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?


  1. Nice job of summarizing this chapter Tasha! The thing that keeps coming back to me as I read this book and read everyone's super summarizer is what a negative approach this author has on everything. To me, this is such a negative way to think and view the world. Is the glass half empty or half full? Like everything in this world, you can't stereotype all people of this age into one group of people. As educators we know that, but unfortunatley it still goes on.
    In your first paragraph the book mentioned that with all of the time young people are put in front of "the screen", they still can't read, write, spell, etc...I'm not sure that they can't, it just isn't as important, because in today's society, we have technology tools that do this for us. Our values have changed as what we deem important and even what we teach children is different. We now teach how to find the tools to help us proofread, make sure our spelling is correct etc...
    Perhaps the focus needs to be more on giving young people more opportunities in experimenting what types of technology they need to use for specific situations. We as educators also need to do more modeling of this in the classroom. Maybe then, people would become more versed in what is appropriate for a specific thing in the schools or the work place.
    Perhaps there is nobody to blame for young people having a lower standard of higher order thinking skills. We have to meet our students where they are at and hope we can make a difference with each and everyone of them. I would hope that most parents feel the same way as well as I would hope that most young people feel the same way about themselves. I choose to look at this with a positive spin!

  2. Nice Job!!
    As I started reading this chapter and the author stated that students can't organize or site material from the internet, I kept asking myself--"Do they know how? Have they been taught to do what the test was asking?" Students have been figuring out how to do things on their own on the web. They do what works for them to get the info they are after. They have not had anyone to "teach" them what the survey is asking. It seems thats what all the surveys sited were about. They were asking students to do things that techno-geeks have created and know how to do with ease. It is not "things" that the students need to know to survive their teen years. AND they have not been taught what they need to know to take the survey. So on this thought--Do teachers know how and what to teach them? THEN by the time the next generation are teachers, will they know all the ins and outs of the web to teach the next generation or is technology moving so fast that the teachers will always be behind?