Monday, July 16, 2012

EDUC 504 Class #2 Reflections: A New Normalcy

·       1920: Post World War I, Warren G. Harding runs a presidential campaign on the slogan of, “A Return to Normalcy”

·       2012: U of M student (never gets old hearing that) Ryan Said contemplates the “New Normalcy” that is the 21st century grade school learner.

[Yes…the two topics are not even close (or are they?) but “normalcy” is a fun word to use.]

There were two parts to class today.  Both parts were great.  The dynamic of the second part got me thinking.  But first, a few lines on Part I.

I was with the Math cohort and our assigned librarian/media expert was Ms. Laurie Olmstead.  Aside from the work we did, Laurie was a wealth of information on teaching practices in general.  I learned a lot from her today.  (Kristin, Jeff…keep this part of the class!)

Lakeza, Katherine, Katie, Pete, Mike, and I spent the full two-and-a-half hours working on our project.  In the end we were pretty satisfied with our final product. 

The biggest thing I took away from the project was ideas of the others in the group about how to present the material.  Some of it I had thought about before, some of it I had not.  All of us had pretty good ideas to contribute.  Laurie tried to impress upon us the importance of having similar meetings once we get into our teaching careers.  She said that, unfortunately, they are not that common, but to push for them.  I can clearly see the value in this type of group lesson planning.

In part II of class we made podcasts.  It was fun and not too difficult. 

For any fans of The Dark Knight, check out my grand five-second podcast called, “Kill the Batman.” (July 20th is only a few days away!!)

Thinking a little bigger, both in this class and in the last class, I found in myself a “first impulse” that I will only describe as some kind of “anxiety” toward all of this technology.

Anyone agree? (I read I lot of the first blogs…I know you’re out there!)

I’m getting over the anxiety, but I won’t say it’s not there.  I suspect many in our class feel the same way.

Conjecture #1
My conjecture on the reason behind this initial anxiety impulse is not that we (I) am opposed to technology, or even learning technology, but rather questioning if we will be able to master it and utilize it to the satisfaction of our future students.

I had no problem creating a blog last session.  I had no issues making an mp3 and creating a podcast in the recent session.  But it’s another demand on my teaching if I have to not only use this technology, but also really master it to do the best job I can for my students.  Run a blog, create podcasts, utilize Google docs (and similar formats), utilize video technology…oh yeah, and grade regular papers, prepare lesson plans, deal with parents…the list goes on. 

While technology clearly gives us more formats to educate more effectively, it also clearly places more demands on teachers. 

What to do?

Well, I think the answer might be simple.  Sink or swim.  Get over ourselves and, “just do it” (Nike, 1988). [Note my clever use of APA format.]

Conjecture #2
Here is the New Normalcy: our students posses a different mindset about technology than we do.  Learning and using new technology is a way of life for them.  It is “normal.”  Yes, they have to learn it just like we do, but they don’t view it as this radical new expectation.  Again, they have a different mindset.  We need to get it.  We can stay on the outside looking in, or we can open the door and get in there with them.

Not saying it’s easy…

I think our recent reading from Willingham (2009) for Rachel’s class sums up part of the problem nicely:

Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not designed for thinking.  It’s designed to save you from having to think.” (pg. 3) [More APA just for fun…which is a joke…because APA is not fun.]

One of my recent favorite reads is a book called, What Makes the Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by David DiSalvo.  (Click the link for an excerpt.)  DiSalvo makes similar claims to Willingham.  Our brain craves, above all else, and even to its own destruction, stability.  Stability, stability, stability.  Learning new things, especially when they possess large unknown quantities as technology seems to do, threatens the stability of the brain, thus our initial anxiety impulse (or at least mine). 

Here’s the deal though, our students are not threatened by technology.  It is not an unknown quantity to them.

Which leaves us with a decision…

Agree / disagree?  Let’s have it!


  1. I agree folks are anxious about the tech. I've commented on a couple of other blogs about it, and I'd been thinking I'd said enough. But now I'm thinking maybe I should be a gadfly or cheerleader for tech. I'm sure DiSalvo is at least partially correct about the instability of tech causing anxiety. On the other hand, there are clearly many millions of people who embrace it. And may I say, not all of them are young? I'm pretty sure I bought my first Mac before 1/2 the class was born. Of course, as a software developer, I was surrounded by people that constantly tried out the latest software and gadgets, so it stayed in my blood. But I've also found it very satisfying to do things others are uncomfortable with. I like to think it's growth.

  2. I agree that we must adapt a new mindset towards technology. To your already sound reasoning I would add the following as implicit motivation for those of us (me) who hesitate to step into the cyber-arena:

    It's not just the students who have a new mindset towards technology, it is the world. As educators, we must keep up with what is REALLY going on. As individuals we should stay abreast of technology, it will run our lives someday, to some extent, it already does.

    As and educator and as a 21st century adult, I understand that it in my best interest to keep up with technology. I understand that I must "get over it" or eventually get run over by it. I know that quite a fews students are already light years ahead of me in using technology and my new mindset is "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

    How's that for a new "normal".

  3. It is here to stay and nothing we can do about it. Now we need to figure out how to use it to make the most of the educational process. I am always amazed when my 9 year old knows more about the computer than I do. Don't worry Dad, I will take care of that is her usual answer...In school kids know how to use the technology, but stepping back to Jeff and Kritin's assertion that students do not program, they just use is so true. Even with that, they still do not fully understand what is going on. I have spent many a day at a school working with the technology to help a student and found myself pointing them into the direction of one who knows how to use it already.

    I am very timid with the technology but also very excited! I am very eager to learn more and use as much as I can!

    So basically, I guess I agree!

  4. I have a lot of random thoughts about your posting, so this might be a little choppy...

    I liked that your librarian discussed the importance of having collaborative meetings with your colleagues in the future. My group didn't get a chance to discuss this at all and I really hadn't thought of it...but it's a great thing to keep in mind. I'm curious--did she say why this doesn't happen more often, or in which disciplines it is most/least common?

    I definitely share your sense of anxiety about technology. I grew up using technology on a regular basis, so it isn't that I'm worried about learning it, rather, I'm worried about whether or not I will use it in an effective way. I feel like there are too many resources online. I'm having trouble keeping track of all my accounts/remembering what websites do which thing! I'm also scared of being judged by my colleagues once I do get a job. In our most recent class someone asked the guest speaker if he was met with criticism from his colleagues after using Angry Birds in a math lesson. I was wondering the same thing! Even though he said he wasn't, I'm not sure that all teachers would respond positively to seeing novice teachers doing new things. Maybe I'm just cynical.

    I love your sense of optimism about the use of technology! :)