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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 6: The Digital Divide

How has the Internet changed
a) the way we view information and information access?
b) access to 'literature', research, and quality 'text' as well as censorship or editing?

How we access information has drastically changed with the invention of the internet. I have decided to list a couple examples below.

  • Previously: People relied on their physicians, family members, or others who shared a similar experience and were within their social circles for information regarding illness.
  • Currently: These days we can turn the internet and use a multitude of resources.  WedMD, email communication with physicians, message boards and support groups for people with similar ailments can all help guide your search for knowledge of what's aching.  You can just Google your symptoms and possible diagnoses appear like magic!
  • Previously: One would use the phone book to seek the phone number of a business or person they were trying to reach.  Additionally, you used your home phone.  If you were out away from home you had to seek out a pay phone and try to remember those phone numbers.
  • Currently: The days of memorization and the Yellow Pages are OVER!  We have the Internet and to help us seek a number or a person or business.  We also have smart phones which is like having a phone, phone book, and computer all combined!  Who would have thought?
  • Previously: To get from A to Z one had to purchase a map at a gas station or AAA.  You had to learn the art of navigation and know your cardinal directions.  Traveling was essentially trial by error.  You made it, or you got lost and found your way through your mistakes.
  • Currently: MapQuest, Google Maps, Google Earth, GPS, Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, and the GPS navigation of a smartphone all allow us to reach our destinations without the headache!  While large paper maps may have been a big boisterous and inconvenient; the portable GPS device is often distracting.  Having to divert your eyes from the road to look at a tiny screen then focus back at the road and swerve across 3 lanes of highway traffic...well, that's dangerous!
  • Previously: You would go to the library, search through a card catalog, attempt to find one text.  Hopefully, this initial text's references and footnotes would lead you to ANOTHER text you could utilize.  All research had to be done physically in the library or you would have to check out the books or periodicals and take them home.  But how could your professors ensure that you were not plagiarizing?  That is a real mystery to me because I was not alive.  I would assume that the teacher would have to do the leg work as well and double check all the resources too.  Sounds TERRIBLE!
  • Currently: The internet has simplified the research process.  At the same time, it has produced some "bad" information because almost anyone is allowed to publish their opinions as fact online.  To begin the research process one should begin at their university's online library page.  You can access scholarly articles which are available for free using your school ID and password.  I have become a huge fan of Google Scholar which allows you to search for scholarly articles online.  It's almost easier than using the UF Library page and a lot of the same resources appear.  After I find my initial article I look at the references and use those as a starting point as to where to search for further information.  The method has not changed from the past to the present; just the media delivery form.  You don't have to lug books from the library, you can keep all your files on your iPad of laptop.  In regards to plagiarism, professors can now use countless websites that scan documents to pull text that is blatantly stolen. 
The questions stands: 
Could we survive without these new devices?
Obviously we lived our lives just fine before the invention of these technologies.  It may have taken longer and been "less convenient" to accomplish a task as easy as finding a new dentist, but we did it nonetheless. The tasks have remained the same, the way we accomplish them now involves technology that cuts time, connects us to one another, and enhances our abilities.  I think it is important to stay grounded in the real life though.  Teach your kids how to read a map.  Read an actual paper book.  And please, just go outside and lay in the grass and smell the flowers!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 5: Going Mobile

- How indispensable are mobile computing devices in your life? Are they an "extension" of who you are?
- How can mobile computing devices be used in disadvantaged or underdeveloped environments?

How do I love my mobile devices? Let me count the ways...I could honestly write a love letter or poem to my iPhone or iPad.  They are a part of me.  If I forget them at home, I am lost.  I feel like I left my right hand at home (which actually wouldn't be too bad because I am a lefty.)  A day without mobile technologies has me feeling disconnected, lonely, and disorganized.  It's insane that little pieces of metal and glass can have that effect on you but it is a sad truth.

This year I was given the amazing opportunity to attend FETC 2012 at my school's request. While at the conference so many of the trending topics were mobile technologies in the classroom.  I went to sessions on 1:1 mobile computing, BYOD trends, and even app shootouts.  It was fantastic to see so many people passionate (and nerdy) about technology like me!

The BYOD (bring your own device) trend is specifically useful for those working in schools that do not have devices to provide to students.  On the IT end, this means expanding your network, protecting your network if multiple devices will be accessing it, and setting strict regulations of use.  On the teachers end, it means creative curriculum and strong classroom management.  I know many teachers who wouldn't touch student-owned devices with a 10-foot pole!

If we can't provide students with technology in the classroom; then who are we to deny them the right to use their own?  I read an article recently (found here: Students Demand Technology) that really got me thinking.  The article is about a group of students who pleaded their case at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. One student was quoted:

"Why should l have to go to a library outside my school to have access to computers that are available, but limited? Yes, we're learning to type on our T-Mobile Sidekicks, because we're taking our own initiative. But we're crucified by a process that's making us a permanent underclass. We are forced to stay at the bottom, and this lack of technology will not allow us to develop skills for the job market. Budget cuts can no longer be a reason why me and my peers are tech-illiterate. We've had this problem since before the economic crisis."
Powerful words from such a young person; a person who has experience and self-awareness beyond her years.  And this young woman is right!  Why should she continue to be disadvantaged?  She wants to use whatever she has to get ahead so we deny her that right?  I don't know the right answer to these questions but I do know that there will be a shift in the coming years and mobile is the way to go.  Mobile learning means that the knowledge acquisition and the communication can continue outside the 4 walls of the classroom.  It allows student voice, choice, and preparation for the future.  How can any of these things be bad?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 4: Virtual Environments

- In what ways can multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) contribute to the learning experience?
- Do MUVEs benefit certain students or groups more than others?

After this week's readings and podcasts, I began to question the validity of multi-user virtual environments.  Is learning through virtual environments and avatars ACTUALLY experiential learning?  Well what is experiential learning? According to Wikipedia experiential learning is, "the process of making meaning from direct experience."  DIRECT is the key word I see here.  Gee's (2008) article spoke about children reading a story then using figures to act concepts out.  They were touching, feeling, role-playing, face-to-face.  This is experiential in nature by my personal (albeit conventional) definition.  I began to ponder if if MUVEs are as effective as "traditional" experiential learning and provide the full experience required by learners.

MUVEs can contribute to the learning experience because they enhance the educational experience for the user or learner. Even if the MUVE is a virtual field trip; that field trip may be the only field trip a home-bound student may be able to experience.  These MUVEs can open up a world of possibilities for many students and save in costs to schools.  MUVEs are not necessarily cost-free though.  The schools still need the technology (computers, microphones, cameras, etc.) and some software and virtual worlds come with membership fees.  Essentially, my point is that MUVEs take learning a step further than we can in the traditional classroom and this can make the experience more memorable.  We want to make learning stick right?

Wallace's (2010) podcast about the social inclusion that virtual worlds offer is an interesting standpoint as well.  MUVEs allow users to create an avatar to represent themselves and take part in a community.  So how can that be used in the educational setting?  "Social groups exist to induct newcomers into distinctive experiences, and ways of interpreting and using those experiences, for achieving goals and solving problems," (Gee, 2008). Users can be a part of a group that learns in a multi-sensory environment while cooperating with one another.  They are learning those "hard" academic skills and well as the "soft skills" like teamwork, cooperation, accountability.  The student who will benefit from this are the ones who participate!  They may also be the students who are seeking a place to feel the inclusion they don't get in the real world. 

So how do these experiences translate into an experiential learning?  "People’s experiences are organized in memory in such a way that they can draw on those experiences as from a data bank, building simulations in their minds that allow them to prepare for action," (Gee, 2008).  So even if the experience is virtual and through an avatar, the user will still file that information into a data bank to be retrieved when they are called into action.  I am still not 100% convinced that MUVEs can replace the real world or are as effective but I will say they have their place in education.  In working with younger children I am not sure which MUVE would be most useful for them.

The truth is they are using these environments on their own already!  When I give them free time in the computer lab they automatically go to Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, or Poptropica to play and interact with one another.  They log in and play with each other while sitting next to each other.  They say meet me at this room or play this game with me at this place.  It's quite amazing to see them navigate their virtual worlds so effortlessly at such a young age.  They don't even realize that they are dipping their little toes into MUVEs.  We shall see what their future holds.


Gee, James Paul. “Learning and Games." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 21–40

Wallace, P. (2010). Some of My Students Are Not Human! Avatar Interaction and Collaboration in Virtual Worlds. Retrieved from

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 3: Credibility and Evaluation

Question 1: How do we represent ourselves online?
The way you represent yourself online depends upon the level of technology you integrate into your life.  One would hope that an online representation would model that of our actual real life selves.  For example, we choose avatars and usernames that resonate with who we are.  We seek out information and entertainment that pertains to our desires and interests. 

While many use the Internet to branch out as themselves online, others may be taking a different approach.  Some use the Internet for role-playing games, alternate lives, anonymous forums, and other outlets that provide anonymity and personal expression.  I believe that it all boils down to networking, information, and using the internet as a tool to express your passions and communicate with the rest of the world.

For more information about my feelings on online representation and identity formation please visit my week 1 journal link: Perceptions 

Question 2: How do we shape our ability to critically evaluate the credibility of information available online?

The ability to evaluate the credibility and validity of the information available online is a process that now begins in childhood.  For those of us who did not grow up with computers, we may have had to acquire these skills independently in adulthood.  These days, schools should instruct students on ways of analyzing the information and images they gather from the Internet.  Modern day students are growing up in technology rich environments and are very comfortable consuming, generating, and collaborating using technology.  It is up to educators like myself to instruct youth on how to navigate these complex media environments safely and successfully.

Tasha Bergson-Michelson’s MindShift article, “Building Good Research Skills: What Students Need to Know,” (2012) explains the information and research gap today’s students are facing.  Students are lacking research skills and have abandoned scholarly databases in favor of search engines.  You can’t really blame the students though because they don’t know any other way.  They are a Google-happy generation.  Any problem they have, just Google it!  This however, has led them into some serious scholarly trouble.

The solution needs to be a revised method of teaching media literacy and information evaluation at a younger age.  It is important for teachers to stress the use of multiple resources as one source may lead to another.  Students need to learn to intertwine several types of resources.  For example, some teachers turn their noses up at Wikipedia however, the reference links listed at the bottom of a wiki can lead to some excellent primary sources with a little hunting. 

Teachers must also ask students to reflect on why they chose to click on one link over another. When using the Web together as a class, teachers can also demonstrate how to look for a definition of an unfamiliar word (Bergson-Michelson, 2011).   The article also provided a 3-tiered scaffold approach to teaching research to students.
The Steps of the Research Process:
  1. Inquiry: The free exploration of a broad topic to discover an interesting avenue for further research. (open ended web search)
  2. Literature Review: Seek points of authority on a topic, and pursue and identify the range of theories and perspectives on the subject. (Bibliographies, blog posts, and various traditional sources)
  3. Evidence-Gathering: Look for both primary- and secondary-source materials that build the evidence for new conclusions.

Lastly, it is important that students know what information they are looking for before they go crawling the web.  Before performing a web search they should ask themselves what they expect to find and identify what they are looking for specifically.  “What students need to be competent at is identifying the kind of source they’re finding, decoding what types of evidence it can appropriately provide, and making an educated choice about whether it matches their task,” (Bergson-Michelson, 2011).  It is of the utmost importance that students understand and implement a varied approach and a critical eye when researching and evaluating information read on the Internet. 

Bergson-Michelson, T. (2012) Building good research skills: What students need to know. Retrieved from

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 2: Identity

How do we define who we are, and shape or reaffirm our identity using social networks? 

The readings this week were very "adolescent centric." Adolescence is a time of social growth and burgeoning personal identity.  Growing up in the 21st century is markedly more complex for teens as they find their place both in the real world and digital world.  Being a teenager is one of the most confusing and alienating times in your life.  During those pivotal years, we want to feel a connection and know that someone else feels the same.  Teens can now turn to social networks to find support, friends, and like-minded individuals. The idea behind creating an online social networking profile is in a sense a form of identity formation (Boyd, 2007). 

In the creation of a profile we are able to express aspects of our personality that we want the world to know about.  Sometimes people choose to embellish parts of themselves, some are honest, and perhaps others choose to leave out part of themselves they do not wish to share.  After the creation of the account we create connections and communicate with others.  The posting on walls, leaving comments, and messaging components further exhibit ones personality and how well we can interact with others. 

Along with the great entrenchment in social networking comes the need to protect parts of our identities.  Boyd & Hargittai (2010) spoke about the need for adolescents to protect their private information.  The good news is more teens are protecting their identity more than we think which is hopeful.  The older I get the more I realize I need to take a step back and be sure to weed out the accounts I no longer use or the delete the "friends" who I really don't need to be concerned with these days.  My internet identity used to play a larger role in my life, perhaps because I was younger and felt isolated and wanted to reach out to people via the internet.  Now I keep to myself, don't post as many photos, rarely blog about personal matters.  My life has changed and my digital identity has changed as well.

Five years past the publication of Boyd's articles and I believe that we are now creating a personal brand for ourselves, not just an identity.  I feel that personal branding is taking the social networking identity a step further.  Our Facebook profile pictures match our Twitter icons, which matches the header on your Tumblr too.  There would be a matching YouTube channel and corresponding Spotify account for media.  We have social media packages, all bundled with matching accounts, avatars, and passwords.  Teens today are taking social media as we know it and stretching it way further than we had imagined.  They want to famous on the Internet; a phenomenon we have never seen until recently.

While I am still very involved in social networking and the internet, I don't feel the need to be so deeply engrossed in personal branding as when I was younger.  Boyd (2007) describes how teens used a small loophole to customize their Myspace pages with their own code and photos.  I think I am past that stage of my life and into the phase where social networking has taken on a more utilitarian purpose in my life.  If the site doesn't offer a service that I can't live with out, then forget about it! 

Here are the sites I use and their corresponding uses:
Facebook = connect to friends/ spy on people from my past (haha)
Pinterest = remember recipes, crafts, and clothing I want to purchase
Tumblr = follow really fashionable girls and steal their looks
Twitter = follow some really amazing Ed Tech superstars and hear about all the trends
Instagram = share photos and see what everyone else is doing with photos
Blogger = school work!

I think my social network quota is pretty full at this point!  My identity is shaped well enough thank you very much!

Boyd, D. (2007). “Why youth love social network sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life." Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Edited by David Buckingham. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Boyd, D. & Hargittai, E. (2010). "Facebook privacy settings: Who cares?"
First Monday, Volume 15, Number 8 - 2 August 2010

Instructional Computing II Journal 1: Perceptions

How do we perceive ourselves (and others) in the real and digital worlds in which we live? 

How we perceive ourselves in the digital world greatly depends on how we present ourselves.  I think that we judge others the way we judge ourselves in a sense. I like to think that what you see is what you get with me in the real world and the digital world but I am not so sure that is true.  I am much more brave, sillier, colorful, less inhibited digitally than in real life.  However, I am extremely careful of the way that I "carry" myself online because you never know who is watching you or judging.

I believe that I am much more quick to judge someone online based off something they put onto the net because I don't see them everyday.  For example, if someone from my high school constantly sends me Facebook requests to play Farmville and posts party pictures every weekend I may think less of them.  I don't interact with them every day.  All I know is that they like to party and play games; two things I don't really value.  It may be very judgmental but that's what this generation is: self-obsessed & judgmental. We advertise our lives and pretty much just take pictures to post and prove that we did this or that. 

As I mature, I feel that I must be extremely careful to present myself in a manner that is true to myself but still appropriate and non-offensive when it comes to social networking.  I know that family and prospective employers are looking for the "dirt" so I am certainly not providing them with it!