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EdTech Update





Who are these people? (Net Generation)

I recently moved my youngest child, Brady, to his first apartment in the Twin Cities. After 32 years, I am now officially an “empty-nester.” I don’t exactly know how to feel about this. I am either giddy or delirious with happiness. It’s tough to tell.

But Kathy Shrock’s comments about her 17-year-old son’s blogging habits (under the posting “Getting Blogging Help.”), reminded me of just how informed about the habits and interests of the Net Generation having Brady in the house had made me. I suppose all fathers and sons share a common wonder at just how “different” their values and interests are, but ubiquitous technology may have pushed those differences to an even greater extreme.

Since I no longer have a live specimen to observe in my own household, I will be depending more on studies and reports - both official and anecdotal from teachers and librarians. Two excellent studies have recently been released:

Educating the Net Generation published online by EDUCAUSE is terrific read - especially the first two chapters. It’s a terrific summary of over 30 reports and studies of 12-19 year olds. Some surprising information that should be useful to educators of all stripes.

The second report, just released in July 2005, is Teens and Technology by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This is an update of a study done four years ago that shows tech use by teens is growing at a faster rate than use by the general population.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - It will be easier for our generation to adapt to and use the technologies of the Net Generation in schools than it will be to try change the nature of these bright young adults themselves.

Maybe I will miss Brady more than I thought I would!

How have your own children changed the way you view education and technology?
Doug, Welcome to the world of empty nesters! Last year was my first year without a child
in the house or even in the same town with me. Thank goodness for telephones.

My children (ages 32 and 26) have definitely skewed my view of technology use by the Gen Xers. Both boys have been using computers since they were in 4th grade. One is a webmaster and the other has been a network manager for several years. Both have stayed current with new technologies and are frequently giving me tips to update my own technology use.

So when I teach a computer course, I tend to assume that my students are more tech saavy
than they are. This reminds me that whenever possible, it is important to individualize
instruction so that the students can move at their own pace and actually see the value of
using technology within their own context. Sally

Comment by Sally Brewer — August 11, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

I have a son who is legally-blind and benefits greatly from technology. He is a sophomore in college and uses Zoomtext enlargement software, which enlarges just about anything and puts it in his preferred white font on black background. He can also scan things and then enlarge or have his software read it to him. However, it is all just a set of tools for him. What served him well growing up? Books, stories, time without television, imagination. I think it is silly the way so many schools tout their computer classes for kindergartners, etc. It’s as if they are saying, “Computers are so important - kids have to learn about them very young.” Actually, children are so comfortable with computers that they can pick up the skills needed very easily at almost any age. There is nothing to be lost and much to be gained if the early years focus instead on books, literacy, the spoken word, etc.

Comment by Melissa Techman — August 13, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

Hi, Doug–MUCH of what I have learned about technology I’ve learned from “the kids.” For instance, Frank’s son Anth is home from Florida and showed us the pictures of his 10th reunion on our TV and I rummaged in my two year old camera’s original box and found the cord the I had which allows my point-and-shoot to do that, too, something I had never even considered. DUH!

But…the class of college student (freshman through seniors) that I just finished teaching Research Methods through Technology at SUNY Plattsburgh really appreciated learning skills like web evaluation, advanced searching, the expert information in databases, plagiarism challenges and doing really good citations. Many had parts of the above but none had all the skills. They aren’t the searching experts that they think they are. Some did say that the course should be three hour credits, not one, for all the work I make them do! And, as always, I learned from them, too, which is one of the reasons I teach the course, Sara

Comment by SaraKellyJohns — August 14, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

Melissa’s comments stirred a couple thoughts:

First, I hope that our generation will be remembered for the advances we have made in recognizing the potential of and assisting in the realization of full-lives of the “differently - abled.” (Is this still the PC term?) We belly-ache about making our schools and communities handicap accessible, spending dollars on special education, and accommodating hearing and visually impaired people in lots of ways. But when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren someday read about the history of the late 20th and early 21st century, I hope the texts talk about the compassion we showed as well as all the destructive things we did. Adaptive and assistive technologies are making a huge difference in lots of kids and adult lives. Hurray!

Second, I am also glad Melissa raises the importance of books, play, and imagination to kids. I’ve always hugely sympathized with the Alliance for Childhood organization and their publications Fools Gold and Tech Tonic. Well worth taking the time to read these cautionary tracts.

Comment by Doug — August 15, 2005 @ 11:29 am


What’s New - summer writings

Top Ten Secrets for a Successful Workshop Here are some easy ways to make a good workshop a GREAT workshop.

Foreword to Joyce Valenza’s new book Super Searchers Go To School : Sharing Online Strategies with K-12 Students, Teachers, and Librarians, Cyberage Books/Information Today, Inc., 2005. This is a really good book -get it! In it my friend Joycie interviews some of the very best minds in the field on online searching, evaluating information, and techniques for helping student library users do those things. I was brought in for comic relief.

“More Voices Create Better Policies” The School Administrator, August 2005.

My 2004-2005 Head for the Edge columns from Library Media Connection (and other magazines) are now available .

Linking Libraries and Literacy” (a review of The Power of Reading: Insights into the Research, 2nd edition. Stephen D. Krashen. Heinemann/Libraries Unlimited, 2004. ISBN: 1-59158-169-9. KQ on the Web, AASL, Spring 2005.

Problems first, tech second

Last week a high wind tipped over my dock that extended some 60 feet into the lake. (This will have a point about educational technology eventually.) I worried about how to get the heavy monster righted and repositioned for several days.

After discarding fantasies of construction strength helicopters, righting it turned out to be fairly simple. My son-in-law (who is about the greatest person I know), my lovely wife, and I loosened four bolts which separated the dock into to two fairly manageable sections, applied some muscle to flip each section right side up, and then used my pick-up truck and a borrowed log chain to move one section to the lawn for repair work, and the other into position on the shore. It took us about 2 hours, including the trip to the big town of Cleveland, MN, (is there another one?) to get the log chain.

While the tools we used weren’t “educational technology,” they were tools none the less - the wrenches, the truck, and even the manly/womanly muscles. And we used them to address a genuine problem - an unusable dock. In other words, the problem came first, THEN the application of technology.

When things go wrong with educational technology applications in schools, I find that it is usually because we start with the technology and then run around looking for a problem to solve. (Got any unused PDAs sitting in teacher desks in your district?)

The other thing I was reminded of was just how much darned fun problem-solving can be. Sure, I stewed about the situation for a couple days, but when we got right to the task, we enjoyed the tricky project. How dull life would be without problems to solve!

Any problems in your school or library at the application of technology might help with?

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