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Category Archives: New Media

How the Internet is working against us, but no-one seems to care

Plenty of studies, and many critical thinkers have weighed in on how the Internet, once heralded as a gift to society, is not exactly working in our broader interests.

 

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Young web ‘designers’ in 5th and 6th Grade


website2
It’s exciting to be able to teach kids what it means to ‘design’ a web site, and see what they come up with.

I’m not talking about the coding part of the site, but the navigation, layout and content. So much has changed since I worked  on web sites and web content ten years ago. Especially with site builders at Wix and Weebly, or even GoDaddy.

So before website3I introduce students to online site builders, I let them play with design components, using PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint!

It’s a quick way to build navigation tabs, work on color and fonts, and eventually embed hyperlinks and video.

Here is some of the work of 6th grade, building a site for Space Day, the school event we just concluded.

Likewise the 5th grade is working on a website for Freedom Tower, a project they began in September. website4

Later they would be using Photoshop for image manipulation, and create and edit shapes and buttons etc. Much later, when we move into audio recordings, and podcasts, I may have them return to their web sites and add voice files using Audacity.

But for now they experiment with bevels, shadows, and other effects that enable navigation.

UPDATED:

spaceday2Design is not just for 5th and 6th Grade. To address the Arizona CCRS Standard, S1.C4.PO 1: “Use digital creativity tools to create original works” I let 2nd grade students work with shapes, colors and also contrast and perspective.

Here is one student’s poster for the same event, using Microsoft Word.

 

 

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It’s settled then: There won’t be an oxymoron in the White House

For all the debate prep, no one could have contained Donald Trump as he hurtled toward the precipice, sliding on the rocks of loose talk. In the end, despite fancy slogans, websites, and stage props, something as basic as good communication skills makes or breaks a leader.

A free, seemingly easy-to-master, tool should be handed to someone of Donald Trump’s personality with a warning: “May cause user to implode.” Just like Twitter, a microphone could also be a dangerous tool. Indeed, many before him have been dispensed into the heap of disgraced leaders and also-rans because of a hot mic, or a video capture, or even a spool of tape.

Another interesting thing about Trump was his penchant for ‘truthful hyperbole’ – a term he used in his book, The Art of the Deal, which, to be fair was ghost-written.

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But as is evident now, truthful hyperbole, a classic oxymoron, is the long fuse that led him to where he is, an outcast of the party he represents.

Citizens vote for leaders who articulate their hopes and needs. Thankfully voting for an oxymoron was not an option.

Footnote worth listening to: Nixon’s tape archive recording where he and his staff discuss ”lying to a base.’

 

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Multi-tasking could reduce performance. But how to turn back the clock?

What would you say about findings that say multi-tasking affects ‘memory creation?’

After all, we email and text while writing reports or watching a movie, don’t we? I just read a 2016 report by Common Sense Media that looked at recent literature of Technology Addiction. here are some alarming findings. Some are red flags, needing more research.

Here are just a few:

  • Media Multi-tasking creates cognitive fatigue, and makes it more difficult for someone to create memories that can be accurately retrieved.
  • Heavy multi-taskers have a harder time filtering out irrelevant information (2009 study of college students)
  • Students who multi-tasked using a laptop during a lecture performed worse on a test, compared to students who were not using a laptop. (2013 study of college students)
  • US ‘Tweens’ (8- to 12-year-olds) spend 5:55 hours outside of school and homework using media. Teens spend 8:56 hours (2015 survey)

The reference to media in media multi-tasking, refers to both digital and non-digital media: TV, video games,social media, using the Internet, reading, and listening to music.

What do we do about these findings? Many parents do not need research to tell them that they (and their kids) must cut back. I have met parents who have taken steps such as not have more than one device in the home, and those who have a ‘digital curfew’ after, say 8:00 pm. There are even those who do not allow mobile devices and tablets in children’s bedrooms – similar to the earlier trend of not having a TV in bedroom.

I teach computers and technology, making it a curious place to discuss this. I often require students to use paper and pencil, even though they come to my Lab to learn about such things as audio recordings (on a cloud-based digital console), QR codes, and search strategies. I often get asked if listening to music while working is OK (they know the answer but think it’s worth a shot!).

Could we turn back the clock, and get back to mono-tasking?

 

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From Abraham Zapruder to Diamond Reynolds – Cameras in public life sensitize us

It’s just three months since Facebook Live became a feature that anyone could use. But it took another accidental ‘reporter’ named Diamond Reynolds to put it to use in a way no one ever envisaged.

This came some 52 years after another accidental reporter named Abraham Zapruder captured sniper bullets hitting President John. F. Kennedy in Dallas.

That was a time when cameras were scarce, and there was no such thing as a live citizen journalist broadcast. Now cameras (and all manner of recording devices) are so ubiquitous, we’ve almost come to expect to see the raw footage or listen to soundtracks of terrible events. Technology has given us a way to piece together events. The hope is that events seen through multiple camera angles might help us NOT rush to judgement.

Facebook Live allows 90 minutes of video. Zapruder took just 26.6 seconds of footage.

 

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VoiceThread meets Ted Talks!

I wish I had heard of this earlier – Voicethread‘s answer to TedTalks. Just in time for the ISTE Conference starting Sunday.

https://voicethread.com/app/player/?threadId=7784579

It’s called ThreadTalk. Which is quite a neat play on TedTalk considering how VoiceThread is all about the Thread, more than the voice. They make the point that the quality of the conversation thread is just as important as the presentation.

In other words, it’s not about the fancy slides, but the content.

As the VoiceThread notes, we tend to stop using our voices and replace it with text communication because the Internet was not quote supportive of voice for a long time. It is now, as we know thanks to services such as Google Voice, Viber and other phone apps. But in education, we need to bring back the spoken word and student voices into the mix.

I’m waiting to see what evolves out of ThreadTalk, post ISTE2016.

 

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Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.
 

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