Monthly Archives: January 2016

Returning for a visit to the old school.


When I saw this photo, I loved it. I immediately placed it in my classroom because it represents the balance; the other side of the scale. I understand that technology is here to stay and will only become increasingly more present in the classroom and in learning in general. At our school, we have I-pad integration in the classroom, we share files electronically through google docs, we research on the internet, we blog and then there is all the social media stuff too. I think it is very important to balance this world with the world of old school; the times when I went to school or when my parents went to school. The old school is the paper and pencil way of thinking. It is about putting our ideas and thinking on paper. Taking the time to physically write out our thoughts, organize them and make sense of them.The picture of the crayons is meant to remind students that before they engage in technology usage, they need to think about what they are using it for , what they want to say and how will they say it. They need to first, grab a pencil and brainstorm on paper; sketch out their ideas and how they will present their ideas using the technology. Too often, I see students simply go to their I-pad, find an app and begin making their presentation. 9 out of 10 times the final product is not good at all. There is an incredible race to simply get to the I-pad rather than sit and use paper and pencil to map out thinking first. The technology is not the learning, it is the presentation of learning. Students need to storyboard their ideas, write out their thoughts or sketch an idea. Technology is a wonderful tool but must be balanced with old school thinking.

I seem the same issue with reading non-fiction texts. Students who use their technology to read articles seem to comprehend less than students who print out the article, grab a pencil and physically interact with the article. They write in the margins, they write definitions, draw pictures and summarize text on the page and in their own words. The physical interaction of writing is building a stronger connection with the material. Rather than be distracted by moving pictures, flying texts, hyperlinks and swiping up and down, students simply have a paper and pencil and their brain.

I believe the tide is shifting too quickly towards an ‘all is good attitude’ towards technology and that we need to stem the tidal flow to a more balanced approach where we incorporate a healthy portion of physical interaction with learning (paper and pencil) with the usage of technology.

The new, shorter attention span

After reading the articles and visiting various websites of varying content, I realized that the key to designing a web-based resource or attempting better navigation or more aesthetically pleasing is the purpose of the site. What do we want visitors to get out of visiting my website? Do I want visitors to try and learn about a specific content; to delve deep into it or do I simply want visitors to be what Michael Agger calls , “information foragers”. It seems for most websites, the design is meant to enforce the foraging style of information seeking. A very shallow approach to learning. Designs seem to be focused on promoting the efficiency of information gathering; allowing visitors to skim and scan for information fluidly. With the amount of information accessible these days, I can see the importance of having sites be extremely effective in terms of navigation and moving readers to the key information. Design is about enhancing the visitor’s visit by reducing time needed to find information.
I also feel that as we enter more and more of a technology world, we will be required to express ourselves through technology and to explain our ideas via the internet. Therefore we need to begin teaching the importance of how to communicate effectively on the web. What message do we want to say and how will we say it? I think George Lucas says it well in his article on Edutopia, “We have to ask, What is important for the kids to learn? The old idea of education as a way of storing facts is not that significant because nobody can store the number of facts there are. Every year it seems to double. Instead we need to teach students how to tell a story. It’s not enough to learn geometry; you have to learn how to build a house. We need to treat the language and grammar of the screen exactly the way we learn writing or music or painting.” I agree about it being storytelling. In order for students to be able to effectively storytell on the internet, we need to teach how to do it. The how is not only about the purpose of what they want to say, but how can we teach them to keep the reader’s attention and invest the time. It appears that our population is growing incredibly more impatient and if we do not find the information we are seeking immediately, we abandon our search and move on. We scan somewhere else! If it does not entertain us, we move on. If the visual design is uninteresting, we move on. If the color scheme screws up my emotional experience, or there is too much information, we jump ship and swim to another page. Notice that this has nothing to do with the content’s meaning; the purpose. Aesthetics are very important if we ever want visitors to stay on our pages long enough to actually learn about what we are trying to say.