Sunday, October 5, 2014

Journal Reflection #3

Sansing, C. (2014). On Net Neutrality. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 14-15.

     This article explains what Net Neutrality is exactly and how it effects schools.  "'Net neutrality' describes an internet that passes along all bits of information at an equal rate" (Sansing, 2014).  However, no net neutrality means that service providers can slow down incoming information by throttling the web site and it can throttle the other way to speed other sites up.  This presents a problem when we are dealing with intellectual freedom.  
     Sansing brings up four concerns of how not having an open internet can effect our students.  The first piece is political, which connects to the last article I wrote.  What happens when the large publishing group and the large service provider decides to team up?  Will information from any of the competitors ever be reaching our students?  Will they have the ability to look at multiple sources to  decide reliability on their own?  Or will time constraints make them choose where to go?
     The second concern is censorship and as a librarian who believes in the freedom of speech, reading, and speaking, this really made me think.  Will schools state that the network is open, but instead of filtering sites will we discover that instead the information is being throttled?
     Standardization of schooling and the hand the corporations have in it is a third concern.  Will we be forced to engage with product (Sansing, 2014) instead of with our peers?  If more money is being spent on a specific site that is not being throttled, will we be highly encouraged to use that website?
     Lastly, are we teaching students what can actually be done on the internet in a way that challenges how they think?  If we buy certain products and services and we use only those, how do we justify teaching, showing, and experimenting with things that are not in that box?  If learning becomes too focused than what we show them and what we do becomes too rigid and we never have to ability to let them see outside that internet box we created.   
     Sansing brings up some great thoughts on why net neutrality is so important to teach students to express themselves as well as to think for themselves.

     I think my favorite quote in this article, by far was "Helping kids do inquiry-based research on a controversial issue is not the same as being free to do those things." (Sansing, 2014).  I feel so strongly about taking chances and learning.  To read about something that makes you uncomfortable gives you the opportunity to really make a decision about it.  In fact, an old professor told me that at least 25% of your library collection should make you uncomfortable.  I believe in that.  So, in theory, 25% of what we let kids research on the internet should make us uncomfortable as well.  In my school we do a large debate project that does focus on topics that are controversial.  It is important to guide them through this process to gather the proper information.  As this is being done, we must let them explore all kinds of sources without having the website on abortion throttled.  The freedom to learn should not come at a cost.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Journal Reflection #2

Watters, A. (2014). How Will the Ed-Tech Industry Shape Student Reading? Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 16-21. 

     In the discussion about the education technology industry and how that effects student reading, attentions were brought into how much business and politics played a hand into education.
     Watters (2014) firsts discusses the business side where investments in education-technology companies were higher than $559 million in just the first quarter.  She discusses how this impacts companies that deal with education children in the K-12 format, to college levels, and even professional education.  This is not limited to curriculum based companies.  However, Watters (2014) points out that it is a growing market, regardless.  The reason for this large number ranges from hardware (devices) to software (cloud storage).
     The politics side also had some interesting points.  Strongly focusing on the introduction of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) she points out how schools will be required to purchase aligned materials, such as textbooks and assessment pieces, however, these things can be purchased digitally and that is also a plus in the dollars of tech-ed.  Common Core will also require online assessments which will increase hardware purchasing.  The most interesting piece however, in the political side seems to be the rationale for buying all this technology and equipment in favor of something like CCSS which will prove to make students learn more and to do it faster and better (Watters, 2014).  Because of this CCSS is considered a bonus in the world of ed-tech.
     It seems that reading tends to take a back seat when dispersing funds.  With money going to CC and, because of that, math programs, literacy software seems to be lacking.  CC focuses most of the literary power to the Lexile Framework.  A program which measures text complexity, Lexile tends to be used to lead students away from books because it may be below or above their level.  Many have found this to be disparaging to readers, especially since a recent article by Blaine Greteman from The University of Iowa pointed out that the Lexile Framework has Slaughterhouse Five as less complex than Mr. Popper's Penguins (Watters, 2014).
     Even more frustrating is how is still used and valued.  Because of this, software design will use algorithms and numbers to give reading assignments to students instead of using "human-based recommendations" (Watters, 2014) This will also steer them away from what may interest them and lead them to what the computer thinks they can handle, regardless of content.  
     The questions is brought up as librarians, how do we work with this and realize that the decisions being made are not always what is best for the students but what is profitable.

     This article fascinated me.  Not because I fear that technology and reading don't mix, but because I am always surprised at how people just jump on a bandwagon without really thinking things through.  I always have arguments about how we need to see if things are really working for our students before we just jump and buy the program, because at the end of the day, these companies just want to make money.  The Lexile Framework is a great example of this.  I hate this program.  Very much.  Not because I don't think it provides a good starting point, especially for lower level readers, but because it is always used incorrectly.  It is seen as the final word, the bible of decisions and that is where the problem is.  The article had a great example, but that is just the beginning.  It happens with many books.  Of Mice and Men has a lower lexile than Twilight.  Because Lexile has no reference for content.  That is where the needs of human interaction come into play.  I know that I can give my 7th grade reader, who may be struggling with complex sentences, Twilight because the interest will push her and the content is easy to follow so the only struggle will be the wording.  If I give this same reader Of Mice and Men, she won't even try and I have failed her.  
     The fact that so much money goes into things that are not really working and that so many oft hem are mandated by the state is very frustrating.  However, what is the most frustrating of all is when smart, educated people follow it blindly.