Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reflection Post

This class certainly got me thinking, and opened up my mind a little from my prejudices. Before I read this book I was convinced that kids were already too “wired” and that the last thing our society needed was giving kids even more time on the computer and in front of the television and games. After all I’m a proponent of getting kids outdoors.
Getting kids outdoors became even more important to me after reading Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” that draws our attention to the absence of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation and links this to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. It’s a fact - children in the United States are spending more and more time indoors nowadays due to televisions, computers and electronic gaming, and less time outdoors.
As I started to read Mark Bauerlein’s book “The Dumbest Generation” I must admit I was kind of in this “see I knew it” attitude assessing all the negative statistics and comments. But taking this class, learning about how technology can be used to teach, and looking at interviews on you Tube like the one with James Paul Gee “Games, not Grades” helped me to open my mind to possibilities.
In reflection, here is what I believe now:
There are both pros and cons in this digital age.
First the cons:
Yes, nature deficit is on the rise and it is affecting our kids negatively; writing, spelling, language and reading skills are not improving, and in some cases getting worse, instead of better. Social networking on the web is not the same as physical face-to-face social networking, and we are losing physical communication and activeness in our communities. Even worse, our own family members tune-out with headphones, games, televisions and computers. Many families do not even eat together anymore.
When the children are at home, it is up to the parents and guardians to monitor their children’s amount of time they will be “wired” and what content they are viewing. It is also up to the parents and guardians to make sure their children get outdoors for both mental and physical health reasons.
While children are at school it is up to the educators to do the same.
As an aware parent and teacher I am very active in my daughter’s wired time and content. What scares me is there are parents and teachers who aren’t. Certainly the best approach then is to spread information on the pros and cons of technology in the lives of our youth, and to provide helpful guidelines to promote the good use and reduce the bad use of technology. Teach the students themselves about how technology affects them and how to be their own best monitors.
But there are pros too:
I think the Internet and web based tools introduce exciting ways to learn and have a place in today’s education. There are so many more possibilities for helping different kinds of learners (e.g., mnemonic, visual). There is an infinite amount of information at our fingertips 24/7. As for reading and writing skills, these can be integrated with web tools. For instance a Literature Circle and Blog site like we used for this class could require students to read and write. It is true we are able to do the creative part of writing, but not the penmanship when we type. However, there are smart boards that have tablets where students can use their penmanship, and if it’s not available now, then surely it can be where students can write on their touchscreens on their laptops. As for spelling skills, we could use virtual spelling bee games. As James Paul Gee said, when kids are playing video games they are constantly being assessed and they are always trying to improve to up their score.
I would like to see education move entirely away from lectures and standardized testing and toward the integration of authentic hands-on activities (a lot of them outdoors) with games (both indoors and out) that test their knowledge and in some cases simulators to tests skills that are too expensive or unavailable in reality. I think some students who hate coming to school to learn might start to enjoy learning.

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