Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Movement Into The Mobile Age

Before I took my first class at Florida State, I was introduced to Blackboard at orientation when I was asked to pick out my classes. Initially I thought Blackboard was strictly a tool used for creating class schedules, but once school started in the fall I realized that I would have to be checking my Blackboard account more than my Facebook profile in order to succeed. Blackboard provides students with up-to-date grades, upcoming assignments and tests, and also any other useful information that teacher’s need to address to their class. The user friendly features on Blackboard's website creates an even playing field amongst all students, regardless of varying levels of computer comprehension. The majority Florida States students, including myself, have little to complain about the current system, but the creators of Blackboard didn’t stop there. Last year they released the Blackboard Mobile App for iPhones, Blackberries, Android devices, and other handheld devices. 
On Blackboard's website they describe benefits of Blackboard Mobile stating, “Blackboard Mobile™ Central gives your community on-demand access to essential campus information, when and where they need it, helping you to attract and retain students, reinforce your brand, maximize your existing campus resources, and drive student engagement.”
In this YouTube video relating to Blackboard Mobile, professors from all around the country offer their opinion on transitioning into the utilization of mobile devices. The video is broadcasted through Blackboard so the responses are undoubtedly biased, but all seem to agree that future will have mobile devices becoming a more orthodox tool. As if monitoring your classes wasn’t easy enough, students can now check on their classes anywhere and at anytime. 
Blackboard is not the only organization transitioning into the mobile age. Anyone with a smartphone can view their account statements, check their e-mail, and remain current in news all around the world. It amazes me that people used to travel successfully using maps. I give complete credit to the Google Maps appliance on my phone for safely guiding me to and from my road trip to San Diego. Rather than spending time each day planning out which highways and roads to take, I hopped in my car, typed in my destination, and pressed Start Trip. Tools and mobile appliances enable the common human to multitask and complete everyday tasks in the palm of their hand.
Blackboard recognized this trend and created an environment that allows teachers and students communicate at an all time high. Personally speaking, the utilization of the Blackboard Mobile app has beneficially transformed my schooling experience. I am excited to see the future of learning, Paul Gathercoal from the University of Idaho said it best, “With Blackboard Collaborate the biggest limitation is your imagination.” 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Top 100 Tools For Learning

Top 100 Tools for Learning
Above is a link to a worldwide survey, taken last year that ranks the most useful tools for learning in the modern age. This annual ranking (completed in October of last year) was voted on by over 500 professionals. As a disclaimer, they define a learning tool as, "..a tool to create or deliver learning content/solutions for others, or a tool for your own personal or professional learning."
At the top of the list you find obvious appliances such as Google Docs, WordPress, and Dropbox. What intrigued me most about this list was the fact that Twitter and YouTube are ranked first and second overall. YouTube is known by most as being a source of entertainment, however the amount of "how to" videos put out by teachers can answer any students questions they might have. If anything, this list helped me comprehend how vast of a category online learning tools are.

The Digital Divide

In a report done by the University of Chicago titled, “UChicago CCSR Report Finds ‘Digital Divide’ in Technology Use Across Chicago Public Schools”, it discusses tendencies and connections found within schooling establishments. The study was done using students in the grades between six and twelfth within the Chicago area. An amazing twenty to thirty percent of students where said to have rarely used technology in schools, if at all. However, the majority from the same group of students reported having computers and the access to internet at home. Personal computers in homes are becoming traditional, while computers and other technologies remain a rarity in many public schools. The digital divide between school and home is negatively reinforcing our youth abuse computers for social media rather than beneficial learning tools.
The report done was conducted by randomly choosing a broad selection of Chicago’s schools. Public and private schooling establishments greatly varied in the use and implementation of varying technologies. The widespread use of computers in private schools was common, however in neighboring public schools only around half of all students say to have never used technology in school. 
The reason for these skewed numbers, is a result of from inconsistent school funding throughout the city. This forces the each schools’ principal to make it their primary duty to take into account the school’s budget and determine what beneficial investments must be made. The fact that all forms of innovative technologies are so costly amplifies the importance and scrutiny of each investment made. 
Separate reports also show that large investments made in advancing technology in schools rarely result in corresponding test scores by their students. This dilemma facing all school officials is ongoing and can easily be solved with increased school funding along with good leadership. Other solutions don’t necessarily require large investments. With regards to varying school’s access to particular forms of technology, all learning mediums can be used more efficiently. 
It shouldn’t be expected that each child has access to a personal computer, however it is becoming a necessity to acquire some form of computer literacy. Schools from the elementary level, all the way to high school are recognizing and adapting to this norm. Teachers are beginning to assign group projects that require online collaboration,  requiring that reports be turned in electronically, and even use tools such as Powerpoint to create functional presentations.
Computer comprehension is already a requirement to most jobs. This demands schools to prepare their students with the tools they need to succeed in work and further schooling. With diverse funding to schools in separate demographic regions it creates a digital divide which is an advantage for some and a disadvantage for many others. Blame for this unfairness is often put on the lack of school funding. Having said that, teachers are the ones that should be held responsible for giving their students appropriate computer comprehension as best they can.

Below is the link to report done by UChicago:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Educational Technology Timeline

Above is a link to a timeline created by students from the University of Illinois in the year 1999. Prior to that year looks to be accurate, but it's interesting to see how far along people thought we would be by this time, as well as how far we really have to go.

Conner and His iPad

    In high school when I was back home in San Diego, I lived next door to a very nice family with two little boys. Often times we would have dinner parties with them, which for me was more babysitting than actual contrasting. In fact, I babysat for these two boys multiple times a week. We would play basketball, football, air hockey, and they actually paid me for it too.
    This past winter break however, I saw that these two young boys had grown up and one was now approaching the time to go off to school. The youngest of the two, Conner, received an iPad from Santa for Christmas because of what he told me, “was because he was really good and it has math and reading apps so I’ll be smarter than everyone at school!” He then explained the deal he had to make with his mom in order to use his gift, “For every fun game I get, I have to get a learning app too.” This method seemed to have good intentions, but after being around Conner without his Mother in sight I saw that the usage of his iPad isn’t so much for learning. To this day Conner and I have an ongoing game of mini-put, this is fun for me, but I have been told means the world to a boy that idolizes me.
    Living across the country, I do not get many chances to go home, but when I do it’s inevitable that Conner and his brother will be knocking at my door daily. It’s interesting to see how both of them grow, but the one thing that has been apparent lately is their increasing dependencies they have on electronics. A few years ago we would play basketball for hours on end, now “outside-time” is considered a break from video games rather than visa verse.
    I can’t say that Santa’s gift of an iPad was all negative. Conner is asked by his mother to complete a few assignments which she assigns herself. They are simple tasks, however he is able to communicate and efficiently use many different mediums of technology. Before even going to his first day of classes he is a master at his times tables, he is a fantastic reader, and if his teacher asks he can turn in an electronic copy of his homework.
    I view technology and our youth as a double edged sword. Yes, kids these days are becoming exponentially attached to their newest gadget, but the tools they learn are essential in further schooling and adulthood in general.