Thursday, February 10, 2011

Filtering Information and Fake Websites

Students using the Internet have quite a task ahead of them when they are researching.  When you type a search into Google, how many websites are listed?  Millions and sometimes billions!  If you search the phrase “Google”, you will have 3,480,000,000 websites at your fingertips to give you information, and just in case you were in a rush, it only took .15 seconds to find all of them.  Even if you search something specific, like “how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon”, there are still 1, 380, 000 websites that will let you know an answer that is found at the back of most recipe books.  How do we filter all of this information?  How do we decide what is legitimate or not?  It is no longer okay to say, “I found it on the Internet” (yes, I used to say that).  Even I could post false information on the Internet without realizing it was false.  In fact, after learning how to create websites today in class, perhaps I will try that this weekend!
When we were asked to look at the website for Mankato, I did not immediately realize it was a fake website.  Call me gullible, but if someone beside me hadn’t said, “what a fake website!”, I would have probably been planning my next vacation down to the hidden vacation Mecca of Mankato, Minnesota.  I’m mostly kidding, but I am definitely one of those people that needs to be a bit more cautious about where I find my information and whether it is legitimate or not. 
Over the years as I have done more and more Internet research, I have become more aware of what is authentic information but what still throws me off a bit are people that post false information that they believe to be true.  Not only is the information a bit skewed but also they are standing firmly behind their word. 
I guess this is why we need to be teaching our students to be responsible human beings even beyond using technology.  We need students that are capable to think and make clear decisions when they are faced with millions and billions of options.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Technology in the Classroom - Smart Boards and Stuff

In class last week, we had a presentation on Smart Boards.  I have had very little contact with Smart Boards other than to use them as an interactive PowerPoint presentation.  As we were hearing about all of the features of Smart Boards, I kept thinking about my seven-year-old cousin Matthew.  Smart Boards were made for kids like Matthew.  Matthew has been using technology since he was able to get his hands on it.  At age two, he taught my mom how to use all of the remote controls in his house.  Matthew is the most engaged when he is in contact with technology.  Can you imagine how much more he would learn if we could channel the curriculum through technology?  Oh wait, we can! 
The Smart Board, and other technologies like it, is a gateway into the minds of students like Matthew.  How do you make learning about verbs and adjectives interesting?  Ask the students to perform activities using the Smart Board.  I think the best part about the Smart Board is that it doesn’t change what students are learning rather, it enhances their learning.  It is simply another way to differentiate the learning of a classroom and to better reach all learners.
Technology can be a fantastic tool in the classroom.  Technology can transform student learning.  I think it is incredibly important for teachers to stay up to date with current technologies.  The more you use it, the easier it is to adapt to the latest trend.  During a presentation in one of my other classes, the presenter read, word-for-word, off the PowerPoint and each slide had long paragraphs of text.  In order to teach students that far surpass our skills in technology, we must have at least a grasp of how to use our technology appropriately.  Learning how to use PowerPoint is much more than just learning how to put text on a slide.  Let’s learn how to use our technology appropriately!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Technology Discoveries

Okay, I figured out how to post a video.  What?  I know!  It is a crazy video about my cousin, Evan Petkau, being chased by wild hippos in Africa a couple of years ago.  The full video has been on youtube for a couple of years but was just recently picked up by National Geographic to be part of a film they are producing.  About a year ago, Disney contacted my cousin about using the video in one of their nature videos but chose not to include it in the end.
In class we have been discussing all of the dangers of digital profiles.  The Information Communication and Technology Curriculum seems to be intended to teach ethics and responsibility than to teach about technology.  They want to warn teachers and students about what could happen to their careers and lives if they let technology get out of hand.  I agree, technology can be a tricky path to follow but we need to also think about the incredible things that have happened as a result of technology.
My cousin Evan has a jumping off point, although it is still small, for his interest in a career in film.  How many actors and performers have gotten their big break by simply posting a video online?  How many of those videos are probably embarrassing?  How many of those videos are actually shot for shot remakes of the kind of videos that could potentially ruin your life?  But for some people, those embarrassing videos are the one thing that changes the direction of their life in a positive way.  Anyone know a guy named Justin Bieber? 
I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is that yes, it is important to be careful with technology but at the same time, taking well-chosen risks can change your life in a good way.  I suppose it all comes down to teaching our students to act responsibly, to think before they post and to make cool videos of crazy things that happen in nature for us all to watch, like charging hippos.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What does your digital profile look like?

“In ten years, most teenagers will have to legally change their names to avoid their digital pasts.”  What?  That is such a terrifying statement.  What are teenagers doing these days that is leaving such a trail that they have to legally separate themselves from their past?
When I was growing up, the Internet craze was just starting.  I remember having time limits on our Internet use because we only a certain number of minutes each month.  Not only was there not enough time to do anything really bad but the dial-up connection prevented any type of inappropriate behavior.  I remember our family’s first cell phone.  It was only turned on when we were driving long distances.  We didn’t use it to call people, especially not long distance calls, unless it was an emergency.  The “screen” was just a small rectangle that lit up with the numbers you were dialing, no pictures, no Internet, not even caller id!  Gasp!
It is no wonder kids are getting into digital trouble.  It’s almost impossible not to.  If there is a regular picture of you, anywhere, anyone can Photoshop, iphoto, or paint their way into ruining your life.  There are no limits anymore.  It makes it harder, I guess, if you don’t have a facebook account, but even taking pictures of people has become easier by simply using your cell phone or more commonly, your smart phone.
I think the main issue here is the loss of ethics and personal responsibility.  Students, and many adults, are so quick to point their finger away from themselves.  We play the role of victim to the caliber of an Oscar winner. 
As teachers, and for any of us that become parents, I think it is incredibly important to teach our students how to act responsibly with the technology we have.  Technology is so cool!  There are so many amazing things you can do!  What it comes down to is not just acting responsibly with technology, but being a responsible citizen of your community.  I can’t think of a better job description for a teacher.