Friday, March 19, 2010

Week #11: A Plethora of Presentations

This week we heard three interesting presentations and engaged in some good discussion – good job by all! I will touch on a few points from each in this week’s blog post.

Kaiser Report (revisited):

Reading the full report and hearing Lana’s take on it revealed much more than simply the amount of time kids spend on media. I will comment on a few items. One item of interest is that TV viewing is not decreasing as we often hear; it is just that kids are not watching it ‘live’. I understand this, since I do the same. I usually record the shows I want to watch so I can skip the ads (a benefit of technology as far as I am concerned!) and watch on my schedule. Another positive finding was that reading and physical activity has not dropped, although more physical activity would be of benefit when we hear so much about obesity problems. While reading books has not decreased, much media use requires reading as well – although a different type of reading, so do kids read more in total? The amount of multitasking is understandable as well. Most, it seems, involves listening to music or TV and doing something else. Listening to music is something I think many people do while engaging in other activities, I don’t see that aspect as anything new. Finally we see the move to cell phones – mobility, as the Horizon Report pointed out, is the new wave.

The role of parents is important in terms of media consumption. Parents who put some controls on media use have children who use media less, and have better grades. While parents have influence, many do not regulate media use of their children. As was mentioned in class, it could be because they do not understand the media themselves, a symptom of a generational divide. One troubling trend is that more devices are located in kid’s bedrooms. For years, parents have been advised to keep computers in ‘public’ areas of their homes and to discuss computer (media) use with their children, yet this message does not seem to be having an impact. This trend again points to the importance of modeling and teaching ethical and appropriate use of technology in schools. The report writers are careful to not make any cause and effect pronouncements, a good thing. Do kids who are getting lower marks and ‘getting into trouble’ do so because of technology use, or are all three symptoms of some other problem? The results of this study provide some insight and are interesting, yet, like any statistical study, the results must be carefully weighed. For example, in the media diary, students mark off when they use a media type for 15 minutes in any half hour – does this mean that 15 or 16 minute use appears as 30 minutes in the results? The study does prompt thought and more questions.

Thwarted Innovation: This article contradicts many recent studies that show huge growth in online courses, especially in post-secondary, but in secondary as well (examples: Sloan Consortium & Canadian Council on Learning). However, as we know, changes in educational technology have been taking place rapidly. Today (Friday) I attended a talk at the U of W by a researcher from the University of Central Florida. This university has about 53, 000 students – third largest in the US and online/blended learning is very popular. Another ‘muddy area’ is the definition of eLearning as Roman pointed out (ah, definitions again!). To many it means online learning, but according to the Canadian Council on Learning, it refers to any use of digital technology for learning, be it face-to-face or online. One conclusion the article’s authors reached was that online learning would not increase until the pedagogy changed. This is born out in many research studies, including the one I was involved with. There is agreement that teaching online is NOT the same as face to face. One of the problems with online learning, especially in the early days (and perhaps in secondary schools here in Manitoba) is that teachers try to move their face to face course online, which is generally not successful.

21st Century Skills:

The aspects that stick out very clearly in this report were described clearly by Roland. The language is similar to many other reports from the US (but not peculiar to the US), the influence of business is abundantly clear. It seems that the only reason schools exist are to prepare good little workers. I have discussed this in other blog posts, so that is all I will say about that. The other thing about the report that comes across clearly is the attitude. It seems that the only thing that can spur change or convince people to buy into any idea is to rely on emotion, in particular, fear and pride. I love watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report because they point out how ridiculous this is; yet news networks and both ends of the political spectrum use fear so often. I often wonder how much could get accomplished if people would actually sit down, discuss rationally and try to understand one another. In many of these polarities, the differences are not as great as they seem.

(BTW here is Canada’s version of 21st Century Learning)

Well, this is already too long, I know I don't have to comment on each presentation, but I can't help myself! If you read all of this, I thank you and applaud your perseverance!

Late addition: just came across this segment of Bill Maher - relates to a recent firing of all teachers in a school in the US & one of the topics of the Kaiser Report: Parents!

Yet another late addition: story today on CBC: Survey says Canadians like PC more than TV.


  1. Great video, Mike. Maher is right. If there are no parents raising the kids then who is raising the kids - TV. The solution seems simple, we need better programming on TV. Bring back Bill Cosby, My Three Sons, and Leave it to Beaver, you get the idea.

  2. Yabadabdooo!! Another information rich and thought provoking post, Mike. Thanks. I too like the Bill Maher video. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, parents have the primary responsibility in educating their children.

    The comments of multi-media use in Kaiser reminded me about the Digital Nation film. You have asked the question about kids actually reading more because of how they use media. Maybe, but not if they are TV addicts. Texting, ok, but what is the quality of the text they read? It's text talk, is it not?

    I don't yet have a DVR (those recorders record to a disc and allow playback), but video-on-demand is a good thing. You may have seen the commercial of the two who were going to miss the TV show Lost? Set a DVR from a cell phone, how convenient!

    Your last comment about the Kaiser report is qute serious. Good research must account for the skews. Like you suggest, what if there was a big batch of 16-20 minute users who were coded as 30s? I pointed out the oversampling of African & Hispanic Americans in my entry.

    21st century fear and pride - two strong and basic emotions. Same old fear and pride as was in 2100 BCE. Haven't we come a long way! Like you say, can't people try to understand each other and discuss things rationally?

    Last thing. Pedagogical change and e-learning; Thwarted Innovation. Is e-learning by itself pedagogical change? Can be. I think the changes will come, even if they take 100 years. I also think the hurry up mindset of our get-it-now, high pressure, high power society fits this tech age. I must ask, is there no long term vision out there (besides ours)? Let the chalice be revealed, gracefully... it doesn't have to be all at once.

  3. Great video. Maher makes some good points. "What matters is what parents do." As Maher says parental involvement is the key. There is a lot of research on the reporting of the "learning gap." Most of it points out differences between race, and socioeconomic status, and does little to suggest ways to bridge the gap. I strongly believe we as educators need to treat all of our students as individuals, an empathize with their situations that may prevent them from reaching their potential. Reaching out and providing a stable nurturing environment it important. At the same time, as a parent I am going to do everything in my power to provide the best environment for my daughter. I make no bones about it; My daughter will have an advantage over others because of my involvement in her life! BTW I am not looking forward to the teenage years when she doesn't want me around :(

  4. Your daughter not wanting you around in teenage years isn't a given, Paul - I was lucky and was a part of my daughter's life through hockey, fastball - and geeky interests like Star Trek!

  5. Thanks for the video, Mike.

    Make sure you watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh to get a balance of both American sides: Colberg, Maher, and Stewart are very left-leaning.

    The story of the firing of those American teachers was controversial. Many "liberals" were hoping Obama would strike down the "No Child Left Behind" policy and limit government interference with teacher assessment. He did the opposite, to the grumbling of teacher unions across the U.S. And yet in Canada, it is very difficult to fire a teacher. This article from Macleans reports that 0.002% of teachers in Ontario are fired, a disproportionately low number compared to other professions:

    Yes, parents are at the forefront of ensuring their children are learning, reading, writing, etc. But bad teachers should not be allowed to continue to "do damage". If teaching is truly a profession, it should have very standards and accountability.

  6. I agree completely, Roland. Bad teachers need to be routed out - they give the profession a bad name - not to mention the harm they do to kids. But ... Rush Limbaugh? Is there anyone else , he is wingnut!