Digital Natives Have Their Say

Do kids ever get invited to conferences on the future of education? This is quite strange when you think about it, as Mark Prensky points out, all stakeholders are involved in corporate decisions, yet kids are rarely asked their viewpoints. In his article, Young Minds, Fast Times: The Twenty-First Digital Learner Mark points out:

Today’s kids hate being talked at. Students universally tell us they prefer dealing with questions rather than answers, sharing their opinions, participating in group projects, working with real-world issues and people, and having teachers who talk to them as equals rather than as inferiors.

Nearly two-thirds of secondary school students want to use laptops, cell phones, or other mobile devices at school.

A student in Albany, New York, pleaded the case for using technology in the classroom: “If it’s the way we want to learn, and the way we can learn, you should let us do it.”

One teacher queried, “Do computers cut you off from the world?” Not at all, said an excited student: “We share with others and get help. Technology helps — it strengthens interactions so we can always stay in touch and play with other people. I’ve never gone a day without talking to my friends online.”

One California high school served up a dose of common sense: “Kids grew up around computers. They love them. Their computers are their second teachers at home.” A student in West Virginia offered this nugget: “If I were using simulation in school, that would be the sweetest thing ever!”

Mark states that the best part of the student panels is always hearing the kids’ answers to his final question. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” Great responses:

I ask about their experience that day and whether their soapbox proved useful. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” I ask. I truly love their answers:
“I like the fact that we become equals. Students do not get the opportunity that often to share their ideas. If students and teachers could collaborate, a lot more would get done.” (Anaheim, California)

“A lot of students care — you just don’t realize it.” (Poway, California)

“Most of the time, the teachers are talking and I want to go to sleep. But now my brain is exploding.” (Poway, California)

“Don’t let this be a onetime thing.” (Poway, California)

“I think it’s important that you take time to see what we feel.” (West Virginia)

“Now you know what we think and how we feel. Hopefully, that will go to the heart.” (Texas)

“I waited twelve years for this.” (Texas)

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it!” (Texas)

“As a general rule, you don’t hear from kids unless they’ve gotten into trouble.” (Anaheim, California)

“Both groups [teachers and students] can learn from each other.” (Anaheim, California)

“If you don’t talk to us, you have no idea what we’re thinking.” (Hawaii)

Clearly, the kids find it valuable to share with their educators their opinions on how they want to learn. Although skeptical, they hope those teachers and administrators who are trying to improve their education think so, too, and listen carefully to what the students have to say.

Summarising tool

If you have Word 2007, there is a really neat tool that will enable you to automatically summarise a lengthy document.  I used it for my previous post: Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers?

You simply need to add the icon to your tool bar.  The How-To Geek will show you how to do this.  Then whenever you want to summarise a document, click on the summarise icon and you have a choice of options. For example, you can replace the article with a summary, place an executive summary before the article or highlight main points in the article.  Besides being a great time saver for writing summaries, I find it useful when I have to read lengthy reports. If they are web based, I select the article, right click and select ‘text only’  paste them into Word and summarise.

Thanks to Paul Hamilton and  Free Digital Tools for a UDL approach for leading me to this great find.

Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers?

 We take it for granted that computers have tremendous potential to transform education. According to new research that focused on computer adoption among the poor in one Eastern European country, computers at home can actually help to lower the grade point averages of students, distract students from homework, and potentially contribute to behavioral issues.

 We find evidence indicating that children who won a voucher (to gain a computer) had lower school grades.

In the case of  the Romanian program, subsidies were provided for the purchase of home computers. The Ministry of Education did provide access to educational software. According to the researchers, few children installed educational software on their computers, and fewer still reported actually using that educational software.

The possibility that home computer use might displace more valuable developmental activities is a real concern. The researchers concluded that the role of the parent in “shaping the impact of home computer use on child and adolescent outcomes” is an important factor that needs to be addressed in programs aimed at bringing technology to underprivileged youth.

“Thus, our findings suggest caution regarding the broader impact of home computers on child outcomes. They also raise questions about the usefulness of recent large-scale efforts to increase computer access for disadvantaged children around the world without paying sufficient attention to how parental oversight affects a child’s computer use.”

Is this  something that needs to be considered in light of the one laptop per child  program?

I am sure that many educators would agree they would rather see children with computers than without.  Using the tools to gain in learning is the goal.  Liaison between school and parents, and using the tools effectively at school will assist in ensuring that they are not misused in the home environment.

Any comments?

Advice for cell phone users

The Larry King show recently discussed the issue of cell phone and brain cancer. The discussion was joined by Dr Sanjay Gupta and Dr Vini Khurana. Here are some important extracts from the discussion if you don’t have time to read it all.

If you look at some of the studies that have been performed — I mean one of the studies that is very concerning has been a story out of Europe that looked at a long-term exposure to the use of cell phones over a period of 10 years. And when patients or people were exposed to over 2,000 hours of cell phone use — which is about an hour a day for 10 years — that study reported about a 3.7-fold increase in the risk of developing brain cancer.

Teenagers and even younger — and they will be using cell phones for 20 or 30 years, we do not have enough data now to say that it is a safe device. Unfortunately, my suspicion is that it’s going to be five years or 10 years before we have a definitive answer. And unfortunately, as you showed at the beginning of the show, there’s a billion people, that will be using cell phones and they will be using cell phones for many years. We don’t know that that will necessarily be a safe practice.

I use a cell phone, but I always use an earpiece. It’s the antenna for the cell phone that is the source for the microwave energy. And as Dr. Gupta said, that energy is directly proportional, actually, to the square of how close you hold it to your brain. So, I think the safe practice is to use an earpiece so that you keep the microwave antenna away from your head.

Well, I think that we do not have conclusive studies, at this point, to make a scientific conclusion that there is a definite correlation. I do think that he raises a very important concern, I think particularly among young people using cell phones. And I think the concern among other types of neurological problems, other than brain cancer, because a microwave antenna is very similar to a microwave oven. It’s heating the brain. So we don’t know what long-term effects that will have on memory as our young adults age and other…

Dr. Keith Black, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai.

So for safe cell use:

  • Not many people read the instructions that come with their cell phone but it is recommended that there is a distance between the phone and the ear – it should be kept up to an inch from your ear.
  • Make use of ear devices to maintain the distance – using a headset is really the right way to go, earpiece, speaker on phone.
  • When carrying the device, not even when using it, just carrying it and the device is on, you should be using a specific pre-approved holster that has been tested for compliance. Don’t carry it in your pocket or on your body. not wearing one of these non- ionizing Bluetooth things all the time. Although Bluetooth phones give off less radiation than a cell phone, again don’t wear it on you.
  • Use a landline rather than a cell phone – don’t use cell phone as your only communication device.

Further research is being conducted: Interphone Study is continuing to determine whether cell phones increase brain tumours due to the radiation they emit. Meanwhile,

Take this example from the Larry King discussion and deliver it to everyone you know who uses a cell phone:

Brad here has a wired ear piece in his left ear. It goes down to his phone. It’s carried in the approved holster. That is what they recommend.

Please Note:

A reader has alerted me to the following update which I am posting here:

Apparently – the only (best) way to go is to use a speaker and keep a comfortable distance between yourself and the phone.

S Caine Says: July 29th, 2008 at 2:56 am e

I’d like to point out that the British Health authorities have actually recommended AGAINST using a wired earpiece as their studies indicated that it actually increased the amount of radiation reaching the ear (the wire of the earpiece serves as an antenna)! A Bluetooth earpiece on the other hand while having lower levels of radiation than the phone itself, is worn closer to the ear – which increases the exposure. Apparently – the only (best) way to go is to use a speaker and keep a comfortable distance between yourself and the phone.