Category Archives: Instructional Technology

Gendering the Policy-Practice Gap

I gave a guest lecture today in a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Course, “Women: Images and Realities.” What a neat experience. Although my work as a professor is always infused in some way by thinking about gender, it is not the main focus of my practice as a scholar. This talk gave me the opportunity to really think through how my research has the possibility to consider themes of equity around gender, too.

In order to prepare for this talk, I revisited my research blog for my dissertation. What a wonderfully reminiscent (and geeky) experience that was! I haven’t stood (at least digitally) in that data space for quite some time now. I was reminded of how much time and effort I put into building the site, thinking through the architecture, and designing the method by which I would import, code, and organize my data. And, of course, it made me think of all of the incredible people who helped me along the way. It was a true learning-by-doing experience.

So revisiting those posts through a gender lens led me to locate some more thoughts on the ways in which teachers who write about their daily lives in blogs educate us about their lived realities. Following is a tiny glimpse of what I found.

Teacher bloggers write about the ways in which dress bolsters the gendered binary that often exists within school spaces. The image of ‘suit’ surfaces here and there, always as connected to administrators. Miss Rim writes, “4 men in suits; 2 in business casual. During a quality review check. They entered. I extended my hand, ‘Hi, I’m Miss Rim.’ They gave me a blank look. No one said anything. I had no idea who they were. They came in to the room, stared at the students’ coat cubby, calculated how many hooks were there, had a debate over whether or not students could or should have a hook for a coat AND a bookbag, or what. They opened closets. They turned the water in the sink on and off. They muttered and whispered. Then someone said, ‘Well, we can always add another row of coat hooks. Or probably 2 more.'”

They also write about ways in which bodies, and their needs, are disregarded. Miss Brave writes, “…one of our staff toilets broke, and our janitor informed us that that’s it, no new toilet part this year. Which means that we have one bathroom on our floor for about thirty people, most of them women, two of whom were pregnant…”

As I went back through my data, and my theoretical frames, I also considered how I might present the theory I used to help me make sense of my data in a more digestible way. So I used political cartoons. I think this one sums up the way I use the theory of political spectacle well. Mary Wright Edelman explains, “words and numbers appear precise and rational; yet depend entirely on context and interpretation” (2004, p. 13):

numbers don't lie

I’m moving in a slightly different direction now with my research — I’m looking at funding streams for technology in schools in New York State, as well as considering how to make sense of both teacher educators’ and teacher candidates’ use of technology, and the impact it has on their pedagogy.

Till next time…

 

 

 

 

Recently

I was poking around on Facebook yesterday evening, and came across an ad for Recently, a magazine of your life, basically. They print a monthly magazine from your photos. It’s $108 for the year.

At first, I scoffed. I thought, how can we have yet another way of documenting our lives? And why print it when we can scroll through digital albums on so many different devices?

I suppose there’s still this desire to return to print–we are the digital crossover generation in that sense, and the dilemma is likely to follow us wherever we go. I admit that I’ve made many printed photo books and calendars with iPhoto for friends and family members over the years. But there’s something about a magazine that brings it to a whole other level. Is there anything more narcissistic?

AJH at Pujet SoundsAnd then I mentioned it to my partner, and I found myself suggesting that it seemed like a good idea for our baby’s first year. We’re already 9 1/2 months in, but it would be fun to start around now anyway. He’s crawling everywhere and pulling himself up on everything. He’s changing every single day. Capturing it in print would be kind of neat. I’ve got a million (okay, maybe thousands of) photos of him like this one at Puget Sound last week that don’t make it onto my Instagram feed or Facebook wall, and I’ve been wondering what to do with them. I know I’m biased, but the cuteness.

So we’re considering it. $9 a month isn’t so bad.

But REALLY??? A MAGAZINE????

Parenting aside, with my scholar hat on, I’m curious about the draw back to print at a time when screens are capable of so many things. Walls, status updates, tweets, and endless photo albums on social media fill our screened lives. And every day, more and more posts fill this seemingly endless stream. How necessary is it to capture it? Must we capture it? What is the value in doing so? How does making the digital more permanent defeat the purpose of the digital in the first place?

So I’m fascinated by the possibility of this publication–as both a parent and a scholar. I’m curious about the experience. I’m drawn to its simplicity. If I do end up getting a sub, I’ll probably blog about it. In the meantime, it’s making me consider how I teach digital storytelling. More on that some other time soon…

iPad Plunge

My journals from my first years of teaching will have to wait again, because I took the plunge and bought an iPad. I’m eager to write about it. Aside from there being something about touchscreen technology that makes me feel like I just stepped off of the Star Trek set (in a, you know, modern, hip kind of way), having an iPad has already changed my relationship to books. It’s too early to tell just how, but I’ve got my finger on the pulse.

The purchase was precipitated by several things: 1) the few friends and colleagues who have them talk about them non-stop, 2) as an educator, it’s about time I figure out how to use an e-reader, 3) there’s something very exciting happening with Apple technology right now that I don’t want to miss out on, and 4) I want to play around with making my own books, something that iBooks Author lets you do. The latter was, for now, the biggest pull — I wrote a post about digital dissertations earlier in the life of this blog, and have been thinking about my question ever since — is there a format that allows for a creative, digital way of displaying a dissertation? iBooks Author says yes. There are plenty of proprietary issues that I don’t want to get into in this post, but in the short-term, I’m intrigued.

But my initial question about the iPad was, what’s the best method for digital annotation? So I did a little ‘research,’ asked around, and ended up downloading a few apps to test out — PDFReaderLite, iAnnotate, and GoodReader. Here’s what I found out.

iBooks: Although you can annotate e-books in this app, annotating PDFs is impossible. To quote a friend, “avoid iBooks like the plague except for pleasure reading.”

PDFReaderLite: I don’t recommend this app for research purposes, as it mirrors how PDFs work in iBooks — you can only read them.

iAnnotate: I can see why people like this app: it allows a number of functions that come digitally close to simulating what it’s like to sit down with a highlighter or pencil and some reading — something I was in search of. You can make notes, highlight, type on top of the text (a function I was hoping to find in my search), and annotations are automatically saved.

GoodReader: this app is pretty similar to iAnnotate — the only major thing I found that distinguishes it is the option to save an annotated copy before you start marking up the original. As a researcher working with dynamic content, I really appreciate this. And in tandem with Dropbox, I think GoodReader might be the answer to my annotation woes. (Note: Not to be confused with Goodreads!).

Metamediated

Why meta? I am currently blogging about talking about blogging.

I was in Montreal for a few days and had the opportunity to speak in my colleague’s Qualitative Methods and Educational Psychology class at McGill University. I presented something similar to what I shared at the CUNY IT Conference this past fall, but I really tried to connect my thoughts on why I’ve developed this blog to my research via my methodology. The class has been discussing various qualitative research methods, such as photo voice and ethnography, and one of the readings they did for class focused on blogs as both a field for and method of data collection.

It’s so exciting to see more and more researchers take on the genre, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to chat with students in Montreal doing important research around education, counseling, health and sports psychology, medicine, etc.–some with big questions about digital data collection. Their feedback was insightful and thought-provoking, and I’m already thinking about how to further address some of what came up for discussion:

  • What about access to blogging? This question keeps coming up as I talk to people about my research, and understandably so. What am I saying (and not) by giving weight to what’s written in blogs, despite the fact that not everyone has regular access to the internet?
  • How do I negotiate being a part of the community I am researching? Where does autoethnography begin and end? Can you be too me-search-y?
  • How do I plan to code my data (both logistically [i.e., in hard-copy or digital] and methodologically)?

Here is a slightly edited version of the slides I used for my presentation. Some of it’s unclear without context, but:

iPad State of Mind

In a little less than an hour, at 10am ET, Apple plans to make an education-related announcement, and I’m not gonna lie: I’m excited to hear what’s on deck. There’s been speculation on blogs and such about what will be revealed, and in particular, what the role of the iPad will be. I have a lot of thoughts on iPads and e-readers (you can get a better sense for that thinking here if you’re interested) — especially how they fracture (in a good way, I think) how we think about time/space/communication/learning/teaching, etc. I snapped this picture during one of the initial protests of the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park back in September, and keep thinking about it.

As I shot the photo, I was participating in a protest while watching the same protest on a device as it unfolded. What does that do for a learner, the act of participating-while-observing? What benefits are there to being able to participate in something in real time while also capturing it for, ostensibly, future learning, on a device that doubles as a book (among many other things)? How will note-taking and field trips evolve into non-linear projects that no longer involve notebooks and pencils or being in one place at one time?

Before I start asking more questions, I have to run to a meeting. But I wanted to start this strand of thinking and hopefully pick it up again later. I have a feeling 2012 — and today’s announcement in particular — is going to shape much of what is to come in digital education. It’s unclear as of yet how that innovation will change education in schools that don’t have enough dollars, period, but I’m hopeful that as the excitement builds around possibility that this dilemma is also considered.

OpenCUNY at the CUNY IT Conference

This Friday, I’ll be participating on this panel at the CUNY IT Conference. 9:30am-10:45am. John Jay College.  Come learn about what’s happening at OpenCUNY as we share what we’ve been doing with our various websites.  As an aside, I recently learned you could host a conference using an OpenCUNY site.  That’s pretty neat.

Don Giovanni and an App for Binoculars

Last night, I had the privilege of going to the opera for the first time.  As the opening bars of Mozart’s famous opera, Don Giovanni, began, I resisted the urge to hum along, and found myself tearing up before the curtain was drawn.  I have long wanted to go to the opera, but for a variety of logistical reasons had, up until last night, not been; gratefully, I had the opportunity to attend with students and Zoe Sheehan-Saldana, one of the professors I’m working with at Baruch College this semester.  After the performance, I told Zoe that despite having gone into my freshman fall wanting to emerge four years later ready for astronaut training, I ended up taking a bunch of art, theater, and philosophy classes that first semester, including “The History of Opera,” and never looked back.  I’ve always been a classical music buff — I remember being just as happy rocking out to Mozart’s famous clarinet concerto as I was to the latest New Kids on the Block album, and at some point in high school acquired my first opera music on CD from Santa.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I attended Interlochen Arts Camp, an eight-week intensive camp that I’d heard about from neighbors who went every summer.  I drooled over the idea of spending eight weeks in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, playing my clarinet three times a day and taking fiber art classes.  Speaking of fiber art, it would be the first and last time I took an art class that put a name on what I did with yarn and string in my free time — fiber art.  But I digress.  I mention Interlochen because it laid the groundwork for my artistic and creative interests that would follow, albeit unconventionally.

I admit I wasn’t the best college student.  There were a variety of reasons for this at the time, and if I could do it over again I probably would, but looking back, I recall attending every class meeting for “The History of Opera” and spending hours in the listening lab, taking in (through my ears anyway) opera after opera.  My relationship to music is much like my relationship to books — with books, I remember the appearance, not the title or author; with music, I remember the sound, not the title or composer.  Last night was no exception: unable to name the arias or ensembles, the memory of those unmistakable runs, chords, and melodies jumped to the surface of my mind, and I was right back in that old, gothic lecture hall, learning about Don Giovanni and his wily ways.  My learning chord had been struck, for lack of a better analogy…

Sitting through the three-and-a-half-hour performance felt like a dream.  While the music was familiar in my ears, the experience was not.  Seated way up in the nosebleeds, I regretted not thinking to bring my grandfather’s binoculars.  Granted, they’re enormous and not appropriate for opera viewing, but still, the thought made me think about how out-0f-the-loop I am with fully understanding this genre of music I’ve been carrying around in my ears and head for years.

I wondered through the second half (as the action heightened and I found myself wishing I could be closer) if there was an iPhone app for binoculars.  Indeed, there is.  There are a few, but the one I tried out is called “Awesome Binoculars,” costs $0.99, and sadly, is less than impressive (the image to the right isn’t the best illustration of just how not-that-useful this app is, but you get the idea — it’s a lot like the mirror app, which is not at all like a mirror).  As in love with my iPhone as I am, sometimes, little discoveries like this make me smile: it comforts me to think we haven’t gotten it all figured out yet!  And what if this app did work??  Would it then be kosher to pull out your iPhone throughout an opera performance?  I can’t quite imagine.  And then again, I couldn’t imagine in 2001, when cell phones were forbidden to be used in classrooms (by teachers or students) that they would someday be used pedagogically as extensively as they are today.

Unrelated (but as you are starting to see, with me everything’s related!): I spent most of last Sunday knitting warm things for Occupy Wall Street protesters, and will be returning for a few hours this Sunday.  If you’re interested, please visit the Blankets for Zuccotti Park protesters group on Facebook for more information.

My First Screencast

I made a screencast the other day on creating podcasts with GarageBand as part of my work as an Instructional Technology Fellow at the CUNY Macaulay Honors College. It occurred to me that as I learn new skills and create tutorials on various instructional technology topics that it might be helpful to colleagues at all instructional levels if I posted them on Mediated. So here is my first attempt. Podcasts have a variety of uses in the classroom, and if you’re interested in quickly learning how to create one with images using GarageBand, you can view my screencast here:

Stay tuned for more tips that might be helpful for conducting research, teaching, and living in a rapidly changing world. In the meantime, feel free to suggest topics for future tutorials.

Digital Humanities in the Classroom

As I get my feet wet with this public-blogging thing (intentionally public, anyway–this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged publicly, but it’s the first time I’ve done so while trying to capture the attention of a specific audience and string a common thread through my posts), there is a growing pile (digital and otherwise) of things to think and write about. I find that I am accumulating post topics at a much higher frequency than I have time to write about them! This forces me to be judicious with words and space (believe it or not), to critically think through how I might thread several disparate concepts together, and to consider how I’ll use various media to convey the heart of my message.  As informal as blogging can be, the project of maintaining a blog for a specific professional purpose becomes a formalized act that follows a distinct process, much like that of writing a research paper or article manuscript. Which brings me to what inspired this post: last night’s CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative talk with Shannon Mattern and Mark Sample.

Shannon’s presentation in particular, “Beyond the Seminar Paper: Setting New Standards for New Forms of Student Work,” gave me things to think about when it comes to my research.  While I (and many other K-12 public school teachers in NYC) have a knee-jerk reaction against the word “standards,” it was refreshing to hear someone discuss evaluation and assessment in the context of why.  It’s not that I haven’t heard other academics speak about assessment in productive, logical ways; it’s just that so much of my time as a 5th grade teacher was spent producing pretty, neatly formatted assessments because I was forced to, not because it made sense.  One year, using an informal system of notes on a post-it was the accepted form of evaluation; another year, the focus was on rubrics; our heads spun with the rapid changes that seemed episodic and disconnected to the goals of our lessons, and in the interim, the whole purpose of evaluating was lost on many of us. While Shannon has developed a series of evaluative tools along with each project she has developed with her students, it was clear from her presentation that her evaluations were not seemingly random rubrics or checklists like the ones I once compulsorily produced–her evaluations have a specific purpose, and are connected to the larger learning goals of her students’ projects.  I appreciated being a part of this conversation at the higher-ed level–particularly the part that took up questions around support for practitioners.  (And I’d like to see more spaces for conversations like this at the K-12 level.)

So what do we do if we want to use a technological tool we don’t know how to use?  What are the resources available to professionally develop your own skills as instructors–at all educational levels?  And how can the growth of our society’s do-it-yourself (DIY) culture support those endeavors?

Shannon’s talk last night touched briefly on what I hear mentioned often in professional talks lately: getting an academic job is no longer a guarantee once you get your PhD.  I feel like I’ve witnessed the development of this phenomenon first-hand over the last decade, and have to wonder at how it has paralleled the development of technology.  At age 26 (eight years ago), with but two years of teaching 5th grade under my belt, I was hired as an adjunct to teach a course called “Assessment and Evaluation” at a local university.  Not only were the students in my course teaching in grades K-12 (I’d only taught elementary school at that point), the course text (which was dictated by the department) was unbelievably dry and disconnected from most of my students’ daily work, and my students were rightfully frustrated by the course content and my teaching of it.  I had not yet developed the wisdom (which would come several years later and is still evolving) to logically develop a purposeful assessment tool that was accessible to my students and made sense for the larger goals of the project or assignment.  At the time, there were few impressive lines on my CV that related to teaching at the Masters level, and other than being an ambitious, personable young woman with lots of energy and a brightly decorated classroom, I didn’t seem qualified.  So why was I hired?  Surely it couldn’t just be because I was cheap at $2,250 per class (or thereabouts), or that I was referred by an advisor through the New York City Teaching Fellows–I still went through an interview! Was something else happening at the time?  Was it the start of what we are witnessing now, with the disappearance of full-time, tenure-track positions? What does it all have to do with the advances of technology?  I realize I’m tangenting, and again, raising threads that I will want to return to, but all of these thoughts were descending upon my brain last night as I sat and listened to Shannon and Mark talk about their work at their respective institutions. (You can read more about my K-12 teaching experience in my previous post if you’re interested.)

Toward the end of the discussion, someone asked a question about the boundary between teaching tech and teaching content–for instance, at what point does teaching how to use a blog platform detract from the content-specific point of the activity?  I appreciated that both speakers had already intimated in their respective talks that the boundary is blurry and increasingly so–that as pedagogues, we will often be required to move our technological knowledge along independently, and make use of the advances available to us whether there is a PD session to support it or not.  I admit I’m out of the loop when it comes to debating the identifiers of “digital humanities.”  It seems that technology and teaching are so inextricably linked at this point that you cannot teach without bumping into technology somewhere along the way, and vice versa.

If I had more hours in the day, I would spend time looking at how developments in letter-writing and the postal service, television, telephones, automobiles, radio, and other technologies have impacted policies and practices around teaching and learning–this tension surely existed before computers, right?  I can’t imagine the development of automobiles having had the same impact on classroom learning as computers and the internet, but I’m curious about how the education system catches up to advances that move quickly around it.

I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion with you and other friends and colleagues involved in the project of education.

“Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.”

This past Sunday’s New York Times published the first of a series of articles about “the intersection of education, technology and business as schools embrace digital learning”(p. 16) with the title “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores.”  I have to say, I appreciate the NYT’s effort at turning the spotlight to education every now and then, thus encouraging the masses to pay attention to K-12 classroom learning; however, they don’t always get all sides of the story.

I’m often looking for articles and media presentations about teaching that take into account teachers’ input, and it should be noted that this article gives a nod (in the section “Teachers vs. Tech” on the last page of the article) to the impact of recent technological developments in education on teachers — particularly the financial constraints of new materials, resources, and training.  So often, discussions of education leave out the part of the narrative that honors that teachers are living, breathing human beings, too, who, despite the efforts of teacher education programs, don’t arrive at the classroom door with a fixed set of skills — especially at a time when skill-level requirements (particularly around computers) are changing and ratcheting up on a daily basis.  Teachers, just like students, need ongoing learning opportunities, too, and their input in this conversation is necessary but often absent.

There are a million threads to take up in response to this article, but I want to focus on just a few:

  • definition of what we’re referring to as “technology”
  • teacher as guide instead of lecturer
  • proof of value of technology in the classroom

Definition of what we’re referring to as “technology.”  So what do we mean by “technology”?  It is implied throughout this article that the “technology” being discussed is computer and internet technology.  But where does technology end and begin?  Wasn’t the invention of the wheel “technology”?  Isn’t using a xerox machine technology?  Do students have to be operating in virtual spaces for it to be considered “technology”? Are there actual, specific requirements for a classroom to be considered “technology-centric?”  How does this distinction help or hurt when it comes to developing best practices in the classroom?

Teacher As Guide Instead of Lecturer.  The article references Kyrene School District in Arizona, which has “invested roughly $33 million” for computers, interactive screens, and other virtual technologies, and states “the digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer.”  This line honestly floored me — each of my teacher education courses, whether I was a student or an instructor, centered around the Piagetian idea of constructivism, in which the teacher is a guide, not a lecturer.  Put simply by Dewey, constructivism means that “experience is education,” and that the act of doing is, in itself, a powerful form of learning.

For me, and the majority of my teaching colleagues, the notion of acting as a “guide” instead of  “lecturer” is not new, and focusing on this as some sort of new method for approaching the classroom via the lens of technology does a disservice to the last century of progressive educators’ work.  While I can only speak for myself, I find it angering to have this concept renewed again and again, as if for the first time, without focusing on what is really happening: a lack of equally accessible resources, a dearth of ongoing, effective training for teachers, and a system of policymaking that could not be further from the actual classroom.

I remember when the new citywide curriculum for K-6 was implemented (roughly 7 school years ago) in New York City, and as a fifth grade teacher I was expected to start teaching with a new curriculum that was unfamiliar to me (Everyday Math).  At that time, the rhetoric was that we needed classrooms to be “child-centered.”  Now we need classrooms to be “technology-centered”?  Will this simple shift in focus actually make a difference?  I am guessing that it won’t.

Proof of Value of Technology in the Classroom.  The article states the claim that “educators would like to see major trials years in length that clearly demonstrate technology’s effect. But such trials are extraordinarily difficult to conduct when classes and schools can be so different, and technology is changing so quickly.”  Sure, yes.  We would all love to see trials of things that “work” in education, period, but one sure-fire thing that a century of education research has helped us conclude is that nothing works for everyone.  I am not advocating the willy-nilly implementation of programs in classrooms (if you’re a public school teacher, you know this happens already.)  As an educational researcher, I unconditionally agree that more research must be conducted; however, one need not conduct a years-long, longitudinal study to make the basic claim that technology (of the computer/internet variety at the very least) is increasingly becoming a necessary pedagogical component.  You can’t get a library at the local library, get an MTA card, or communicate with a cell phone today if you don’t have a basic understanding of technology.

As I said, there is a lot more to say, and I’m having a hard time cutting this post short as a result, but…  I hope this is the start of a really important conversation that every educator can be a part of right now: how can/will the technology revolution transform education?  Will it transform education?  Or, will the same trends continue, in which a new silver bullet is proposed (in this case, “technology”), tons of money is invested, and empirical data shows little or no change?  At what point are we going to stop beating around the bush and figure out that 1) any new device — whether curricular, pedagogical, technological, or any combination of the above in nature — will require additional, sufficient teacher training; 2) clear channels for teacher input/expertise need to be forged; and 3) the internet isn’t going anywhere and kids need to interact with it in their learning environments — and not just in the name of improving American test scores.