Glitch in the Matrix: Digital Philosophy

Glitch in the Matrix is an ongoing saga of one teacher’s adventures to become more technologically incorporated. This episode we look at a digital philosophy.

Interactive Whiteboard University of Cumbria (...

Image by jisc_infonet via Flickr

I want to be clear in this endeavor. I am not some true believer in the overwhelming power of technology in all aspects of our lives, including teaching. I am openly skeptical of iPads in the classroom if they become nothing more than a $600 textbook and I have found little use for interactive whiteboards.

That isn’t to say they don’t have uses. I have seen some great apps on the iPad for elementary schools, especially for remediation. I have also seen some great math and science apps for high school as well. As for interactive whiteboards, again, great for elementary and secondary math and science but what about English and social studies? (I’m just going to skip all the other subjects and focus on the core to simplify the issue.)

However, I think there is a bigger issue here that is being addressed. We have become an era obsessed with technology. We care more about if we could and not about if we should. We have moved to a point as Tyler Durden said in Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” We are controlled by our devices instead of us controlling them. We are plugged in, tuned on and connected in more ways than ever thought possible.

But have we stopped to ask if this is the right direction? We never turn off the connection. It began with cell phones. We could be reached anywhere at anytime without ever questioning if we should. We camp for new devices without even knowing what use it has. We have become digitized.

Worse yet, we have gone to a point where those who create have stopped talking to those who evaluate.  Comedian Patton Oswald made a great skit out of this where he jokes about science creating things we don’t want and shouldn’t have. As he ends it, “We’re science: we’re all about coulda, not shoulda.”

This brings me to a great talk that brought up many of these questions for myself.

Anand Giridharadas, an author and journalist, spoke to the Innovation Forum a year ago. In his talk he brings up a few great points we should all think about before we jump head first into the latest technological trend.

First, Anand makes a point in asking “when should we focus on product instead of distribution?” Much of this has been found in the blogosphere. News has moved to media, dominated by ratings, not truth, justice and facts. Replacing it has been blogs, where facts and truth are shades of grey. We also have pushed more towards the idea of what sells and not what matters.

Next, he asks “to what extent that we can live the quantified life, do we want to live the quantified life?” As a teacher, I have felt this first hand. Can the development of the young mind be evaluated in a simple test? Can the success of a child in their post high school lives be quantified on a spreadsheet? It is bad enough that we Facebook and Twitter the specific details of our lives that we must then obsess over the numbers of every aspect of society?

Finally, he addresses the good and the bad to this digital future. From the opening of the third world and the access to other cultures to how vicious we can be when anonymous online. He addresses that there is nothing intrinsically special to paper verse electronic when it comes to news but has this movement hurt our ability to read long form or to sit down and focus.

As I move forward, I keep these ideas in my head and close to my heart. I need to find the balance in both my life and my students lives. As he ends the talk he mentions that we need more people who don’t know technology to embrace it and those who have mastered it to not all be in favor of it.

To watch the full talk (16min), click here.

Until next time, if you like the blog, please subscribe on the right and share it with your friends and family. Please comment and share your thoughts, questions, ideas and feelings on this or any post. As always, this is Joshua Murphy and I am out.

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Structure of this site for now.

I have been thinking about how I want this blog to look and feel and what I want it to portray. While I am far from set on these ideas, I feel as though I have come up with a beginning. Just like the leaf structure above, these ideas are chaotic and constantly changing direction.

First, I am currently learning the differences between categories and tags and realizing that both are rather pointless but of the two categories are more useful for broad based organization. I follow a number of blogs, vlogs, YouTube stars and online video and podcasting organizations and from these I have begun to mine them for what I believe has made them successful. One of the primary features I have seen that has brought them all success was this idea of categorization. One of my favorite contributors is a video game blogger named TryHardNinja who posts game clips with commentary on YouTube. He would make series in relation to his different games. Another is Christian Belt who writes a blog called Arcane Brilliance and has a number of major themes he focuses around.

With that I have decided on keeping this experiment to 4 categories for now but I am open to any and all suggestions. The categories or series I will be focusing on are: Controversial Educational Issues, Education Policy, Educational Technology and My Teaching Experiences.

Controversial Educational Issues will come from a number of places such as major headlines in the news, changes to curriculum, books and lesson ideas I come across and hopefully suggestions from those who follow this. Just to give a couple examples of topics I may cover, here is a sampling:

  • Is It Time for National Standards in Education?
  • Have Charter Schools Fulfilled Their Promises?
  • Can Large High Schools Provide a Quality Education?
  • Should Students Have the Right to Lead Prayers at Public School Events?

My attempt in this is to create a discussion on these topics to get a wide range of ideas and perspectives. For these I hope the comments stimulate positive discussions and better understanding of the opposing views.

Education Policy will focus on the ideas and theories from education experts, and some unexpected sources, that I have found to be very meaningful and that are pushing us in the right direction. Some of these are from people like Linda Darling-Hammond, Sir Ken Robinson and Edutopia. The goal is to give my evaluation of these theories based on practical application. I will comment on them for their strengths and weaknesses. I have a growing list of lectures and other media revolving around this but every day I find new resources and I am always looking for more. I will be counting on the suggestions of other to find these great ideas.

Education Technology is the byproduct of my growing hate of podcasts and other movements of this field to saturate the classroom with every new fad, from SmartBoards to iPads to Twitter accounts. Just because the technology is out there doesn’t mean it has to be used in every school and every subject. Also, I have found few resources out there for the every day teacher in the average school with limited technological opportunities to still be able to implement effectively a couple items into their classroom. I will use this space to discuss my views on iPad apps, the iPad itself, class websites, computer programs and other techy things that pass by me.

Teaching Experiences. This is where I just rant about the things I observe or have learned from teaching. If I find a new idea that works or one that fails, I have a place to let it all out. If there is something I want to discuss but it doesn’t really fit into the previous topics, here is where I plan to toss it. If I get a question or comment that brings up new ideas, I have a place to discuss it. This is the Potpourri of my blog.

Second, I plan to also extend an idea that some of my peers and I came up with. We started a conversation salon to discuss these same issues but with the requirements of work and family, scheduling became a nightmare. So my plan is to return to these same people and hopefully tap them as guest bloggers and contributors to this undertaking. Who knows if they will even be interested or if this will even be a success but I’m giving it a try nonetheless.

Essay Grader for iPad

I also figure this will be a place where I will post education applications for the iPad that I find or other technology ideas. Primarily this will be more geared to what is even possible in CCSD and more specifically, what is viable in a typical high school.

To start things off, I came across Essay Grader today and downloaded the free lite version. I will give it a trial run but for a basic app, it seems to have some very useful and detailed options that will work for both History and English classes. The application can be found in the iTunes App Store or by clicking here http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/essay-grader/id376946246?mt=8.

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So it begins…

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No fireworks, no red ribbon cutting, no parade. Everything needs a first step so here is mine.

I start of with what and who has made the most sense to me. Linda Darling-Hammond may have the most valid resume in the education debate and Edutopia took the time to try and summarize the meat of her extensive ideology into a 10 min clip. For most interested or invested into the success of education, she is a must watch. Find her video @ http://youtu.be/AQNUqVYJofE.