Friday, October 24, 2008

Merely Another Weapon

While exploring the topic of cyberbullying, the students in learning.21st had an opportunity to ask the School Police Liaison questions, discussed some student case studies on Netsmartz and also watched a great video from digizen.org. To my surprise, the students took the topic of cyberbullying very seriously.

This is a student blog post about the topic by Jack.

Bullying has existed since people first started interacting with each other. To bully can be defined as the act of physically or mentally intimidating another person or persons. When we think of bullying, the thought of kids on the playground may come to mind. However, we live in the 21st century. The same way everything else has evolved, so has this child's cruel game of torture.

As we have become slaves to the social networking sites, they have become merely another weapon in the hands of a bully. In the same way a nuke can decimate so many more lives than a conventional bomb, cyberbullying can so much more thoroughly destroy one person than conventional bullying by bringing the insults world wide. On the netsmartz videos that we watched, we saw what cyberbullying did to two different individuals. One guy went on to a sight and rated some girls but ended up facing a possible expulsion and the other girl shared her password and had her myspace modified badly.

When you are on the web, it is probably a good idea to think before you do. The guy who visited his friend's website and rated the girls should have ignored it and done something else. As for the girl, the thing about the password is like your toothbrush is a good piece of advice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Student Blog Post: Microsoft vs. Google Docs

This is a student blog post by Mariah in response to our classroom experiment using Google Docs on a collaborative project. Please Note: By installing Google Gears you can work in Google Docs offline.

"Create and share your work online! Edit anytime, from anywhere! Share changes in real time!" reads Google's advertisements for their product Google Docs . There are multiple possible arguments about which program is better, Microsoft or Google Docs. In the next few paragraphs I will explore the pros and cons for both Microsoft and Google Docs.

When it comes to computers kickin' it old school can be a high price to pay. What I am trying to say is that with all the new computer technology out there today, like Google Docs, Microsoft is a thing of the past. There are tons of more productive ways to write an essay, create a group power point, graphs, and other projects. A very large conflict with Microsoft is that you have to repeatedly save your work. If your work is not saved and your computer shuts off, you could be left with a 16 page essay that you have to start over because it wasn't saved. On Google Docs the web is constantly saving your work for you so you don't end up re-typing a month-long essay in one night. Google Docs creates a whole new meaning to a document. The fact that you are on the web gives you the power to collaborate with with your group or partner when you are both at home. You can talk to them and work on the project at the same time, and see their work as you go. This can be extremely convenient for large groups so you are not all huddled around one computer to do a project. I can relate to this problem. Last year in 8th grade speech our teacher assigned us a travel speech. I was in a group of three (not exactly a large group, but still there were problems) and each one of us had to do a different part. I ,of course, got the big responsibility of making the power point. With Microsoft technology this meant I would do all the transferring of work. If one of my group members found a good picture I would have to stop my work, go to the website they were at, and put the picture into the power point. If we had been using Google Docs, then my group member could have put the picture in the power point for herself, and I wouldn't have had to have lifted a finger. As you can see Google Docs can be the smartest choice to use when you are writing an extremely long essay, or working on a group project. It ensures your documents safety, and cuts the working time in half.

26 years of service and improvement. The program Microsoft has been around since 1982. When it was first created there wasn't even a mouse to go with the computer. That shows how much it has grown since those days. Microsoft's newest version, 2007, comes with a new design and more features, and a lot more than Google Docs. There is much more freedom, choice, and creativity for your projects with Microsoft. For me, I have always used Microsoft since I was little so it is very familiar to me. When we used Google Docs in class
I was a little overwhelmed, and extremely confused. Plus you don't need internet connection for Microsoft. If you are like me and live in a home with ssssslllowwwwww computers you would understand why this is quite the bonus. Just yesterday night my internet was down all night long, if my family had decided to rely on Google Docs instead of Microsoft and I had to type up a paper, I would have been screwed.

As you can see there are many pros and cons for both Microsoft and Google Docs. Only time can tell whether Google docs will ever get its recognition, or if Microsoft can bust out new and better products before it falls into the shadows.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Student Blog Post: Not surprised... Unfortunately

This is a blog post by Mykael in response to the PBS Frontline: Growing Up Online

Really, I've got to say that i am in no way surprised by the video we watched in class today, in fact I'm more shocked by how little parents and teachers know. Kids have been getting in to trouble since the beginning of time and when parents invade on their fun they move on to another activity that the adult population hasn't stumbled upon yet. The thing that I don't understand is that the internet has been a problem for a while now and the movie we watched in class is one of many that has come out over the past couple of years. Even if parents haven't heard of myspace, Facebook, or Youtube they have got to be wondering what it is that keeps their kids entertained for hours on end.

Instead of just making videos about what today’s kids are doing/saying/posting online, why don't they try and come up with a more effective way to stop these kind of things from happening, or better yet use the same technology to their advantage. Think about it, if kids are using "Spark Notes" on all their assignments, then come up with an assignment that they can't use spark notes to cheat with. If kids are using forums to give one another encouragement for doing something as stupid as anorexia, then create a site where anonymous recovering anorexics can get support. A great example of a helpful solution to one of our problems is "Turnitin.com", it helps to prevent plagiarism from text found on the internet. If all else fails, you can always fall back on the good old saying, "If you can't beat them, join them." I don't think parents realize how much of an advantage sites such as Facebook give them. If they want to know what their kid was doing last Saturday, who they're dating, where the next party will be, who does drugs, ect., all a parent has to do is log on and look at their child's profile. Chances are a whole lot of information and insight in to their kid’s life is right at their finger tips. Let's be honest, most kids my age aren't that smart. We just aren't, i mean come on, who the heck puts pictures of themselves drinking on a site where anyone can see it, so why wouldn't parents use this stupidity to their advantage. Things like Myspace should be a parent's best friend, it's kind of like a diary left laying on the kitchen table with a big flashing sign that says "read me!" If parents could just figure out that today’s technology isn't too much for them to handle, they would know a lot more about their kids.

The thing that we have to except is that it is impossible to stop kids from getting in to trouble when we have something like the internet. There will always be adults figuring out ways to stop us and there will be people making new websites to keep pace with the ones that are being brought down. Even if we fixed everything bad going on the internet, it doesn't mean anything other than kids have come up with a new way to communicate with people and have been successful in keeping it on the down low. No matter what kids are going to do stupid things, and as horrible as it is, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

learning.21st: the class






This quarter I am teaching a new course to 9th graders. It is a first run (with 18 students) and so far it has been very successful. Over the next few blog posts, I want to highlight a few activities from the class and post some of the student blog posts related to the course content.

Here is the official first draft overview...

The course, learning.21st, is a nine week elective designed to directly address the use of technology in the classroom and help the students become proficient with a suite of web-based applications and model skills that will help them become better 21st century students.

Students are largely on their own when applying online skills and resources to school because they are not covered in the traditional classroom or are addressed at drastically different levels. Students may be well versed in the standard suite of education applications, like Microsoft Office, but technology is quickly moving away from such programs to a more user driven, free, and non-licensed platform. Although the computer has been a mainstay in the schools since the early eighties, the web and user defined content is pushing technology from something done in the computer lab to a integral part of the classroom. This course would deliberately teach 21st century learning skills to a population that is increasingly living online but never had a forum to apply knowledge to the academic setting.