Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blogging in my Future Classroom

The Video entitled Why Let Our Students Blog? by Rachel Boyd ( offers the following reasons why students should blog. These are the benefits that she see in letting students blog.

Critical Thinking
Extended the walls of the classroom
Give students a voice
Give students an audience
Give students a learning environment
Skills useful for their digital future

            I feel that all of these reasons are very valid, proving blogging to be a invaluable tool for student learning.
            In my future classroom I will strive to find applications were blogging fits the class objectives because I see it as a powerful tool. However, at this time I feel the applications for blogginf in an elementary math classroom are limited. If the computer technology is availale for the students to access easily, I may use a student developed blog in place of the often used “Math Journals’. I think that this could give student s great experience in using technology. My only snag at this idea, after having the access to enough computers for my class, is that sometimes math journals contain pictures and numerical based inquiry. I’m not sure there currently exists and easy and nonlimiting way to translate these things to a digital blog. Being that most blogs are primarily text based and mine would need to be numerical and picture based, I am hoping that new software is developed that allows for these things to be easily documented.

Specific Technologies for my Future Classroom

Blog Reflection #5 - Topic: What specific technologies did you learn about this semester that you think will be valuable to use in your future classroom? Why will these technologies be valuable?

This semester I got the opportunity to rub shoulders with a veritable buffet of technology that can be utilized in my future classroom. At times I found myself almost overwhelmed by the variety, and the possibility, that was laid before me.  I am sure however with a little more time and experimentation I will into a tech savvy educator who can engage a classroom full of children with my technological marvels.
As a future Mathematics teacher I am excited when I engage in working with technology that I can envision using to teach math concepts. For this reason I think that both spreadsheets and databases will prove invaluable tools in my future classroom. I have included images of both spreadsheet and database activities/assignments that I have created.

Figure 1: Created Using a Database
Figure 2: Created Using Spreadsheet

I feel that both of these are great examples of using technology in a productive and engaging way.
            I also look forward to trying to use GPS hardware mapping tools and lessons with my math students to help them further develop their spacial and geographical awareness/sense. Students can uses these tools to learn math concepts in a fun and truly unique way.
            Nonlinear PowerPoints and SmartBoard Lessons will also have a solid place in my future classroom because of their unique ability to dynamically alter and adapt lessons to meet the needs of the students in real time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The impact of multitasking on teaching and learning and thinking.

As I sit down to think about multitasking, I am struck by the gravity of my surroundings. I come here with the best of intentions, but if I allow myself to truly take a look around I begin to question that. I have 6 word documents open on my computer screen, my internet browser has 11 tabs open, and as I sit here, I am literally surrounded by stacks of paper and lists of things ‘to do’. All of this, in addition to my smart phone that is NEVER out of arms reach and the radio, which is playing through the queue of news stories that I have selected for the day. “What am I doing?!”, I think to myself, overwhelmed and almost forgetting what I am here to do. That thought comes to me a lot these days, “What am I doing?”

Multitasking has become a way of life for many of us, a constant state of being. The question isn’t whether we are multitasking – because we are, we have to be. The real question here is what that means for us in terms of thinking, learning, and teaching. Frontline recently produced two specials, one called “Growing up Online” and the follow-up entitled “Digital_Nation”, both looking at how dependant our society has become on technology, and how the mere speed with which we live our lives today can leave our heads spinning. 

 How can we reach children, how can we teach children, when we have so many obstacles blocking our way? 

In Digital_Nation, Doug Rushkoff, a technology journalist and narrator of part of the film, talks about what he thinks has changed as the Internet has evolved over the past 20 years. He says,“The net has changed from a thing one does to the way one lives, connected all the time”… “and it appears more kids then I would of thought, are overwhelmed”. 

Is it possible to find a medium between finding a high enough level of activity to keep children engaged and limiting the amount of stimulus so that learning can occur? Many of the data presented states that the ‘new’ generation is so fast paced, with such a short attention span they are no longer able to perform basic skills, i.e. reading a book. Multitasking has changed the way many students think and write; one researcher said that people no longer write essays, they write paragraphs, then take a break to facebook or to check their email, etc. and then they come back to it. People are no longer able to focus on a task until completion; we have short bursts of attention punctuated by a multitude of other tasks. I know this is how I function, but how will my classroom environment cater to this quality in my students? Should I stop mid-lesson, or mid-sentence, to and in little snipits to keep children engaged? Or should I allow for breaks every 5-10 minutes allowing for short attention spans to function?

I don’t know the answers, but I will do my best to accommodate students while pushing them to develop life skills that with aid them in their futures. I don't want to find myself standing in front of a classroom of students asking themselves, "What are we doing?".

The Frontline special: Digital_Nation can be found at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How will the next generation read and write?

Literacy & Text Messaging
How will the next generation read and write?

The articles provided give cause for alarm, they focus on the evolution and prevalence of ‘txt speak’ and what that means for children learning to read and write today. In order to understand the potential detrimental impact of this style of communication I will first look at what it is, its origins, its parallels in history, and finally what all of that means for the children of tomorrow.

‘Say What?’
Every generation of youth creates its own mark on the language of its culture. We call it slang, and it evolves as a way of cutting out some of the formality of ‘properly spoken language’ and gives youth a way to separate themselves from the language used by their parents/superiors.
Youth are in search of an identity, and use language in much the same way that they use music; it evolves with the young generation as a way to define itself (the generation) from its predecessor. When slang is “new to the scene” it serves as a way to differentiate between those who are ‘hip’ to the ‘lingo’ and those who aren’t as ‘cool’ or ‘with-it’. After some time, the new words become a part of the vocabulary of the masses and they “lose their luster” because they no longer pose as a passcode signifying membership to an elite/exclusive club of those who are privy to the words meaning.
In modern society we see this running rampant with the evolution of ‘txt speak’-which has evolved out of a primarily young population of people trying to communicate quickly and efficiently over cell phone txt messages and IM conversations (instant messaging online). I think that the reason that this form of communication has become such a focus for concern has more to do with its prevalence among youth than its actual content - grammatically and syntagmatically. Txt speak evolved based on a need to communicate a message in an increasingly succinct and swift manner.

Why? – The Origins of ‘Txt Speak’
As the old adage goes, ‘time is of the essence’ and that couldn’t prove truer than when examining the origins of ‘txt speak’.
  • If you are in a chat-room with tons of other people and you are trying to communicate your ideas before the conversation goes elsewhere, every millisecond counts.
  • If you are communicating via text message on a cellular phone, you must be able to communicate your message in 180 characters or less, so every space is gold.
  • Additionally, many phones didn’t originally possess full keyboards, and so each number(2 thru 0) represents 3-4 of the letters in the alphabet, and symbols including punctuations are all crammed under the number “1” key. (see image) 
    • Because of this, in order to type a message, one must hit each key multiple times until the desired letter is achieved; this is all without taking capitalization, spacing, and all other grammar rules into account.
      • In order to type “Hello Mary.” on a cell phone the following key strokes would be required – [Shift] [4][4]  [3][3]  [5][5][5] {Pause for next character} [5][5][5] [6][6][6] [Space Key]  [Shift][6]  [2]  [7][7][7]  [9][9][9] [1](as many times as it takes to reach the “.” out of the list of symbols available). That is a minimum of 25 keystrokes to achieve a message containing 9 letters and 1 symbol.
  When we consider these scenarios and the many other out there, it is easy to see how a succinct and easily typed form of communication became necessary. In this digital age aren’t we all trying to cram as much information as possible into the smallest possible package? Txt Speak is a manifestation of the short concise communication that is required to communicate as quickly and efficiently as possible using the technology that we have available to us, at the speeds required of this age.
I pose the question: If we had ‘better’ technology available to us that made communicating as easy and speedy while remaining grammar conscious, would our society have felt the need to create this new language style? Or would we communicate freely within the bounds of the current accepted language style (because it would work for our needs)?
·         I ask this because I know that I personally alter my language style based on the technology I am using to communicate and the context with which I am using it.
o   For example, when I switched from a phone with a 0-9 keypad, which made texting cumbersome, to a Smart Phone with a full QWERTY keyboard I instantly began composing my messages in full sentence form again, with an eye on punctuation, capitalization and the basics of proper grammar. I only ever seem to revert back to “txt speak” when I’m in a hurry!

An Adaption to our Needs
Remember that Txt Speak is only a manifestation of the concise communication that is required to share information as quickly and efficiently as possible with the technology that we have, and therefore different technology will spark the creation of a different and uniquely adapted form of communication. This is proof that people are rather ingenious, and they will normally make the best out of what they are given. The language of ‘txters’ is only one in a long long history of adaptive languages that have been created to compensate for and/or adapt to the technology available, the limits on volume of data, or the speeds with the information must be recorded or shared – all while finding a way to get the message across.
The telegraph came with its own unique form of adaptive language to make communication possible. Court Reporters had to create the Stenotype Shorthand Machine in order to record information at the speeds required, and the ‘language’ that they are typing is not Standard English. And most impressive in its parallels, didn’t many of our previous generations including many of our grandparents and great-grandparents learn to write in one of the various styles of shorthand, while they were in school. I can remember my great-grandmother telling me stories about how she had learned short hand when she was going to school to train to be a secretary. She said that this was why no one, including her husband and children, could ever read the notes that she made for herself. There are many accepted styles of shorthand, and although there are generalized rules for each, I am sure that a fair bit of variation exists for each individual and within each information community. I’m certain people within an office developed unique jargon among themselves for their specific needs, these terms may not be understood to those who are not members of that social group.

The Value of Efficiency?
Throughout history there are many instances when longhand, with all of its formality and rigid structure, was not sufficient or well suited to accomplishing a task. It is in these times that our language itself begins to adapt, we let it evolve in order to allow for communication and the spread of information. When this happens, are we creating a more dynamic and pervasive language system, or are we undermining the integrity of our culture? While the purpose of language may be to facilitate the effective communication of ideas within an ever-changing and restricting set of contexts, is it not equally important that the proper structure of the language be preserved? Is there value in holding to a rigid structure of ‘correct’ communication within the constraints of long established channels if the information can be effectively communicated in another, even easier or faster way?

Txt Speak, as well as the many other examples of adaptive efficiency languages hold a value within our culture. This value is apparent within the context of the usefulness of a language style at effectively communicating an idea in the way it was designed, or has adapted, to do. Each of these ‘languages’ has a context for which it was intended, and within that context it has use, and therefore value. If ‘txt speak’ is kept within the context in which it has proven useful it does not diminish other types of communication. If a style of communication allows for the spread of information in ways that other styles cannot then it broadens our overall ability to communicate. It can be used as one of many tools in someone’s arsenal of communication avenues, and the more tools one possesses the more dynamic they are in their ability to convey information.

The Issue
            Problems of value and potential harmfulness begin to arise when ‘txt speak’ is used out of its intended context. Just as one would not read a child a story in Morse Code, because it would be the wrong tool for the job, ‘txt speak’ should be limited to novel applications where it broadens one’s ability to communicate. It should be viewed as a specific option for a particular application, and not as a potential replacement for all other forms of communication.
Issues arise when ‘txt speak’ takes over as the only method of communication. Effective communicators have the ability to adapt to situations and find a method that fits each one best. If a person could only communicate through the spoken word it would severely limit there ability to adapt to changing enviroments. There are many tools available for communicators to use, (formal writing, informal writing, conversational language –both formal and informal, speeches, debates, storytelling, note-taking, scientific journal writing, txt speak, 1st 2nd or 3rd person, the list goes on and on) the most important skill, after learning to master each style, is to be able to anticipate which is best suited for an application. If we can teach students the value of many communication styles and how to effectively employ them then it won’t hurt anyone if one of the many communication styles under their belt is ‘txt speak’.

Is it all going downhill from here?
            All things considered the future isn’t looking as bleak as some would lead us to believe. If we can help children keep new language styles in perspective then they will be more the capable of adapting to the requirements of many social situations. Future generations will learn to read and write just as we all have, but they will learn to do so within a culture with an even more dynamic and expansive set of choices for doing so. With every generation our language grows and evolves. It is not a stagnant set of rules that one must memorize, language is a living entity that is expanding and changing. The children of the future must jump in head first and experience it, just as we all have. Language and the communication of ideas must continue to adapt as our ideas and culture adapt and change. Just as Shakespeare would not understand all of our words and communication methods today, I cannot hope to know the specifics of how children of the will express ideas. However, I am confident that whatever form our language takes, its main objective will remain the same.

Blog Reflection #2

According to Kate Baggott, “In the age of text messaging, where words are reduced to nonstandard abbreviations and symbols, many people question the future of literacy.”

How will the next generation read and write?


Baggott, K. (2006 December 21). Literacy and text messaging: How will the next generation read and write? Technology Review. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from

Brown, L. & Kalinowski, T. (2007 February 2). Texting spells the demise of attention span: Experts. The Star. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from

Freedman, T. (2008 May 27). C? I tld u so, didn’t I? txtN isn’t so bad aftr ll, unl ur /:-). The Educational Technology: ICT in Education. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from

I also referenced: