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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