Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Okay, I am having a hard time admitting it to myself but I think I am a digital immigrant. My dad had an apple when I was 2 or 3 and I used to play with word processors, spreadsheets, and data bases for fun way back before we had "the internet." So in taking in all of this info on what is really out there (the billions of pieces of information organized in truly a spiderweb format) I am having a hard time making sense of it. I like information that is delivered in an organized manner whether outlined with some heirarchy or the basic top to bottom and left to right style. That way, I know how to organize it in my head and store it for future reference. I am really struggling with "getting" all of this, or at least most of it.
I jumped with excitement when I heard that there is a book called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom by Will Richardson and felt guilty to share it since it seems to go against what we are trying to learn, i.e. books are out, webstuff is in.
My question is this: if I learned certain ways to take in data and organize it so that I can have this "background knowledge" that is so important for the capacity to learn, what are today's students doing? Are they struggling to make sense without the filing system in their heads that I learned? Are they doing just fine and it's me who is stuggling to make sense of it because it is so different from my experiences?
Ruby Payne's book references children who were barely read to have not learned to collect data in an organized manner, i.e. top to bottom and left to right. So without that system, even walking into a busy room causes their eyes to dart around and they could miss important observations, not to mention be overwhelmed. This is how I feel when I look at some webpages. Are today's students who are moving away from books going to miss that basic data collection/processing system that we all take for granted? Does this need to be directly taught at some point? Does anyone know of any references (either books or websites) that address helping students make sense and organize data in the digital formats of 2007?


Joseph Miller said...


Challenging post for all of us to consider. I think many people are probably experiencing a similar discomfort with the "organization" of the web and how to best reach the students that were raised on the web.

There is no doubt that organization, expecially with respect to data and data analysis will need to be specifically taught. This is an essential skill for success in the 21st century regardless of the organization of the web. However, what might be interesting is to teach this in a context that students will be inherently attracted to. The current web is routinely referred to as Web 2.0 or the social web. What if you used something like Many Eyes (social data analysis tool) to analyze data in a collaborative sense. There is no doubt students would learn how to visualize information in an organized fashion, but they would learn it in a social context.

At any rate, one of the things I have seen in great teachers is their ability to change as needed to meet the needs of all their students. I think this may be one of those situations where change is so rapid that we are all going to be challenged on a daily basis to adapt. What do you think?

Protsman said...

Agreeing with Joe, this is a tough question. The idea of a student using the web to learn in a social setting and that they may not have the organizational skills to compact and decipher all that overwhelming information is going to be a difficult arena for teachers.

I think Joe Miller's comment on the first day of training about the new colorado tech company needing critical thinkers that can communicate their ideas and that of others to be the new direction for teachers. The difficulty is heading in that direction and trying to meet the requirements of standardized testing.

jmtnguitar said...


It is amazing what can happen here this summer. Lately I have been both inspired and overwhelmed with the amount of information. I am needing to take it nice and slow and GOOD. I am most intrigued with what the visual and audio 'hooks' can provide with technology.
Collaboration might just be amazing this year.

Stewart said...

This is stuff I have been really wrestling with, partly because I feel extra sensitive to the changes in the world due to my son. I want to do him right. I have been emersing him with books, but I don't want to be neglecting technology. I guess like everything, it is finding the balance.

Joseph Miller said...


Fostering a love of old and new is essential with our children and students. One of the things my son is obsessed with is the Magic School bus...both the books and the videos. The videos are all available in United Streaming. So far the technology (videos) and the books have worked together successfully. I hope this continues to work.


Izzy said...

I feel as I grew up in the "Nintendo" generation and all those hours of playing video games is finally paying off. Mom was wrong, it didn't make me dumber!!!

The idea of all this organizing info and learning how to use web pages just seems to me like learning to play a new video game. For our students who are into the PS2 and PSPs and ipods and text messaging cell phones, I feel this technology is a quicker thing for them to "understand" and "accept" than we might think. These students are used to just pushing buttons and seeing results on a screen.
I 100% feel we can NOT loose touch with books, writing notes, and personal interaction, but it is something that slowly will be phased out simply because computers somehow catches their attention.

TDeaguero said...

I don't think "discomfort" is the word I would use in this situation. I was uncomfortable when I was trying to explore in the blogosphere with my dial-up internet connection on a computer running Windows 98. In fact I was downright miserable. These tools we have now are awesome. But the best part about being part of the Global Learners project is the collaboration I see happening with an incredibly talented group of educators.
I don't think that helping students "make sense" of the technology and web-based resources will be any more of an issue than teaching them the fundamental concepts of algebra. Haven't math teachers been trying to fit square pegs into round holes for several hundred years? "Just do it this way because it works..." I don't disagree with Ruby Payne about the need for activating background knowledge, but not all learners are logical/sequential thinkers like most math teachers are. If anything, the world-wide web will allow us to reach more of those "outside of the box" thinkers we always have in our classrooms. Their filing systems are different than ours. Is it possible we are witnessing an evolution in brain power and thinking ability in parallel to the growth of the internet?

Dave Tarwater said...

Your post brought to mind an article published by Marc Prensky back in 2001, Digital Natives - Digital Immigrants. I consider myself an "old guy" who early on as a business person and later as an educator became intrigued with the digital world. For many years I have tried to keep up with the rapid changes. As Prensky stated in his article compared to the "Natives" I still have and will always have an "accent". While it is a struggle, I am convinced it is a worthwhile process to blend my old think with the digital natives new think - we will all come out as winners and have great experiences along the way. You can read Marc Prensky at:

Jeremy Schriner said...

Spiderman-"Successfully Walking the Web"
I am also overwhelmed at not only the immense amount of information available today, but also the way in which it is organized. I think the word “web” is quite appropriate, one bit of information leads to another which leads to another, etc, etc, etc…. It is real easy to to get tangled up in all of it, or at least very off task from the original intent of my internet search.
Although I am not an expert on the subject, one of the topics I really enjoy reading about is cognition (how the brain processes information). Granted each persons brain works differently, but according to the research of Tony Buzan (1993) and Antonio Damasio (1994) the brain usually stores information in the form of colorful pictures, symbols, sounds, and feelings. When a bit of information is “needed” the brain sorts through the billions of bits of information to find what is needed. The brain sometimes links bits of information (colors, feelings, smells, sounds, etc) together that may seem to have virtually no linear relationship to one another. Each bit of information is linked to other bits of information. The more connections a bit of information has the more easily it is recalled. This may in part explain why all of sudden the “random” memory of an acquaintance or experience may suddenly pop into ones head. Something as seemingly insignificant as a smell or background noise may “trigger” a distant memory.
As for the speed at which our students’ brains are able to process information, I don’t think we need worry. We typically speak 200-300 words/ minute. The brain can process language upwards of 600-800 words / minute. Consequently, during long linear lectures our students’ brains fill in the lag time with “more interesting” information such as: what they are doing this weekend, who likes who, the lyrics from 50Cent, etc, etc. For better or worse our students brains are working 2-4 times faster than we can possibly talk. Even the most interesting and engaging lecture only can not possibly keep even a motivated learner (those who concentrate on learning the content presented) on task all the time. I guess what I am trying to say is that the advantage of using technology, particularly the internet is that the bits of information “organized” into a network or web of ideas that seems to be organized in much the same way and speed at which the brain works.
Just as Regina mentioned, the challenge then becomes providing our students with the tools, skills, graphic organizers, and direction to not get tangled-up in the web of information that is available on the web. One of my first experiences with technology in the classroom was taking the kids to the computer lab to “research”. I thought going into it that I had a solid lesson plan and had given each student a topic to research and some key points to look for, and even a few websites to search. Needless to say it was not exactly the incredible learning experience I had hoped for. In subsequent lessons I created better instructions and graphic organizers to help students’ stay on task and on target. Like Regina, I am also somewhat sequential in my learning style and really began to enjoy technology when I started organizing my documents in folders and sub folders and saving websites to folders and subfolders (for me it added order to the confusing web of information). I am exited to learn more about other resources for graphic organizers, and tools to aid in the use of technology to learn Science. I thought the training on Schoolkit was very useful and just what I have been looking for. I am looking for more ways to help students’ walk the web of the internet without getting tangled up in stuff that is seemingly more interesting than cell division and the water cycle.

Tonia Johnson said...

As educators, I think it is important to "meet the kids where they are at." I think we are all reluctant to do so and feel some of this agony as we pull ourselves there. But, they have to be prepared to network, communicate, and use critical thinking skills in a world that is in constant flux. If we refuse to "meet" them there we are doing a disservice to our own future.
We should stop fighting MYSPACE, text messages and YOU TUBE and instead make these learning experiences. This is where they are and this is where the future is taking off from. We can't continue to try to get them to learn one-dimensionally in a four-dimensional world!
At the very least, its too hard to fight this anymore. We either need to step up and use it or we're going to lose them.

Kelly Schwichtenberg said...

The beginning of first grade tends to be a huge struggle to get students to listen to a read-aloud. Several students are not read to at home and thus they don't know how to behave when someone is reading to them (similar to etiquette in public at restaurants and movie theaters). The first three to four weeks of school is showing some young students how to hold a book, treat a book and follow the text left to right.
My students are now really into reading about "Jack and Annie", which are the characters from "The Magic Tree House" series. When I'm back in the class I plan to use some of our great technology to further engage them in the geography and social studies aspects from this series of books. I also agree with other authors that we cannot "get rid" of books and I look forward to collaborating with everyone on what it looks like to find a balance with technology and reading.

Anonymous said...

Change is part of this process, our students may not collect and structure data the "traditional" way but differently. That is why we must keep up on this technology, to understand how they are learning. At this point, students should not be adapting to our teaching styles, but us to theirs.