Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's Age Got to Do With IT?

There is a small pet peeve I have - it is 'our' tendency to generalize. One thing that is in this category is the myth of technology and age. I guess in a way, there is some statistical backing to the contention that youth - by youth I mean folks about 35 and under :-), basically the so called 'digital natives', or 'net gen' or millennials and those younger, use computer tech more ... but not all, and that is the problem. I won't go into the research that points out the fallacies of these generalizations (I am involved in one such long term study with a colleague). We hear this generalization in many places, how computers comes 'naturally' to young kids, how young people are so 'tech savvy', how all youth is so connected ... and so on. I have been interviewed for an article in The Manitoba Teacher and interviewed on CBC in the past year about the startling revelation that this is not always true. Just because the Internet and computers have always been around during a person's entire life, does not make them savvy. Heck I grew up with cars and they were central to my upbringing in the auto capital of Canada - does that mean I could just jump into a car at age nine and drive it? Or open the hood and fix any problems? I don't think so. (I didn't even get my drivers license until I was 17.) Now, back to computer technology - I started using computers by taking computer science in high school - a looong time ago (early 70's, ulp) and have learned about them and used them ever since. Hey I am an older guy and can use computers pretty darn well, I even have some idea how they work.
      I just want to comment quickly on 2 problems that arise from the generalization that kids are good with computers. First, if we assume that all young people have some natural ability and affinity to digital tech, then, as teachers, we will be leaving some behind or putting them at a disadvantage. We must keep in mind that everyone is different. Second, some older folks (parents, grandparents, etc..) sometimes use the age thing as an excuse not to learn. Just about anyone can learn to use a computer or social media or ...if they are so inclined, but it is easy to say "I'm too old for that". If you aren't interested, or don't have the time - say so, age has nothing to do with it. If it is important for your job as a teacher (or a parent) - then learn it!  Maybe ask your kids/students to help, they know all about it :-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Academic Life in Cartoon

I came across a great cartoon depicting academic life on the Tumblr blog Gradness Madness. I printed a copy to hang in my office, but I am not sure of the copyright, so I did not want to upload it on to here - so please CLICK the link to Gradness Madness above to see it - or click here to see it on the author's web site. As I work on my dissertation and have been struggling with some concepts and ideas (I guess the Ph. in Ph.D. does stand for 'philosophy' .... ) I found this cycle to be often true - and indeed I felt it applied to what I was just struggling with when I came across it.  The feeling at accomplishment is wonderful ... then another thinking dilemma arises... I guess no one said doing a Ph.D. would be easy - and it isn't! OK - back to writing!

Here is a gratuitous, but related image for aesthetic purposes! (it is of my desk area during some data analysis)
Data analysis!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

CASA 2013 in Beautiful St. John's NL

From July 4-6 I attended, along with a colleague, the annual conference for the Canadian Association of School Administrators (CASA). The theme was "Technology Meets Pedagogy: Hardware Meets Headware". It was enjoyable to attend a conference as a non-presenting participant for a change. St. John's, NL is also a beautiful part of our country - as you can see from the photos with this post. I am going to share some of my observations from the conference in this post. Of course, I will not go into the scenic tours, the fun Rally in the Alley & entertainment by 'The Navigators' - suffice to say it was more than just sessions to attend. 

The sessions I attended illustrated several things: that the idea that ed tech should be used thoughtfully and in support of learning is widespread - that is, pedagogy should drive instruction not technology; ed tech is being used in many creative and innovative ways to help students learn, to share learning and to increase communication with community; there are many great things happening in schools across Canada and dedicated professionals working hard to make education better for all students. I also observed the growth of people attending using devices from laptops to tablets to smartphones to document their learning - taking notes, photos, tweeting and so on. Now, if school Principals, superintendents, trustees and other educators are doing this, why do some schools/systems still ban or control their use in schools?

I won't go through all the sessions I attended, however, the point is that the times are a changin' as schools and divisions across Canada are making strides in moving forward and making classrooms more inclusive and student centred. Educational technology is playing a big role in supporting the gains as learning becomes more personal and in many cases more public. Educators are sharing ideas, successes and failures. My hope is that this sharing helps to spread the change.

During the conference there were a good many quotes and tweets. A few are below and the exchange during the Parkland SD (Alberta) was storify-ed here by Mark Carbone.

Dean gets it right here - almost all teachers are hard working and conscientious. In my dissertation research all my participants are trying to do their best for their students. If they are not all using the latest tech, it is often because they lack the time to learn or simply don't know how and would with support. Teachers are a special people - and not just because I was/am one.

I often hear from folks (including a friend of mine) that research does not support use of tech (or it does not affect 'achievement', whatever that means). Evidence is there, so is evidence to the contrary - it all comes down to how it is used. 

My colleague, Dr. Kirk attended a session about this partnership. We both see why schools enter these, but we also both think that partnerships with universities would serve school divisions better than ones with companies (after all their bottom line is to sell a product). We are looking forward to our partnership with fellow attendees from Lakeshore School Division in MB as part of  Brandon Universities VOICE project.

The conference wrapped up fittingly with an outstanding keynote by none other than Dean Shareski of Moose Jaw, SK. Dean exemplifies the ideal of sharing learning - he has skyped in to speak to my classes for 3 years now and is a splendid speaker. His slides for the keynote can be found here:

... and a few photos from in and around St. John's.

Middle Cove

Jelly Bean row houses
View from Signal Hill (a little hazy)