Monday, November 16, 2009

Technology in Education

What is really meant when we say technology in education? The other day, I was in Home Improvement store and a staff member told me that a power saw was an impressive piece of technology. That got me to thinking... What is really technology in education? Can it be that adding a computer to a classroom ensures technology in education? Or is the way we use that technology? Or maybe the end result of the academic application is a technology in education?

My hypothesize: If the word technology can be applied to anything if it improves productivity, then everything that meets this criterion is technology.

Can this be proven? Disaproven?

With the significant amount of money spent by governments, states and school districts how have schools changed in their progressions from the agrarian age through the industrial age to the information age? Schools still operate pretty much on the agrarian calendar (school in winter - out in summer). We no longer have child labor exploitations as there were during the industrial age and we have moved from one way thinking to alternative thinking but many schools still teach the end of grade/end of year test and push standardized test. Maybe technology was not available to as many people during the earlier periods, so we maybe we can justified/understand why illiteracy was high but today illiteracy numbers is still a numbers to be reckoned with. In the 21st century (2009), we still have in America, according to a published report on October 4, 2009 by CBSNews, “30 million Americans who are functionally illiterate…” and “40 percent of our fourth graders who are not reading at basic level …” If in fact these numbers are accurate, how can we have illiteracy in America in 2009? We have a lot of technology and many of the major players provide this technology free or at significantly reduced costs for that technology. Many schools systems have had their budgets slashed but many according to a March 1996 report by Cato, “the average cost per child in public school is $6857” and most of these dollars come from your taxes and in some states where there is a lottery, the winner only gets a portion of the actual winning, as some of the winning proceeds go to states’ education coffers. If all of this true, how can it be that illiteracy is still such an issue?

Do we really have technology in education? If so, is it being used to teach all types of learners? Is the technology inadequate? Are those using the technology failing? What more should we have and really, can this just boil down to simple economics - we can't teach everyone?

When all teachers are no longer handing out 8.5 x 11" worksheets for students to fill out and instead using integrated assesment utilities where ever possible --- When all students can take electives online regardless of school, location, course cost, or age --- When learning agendas can be fully customized toward the area of giftedness and need a student may have -- When course and study materials are fully digital -- When there is a tablet pc or mobile learning device in the hands of every student -- Then the potential for technology in education will have been achieved. Right now, it isn't the technology that is holding us back from our ideals. It is funding, buy-in, process change, and vision. As a nation we need to drum up the political will to strive for our department of education's mission for equal educational opportunity for for all.

Well, in the absence of having done any research to back up my statements with validated statistics, I will say we are failing because we lack the “political” will to succeed.

Money is not the answer. We, as a nation, “throw” money at the problem and the problem persists. We need to admit that some students, regardless of age, will fail at some academic challenges. We need to admit that some students will fail at some vocational challenges. It seems we want everyone to “feel good” about themselves and never fail and so the pass those students on to the next plateau. I read a story on one of the web sites today that an alarming number of students at a NY college could not do very simple algebra problems. That is tragic for those students (someone got paid a lot of money to not prepare them) and it is tragic for our nation.

I agree with Mindy that education should be, “…open (all courses) and continuous “regardless of school, location, course cost, or age …” All kids should have a tablet or mobile learning device and we should take the politics out, which to me means diminish the role of the teachers union in the education process.

I still think we need teachers in the classroom. I just feel that the tasks of presenting information en-masse and grading assessments (worksheets, short answer, true/false, m/c tests, but not term papers.) should be removed from the teacher's to-do list to free up their time. If they were more free to do so, teachers could spend more time one-on-one with topics that a student needs extra help with or could perhaps direct a gifted student to an area of study that suits his/her talents. Technology used to it's fullest could enable differentiated learning on a larger scale. Teachers and the teachers union should not feel threatened by the change. We will always need to educate our children while their moms and dads work. Also, the topics that we teach change and grow over time. Utilizing technology is just a tool to help us do more in less time.

It is imperative that educators integrate technology into their classrooms and use it as a tool to educate, if they want to continue the traditional classroom and their role in it. The computer and other digital technologies could in the near future replace the brick and mortar shrines we have erected to the pursuit of knowledge. In today’s digital world it is possible to get an excellent K-12 education today without a teacher or a school building. Teachers are fast becoming irrelevant to the learning process. A young students familiar with the computer and the Internet can find their own instructors and teachers. The students themselves are beginning to move away from the traditional classroom, to learn what the state says they must know. There are a number of studies that show that home schooled children score better on achievement tests than do their counterparts who receive the traditional classroom education. More and more children in the U.S.A. are being home schooled every year and I suspect that trend will grow.

Here is a quote from an anonymous poster at one of the online sites, which I think illustrates a growing sentiment among young learners, “…The majority of my classes (the teachers) have tried to teach information rather than understanding, and that is a VERY serious flaw. High school shouldn't put someone in a position to perform, but rather in a position to both innovate and understand the world around them…” In short teachers had better quit teaching to the test and learn to use technology to guide their students to an understanding of the material and how to adapt their knowledge to the real work – the workplace.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Content Management System

Most website owners understand that the use of CMS may be useful for their websites, but very few know what the import of these advantages is and what they actually give. Knowing of CMS advantages may help you better understand what could be the most appropriate for your website.

Though each CMS is unique and has a set of distinct features, I believe, all of them could be compared using the following criteria:

Q. How much time I can save?

A. Quite a bit actually.. as function is separated from interface make a single change to one page can be propagated across thousands of pages in seconds.

Q. Will I have a site that is highly optimized for search engines?

A. Absolutely. The CMS itself will not suffice as an SEO solution, however the content, mechanics and linguistics used can bring a site to the top of SERPs.

Q. How is CMS protected?

A. It depends on the CMS. Each CMS has it's own security provider/mechanism for user authentication.

Q. How easy is to customize design?

A. As mentioned above a CMS separates function from interface. The "design" or "skin" as it's commonly called in CMS'lish can be provided by designers that know nothing about the CMS mechanics.

Q. What online services does CMS provide?

A. Intranet, Extranet, etc..

I use DotNetNuke for all CMS requirements. It's a bullet proof framework that runs on Windows Server, IIS /, and is written in The criteria of this discussion is the Content aspect of CMS. That's 2 flavors - BLOG (Wordpress), CMS (Joomla).

They both are extensible and the themes are adjustable. Opensource. Lightweight, high performance.

BLOG - content goes in one direction, from author (or authors) to readers.

CMS - Readers are potentially authors so content goes both ways. CMS's are poised for monetization. Pay for membership, Web Store modules, Pay per view.

Both are secure if you use stupid-strong passwords and pay close attention to the access attributes of the content.

SEO is a matter of controversy. Both BLOGs and CMSs support SEO with search engine friendly urls, instant site maps, and easily adjustable meta keywords in the article forms. But are still not the preferred platforms for SEO by internet marketers who do the coding.