Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chapter 5 - The Betrayal of the Mentors

Chapter 5 starts off telling about how an activist nonprofit organization, Partners For Livable Communities, sponsored a study of community arts programs for troubled and underserved youth. The main purpose of their efforts was to lower the rate of high school drop outs, by giving them a focus and a purpose. For many of these students, the long-term effect turned these troubled youths, into self-sufficient, confident, and creative citizens. Here, the author believes "that young people during those years most critical for moral development miss repeated and consistent immersion in activities framed within and around pro-social and pro-civic values orientations." "Left to themselves, teens have no forward direction. Their goals contrast and blur into meeting friends and "doing stuff" and the prospect of becoming a positive contributor to their neighborhood never even crosses their minds." I personally think this is quite a negative attitude and view of today's youth. I would like to think of someone with more knowledge and opportunities to meet with adults and leaders, that it would broaden their thinking and create opportunities that haven't even been thought of yet. I believe this author looks at "the cup is half empty" philosophy and tends to lump all young people in this category. Like everything, there are exceptions to the rule, and I would like to think of more young people doing good for their communities, than bad. In this particular study, it proved to turn kids around into working, responsible adults by having important people in their lives, such as parents, teachers, and mentors. These kids could turn out either negatively or positively, but this study showed that The Arts Program helped to turn them into responsible young adults.

According to Reich, there is a new generation coming, called "The Twixters". These are people age 22-30 years old, have a college degree or at least college coursework, come from middle-class families, and reside in large cities. What makes them different, is how they choose to live their lives after college. This is their time to work different jobs, live at home, and not have too many constraints to tie themselves down. This is their time to prepare for becoming an adult, according to Grossman. What makes this interesting is how the traditional adults in a young persons life responded to this, such as parents, teachers, and society.

It is the authors opinion that todays young adults not only need to be competitive in science, technology, and productivity, but also in the ways of culture. They need a lot of reading and writing and an involved home and school environment. This includes teachers, mentors, and family members who communicate with them when things are right and wrong. It is these formative mentors who need to remind young people that there is more to life than their social life. He reminds us that it takes a village to raise a child. He says it is flexible, but is concerned that it is breaking down with "The Dumbest Generation".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Online Learning and Non-Learning

Chapter four is centered around the idea that, for as much time as students spend in front of "screens," they don't know how to research topics, write, spell, speak, and have a real, adult social life.
With workplace and school success depending on finding correct information from reliable sources, it is troubling that students cannot succeed in this area. EDUCASE, a non profit association, found students ranked the use of technology for learning, at fourth on the benefits list of technology. They also found, students are not able to decide which research materials are best suited in the workplace or school settings. Students are able to do much more with technology, but fail to use it correctly for work and school assignments.
Many schools have partnered with companies and associations, in order to put into place a technology iniative to improve educational outcomes. Schools around the country have sold science equipment, done away with field trips, opted out of music programs, all for the sole purpose of purchasing technology tools and paying the salary of technology specialists. Even universities such as, Duke, have purchased iPods or demanded the purchase of labtops by beginning freshman. The educational goals the school districts and educational firms and associations hoped for have not been met.
The students are excited to have new technology in their schools. However, with educational goals not being met, the learning that was supposed to take place has not made a permanent home in the minds of our students. Students with access to computers do not perform better on reading tests. The scores go down, instead of up, across subject areas. Even if classrooms and computers did use reading or mathematics software, test scores did not improve.
U.S. senators even proposed a bill restricting financial burdens. They didn't restrict or ask for achievement scores. They didn't question if technology is improving education.
The chapter then changes focus into language acquisition. Students vocabulary grows in school. However, most of the vocabulary growth takes place in play and informal situations. The more time a student spends in front of the screen, the more their language acquisition skills are hurt. This is due to high frequency words and rare word rates on the screen versus play/home situations. If a child is encourage to speak and play, the higher their vocabulary growth. If a child is sat in front of the television, the child hears many words over and over again. They do not hear those "rare" words that are essential for vocabulary growth. By kindergarten, the vocabulary difference between a child who plays and a child who is sat in front of the television is gigantic. This can be irreversable.
Students today see their models through "horizontal" eyes, instead of "vertical" eyes. Vertical modeling is that from maturity improves. It comes from conversations and learning from adults, such as grandparents, teachers, and ministers. However, students today are focused on the constant contact they keep with their peers. They walk in the door and can easily maintain contact with their classmates. This is "horizontal" modeling. Students are centered around each other and therefore, have no room for improvement or not person to look to for improvement. Students can make their computers only give them what they want. The author even states on page 155, "The screen blocks the ascent." He is speaking of adolesents moving into adulthood. In order to do so, students need verbal skills, which they do not receive looking at a screen. With RSS feeds, students can only bring in the news they care about. The one quote out of the book that stuck out to me was, "Reality is personalized, and the world outside steadily tallies the ego inside." (I don't think I'm supposed to put in my own opinion here, but I just have to say how very sad for SOME students to not care about the world around them and what is happening in it.)
The idea is that technology offerings are improving the "high order thinking skills" that video games offer. Students are able to make decisions, create, analyze, and interpret decisions when playing the video games. However, employers across the nation are constantly complaining of how little "low order thinking skills" students have. Students have poor writing, spelling, and grammar. All of which, they need in the workplace.
Some people say what is the difference between book reading and web reading. It is still reading, only using a different medium. However, studies show that when people read online their eyes focus on certain parts of the page and skim, or entirely miss, other parts of the page. Or, if a webpage looks anything like a book page, certain readers will close out of the screen immediately. So are they really reading if they are reading it online? Nielsen's research indicates, "...the Web is a consumer habitat, not an education one" (Pg 149). Nielsen even grants ideas to web designers on how to keep customers on their site longer.
So, who do we blame? We can't just blame the parents who use technology as an improtu babysitter. Parents need time to cook and clean too. We can't just blame the web designers and technology inventors. They need a job too. The author suggests blaming the teachers, librarians, and writers who do not separate the good from the bad, or education from technology. So, who do we blame for the milleanials, who are incapable of low order thinking skills or moving from the teenage years to the adult years?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chapter 2

It seems in this chapter that the author is trying to convince us that people, especially 15-24 year olds, don't read. I got the impression it was they didn't like to read what was assigned. But that is "old" stuff. Why not work with current "new release" books for young adults? An 8th grade teacher in our area did that and the kids were excited to read them.
Thought 2--Some people just don't like to read. They can and are very capable, but they don't like to spend their leisure time reading. Maybe people are too active and spend their leisure time doing more active things. Is their really anything "wrong" with that?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Section 3 - Screen Time

This chapter talks about the amount of time children of different ages spend watching tv, playing video games, surfing the internet, and doing other things involving time in front of a screen. There are a lot of studies and statistics mentioned, and most are given in a positive way that seems to support the idea that these new technologies are great for boosting human intelligence. I will not get into all of the statistics mentioned. The main thing that this chapter was about concerns how different groups view the integration of new technologies into our daily lives and how these technologies will affect our intelligence. The majority of the chapter cited studies and articles done by groups or indiviuals who strongly believe in the Digital Revolution as a new means of expanding human knoledge. The last few pages of the chapter simply ask us, "where are the result?". Many years have passed since the beginning of the digital revolution, and more and more studies are showing that things like spelling, grammar, and arithmetic are steadily declining.

That was my basic understanding of this chapter. I liked how it was structured because it made me try to think about some positive affects that playing video games, surfing the web, using social networking sites, and other things of the like. I really struggled with some of the wonderful and positive results that were being listed as a result of playing video games, and was pleased to read a more realistic description towards the end of the chapter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Cover

Our kids spend their time doing this -- not reading, learning to have a conversation, learning to think. Our kids will be video gaming heroes, but unfortunately, not thinkers.