March 24, 2018
Should We Fear Screens?
In a TED Talk from April 2017, Sara Dewitt discusses the worrisome perceptions parents- and adults in general- have about small children using screens. With a degree in Children’s Literature and a current employee of PBS Kids, Dewitt talks about three main points of concern with children using screens.
The first fear Dewitt addresses is, “Screens are passive. They are going to keep our kids from getting up and moving.” To counteract this argument, Sara gives an example of a time when the hosts of Wild Kratts on PBS wanted to incorporate technology and all the different cameras around the studio. With cameras and screens, they brought kids in and had them act out the motion of different animals, like bats. The motion they did was picked up by the screen, and then done by the bat on the screen. There are many more screen applications and websites, where students are constantly moving. For instance, the website www.gonoodle.com is an interactive website that’s goal is to get kids up and moving while they are learning. From dances to exercises to mindfulness videos, this website has a multiple videos and channels to help students move in a variety of ways.
The second concern Sara Dewitt comments on is, “Playing games on this screen is just a waste of time. It is going to distract children from their education.” She then goes on to a tell a story of a Curious George game that was used with a group of students to work on math skills. The students then took a standardized test. But programmers wanted to focus on data analysis and student test scores. So they trained the computer to interpret the data and predict the test scores students would get. The computers were almost 100% spot on with the test results from the actual standardized test given to students. Games today are not only educational, but they are also able to collect data and track student progress. The programs Reading Eggs and Math Seeds are two different types of applications that have students pass different levels in order to move on through the game, making sure the students accomplish the necessary reading and math skills. This progress is then saved and shared with both the teacher and the parents. Screens are not just distraction time. Today, technology is advancing in ways that make screens beneficial for both student and teacher; they are fun and educational but are also able to collect and track data more efficiently than say a standardized test.
The third and final fear Dewitt brought up was, “That these screens are isolating me from my child.” She talked about a scenario where after a parent gave a tablet to her child to play a game, she received a notification with a basic sentence starter about what her child did and what to ask her about. Most education applications and websites have a whole section devoted to parents, giving them tips and advice on how to use the technology. But when it comes down to it, parents need to communicate with their child about technology in the same way they would a book or a movie. Ask the child about the game, “What do you remember? Did you have a problem? How did you solve it? Would you solve it any differently?” Technology is only isolating if it is not discussed. By talking about the game, parents are showing an interest in their child’s interest, and that gets the child excited and willing to share.
There are developmental issues and concerns about screens that were not discussed in this video. But like anything else, technology can have negative side effects if not used in moderation. But going from one extreme of not using it at all is just as bad as using it all the time. Using screens with children is all about finding a balance; the same balance was needed with all the inventions we use today. Technology is all around our children’s lives, and will continue to be. Fearing it is not going to help our children be prepared to use it in their everyday lives. Students need technology exposure when they are younger so they are able to work with and handle it when they are older and on their own.
Here is the Ted Talk Video by Sara DeWitt:
March 18, 2018
Is remote collaboration better than face-to-face collaboration?
I recently read this article that talked about 5 areas to focus on when using tech tools with students. These 5 areas were: collaborating, questioning, connecting, creating and wondering. The article made good points about ways in which students can develop theses skills, but they were solely beneficiary. No side effects or negatives were mentioned, and there can be some negatives in these areas, specifically with collaborating.
Under collaborating, the article talked about how students can collaborate on an assignment or document remotely. While I do find this to be a benefit, it does beg the question, Is remote collaboration better than face-to-face collaboration?
Personally, I see collaboration as working with someone else in real-time. The issue with remote collaboration is that each party does not have to be working on the file at the same time. With time differences and busy schedules, this is a benefit; but it can also be a negative.
When collaborating in real time- even on FaceTime or skype- there is a spontaneous conversation that can spark new ideas. You cannot get that same kind of spontaneity if one person works on the document and then a few hours later the other person works on the document. Another setback is clarification. When working with a group in person, you are able to explain your thought process for others to fully understand your idea. But if collaborating remotely, you may not be able to explain yourself so clearly. Yes you can leave comments or notes for others to read, but written explanation is not the same as verbal explanation. It falls in line with the thought process that people interpret emails and text messages differently than the way the sender intended. Combine this miscommunication with the fact that the collaborators could be working at different times, and it actually makes the collaboration more difficult than productive, which can waste time instead of saving time.
Remote collaboration is beneficial for those who are not able to meet face-to-face. But If there is an option to meet face-to-face, I personally believe that is how people should collaborate. Social Interaction is extremely important, especially nowadays with the increased presence of technology. And while technology connects people all over the world, it can also disconnect people locally. Remote collaboration should be an option, but I do not think it should be the only option for collaboration.
Here is the link to the article:
March 11, 2018
Are Interactive Textbooks more beneficial than traditional textbooks?
Nowadays, everything can be accessed online or through a smartphone. It only makes sense that textbooks have also become digitized resources. There is now a new phase of online textbooks, that are called Interactive Textbooks.
Interactive Textbooks are online books that students cannot only read digitally, but also answer questions and work with digitally. Interactive textbooks, “Contain quizzes, allowing a secret key, the correct password or code after successfully answering all questions.” (Solcova, 2016, p. 111) They are somewhat like choose-your-own adventure books, just more academic. In order to use these interactive textbooks, student have to have a Interactive Response System (IRS) pen, that allows them to record information with the pen and in the pen. The IRS pen also allows students to have the book become verbal and speak to students, instead of having to just read the text. Interactive Textbooks have a lot of advancements that differentiate to different learner needs, but are they better than the traditional textbook in the traditional classroom setting?
A benefit of interactive textbooks is that is accessible to everyone, even if you cannot read. The book’s text can be enlarged as well as be spoken instead of having to use your eyes to read the words on the page. This allows younger students to read, “on their own,” even if they do not know how. The quizzes found in interactive notebooks allows teachers and parents to track student progress, and see where they are in relation to the content in the book. Another benefit of an interactive notebook is its style and content. Interactive notebooks have, “substantially less text than a traditional textbook [and] numerous animations and built-in tools.” (Solcova, 2016, p. 111 ) The material inside of an interactive notebook is more attractive and entertaining, which keeps the students attention for longer periods of time.
Even with all their advancements and universality, interactive notebooks do have some drawbacks. For one, in order to access all the benefits of an interactive notebook, you need to have the special IRS pen. This pen is a separate tool from the notebooks, which means it is probably bought separately. This is an extra cost that can cause a catch 22 when using interactive notebook; do not use the pen and lose out on the full scope of an interactive notebook, or by the pen which will cost money and be another technological tool that you have to take care of, keep track of and charge. Another setback with interactive notebooks is that it is not a tool used for learning new content, but rather a tool used for testing and curriculum review. So even if a student has an interactive notebook, she would still need to provided with a traditional textbook or any other materials required to learn the content.
Interactive notebooks have a lot of benefits that cannot be provided with a traditional textbook. But with that being said, interactive textbooks do not have the capability to completely replace traditional text. Like many other tools in technology, interactive textbooks have offered a lot of improvements in education and how students learn. But they are not up-to-date enough and adaptable enough to completely replace traditional textbooks. But one day, maybe with enough improvements, interactive textbooks could be the standard tool that is provided in every classroom!
Solcova, L. (July 2016). Interactive Textbook - A New Tool in Off-Line and On-Line Education. TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 15, 111- 125. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1106413.pdf
March 3, 2018
Can Osmo Be More than a Drill and Practice Tool?
In my current school at the Kinder division, we use a tool called OSMO. OSMO is a tool that connects with the iPad through an app. With the iPads, OSMOS allow students to work in an app, but still use chips and pieces to make it hands-on.
With the OSMOS, the iPads’ cameras are covered with a reflective mirror over the camera. Students use letter or number chips and move them directly in front of the iPad. Whatever chip is used is then reflected using the mirror and recognized in the app. The OSMOS have many different Apps, each with its own set of pieces. The Apps my school currently uses are: Osmo Words, Osmo Numbers, Osmo Tangram, Osmo Masterpiece, Osmo Monster, Osmo Newton, Osmo Coding, and Osmo Pizza Company. Through all these different apps students practice skills in Literacy, Numbers, Coding, spatial skills as well as creative skills. In a few of the applications, students create, but for the most part students are asked questions and then use their pieces to answer; it is a drill response process.
I have been using Osmos with my students for the past year, and after seeing the students work with them and how they work in the classroom I started to wonder, can Osmos be more than a drill and practice tool?
As I previously mentioned, a few of the apps allow students more freedom to create, but for the most part the students are answering questions or repeating back patterns. Even in the Osmo Masterpiece app, which is an artistic app that allows students to draw, the app provides the students a picture and they are suppose to trace it. Even with all the different apps, there is still a possibility for some more freedom.
Each student is able to have his/her own account in OSMO. I as the teacher am allowed to have one as well. Also, as the teacher, I am able to create different activities in certain apps, share my creations with other educators and even search for activities. I am not sure however, if students have the same opportunities. If so, this would calm my concerns about the use of OSMOS in school.
Right now, I believe that OSMOS cannot be used for more than a drill and practice tool. From what I have seen, OSMOS do not allow students to go higher through the SAMR model hierarchy and dig into deeper learning. Now, if students are able to create their own games and activities, that would be different. But at this point and from what I have seen I am not sure.
I really enjoy using OSMOS, and my students get a lot out of using them. I just hope that like many other tools, OSMOS will develop and adapt to allow students to create more as opposed to just repeatedly answering questions.