Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

The New York Times ran this story today about the effect technology is having a students’ attention spans. Even though you may feel like you’ve read this line of research before, this story is worth a close reading. The focus is on the various ways in which technology can be distracting and offers anecdotal evidence such as a students who send hundreds of text messages a day. There is some finger-pointing here, as one researcher says “when adults were not supervising computer use, children ‘are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around’”. To me, this is the same story of students trying to get out of doing homeroom that goes back years before computers. Left to their own devices, students have always found ways to procrastinate doing their homework. As one student says “video games don’t make the hole; they fill it.” Most of the other technologies being criticized, such as cell phones and Facebook, are natural extensions of the students’ preference to socialize over doing their work.

The article’s related video feature, Teachers’ Views on Technology in the Classroom, is definitely worth a look. I especially recommend the third video in which the teacher discusses the concept of the “backwards classroom”.

Apple in Education Week at Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac ran a series this week looking at the revival of Apple products in education. I recommend you at least read the following:

  1. It’s All About Mobility –  check out the graph at the end showing the decline of Dell and the rise of Apple.
  2. iPads Get Top Grades In Cedars School Pilot Project – overview of the iPad pilot launched by Fraser Speirs.
  3. The Best iOS Apps for Education
  4. iPad May Replace Computers and Textbooks In Schools, Expert Predicts – it is great for reading but also can do writing.

And for a more cynical look at computers in education, read this interview with pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay.

Students Earning Blogs

Intriguing idea. Before students in Ms Yollis’ class are given their own blog, they must earn it by writing thoughtful comments on other student blogs. This sounds like a great way to gradually introduce skills about appropriate and responsible publishing on the Internet.

iPads Bring Accessibility to the Disabled at a Far Lower Cost

Link: iPads bring accessibility to the disabled at a far lower cost

tuaw.com compares the iPad to other accessibility devices. I’ve seen an Eco up close and I agree that the iPad has more features by default, runs more reliability, and costs far less than the $7,000 – $15,000 price tag for the Eco. The article suggests that most devices are purposely limited to one function in order to qualify for Medicaid. That is disappointing if true, since limiting an expensive device to one feature seems to work agains accessibility.

“Pupils and teachers will never want a device that’s harder to use than the iPad”

Some pretty safe bets from Fraser Speirs. If we limit the scope of those predictions to education, I mostly agree with him. However, I think that for the foreseeable future we will continue to need more complicated and powerful devices. My colleague who teaches the CAD program at my school could not achieve the same results with iPads. His class will continue to need desktops.