Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Revising the Rough Draft

One of my least favorite aspects of writing is the revision process. It is tedious, nit-picky, and overall requires more effort than the creation of the rough draft, but I also realize it is necessary for the improvement of one's writing. So, currently, I'm in the process of revising my investigative article rough draft. There are two main points that I need to address: I need to interview more local teachers, and I need to reconsider the structure of the benefits/disadvantages sections.

As for interviewing more teachers, I asked my education professor for help since she's familiar with teachers in the local area, and she was able to connect me with someone in the local school system to be interviewed (thank you, Dr. Gould!). Now, it's just a matter of waiting to hear back about the interviews.

As for restructuring the sections, my current draft has a section about benefits, followed by a section about disadvantages. I think, for my revision/final draft, I'm going to weave the two together and follow each individual benefit with a counterargument (disadvantage) to balance the perspective more immediately. Then, since I will no longer have a section just for benefits and one for disadvantages, I will have several smaller sections instead, with each one focusing on one particular aspect of technology in education. Possible sections include differentiation (what are the arguments for and against technology helping with this aspect of education), more connections (or, as some would say, distractions), and statistics.

Hopefully, with my plan in place, this revision process won't be as intensive as usual!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Final Word

For this article, I've already chosen the quote I want to end with, although I haven't quite decided yet on which parts of it to use. It came from an interview with an education professor at SBC, Jeff Frank, and I think it's probably the best approach to technology in the classroom because it doesn't focus specifically on trying to adapt to technology, but learning to adapt in general, which is what teaching is really about.

He said, “It is important that teachers are trained well in technology before entering the classroom. But, it is also important that teachers are trained well to know the subject that they are teaching. And, it is important that teachers are trained well to understand the needs of the students who are in their classrooms. All of these things—technology, the subject, students—change (sometimes quite dramatically) from year to year. So, instead of focusing on instrumental things (the newest technology, the latest changes in content, the most publicly heralded demographic changes), teacher education programs need to prepare students for uncertainty, because change is integral to what it means to teach. Technology is just one more added layer. It is an important layer, but it is no more important than the other types of changes that teachers will manage and respond to from year to year.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Issue of Accessibility

As I was writing my rough draft for my investigative article, one of the sections I felt deserved attention was the issue of accessibility to technology in the classroom. After all, we can't really have this debate--should we have technology in the classroom or not--unless we actually have access to technology in the first place.

To help address this issue, one of the sources I relied on was a blog post on Education Week's website. The writer, Patrick Ledesma, asked if students should be allowed to bring their own technology devices to school. He then looked at different scenarios that could happen based on the school itself. In short, it relies largely on the demographics the school serves. If the school serves students who come predominantly from wealthy families, letting students bring personal technology devices to school--iPads, MacBooks, and anything else--may not be such a bad thing. If, however, the school serves students from the other end of the economic spectrum, the results may be a lot more complicated. Teachers could have students bring in iPads, cellphones, MP3 players, or, quite possibly, nothing at all. The challenge here wouldn't just be to remedy any social issues that arise, but also to handle any technological issues that result from having so many different software/operating system formats in one class.

Imagine, then, a school that is suffering from budget cuts and doesn't have enough money to supply each classroom with the technology other schools have. What do they do? Do they ask students to bring in their own technology devices, or is this an option better left alone?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Excerpt from paper

I'm so glad Professor Brown agreed to be interviewed for this article, because he gave me one of the most convincing stories about how technology can really benefit students in the classroom; the following is an excerpt from my paper, relating the story he shared:

John Gregory Brown, professor of creative writing at Sweet Briar, has also witnessed first-hand technology’s ability to personalize and simplify learning for students with different needs.

“Our first experience with technology in the classroom was the result of our disabled daughter, whose fine motor skills are poor, needing a device to make writing easier for her,” recalled Brown.

At the time, which was more than ten years ago, the standard equipment given to students struggling with writing was an Alpha Smart, a lightweight keyboard-like device. However, Brown insisted that his daughter be allowed to use a computer, which was easier for her to operate.

“It took a while,” continued Brown, “but the school finally understood that it didn’t make sense to prohibit a student from using a device that makes learning easier and leads to the student being more confident and accomplished. I think about that experience all the time when I’m confronted with trying to figure out how to make learning easier and more engaging for students.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lede idea

Check out all of these sources I've been using to support my investigative article; in fact, I'm planning on using the titles, just like they're listed below, as my lede, to show how much attention this issue is getting, and to show all of the different viewpoints involved. I think lists can be pretty powerful if used for the right topics--especially when they juxtapose so many varying ideas together--and I think (and hope) it works well in this case. Let me know what you think of the idea:

Monday, November 14, 2011

To go digital, or not to go...

...that is the question I'm trying to answer in this article on technology and education. And as I'm working on my rough draft for it, one article from the NY Times has proved very useful in providing one side of the argument.

The article begins by showing the stakes involved in this issue, and they're higher than you might think. To be precise, the stakes are estimated at about $2.2 billion a year. That's right. Billion. That's roughly how much money is spent yearly on technology in the classroom--money that could be going towards plenty of other useful purposes within schools. And it's no secret that schools are running on dreadfully and increasingly lower budgets.

But beyond the stakes, this article shows there are numerous issues with running so quickly to embrace technology in the classroom. So many schools and teachers advocate technology with blanket statements, such as "Technology helps engage students more." Or, "It helps them make connections." Or, "Students get so excited when they get to use technology." This article from the NY Times (titled "Inflating the Software Report Card," by the way) shows the problems with such beliefs, using an abundance of statistics for support. While claims about the attractions of technology may be true, they fail to answer a very basic, yet crucial question: is our focus on the right place? Is technology helping our students learn?

Without an answer to that question (and an affirmative one, at that), our race to see who can include more technology in the classroom may not be a race we really want to win. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interview excerpt

As promised, here's an excerpt from an interview I conducted recently. Gabriella Muglia is a junior at Sweet Briar, and when interviewed, she gave me some of the best responses I could have hoped for. Here's her response to one of my questions. And by the way, I particularly like how she points that technology is not built for just one purpose, and therefore, it can always be a distraction. Maybe that's the problem, then, for teachers who try to use technology in the classroom. Just a thought. I'd be curious to hear what others have to say about it.

Me: Does technology in the classroom (used by either yourself or by other students in class) ever distract you from what you’re supposed to be doing? Please explain.

Muglia: I think this is a given. Even though I am not the kind of student that brings technology to class to intentionally distract myself, I do think that it is virtually (no pun intended) impossible for most students to exclusively use their devices for educational purposes; this is partially because of the fact that modern technology is built to be extremely dynamic, so you don't get devices that have been manufactured for one exclusive purpose. However, I definitely think that determining whether or not this is a problem fully depends on the student. For instance, I get pop-up notifications when someone sends me an email or text, but I typically disregard responding unless it looks urgent or requires a simple yes or no answer. Admittedly, I am guilty of sending emails or texts during class on occasion, but if I do send a text, I can still focus on what is being said during the few seconds it takes to respond. I never shut off my attention to what is happening in the classroom. Obviously, there are some students that are unable to do this, probably because they don't care about the class to begin with and they attend classes without much desire to be fully attentive, on a regular basis.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Investigative Article Topic: Technology and Education

The focus of my investigative article is the intersection between technology and education. Schools throughout the nation are turning to technology in the classroom, thinking (and hoping) it will help students become more engaged in the learning process. However, after conducting numerous interviews with students and professors and looking into past articles on the topic, it quickly became clear that the issue is not quite so simple. Whether or not technology works in the classroom (and what, exactly, we define as "working") depends on the type of technology, the age of the students, the focus the students have, the use of the technology itself (are students using it for what they need to be doing, or are they on Facebook when the teacher isn't looking?), and, of course, how well the teachers have been trained to use technology in the classroom.

In conducting my research so far, my only difficulty has really been sifting through all of the articles online. There are simply so many of them, and they each offer a different perspective on this complex topic. My interviews have been going great so far (I'll be sure to post some excerpts from them in the coming days), and the abundance of news articles on the topic is definitely a big plus.
Finally, here are some links to some of the articles I've found so far. A lot of them come from EdWeek, which has a section titled "Digital Directions" that focuses solely on technology and education. Basically, it's a gold mine for this article because it offers so many different perspectives, all consolidated into one site. Needless to say, I've been using it very, very much.

More specifically, of the articles I've found most useful so far, one discusses the lackluster effects of technology in the classroom (courtesy of the NY Times), one looks at a school in Indiana that went digital (also at the NY Times), and one discusses a school's efforts to find just the right balance of technology in the classroom (found at EdWeek). I'll be sure to post more articles and links as I find them, so stay tuned!