Don’t forget to listen to the podcast and fill out the worksheet, have a good weekend!

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Have you heard about the podcast? It’s actually not that new of a concept. Podcasts’ emerged in the 90s when bloggers would record themselves working on a project, reading a book, or just venting and then post the mp3 file to their pages. Today, we know podcasts as being a  “digital media file” that can be found primarily online. To play a podcast, one must use a computer or a media device such as an iPod, choose the subject or object you want to listen to and off you go. Think of it as a book on tape- just perhaps not as long. In addition to sound, podcasts can include images to enhance its usability.

ImageThe article that has sparked my imagination discussed the usage of podcasts at the university level, where, many professors are utilizing the podcast technology to better the learning environment for their students. The technology is being adapted for students in the classroom and those who are taking online courses. At PoducateMe.com, an evaluation done at Duke University found that students who were using podcasts became increasingly more engaged and interested in class discussions. The website also includes an informational guide, meant for teachers, on creating one of their own.

 I then began to think about how our K-12 group could utilize this trend in our Magic Backpack project. Our plan, among other things, was to move teachers from the classrooms into this virtual classroom realm. An option to make use of podcasting could be an archive. In this archive, podcasts could be made available on an array of subjects that the curriculum doesn’t go in depth on. For example, under History, there could be a podcast on an old wives tale or unsolved mystery regarding the topic of the Civil War. Another example could be a sample piece of literature like an assigned poem or Shakespeare piece-which in its own right is rather challenging to read. The podcasts would also serve as an additional reinforcement tool on the lessons of that day/week. By including the lesson in addition to these other extra files, we are extending an arm of information to students who don’t share the same “classroom.” Again, this reinforces the concept of shared communication and a shared communal classroom. Podcasts could even include tutorials on using specialized resources in the Magic Backpack. For example if a new tool were to be introduced on the site, it would be simple to just listen to the podcast and follow the instructions on how to navigate through it. This would also benefit students who may be using this particular kind of software for the first time.

Because our project idea is almost entirely located in the digital sphere, it is really important that we utilize tools that make communication, learning, listening, and reading, simpler. Podcasting as well other utilities together can create a pretty unique classroom setting.



Teachers and Standards- Before the Internet

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In order to cover what is undoubtedly a tremendous amount of information to sift through, our team had decided to break K-12 education down into the following 5 pillars:

1. Tools of the Trade/Hardware

2. Teachers and Standards

3. European Influence

4. Race Issues

5. Public vs. Private Economies

Regarding the above pillars, we also concluded that our research would focus on the area of public education beginning from the early 1800s… in other words, the pre-internet days of education. The particular section I was assigned to research was the one titled “Teachers and Standards.” The main question that needed to be asked was, “how have teachers changed, both in their qualifications and teaching methods since the days of the one-room school house?”

As I delved through academic journals and websites I seemed to only be finding bits and pieces of what I was looking for and it was only filling a minuet portion of my education timeline. It was only when I broadened my search to the “history of education in America” that I found what I was looking for. Among one of the most helpful websites I discovered was that of PBS.org. It seems that one must look at the changing characteristics of the K-12 classroom in order to discover what the requirements were to be a teacher during the earliest days of schooling. In other words, as the environment of the classroom changed, so did the qualifications of the teacher.

The earliest indications of schooling began in the 1600s when the sole subject taught was on Protestantism. This is relevant to mention because teachers during this time were primarily men, which later would change. In the 1800s, schoolteachers had very little educational backgrounds. In fact, according to James Carter, an education reformer in the 1820s, teachers had rarely any education beyond what they had learned in the very schools they had to teach in. Interestingly, in the rural schoolrooms of America, it wasn’t unusual to find a local farmer teaching the class. During the nineteenth century, the American schoolhouse often consisted of one-room where students of various ages would come together to be taught by one teacher. Interestingly, the singular teacher responsible for the education of these students was often an unmarried woman who could very well be younger than some of the students she taught (PBS.org). The early school curriculum consisted of few subject. They primarily consisted of math, writing and reading. Teachers also made it a point to teach young students good manners. Misbehaving in the classroom was obviously unacceptable. As the American education system progressed, teachers were forced to adapt to the societal changes as well. In the 1950s, segregation and social inequality plagued schools and created a rift in the educational system. Teachers became more than educators, they became political activists as well. At the conclusion of our timeline we find educators adapting to the cutting edge tools that are defining our classrooms and helping to pave the way for education in the 21st century.

Living In A Technology World

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Several years ago, 2005 I believe, I took a trip to India to visit my dad who was there on business. With the world’s second largest population coming in well over a million people, it put the chaos of NYC streets to shame. During my visit, my father and I went to see the Taj Mahal up in Agra, which was a quick commuter flight away. The plane was filled with suits and other business types traveling for work- much like what fills a Southwest Airlines flight during the weekday. In American aviation we know there are strict rules regarding the use of electronic devices before take-off and around landing time. The case was no different on Jet Airways. However, what happened as soon as the wheels hit the runway at our destination was something that I had not ever seen before. I began hearing the sounds of phones, palm pilots, and who knows what else turning on. I heard “Hello Motto” and those weird spacey chimes Sprint uses. As I looked around, the plane was full of nearly everyone turning his or her devices on, essentially at the exact same time. I found the situation to be rather humorous because I felt a sense of urgency in everyone needing to be connected to his or her devices, asap. That kind of urgency on an airplane is only witnessed when oxygen masks fall from the ceiling!

Fast forward a bunch of years to present day where this scene has become routine and common in the lives of most around the world, especially with Americans. Communication scholar Marshall McLuhan referred to this kind of media as an, “extension of man.” Just like an arm or a leg, our usage of media devices have become a part of our lives, and they are necessary to create virtual communities and the like.

In our school systems, middle and high school teachers are becoming increasingly more aware of the growing trend in technology and its presence in every child’s backpack. With rules restricting their usage during school hours, is it just a matter of time before they become integrated into coursework? When Howard Rheingold was in Tokyo, he spoke with Kenny Hirschhorn a chief strategist for a telecomm company called Orange. He told Rheingold to think of the mobile telephone as, “evolving into a ‘remote control for your life’,” (pg. 11).  He, Hirschhorn, then retrieved a soda from a company machine using his phone.

The question I’m asking here is could this kind of technology be integrated into schools, and if so would it fly with teachers? At present, most in school see a phone or iPad as a distraction during school hours. Some schools with an Internet connection block access to social media sites to prevent students from getting “distracted.” But what if select classes encouraged their usage? A class that teaches young scholars how to work with blogs and stay connected with worldly happenings on Twitter. Ask a young student who the Vice President currently is and I bet you get some puzzled looks. If technological devices are becoming increasingly more common, then we might as well teach Millennial’s how to appropriately use it and toward a good purpose.

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RIP A Remix Manifesto documents the changing theme of copyright infringement in the new era craze of remixing and mash-up. Above all the arguments discussed in the film, and above the historical implications found throughout Information Feudalism, exist the most important words spoken by Brazil’s former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil:

“Sharing is the nature of creation.”

The latter half of the documentary, RIP A Remix Manifesto, focuses on the work of Walt Disney. A giant in the media industry, Disney keeps its creations and ideas under tight control and goes after anyone who shows signs of “stealing” their material. But it became very interesting when we learned that Mr. Disney himself fashioned his films like Cinderella and Snow White after old, pre-existing tales of the same characters. He just gave them color, a voice and that Disney magic stuff, and the rest is history. Even Mickey Mouse’ early existence as Steamboat Willie stemmed from the existing character of a similar name, Steamboat Bill Jr, played by Buster Keaton. Sharing = Creation

Evidence exists that as we have grown and evolved, we have built on what was present in the past and used it in our now. Sound mixing is just one of the many examples of this. But how does this affect the most prized establishment in our country, education? As children, we learn to be creative from what we have already observed. We see Britney Spears dance on TV and the next thing you know, we’re in our living rooms taking some of her dance steps and mixing them with whatever moves us and BAM! creative dancing. Imitation, which also encompasses the notion of sharing, is often done in the classroom setting. When investors and media moguls take away the bits and pieces that have made up our culture, the ability to progress and evolve becomes halted.

The matter regarding copyrighted material has proved to be an overly complicated one that officials dealing with it don’t even want to get into. It appears that they just settle with what they have always done and end it there. The argument that was made regarding artists like Girl Talk was that they (mixers) are not being creative; they are using someone else’s creativity and work and calling it their own. Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, is making an effort to educate the world about the very idea that we create by sharing, and when we don’t, we are literally halting our ability to discover new and even beneficial devices. Kids in an art class told to create their own monster’s out of Play-Dough, could be sued because Disney and Pixar came out with a film called Monsters Inc. in 2001 and recreating a monster treads on their film characters. Laws could become this absurd if a common agreement isn’t reached.

Educating the future at an early age about what is acceptable and what isn’t is a start. Selling an album that uses the work of another artist, without their consent is illegal. Creating doesn’t have to be illegal and I believe there to be a happy medium that can be reached to please all parties.

By. Sarah Crowe