Thinking Differently about Technology

I participated in a district technology leadership committee meeting yesterday and I seem to have lots of indigestion from the meeting since I am having a hard time digesting the many topics discussed. The group seemed to shift focus from real purpose of building and district technology to more of administrative issues. As I looked around the table there was no real representation from leaders from the district instructional team. The topics seem to carry a focus back to the technical and safety issues instead learning, teaching, and literacy. Old school and how we came to where we are today in life keeps us focused on the way it use to be or the technology to the point that makes us comfortable. Many just do not see how learning, teaching, and literacy are embedded in technology. We think of schooling as the building, the walls, the location, the teachers, administrators, and all the support staff, but we need to look beyond how we define school. We think of school as assembly line methods for building future citizens. We add language arts here, math in another room, and then a little social studies and science. Then we shake it all up with PE, Art, Band, keyboarding, and others. The results seem to equal school. We talk about differentiation as it were really happening and use the word as new education lingo (sound) that we all must know how to speak. Actions and our language seem to have little congruency.

We must take notice of the kids growing up in the digital world. We come to know the digital world by are actions and our own experimentations. For the most part most of us are not there yet. We have learned boundaries, ethics, how to socialize in ways that are different from others. Our youth learn in not only face to face social systems but virtual social systems. Virtual social systems are still way foreign to me, but I am learning. This group is born into the middle of the digital world as digital native. Most toys today have some type of digital or computer component. There is a major contrast in the two worlds that are slowly mashing together.

It is not just in one district but across the nation. Kids are telling me about learning that takes place away from school. They are using Wikipedia and Google search to learn about topics that matter to them. Then we have a mass of students who don’t have access to learning at home because of poverty, hardware, and connectivity issue. We seem to have a group moving forward and group being left behind. I live in state that is scrambling to prove that they have been moving kids forward as far as technology proficiency. We need to think of school as learning and teaching with no limits or boundaries. For a lot of kids learning continues on past the hours of school. Kids tell me they are bored with school because they see no relevance to life in the real world. That is what the Internet can do for us. ‘

My indigestion comes from thinking about issues and not vision of where we should be and how we are to get there. It tied down by administrative issues and little people making decisions and thinking we can make a difference. Not that we can, but we can make a difference. The small steps add up. In meetings like this we need to bring in the changing world and we need to talk about learning, teaching, and literacy. These three things should drive the technology decision making.

Great Collaborative Planning

Today I had an hour phone conference with Dwight McInvall, the director of the Georgetown County Library System and Julie Warren, head of the digital collection with the library system. We spent most of the time planning our November 11, parent/student workshop on Digital Storytelling using the digital collection that can be found on-line at www.gclibrary.org/. Our goal is to have each parent and child team develop to write a family story using pictures from the online digital collection of Georgetown County. Our agenda will include the following:
1. Bill Gaskins (me) will give the introduction and show them examples of the end project. (five minutes)
2. We have a local storyteller who will give ideas about how to tell or create story. (10 minutes max)
3. The person over the digital story collection will show the selected photos and talk about the online collection. (10 minutes max)
4. I will teach how to create the storyboard. (5 minutes)
5. For the next 30 minutes, teams will go off and create their storyboard. We will have printed pictures of all to use in the collection available for the teams. I thinking we will have packets of pictures for each team, provide scissors, glue, chart paper, etc .for story board creation.
6. Bill and two Cavers Bay Middle students will give an overview of how to use Photo Story Three, import pictures, layer text, audio, and music. We will allow about 45 minutes to an hour for work time.
7. Then we will have an Oscars Ceremony and award each team a certificate of participation.
This is an ambitious plan, but doable…….

Correlating Literacy and the Digital World: The Gaps

(rough draft thoughts and observations)

I have been watching kids who have a difficult time with technology. I teach in an impoverished school and watching those kids who are clueless when coming to a computer. I see many skills are lacking as compared to other students at school and with my own kids. As poorer children on average fail behind because there is no home-based preparations that are acquired through dialogue with parent, being read to frequently, and being exposed to a wide variety of experiences in the world. The digital gap becomes wider as these students struggle. I am a first hand witness to this and I am amazed. How far does the digital divide effect literacy in the age we live in?

Our students are at a loss with the complex language as learning becomes more and more abstract and specialized. Often times the student see no relevance in figuring out language structure or study ancient civilization because they don’t see how it fits into their life as a teenager with their environment dictates other messages to them. The cause is a lack of comprehension of increasingly complex language. This become overwhelming evident when observing students researching using Internet resources or completing an activity where students have to use a digital tool like voice thread, blog, PowerPoint, or Word. I guess I am seeing a correlation between reading ability and tech skills. I can see how these students are lost in the classroom when teachers teaching in traditional ways about nouns, verbs, wars, geometry, invertebrates, etc. The language the teacher may use or the language they find in their text and handouts may seem foreign from their experiences in life. Students will limited vocabulary and language experience have trouble in classrooms where students have so little connection with the objective of the day.b

Attribution for image: http://flickr.com/photos/joriel/2360038974/