If Fifth Graders Can Go Paperless…

It’s been a busy two weeks without much time to blog here, but a link to this article from NCTE’s Inbox caught my eye. This fall, I have been pushing friends and colleagues to go paperless with free and open source applications, like Google Docs, and even though this isn’t quite the same, seeing that fifth graders can do it makes me wonder if everyone will be going this route soon.

When she assigns students a report on Civil War heroes, the students take off on their own using Web sites like Google and Dogpile to do research, cutting and pasting photographs into documents and saving their work on floppy disks.”Instead of writing with a paper and pencil and your hand getting tired, we can do it on a computer,” said Robert Toledo, 10, as he reads a site about Abraham Lincoln. “It’s faster and better.”

In Miami-Dade County’s only paperless classroom, Web sites are used in lieu of textbooks, Power Point Presentations substitute for written essays and students get homework help from their teacher over e-mail.

Fifth-graders using computers, not paper, for classroom work | theledger.com

What would it take to get every classroom in the country to this level, both in terms of hardware and professional development for teachers? More thoughts on how and why to do that coming soon…

Quick thoughts on the Flickering Mind

I had barely checked this book out from the library, based on a recommendation from Leigh, and it got recalled. Similar in argument to Cuban’s Oversold and Underused, Oppenheimer paints a pretty grim picture of technology use in schools. I agree with many of his points, however, and this one in particular:

And obviously, the World Wide Web–the uber-program of the modern age–is a useful in not invaluable research source for all of us. But we all must realize that opening the Internet’s door to youngsters requires teachers to accept additional responsibilities. This does not just involve watching out for pornographic of violent material; that’s the easy part. It also concerns watching what values and beliefs students develop about what knowledge is; how it’s built; how it’s used; and what it demands of them as students and as citizens. Downloading a captivating live software applet from a NASA website, which some Web designers has loaded with a few earnest questions to satisfy somebody’s grant requirements, does no a satisfactory lesson make. Nor does simply writing a paper about this material, based on some extra Internet “research.” p. 395

Todd Oppenheimer The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology

This perspective is one that I find valuable as we prepare to head to the NWP Annual Meeting and will be blogging, wikiing, and podcasting along the way. Questions I am asking myself…

  • What literacy goals do I have in mind by asking teachers to engage in these activities?
  • In what ways might the technology help them become better students (of English teaching) and citizens?
  • How will they create their own content that is meanginful to them as well as insightful for those not able to attend the meeting?

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