to swing back again toward technologies more humble beginnings.

                At first, technology was for entrainment, for the sake of invention. To see if we could make a machine do a particular task just to see if it could do it. Then we wanted technology to do that task more efficiently. Next we wanted the technology to do the task better than a human could and then our next step is / was to get technology to take on the improvements/ developments completely on its own and eradicate the human component altogether. I think that last step has frightened some and some who have questioned what it means to be humans.  While I think computers will surpass humans in most areas of thought and work, I don’t think a computer could ever replace the emotional part of humans which drives so many things in our world.  I think the pendulum of technology embedded in our culture is experiencing a swing in the direction of  using technology as it best serves to make our lives easier but then not to allow it to continue to rule every aspect our of lives.

                There is a back to basics trend in food; many people are becoming backyard gardeners. Throw away lifestyles have become passé even though a few short years ago no one would have thought twice of buying a bottle of water and throwing that bottle away. The idea of enjoying family and the simple, non-materialistic things in life to escape the stress and pressures of work has become a trend as well. It only follows suit that there would be a trend in technology for people to perhaps unplug and spend time conversing, playing together or really enjoying any activity that wasn’t invaded by technology.

                I think teachers need to keep in mind two main ideas when it comes to technology and education:  

               1. Technology is here for the long haul. There is no sense in making it the forbidden fruit, our students will seek it out and use it whether we are on board with technology or not. We should be teaching our students how to use technology safely and properly. Also, if our job is truly to teach and to prepare students for the future than it is certain that technology must play some role in that preparation.

                2. Technology can be a great thinking tool! But it is that a tool, not a program, an end or a teacher in and of itself. Technology is not a replacement for quality teaching or student to student interactions.  In an increasingly technology driven society, students, perhaps more than ever, need to learn how to get along with one another, how to view things from another’s perspective and how manners, ‘netiquette’ , etc. to relate to the person that is surely sitting in the other side of their network.  Teachers need to be sure to use technology to develop the learning of our students while we remain focused on developing the student through the learning.

Have you observed signs of gender equality in the way students use prevailing classroom technology?

            In my grade 4/5 class I very much see the children, regardless of gender, to be equally adept at using technology. Both genders seem equally interested in the digital microscope, various learning web sites, using Publisher, Power Point and cameras. However I do notice that boys seem more willing to take a risk and try something on their own and the girls want to know exactly what to do before trying to solve a problem or finding a way to do something themselves. Our internet use is extremely limited due to the blocking of sites, so usually my students have a very short list of sites that I allow them to visit. That being said, whenever there are any opportunities to look at something independently online, the boys tend to want to go on you tube (blocked however), NHL / hockey related sites and the girls seem to like math/ language based games and animal related sites. The biggest difference I notice with how students use technology seems to be between the students in my class that do not have a computer at home and those who are fortunate enough to have a computer for home use.  

Does the type of technology being used make a difference in gender neutrality?

I teach at a relatively low – technology school (LCD projectors are only in 2 classrooms and Smart Boards are but a dream!)The main use of technology that the students have access to are class laptops, PCs in the computer lab and the various programs held within those. The odd time there is the opportunity for students to use digital cameras or a video camera. I think because all of this technology is rather common place and the students have ‘grown up’ with this technology it does allow for general neutrality. They commonly see both genders using this technology for learning purposes.  I think the research shows that usually differences in genders is seen more substantially later on in students’ school careers and when the technology demands get larger.

            Have circumstances in computer mediation changed in the last ten years?

I think computer mediation has become savvier in that the users of groups can request inappropriate posts be removed or certain users disallowed from participation. However, at times this can be somewhat cumbersome to do.  Look at David Knights trouble with removing harassing information at http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bullying/cyber_bullying.html  Perhaps some users, like the students at the school mentioned in the article, have become more aware of internet ‘netiquette’ when conversing on line. With greater education in our schools and in the public, people are coming around to the idea that while the internet may allow you to speak without seeing someone face to face, you are not invisible forever  and you are still responsible for your actions on the internet.

 Do females participate differently when on-line?

I think women do tend to participate differently on line. I think in a purely academic purpose for online participation, women may feel more comfortable to say their thoughts and information without the nervousness of being overshadowed by the males in the group or interrupted / challenged by the males. In a more social setting, women have a difficult choice to make; identify themselves as a woman and open themselves to a wide display of unwanted messages, suggestions and sometimes comments or disguise their gender in androgynous user names, but miss out on meeting potential friends/ mates because they are not identified as female. I think academically, online offerings can help females to have a greater presence in conversations and allow for thought out responses to discussions.  

What steps do you take to insure gender equality in use of computer technology?

            Because I teach at an elementary school where the genders seem to be on relative equal     footing with respect to technology, I don’t tend to do too much to ensure equality when            using technology. I often create same sex groups when using technology collaboratively.       This perhaps has more to do with the team working within a favorable context of similar interest rather than to ensure fair technology sharing. I think one of the more important         factors is for the children to see females using technology confidently and successfully     which is somewhat easy to do at our school as we have an all-female staff. Students            consistently see females setting up equipment and teaching how to use various   technologies. Perhaps if we had more male teachers on staff this would be        overtaken by   them.

           

            So What of Strategies….?

             Perhaps it is unsurprising that like many aspects of life there are differences in the way     males and females use and respond to technology in a learning setting. It seems            traditionally and currently, boys use the computer more. Whether it’s because of        competiveness that they win out on computer time over their sisters or that they seek out        additional time when girls are choosing to be involved in more social, non- solitary             activities. (Sanders)

            There has been an interesting finding that links girls’ confidence in computing with their   wanting to continue with computing course and dare I extrapolate from that, use of     computers in application areas. It seems that the less confident a girl is, the less likely she      is to stick with a technology based course. This is a big problem when one thinks about            the trends in our world to be more and more technologically literate. Perhaps we as             teachers need to address these concerns not in the technology itself but how technology is            being used. Girls seem to have more success and confidence when allowed to work with          a partner (even better if a same sex partner) and use the technology for realistic problem      solving activities rather than activities bound by rules on a one particular outcomes. Kay           also says that students see their teachers as role models. If the female teachers are not             confident in technology usage, than this will help form negative attitudes about gender     and computer use in our students!

            According to Zhou and Xu when Technology PD is offered, due to differences in             learning, it would be more successful to offer more in interactive / show case formats for                    women and more hands on/discovery formats for male teachers. In reference to  Wever-       Rabehl , I think we have been too politically correct in our ‘everybody is equal       thinking ’when discussing how to approach gender and technology and learning. If we             acknowledge that there are differences in how men and women/ boys and girls learn,             aren’t we putting them (boys or girls, depends on how you look at it!) at a further disadvantage by offering information in just one format rather than trying to address the        learning differences by offering multiple formats? Wever-Rabehl  says that technology           driven education does not need to be at the expense of one gender over the other. In fact             it does not need to be that either / or situation at all. We can offer the same projects /          activate the same learning and use the same technology but have the student’s interact      with the technology in a way that is meaningful to them.

            Now that we are getting to a generation of teachers that have grown up immersed in         technology, I wonder if we will start to see a difference in how technology is used by     teachers and therefore modelled by students as teacher confidence becomes higher and technology use more routine.  

References

Kay, Dr. Robin. Research Monograph # 8. Gender Differences in Computer Attitudes, Ability, and Use in the Elementary Classroom.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Kay.pdf

Sanders, Jo. Gender and Technology in Education: A Research Review. June 2005.

http://www.josanders.com/pdf/gendertech0705.pdf

Wever-Rabehl, Gerda. Gender and Education: A Gender Gap In Technology? May 10, 2006.
http://www.suite101.com/content/wiredwomenspidermanandgender-a1831#ixzz1CvKIILbE

Zhou, George and Xu, Judy. Adoption of Educational Technology: How Does Gender Matter?

International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2007, Volume 19, Number 2, 140-153.

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=5a8988f6-e714-4b0e-abfa-ed24b2486038&k=69606

http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE206.pdf

“We have the tools of destruction in our hands, but we’ve sent computers into timeless, endless space, and thus, having fulfilled our destiny, we have no reason to grieve over the probable death of our species.” Weizenbaum

          I can’t believe I have read the above words! I get that there certainly could be life beyond the human existence and that I’m sure there is the possibility of ’intelligent’ life elsewhere but when you think of the human existence ending; it is very sad. We should be inconsolable at the thought!

          Our species could become extinct and we are supposed to be happy about this?  We despair when an animal/plant population becomes extinct and much energy and effort is put into saving this species but ourselves, we’re supposed to rejoice at our cleverness to have left a small piece of our being in the machines floating in space! Maybe this article should be more of a warning to human kind in that we do indeed have the tools of our own destruction in our hands and we should be mindful of what we do with or allow these tools to do. Maybe we should be more intelligent and make the tools that will ensure us to not self-destruct!

          A computer certainly is quite superior to the human brain when one wants to do calculations, retrieve items from memory, etc. but a computer run world is not a world at all and certainly not utopic! There would be no beauty in our world, no emotion, no caring all because these would be frivolous to a computer run state. However, I did take some solace in researching this idea that we should be happy if artificial intelligence takes over the world because I have come to the conclusion that this perspective is held by a very select few. Most of what I have read suggests that yes, maybe AI taking over the world and humans no longer living would be possible one day, however, that day is still a very long time away. Also, it seems that in order for AI to take over the world the humans would have to create a machine that was capable of doing so! As close as scientists have come to creating robots who appear to be happy or act as though they are concerned, they are not capable of (yet anyways) of having these emotions or humanlike emotion–driven thought processes. Even though our world has plenty of corruption, pollution and greed, there is much to make it great, and our creation of computers does not change this. The death of our species is the death of our world. What exists after this point does not matter.

http://ml.typepad.com/

http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/~jjb/web/Robots_Ruling_2004.html

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_560913.html

Which aspects of WEB safety are of most concern in your teaching institution?

            Some students at my school have a lot of ‘smarts’ about using the net whereas others have basically no safety precautions being reinforced at home at all. Some students have anytime access to the internet and some have only supervised small amounts and yet others have little or no access at all due to not having a computer in their home. None of these situations are ideal as the students as the user doesn’t need to practice exerting control over what they are viewing online.  Those students that are too familiar with the net try to access controversial sites at school or tell other students about these sites. Those students with very little internet usage don’t even know what safety issues even exist yet alone to look out for them.

             Another issue at our school is that kids are very much unaware of the amount of marketing that is targeted to them. I’ve seen it time and again that students say “Oh Ms. J, they just wanted my name and age so I can register to play the game.” They often don’t even know what the site really is! The students just know they want to play that game or see that clip.

            Perhaps the most prevalent internet safety issue seemly at my school is the haphazard and naive way that students search and process information. Certainly luring / abuse is of utmost importance when discussing internet safety but chat sites, messaging, social networking and even non-school email have been blocked from our school accounts by the school board. So this has become essentially an at-home concern for my students, although it is still discussed at school. Many students like to use Google images for project visuals however; many inappropriate images often come up because of the key words that were searched.  Also, the quality of information that students find is never questioned. Students at my school seem to very much buy into the idea that if it’s on a web site it must be true. They do not transfer critical literacy skills to the internet.

How do teachers better effect positive change in students who routinely access knowledge and fact through the use of computer and when conveying information?

            Teachers and parents together need to help students to make smarter choices when using the internet. Teachers can’t effectively teach kids to be safe online if it is not supported at home and teachers need to understand that not everyone has the means or internet knowledge to be able to help teach students about internet safety.  At our school we have a RCMP school liaison officer who throughout the year delivers a few brief talks about issues such as online bullying, luring, etc. It would be nice if this could be more of a routine chat as opposed to the occasional visit. The officers help support teachers in what to look out for as well as being one other adult of trust in a child’s life. I think we can help students change what they are doing online though open discussion. I think that children really do need to have a good relationship with their teachers and feel comfortable coming to them if they stumble upon some inappropriate content. Too strict ‘zero tolerance’, immediate suspension, type of policies do not allow students to learn or grow from a mistake or that of their peers whereas discussion and a focus lesson could be quite effective.

What is a useful method that could improve the handling of WEB safety or the values (ale text readings) in your profession and in your school?

            In 2011 parents have more to do than ever and one more often uncomfortable conversation to have with their kids is internet safety. Like safe sex talks of past generations, children feel like they know everything (or at least more than their parents) and parents need to carefully weigh in on what amount of information is enough to keep their kids safe but not so much to scare them. However, parents need to have internet safety discussions with their children or else most of what is being said on the matter at school falls on deaf ears.

            The Halifax Regional School Board used to have students and parents both sign acceptable use policies for the computers but now the classroom teacher signs a policy for the whole class on the students’ behalf. I assume this is with the expectation that the students are only having supervised computer use and using pre-selected sites. Our school board has also blocked Hotmail, Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, blogs and many other sites from all school property computers which further helps to decrease the possibility of students accessing inappropriate material however; again the onus to think about what is being viewed,  is removed from the student.  While I think these policies certainly lower the risk of students stumbling into inappropriate content and that is paramount, I don’t necessarily believe a blanket ban of many sites is the most effective way to keep our students safe. These banning policies do not transfer the responsibility to the student to think about what they are searching for and what they are seeing. Without guided opportunities to be critical of what they are viewing or searching, whenever students are unsupervised around a computer they are now left wading through a potential mine field of safety concerns on their own.

            In 2011, it is essential for students to be technologically literate and part of that encompasses using technology wisely and safely. Like language, math or science, these technology goals need to be included in our school curriculums in a real way, not just as add-ons. Departments of Education and school boards need to begin explicitly teaching technology outcomes and grading students’ performance using said technology. This could help emphasize the importance of appropriate technology use to both students and parents. A curriculum guide for teachers would be supportive for all teachers to plan technology based lessons but it would be especially be of value to those who are reluctant to incorporate technology into their craft because of lack of knowledge.

This blog has been created as a portfolio of my assignments for Education 6620 This is a M Ed, IT course offered from Memorial Univesrity of Newfoundland.