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To google or not to google

There is an ongoing debate about just what is good education, about how young people use the internet, and about what some describe as the ‘slipping standards in education’. And there are cries at times for a return to more ‘traditional’ ways. Mind you sometimes ‘traditional’ ways seemed to include public floggings and other educational practices which now qualify as ‘extreme entertainment.’ But without embracing the extremeites of this argument, there do seem to be things to think about. And because I got carried away and now have kids, I now find these debates annoyingly personal.

Marc Prensky (speaker, writer, educational designer) is famous for coining the terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’; …those who have been born into the digital age and those who have arrived here from another time. And yes, while geography and finances do make a difference, basically he is referring to younger and older people. Marc Prensky has, I think, a point. What older person ever found out how to work out the time delay on a VCR? (Really young people at this point are asking: what’s a VCR?). My three year old son has no fear of remotes or anything buttony…he just presses away furiously until something happens. He actually also knows how to use the remote for a TV, put on and play DVD’s, AND how to play a DVD via a Playstation. He knows how to use a computer mouse and how to click and drag. And before I get reported to the Department for the Preservation of the Purity of Children, let me say that I let him have no more than 10.5 hours screen time a day…okay, occasionally a little more. He actually watches pretty much no TV but does watch videos, and because we travel a lot and end up in motel rooms with the inevitable screen he has learned about some of these things simply from having it around him. The mouse-clicking I actually taught him.

It has come to my attention that the world is not going to go away. More than once I have tried to ignore it and when I turn around, it’s still there. And so my partner and I agree that giving our boy ZERO skills on a computer is not a great edge to have in this world. Okay. Decided. But then what?

Mark Bauerlein Professor of English Emory University of Atlanta tells a story of asking students to memorise 20 lines of poetry, and a student’s response to him was: ‘Why? It’s always there, a click away.’ Now I know I am ancient but the student’s response does seem a little disappointing. Professor Bauerlein goes on to argue that the value of actually doing this memorizing is that it is good for the muscle of memory, it also increases vocabulary and importantly the person ‘assumes another voice’, with the all the learning and insight that such a possibility offers. A reasonable argument.

Going in the other direction, if you want big advocates of E learning, look at the sites of Wesley Fryer and of Alvin Trusty. Both constantly have interesting, and at times not-so-interesting, to me, things to say. (I told you I was ancient. And really I am just saying I don’t sometimes understand the TEkniKAL stuff) and always they advocate for the newer paths.

As I write you can go to Alvin’s site and see what I think is a pretty ordinary picture with this next to it:

‘I should add one thing about that last picture. A bird had left a nasty white mark over three lines of text. The new version of Picasa easily removed the blemish. If you haven’t looked at Picasa in a while, you should take another look. I haven’t found another free picture manager that has nearly as many features.’

So for me, the fact that I think the photo of a sign is not very interesting is really unimportant. The very cool thing here is ‘Picassa.’ I might just have a look.

In addition, at the top of Alvin’s post is this:

‘My students are working on a PowerPoint file in class. I give them all the text. They come up with the pictures. All the pictures must be licensed with a Creative Commons license and several of the pictures must actually be taken by the student. The subjects of the photos are ordinary objects like pencils, pens and calculators.’

He continues to be an advocate of E education and in this simple sentence is also an advocate for the respect of the work and property of others. This gotta be not a bad thing. This very simple sentence below also really speaks a wealth.

‘That’s about it. The PowerPoint file is below shared on SlideShare. If you would like to see the work of my students, search for the tag. I wrote it in chalk on the second slide.’

In this one simple paragraph, we get to hear about SlideShare, and he includes the work of his students on his site, which just seems respectful too.

Wes Fryer’s blog of 21st July, and he is the world’s BIGGEST blogger, includes, amongst heaps of other things, this simple question and statement.

‘If you were going to start an after-school club at an elementary school focusing on exploratory and collaborative learning with Scratch software, what clever name would you give the club so it appeals to both boys and girls in 4th and 5th grades?

Bob Sprankle’s Bit by Bit podcast 84 inspired this question today.The book I tried to cite on this 6 minute audio comment is Coloring Outside the Line by Dr. Roger Shank.’

Okay, no big deal. But it represents E education. Wes assumes things still happen and need to happen in the classroom. He refers to software (yes, he is an advocate) and he, I think, generously and fairly, makes references to others. And because this is E learning, he gives the links.

There may be subliminal messages in all this that I am missing, and maybe Wes and Alvin have shares in various companies…I dunno…but none of this seems bad to me.

So where to from here? How much is too much? What is good clicking and what isn’t? When does the computer get turned off? All this is important. And of course you are not reading this via a piece of paper are you? So I guess you have taken some sort of stand, and like me, you will work it out. Or like me also, continue to be confused. Click……..?

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