This post first appeared on Jen’s blog.
The next session I’m attending is “The Power of Screen Time! Reading, Writing, & Devices” by Beth Holland. I’m excited for this presentation because I helped Beth edit and revise her Edutopia piece, “The 4Ss of Notetaking with Technology.”
There is a common theme in research, articles, and newspapers on “devices” being bad for “x activity.” However, as Beth says, it’s not the device! It’s what we or are students are doing. She also said that we’re not going to talk about “going paperless” because, as Shawn McCusker says, “Paperless is a bureaucratic preference, not a learning objective!” This is how we justify costs to our bureaucrats.
Beth now tells us her story (telling your story is a theme today). When she was a college student, she was trying to write a paper on a Mac. However, the Mac wasn’t cooperating with her and she wasn’t getting her assignment done. However, in the bathroom, she came across a roll of paper towels. She then rolled it out and used it to write out her work. It was the right tool for her at the right time.
So the technology that she had to build her project (paper towels and markers), but had to complete the process in the Mac. The moral behind this is that we are not going to put our technology on a pedestal. So many people claim that the tools are “interactive,” but it’s really electronic whac-a-mole. It has no objective.
Beth says that we need to focus on process vs. product. She shows us a clip from the film Finding Forrester
So what part of that scene was writing? The punching of the keys or the process of getting content out of your brain and onto the paper.
Start thinking about the process of writing! Let’s start with
Students organize and draft on paper, submit it to the teacher, the teacher annotates the paper, then students get it back and may or may not keep that paper. This is a straight forward and one dimensional process.
Writing went digital! Students can draft digitally. You can even draft in a non-linear pattern, using mind-mapping tools, create a storyboard, etc. Students and teachers can collaborate and incorporate tools. You can use multimodal feedback (audio, video, etc). The final product can even be shared or published!
Now we have a mobile devices. Beth asks us, who writes on their smart phone? The small screen is problematic as we have to slow down. However, we have this everywhere. Students can organize and draft (using multi-model tools) from anywhere. Students and teachers can then collaborate and incorporate multimodal feedback across devices. The final product can be shared, published, or modified. Beth likes to use Penultimate to draft both physically and electronically. She then shares it with Evernote and then puts it in Google Drive to share and collaborate (sometimes with me).
In addition to typing, she can talk into the device. For students with learning differences, you can speak into the tool. This is also a great way to get students to think about formation of words and sentences; like with formal poetry.
Because students all have devices, we have a ubiquitous opportunity of screens. We can see what our students are doing outside of the classroom. It doesn’t matter what the tool is, it’s that we’re starting to bring up this opportunity.
Beth now references this famous New York Times Piece, “Is E-Reading to your toddler story time, or simply screen time?” They argued:
“Parents and children using an electronic device spent more time focusing on the device itself than on the story.”
What does this mean about impact on childhood literacy? Beth argues that when we’re talking about eReading, we need to look at the behavior of reading. So “what could reading look like?” In the New York Times, what they argued was that the value of reading should look like this:
So if we’re looking at multi-media eBooks, the issue isn’t the device, it’s the behavior. Perhaps not look at multi-media eBooks as a “book” but as something else. Students can read a text on a digitized device. So think about how students are reading, not the device. Start to bring together the digital and the analogue.
Beth now highlights TodaysMeet, a tool for backchanneling. This is a tool that allows students to collaborate behind the scenes. In a class where students were reading about the Holocaust, the teacher asked students write down questions as they popped up in the reading on the Today’s Meet.
By setting up the Today’s Meet, he got input from students who were normally silent during class. He gave students a voice, even in a quiet room. Using the screen in a meaningful and powerful way. These tools can give students a voice and extend the experience to outside of the classroom. These are not possible without paper.
When thinking about screens and process, realize that it’s not the same thing with every person and every child. Start thinking about different students and their individual needs. You may have a student that needs to look up every word in a story. With a built in dictionary, you can “tap and know” (Shawn McCusker). You can even manage dictionaries. On a web browser, you can clean up the view and remove the ads or increase the font size. You can also “find” on the screen to look up the information that you’re looking for on a page. So if you want the population of Liberia in 2010, you can go to the website and search using “find” for the population. This allows students to focus their reading. Students can even look up words in context. Technology allows for differentiation at a higher level. Anything that is text can be heard by students. This is a great way to improve learning outcomes for younger students that are struggling with literacy.
Pen or Keyboard?
There was a prominent article called “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard.” After having students listen to a lecture-based class and take notes via hand and keyboard. After the lecture, students took a test and they found that those with handwritten notes did better. However, they did not do an assessment later. What would have happened if students were assessed at a later date? Is it the keyboard’s fault or another example of the right tool for the right task? This is similar to the debate over quill pens and ink pens.
Beth highlights the fact that we have a lot of choice and variety. The reality is that it depends on the student, learning style, and task. Beth references her article in Edutopia (link at the top). Digitized notes allow you to save, archive, curate, and reference it easily later (via search tools). How often have we had a student put their English notes in their Science notebook? If that student could search his notes would that help him? Would that facilitate that asymmetric impact? We need to empower our learners. Can you save, search, and share your work?
Beth finishes up with the point that we need to find balance with using screens. There is a book called Screen Time by Lisa Guernsey. She argues that it’s about balance. Do we want kids watching 5 hours of Scoobie Doo every day? Probably not. However, it’s balance. The questions you should ask are: is it appropriate, meaningful, and empowering?