#thattech Week 7–Likes Don’t Raise Money, Save Lives or Change the World

The era in which Net Geners have grown up has been a time period in which civil activism is not as prominent as it has been in other decades.  I believe Net Geners, as non-activists, aren’t necessarily the exception but more the rule.  The two interviews I conducted backed up my notion as both interviewees turned out to be more slacktivists if anything at all.  (Slacktivist meaning one who is not constantly involved in the action part of activism.)  John Palfrey and Urs Gasser mention “what the Net provides is an increasingly useful, attractive platform for those who are predisposed to be active in civic life” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  I believe activism may be sparked by not only your background but the people you surround yourself with and are influenced by as well as the lifestyle, community and location where you live.  Don Tapscott also notes, “Between elections, there is no real engagement by the citizens in the important decisions that affect their lives” (Tapscott, 2008).

It was apparent my two interviewees are not consistently engaged in any sort of civic activity or service. The extent of their activism is limited to clicks on the internet entailing things such as a “like” on Facebook or posting a comment on a website.  I personally feel you can’t really call this activism.  Despite my opinion, they both expressed being an “activist” if an issue personally affected them and compelled them to give their whole-hearted support.

Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray, and Jens Meierhenrich conducted a study on digital-age action in regards to the Save Darfur Cause on Facebook which had 1.2 million members.  They concluded:

While both donation and recruitment behavior are socially patterned, the vast majority of Cause members recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it — suggesting that in the case of the Save Darfur campaign, Facebook conjured an illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing (Lewis, Gray, & Meierhenrich, 2014).

This further reiterates that many people’s level of activism might be limited to simple clicks online rather real action or raising money.

According to Reputation Inc., author Laura Brummer notes, “The implication is that the gap needs to be bridged between click and action, slacktivism and actual passion” (Brummer, n.d.).  Technology has created an immense platform to help convert slacktivists into activists if they choose to do so.  Palfrey and Gasser note, “Affordable Internet technology and highly interactive, easy-to-use applications have enabled individuals to become active users and participants in public conversations” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  This ties into what Brian Honigman stated in his Forbes article, “Social media created an enormous opportunity for converting more folks to higher levels of engagement” (Honigman, 2014).

Although the tools now exist, I don’t think the majority of the Net Geners I know are chomping at the bit to get involved or are on a plot to change the world as we speak.  However, I do believe technology has created an instrument for our students to get their feet wet and discover what role they want to play in activism online or offline.  As Palfrey and Gasser point out, “There are seeds of change that ought to be nourished” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  We as educators can help nourish these by promoting our students to explore topics they are passionate about that might spur activism.  And if the seeds blossom, students need to know the available tools but at the same time be cognizant of the nature and ethics of the internet.  The internet is an extraordinary tool, but similar to research, you must be cautious of the source of information.

 

References:

Brummer, L. (n.d.). Online Activists: Revolution or Click-Illusion? Retrieved fromhttp://www.reputation-inc.com/our-thinking/online-activists-revolution-or-click-illusion  on June 25, 2014.

Honigman, B. (2014). How Tumblr Is Changing Online Activism. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/citi/2014/02/18/how-tumblr-is-changing-online-activism/ on June 25, 2014.

Lewis, K., Gray, K., & Meierhenrich, J. (2014). The Structure of Online Activism. Retrieved from http://www.mpmlab.org/Online%20Activism.pdf on June 25, 2014.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.

#thattech Week 6–It’s Mine Now!

As I was reading back-to-back texts, I found two very different topics with similar underlying messages being discussed in each book.  Born Digital was more focused on piracy while Grown Up Digital was dealing with the “N-Fluence” and its impact on Net-Gen consumers.  When I was reading ­Born Digital, I couldn’t help brainstorming ways to get a better handle on internet piracy issues.  I thought the authors were going to present some dreamlike idea which would solve present-day and futuristic concerns.  John Palfrey and Urs Gasser repeatedly mention, “There may be a need for radical changes to the copyright law in response to changes in media forms, but simply piling on more protections to the age-old framework, which is ill-fitting to the digital era, is not the answer” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  My “ah-ha” moment finally came when they said, “This also means that all of us Digital Immigrants, parents and teachers alike, will need to familiarize ourselves with copyright issues” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  Unfortunately, it appears as though this idea is not at the forefront of current education, at least from my perspective.  Even as the digital age is in full-swing, most students, teacher, parents, and consumers appear to know only the minimum when it comes to copyright laws.

While reading the text on piracy, I immediately thought about a particular situation that happened to a teacher at my school this year.  Our school has 1,500 middle school students and well over 100 faculty, staff and administration.  If you teach or have taught in a large school, you probably know it might be easy to get away with unethical actions because you are one of many in the school.  With that being said, a hardworking teacher in my building created many classroom resources and activities from scratch to enrich the curriculum.  This teacher worked countless hours inside and out of school dedicated to elevating the educational experience in which she delivered.  As a courtesy, she posted every assignment online for easy student access.  Midway through the year, this teacher noticed other students in the building, whom were not her students, using the very same worksheets she had created.  When investigated further, it turned out another teacher (we’ll name Tammy), was pirating each and every assignment from her website.  Not only was “Tammy” distributing these educational documents to all of her students, she too was posting them on her class website.  Well, turns out the victim was actually me.  Would you consider “Tammy’s” actions unethical?  Did “Tammy” simply really like what I was doing in the classroom and want to use my ideas?  Should “Tammy” have asked first?  What are your thoughts?  How would you have handled this situation if you were the victim of a piracy act?

The lesson I chose to share by Jenn Tordel entitled Copyright could work for any age group but would be most meaningful for younger students.  I found this lesson on the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security website which hosts many lessons on internet security.  The lesson I picked is linked to the very issue I dealt with this past school year.  It teaches students, through personal experience and role-playing, about copyright and personal individuality.  The lesson starts by introducing copyright laws to students based on historical facts and evolution.  Then it leads students into an engaging activity which allows them to get creative.  Students are instructed to draw a colorful picture of any sort based on the teacher’s instructions.  Students cannot identify their picture in any way or put their name on it.  The teacher then collects all art pieces and randomly passes them out to the students.  Holding a classmate’s piece of art, the students share it with the class by discussing the piece and telling how and why they made it.  Afterward, students are given time to reflect on how they personally felt when somebody took ownership of their artwork and changed the meaning of how and why it was intended to be created.  The lesson goes on to discuss copyright further by brainstorming strategies of why laws are important, and when, how and why they could be used by students.

Experiencing an instance in which you have been personally affected by a copyright violation can be a powerful lesson.  One of my favorite lines from Grown up Digital in chapter seven was Don Tapscott’s mentioning “With the Net Gen, hearts, not eyeballs, count” (Tapscott, 2008).  This message is suitable for the lesson I chose to share.  Tapscott also notes in his discussion, “The strongest norm is integrity” (Tapscott, 2008).  I think this Net Gen norm is a characteristic many people seek in individuals, friends, and family.  Honesty and trustworthiness goes a long way.  In the end, the underlying message that resonated with me was the importance of finding the right balance between enabling and constraining our student’s digital use in order to promote productive digital citizens.

References:

CERIAS, Purdue Unversity. (2014). CERIAS – Lesson Plans/Presentation Handouts. Retrieved from http://www.cerias.purdue.edu/site/education/k-12/teaching_resources/lessons_presentations/ on June 17, 2014.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tordell, J. (2001). Copyright. Retrieve from http://www.cerias.purdue.edu/education/k-12/teaching_resources/lessons_presentations/copyrightjenn_pdf.zip on June 17, 2014.

 

#thattech Week 5–You’re Fired!

I have the opportunity to teach privileged children who mostly experience access.  I feel as though I’ve experienced more frustration with the system in the past several years than ever before.  But as I’m coming to learn in my research, we must embrace this generation and certainly not put up a firewall.  John Palfrey and Urs Gasser note, “Digital Natives offer feedback, often quite harsh, but in a way that can help brands to refine at the margins, or to innovate in wholly new ways” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  If we don’t think and educate with an open mind, these Digital Natives are liable to drive us out of the business and potentially eat us for dinner!  They also mention, “These Digital Natives may be innovators, but they are threatening a way of life. People are losing their jobs” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).

Although these techy youth may not solely be to blame for job loss of boomer employees, this idea seems predominant at my school.  Older teachers are being driven out of their 20-30 year careers because, simply put, from administration’s perspective, they cannot keep up with the pace at which we must deliver to today’s youth.  (Obviously this may be driven by budgetary reasons too.  It’s sad to see some of them go, many kicking and screaming.)  With students’ basic computer skills outperforming that of their teacher who has no desire to integrate technology in the classroom, I would agree intervention should be put in place.  But who wants to be forced to leave their one and only career and not given the liberty to go on their own accord after putting 20 plus years in the business?

I feel as though my classroom environment is constantly evolving to suit the needs of my students to maintain an adequate pace.  If at all possible, I bend over backwards for these talented young individuals and try to provide everything they need to be efficient learners while keeping my professional expertise at the forefront.  This includes posting grades online in an expeditious manner.   As Tapscott mentioned, “Warp speed is the preferred speed” (Tapscott, 2008).  It’s hard to believe, but I have parents who sit on their phones and computers and watch their child’s gradebook waiting for the next grade to post.  I always try to utilize many features of the internet to allow my students access to complete assignments without having them use their teacher as an excuse.  For instance, they can use an online textbook for assignments (no need to use the ‘I forgot my book at school’ excuse).  I also upload all assignments to my website in pdf format so students can access it anywhere from their mobile devices (even when absent).  I promote resourcefulness in the classroom and encourage students to problem solve when they try to use justifications for their faults.

Communication is another expectation of these privileged students.  Not only do these kids want to communicate with each other, but their parents want constant communication with their child and teacher too.  I’ve found the best rule of thumb is to contact parents frequently via email or phone, even for minor things, as most parents want and like the feedback.  I foster a collaborative work environment in my classroom where students are seated at tables (small communities) so they can constantly run ideas back and forth regarding how to solve math problems as well as assist those in need.

It is important to know the needs of our students.  I remain open to new suggestions on ways to improve my instructional delivery and classroom environment to better suit the needs of the rising Net Gens.  Although this statistic may be dated, Bobby Hobgood and Lauren Ormsby noted in their article Inclusion in the 21-st century classroom: Differentiating with technology, “A 2005 U.S. Department of Education study found that whole-class instruction was the most common format experienced by secondary students with disabilities as well as students in regular education academic classes” (Hobgood & Ormsby, 2011).  I hope by now many teachers recognize we cannot stand up in front of the class and expect students to learn from traditional lecture methods.  Hobgood and Ormsby go on to say, “Many of the obstacles to implementing differentiated instruction can be overcome with the effective use of technology” (Hobgood & Ormsby, 2011).  We need to get creative, like our students, in finding new innovated ways to deliver content.

In closing, Palfrey and Gasser comment on the fact “Digital Natives will in time revitalize the industries that they are challenging, create new jobs to replace those they are threatening, and offer new services to customers around the world” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  I hope I live long enough to see this come full circle because I’m already trying to flip to the ending of this book.

References:

Hobgood, B. & Ormsby, L. (2011). Inclusion in the 21-st century classroom: Differentiating with technology. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/every-learner/6776 on June 12, 2014.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.

#thattech Week 4–Roller Coasters

Looking back on my primary and secondary education (in the 90’s), nothing stood out as an exceptional classroom environment that I would want to model in my own professional setting.  I recall unnecessary amounts of lecturing, lengthy video features and un-collaborative work environments.  It was almost as if student collaboration was considered a form of cheating to learn knowledge from the teacher’s perspective.  Don Tapscott points out, “Students need to talk among themselves.  In fact, research has found collaborative learning to be more effective in increasing academic performance” (Tapsott, 2008).  I promote student collaboration in every aspect of my classroom excluding completion of summative assessments.  Not only do the students gain more knowledge, they become more confident in their schoolwork.

Tapscott notes, “It’s not easy.  Letting kids discover for themselves involves a lot of up-front preparation on the part of the teacher” (Tapscott, 2008).  I often overwhelm myself trying to find the newest and most engaging activities for my students.  Some days I’m very successful, and others I hit major roadblocks.  To help reduce this exhaustion I turn to mentors as well as fellow teachers for advice.  These are the people I look up to and whom I want to model my classroom after.  With this, collaboration turns out to be strategic in my individual success.

With our school year finally coming to an end, we always take our entire 8th grade class (500 students) to Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, VA just an hour bus ride away.  They so look forward to this final fieldtrip before their sendoff to high school.  With the theme park in mind, I found a lesson that, although geared for grades 3-5, was technology-based and exemplified the values and methodologies of digital age learners.  The lesson is called Competing Coasters and gives students a chance to explore, predict, and investigate the roller coaster features of speed, height, length and duration.  Students use the website www.joyrides.com to make predictions solely based off pictures of roller coasters and then record their results in a table-like graphic organizer.  Once their predictions are complete, they go to www.rcdb.com which is a statistical roller coaster database for many roller coasters around the world.  Here they verify their predictions and evaluate their estimating abilities.

This lesson is suiting for today’s students because it touches on many aspects of 21st century learning.  Students work collaboratively as they investigate rollercoasters based on pictures alone.  It seems as though students love pictures, especially images of activities they wish to take part in themselves.  Another skill addressed is their critical thinking and data analysis, as they reason through their collection and examination process.  Following these steps, students must use and defend their thinking with factual knowledge gained through their research.  This lesson demonstrates a good balance between mastering objectives with appropriate integration of technology assisting in the process.

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser noted that “we should figure out, instead, how the use of technologies can support our pedagogical goals” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  The lesson on roller coasters demonstrates just that.  It keeps students on the edge of their seat by having them research a topic which has them hooked for the entire duration of the lesson.  Any student who has been on a roller coaster absolutely loves to talk about them, and so do adults for that matter.  It’s a unique experience for any thrill seeker.  In Palfrey and Gasser’s final thoughts in chapter 11, they make a good remark with respect to transforming the change to better educate digital age students. “The hard part, during the transition, will be to discern what to preserve about traditional education and what to replace with new, digitally mediated processes and tools” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  It seems evident the content may not change a whole lot, but how and why it’s delivered will make the difference.

References:

Illuminations. (n.d.) Competing Coasters. Retrieved from http://illuminations.nctm.org/Lesson.aspx?id=924 on May 31, 2014.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.

#thattech Week 3–WARNING: System overload, out of memory, shutting down…

I enjoyed reading John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s take on information overload in their book Born Digital.  Often times I think our experiences and environment make or break our life-long habits and coping skills (i.e. poor parental guidance, growing up in a large city, one’s lacking or desire to be a life-long learner, etc.).  This is not to say we cannot change as adults, but that it may take further time, practice and adjustment to adapt to our new environment as it changes.

Palfrey and Gasser note, “An individual’s ability to make adequate decisions heavily depends on the amount of information that person is exposed to.  Life experience suggests that more information increases the overall quality of decisions” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  As a Net Gener myself, I have made incredible leaps and bounds the more knowledgeable I’ve become and experiences I have acquired.  I don’t necessarily feel growing up in the digital era has made my life corrupt, but then again I don’t know any different.  I feel strongly we can become proficient at any task, whether it’s multi-tasking or managing information overload, given we practice with determination to improve our current skillset.  According to Palfrey and Gasser, “human and technical filtering of information is a…technique for fighting information overload, and it’s one that everyone uses to some extent” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  To streamline this process, we must practice good filtering to be successful in avoiding overload.

In my primary and secondary educational years I did not feel like an efficient learner.  The Internet wasn’t as prevalent in my earlier schooling years, yet I still felt overloaded going into libraries or even opening up a textbook.  As I look back and dissect my dilemma, lack of efficiency as a learner, I did not possess the skills I needed specific to my learning style.  I was being overloaded too easily.  My mind was busy and I could not focus on doing a superior job on tasks which required more than 30 minutes of my time.  It wasn’t until the latter part of my undergraduate degree when I finally started fine tuning my learning style and discovering what made me successful.  Palfrey and Gasser emphasize that “parents and teachers must work with kids to teach them the skills they will need to manage all the information that can enrich their lives in a digital era” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  My parents primarily taught me management skills, but I feel I would have had a greater edge if my teachers put more of an importance in the classroom on these same issues.

I think it is okay to experiment with finding techniques which work best for any one particular learning style.  However, there is a time and a place to focus and get work done.  Craig Jarrow, author of Time Management Ninja, offered “8 Ways to Stop Multitasking and Get Work Done”:

  1. Do One Thing at a Time – Contrary to the multi-tasker’s creed, you’ll actually get more tasks done by doing them individually. As well, you’ll do it quicker and with fewer mistakes and less rework.
  2. Be Present – Be present with your work and with those you are working with. Stay on your current todo and don’t let your focus float to other tasks. This means not checking email while you are meeting with someone. And it means not working during that meeting on your laptop.
  3. Finish Before You Start – Make sure you finish tasks to closure before starting the next one. There is great productivity momentum in finishing things to done before taking on the next task.
  4. Don’t Let Small Tasks Interrupt Big Ones – Resist letting small items interrupt big ones. Don’t pick up that 2 minute task just because it’s easy. Don’t answer that email just because you saw it drop into your inbox.
  5. Put Down the Tech – Technology has allowed us to work anywhere. That doesn’t mean you should. Close your email, turn off the phone, and put down the unneeded tech while you are working.
  6. Clean Your Workspace – A cluttered desk is a multi-tasker’s dream. Lots of random things to pick up and work on instead of your work. Clear your desk of everything but the task you intend to work on.
  7. Make An Appointment With Your Work – I am a big advocate of scheduling appointments with your toughest tasks. Designate time to work on one task or project. Go to a meeting room or work location if it helps concentrate on the task at hand.
  8. Eliminate Interruptions – Interruptions are multi-tasking in disguise. Prevent them by turning off the ringers/beeps, the email notifications, and yes, close your door if you must.

(Jarrow, 2013)

 Although Jarrow’s tips might target businessmen and women, I think they are universal and relevant to teachers and students.  I support many of his tips and often practice them myself when I’m crunched for time and need to demonstrate good productivity.  It’s beneficial our students develop coping skills to manage the sea of information in which they tread on a daily basis.  Don Tapscott points out near the end of chapter four, “we shouldn’t blame technology” (Tapscott, 2008).  I like that he made this point.  Why blame anybody or anything for certain aspects of our life we cannot control to a certain extent.  Instead, one shouldchannel productive energy into overcoming things that otherwise seem challenging by developing the necessary survival skills to be successful.

References:

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Jarrow, C. (2013). Time Management Ninja. Retrieved from http://timemanagementninja.com/2013/09/8-ways-to-stop-multitasking-and-get-work-done/ on May 26, 2014.