Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Digital Diet: “Collaborative Editing”

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I consider myself very proficient with technology, but before reading this chapter I had no idea what collaborative editing was. I had no clue that computer programs exist which allows multiple users to access a document easily and efficiently. In the past, whenever I co-wrote a paper with a classmate, we would simply email the document back and forth to each other. This would often become confusing at times. We would not know where we had each made edits, and finding a final version was often difficult. This task often proved to be even more problematic when one of us could not open the file on our own computers, or worse, when a professor could not open our final work because it was in the wrong format. After reading this chapter, it is almost as if a light bulb has been turned on in my mind. Computer programs that promote collaborative editing alleviate many of the problems that I have faced in the past.

The authors of this text decided to highlight Buzzword, a program made by Adobe. I am familiar with many of Adobe’s programs, especially their creative suite (Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro), but have never heard of Buzzword. I’ve heard of Google Docs, but have not used the program extensively. I’ve only used Google Docs in the past to look at certain documents, but I did not realize that the program was also a way to collaboratively review and edit. From the step-by-step instructions presented in this chapter, it appears as if collaborative editing programs such as Buzzword are easy and simple to use. When I have some more time on my hands I will download Buzzword myself and try to start using it.

Not only will I attempt to use Buzzword for my own personal use, I will also try to use the program in the classroom. For this class, I am working in a high school alongside a Language Arts/Journalism teacher. She is the advisor of her school’s newspaper, and teaches several classes of students who contribute to each month’s issue. I’ve witnessed the emailing of stories back and forth between her and the students. The students also have access to a common drive, where they can put their stories in when they are done. However, I really think Buzzword would be a better alternative. If this teacher were to use Buzzword with her students, she would be able to review their pieces of writing and add comments easily. The students could go back into their work and make appropriate changes. Using Buzzword would take less time and would be a lot easier. I also liked the example that the authors provided in this chapter, which explained how students could use Buzzword to collaboratively write a book report. I think that the history component of the program is great, because it allows teachers to track how students contributed and made changes to a document. Not only can teachers use Buzzword to grade student writing, but student participation in a project can be documented.

My only question from reading this chapter has to do with the age students should be when they start using Buzzword. I do think Buzzword can be used in elementary school, but it also depends on how well students are able to interact with technology. Projects that require little writing can still use Buzzword, which could apply to younger children. I think that as long as a teacher provides the appropriate support to students, collaborative editing programs could possibly be used at any age.

When Will The Testing Stop?

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While reading Wagner’s chapter entitled “Testing, 1 2 3” I became very angry. From my own experiences, I already knew that standardized testing was not a good thing. In theory, No Child Left Behind may seem like a good idea to someone with no background in education, but in reality it is not. Reading this chapter made me more aware of the implications of No Child Left Behind, and strengthened my negative feelings towards standardized tests.

First off, these standardized tests measure basic skills. Students are expected to have learned about a vast array of topics, but their knowledge on each topic does not have to be very deep. Teachers prepare their students for these tests by teaching them strategies of how to dissect multiple choice questions and how to construct a standard essay in response to a prompt that they have never seen before. As a teacher, I know that students learn more when they are fully immersed in one topic for a period of time. Simply mentioning lots of facts and brief details will not aid in a child’s learning at all. While completing a field experience with the guidance of one special educator, I learned that he was able to vastly improve his students’ math performance by deeply engaging them in several topics. He spent a lot of time on each math topic with his students, which allowed them to make much greater strides than if he covered many topics over the course of the school year.

What makes me even more mad is that the time teachers take to prepare their students for these tests actually takes time away from teaching critical thinking, communication skills, and the other survival skills that Wagner states in earlier chapters. Students in schools today are not prepared for college nor are they prepared to be citizens in this world. Why? Too much time is spent on prepping for the standardized tests! In chapter one of The Global Achievement Gap, Wagner discusses that students entering college or the work force do not know how to problem-solve, work on a team, or communicate their ideas professionally. The reason they cannot do this is because there is no time to teach these skills in schools. If colleges and employers are not looking for the basic skills tested on standardized tests, then why do we still administer them to students, multiple times a year?

It’s disgusting to think that policy makers continue to use standardized tests as a means of assessment because they are cheap. On page 124, Wagner states “Factual recall tests are also about ten times cheaper to develop and to score—which is another obvious reason for their popularity with state legislators.” I hope these legislators know that they are actually negatively affecting the future of the nation. If these tests continue to be used for assessment, children in school now will not be prepared to lead and be a part of this country when they are adults. They will not have the ability to think critically or formulate important questions. It’s not their fault—they were never effectively taught these skills in school because too much time was spent preparing for a test that measured nothing of importance.

I agree with the discussion we held in class last week, which was the question of why standardized tests continue to be used, especially when it seems as if the majority of people do not agree with the practice. In Rhode Island, the NECAP has been used for several years. Now the PARCC, another standardized test, will replace NECAPs. The PARCC will be used several times throughout the school year. Why? Is this necessary? The answer is no. When will our nation’s leaders realize that standardized testing and the NCLB is wrong? The over-emphasis on standardized testing will continue to make the global achievement gap even larger.

I found a video that discusses the consequences of NCLB. The video is five years old, yet the message of the video is to change NCLB. It’s sad that it has been five years and nothing has really been done.

The Digital Diet: “The Digital Citizen”

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At family parties, the topic of Facebook and Twitter often come up. Usually the conversation will end by the older members of my family saying something such as, “I don’t use that! I don’t know how, and I never will need to.” I think there is a little ignorance behind those types of statements. The older members of my family may not need to spend their time online, but they need to face the reality that our world has become increasingly digital. Everyone is connected in some way. I found this chapter in The Digital Diet to be refreshing. The authors not only accept that a digital world is upon us, but they also discuss how to become a digital citizen.

I used to think that I was exposed to social media and online communication at an early age. Like several of my classmates, I had an AIM, MySpace, and Facebook account by the time I was in high school. I will admit that I was not a very good digital citizen. In middle school, I would log onto my friends’ AIM accounts, and sometimes pretended to be them when talking to other people. Sometimes I would find myself logged into a friend’s Facebook account if they had used a computer directly before me. It’s important to remember that so much information is shared online. People have access to such personal information, which probably would not be the case if these digital outlets did not exist. Even though I believe that I have been exposed to a lot of ways to communicate with others online, the kids who are ten years younger than me are immersed in a social media culture. They are on AIM, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. at such a young age. Unfortunately these kids do not know how to use these digital outlets appropriately.

Students need to be taught how to use social media correctly. Who better to teach them than their teachers? If we actually utilize these types of digital media in the classroom, and model how to use them appropriately, students will learn from us. In turn, they will learn how to become digital citizens.  I really like how this chapter provided a quick lesson on how we should teach our students to become digital citizens. I agreed strongly with the “respect yourself” and “protect yourself” portions of citizenship. So many times young students do not know how they are portraying themselves online. The way that they portray themselves online will stay with them for years. They also need to be aware of who they are talking to online. It is very easy for an innocent child to be targeted. Even though there are risks of being an active member of an online community, they are decreased when the user knows how to be a digital citizen.

I feel as if this chapter directly connected to me, because part of my job as a graduate assistant at Providence College is to manage the social media outlets for Friar Athletics. I am constantly on our Friar Faithful Facebook page at work, as well as our PC Athletics Twitter. I need to post on these outlets three to four times a day. When I post, I need to make sure that I am representing Providence College. I cannot present my own views, nor can I post anything inappropriate. I have found managing these social media outlets to be the toughest when we receive an “attack” from a fan. For example, when I held a contest on our Facebook page, fans that did not win became upset. Even though these fans do not know that I personally run the page, I became upset because their comments offended me. I had to put my emotions aside and respond in a way that best represented PC Athletics. On the other hand, coworkers in my office have been on our Twitter account and have sent out accidental tweets, which really offended some of our followers. Once the tweet was out there was no turning back, and we had to deal with the consequences. I feel as if social media will continue to grow as time goes on. Every person who is online needs to be educated to be a digital citizen.