Tag Archives: education and technology

Back When I Was Your Age… (or, Technology and Education)

29 Mar

I had the good fortune (and eye-opening occasion) of lecturing at my undergraduate university via webcast last night.  The surreal experience brought me down memory lane, and as I reflected on my own collegiate experience, I also thought about the drastically different academic experience my munchkin will have in 18 years.

While earning my undergraduate degree, my formal education was limited to my textbooks, my talented professors and the four walls of the classroom or on-campus library.  My “outside” or “real-life” knowledge was limited to the academic journals I read and the occasional guest lecturers my professors managed to lure to the outskirts of Virgina.

To schedule a meeting to work on a group project, I called my fellow students on my dorm phone, we’d meet at the campus library, and we’d all bring hard copies of our parts of the paper, piecing everything together manually with tape, staples and Post-its.  And then the least argumentative person would be the unfortunate soul to take the final draft home to retype.  (Hey, at least we had computers… My freshman year, I used a word processor to write papers.)

To research, we scanned microfilm and photocopied hundreds of pages of journal articles, using highlighter pens to select key text and citations.  And we didn’t have Powerpoint or access to any real graphics or photo libraries, so almost everything we presented was heavy text.

Class registration was done via phone, and I’d pray I would get through and not get disconnected so I’d get the class I wanted.  And we were only able to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore when everyone else was doing so, which meant colossal lines and hours of wasted time.

If I overslept a class, there were no online notes or presentation archives… I simply missed the class and photocopied a fellow classmate’s handwritten notes.  (Presuming their spiral bound notebook wasn’t in tatters.)

It was college, and it was great.

As a graduate student fifteen years later, the Internet, email, cell phones, Powerpoint, laptops and jump drives have made research, connecting, sharing, presenting, collaborating, note-taking and transferring information much more easy and convenient.   Webcasting, online classes and videoconferencing technology have also changed the game.  Experts and professionals all over the globe can lecture and have one-on-one interactions with students in a classroom, while chat rooms provide convenient locations for passionate post-class discussions.

Last night, I emailed my presentation to the professor 10 minutes before class started.  Because the school had difficulty streaming video, I Fed-Exed the professor a DVD of the video the Friday prior.  I logged on to gMail, connected with the class via gMail Chat and an HD web cam, and I could see the class and they could see me (when my Powerpoint slides weren’t up.)  They could hear me the whole time, and I could hear them.  It was a quick, easy, and interactive process, and something I would have never conceived of when I sat in those same seats back in 1996.

I’m sharing these details, because even some of my fellow grad students are too young to remember word processors or phone registration or campus bookstore lines.  That’s how quickly tech changes.  And when I tried to talk to last night’s students about the very limited email capabilities I had as an undergrad or the manual HTML programming I did at the campus newspaper, or this relatively new “Internet thing” we were exploring in 1995, they just couldn’t relate.

While I recently shared a post on the interesting iSchool concept, I honestly can’t begin to imagine what the college experience will be for my munchkin 18 years from now.  I can’t conceive of the technology that will help her expand her horizons, broaden her world view, and learn, share, and connect with others.  I’m excited for her and the opportunities, exchanges, and possibilities she’ll have, all thanks to technology.

As long as she doesn’t sleep through her 8 a.m. classes, she’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at that age.  (And heck, she can always check the archived webcast of her class!)

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Free Lecture for CT Parents at Darien Library

23 Mar

For Fairfield County, CT parents who might be interested, Warren Buckleitner will be speaking at Darien Library on Thursday, March 24 about parenting with technology.

Buckleitner is an educational psychologist, editor of Children’s Technology Review and a blogger for the NYT. His discussion is titled “Raising a 21st Century Problem Solver: A Recipe for Modern Parents.”  Sounds perfect for this techno(t) parent!  Sign me up.

Thanks for sharing, KS!

Technology for Kids… And Babies?

16 Mar

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Jeana Lee Tahnk’s Screen Play blog.   She recently posted a roundup of sites designed specifically for babies.  As a somewhat tech-cautious parent, I didn’t know how quickly I’d embrace sites designed specifically for babies, especially the BabyFirstTV site, which touts itself as “The First Site for Little Ones”. I decided to check BabyFirstTV out for myself.

This comprehensive site  is geared towards babies 18 months and older, offering both free and subscription-only games and lessons that introduce numbers, art, music, and language.  While some of the navigation was awkward, the content was age-appropriate and mostly educational, and there were no ads.  What I especially like is that the programming seems to have been developed with the support of an advisory board of credible experts.  (This info was hidden in the FAQ links, so I’m not sure how active this advisory board is… But it’s nice to see there’s some content oversight.)  The site also has a place for parents with questions, and offers videos in other languages for parents wanting to expose their kids to French or Spanish.

I’m happily surprised to say I’d be okay with my child interacting with this site occasionally.  My only concern is that it’s very easy for kids to “shop” online, and with a single click, they’re able to add a costly gift set to their parents’ shopping cart.   (Not sure how easy it is to actually “purchase,” but it’s a little worrisome.)  Other than that, this site seems like a fun, interactive way to engage babies at an early age.

What do you think?  How early should babies be interacting with technology?  Are sites like these of interest to you?  Or should parents wait until children are older to introduce their babies to websites?

Lovin’ Technology For Good

15 Mar

Spurred by my post on using technology to help those suffering in Japan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a huge Techno(t)parent shout-out to a classmate – Ben Collier – who is doing just that.  Ben’s blog –  Technology for Good – interesting, super smart and highlights organizations and people who are using tech to promote social and humanitarian causes.

Ben’s blog’s mission is great, his heart is in it, and it shows.

If my munchkin grew up to do what Ben’s doing, I’d be one proud techno(t)parent!

Thanks, Ben, for illustrating ways technology can be a powerful force for good on a global scale.

“Parenting with Technology” Author Diane Kendall Chats with Techno(t)parent…

4 Mar

I’m amazed at the in-depth knowledge out there regarding technology and parenting, given the subject matter is relatively new.  One great fountain of information I discovered is educator and tech reviewer Diane Kendall, who has spent over 30 years following the tech scene for both kids and parents.  An author and blogger, (and mind-blowingly-early-adpoter!) Ms. Kendall generously shared some thoughts with Techno(t)parent in a three-part series.  Read on for Part 1, my friends:

TNP: How important is it for parents to be digitally-savvy today?

DK: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being aware and open-minded about technology as the advances and changes in technology come faster and faster and transform the world as we know it. Parents owe that to their kids who are going to live in this new world.  That said, that doesn’t mean you have to be up on all the latest gadgets and trends.  No one is, not even those who have the audacity to declare themselves “experts.”   It also doesn’t mean you have to spend all your money or time on technology. It doesn’t even mean you have to agree with how technology is changing the way things are done.

“Instead, the most important thing you can do is to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to the technology that can help you be a better parent, be more efficient so you can have more time with your family, as well as be open to the technology tools that can help your kids on their journey to becoming independent learners.  You should invest your time and money  into this “personal” technology, and just keep an open eye to the pros and cons of the rest.”

If you take this attitude early on in your parenthood adventure, then you and your kids will be able to talk more openly about what technology works for you and for them, what you both find a waste of time and even what you find distasteful, not very savory or even bad digital manners. Getting the discussion started early, and not buying into the fallacy that your kids are going to be “better at technology” than you just because they are kids, is really what being a digitally-savvy parent is all about.

TNP:  Where or how should a “late-adopter” parent start?  How can parents with not a lot of time get up-to-speed quickly?

DK: Most of us are more tech savvy then we give ourselves credit for. If you want to learn about technology, pick a small project you know technology will absolutely help you do, and learn how to do it. One of my favorite projects for “late adopters” is compiling a photo book for their kids.  The subject could be a day in your family’s life, all the people who are important in a child’s life, a recent trip or the family pet. There are many photo services online who make it a cheap and easy process, and older kids can help take the pictures if you want to make it a parent/child project.

Take on a tech project that can be done in a short amount of time to get your confidence up. It also doesn’t hurt to find someone who has done a similar project and ask them to help you get started.

As a “late-adopter” it is important to stay positive about technology (which I admit when the technology isn’t working can be hard) and to break down what you want to learn into small digestible chucks. There are lots of free tutorials, demos and how-tos online these days. Look around for those and try a few things you’ve always wanted to experiment with.

iSchool. Are You In?

27 Feb

I’m interested in the iSchool concept developed by highschooler Travis Allen (now a college student and founder of the non-profit organization iSchool Initative.) Below is the YouTube video that launched Allen’s idea:

While I don’t subscribe to everything Allen espouses,  I think he’s definitely onto something when it comes to digital learning.  My munchkin’s generation will see a day when iPads, e-readers and similar technology will replace traditional notepads and textbooks all together. 

Teachers and schools embracing opportunities to incorporate interactive technology in the classroom are giving their students an advantage versus shools with more traditional educational approaches.  And students who learn and absorb technology at an early age will not only learn to embrace technology, they’ll also become more fluid learners and less resistant to change than kids who are limited to the physical world of paper and pencils. 

What you think about the iSchool Initiative.  Do you think this is where schools are heading?  Do you feel strongly either way about Apple’s role in the development of these platforms and apps?   How long will it be before you, as a parent, buy your kid their own iPhone or iPad for educational (vs. entertainment) purposes?