Posted in CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGIES, EDNews, Parents' Corner, Teachers' Lounge

Texting . . . The Good? The Bad? and The Ugly?

The impact of technology is undoubtedly becoming a large part of American culture and the world. From smartphones, to home theatre systems, to the increasing use of tablets, technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity. For better or worse individuals need to know, with some degree of proficiency, how technology works in order to achieve the expectations in today’s modern-day work force.

Today, educators struggle to re-examine how to use digital technology in the classroom. The balance between our children’s’ ability to use technology and the educational system to measure academic standards are a constant challenge. Recent debate about “texting” is a clear example of how technology, negative or positive, is effecting the development of young minds.  Language Arts teachers are noticing more writing mistakes than ever before. The shorthand used in texting, called ”chat-speak,” incorporates numbers, symbols, and incorrect grammar. For example ”you” is spelled “u”. When used frequently, the standards between formal and informal literacy become blurred.

Critics argue that texting negatively influences an ability to develop critical thinking skills, while proponents claim that although texting isn’t a perfect means for communicating, it does prompt young people to write more.  Statistically, both sides agree that teens are texting more. On average, according to phone bills, teens send and receive about 1800 text messages per month. Studies suggest that for young people whose knowledge of language is still developing, those who text more have trouble differentiating between Standard English and the informal writing style used while texting.

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing, 64% of teens who answered a phone survey admitted using shortcut texting for school assignments. Some argue texting is no different from the introduction of calculators used in the 1960’s. Back then hand-held calculators received criticism as an obstruction to the traditional methods used to teach math.  But the generation introduced to calculators also became the same generation to advance today’s digital age. Others argue the influence technologies had on previous generations as opposed to the current texting generation is “how” the technology is used. For example, the calculator introduced in the 1960’s was viewed as a tool, while texting, including other digital technologies, is perceived as a toy.

Many other factors enter the debate. But the constant challenge for educators, parents and students is to discover productive means for texting and the overall use of technology. Perhaps then technology can be used as both an educational toy and a tool . . . ne14*$? . . . L8r  . . . translation for non-texters . . . anyone for Starbucks? . . . Later.

Resources:

  • Bivens-Tatum, Wayne. “The Dumbest Generation?”.  Academic Librarian. September 9, 2008.
  • Dean K. Tomita. “Text Messaging and Implications for its use in Education.” University of Hawaii at Manoa. 2009.
  • O’Connor, Amanda. “Instant Messaging: Friend or Foe of Student Writing?”. March 2005.
  • Vosloo, Steve. “The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity?”. Shuttleworth Foundation. April 2009.
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Posted in EDNews, Parents' Corner, Teachers' Lounge

E-Readers for Dyslexics

E-Readers may provide a partial solution for dyslexia, a disorder affecting the reading ability of approximately one in twenty school aged children. Researchers at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study which states, “extra-large spacing between letters allowed a group of dyslexic children to read text significantly faster and with fewer than half as many errors as when they read passages with standard spacing.” Another study, performed at Tufts University, indicates not only the spacing between the letters but the size and font style of the letters affects the reading ability for those with dyslexia. Christian Boer, dyslexic and a graphic designer from the Netherlands has developed a special font called “Dyslexie“. Scientific American featured an article about Boer’s font. According to the article, “the font “dyslexie” proved to decrease the number of errors made by dyslexics while reading.”

Before digital technology dyslexic-friendly text needed special printing. But with the increase popularity of e-readers users simply adjust the device settings to achieve the desired results. For further enhancement a cover called the ReadRight Cover is available. The special cover uses color overlays which has proven to be effective for dyslexic readers on hard copy books.

Although e-readers are not a cure for dyslexia, the technology, depending on the individual, can provide a more enjoyable reading experience. Many experts agree, while digital devices can improve reading skills young students need to be reminded with or without an e-reader the more you read the more you will improve.

Other Resources for Dyslexics:
Bookshare an online library for people with special needs.
Zamzar converts files into a variety of file formats. Individuals with reading challenges can convert text, including the URL of web pages, into a mp3 audio file.

Posted in Parents' Corner, Special Topics

60 minutes Reports: “Parents Redshirting their Kids”.

Morley Safer recently examined an increasing trend among parents called “Redshirting”. Redshirting is the concept of parents deciding to hold their kids back from kindergarten. This theory was first introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success“. According to Gladwell, factors such as birth dates can disproportionately determine a child’s success in school and life.  Full Report