16 June 2012

Journal #6 - internet & information

How has the internet changed the way we view information and information access?
I think information is much more readily available with the internet. I’ve also noticed that students are much more likely to look up something they don’t know or don’t understand in an internet search rather than looking up things in a textbook. Another interesting trend is that students will often look up things on their handheld devices during a lecture or video. Since they have no problem multi-tasking, they listen and start internet searches. Or if a website is cited during the presentation, they will often go online and check it out while listening. I absolutely LOVE this concept. As students become better adept at multitasking, they can seek out more information about the subject, becoming immersed, which has been touted as a great way to learn. As websites are becoming more popular, more companies (profit and not-for-profit) has put websites online. Also, people began working together to get information out there – Wikipedia is a great example. Therefore, everyday, the amount of information available online is growing exponentially. The question thereby becomes: how accurate is this information? - which brings up the next discussion question.

How has the internet changed access to ‘literature,’ research, and quality ‘text’ as well as censorship and editing ?

Unfortunately, one of the side effects, in my opinion, of the massive amount of online information, is the majority of reader’s readily acceptance that the information is completely correct. Granted, most information comes from reputable sources and is extremely accurate or corrected in a timely manner. I read an article, awhile ago, that compared the amount of errors in a current set of encyclopedias and the amount of errors on Wikipedia. There were actually less errors on Wikipedia because the information was edited by some many people every day. More recently, I read an article about how an online news source (not reputable) reported the death of a semi-famous person. A more reputable news source put the information on their website and it just snowballed from there. The death was added to the semi-famous person’s page on Wikipedia, but was removed within an hour because the information could not be legitimized. Later that day, the semi-famous person, who found out about the reported death, made an announcement the he was very much alive. Here is a great example of how serious Wikipedia takes the information they display.

Unfortunately, a lot of students reading online information have lost their ability to legitimately question the source, just because it is online. Although, maybe that isn’t an entirely fair statement since a line out of textbook is taken as gospel by students as well. Perhaps questioning the accuracy of information isn’t relative to if it is printed on paper or on the internet, but rather that we are not teaching students to always question and legitimize ALL information.

26 May 2012

#5 Journal Entry - Mobile Devices

- How indispensable are mobile computing devices in your life? Are they an "extension" of who you are?

I go no where without my cell phone. I may not use it often, but it is a huge comfort to know that I can always call for help if (when) I need it. Also, the school where I teach doesn't have an intercom system. If I need assistance, I pull out my cell phone and call the office or person I need. Another comfort is that my school has an emergency system set up to send a text message if there is an emergency on campus. Our campus is so large, that a text message would definitely spread the word much faster than word of mouth or email. Email wouldn't work for me when I'm in class anyway, because I'm rarely logged in and reading emails during class. I plan on buying an iphone soon. I imagine that my cell phone will become much more than just a phone for me at that point, but right now, with my old little cell phone, it gives me the ability to call for help, in matters great or small, whenever and wherever I need it.

- How can mobile computing devices be used in disadvantaged or underdeveloped environments?

I have a friend from Haiti and another from Jamaica. Neither friend comes from very good areas of either country. My friend from Haiti has told me how the electricty never runs 24 hours in a day, so you couldn't plan on getting online at a certain time nor plan on having refrigerated food, unless you had a generator. My friend from Jamaica was so poor, that he, nor anyone in his neighborhood, could afford a computer. And yet both of these friends have told me how so many people have 3G phones. That's how they get online and stay connected in areas where people can't afford a computer or afford the generator to make the electricity to run the computer. When Haiti suffered the recent, terrible, earthquakes, my friend immediately started calling his friends and family. One family member he couldn't reach, but knew he was ok, because the family member had posted something to facebook. I asked my friend how he could post something online when there certainly wasn't electricity. My friend enlightened me about how most people had 3G phones because it was the only way they could have access to the internet. I was simply amazed. 3G phones are a relatively cheap, easy way for poor or underdeveloped areas to have access to the internet and to stay in touch with each other. My friend from Jamaica confirmed it. His friends and relatives all had 3G phones for the same reason - no one could afford a computer.

22 April 2012

Journal #4 games in education

Do all human beings enjoy playing digital games? - In what ways can gaming or multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) contribute to the learning experience? - Do games and MUVEs benefit certain students or groups more than others?

Do all human beings enjoy playing digital games? That's a tough question. For one thing, I would ask: do all humans enjoy playing games? Games are technically work and problem-solving, yet somehow they are enjoyable too. Maybe not every game...it seems certain types of games appeal more to certain types of people. But, for the most part, I think it is in our nature to love games. For that reason, I would claim that all human beings could enjoy playing digital games. For those people who aren't comfortable with technology, they wouldn't enjoy playing these games, at first. But I think if they became comfortable enough with technology, they would be able to enjoy playing digital games. This is why I use the disclaimer of "could" enjoy digital games.

In what ways can gaming or multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) contribute to the learning experience? Games are problem-solving at their core. By using environments where multiple people are working at solving the problem, you can get complex interactions coming out of the group. Also, the problems within the game can be much more intricate, which could enhance the game and satisfaction of solving the problem (a.k.a. winning). You learn team-building skills as well, because you are coordinating a team effort to solve the problems the game throws at you. Even if you are not on the same team, you can share advice and talk over problems with people who play the game, either in world or in the 'real' world. This, again, would enhance personal relationships and build a sense of community. Also, speaking from the point of view of a learner, a lesson may seem unmanageable or unlearnable, but having a helping hand of a peer-learner who is going through the same situation can be quite comforting and helpful. The task doesn't seem so daunting and learners are less likely to give up, in my opinion.

Do games and MUVEs benefit certain students or groups more than others? I would say yes based solely on the learner's comfort level with technology. Therefore, older students, let say in their 60's, for example, may not be very comfortable moving around in a virtual world. They may have trouble manipulating their environment or even understanding the concept. Now, I'm not saying that all people in their 60's would have this problem - some would be very comfortable in this environment. But anyone, of any age, race, gender, whatever, is going to have trouble with digital games and MUVEs if they are not comfortable with technology. If they are tripped up on technology, they are not able to learn the lesson because they are too busy trying to learn the technology.

18 March 2012

Journal #3 - online information

- How do we shape our ability to critically evaluate the credibility of information available online?
- How do we represent ourselves online?

How do we represent ourselves online and muddle through the truths and non-truths of other online identities? Excellent question!

I begin with myself. How I portray myself online is pretty much how I am in real life...well, the way I am now in real life. I have to agree with some of our reading assignment that identity is fluid and ever-changing. So my identity now, may not be the same in the future...for example, this post may last much longer than my opinion of my online identity. I can freely admit that in chats and IM's of the past I have outright lied to my fellow chatters, on purpose, because I knew I'd never meet them face-to-face, and so, why not be somebody else. Oddly enough, now I don't care how I am perceived and pretty much say whatever I want. For this reason, I think how we want to be perceived shapes what and how we say things online. And that is probably where the un-truths come into the picture. The speaker wants to be perceived as this or that, so he/she may tell half-truths or non-truths ("touch-ups" according to our reading) to get you thinking those thoughts. When you are chatting away with someone, or reading their blog, how do you sort through what they are really saying and what they want you to think??? I guess the real question is do you really care? If you are vested in what this person is telling you, then it makes a difference to find out the truths vs. the non-truths. Online, this may be a bit more of a challenge since there is no body language to cross-reference with the information the speaker is stating. But, I don't think the absence of body language is necessarily a bad thing. Without emotion and without facial and body miscues, lies and un-truths may be easier to spot. Sometimes, while reading a tall tale, the reader just has a "gut feeling" that the author may be stretching the truth. I would say that the reader's subconscious, without the distraction of the person standing in front of them, is putting together bits of information that are starting not to add up. When 2 + 2 = 5, alarms start to go off and your subconscious starts to grab your attention until your conscious can put the pieces together for itself. Therefore, I would have to say that there is no clear-cut recipe to figuring out online myths and reality. If it matters to you, if you are vested in the truth, then listen to (well, read carefully) the facts and see if they add up. Otherwise, it is best to take things "with a grain of salt" so to say.

03 March 2012

Journal #2 - How do we define who we are, and shape or reaffirm our identity using social networks?

After reading the material, I began to realize exactly how much we confuse children - teenagers, especially. Dannah boyd really spells it out with several contradictions that we set up for teenagers. For example, we "sell sex to teens but prohibit them from having it; we tell teens to grow up but restrict them from the vices and freedoms of adult society." She's right, this is hypocrisy! It's no wonder that teenagers are so confused! I begin to understand the importance of them having their own "space" to figure out who they are. They need social interactions to figure out the cultural importances, rules, morals, faux pas, and so on that they are expected to not only understand, but to manipulate without fail. For this reason, teenagers set up profiles online to help them express themselves and understand the world they live in. By viewing others profiles, they can compare the similarities and differences. Soon a culture exists - one that is truly theirs. And then a cultural norm exists, where things are socially excepted or rejected, making it an organic, evolving thing. This allows them to experiment and evolve as individuals. They can try out different perspectives. They can be whoever they want to be. And if they try out a false identity, they often can't keep it up because their peers soon detect it. But that's ok, because they find who they are not. For example, as stated in the reading, a boy pretending to be a girl couldn't keep the conversation going along without being caught. This reaffirms to the boy that he is indeed male. This suggests that the more social interactions online that teen encounters, will actually help the teen understand their true identity. The acceptance or rejection of behaviors (a.k.a. being "cool" or being a “dork”) helps develop a cultural norm that teaches teens to live with society - maybe not accept everything, but at least learn to live within it. So, online identities help these teens understand their limitations...well, at the very least complain to sympathetic listeners, who understand completely since they are teens too. This interaction helps confirm who the individual really is.

Also, in an online environment, teens can discuss topics that may not be socially acceptable in face-to-face conversations. Race is a good example. In AsianAvenue, BlackPlanet, or MiGente, they can discuss racial issues with some degree anonymity. Some of the racial slang or issues (maybe even questions about races) may not be socially acceptable as a conversation in a school yard or classroom. But here, online, these teens can talk openly and freely discuss sensitive issues like race without worry. In a sense, it also helps reaffirm their identity, because they are finding out what it means to be Black or Hispanic or Asian or whatever race. Therefore, discussing races or problems or issues in this manner gives teens the views and opinions of others of the same race. The norms of this culture are different, based upon the race, and what is “cool” in a race-oriented website may be very different from a teen-oriented website. The individual can contrast and hopefully resolve the two opposing viewpoints within their own thoughts and opinions, consequently reaffirming the individual’s identity.

In conclusion, I have to agree that social networking sites helps teens find the answers to the confusion that society places upon them. By interacting with other teens, with peers within their own race or culture, helps the individual to understand his or her own ideas and thoughts. By seeing the constraints placed by their peers about accepted and rejected ideas and behaviors, the individual can modify their own thoughts and behaviors to live within that society. Exploring, trial and error, and lurking are all great ways that individuals can discover their true identity on social networking sites. And the small degree of anonymity provided by the Internet makes this form of discovery more accessible than facing your peers in a ‘real-life’ situation.

05 February 2012

Journal #1 - How do we perceive ourselves (and others) in the real and digital worlds in which we live?

At first, I argued the importance of perception. What does it matter how you are perceived because it doesn't change who you really are?!? But the more I pondered this question, along with the reading assignment, and a conversation with my students, my opinion shifted and now I think perception of yourself does change who you are.

As I was considering this question, I began to come around to the influence of perception. Let me give you an example of my line of thought. If you are perceived by a particular person as someone who is always cheerful and always joking, then when you make a comment to that person they automatically take what you are saying as cheerful and joking. In other words, how you mean things and how you are perceived shapes the entire conversation (contact) with that person. Therefore, what you say is completely open to interpretation and that interpretation is completely based on how people see you. It's amazing that how you are perceived carries such weight! And I hadn't really put together how important perception is, until now.

Ok, so now I can understand the importance of perception - especially in face-to-face interactions. But what about the importance of escaping perception that people do online? For example, in the reading there was a girl, Clarissa, that used her online role-playing identity to be a boy during the day and a girl at night. There wasn't an opportunity for her to explore different gender identities in face-to-face interactions because she couldn't change how she was perceived. But online, she was able to change how she was perceived and could therefore "experiment" with being a boy and the perceptions that go along with being a boy.

Another example of changes in online perception came with how adults were perceived by some teenagers. In the reading, the authors suggest that interactions online can widen the circle of contact with adults for teens - specifically that they could interact with adults that aren't family or friends of the family or educators. To me that is saying that they could interact with adults who didn't know who the teenagers were and therefore didn't have any particular perception of them (i.e., that they were a "trouble-maker" or a "class clown" or some other label). When teens contacted these adults, they were sort of "blank slates" and therefore the adults couldn't judge them from perceptions, but only judge them from those specific interactions. I think this is what really makes teens want to talk to these adults, the lack of judgment and previous perceptions.

But please don’t think this only applies to teens. Very often you get adults who pose as children online…sometimes for the wrong reasons, but sometimes because they view being a child as having freedom from responsibilities. In the “real” world, most adults have many responsibilities, like holding a job, paying bills, raising kids, being politically correct, being environmentally responsible, understanding complex political issues, and so on. Perhaps, by becoming a kid online, they want to change how they are perceived (i.e., from a responsible adult to a kid without responsibilities). This is something that would be impossible in a face-to-face setting, but is completely possible (and often done) in the online setting.

While reading this article, I was thinking about Clarissa (see above) and asked my students about “Faraway Lands” since I hadn’t heard about it before reading this article. My students didn’t really know anything about it, so I started giving a brief description based on the reading. Before I could describe too much, a young lady exclaimed that it sounded like World of Warcraft. She went on to explain that she has been playing W.O.W. for years as a few different characters including a male elf character and a male wizard/mage character. Another teen chimed in that he played a few different ones as well. When I asked about the change in genders, he said that he did have one character that was female, but she was a very good warrior that could “kick some a**” and just happened to be “hot” too. Well, the rest of classroom started relating their W.O.W. experiences and soon I began to realize that these teens were trying on identities not only inside role-playing games, but in various online media. For example, one girl had a MySpace profile as a boy and another girl had an email account set as a boy which linked to several online gaming and social profiles, including a blog. All of this really made me sit back and wonder about perception. I hadn’t realized how much perception defines someone and how much escapism online identities provide. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before now. I understand teenagers wanting to explore their own identity by trying on different online identities – I mean, figuring out who you are is what makes the teen years so darn confusing. But, now I understand that everyone – all genders, ages, races, in short, EVERYONE – needs to escape how they are perceived from time to time because that perception can sometimes be a stone around the neck. In face-to-face interactions, you can rarely escape from that burden. Online, though, you can escape it with just a few clicks. Now, I finally see the appeal.