For this thing #7, we are supposed to write about anything technology-related that interests us. Well, as I thought about this during the past week, I had two things “converge” on me. I got the new issue of Phi Delta Kappan, May 2007, and the new issue of T.H.E. Journal, also May 2007. In the Kappan, in the Technology column, Sebastian Foti writes, “Did We Leave the Future Behind?” He describes the simulation software of the past, such as “Oregon Trail” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” that were some of the first forms of computer-aided learning and suggests that we might want to develop new updated simulations to use in schools. Simulations are used in the real world today and he feels that they would be effective at all levels of education today.
What struck a cord with me in this article was his description of today’s students who communicate very well with the technology available to them, but that the productivity tools used by most students “let you express yourself, but they don’t encourage you to explore ideas you don’t understand. They don’t allow you to test ideas and fail.” (Foti, 2007, p. 714) He goes on to give some interesting suggestions to provide simulations to use in today’s classrooms.
The second article that grabbed my attention had a blurb on the cover of T.H.E. Journal that said: “Huck Finn by Cell Phone! And other digital content options, as K-12 breaks away from traditional textbooks.” That certainly caught my eye. Well, this article talks about technology and the “invisible elephant” in the middle of my high school library that we don’t want to talk about, textbooks! I know, a lot of us have them and nobody talks about them because we shouldn’t have them, but hear me out here. The article is entitled: “Out of Print” by John K. Waters. He discusses various digital options to replace those ever more expensive and heavy print volumes our students are carrying around. Because I have to manage our large textbook collection, articles like this interest me.
We no longer have lockers in our high school and 3 middle schools. For the past 20 years administrators have been promising parents that we would have digital forms of textbooks and students would no longer have to carry all that weight in their backpacks. Well not much has changed in those 20 years and the students are still carrying the books. This article describes some of the resources that publishers are beginning to offer ranging from complete downloadable books, to supplemental materials, constantly updated, and also describes student and teacher created “texts”. The article describes some of the copyright issues involved with digital resources and describes at least one digital collection that has been approved by the California State Board of Education and adopted by LAUSD for history-social science.
For the past 4 years, I have had some experience with online versions of textbooks. We have had Holt biology, chemistry and physics books in both print and online versions. In my opinion, Holt did a pretty good job with these online books. This past year, we adopted a Holt health book and purchased only a few copies of the print edition, as well as many copies of the text on CD in PDF format, along with the online version.
Now I come to my observation on this experience. The parents want the texts in this format and want to relieve their children of another heavy book to carry, and the teachers and administrators feel they are doing well by finally providing the digital format they promised for so many years, but an interesting thing has emerged. The students (those digital natives!) don’t like the textbooks online or on CD. Who would have thought it? I ask them all the time about how they use or don't use the digital formats. They have all kinds of excuses, but finally a few confessed what some of us feel are the real reasons. When students are on the computer, they are connecting with their friends, not reading their biology or health textbook. Their parents often don’t think they are doing their homework if they don’t have a book open. It is my opinion that what Sebastian Foti said in the Kappan article is true, students can communicate very well with technology, but many are not learning and problem solving, let alone reading by using technology. They also don’t want to admit that they have trouble using some formats, and they don’t want to ask for help.
I am trying to set up dialogs with the teachers, department chairs, parents, students and administrators to talk about these issues. There are expectations here that are not being met and I don’t think they will be met given the various viewpoints of the stakeholders in this situation. We need to do some training and some investigating of these issues before we discard or adopt any particular formats. It won’t be the same in all content areas. I think that the students are perceived as being so involved with technology that any technology would fit, while the “grownups” didn’t really find out how the digital resources might be used most effectively.
Anyway, while I haven’t talked about any particularly new and cutting-edge technology here, this is how two views of technology “converged” for me this week.
I did find another new toy and created the transparent, revolving cube I put in my previous post. I think it’s cool. I really have to get off week 3 and thing #6 and move on.
Only 10 more days of classes before finals and graduation and so much to do!
Foti, S. (2007). Did we leave the future behind? Phi Delta Kappan, 88 (9) 647, 714-715.
Waters, J. K. (2007). Out of print. T.H.E. Journal, 34 (5) 31-36.