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EdTech Update





Seven stupid mistakes teachers make with technology

stupid (adjective): given to unintelligent decisions or acts

Stupid is as stupid does. Forrest Gump

Stupid is not my favorite word. It sounds mean and harsh and ugly. But after reading that according to Newsweek that 25% of employees visit porn sites from work, and that the adult video industry claims hits on porn sites are highest during the work day*, it was truly the only term that seems to fit this sort of human behavior. I don't have any overwhelming objections to pornography per se. But perusing it at work? That's stupid.

I use stupid under fairly constrained conditions. To me, a stupid act has a degree of willfulness about it and is serious. Making an error once is ignorance; making the same mistake multiple times is stupidity. Unfortunately, I see stupid acts and beliefs related to technology in schools all the time.

These would be my nominees for the most stupid things** a teacher can do related to technology...

1. Not backing up data. "You mean having two copies of my files on the hard drive doesn't count as a backup?" The first time a teacher loses his/her precious data my heart breaks. The second time, well, stupidity ought cause some suffering.

2. Treating a school computer like a home computer. Teachers who use a school computer to run a business, edit their kid's wedding videos, or send tasteless jokes to half of North America (including that fundamentalist English teacher down the hall) are being stupid. Teachers who take their computers home and let their kids hack on them are being stupid. Teachers who don't own a personal computer for personal business deserve to get into well-deserved trouble.

3. Not supervising computer-using students. It is really stupid to believe Internet filters will keep kids out of trouble on the Internet. For so many reasons. Even the slow kids who can't get around the school's filter, can still exploit that 10% of porn sites the filter won't catch if they choose to do so. They can still send cyberbullying e-mail - maybe even using your email address. Or they can just plain waste time.

4. Thinking online communication is ever private. Eventually everyone sends an embarrassing personal message to a listserv. I've heard of some tech directors who get their jollies reading salacious inter-staff e-mails. You school e-mails can be requested and must be produced if germane to any federal lawsuits. Even e-mails deleted from your computer still sit on servers somewhere - often for a very loooong time. Think you wiped out your browsing history? Don't bet that that is the only set of tracks you've left that show where you've been surfing. Your Facebook page will be looked at by the school board chair and your superintendent and principal know who the author of that "anonymous" blog is. Not assuming everyone can see what you send and do online is stupid.

5. Believing that one's teaching style need not change to take full advantage of technology. Using technology to simply add sounds and pictures to lectures is stupid. Smart technology use is about changing the roles of teacher and student. The computer-using student can now be the content expert; the teacher becomes the process expert asking questions like - where did you get that information, how do you know it's accurate; why is it important, how can you let others know what you discovered, and how can you tell if you did a good job? The world has changed and it is rank stupidity not to recognize it and change as well.

6. Ignoring the intrinsic interest of tech use in today's kids. Kids like technology. Not using it as a hook to motivate and interest them in their education is stupid.

7. Thinking technology will go away in schools. The expectation tha "This too shall pass" has worked for a lot of educational practices and theories. Madeline Hunter, Outcomes-Based Education, whole language, and yes, some day, NCLB all had their day in the sun before being pushed aside by the next silver bullet. (I think that metaphor was a bit confused. Sorry.) But it is stupid to think technology will go away in education. It isn't going away in banking, medicine, business, science, agriculture - anywhere else in society. Thinking "this too shall pass" about technology is pretty stupid.

That was fun. What would make YOUR list of the top stupid mistakes you've seen teachers make with technology?

Oh, I am not above making stupid mistakes as well. Maybe this posting was one of them...

* And you wondered what those strange noises were coming from the next cubicle.
** While surfing for porn at work might qualify as THE stupidist mistake a teacher could make with technology, those CIPA-required filters that only the kids know how to get around are keeping this act off my teachers' stupid list. And here I bet you thought CIPA was about protecting kids.

Fair use scenario - Tony's podcasts


In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues.

Tony, a high school librarian, would like to read short excerpts from books and use them to accompany podcast reviews on his blog. He reasons that printing excerpts from books is allowable under fair use exceptions for criticism. The excerpts would only be two or three paragraphs from novel-length works, each chosen to reinforce a point made in the review. He is confident that this use meets all of the fair use tests (financial impact, educational use, etc.),  but Tony worries that changing the format from print to audio is changing the game.

  1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
  2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
  3. What is your level of comfort helping with this event? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable?

Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

You comments are most welcome.


Poking the wasp nest


Above is a list of a portion of the e-mail/comments I've received on the last couple Blue Skunk blog posts. When I feel overwhelmed by comments, I describe it as "poking the wasp nest." And even after three years of writing here, I am poor at predicting where those nests might be.

I DID have an idea that my dissing blog awards and rankings might cause some disagreement. Since the objections both in comments and on Twitter were significant, I thought I would reply to some here, rather than just in the comment section of the original post...

1. My objecting to awards and rankings is just sour grapes.

Not really. The Blue Skunk has been nominated for a library Eddie. And I appreciate it.

I'm in Scott McLeod's list of top 50 education blogs - sorta in the middle. My Technorati ranking is 22,604 when I checked just now. Now that sounds pretty bad until you consider there are over, what, seventy million blogs being tracked. Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed, right at the top of the educational popularity list is ranked at 9,292. Now before I start weeping in my pillow with rank envy, I'll do some math. At 22,604 out of 70,000,000, the BS is in the top .0003% of blogs. At 9,292 Will's blog is in the top .0001%. I am not sure if a .0002% difference is even statistically significant (or that my math with that many decimal points is any good.) For me, I am just amazed at being in the top .01% of blogs. Heck, I'd be amazed to be in the top 50%. (As I like to remind my son, I WAS in the top 90% of my high school graduating class.)

2. The Powers-That-Be recognize awards as a tangible accomplishment.

I suppose. Awards and rankings could be used to buff up the vitae, tenure app, or grant app, too. But do people really blog with this purpose in mind?

3. So, would you turn an award down?

I suppose I should turn any down now that I’ve been snarky about it. But probably not. But I honestly have to say that I value comments and compliments from individuals far more than any award.

4. Awards are a means of making "discoveries" of new blogs and bloggers.

Point taken. I don't know that I've see many new bloggers on the nominations, however.

5. The awards are just done in fun.

Fun for the winners; possibly dispiriting for those not chosen. (As Mom said, "Sure it's all fun til somebody gets hurt.") Kohn says that rewards also punish.

6. It's important to be aware of your ranking in order to strategize for maximum readership (and resulting impact on the educational community).

Peter makes my argument for me in his comment left on the post (go back and read his whole comment):

One makes change by acting and speaking in a way that captures people through reason and their conscience. Caring about how many people are listening is a distraction. While it's true that more people listening *may* mean more influence, to set raising readership numbers up as a concern/goal is totally misguided ... If you want to make change, then why not spend time doing something that's actually effectual, rather than spending time being concerned over one's own popularity ranking? Hell, doing nothing is more productive.

7. Doesn't ClustrMaps also invite competition and comparison?

I'd not looked at ClustrMaps in this light before, but I can see the possibility that it might be used in this way. I’ve kept it on my site more as a reminder to myself that I do indeed have international readers and to be aware that I am always writing through a US-centric lens. Oh, ClustrMaps gets wiped every now and again - sort of humbiing to start afresh.

8. Don't we fundamentally "reward" people at the deepest level with our admiration and respect? Even in our writing, aren't we arguably competing for respect for and dissemination of our own ideas? Isn't that a good thing? (from Elizabeth)

To me, competition will always mean winners and losers. I don’t see that sending one blogger a note of admiration or respect in any way makes losers of those to whom one does not send such notes. Are we competing for the acceptance of our own ideas? I’ve always thought I was adding to a pot of ideas from which really good ideas could be formulated. I guess I just can’t get the blood lust going here. In the wild kingdom, my DNA would not have had a chance...

I am going to go back to some of Kohn's arguments about extrinsic motivation via rewards...

Rewards can punish those who do not receive them - See #5 above.

Rewards can rupture relationships - If I link to or comment on your blog, might I be pushing your rank above mine, make you more popular, more award-worthy? Am I cutting my own throat if I help you make your blog better?

Rewards ignore the reasons for a desired behavior - Is blogging about improving education, having fun, and debating the issues .... or winning fame and recognition?

Rewards can discourage risk-taking - Might I be less likely to take a controversial or unpopular stance if it might mean losing readers? Might I avoid trying a different style of writing or type of post if it would cause people to drop a subscription?

Rewards can actually discourage desired behaviors. -  There must be something distasteful about blogging if it is only about rankings and awards.

So awards and ranks probably won't bring about the end of the world as we know it. But let's not grant them any more importance than they deserve, either.