Monthly Archives: January 2012

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W531 Class Voicethread on the Digital Divide

First of all, I say as a class we should pat ourselves on the back for this VoiceThread project.  This turned out great!  After listening to everyone’s comments on the digital divide, it sounds like we’re all in agreement that this is no longer a divide between people who have access to computers and the Internet and people who don’t, but between the types of access they have and what they’re capable of accomplishing with that access.  On one side of the divide are the people with broadband access at home who are able to create things and use technology for self empowerment.  On the other side are the people who mainly access the Internet on their cell phones and mobile devices.  These people are able to use the Internet for consuming entertainment, but cannot do things such as fill out a job application.  They’re able to consume, but not produce – simply because of the type of access they possess.  The producers are mainly white, more well-to-do people, and the consumers are mainly poorer Hispanic or African Americans.  I liked how David put it: Internet segregation. 

I am a digital native who always has had access to technology my entire life.  I was born into a home that already had computers that had the ability to connect with others in an online community.  But, I had never participated in a digital discussion using VoiceThread.  Despite having to re-record myself several times do to human error, I enjoyed the experience.  Since then, I’ve thought of several ways I could use VoiceThread in my classroom.  Being an art teacher, I thought this could be a great way to have a class discussion on art history.  We could research a certain art movement or art from a specific region.  The students could choose a work of art as their background picture and talk about what they’ve learned.  This would be a great way to let everyone in the class to participate in the discussion, without having one or two kids dominate the conversation.  The big problem with this great idea is – my school corporation has VoiceThread blocked on all the computers (students and teachers).  My principal last year had to jump through several hoops and plead and convince several people to let us have access to some Youtube videos for a short time.  As a corporation, we’re so scared that the students will use the technology for inappropriate reasons; we just block anything that’s not obviously solely for education.  I’ve heard that several websites that have teacher lesson plan ideas are also blocked.  Perhaps one day my school will attempt to cross their own digital divide.

Some Good Resources on the Digital Divide

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Edutopia has a great Digital Divide Resource page.  I especially liked A New Understanding of the Digital Divide by Mary Beth Hertz.  A Digital-Literacy Maven’s Favorite Web Links by Michele Knobel has a list of great online tools for educators to take advantage of. 
The Frontline Digital Nation website has videos discussing the digital divide, such as the video of the Secretary of Education talking about The New Digital Divide.

21st-Century Learner Thoughts

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When talking about education in schools, often we fall into the same old discussion of the kids knowing more about education than the teachers and kids having to teach the teachers about technology.  This is often true, I’m sure.  But, there’s another scenario where the teachers know just as much or more about technology as the students.  Having grown up around computers, I am comfortable integrating technology in my art classroom.  However, my school seems to be pushing against me.  I attempted to search Google for a picture of the Mona Lisa only to receive the “Content Blocked” page.  The school blocked the word “mona” for the entire corporation.  I have only an outdated green chalkboard in my room, but a SmartBoard would better suited for my style of teaching.  There are great art how-to videos on Youtube, however, Youtube is also blocked.  I also cannot access blogs, wikis, or other helpful sites.  I have one computer in my classroom: an ancient apple computer that’s older than the dinosaurs and runs about as fast as a snail. 

As a digital native, I say it’s not the teachers who are unable to keep up with the technology, but the school corporations.  The school I work at has the teachers take attendance on both paper and on DOS-operated attendance software (little blinking green lines on a black screen).  We are in operating in the Digital Dark Ages and trying to reach iGeneration kids.  The research clearly shows that technology is beneficial to education.  “Eighty-seven percent of schools offering one-to-one computing reported substantial academic improvement, and the districts and states that have one-to-one programs reported higher attendance rates, fewer discipline problems, and improved student writing skills” (Solomon 2007, pg. 34).  By not embracing the technology around us, we are not working in the students’ best interests.  One fact haunts me from the readings and from Sir Ken Robinson’s video: U.S. students lag behind students in countries that compete with the United States for high-value jobs, and the gap grows larger the longer they stay in school.  Isn’t it time to change that?

Dividing Lines Between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

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Where is the dividing line between digital natives and digital immigrants? 

Some sources say “digital natives” refer to people born after 1980, and “digital immigrants” refer to everyone else.  In my life, this does not compute.  My father (who was certainly born before 1980) taught my brother and I about the newest technologies as we were growing up.  He was the SysOp of the Unique and Nifty BBS, which ran from 1988-1997.  (Translation: He was the system operator of a Bulletin Board System, which was kind of like the internet, before the internet emerged.)  My brother and I would chat with each other from the computers in our bedrooms and play DOS-operated online games.  Sigh, BBS games: little blinking green lines on a black screen.  He also opened a computer shop in the early nineties and built computers as a hobby.  He is no stranger to technology.  So, should we move the diving line to anyone born after 1956?  My mother-in-law is the CEO of VLM International, a company that creates and distributes billing for telecom companies.  She uses technologies and software that I don’t understand.  She also used BBSes to communicate with other technologically-advanced people.  She was also born before 1980.

And ten, of course, there’s my husband who was born in 1975, also not an immigrant to technology, but perhaps a little impatient with it at times.  My four step-kids range in their abilities to communicate with today’s technology.  The two boys play MMORPG’s, such as Lord of the Rings Online; fall asleep at night watching Netflix videos that they stream on their computer; and kill each other daily on Xbox 360 games.  My 12-year-old step-daughter, however, asked me once how to print off some song lyrics.  We have a wireless printer, but it’s not hooked up to the kids’ computers for fear of exorbitant numbers of papers plastered with Justin Bieber photos.  I told her to just “copy and paste it into Word and e-mail it to me”.  Her response was, “Okay.  What’s Word?”  I showed her how to get to Microsoft Word.  Then I told her to just send it as an attachment.  “What’s an attachment?  How do I do that?”  Is she a digital immigrant born too late?  It’s not just a difference in males and females, either, since my 6-year-old step-daughter constantly asks my father as soon as she sees him, “Hi, Grandpa!  Can I play with your iPod?”  She immediately starts taking pictures and videos with his iPhone, then plays Angry Birds and other games. 

So, in my family only we have digital natives that are acting more like immigrants, and digital immigrants who are certainly natives.  Perhaps it’s not age that separates us, but why we utilize the technologies.  Facebook friends versus educational blogs.  Youtube videos about a crazy dancing frog versus videos about how to change the oil in your new car.