Find Five Friday!

There were so many varying topics of discussion raised this week, that I had a difficult time choosing which to include in my #f5f. I tried my best to condense and reflect upon this week!

1. I found myself in agreement with Amy M. when she wrote on her blog, “it was chaos.  I felt my eyes trying to follow too many conversations or I was in a circle of friends and 3 people where talking about elephants and 4 people where talking about africa.  Twitter chat has too many dimensions for me,” in reference to the Twitter chat that took place on Wednesday night. I appreciate Twitter for its utility as a platform for social change and expression, but as far as virtual group discussions are concerned, I think that Google Hangout with instant messaging is a far easier , more efficient, and maybe most importantly, less stressful, than a group Twitter chat.

2. Although I found the Twitter chat in and of itself to be a bit impractical (at least until I get the hang of things), I did find the format of the night’s discussion very interesting and refreshing. Joe Dillon, a #techquity contributor, suggested that we write our responses to various excerpts in a “I believe….” And “I doubt…” format. This was first practiced by Peter Elbow, whom, as it turns out, is an English professor at UMass Amherst and was a pioneer in the “free-writing” style. I think we are often drawn towards our differences of opinion as opposed to our common ground. This is a format that I could see using with students in the future.

3. A blog post that stood out and struck a chord with me this week, was Eric’s post titled, “Exasperated Inspiration.” I think that is how many educators, particularly within the Philadelphia public school system, feel on a daily basis (minus the inspiration piece, unfortunately). He discusses a speech given by Mayor Nutter, in which the mayor addresses the connection between economic, racial, and other entrenched social problems with a lack of access to quality public education. He quotes several lines from the mayor’s speech, which I found to be very honest and thought-provoking:

“But underfunded schools and the perpetual crisis at the school district, the mayor says, feeds into the deepest chronic challenges for his successor – whoever it is. ‘Education and funding, poverty and the epidemic of violence effecting young men and boys of color. These challenges are long term, they are deeply rooted, they are connected,’” said Mayor Nutter.”

 This article can be found via the link below:

So often the issue of education is brought up as a political promise, but so infrequently is it addressed in a meaningful way. I think it is important that the mayor included this pressing issue in his speech, but when will American society, as a whole, come to realize the tremendous value that good public education holds in solving, or at least lessening, so many of the social problems we face. Thank you for sharing this with us, Eric!

4. While the organization of the chat wasn’t the most inspiring (not that I have any right to judge based off of our less than smooth-sailing Twitter chat on Wednesday!), it did bring up several topics of interest for me. Foremost among these were the societal divide that is being further widened by the “technological revolution.” Is this “revolution” giving an unfair advantage to students who have means or the access to computers and iPads and smartphones.

Furthermore, is the connected learning movement, meant to bring people together and make education more equitable, actually separating us further because many people still lack reliable access to technology. Where is the equity in that?

The idea of uniting learners in shared communities is commendable so long as we have rationalized the fact that many learners will be excluded for a lack of access to technology. The question for me is not how we motivate people to become participants in online communities – as I and many of my family, friends, and acquaintances have – but how we provide practical  and productive access to everyone. Connection via the Internet and the educational opportunities created when people come together virtually, can only be equitable is everyone is given fair access.

As one article discussed, many young people have access to mobile phones, but how do we translate that to digital literacy that goes beyond text messaging and Instagramming? How do we promote online, peer centered and production-oriented communities using only cellphones? And why should people engage in the first place once given the access and the means? It seems to be a matter of means first, motive second (a call to action, why should people get involved?), followed by participation and productive change. How do we combine all of these elements to make connected learning truly equitable? Just a few thoughts that I will continue to consider as we move forward….

5. And lastly, I want to mention my first experience annotating an article on Initially, I was completely confused by the entire concept. You post a piece of writing, and then what? After doing a bit more research, I began to understand that it is a forum for posting pieces that are of interest to you or tap into your unique knowledge or expertise, and creating annotations, or basically comments, that note the social or historical significance, meaning, or cultural impact of that piece. I posted my chosen article, titled, “What the US Could Learn from Finland About Education” by Samuel E. Abrams, with 6 or so annotations, and I was shocked to find that the article has 55 views! This may not seem like much to contributor’s who have millions of viewers, but for me – a connected learning and social media newbie – it felt like a huge accomplishment that my thoughts were suddenly accessible to feedback and criticism. A definite must for those of you who have yet to try it!!


Twitter Chat….Tweetle Do or Tweetle Don’t?

So last night, the class took to Twitter to participate in our first live chat. Overall, I  thought that it was refreshing, if nothing else, to finally familiarize myself with the Twitter phenomena and know what it’s all about. I see how it can work as a great platform for self-expression and social change, especially given the 140 limit on posts. Say what you have to say and get your message out there. I think that this, rather than being a limitation, actually broadens the viewership that your message will receive as more people are likely to read it and remember it. From a social media standpoint, it also makes it simple for people to re-post tweets to Facebook, Tumblr…the list grows by the day. It ties in well with the concept of “connected learning” in that Twitter hashtags allow groups of like-minded peers to collaborate and connect for a common cause or movement. Not to mention that it feels pretty gratifying when somebody else re-tweets your message or leaves a comment. It makes you feel like your voice is being heard and appreciated – an important catalyst to get young people involved in the connected learning movement.

My favorite dialogue emerged from the following excerpt:

tweet archive

I find the debate between technology as a distraction and technology as a productive tool to be the most interesting question raised so far in this course. This is mostly because my own opinion regarding this debate has been transformed pretty considerably in the past few weeks. When the topic of student misbehavior and restlessness was brought up, I would blame it on the technology that kids today have access to. They have access to so much, so fast, that I blamed cell phones and Facebook for student  distraction and their trouble maintaining focus. But blaming technology, at this point, is futile. It is not going away. So instead of looking at use of the Internet, particularly social media, as problematic, we should do our best to look at it for its potential as a tool. And I say potential because many people do spend too much time distracted by technology and simply “consuming” it, as was brought up by Professor Cantrill in last night’s chat, rather than making something of it. So the answer to the distraction versus productivity questions lies in our ability to get people to use technology as a way of changing, making, collaborating, and innovating as opposed to a means of passive consumption of emails, tweets, and Facebook statuses (to name just a few). Maybe creating connecting learning experiences in the classroom will encourage young people to  change the way they utilize their online time in their daily lives or at least reconsider how they are using their time online. Just a thought.

Those are the pros from last night. Now on to the cons….

Being brand new to Twitter definitely does not make me the most qualified person when is comes to commenting on the efficiency or utility of a Twitter chat as opposed to other forms of group communication, but here are my initials impressions.

There were some great ideas brought up and I loved the fact that people from all over the country, from amateurs to experts, were able to communicate almost instantaneously on a matter of shared interest/concern. Instantaneous is great when it is in the form of a webchat or phone call or one-on-one IM, but when you throw 15 to 20 people into the mix, keeping up with reading that many posts is almost impossible. It was hard for me to get involved in the entire discussion, so I found myself extracting bits of the conversation that I found most intriguing and just going with those. I was frustrated to find, though, that by the time I was able to compose and post my response,  the discussion had already moved on to the next item on the list.

It just seemed like a lot being thrown out at once, and maybe if the chat focused on a single excerpt, as opposed to 5 or so, it would have been easier to follow, and we would have been able to get into some more depth.  I was really only able to read and appreciate what was said once I read over the archive on Storify and came to find that I had missed one of the excerpts entirely – I guess I didn’t push the Refresh button fast enough! Maybe with some more practice, it will become more natural. Or maybe the point of a Twitter chat is trying to carve out your own small space and hone in on what sparks your interest and connect with others within the chat that are similarly sparked. Kind of like a bunch of mini-chats about sub-topics happening within an “umbrella” chat (so to say) on a broader issue.

Here is the link to an archive of last night’s chat!

Tweetle Do or Tweetle Don't?
Tweetle Do or Tweetle Don’t?

A Day of Firsts…My First Twitter Chat!

I feel like I have become more digitally literate (if that is even a term!) in the past two weeks than I did throughout my entire time as an undergrad. The two online courses I am currently taking have taught me how to:

  • Use WordPress (and blog in general)
  • post to Twitter
  • participate in Twitter chats
  • manage a profile on the Google+ Community
  • Collaborate using Google docs
  • participate in a Google Hangout (and use a webcam successfully….that had never happened before.)
  • use Gravatar (well, sort of. Still sorting that one out!)
  • Embed text and videos onto my blog

I’m learning so much…at first I felt a little overwhelmed by the seeming ambiguity of “connected learning” but as time goes on, the meaning of all of this is coming into better focus. From tonight’s Twitter chat, I loved the idea of creating on the Internet versus consuming on the Internet and my reaction post will revolve around that concept…more to come!

331/365 - Happy computer

My First Annotation!!

So, I finally got around to posting something on I chose to annotate an article titled ,”What the US Could Learn from Finland About Education,” from the New Republic which discusses the educational policy contrasts between Finnish and American public schools. I chose this article because a comparison of the two models of education in both countries was the topic of my Political Science senior thesis project. As an added bonus, the article is relevant in light of its implications for the American system of public education and our role as educators within that system.

Take a look below!

#techquity Entering the Conversation – Part 2

“Innovators, Not Hackers: Stop Portraying Youth as Digital Deviants” – Nicole Mirra

Student misuse or a district blunder?
Student misuse or a district blunder?

This article brings to light the importance of using technology in practical and efficient ways, particularly in terms of education. Technology shouldn’t be used in the classroom just for technology’s stake but should be used if it enhances the learning experience and introduces the student to new modes of learning and forums for learning.

The series of events that unfolded at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles exemplify the use of technology on a mass and unproductive scale. Each student in the Los Angeles School District was given an iPad, I assume, with the reasoning by school officials that these iPads could be used to enhance classroom instruction as well as facilitate state testing. However, technology, particularly iPads, are not a one-size-fits all solution to ameliorate a lack of access to technology in public schools. iPads are practical for certain activities, such as researching on the web or using educational apps, but not as practical when it comes to word processing and other activities essential in the classroom. The main issue that I took away from this article is accountability in technology. This translates to the responsibility that an individual possesses for their use of technology and their actions online.

The media sought to blame the students at Roosevelt and hold them accountable for the failure of the iPad rollout program. However, I think that school officials ought to be held responsible. Particularly in an educational setting, special consideration needs to be put into what students will have access to once they are on the Internet and how this access can be monitored. A few students chose to use their iPads to hack past the school internet security software and access inappropriate websites.

This brings up the question – How can the educational benefits of technology be reconciled with the potential for misuse and abuse of privileges. This is a question that applies not only to schools, but to the greater connected learning and Internet community as a whole. Essentially, I think this warns educators to carefully consider the implementation of technological programs in their schools and assess the practicality and sustainability of these programs. Would students benefit more from a laptop cart that remains on the school premises or from a personal iPad that allows students more autonomous access to the Internet and increases the likelihood of misuse. We need to be cautious when putting the Internet into a student’s hands while under the supervision of the school and this should include web literacy and web safety training.

To sum things up – technology is a great benefit to students when used effectively (the student has access to necessary search engines, software, apps, etc.), efficiently (time spent on technology is used for educational and enrichment purposes only) and safely (appropriate blocks are put into place and students are educated in web safety prior to use of the technology).

Arbitrary use of technology for the purposes of appearing technologically advanced or digitally forward thinking is pointless if a plan is not put into place for how these devices can be used in a meaningful and productive way. Any misuse of these devices by students seemed to be a way of diverting attention away from the futility and failure of the iPad program as a whole. The media should have taken this opportunity to start a discussion of how to better utilize technological resources in the classroom to enhance student learning and create online connected learning communities among the students of the Los Angeles School District. Instead, the media chose to focus on the irresponsibility of a few students at Roosevelt High School, acting to further perpetuate the stereotype of teens and irresponsibility on the Internet.

As Mirra concludes in the article, “Young people are capable of much more than we often give them credit for. They are not “hackers.” They are innovators who have much to teach us about incorporating digital tools into meaningful, relevant learning experiences.” We should focus on what students can do on the Internet verses what they cannot do on the Internet.

Educators and students need to be accountable for their use of technology. Both need to be taught to use technology effectively, efficiently and safely to promote meaningful connected learning experiences. The iPads in the case of the Los Angeles Scholl District were essentially empty vessels that had no real purpose besides acting as an impressive statistic. What they were missing was a mission to teach students to use them in a productive and meaningful way – connected learning initiatives could have been one possible solution.

#techquity Entering the Conversation – Part 1

“To be Young, Digital, and Black” – Josh Karp


The primary focus of this article is on the digital divide between white and Asian students versus Black and Latino students in terms of technological access. Interestingly, the point of focus becomes less about accessibility and more about productivity, or what the students “make” of the technology once they have the access to it.

The author, Josh Karp, writes that at one time, “there were the tech rich and the tech poor,” but that this dynamic no longer defines the discussion surrounding technology in our schools. Instead, the dialogue revolves around web access versus web literacy and productivity. It is not simply a matter of having the Internet, it is a matter of what you do with it.

Karp illuminates the “participation gap” between varying segments of American youth and how these pockets of young people are using technology in different ways. More black and Latino students are using cell phones as opposed to computers to reach the Internet, whereas white and Asian students are more likely to use traditional computers or laptops to access the Internet. So what? How does our mode of Internet usage affect the way in which we participate and create on the Internet? Does one correlate with a passive usage of the Internet while another correlates with engagement and innovation?

Drawing attention towards emerging cultural trends in access to the Internet, Karp writes, “young blacks and Latinos are migrating decisively towards mobile media, using the phone as their main access point or gateway to the Internet.” He further informs us that black students spend an hour and half on the Internet (predominantly on cell phones accordingly to stats) while white students spend only half an hour per day on computers. Karp deduces that this is due to economics – cell phones are more affordable than desktop or laptop computers and their Internet connections more reliable given the prevalence of Wifi. Additionally, cell phones provide more autonomy and privacy whereas desk top computers require students stay at home where they may be monitored by parents.

“What mobile has done is enable them to assert a greater degree of control over their engagement and participation in the digital media world,” writes Karp.Yet how can this engagement be made purposeful and community-oriented? This is where I see the connected learning community coming in.

Black and Latino students communicate primarily through mobile media which is often not adequately addressed or entirely banned in schools. They are are not properly educated on web safety or literacy and therefore do not learn how to use the web properly for educational purposes or participatory culture.

Access to technology for traditionally underprivileged populations is no longer the primary issue. Many of these youth have the Internet at their fingertips but it is a crucial question of how to harness that power and trying to figure out how to make the most of this access in terms of participatory culture and getting youth to become involved in networks of likeminded peers who are interested in common goals and purposes. How can youth connect, be it through a cell phone connection or a computer or an iPad to make a difference online rather than passively navigate social media.

So the question really boils down to – “How do we educate using smartphones? How do we use them responsibly and productively? How can we use them to help students create their own voices in connected and equitable communities that have a purpose?

“Access, it turns out, is only half the battle,” Watkins says. “The question that we have to consider is: After access, now what?” It is not only a matter of the physical device, be it the cellphone, the computer or the iPad, but educating and motivating students to use these devices in a positive, productive, and socially connective way that is the real question at hand. And on top of that is added Professor Cantrill’s question – how do we do this in “a highly stratified and unequal society?”

Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet” by Kenneth Goldsmith

Is technology the new Surrealism? Are we drifting mindlessly from one device to the next, not even conscious of the people, place and time passing us by? This is the question raised by author and professor, Keneth Goldsmith.
Is technology the new Surrealism? Are we drifting mindlessly from one device to the next, not even conscious of the people, place and time passing us by? This is the question raised by author and professor, Kennth Goldsmith.

Intriguing and thought-provoking, I walked away from this article with questions about the utility versus the futility of the Internet. Kenneth Goldsmieth teaches a course at UPenn centered on the notion that students will use their time spent on the Internet -three hours per week – and transform this web surfing into a piece of creative literature. For these three hours, students can only communicate via the Internet. The title of the article itself, “Wasting Time on the Internet,” points towards the latter, however I disagree and I think that the author and professor of the course if commenting on the balance that we need to strike between using the Internet as a mindless escape from reality and using the Internet as a productive tool used for meaningful work and interconnectedness.

Do people spend too much time on the Internet? The answer to this question really depends on who you ask and what they are using the Internet to do. Are they creating online networks to advocate for web literacy in underprivileged schools or even reconnecting with a close friends on Facebook? Both of these are worthwhile pursuits in varying degrees. Is browsing satirical articles on The Onion or playing Farmville on Facebook a waste of time? It depends on what waste means to us. It is defined on Merriam-Webster as doing something “without care or restraint.” Who is to say that every moment on the Internet has to be productive in that it results in a tangible outcome. Can people go overboard? Absolutely. But in today’s technological world where communication is becoming ever more reliant on social media platforms, it would be a disservice to say that these forums are a waste. The Internet is here to stay, and connected learning is means of bridging the gap and reinvigorating the interpersonal communication that is becoming less and less abundant. Rather than rejecting the internet as a waste of time, it needs to be viewed as a vital tool that is communicative and creative and constantly changing just as society is. I don’t think that the Internet needs to be an isolating waste of time if people are educated in the ways that it can be used as a means of real collaboration and community building. It has more power to bring people together than to push them apart to advocate for the greater good.

Goldsmith states that “We’re becoming very good at being distracted” and that we spend our hours “aimless[ly] drifting and intuitive[ly] surfing.” If we use the Internet as a tool instead of a means of distraction and a respite from boredom than it has tremendous potential. It all depends on the attitude with which you approach the shift towards a more technologically driven world – some are less willing and some more willing to embrace the change.

Goldsmith goes on to say that “Web surfing [is] a form of self-expression. Every click is indicative of who we are: indicative of our likes, our dislikes, our emotions, our politics, our world view.” Is web surfing a form of self expression? Of course, we do not typically browse the Internet or search for topics that we hold little or no interest in. What I disagree with is that he states his course comprises the “recuperation of lost time into literature.” Time spent on the Internet is not lost so long as we learn something new, make a connection, spark an interest, or begin a dialogue, no matter how groundbreaking. Just like life itself, the Internet is for work and for play. As long as we are exploring and growing and having a positive impact on ourselves and not harming others, time spent in front of a computer screen is not “dead time.” The Connected Learning movement completely refutes the assertion put forth in this article – that the Internet is essentially as waste of our time. The Internet is a powerful platform for change and interconnectedness, and if used correctly, for bringing people together rather than isolating and pulling them apart. And as mentioned in Professor Cantrill’s quote from Juliet Shor from her webinar “Connected Learning as a Pathway to Equity and Opportunity,” we should ask ourselves, “How does connected learning combat the growing gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in education” and take a deeper look at the productive power that the Internet possesses as opposed to the non-constructive.

How do we draw a distinction between useful and useless time spent online?
How do we draw a distinction between useful and useless time spent online?