Thursday, February 21, 2013

Apparently Google doesn't think much of me...

So Googling myself yields some somewhat surprising results...
All of the above are actually about me -  Source
I'm glad to see that employers and scholarships committees that might potentially research me in the near future will see that I won a National Achievement award and graduated from Monroe High School, but I do wish I had more recent results. My blog and Glogster accounts don't appear until halfway down the second page, and Google images is even worse, yielding only one picture of me. Considering that I don't have a Facebook or (active) Twitter, I'm genuinely surprised that anything popped up.

One one hand, I'm glad to lack an internet presence, because I don't have to worry about drunken regrets or vengeful friends wrecking havoc; on the other hand, I have to wonder if my near invisibility on the internet is detrimental. Articles such as this and this leave me wondering if I look suspicious or like a social deviant because people can't search me on Facebook.  Personally, I think it's favorable to have less information online, because it limits the amount of stupidity that can be (correctly or incorrectly) traced back to you. As much as I love my friends and family, some of them are the driving force behind why I feel uncomfortable with my name and information plastered across the web. One small comment out of context or one friend who is a little too passionate about a particular issue and my career might be in jeopardy like this teacher from Wake County. Furthermore, it seems that the Internet often amplifies people's natural stupidity and drowns out reason, leading to numerous stories about teacher transgressions online.

That being said, I believe that as teachers in a digital age, we need to have some sort of Internet presence, lest we appear imposters. As disquieting as it is to find scantily clad photos and racist remarks on a teacher's Facebook, it's equally as worrisome to find nothing at all. A good way to strike a balance between these two is being keeping a blog (ahem) and following guidelines and tips such as the ones posted by veteran teacher and global collaborator Vicki Davis at Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Video courtesy of CNN on YouTube

Do Digital Natives Really Exist?

Though relatively new to me, the idea of Marc Prensky's digital natives - that is, the belief that those born after 1980 are fully immersed in and accepting of technology - has powerful implications for educators, many of whom are labeled digital immigrants because of their retroactive adoption of technology.  If the concept accurately describes today's students, then education must be tailored to their parallel processing, multitasking, video game obsessed minds lest it fail to account for a major impact on their learning (Digital Natives).
The difference between digital natives and immigrants. 
Image courtesy of Technology for Young Children
I, however, find fault with the idea of a digital native, because I know that I myself fail to fit the criteria. I didn't get a laptop until this past August and I still lack a Facebook. Ask me how to code a webpage or even how to use Twitter and I'll look at you like you're a two-headed gargoyle from Mongolia. Still, according to Prensky my birth date places me squarely in the category of digital native. Surely, this cannot be true.

This past week, I couldn't take the side I believed in because there is no qualifying middle ground in a debate. I do agree that some of my generation embodies the technophile web savvy digital native, but the same can be said for my parents' or even my grandparents' generations. Digital native is not a concept determined solely, or even largely by age; rather, the interest of a person in learning and adapting to technology is the defining factor. 

Apparently, I'm not the only one who believes this. As the video shows, many so-called digital natives don't even know the tools they are supposedly masters of. Other much more educated people, such as e-learning developer Steve Howard and La Trobe University professor Dr. Christopher Scanlon, hold my same views. In an article in Learning Solution Magazine, Howard argues that true digital natives are "geeks"and that "geeks come in all shapes and sizes – and ages"  He goes on to say that, "Being a digital native is not about age, but about technological comfort and usage.Non-geeks who use technology, but are not truly comfortable with it, are the digital immigrants....Everyone else is a digital alien, regardless of age." Though I never imagined that digital natives would to boil down to geeks, it makes sense when I consider that geeks are typically the most committed to learning and utilizing whatever new innovations arise. Dr.Scanlon raises related points when he notes that though most of his students are familiar with email, cell phones, and Facebook, "very few have blogs...[and] many are still learning how to construct effective web searches using Google. One comment that really caught my eye was his belief that,  "Far from helping so-called digital natives, we may be creating large numbers of digital refugees: people who are lost when it comes to using technology simply because nobody sat down and showed them how to use technology, or use it effectively." 

As someone who struggles with Twitter and even defining a Web 2.0 tool, I completely agree.

Video courtesy of YouTube.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My First Brushes With Technology

"Mom, what are you doing?"
"Trying to crack the password on this computer. Your aunt gave it to us."
"Won't you need a hammer then?"
 And thus began my acquaintance with technology.
Remember these?
When I was about five, my family was blessed with a tan-colored monstrosity that seemed like the coolest thing ever at the time. My mom tried to bestow her limited knowledge on me, but from what I recall, I was at that happy age where I was more interested in books than flashing lights on a computer screen. Still, I loved the games and would spend hours wearing out my library-rented copy of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?".

It wasn't until second grade forced the dreaded computer class upon me that I began to see computers as more than game machines. Even at that age, I knew that what I was learning was outdated, but the teachers gave candy for right answers, so I kept my revelation to myself. Instead, what really changed my view of computers was Accelerated Reader. I'm not sure if it's still used today, but starting in second grade, my teachers stressed (and perhaps relied on) Accelerated Reader to encourage kids to read. The program worked by cataloging books into certain grade levels so our teachers had an idea of what level we could read on and how proficient we were at comprehension. Every week or two, we'd choose a book to read and then take a quiz on it using the program. We received points based off of the number of and accuracy of each quiz, and if we earned enough, we got the pleasure of skipping a day of school to walk to the skating rink and fill our bellies with candy.  Because I was already an avid reader, Accelerated Reader seemed like a godsend encouraging me to consume more and more books. (Eventually my teachers had to limit my reading because my other core skills - namely math - were suffering as a result of my near obsession.)

In any case, using Accelerated Reader was my first indication that technology could be used educationally and still be fun. Time has taught me that that's not always true (not even a computer can make calculus interesting), but it opened my eyes up to the immense potential of technology. From elementary to middle school, I slowly transitioned from books to Google, until high school forced books back upon me. Now in college, I'm all but tied to my trusty HP. Without it, I couldn't check calculus problems on WebWork, or look videos on YouTube about calculus topics, or email my friends stressing about our calculus homework...


..and I can't help but think that I'd be a lot more reluctant to use my computer if my early experiences hadn't showed me what it could do for me.