Instructional Technology: Approach with (Healthy) Caution

In his insightful speech to a 1998 world on the cusp of the explosion of the Tech Age, American philosopher Neil Postman presented his five basic ideas on the concept of technological change. Even though his talk is now nearly 20 years old, his ideas (warnings, really) still ring true for us who lead the charge of integrating technology into all areas of the curriculum...

{Click over to the American Associations of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog to read the original post}


The Glass Cage


I'm over a year into my work toward a PhD and one of my favorite classes so far has been one that focused on the blend of two of my favorite academic-y things: books and technology. In this case it was a focus on reading books about technology, an area in which my curiosity is completely insatiable. Although several of the books I read for this particular class shared a common theme, each served a uniquely individual focus point in the realm of ethics and technology.

The Glass Cage, a very well-written book by Nicholas Carr, first scared the hooey out of me because it includes excruciating details about all the ways automation can fail...starting and ending with the number of plane crashes that have been caused by autopilot. He talks about pilots' loss of life-saving fine motor skills due to automation, and compares that to the evolution of society we see trending as a byproduct of mass outsourcing and automation. It's brilliant, fascinating, terrifying stuff. 

Carr prompts readers to embrace that which makes us uniquely human. He writes that “The trouble with automation is that it often gives us what we don’t need at the cost of what we do” (pg. 14). Of all the sentiments I’ve read and considered about automation specifically as it relates to the impact on humanity, this statement is one of the best that resonates with me. 

As an instructional technology advocate, this book and others like it are a great anchor for reflective - and therefore effective - use of instructional technology. 

Carr, N. (2015). The glass cage: How our computers are changing us, 1st Ed.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology

For addicts, managing triggers is an important part of being able to avoid relapse. For technology addicts, however, it can be nearly impossible to manage an unhealthy dependency on technology in the same way as other obsessions. This infographic (an assignment for one of my graduate classes) explains how technology has ushered in an entirely new sort of behavioral addiction.

The real question is...what are we going to do about it? Being addicted to our devices is a common problem in today's information age. Healthy solutions to a growing problem is an important conversation for everyone, but especially for parents and educators. 



Getting Started with 3D Printing

When the Makerspace movement began spreading a few years ago, I was one of those people who was under the misconception that you couldn’t call it a Makerspace if you didn’t have a 3D printer. At that point in time a 3D printer might as well have been the moon itself, and so I supposed that the whole Makerspace thing just wasn’t within my (or my students’) grasp...

{Catch the rest of this post at the American Association of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog}

Kindle Convert

I have looked at these eReader devices for years, and kept changing my mind on what I thought about them. I love books, obviously, but I also love technology. You would think that blending these two worlds would be so exciting for me, but the truth is that for a long time I wanted nothing to do with eReaders. My hesitance has always been rooted in the fact that it isn't just that I love to read, I love the experience of reading books.

I like to feel the books in the store or library. I like to run my fingers across the front cover, and examine the pages for texture and weight. I enjoy using odds and ends for bookmarks...playing cards, pictures, receipts, actual bookmarks, etc. I like the smell of a new book, and I really love the crrraaack of a new book that has never been touched or opened or held by another person. Books are beautiful. They are my most favorite decorative accent in our home. Books are filled with descriptions of places I'll never see and people I'll never meet. They lead me to reconsider or affirm the way I think about things in the world.

I love the feeling of walking into Barnes & Noble, or a public library, or my school library. Each and every single time, there is a feeling that washes over me and I usually don't think about it but I know that I love it. Do you know what that feeling is? Potential. I love knowing that books change people's perspectives and enable us to evolve and grow throughout this life simply by what we learn from them.

Some impending travels abroad (the length of which we are not entirely certain) led me to seriously consider purchasing an eReader. For at least a year I've carefully been reading reviews, watching comparison clips, and talking to my Twitterverse about their experiences and preferences. Finally, one day it happened. I bought a Kindle. And a screen protector. And a cute little pink case to keep it in.

Here's what I think so far...

The Kindle, even right out of the box, is not difficult to operate. Finding books, buying them (or in my case, downloading the free ones), and reading them is snappy. As a friend put it, it is "dangerously easy" to buy books now.

At first, it seemed that the Kindle was almost too small. Too fragile. Too un-book-like. I missed the comforting swoosh of the turning page. Now, all I get is an ever so slight click when I press the "next page" button. The clicking bothered me at first, but I have grown accustomed to it. About a week into my new life as a Kindle owner, I was uber-excited just to have this awesome new device. About 3 weeks into it I really started paying attention to the bells and whistles of the Kindle interface, and began to have some questions about maximizing this resource as a Mega Reader. We're going on about 6 weeks of our new life together, and I'm ready to seal the deal and get her engraved. :)

My favorite aspects of the Kindle:
-ease in downloading books
-compact size
-l-o-n-g battery life
-easy on the eyes (I held out a long time for the iPad because I wanted a back-lit eReader I could use on the plane, in bed, etc. but I love that the paper-like display is much gentler on my tormented eyes than a computer-like device would be)
-seamless synchronization of my Amazon account across my Kindle, my computer, and my Kindle iPhone app. I can pick up on my phone where I left off on my Kindle, and vice versa.
-easy to search the full text of a book
-physically easy to read; you don't have to worry about losing your place (or losing the bookmark that is holding your place), and you also don't have to worry about propping up a heavy book or having the pages fall over if you're reading in bed
-global wi-fi and 3G
-faster reading
-dictionary reference
-books are cheaper than in print format (a typical new release might be $20 even with a discount in stores; from the Amazon Kindle store it is usually at least half that, sometimes less)
-you can easily view an indexed list of all your notes, highlights, and bookmarks. That is not something you can do with any printed book.
-you can easily share books with a fellow Kindle owner via your Amazon accounts

My least favorite aspects of the Kindle (and possibly of eReaders in general):
-there is no page number! All I get is a percentage, or a position (like 2345 out of 10976...Amazon should know that generally speaking, math is highly offensive to the community of serious readers). There are dots across the bottom which show me how far I am away from the next chapter, and I love that. Still. I want to know how many pages I'm reading. This is the one element I truly dislike, and I don't see myself getting used to it either. Page numbers, Amazon. Page numbers!
-it is not easy to make notes. Possible, yes. Easy, no. You have to depress each letter button at a time (not typing, more like texting), and entering a thought or a note requires some time and effort. I'd rather just write in a book.
-Amazon pushes through software updates wirelessly, and you aren't notified. About a week into it I grew a tiny bit frustrated because I could not navigate back to settings I remembered when I first explored the Kindle. Another friend was checking it out and asking questions that I thought I knew the answer to but suddenly could not find what I needed. I sent an email to the Kindle support team at Amazon, and they quickly responded that a software update had been pushed through, which had altered some of my options on the Home screen. Would have been nice to know...
-twice in the last month I've had issues with the wireless connection. I'm still trying to figure out if that has something to do with my settings or if it is a glitch. It's definitely time for another email to the Magnifico Kindle Support Team.
-when I highlight a note that extends to the next page, the cursor easily runs away from me, and usually only appears to highlight the last few words in the sentence, making me think I've skipped the rest by accident
-no color, no pictures other than black and white cover art
-you cannot borrow books electronically from the local library

The screen protection shield was the only $6 I regret from this purchase. It would never go on without leaving my screen filled with polka dot bubbles (and yes, I did follow the application directions), and I finally chucked it. The cute little pink case I chose is the leather one with a soft fluffy cushioned interior, and I think it grows even cuter and pinker every single day.

I strongly believe that printed books will always be a vital part of our society, but I like the option of having them in digital format. The debate should not be electronic or print. It should be the availability of electronic AND print. More on that another day.

I plan to add posts in the future that deal specifically with the Kindle and its relevance in the reading world.

For now...hi, I'm Michelle. And I'm a Kindle convert. :)

Considering an eReader? These sites helped me make my choice: