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Technology and Self-Control – The necessary new skill

Regarding the article, “The Flight from Conversation”, I would argue against Turkle’s (2012) endorsement that, “My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.”  Wouldn’t the important new skill be putting the device away and paying attention to the person with whom you are making eye contact?

Image representing Google Glass as depicted in...

But things get worse (better?).  Right now smart phone devices are only handheld; however, Google is planning to release Google Glass to the public in 2014.  Jeff Utecht just said last week at the ECIS 2013 conference that some students at Singapore American School already have it.  Wow.  Cool.  Really?

As educators, Utecht points out we need to ask ourselves, “How is this Google Glass device and ones like it going to change the way I do things in my classroom?”  Our natural responses to most new technologies is to ban it.  However, will this be the best solution for something that is so powerful and will continue to change the way we do business in school.  How do we ban something that eventually doesn’t look like Google glass, but only like a pair of reading glasses?  This will happen as technologies get smaller and smaller.  How do we ban technologies when they are planted directly into humans and are interfacing with the brain?  Utecht posits this to be around the corner as well.

How do we start to work towards this future?

Googleable and Not Googleable

As an educator, starting Monday, if you are not doing this already, stop teaching the stuff that is “Googleable” (McIntosh, 2013), “Wikipediaable”, “Wolfram-Alphaable”, “Khan Academyable”, “Youtubeable”, and “MOOCable”.  As McIntosh explains in the previous link, put a board on your wall in the classroom: “Googleable” and “Not Googleable” questions.  When students ask the former type of question, ask them to write the inquiry down on a sticky note and post it on that board.  Inform the student they need to find that answer and come back to the class with the response.  This is where the iPhone 5Ss, Galaxy S4s, HTC Ones, and dare I say, Google Glasses will come in handy.  We, as educators, can have students use these devices to our advantage.  For the other types of questions, the “Not Googleables”, let’s write those questions down too, post them on the wall, and delve into them.  They are deep.  They need conversation, guidance, and debate. 

However, I digress, the article was about the dystopian future, like the one illustrated in the movie Wall-e.  We are becoming disconnected in real life as we become connected to the ‘people cloud’.  If you have ever watched Star-Trek, we are becoming the Borg – lifeless, robot-like humans, who are getting assimilated into “the hive”.
So the bigger question is “how do we battle this?”
I would argue that my job description in the near future will turn from “tech integrator” to “tech disintegrator”.  We are adopting and adapting technology at an exponential rate.  We need to step back and start having talks about “How much is too much?” and “How do we manage these devices and the disconnections they are creating in everyday life?”  We need to model real-life connection when we are in life.  We also might need to start calling a spade a spade.  By this, I mean, we need to ask our colleagues, friends, family, and lovers to put down the device and be with us.  At the same time, we need to be ready to do the same when someone says this to us.
I love the ideas that Turkle puts forth, which are “At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays.”
For those with less will-power, we can start by putting limits for ourselves on devices and internet.
Try scheduling your router:
For controlling kids devices, try something like this:
To lock your Samsung Galaxy S4 at certain times: http://www.ekoob.com/time-limit-apps-for-android-13470/
We shouldn’t need this, but some of us do.  This brings me back to my original argument, which was that the new skill is not learning how to make eye contact while testing to someone else, but it is having the will-power to put the device away while you are with your loved ones, your family, your friends, your colleagues, and having the courage to put it away when you are only with your self.
 
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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Education, Technology

 

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Tech Integration Response to Email Questions

brass_integrator

brass_integrator (Photo credit: xmatt)

A recent group of colleagues, tech integrators from around the world, have recently connected through email contact.  One of the cohort posed a few questions, “[I am} interested in Tech lesson ideas for PK – Grade 5.  Also how you’re day is spent integrating technology in your schools. If you teach classes or are full time integration.”

I thought I would share my response here:

Hello,

I am going to try to get back to you about specific tech ideas because there are so many.  Our team is presently developing a website to showcase tech integration ideas using 3 New Literacies: Community, Tools, and Information.  This is being developed for PYP, MYP, and DP.  When it is populated I am eager to share it.  For now, I will point you to the Florida Tech Matrix: http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/

Concerning how the day spent as a tech integrator, it is interesting to compare this year to others.  Essentially as a tech integrator, and as John D’Arcy puts it, we are working our way out of a job and into a learning coach role who spends more time researching and promoting learning theory and practices.  However, teachers will usually need help learning new tools.  Jeff Utecht states, “We are in perpetual beta”.  The way he explains this idea is that online and offline programs and operating systems are continually updating and upgrading.  This means that we never really become experts because a version with all new bells and whistles keeps us and other teachers on their toes.  This is the reason I know we will always have a job as researchers, testers, implementers, and promoters.

As a tech integrator, originally I was working in classes in the capacity as a lead-teacher, co-teacher, or support teacher depending upon what the teacher needed and specified.  More recently I am finding that I am working much more with teachers individually who have lists of questions they would like answered.  I work with them on a weekly basis and help them with everything from blogging, to email and Google Drive organization, to SMARTboarding, to iPad app exploration, and so much more.  They are figuring out and adapting lessons from previous years but still ask for my help once in a while.  I write more about the idea of tech integration here: https://ict-design.org/2011/09/02/technology-integration-a-six-pronged-approach/ and share Keengwe, J., & Onchwari, G.’s (2009) tech integration rubric here: https://ict-design.org/2011/10/25/technology-integration-rubric

With regards to your last query, I am a full-time tech integrator with an open schedule.  I use and share my Google Calendar with staff here: https://ict-design.org/make-appointment  I found that if teachers were able to edit my calendar I would have some of them coming up to me at the end of the day saying, “You didn’t come visit my class” because I missed an appointment they made minutes before the due time.  Therefore, I make my calendar read-only, which means they need confirmation from me about appointment details.  It seems to work much better.

Hope that helps.
Thomas Johnson
Technology Integration Specialist | Learning Coach

 
 

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Connected –> Organized –> Disconnected

Image representing Netvibes as depicted in Cru...This post is about the idea that we have definitely moved into a connected society.  You cannot argue with statistics like these:

We had 845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011.
Approximately 80% of our monthly active users are outside the U.S. and Canada.
We had 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011.
We had more than 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011.
Facebook is available in more than 70 languages. (Facebook, 2012)

What does this mean for learners, or better yet for facilitators and parents of those learners?
I see two things that people need to focus on learning now that we are so connected.  The first is organization and discerning between good and bad sources.  The second is working towards systematic and non-systematic disconnection.

With the first idea that we need to work towards organization of all of the information that is bombarding us, there are a few ideas that I can think of.  The first is using consolidating sites like iGoogle.com or preferably Netvibes.com.  I recommend Netvibes because it allows you to see all of your emails, your website.

You can direct the content to this feed so that you don’t miss what any of your favorite website are talking about.  I cannot speak about whether iGoogle has this feature, but this in itself is one reason that I would recommend the competition.  Both of the platforms are completely customizable and are simple to use with a drag and drop user interface.es, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, plus it allows you to have notes and to-do lists for yourself.  This is the same as iGoogle, but it also allow for you to have your RSS feeds, and view them as email, so you know which ones you have read and which ones you haven’t.  In case you don’t know what an RSS feed is, it can be a blog or website that updates.

The green space A at top is even simply connec...

The second idea is about moving away from connectedness to a disconnected time period.  As Mark Prensky (2001) coined it, students today are digital natives, which means they have always had computers and the ability to access the internet for every answer, query, or need for connection with ‘friends’.  The problem is that of ‘offline-edness’.  Mobile technology and the Edge has moved those with this technology to constant connection all the time.  Push notifications wake us up at night.  Smart phones, tablets, and laptops all receive and send a signal just about anywhere we are these days.  So how do we fight it?  And why?

First why?
Children need to be in nature.  They need to interact with one another in collaborative ways without using a computer.  They need to not be distracted by the tweet or email that was just sent through.  They need to sit down for dinner and have a conversation without a screen in front of them.  So do adult!

And how do we fight constant connectedness?
Parents need to limit the amount of time a child has on their device.  In doing so, they need to model this with their own limitation of the devices.  If they are at the dinner table, a rule needs to be that devices AND push notifications are turned off.  On vacations, there should be days where technology is left behind, or at least turned to airplane mode.  Parents should also put charging stations for devices in a central location, like the kitchen.  This may not be possible with many which charge but are also used to amplify the device with speakers or some other connection, but it is worth a consideration.

Schools need to have screen-free days or weeks.  This is the idea that EVERYONE in the school goes a day or week without using a computer or mobile device.  Everything is turned off and left at home or in lockers.  If people need to send an email, they do what people did in the old days, they send their messenger, I mean walk down the hall and talk with that person face-to-face.  It’s not a novel idea.  I heard about it years ago from Jeff Utecht, a technology integration specialist of all people, who was promoting the non-use of technology.

This is something we need to concern ourselves with.  We need to get back to the roots, and I don’t just mean them figuratively.  I mean we need to get back out into nature and climb a tree…or at least lay under one and watch the clouds.

References
Facebook. (2012). NewRoom. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from Facebook: http://newsroom.fb.com/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=22

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from MarkPrensky.com: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

 

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