Monday, June 29, 2015

Why I don't like Mondays, at least the morning (ISTE #3)

I wasn't planning on keeping running posts, but during my wanderings at the convention hall, I found my way into something called the "Blogger's Cafe." So I think that by law, I have to write a post. Of course, no one else here seems to feel bound by the name -- people are milling about and being social. Social! What the heck kind of blogger actually has human social interaction? If we had that, we wouldn't blog!

Anyway, I need to write down some of the random things that I have been jotting notes about for the last couple of hours, so you can read it or not. You still have time to come down here and be nonplussed on your own, or you can explore the vicarious thrill of underwhelm-ment via proxy.

After a night of not sleeping well, I made my way downstairs before 7. I printed up some puzzles and the directions for how to come home (assuming the car starts) and shared a morning faculty meeting before setting out to the conference. I had broken down my morning into areas and times, tables and rooms so I felt that things should go smoothly. Tables were first -- the tables are like glorified science fair-type presentations with companies and individuals shilling for their cause, program or product.

The first table was about teaching online. I thought it was going to be about learning to teach online but instead it was about teaching online classes. I don't intend to teach online classes so I took their handout and walked away. The second was about the use of blended learning. The two guys there are teachers who can sell their prepackaged videos or help advise teachers who want to make their own videos (using animation, puppets and animated puppets). The third was supposed to be about using blended learning to help students with learning disabilities and executive functioning issues. They didn't show up. The jokes write themselves for this one.

I then moved to the "rooms" so I could go to the tables there. These tables are different -- people who have conducted research sit at round tables and discuss what they researched and why it matters. I thought these would be the same elevator-pitch based presentations so I write down 3 tables to visit. When I showed up I learned the following:

1. no one had numbered the tables so no one knew where to go
2. the presenters had no idea what they were doing in terms of technology or materials
3. the presenters were all presenting to their tables at the same time so there was no moving between tables
4. the presentations were designed to take 45 minutes

So after I got through my initial confusion I realized that I was stuck at one table and I would not get to visit any of the others. I found myself at a table listening to the research into teaching Turkish college students how to speak English by letting them go into real world (or simulated real world) situations instead of simply teaching the rules of grammar. Oh yeah, and recording them on their phones (the technology element). So I sat for ten minutes hearing how immersive use of language is more effective than not using the language. This from someone whose grasp of English was mediocre at best and whose "research" consisted of asking her students if they thought they learned something. When the presenter went to go find someone to help her load up the video if her students learning English I excused myself and ran away. I missed out on the tables focusing on digital literacy and citizenship. I think I have had my fill of those anyway. I hugged my pen and pad of paper tighter and left.

I walked and walked to get to the next major item I had scheduled. I wanted to go to some other rooms, but those rooms weren't dominated by tables; they were hour long formal sessions which had their doors closed and were not admitting latecomers. So I missed two things I had wanted to see because of the timing conflict. I kept walking. The issue of passing time is important here because it takes a good 7 minutes to get from one major area to another, and that's without traffic. And there is always traffic. I am getting my 10,000 steps over early and then I am going to sit down and insist that presenters come to me. I found the ballroom and the session on copyright and such.

In this monster room, three presenters were discussing the issue of fair use and what is allowed to be used in the classroom. But instead of dealing with the kinds of situations which I confront (can I photocopy the entire book and hand it out instead of buying any other copies) the questions centered around making book-trailer videos with 7th graders. The presenters covered the three essential questions a teacher must consider (am I repurposing or adding, am I simply retransmitting - could my product replace the original, how much of the original did I use) and then played a neat music video about section 107 of the copyright code. Truth.

I felt that this as trying to teach teachers to be their own lawyers and come to decisions. This is a dangerous precedent. Tough teachers have some protections as long as they have used a reasonably logical formula when deciding how much fun infringement would be, I think that we shouldn't be encouraging teachers to susurp the role of the lawyer. Then what will the lawyers have to do to keep busy! Son't anyone think of the lawyers?

Also, I disagreed with a couple of their interpretations of the law. I also wondered how much any student or teacher really worries about copyright law when making a very local project. Is this really a concern? Well, apparently, yes. I next wandered into the area focusing on digital story telling. Many of the booths and presenters were touting their copyright free music and clipart, so this seems to be a thing. Don't tell anyone, but when I create my videos for class, I ignore these problems. That's mostly because I don't create videos for class...I actually teach. (shots fired. HA!) Many of the booths also were selling apps which enhanced videos with effects, or which helped publish videos to servers or websites. The earnest people there tried to show me how their particular products would help my students tell their stories. I needed to rethink that -- I rarely ask my students to tell their stories. I ask them to think and reflect on literature and construct arguments to support their contentions and persuade me. i don't want to hear their stories. The one assignment I use which does ask for students to tell a story has them do so in writing, to be printed and read, as words. Crazy, right? Am I doing this all wrong? Is the real 21st century skill that of being a narcissist? Is a green screen, a music bed and voice over, or a professional website necessary and reading, thinking and structuring an efficient written response unnecessary? These were clearly cases where technology is leading and content is lagging far behind.

So I took some handouts, left behind all the magnets, buttons and stickers, and moved on. The exposition hall is open so I may wander through and have thousands of people try to sell me stuff. My next round is 7 tables which open at 11, a room from 11-12 which I think I will miss and the session at 12:45, the reason I am here, "Is it time to get computers out of the classroom?"

I hope the answer is "yes." I have yet to see anything here which makes me feel otherwise.

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