Need a Hobby? Go Online!

On Monday, I posted a blog about one NY Times’ writer’s decision to stop “Tweeting” and spend time on other pursuits. Perhaps she would like to take up a new hobby? That seems to have been the solution for many other who have now found that the Internet can be a place to learn new skills by connecting with other “hobbyists.” Pottery, painting, cooking, you name it!

While much of this is not new, the way the Internet can help steer us toward something useful bears mentioning in the name of growing digital skepticism (see Monday’s blog). It is a reminder that the Internet’s most effective trick is connecting disparate individuals into a coherent whole. There may only be a small number of potters in any given city, but online there is a whole ceramics metropolis willing to help.

Art, for example, is an empowering thing. Most people think they can’t do it, and when they realize they can, it’s amazing – it opens up a whole new world, and that world doesn’t really have time for a lot of “fighting and fussing.”

Ray Myers

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Some Springtime Tech Facts and Saudis Go to Silicon Valley

The recent rankings of Educational Technology firms’ market performance are surprising and curious to me. I had always assumed that Apple had the lead in America’s classrooms, but not so. Here is the latest as reported in this week’s NY Times. “In a bid to take back some of the education market from Google, Apple on Tuesday plans to introduce new hardware and software for schools and students. But Apple has fallen to third place, behind Google and Microsoft, in the battle to own America’s classroom. So the new items may not move the needle much.”

Speaking of Microsoft, a delegation of Saudi Arabian officials including the country’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, will be meeting with Bill Gates some time this week. I guess they are still looking for that “secret sauce” that will revolutionize Saudi education through a critical combination of hardware and software that will make them the envy of school systems around the world. But I am still wondering what they will do to involve their classroom teachers as part of this revolutionary mission? Maybe I should just stop worrying so much. Trump will obviously do whatever he can do to help them, for whatever reasons?

Educational Technology is certainly changing our world in how we educate our younger generations, but all these new tools are only as effective as the teachers who use them, and have some part in choosing them.

Ray Myers

P.S. A short spring time break for me this weekend. Enjoy your holidays. I will return on Monday, April 2.

The New Educational Technology – NRA Creates New Markets!

Just sell more guns and and school security equipment! Do you think our kids will be any safer in school, or even in their homes? I don’t. Please see below for some recent reporting on the surge in sales of school security equipment that is going to make a lot of Americans (outside investors?) richer at the expense of common sense vigilance. And you thought it was inconvenient going through airport security screening. This is the new educational technology. Judge for yourself!

“Security options are manifold: Palm scanners, mobile barricades, heat detectors, walkie-talkies, trauma kits, active shooter resistance training and more. In the fall, Florida Christian School in Miami began selling $120 ballistic panels for students to put in their backpacks. At a gun show in Tampa, Florida, last weekend, administrators and parents swarmed a booth offering similar panels for nearly $200 each. . . . Some campuses are starring to rely on outside help, taking donations from families, neighborhood businesses and local Rotary clubs. One company pledged to donate proceeds from its bulletproof backpacks to Parkland victims and families (NY Times, 3/5/2018).”

How about school bake sales for school security? Just like the old days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Ray Myers

Reading Skills in the U.S.A. and the Rest of the World

I guess the title of this blog is not a real “attention-grabber” but it is still very important if we want to better understand how technology is playing an increasingly important part in reading instruction. Here is the link if you would like to read the complete report: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018017.pdf. The report focuses on reading achievement levels across fourth graders in sixteen countries and their proficiency in reading ONLINE.

In terms of the percentage of fourth-grade students who performed at an advanced level, the United States was the fourth highest in reaching this level. Students in Singapore, Ireland, and Norway tested higher on this online measure of informational reading (ePIRLS, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). “The report has at least one silver-lining: Students in the United States fared far better on an Internet-based version of the assessment that tested their ability to process information online. U.S. students placed fourth out of 16 education systems that participated.”

Unfortunately, for American students who are reading in a more “text-based” manner, the results are not as high when compared to their international peers. They dropped to 13th place. “The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017).”

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Put Down Your Laptops, Pick Up Your Pencils

Silicon Valley may find this all too hard to believe, but researchers are now finding that bringing your laptop to class and typing your notes verbatim as the professor speaks, may actually undermine the learning process. Typing out your handwritten notes later on your preferred digital device may be the better practice to reinforce your retention of material that has been presented in class.

“But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings and in all kinds of workplaces (Dynarski, University of Michigan, 2017).”

I guess it’s time to sharpen our pencils, and put our “thinking caps” back on!

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be posting again on next Wednesday, December 6. In the meantime, please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India.

Obama Farewell: Education Needed to Keep Up With Automatiom

Thank you, President Obama, for all that you have done for this country.  Please keep helping us in ways that only you can do.  You have clearly seen the power of technology as an added instructional tool for the twenty-first century, but you are definitely not obsessed with the instant self-gratification of social media/Twitter as a tool to attack political and personal enemies (real or imagined).  Are you listening, Mr. Trump?  It’s not all about the technology.  Education is still the key as advocated by President Obama.

Maybe a little history lesson will help.  When the United States moved from an agrarian economy to an industrialized economy, it rapidly expanded high school education: By 1951, the average American had 6.2 more years of education than someone born 75 years earlier.  The extra education enabled people to do new kinds of jobs, and explains 14 percent of the annual increases in labor productivity during that period, economists say.  Now the country faces a similar problem.   Machines can do many low-skilled tasks, and American children, especially those from low-income and minority families, lag behind their peers in other countries educationally.  President Obama named some policy ideas for dealing with the problem: stronger unions, an updated social safety net and a tax overhaul so that the people benefitting most from technology share some of their earnings.

The Trump administration probably won’t agree with many of these solutions.  But the economic consequences of automation will be one of the biggest problems it faces.  It won’t go away.  It can’t be FIRED!

Ray Myers





Facebook in India – Poor Internet for Poor People?

Some may remember that I wrote about Facebook’s efforts in India at the end of December, and was not overly optimistic about their chances of success since the Indian government was just then instituting a “review” of Facebook’s practices.  Please belief me that I am not posting this follow-up blog with any sense of joy or vindictiveness.  India is a country with 1.2 billion inhabitants in a country approximately a third the size of the U.S.  While it may have 130 million Facebook users, second only to the U.S., telecommunications experts there note that more than ten percent of the country does not have mobile phone coverage, and that India’s progress in extending fiber-optic cable to village centers is proceeding at a glacial pace.

The current Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has set a goal of linking 250,000 village centers with fiber-optic cable and extending mobile coverage under his “Digital India” plan by 2016.  Well 2016 has arrived, and reaching that goal by the end of this year, appears to be an impossibility.  According to a recent Indian government report, only 25,000 village centers have cable so far, and it is ready for use in only 3,200.  But maybe Facebook (Zuckerberg) is actually being used as a scapegoat for the failure of the Indian government to provide the basic technological infrastructure that is sorely needed.  Government broadband access often sputters, wages are low, and hours are long.  Girls and women have disproportionately been excluded from the educational and employment opportunities that technology offers.

Facebook has certainly captured the imagination of younger generations around the world.  It clearly provides students with individual access and connectivity on a global scale whenever they want and wherever they are.  As one young Indian villager noted: the first thing he would do when the Internet finally arrived is to sign up for Facebook.

Ray Myers



Time and Tech and Remembering

Monday will be Memorial Day in the U.S., and we are all reminded to take time to remember those who are no longer with us, and perhaps spend more time with those who are the most important in our daily lives.  Perhaps the title of this blog deserves some explanation in this respect.  “TechtoExpress” is not only intended to reflect an “express” mode in the rapidity of our dealings with others.  It surely has that capacity in terms of how quickly we can communicate on any topic with anyone in the world.  Technology also empowers us with many more tools to “express” our thoughts and emotions using new powerful digital tools.  More expressive opportunities are now available for more people, who may become the new “artists” of a new century.

Happily we can also now connect with family and friends even when we are not able to be with them personally.  Such tools as FaceTime and Skype enable us to do that in real time.  So let’s always remember those we love and those who loved us and now live in our memories.  And be grateful for the technology that enriches our daily lives so that we can “be” with those we love in so many ways.

Many worry that technology is rapidly accelerating our loves so that we have less time to spend with our closest friends and family members.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  Do you?

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Ray Myers

Aerogrammes to Emails to FaceTime

So now there are a lot of ways to communicate globally.  Thanks to the Internet we may no longer have to write and read to connect remotely with colleagues, friends and family wherever they may be.  There are now many interactive technological tools that enable us to make these connections without being literate.   The telephone may be the most universally used in this respect.

Let’s consider some of the implications for students in learning about the world around them.  If we replace the book with the digital tablet, are we promoting electronic imagery and sound over printed text and individual imagination.  I recently read that college textbooks were still coveted by students for digesting and reviewing subject matter presented in their classes.  Perhaps this is not very scientific evidence in support of the best methods of learning, or maybe it is more an indication of how lecturing is still the most dominant pedagogy on college campuses?  Could it be that real learning is not going on in the classroom, but on the Internet or with the multitude of digital tools that today’s students possess if they are connected and affluent enough to possess.

The real issue may still be more about an economic divide than a digital one.  But as the title of this article suggests, we can still connect globally in a number of ways.  It may all be a matter of how fast you want it to be, but in this new century, speed makes all the difference.

Ray Myers