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Should the Digital Divide Be Closed? June 23, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in education, InformationIssues.
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Interesting bit from the Freakonomics blog on the New York Times website, pointing to a new study that is showing a statistically significant DECREASE in math and reading test scores among students with home computer and internet access.

Meanwhile, students with limited access to computers and internet did not experience this statistical decrease. Does this mean that we should not be working to close the digital divide? That we should not be trying to make computers and internet accessible to every child?

Another point found in the study was that students who had computers and internet at home, but were limited in usage due to “more effective parental monitoring” did not experience the same negative effect on test scores. Perhaps the children in these households put the technology and internet access to more productive uses?

This study is seems to indicate that computers, internet and technology are not only not a magic pill to increase test scores, but without the proper guidance, may be a distraction and hindrance to students’ academic performance.

Does this mean that we should not close the “digital divide”? What do you think?

Generation iPhone: it’s not you, it’s your baby February 4, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Over the last month I have repeatedly run into situations where children were kept occupied by iPhones, literally, for hours. (Okay, the first time was when I was babysitting and couldn’t handle playing pirates with a six-year-old and a three-year-old boy and I handed them my iPhone which they instantly knew how to navigate.) A few weeks ago, out to dinner with my friends, their daughter kept herself busy throughout the evening by playing with an iPhone. I also ran across this post from the Appleblog, “I Gave My 3 Year Old an iPhone: Have I Created a Monster?” And now, Mashable excitedly reports that Elmo (the world’s favorite Sesame Street character) has not only an iPhone but an iPhone app. What does it all mean?

From AtomicJeep's Flickr photostream, Creative Commons licensed

I’m not a parent. So I’m not going to say that you won’t run into me in a few years pushing an iPhone-clutching-baby in a stroller. And I do understand that the apps these children are using are educational, artistic, and intellectually stimulating. The woman I babysat found out my ploy and asked that I curtail her sons’ iPhone use to thirty minutes a day. Kudos to her. My friends’ daughter is older and they only used the iPhone to keep her occupied during an adult situation. Understandable. I know she spends most of her time indulged in crafts, so the iPhone seemed more like a reward. But what about these small children like the three-year-old from the Apple blog? We all know technology is addictive. Everyday, studies are published questioning its effect on attention span, social skills, physical fitness levels, and even brain function. While the iPhone might not be proven to be bad, it hasn’t proven to be good (yet).  What’s going to be the results of a generation brought up on apps?

To College or Not to College; That is the Question December 4, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in education, Uncategorized.
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Good.is posts the question, “Are too many people going to college?” based on an article by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle asks a panel of experts, among them professors and career experts, the questions:

“who should and shouldn’t go to college… how much does increasing college-going rates matter to our economy and society…economists have cited the economic benefits that individual students derive from college. does that still apply…who should pay for students to attend college…does the US view and handle this issue differently than other countries? should it…at what point does the cost of college outweigh the benefits?”

The panel differs widely in opinions but all bring up important points. My opinion aligns most closely with Charles Murray’s statement (and Dataduchess might disagree) that, “We have a moral obligation to destroy the current role of the B.A. in American life. It has become an emblem of first-class citizenship for no good reason,” which means that I also disagree with Daniel Yankelovich’s argument that, “With the disappearance of virtually all highly paid, low-skill jobs, the only way that most Americans can fulfill their aspirations for middle-class status is through acquiring a higher-education credential and the skills that go with it…Employers know that they are able to train qualified employees in specialized skills. For most employers, ‘qualified’ means having core skills like the ability to read, write, think clearly, and bring a strong work ethic to the task. It is those core skills (and virtues) that higher education warrants.”

From CanadianVeggie's Flickr Stream, licensed under Creative Commons

Yankelovich’s pretentious remarks assume that higher education provides the basic required skills of most jobs and a virtuous work ethic. He also argues that “low-skill” jobs have ceased to exist. It must be “low-skill” jobs that I argue for, for these do not require reading and writing.  Living in a rural area where the general contractors, electricians, and farmers make a decent (and often prosperous) living, and even the painters, pavers, and Cable men do well, I find these comments hard to digest. The “skills” for these professions are those things learned on the job, things for which they are certainly trained, but also things for which a college education would cause the delay of acquired proficiency. This is the very reason that institutes of higher learning push (and in many cases require) internships. And while internships are a part of higher education they are limited in time and scope. Being a full-time employee and learning the in and outs of a job are skills that can only be learned by those who choose to forgo a college education.

As for higher education begetting clear thinking and strong work ethics, my experiences in college libraries prove the opposite.  Not all young adults should be in college.  Many of the students do just enough to get a decent grade, taking short cuts and only putting in the most minimal effort. These young adults would perhaps do better if engaged in a hands-on career that challenged them and kept them busy. Perhaps Yankelovich is too entrenched in the institution of higher education to realize that “skills” are not limited to those taught in the classroom. If anything, the classroom is the vehicle that limits the “skills”.

Mobile Tech in the Classroom November 9, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Anyone who has worked in education or an academic setting can vouch that technology for technology’s sake never ends well. The result? Pointless and poorly made powerpoint presentations, Smartboard snafus, and futile attempts to seamlessly integrate multimedia with more traditional lecturing. And that’s why when I stumbled across Mobile Behavior’s “Five Approaches to Mobile Technology in the Classroom”, I was understandably skeptical. Mobile Behavior, a commercial project, but one with research at its core, points to some interesting studies on the effect of integrating mobile technologies with the classroom.

Most promising perhaps is the study done by Digital Millennial which proved that such integration raises the test scores of those in low-income areas. Of course, the economic specter always looms, and one wonders who will fund such devices, especially in these days of reduced funding, where school programs are constantly being cut.

The Wire at Harvard November 5, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Books vs. TV.
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A new course being developed by a sociology professor at Harvard will use the HBO show “The Wire” as “a case study for poverty in America.”

I think its an interesting concept to develop a class based on a television show – one that I can’t imagine is particularly popular among ivy league universities. But, is any old book really better than a well-researched and written television show? Does the mere fact that the information is presented as a narrative through the medium of television make the information any less valid or authentic? I don’t think so. What do you think?

(via OpenCulture)

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