Arrggggh! My brain is full! In my corner of the technoverse I am feeling pulled in too many directions at one time. Getting the kids to their summer activities, keeping up with social media, completing two online courses, following #NotAtISTE14 and #ISTE2014 blog posts, trying to find a new home, the #summerLS challenges, Voxing with new friends, and trying to do some PD reading along with trying to create new curriculums . . . Who was that person that said teachers never do anything in the summer? My summer is full, self inflicted, yes, but full none the less.
Today (Saturday), I had to complete vocabulary that was due Friday and an essay that was due yesterday for a Mexican history course I am taking. Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning and I have been taking online courses since 2009, but how do people learn by merely reading professors notes and textbooks? It’s interesting that the only things graded for this course are a dozen vocabulary words each week and a weekly essay. Sounds pretty easy until the professor expects that 10-15 hours a week should be spent reading and no sources except the course notes and the textbook are allowed to be referenced in either assignment. This is done merely to check for understanding of assigned reading material. I can’t spend 2 hours a day reading! I’m a father with a wife and four kids. Kind of flies in the face of what we are trying to have our 21st Century pK-12 students do. Is this really what college has become? A mere regurgitation, in paraphrase, of the course materials.
Acceptable Use and Large Internet Companies
I cannot put Vicki Davis’s (@coolcatteacher) book down.
She had me hooked from the very first page. So, in chapter two I realized that a school needs to revisit its acceptable use policy (AUP) on a regular basis. I also learned that we all should be reading those things that we just normally click agree to so that we can get to the information or tool we want to access. Some companies, Google and Facebook, to name a couple provide their services for free, but they use our information to their advantage. Facebook just came out in the open about a social experiment that they performed where they manipulated data so that some users got more negative news from friends and others got more positive news from friends. See Facebook and Google can do just about anything they want with the information they access about us.
If you know me at all, I am pretty open about my digital footprint as well as sharing lessons and information with others, but I am getting just a tad bit unsettled by how Google and Facebook as well as other online companies are using and manipulating my online experiences.
The biggest take away I have from chapter two is that when selecting a digital tool I should always ask the question, “what am I trying to do?” It is pretty obvious that we should not just be using technology for the sake of using something technological, but that we should be using technology to help us do things better or more efficiently. For example, I use the tool Evernote for writing and editing my blog posts. Are there other tools I could be using? Sure there are, but I feel that this one is
cleaner and easier than others. I can access my notes from my MacBook, iPhone, iPad, android, or almost any device that connects to the Internet. If I had to hand write and edit my blog posts, then I would probably not engage in this very helpful activity. It’s a tool that helps me in my writing and helps me reflect on the things I have done, I am doing, or I might do in the future.
Another take away for me is that there may be very good reasons for the Internet policies that schools have concerning access. (Cue Adam Bellow’s version of Filter Wall set to the tune Wrecking Ball) On the other hand I struggle with why filter anything with the exception of pornography? If we want our kids to become good digital citizens then we need to teach them to stay engaged in appropriate activities and keep away from inappropriate activities. I wonder how many parents hand their kids a smart phone, let em lose with it all day long, but then expect schools to keep them away from things that are inappropriate? I agree with Adam’s plight in Filter Wall, and I have had the experience of finding something for my students only to have it blocked the day we go to actually use it. Frustrating? Absolutely! Necessary? Absolutely not! When did we get to the point that we have to prove an educational purpose before using a website? Who decides what and educational purpose is? Could I use alcohol, cigarette ads, and games for educational purposes? It may be that good intentions are meant but it seems to be more work for everyone in the long run. Especially when it comes to games. It really rubs me wrong when anything with the word “game” is blocked or filtered. I guess we shouldn’t have fun in the classroom.
What is your favorite tool? What are your feelings about the filter wall?