Tag Archives: Technology

iWrite Words: The Handwriting App

As a iwritefuture educator, I am always on the lookout for creative ways to make learning fun for    my future students. With the Common Core‘s heavy presence in the classroom, various forms  of  writing instruction are crucial. Today, technology is so natural to children and is becoming  more popular  in the classroom, so being able to incorporate technology into writing  instruction will be extremely beneficial for the students while making learning fun.

In preschool and kindergarten classrooms, it is important to have the students practice forming uppercase and lowercase letters. Understanding that children must begin to write letters and numbers by tracing them first is key.

The app iWrite Words is something that can be used to do just this! iWrite Words is available on iPads, iPhones and iPods, and is an excellent way to get children interested and involved with the early stages of the writing process both inside and outside of the classroom.

iWrite Words helps to teach kids how to write the letters of the alphabet, numbers up to 20, and simple words using tracing. While it does help if kids already know how to count and read numbers up to 10 in order to play this game, this app can teach children the basics of letters. This app is available in English, French and Italian, making it a great for dual language learners, too.  After the child traces the letter or number, they hear a cheer, then see their actual handwriting appear based off of how they traced the letter.

This app has received rave reviews which include, “The whole app is delightful to behold. Bright background colors are juxtaposed against equally bright and scribbly child-like artwork that convey the word being spelled. You and your child will enjoy tracing your finger along those necessary building blocks of language. With its memorable artwork and way cool physics engine, it is sure to entertain and teach your child,” and many more.

iwrite3

The next time you are searching for the perfect new app to introduce or reinforce the basics of writing, keep iWrite Words in mind for your preschool and kindergartners.

*This app is available on iTunes for $2.99.

Advertisements

Wattpad: The Story of How Stories Became Stored

A recent App called, Wattpad has taken the world of writing and reading by storm. In order to fully understand what this app is capable of, I will review the app in the perspective of new user.

The homepage of Wattpad looks a little something like this:

Screen shot 2014-12-02 at 8.58.16 PM

It is both clean and simple. A user can either log in using Facebook, or use an e-mail address to sign up; all in all, it takes about 30 seconds to create and account with WattPad.

Next, the app will ask you pick a variety of your favorite reading genres, which will look like this:

IMG_1845

The format, once again, is extremely quick and clean. Users have the ability to pick as many or as few genres as they wish. This is a quality feature when the user wants either variety or focus.

Based off the genre users picked, the app will generate multiple stories for the user to enjoy.

IMG_1846

The instructions are straightforward and allows users to enjoy a variety of different works of any type of genre. On the app, users can scroll through their “library” and pick a title to read. It’s kind of ironic how a library, once associated with the imagery of an abundance of books, has become a collection of virtual goods.

Once a user settles on a book title, a couple of screens will pop up:

IMG_1847IMG_1848

These two screens demonstrate the main point of the app. On the left, is a piece of work found in a collection of poetry. On the right, the app offers the author, comments, suggestions, and sharing. Adding the comment/liking feature allows users to offer their perspective on the work, which is a nice spin for a literary app. Instead of just reading a poem, users can share opinions and ask/offer help. Another progressive feature of this app is the suggestion category. In order to broaden horizons, suggestions to other writers is extremely helpful. Lastly, the social media aspect of this app is helpful to both writers and readers. If a user posts a poem to Facebook, the user’s friends will have the ability to discover new works.

The social media of this aspect has two sides. While the influence of social media is positive in some respects, ethics should definitely be considered while reviewing this app. While Apps usually don’t resonate with words like  “ethics”, an article called “Why Napster matters to writing: Filesharing as a new ethic of digital delivery” by Danielle DeVoss and James Porter, explains why public sharing is an ethical issue. It is mentioned in the article that “digital filesharing forms the basis for a new ethic of digital delivery, an ethic that should lead us to reconsider our policies regarding plagiarism and that, in general, we should consider when developing digital composition pedagogies.” Copyright becomes an extremely prominent issue in the world of apps; it is becoming easier and easier to steal ideas from authors due to the open forum of apps. With the Wattpad, there are a couple of issues when it comes to the delivery of ethics. While the app itself gives credit where credit is due, the sharing features make it extremely easy for users to steal work. The blame in this situation is a bit ambiguous since Wattpad does an excellent job of giving credit to authors. The problem is that users are sharing works via social media; while the authors are getting credit for their works, it is freely passed along for anyone to see.

This App combines Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, Messanger, and E-mail all into one. Not only does it provide stories based off the users’ interests, but it also provides a social media service. Combining multiple different mediums into one is an example of remediation, which is an idea mentioned in an article called “Writing as Technology” by Jay Bolter. The creators of this app made it possible to blend social media with literature and writing, which is a significant advancement in the worlds of technology and literacy.

All in all, for a free app, I think that this app is definitely worth a download. It allows users to discover, share, and explore the world of literacy in a fun and easy way.

Creativity is Key

With all of the technology available at our fingertips, it is easy to lose sight of human contact and every day communication with others.

intro6

Technology has a way of getting people to communicate behind a screen, which can be very detrimental to the way people work together in the classroom, workplace, and out in the “real” world. Many people argue that technology is hindering the creative learning process of students, but others say that creativity is sparked by technology and creative arts that interest the students in the classroom.

There is a universal push for STEM in many schools, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.  Nicky Morgan, the author of the article Creativity is the key to education, so why aren’t we pursuing it?, said that “the choice by pupils to study traditionally creative subjects, the humanities and arts, would in fact restrict their career choices.” STEM gives students the ability to study and focus on the “non-traditional” topics that are usually studied in school.

STEM

“Creativity in schools isn’t just restricted to the teaching of “creative” subjects; art, English etc. In fact even that definition of what subjects are creative is a misstatement of what creativity can mean,” (Morgan). A lot of the time, students lose their sense of creativity in the classroom because of a lack of interest in the topics being studied. Tailoring lessons too fit the needs and interests of the students in the classroom is one way to get creativity stirring. Once the students find a topic that interests them, they will be more likely to complete assignments and do something out-of-the-box. They will be less likely to hold back because they feel confident and comfortable with the subject matter.

Lessons can be tailored to fit any subject area, too.  Sherry Turkle, in her article Who Am We? was showing creativity with her various nickname; she was able to change her identity and play off of them to fit what she was writing about. Like Turkle, if a teacher is presenting a history lesson to the class in a monotone way, the students will lose interest within five minutes, but when the teacher is enthusiastic about the material,  the students will be more likely to be enthusiastic as well.

The New Social Norms: Technological Literacy

What exactly is technological Literacy?

In accordance to the national project to expand technological literacy, technological literacy involves “computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance.” This definition, and also a second more social definition, can be found in an article called “a New Literacy Agenda and its Challenges” by Cynthia Selfe.

The second definition, which according to Selfe, is in reference to “complex set of socially and culturally situated values, practices, and skills involved in operating linguistically within the context of electronic environments  including reading, writing, and communicating” and it differs quite dramatically from the previous definition. The first definition involves skills, which not everyone has; however, the second definition refers to to social values and practices, which implies that technological literacy has been adopted into society as required norm.

The interesting part about society’s adoption of technology is the various generation gaps, which can especially be seen in the world of education. In an article called, “How schools are Using Apps to Engage Students, Parents, and the Community” by Chirag Leuva, which was found from a tweet by Kylie Trush, the focus is exclusively on all of the advancements technology has to offer. Before listing various amounts of helpful educational apps, Leuva makes the claim that, “an app can creatively take the education beyond stereotype boundaries”, however, what exactly are these boundaries?

proxy

The boundaries Leuva mentions exist because, as New Literacy and its Challenges writes, technological literacy was a skill at one point. Due to new adaptations, it has slowly become a practiced value. The problem is that not all educators know how to find, let alone share, new apps; while the newer generations are embracing technology, older generations are lost in the wave.

While the gap between old and new technologies will eventually close, right now, technology stands in an extremely ambivalent gray space. The merging of technology and literacy happened in a dramatic fashion; at this point, educators who reject or misconstrue technological literacy, will drown under the currents of articles and societal pressures to conform.

So, to answer the appointed question, “what is technological literacy?” my answer is that it is our new leap. Every century has something to set it apart, something that defines the work put into the years in the spotlight. Centuries from now, students will be reading from something (definitely not a textbook, maybe not even a computer), and they will read about when “technological literacy” was first introduced and how it caused such a stir amongst those unable to throw papers away. A laugh will emerge from students after they read these claims, mostly because they will wonder how something so common now so controversial then. Technological Literacy is both the end and the beginning; RU ready?

The Technologically Inspired Classroom

I feel as though teachers used to dread  introducing and involving  computers with daily lessons in their class for fear of it not working properly or taking too long to load, or even be too complicated. I remember sitting in class as a little girl and constantly wondering when we were going to get the chance to finally use the computers that were collecting dust in the back corner of the classroom. I always wanted the chance to use the computers, and was disappointed when the only chance we got to used them was during our “specials” period when we learned to type the right way.

Today, teachers are not only incorporating computers into their daily classroom instruction, but also using iPads, SMART boards, and social media to get their class more involved and interested in the lesson materials and topics. In an article from the World Economic Forum titled How Online Learning Prepares Teens for Higher Education, “there is a growing interest in the possibilities that different forms of virtual schooling can offer,” (Oliver). Teachers are becoming more creative  with how they incorporate technology into the classroom, and is proving to be very beneficial in the long run.intro1

A study was performed by the Institute of Education, which took a look at experiences of current university students who had completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). These students took a series of online classes, and the ages of the participants ranged from 17 to 23 (Oliver). The results of the study are pretty interesting and exciting for technology; “Of the students interviewed, 94% said finding academic resources on the internet was important to their success and 78% said being able to plan group tasks using online calendars, scheduling tools and discussion applications mattered. Another 71% found social networks useful for building relationships with other learners,” (Oliver). Essential parts of university life, such as virtual learning environments, discussion forums, Google tools, and audio-visual learning resources such as YouTube were all a major part of online classes, and gave the students  confidence with using the web, as stated in How Online Learning Prepares Teens for Higher Education.

“One student described how this experience online had helped them develop valuable skills and approaches: ‘I often use Google Docs and other Google tools to collaborate on group projects, including working with teams that are in different locations and time zones,'” (Oliver). Technology, both inside and outside of the classroom promotes independent learning, which is a really important skill for students to develop. Instead of having the information handed to them in a presentation and lecture form, students could be given instruction before class, then investigate further during class, like in a flipped classroom for example. Having the teacher present in class to answer any questions about the lecture/material from the previous night is really beneficial. Instead of sitting through a boring lecture in class then going home to complete the assignments, the students can talk to their professor about any issues and get them squared away before the end of class.

intro3

Online learning and technology infused into the classroom is proving to be very beneficial to students, and teaches them various styles of learning. For students who do not have computers at home, the chance to use various forms of technology is wonderful! Technology is going to play a major role in our lives inside and outside of the classroom, so it only makes sense to get accommodated with that it has to offer when whenever possible!

The Future is Really the Past

The YouTube video, “The Mother of All Demos,” by Engelbart truly opened my eyes. What a wonderful lesson for us that we have not come as far as we like to think and that these technology ideas were in the air long before anyone starting charging for licenses and taking credit for features. Email, telepresence, collaborative editing, hyperlinks, guided search, keyword search, mouse driven cursors are all shown in a user context clear as day. The video makes me think that technology is being stalled. By now we should have superior software development technology, more advanced hardware, cure for many diseases, better energy sources, etc.

It’s pretty amazing that this “mother of invention” idea is so similar to the internet and what we use everyday in 2014. Little did people who were watching this at the time know that it really was the future. The mouse, graphic user interfaces, the web, wikipedia, instant messaging, screen sharing, Skype, Facetime, and keynote addresses were all invented in 1968, we’re only just now getting around to using it. The 21st century is nearly half a century late; it already came and went, a year before the first moon landing. It astonishes me how that this is from 1968. Some of Doug Engelbart’s opening lines could have been about Google Now. The real-time, collaborative document editing could have been about Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office 365.

We never sit back and wonder how these things came to be until we sit back and use them multiple times a day. It is only then we realize how difficult it really was back then to make these kind of ideas happen. Truly amazing!

Technological Influence

In Turkle’s article, “ Who Am We?” she discusses the evolution of the computer. The importance of the computer can not be determined by the past influence and implantation of the technology. “The computer had a clear intellectual identity as a calculating machine.” (Turkle, page 3). As well as, a calculating technology the computer was also defined by it’s “cut-and-dry” programming. However Turkle discusses the relationship between the computer, the technology, and the person, the user, as a humanistic and technological correlation. “Computers are not just changing or lives but changing our selves.” (Turkle, page 3). 

The internet links millions of people in new spaces that are changing the way we think and the way we form our communities.” (Turkle, page 3). Bolter provides clear evidence that supports Turkle’s claim, in his article “Introduction: in the late age of print.” “It now seems possible that many texts might never be printed, but simply distributed in digital form.” (Bolter, page 2). Therefor, the computer is changing the way we read and write. Newspapers, magazines, books, and scientific research can be found from an online source. The computer has progressed from programming and calculating, to word processing, than informing and connecting its’ users all over the world.

The impact of the computer is still evolving and changing, and is constantly influencing the live’s of the users. The computer is an essential, educational, reading and writing tool. Though it can also be used as a recreational escape. “Windows allow us to be in several contexts at the same time, (…), The self is no longer simply playing different roles in different settings at different times.” (Turkle, page 3). The computer’s technological revolution has progressed from the assets of the world wide connection and information aiding our lives, to influencing its’ individual users on a personal level.

The balance of negative and positive influence is still undefined, in the sense of the impact on the person as an individual. Today studies have shown that children are using cell phones before they can walk or talk. The true influence of technology on people will be defined within the next generations. Children now have iPhone based toys, and coloring books and paint sets are designed for digital use. To the current generation new technologies seem unnatural, but we must remember that this occurs with every new technology. Crayons are the natural way to color for children who grew up in my generation, however crayons are not natural. The generations who grow up with the technology, are comfortable and used to it. Where as, the generations that the technology is new to, see it as complex and unnatural. Therefor,  one day digital coloring books may be the norm, and crayons and the new coloring technologies are viewed as obsolete and unnatural.

Until the generations using technology before they can walk, grow up we may never comprehend the actual meaning of technology in our lives. As well as, the true impact and influence the technologies have on our individual self and personality. There are always positive and negative aspects to any new technology. To embrace the technological revolution of the computer, we must discover that the positive assets outweigh the negative hindering interference’s.

A Rape in Cyberspace: Issues Within Virtual Relationships

A Rape in Cyberspace: Issues Within Virtual Relationships

In Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in CyberSpace”, he narrates an instance in which a cyber character raped another character. The consequences of said rape were extremely complicated because there are multiple ways to see this situation; some people took the stance that these characters are fictitious so the cyber rape is not actually valid, while others took the stance that real people are behind the characters so there should be consequences. In the end, the cyber rapist was “frogged” from the game, meaning his profile was completely deleted. This entire online controversy made both the players and the observers take a step back and analyze the online situation. Although these characters are supposed to be fictitious, there are real people behind the screen; real emotions are being hurt, stimulated, and affected because of these games.

The first aspect in consideration from this situation, virtual or not, should be the victim. Different people react in different ways, it is not fair to call someone’s emotions invalid or over dramatic just because the situation is virtual. In fact, the author comments that “months later, the woman in Seattle would confide to me that as she wrote [her statement], posttraumatic tears were streaming down her face- a real life fact that should suffice to prove that words’ emotional content was no mere playing” (208). The victim cried real tears, not virtual ones; a line was definitely crossed. Although some see these characters as “fake”, they actually exist. A player can’t just put their emotions on hold just because there is a computer screen in the way.

Another issue that this article arose is the fact that some players will release their inner angers or disturbances into characters. The problem with this, however, is that the players are not harnessing raw emotion properly. The Internet is not the proper place to experiment, especially with heavy topics such as rape. Characters such as Mr. Buggle, the virtual rapist, are real people, which is disturbing because the author categorized him by writing that his, “delusional statement placed him among the second type: the sociopath” (209). Sociopaths should not be freely running the Internet, hiding behind a computer screen, and releasing the raw emotion built inside them. When this does happen, the consequences include horrible situations such as this one- cyber rape.

In a news article titled “Popular Violent Video Game Linked to the Suicides of Four Teens” by Glenn Beck, the author describes an extremely horrific story in which four teens take their own lives due to the violence witnessed in video games. The disturbing images seen in video games are desensitizing players to gruesome events. Plus, options such as “live” or “chat” give players the opportunity to communicate with other players. While this seems like a helpful feature, it has become a means of trash talk and violent words. In the article, it is quoted that players have “become so addicted to technology that we have forgotten the interpersonal relationships and a quieter life” (Glenn Beck). This quote shows that video game players are becoming so accustomed to fast moving and adrenalizing games, that living a normal life is no longer appealing.

All in all, these two articles demonstrate how certain personalities are unable to handle the anonymity and freedom virtual realities offer. While some people can easily function playing virtual realty games, others, such as sociopaths, find it as an opportunity to release negative inhibitions.