Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In class a few weeks ago we were given the following questions and were asked to answer them to the best of our abilities:

Is technology neutral (that is as a non value laden tool?) or not neutral (and thus has value laden nature to it)? How do you understand and unpack this neutrality or non-neutrality? What potential impact do you believe the nature of technology as neutral or non-neutral has on society at large?

The following is my response:

Technology itself is neutral. It does not work better or worse depending who is using it.  It does not have a mind of its own (most of the time. yikes!) and will not be biased towards one user.  However, the backgrounds, perceptions, and experience each human being brings to their interactions with technology are not neutral. 

Different generations have been accustomed to different kinds of technology. Different cultures approach technology in different ways. People of higher or lower SES have access to different technologies. However, the technology itself does not change.  Computers are still computers, Ipods are stil Ipods etc.  It is how we use the technology to our advantage or disadvantage that creates the bias with technology. 

It ws interesting to read everyone elses' post on this same subject because very few went the route that I did.  Most stated that technology was made and created for the higher SES/richer population of richer countries.  Sure, this may be true.  But that doesn't make the plastic and the metal componants biased.  The USES are biases.  The USERS are biased. The technology is neutral and waiting to be used to it's full capacity by whomever gets there first.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First of all, as you can see above, I have added a countdown timer to this blog and it is counting down until 4pm April 21st, 2011.  This date is very important for all of us in this class right is the exact time that we will be done our lives as students and will start our lives as professionals (hopefully).  April 21st is our last day of our last block of practicum!  After then, we will no longer be students (unless you want to come back for some reason...but who wants that??)

Secondly, I have another video for you this week.  This one was sent to me by my mother.  She knows that both my sister and I have blackberries, but would have no idea how to use them.  A few years ago when she got her own regular cell phone, my sister Sarah and I had to show her how to text.  She didn't really like the idea of t9 because it confused her, and the abc option took too much time and effort.  Unfortunately for us, we also showed her the "canned responses" option, and haven't since received a text message not found in that list.  "Yes" "No"  "I'll be there in 15" etc.  

Please watch, and enjoy!

After watching this video, I started this think of all of the "tech" text that we use when talking about computers, systems, the internet etc.  Growing up in this culture, I know that a fruit and a phone are very different things that just happen to share the same name.  (I had never heard of the term "dongle", but after looking it up, I read that it is a small stick with an USB-end that is a bit bigger than most USB-sticks, and it gives you mobile internet without being connected to a wireless or wired network.)  I tried to imagine myself as an EAL student who wouldn't understand that 2 completely different items would have the same word.  Imagine the problems and the confusion they could have with this?  I also imagined myelf as one of these two older men, confused about the technology discourse as much as I would be confused by the technology itself.  So many of the words that we use to describe very specific parts of a computer, equipment, procedures etc. realted to technology are everyday, normal words found in the English dictionary.  Even if you had wanted to find out the difinition of these tech words, you would have to search in a very newly written dictionary.  If that didn't work, one could always do a search online -where you can write in extra words to give the phrase/word in question some context.  However, this also requires the knowledge of the internet and a computer or phone to access the internet. 

This also made me wonder:
Are these terms used wold-wide, and what are these things called in other languages?  Did the Russians /Czecks/Spanish etc. make up completely new words to describe a "thumb drive" or a "mouse", or did they just use words already in their vocabulary to name these technologies?  Did they accept the English term and just say it with an accent? hmm...

This picture doesn't really go with the topic of my blog this week, but felt that it was worth looking at:

(For a larger sized picture, go to and click on the bar above the picture to resize it to it's original.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I-products? I-government? I laugh.

My mom's friend showed me this video a few months ago.  Please watch:

I was reminded of this video recently while thinking about the power of technology and the media.  While these actors use humour, and I-products to question the government's involvment in Iraq and Iran, hopefully this made us all question how we deal with other's properties and their business.  We may not always know what is best for others if we are not already in their shoes.  

This video, found on youtube, is accessible all over the world (unless it has been blocked by certain companies, countries etc) to anyone who wants to view it.  It is named "Irack" and not "Iraq", possibly to cover any immediate or obvious name dropping.  But, using the free site, youtube, and using a company product so well-known around the world, Apple, this video is accessible physically and technically to today's youth.  Although the involvement of North Amerincan governments in the war in Iraq is not too new, it is constant and no longer get placed as top news in our papers and online.  Today's youth may not even know what really happened if they were not old enough to fully understand what happend on 9-11.  This video, using a medium "normal" to youth has explained this uncomfortable subject.

As a second example of how youtube videos have been used to explain and comfortably discuss terrible world issues, please watch this next video:

Although the BP oil spill caused exponentially more problems than a coffee spill, it is funny to watch something so terrible to reduced to a situation which could be so easily fixed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mac vs. PC

This week it became apparent to some of us in the class that we may not be as technically savy as the others.  For one of our assignments this week, we had to create a Podcast using Garageband on the Macs in our computer lab.  A large percentage of my peers throught that this was silly, because they had already used or taught Garageband to their students.  To others, the Garageband program was newer to them, but
 they felt as if a few minutes playing around with it would be sufficient.  However, there were a few of us who had never really become acquainted with Mac computers and therefore had no idea what Garageband could do. 

As a PC person, I like the ability to use whatever hardware or software that I want and have it always work.  I don't want to restrict myself to specific (and expensive) items because they are the only thing that will work with a Mac.  The apple industry is a great industry (where great does not equal good, but big and powerful) that has come up with an excellent plan:  Create a good product, and then make sure that only your products can work with the first product.  Repeat.  A perfect example of this is the itune + ipod phenomenon.  I (wanting the best deal) bought an mp3 player a few years ago that could list all of my songs under all the same categories as an ipod can, and it also had FM radio capabilities.  (It was also cheaper, had a better warranty and the battery could be replaced withouth sending in the whole machine if it were to ever break).  I bought an itunes gift card and purchased many of my favourite albums. When I went to put them on my mp3 player, I quickly found out the problem: I would have to own an ipod to be able to play my itunes purchases.  Great!  Now what?  Since then, itunes and I are no longer friends.  It sits there on my PC and I revisit it only to listen to those few albums which I can't listen to anywhere else than right beside my computer. 

To get back to my original point, I have avoided Macs all my life, and this week I was forced to use one.  They weren't as bad as I had made them out to be in my mind all these years.  Ben and Nathan sat down with Sophia and I during Thursday's class to show us how to use the mouse, the aplications window (is it still a window on a Mac?) and how to use Garageband.  They did an excellent job and actually made me less scared to try something new.  Thanks guys!  However, this is the kind of thing that I wish we were taught IN our teacher and techonology class; HOW do you actually use technology?  It may be common knowledge to some, but it is not for others.

As a teacher, I may have to use one and I will gladly learn how.  The systems are set up well, and I think that everyone enjoys looking at cartoon pictures instead of words for every icon.  I will still never buy one myself...they don't need my money when they're over-charging everyone else in the world.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Second Post (First real one)

"Participants will produce a personal blog and use it to comment on aspects of educational technology...The task is to comment an ony ONE feature of each week's classes."

My topic for today...Powerpoint misuses:

For Tuesday's class, each student (in a small group) had to prepare the worst powerpoint presentation they could possibly make.  Each group was given a specific "fault", but were allowed to expand and use other faults.  My group was given the task of creating a presentation overwhelmed with bells and whistles, sounds and movement.  While presenting the topic, Yoda, titles moved around the screen, sentenses appeared and dissapeared, and sounds took over from the speaker.  All in all, it was a hilariously bad powerpoint, but it made a point.  What are we actually teaching our students when we use technology?  Are we just overwhelming them with extra, unnecessary bells and whistles or are we actually teaching them content? I'm not sure how many of my classmates remember that our presentation was about Yoda, and if they do, how many of them remember what facts I presented to them.  As teachers, we need to make sure that our subject area and our lesson does not get overrun by the use of technology for the sake of technology.

Death by powerpoint:


Thursday, January 6, 2011

First post

Hello all,
Welcome to my first blog ever.  Not sure how this will go, but we all have to start somewhere I guess. Our second assignment for the Teacher and Technology course at the U of M is to create a blog and to continue updating it throughout the term.