Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm sorry for the lack of posts over the course of this year. I haven't abandoned this account. No, not in the least. I've been severely weighed down with work and projects, but I will leave the few readers that I have with two links that I think are useful to you.

  • - It's a nice website about new ideas in education. Gaming is included in the posts. From the website:
    • Al Meyers is President of Saisei Consulting, a provider of strategy and corporate development advisory services to early-stage, growth-stage and mature digital media companies around the world. Al is on the advisory board of several startups in the areas of digital media, 3D technology, online games and games for K-12 education. Al is also a sought-after speaker on such topics as disruptive innovation in education, and the role of online games outside of the "purely entertainment" arena.
  • - A blogger (who is also the parent of a student of mine) blogs about an interesting group called ICANN or Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( 
    • ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.
    • ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn't deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
Enjoy! I'll get to blogging more at a later date. This semester is my last in graduate school, and hopefully I'll have some wonderful things to contribute.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Video Games in Education

I plan on doing some research soon about the possibility of using video games in education.Video games, once criticized as a waste of time for kids, are becoming increasingly popular among teachers in such subject areas as physical education, social studies and history. *Read more:
As I said in a previous entry, video games helped develop my spatial recognition of shapes and patterns, therefore I feel it catered to improving my mathematics achievement. There is the obvious lack of direct proof of this, but I feel I know the way my brain works well enough to make that presumption.
Mauricio Buchler had written to me on the subject stating:
I teach ESL, and I find that RPG-style games (from Zelda, and Fable to GTA) help learning, but they're really extra practice. I mean, the amount of English learning compared to the amount of carnage isn't really proportional, so I usually just encourage my students to play them at home.
Strategy games such as Sims, Civilization, Age of Empires, etc. are better for the classroom because I can hook the PS/Box up to the projector, and we can discuss the strategy as a group, and write about the outcomes, focusing on whatever grammar topic I'm teaching that week.
So, the strategy ones work well, but still, they aren't really about teaching school subjects. We just use them to decorate the process.
With that in mind, I developed a prototype of an RPG that teaches ESL specifically, which I talk about in my TEDx talk.
Skeptical of integrating video games into your classroom? Well, read my previous entry, give me some comments and let me know what you think of this topic. I hope to conduct some research, so those for or against this, please provide some links to whether or not you believe this is a substantial cause.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wolfgang Ama-who cares?

I spent a good four years studying music, concentrating on music history and piano performance. Through it, I’ve listened to a lot of music from various composers and I need to make a statement to any pompous parent who is trying to get your child to listen to Mozart over (who’s the newest popular music start out there?). You’re going to find parts in parenthesis – they’re not actual figures, but little bits of information that are approximate enough to help you figure out when in time I’m talking about.

The term “Classical Music” is one of the most overused words in music. The actual classical era is from about 1750 (or about when J.S. Bach died) until 1800 (or right around the death of Mozart). I like to be a bit more accurate and say that the Classic era died in 1801 when Beethoven published his Op.31 n.2, Piano sonata in d minor, “The Tempest”.

As part of the classic era, Mozart composed within the style of the time and he did it exceptionally well. Three principle foundations of the classical style are form, clarity, and balance. His music was extremely structured and equally balanced from beginning to end. The clarity aspect is quite understood when you realize that a mistake in Mozart stands out like an orange cow.

Despite how exciting that description could sound (eyes rolling), music does begin to make a turning point after Beethoven goes in and says, “wtf, this isn’t music, this is notes on a paper.” and creates the romantic era.

Why are most Romantics forgotten when it comes to those “commonly known classical composers.” I’m talking about your Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, 3B’s of music people. THERE ARE NO ROMANTICS IN THERE! Yet, the most commonly recognized classical music is romantic. Why are we calling it classical?

I asked a few people at one point, “hum me a Mozart tune” – and 0/8 successfully hummed one – They might have hummed Beethoven instead. When I asked them to hum a Beethoven, I think only 1/8 didn’t. Everybody knows Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata Mvt. 1, Mvt.1 of the Fifth, and the Ode to Joy. Top of my head: I can think of Night Music and the Rondo Alla Turca as popular Mozart tunes – though I know more, I honestly can’t recall the melodies, and dare I say, I’ve listened to more Mozart than Beethoven in my life.

Other classics that people don’t know who composed:

  • Funeral March in b flat minor – Frederic Chopin
  • Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky Korsakov
  • Prelude in e minor – Frederic Chopin
    • Yes, you know this. It was the piece that the woman played in the Notebook.
  • The Revolutionary Etude – Frederic Chopin
    • Once again, any gamer should know this. It’s called Kakumei in Dance Dance Revolution, was the background music in the final boss stage in King of Fighters XI and was in one of the Grand Theft Auto games.
    • Also, Andre Watts performed this (and performed it very well, actually) on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.
  • Adagio Cantabile from the Pathetique – Beethoven
    • Again, Youtube this – Guaranteed you know it.
  • Hungarian Dance No. 5 – Brahms
  • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 – Liszt
    • Tom and Jerry did a very VERY famous skit with this piece.
  • Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin
  • Toccata and Fugue in d minor – J.S. Bach
  • Clair de Lune – Debussy
  • Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
  • The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin
  • Nocturne in E flat – Frederic Chopin
    • If you listen to Muse, their last album featured this as the conclusion to the song “The United States of Eurasia".

These are a huge selection of time eras. Note about all of them – none of them are from the classical eras. Chopin and Liszt were Romantic. Beethoven is considered classic, but he really wasn’t about clarity, balance, and form at all. He changed all of the forms. Brahms was post-romantic / neo-classic, late 19th century. Bach is Baroque. Korsakov was post-romantic part of the Russian Five or Mighty Handful. Debussy was Impressionist. Gershwin was classical/jazz fusion of the 20th century. Joplin was ragtime. Orff was 20th century, died shortly before I was born.

So yes, now I’m being a technical ass indeed. Anyway, my point is this. I have a 9-year old piano student who is currently working on two pieces: Fur Elise and and Prelude N.1 from WTC1 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1) by J.S. Bach. I gave him some Mozart at one point (Two early minuets, K.2 and K.6 I think) and he hated them when I played them. He loved the Bach and the Beethoven, and asked me to make him a CD with all of the music.

So I’m going to ask – Wolfgang Ama-who cares? Honestly now… Who does care? I don’t. If you want a kid to appreciate classical music over Hannah Montana, you need to expose them to it. Find out what they like. This might take time, but I’ve found a classical piece or a jazz piece for everybody. Want some jazz classics? The Tiger Rag by Art Tatum, Greensleeves done by John Coltrane, just about anything by Bix Biderbeck or Miles Davis… the list goes on.

So I advocate this advice: You cannot show somebody something with one example. If you want to show somebody something, you need to show them many examples. Boys tend to like Beethoven and Brahms. Girls tend to like Debussy and Chopin. Aspiring  musicians tend to love Bach, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.

Music: Who’s you?

Warning: This post will contain arrogance that you might seriously have objections to. Deal with it. With life comes opinions.

Recently (and not so recently) I’ve encountered a variety of people involved with various things in music: educators, musicians, lawyers, salesmen, producers, promoters, etc. Here’s my opinion on some.

Music salesmen. Now there are a few different types, but they’re generally applicable. When you see a young kid or an old, retired man or woman selling in a music store, that’s fine. For the kid, it might be their first job and for the older person it would be something to do. Now, there are two types of middle-aged people that sell music instruments – Your business owners and managers who are not much different than what’s found in any other business, and you have your reject musicians. The ones that cannot find work elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, selling pianos can bring in some income, but honestly – is it a respectable career? I don’t think so, and lately, I’ve come across some very arrogant piano salesmen. I’m sorry that I can play better than you can hope to play. That’s not heavy on me. Not my fault you couldn’t make auditions and therefore is selling your favorite instrument. It’s not like you’re selling me cars or real estate.

Now, this isn’t to say that EVERY piano salesman is like this, as some could be professional musicians assisting their income. But don’t be pretentious about it. As a salesman, your primary job is to still SERVE your customer. To put it simpler, YOU’RE A SALESMAN, THEREFORE YOU’RE A SERVANT.

Musicians. I’ve found there are three types of musicians. There are those that will probably never make a career out of it, which is fine (like myself), but unlike the salesmen above, we have no animosity towards that. We play our instrument because it’s what we do and it’s how we cope with the world. Another type of musician is the type that will play with a band, ensemble, or by themselves to substantiate their income, covering Billboard Top 40s at bars and weddings. Last, there are the type that will attempt to make an income off of what they create, combining the two above. One of three things can happen from this – you revert back to being one of the two things above; you make it and become successful; you fail and become a music salesman because you can’t cope with your own mistakes.

Educators. Here’s the part that I’m going to get negative feedback from, as I don’t think most piano salesmen will ever read this. I’m finding that there is a HUGE segregation between music teachers, whether or not you believe it.

There are your generic K12 music teachers. Those that are great at sight-reading and organizing bands. The students that love these teachers are generally interested in playing their instrument, but more so involved with the activities they partake in. Some of the students make it to your Drum Corps and what have you, but most don’t and will never make a career from performance.

There are your innovative K12 music teachers that will attempt to integrate every cushion for your students to “relate” to your music, sometimes completely avoiding classical or jazz composition. Your students will like you, but when they figure out what type of music is actually appreciated in the world, they’ll hate music. Great job at making friends, poor job at music.

There are your K12 music teachers that are just amazing life-long learners and devoted teachers that will help students in every way that most other “core-subject” teachers will never be able to do (due not to the lack of caring, but the overwhelming amount of students they take under their wing). Notice: I didn’t mention they’re necessarily very good at music.

Then there are your K12 teachers that are amazing musicians, but terrible teachers. They probably took music education to have a “stable” career in music, as gigs don’t necessarily come as frequently as a paycheck.

Then there are, of course, your overall great teachers found in every field. Music is no exception to this: Great at teaching, great at mentoring, and great musicians.

Now for higher education – the rules and expectations are QUITE different here, especially depending on the TYPE of department.

In a performance degree, I want teachers to be excellent musicians that I can learn through modeling. As a performance major it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to practice and heed the advice of my professors. Not for them to spoon-feed it to me. They cannot give me talent, I need to earn it. Quite honestly, I didn’t care how good my teacher “taught” me the subject. I wanted to learn it. They gave me the information, I studied it my way. I don’t go to these professors for life advice. I go to them when I don’t know how to cope with an odd pain in my wrist or forearm.

Then you have those professors that know the material, maybe not as fluently but have a background in education. They can help you learn the material if you cannot do it on your own. The department doesn’t need to be flooded with these people – much like my alma matter is.

Now for a music education department, your professors should be modeling examples of being good music teachers. Proficient in music AND education. Why do I know so many music teachers that can’t make a note sound like anything other than a note? In fact, most music teachers I know can’t make a note sound like anything but a note. I suppose that’s just an elitist rant, but I do believe that music isn’t something everybody can do. Music is not about going to marching band festivals and partying. That’s what playing notes is about.

I want to make my point clear. Not everybody is a musician. Not everybody can be a musician. While, I believe everybody can learn the technique and how to read music, I don’t believe everybody is a musician. There’s a difference between a musician and somebody who can play an instrument or sing. There is no logical or clear definition to describe the difference. I can just tell you that the proof is in what you hear. If you can’t tell the difference, then you’re probably not a musician. K12 should have teachers who understand music. College should have musicians who understand how to teach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great musician teaching K12 or an outstanding music educator in college. The world isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of grey out there, especially in education.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Video Games: Beyond the Blood and Gore

Those people who know me know that at one point I was an avid gamer. My games of choice growing up: Street Fighter (strategy without blood and gore), Tetris Attack (it triggers the same spatial brainpower that a Rubik’s Cube does), Final Fantasy (A lot of reading and fantasy-based historical references), and Castlevania (This one was more just for fun, as it does have blood and gore, but not excessive. Nobody’s heads get torn up and the sprites are rather too small to notice). Through gaming, I have found that many people stereotype games for being bloody and gory, ala Grand Theft Auto, Doom, Mortal Kombat, etc. and fail to see significant uses that gaming could have on a young person.
I’m going to analyze and comment on some of the common arguments against gaming and invite you to give me feedback, especially if you are a person against gaming.
1. Video games remove creativity in a child’s ability to create their own games.
While that argument does stand true, as a parent, you must learn to accept two things: 1. You’re the one buying your 10-year old their Playstation and 2. They’re going to play games at their friends houses if they don’t have one at home.
Now by accepting this, you must also take on the responsibility of getting to know what it is that your child is playing. While a game like Pac Man (that everybody knows – especially thanks to Google’s recent homepage!) has little room for creativity, not every game is on that level or is that simple. Let’s take the Nintendo DS for example with a game called Scribblenauts. This game requires the player to THINK and write in words for items to appear that their on-screen character can use to solve problems. A simple example of this would be the character needs to get up a tree to grab the “star,” so the player would write in “rope” to help them climb the tree or possibly “boomerang” to fetch the star for them. Unlike our Pac Man example, this DOES require creativity. The puzzles get more complex and you will need to stack levels of items and use them in conjunction with each other to achieve your goals.
Key: Involvement!
2. Video games teach children nothing but violence and misbehavior.
While there are cases that this holds truth, parents MUST know that they are the ones buying a 10-year old Grand Theft Auto. Understanding ESRB ratings does help but you should be playing the games with your child, at least when you first get it to make the judgment as to whether or not they should be exposed to it. If you look at a game like Tetris and derive violent acts then you can teach me quite a few things about reality, as I have not been living in it.
Key: Involvement!
3. Children do not get the social aspect of interacting with other children through video games.
Welcome to 2010. We have high-speed internet and a lot of players on MMOs.
MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online. It’s a category of gaming that according to various resources on the internet, close to 10k people play in the United States alone. There are several types of MMO games, one of the most popular being World of Warcraft, which has Fantasy Violence.
Through high speed internet, we have found a replacement to video game arcades. We do interact and discuss the games through gaming communities.
Locally, with newer gaming consoles, it’s even easier to interact as controllers are no longer wired, "Party-games” are becoming more popular (e.g.Rockband or Wii Sports), and we can connect portable systems wirelessly to each other (like the Nintendo DS)
Key: Play Wii Sports with your co-workers and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. It’s the only way to play golf in the rain! – Really – Involvement!
4. Video games will make my kids fat.
Simple answer: No, sending them to school with bologna sandwiches, potato chips and a soda, an allowance that will let them buy chicken fingers and french fries, and letting them stay inside during nice weather will.
Key: Stop being a lazy parent (aka Involvement!)
5. Video games will make my kids dumb.
The last time I’ll repeat this, you NEED TO BE INVOLVED in which games your children play. Not every game is mindless blood and gore. Growing up, after playing Mario my mom would make me draw a picture from the game or tell her what I think the story is about. At this point I was 6 or 7 years old. She didn’t need to know anything about the game other than watch me play a few times. As long as I was able to construct something at the end.
In the end, I don’t need to repeat the fifth time, you need to as a parent be involved in what your children are playing.
Psychologically, this involvement will show them that you care more about something they’re interested in and motivation will be higher. If you can spare an hour a weekend to play some games with them, you will learn about what they’re playing and you’ll be actively involved and as a result will improve relationships with your children. Who knows, you might also find a new pastime.
Some additional comments:
There are online communities of gaming for education. I remember a project that students rebuilt an acoustically sound building through Second Life. DimensionU is something similar to that ( but geared towards younger students. Their description is:
Welcome to DimensionU, a prestigious game-based training facility for K-12 students. In DimensionU, you can access multiplayer educational video games that help you hone your skills, connect with friends, climb the ranks and have a blast.
Another recent development is Namco Bandai, the same company once responsible for Pac Man is working on an RPG textbook. Remember earlier I was mentioning Final Fantasy as a game that requires a lot of reading? That falls into a genre called Role Playing Games, or abbreviated to RPG. The news on the RPG textbook, dated May 24, 2010 can be found here - Thank you @Tallgamer for sharing this with me.
My unprofessional advice:
  • Take some time to read up about the games your children play and spend some time playing with them. Remember, Vygotsky emphasized social learning.
  • Don’t keep their gaming systems in their rooms, but instead in the living room. This way if they want to play while you’re watching TV, they cannot and will HAVE TO find something else to do.
  • Know what games your kids are playing and know what to not let them play. If you have the attitude that they’ll play the violent games at their friends’ houses, you need to be more active and talk with their parents. If that’s not the case, then allow it and accept it, but your house, your rules. Don’t forget who the boss is.
  • Allowance will let your kid trust your and discipline will let them respect you.
  • Don’t let them sit around and play when it’s nice out. There are studies that show first period physical education improves overall achievement. Know that and emphasize your children to go play outside during nice weather.
  • Some good games for younger children are typically found on the Nintendo systems, both Wii and Nintendo DS. Make sure you’re buying educational / problem solving (Brain Age, Professor Layton, Scribblenauts) or activity games (Wii Fit / Sports, Dance Dance Revolution) or games that promote other abilities (RPGs like Final Fantasy require a lot of reading – yes Pokemon does a good job at this for younger children or Rock Band activating some aural stimulation) I plan on writing another blog on games that promote education. It will be more professional and include citations from educational psychology studies.
Who am I to give this advice? I have a Master’s of Education (Well, short on my internship, but everything else is done) in educational technology. I’ve been a gamer for 20 years. I’m well-read, a musician, and I have a 4.0 in graduate school. I still play video games, averaging 1-2 hours per day.
Please, I would LOVE to know your opinions and suggestions about this article. Contact me directly, – Thank you!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Social, Cognitive, and Constructive Technology


We have learned the importance of learning theories and their application to education. Technology is here for us to promote education, but many times teachers can easily fall into a trap, using technology for “ease-of-use” rather than for enhancing student retention. “Ease-of-use” refers to an example where a teacher may have an interactive SMART classroom at their disposal, but use it only for Power Point so they do not have to write on the board. Although this can be applicable in some situations, technology should never take the role of the teacher. The teacher should only manipulate the technology to enhance learning; therefore justifying the enormous cost technology can impose on a school’s budget.

Technology is a tool teachers can use to trigger multiple intelligences in a single classroom. Skinner argued that classrooms are inefficient places for learning because students with differences in their learning progress make it difficult for teachers to reinforce and shape behavior. With technology, you could utilize tools of Web 2.0 to create single environments conducive to multiple learning styles. These environments work with the cognitive model of information processing to create rich learning environments for students. Technology is also a tool where teachers can build a personal development scheme to become better teachers.

Technology comes in many forms, ranging from chalkboards to computers. A definition of Technology is any synthetic tool created for solving an every-day problem. The issue at hand is technology used for the benefit of the teacher rather than the student. Some examples would be a teacher that uses a computer (approximately $600), a projector ($200), and a screen ($200) for the purpose of PowerPoint in place of writing notes on the board. Another would be assigning a computer game, modeled with the behaviorist view in mind to a group of students in place of a teacher-created activity. Technology can be expensive, so is the cost outweighed by the benefit in using it.

Social constructive theorists propose that development and learning are a result of social interaction. We build upon our schemas through constructing knowledge socially, and then individually build upon it (Eggen, & Kauchak, 2010). This interpretation does not suggest that educators rescind their involvement in students’ academics, but rather suggests teachers consider questions of traditional instruction. Their focus is to facilitate students’ constructs of knowledge through social interaction. Their emphasis is to create learning environments in which learns exchange ideas and collaborate in problem solving.

A teacher must utilize the technology in the classroom constructively. Within a social constructive framework, a teacher can create intuitive group activities. For example, if a student is working on a term paper, using Google Docs, the student can interact with peers for feedback on their paper. This takes advantage of free software and does not ask the student to print and physically be in front of a peer. They are learning to write better in a social context and using technology conducive to learning. Through Google Docs, they would be able to collaborate on a project more easily than without it. Google Docs is an example of a current internet trend called Web 2.0[1].

Yang, Yeh, and Wong conducted a study in 2010 investigated the influence of social interaction in a virtual community, similar to those you can build with a Web 2.0 application. They found when passive factors in social interaction are weak, positive relationships in academics become stronger. Passive factors include disagreement, tension, and antagonism. While they maintain promotion of social interaction amongst writers, they emphasize the teacher’s responsibility to provide instruction on social skills through modeling and active participation, increasing motivation and cognition (Yang, Yeh, & Wong, 2010). Constructivism emphasizes the importance of context during the construction of knowledge and the role of social interaction in promoting learning.

Social theories of learning provide a framework of the relationship between social interaction and meaningful learning. Vygotsky indicates that social interaction is essential for an individual’s acquisition of knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978). Wenger indicates that meaningful learning occurs through active communal participation (Wenger, 1998). In relation to Web 2.0, many forms of social media exist – such as social education. LiveMocha is a website that provides feedback for language students. Free language lessons are online and other users provide feedback on tests, scripts, and voice-recordings. Students learn with technology on a social level.

“Using technology doesn’t automatically produce learning, however. Teachers’ learning objectives must be clear, and teachers must also think clearly about how technology can help learners reach objectives” (Eggen, & Kauchak, 2007). It is important to emphasize that simply using technology is the same as using it in the “ease-of-use” context. If the equipment can replace a teacher, they should be. The teacher must utilize the technology in manners conducive to learning and not let the technology be a replacement. We must have the mindset to be better than the technology and use it, not have it use us.

Today, the internet is a prominent element to our lives. People are increasingly turning to social networking to build online communities. Teachers can take advantage of this as a new source of professional learning. It makes it possible for teachers to interact, learn, and access knowledge within a social space. Online communities are available at all times wherever there is an internet connection. A study conducted in 2009 (published in 2010) shows that memberships to online communities provide teachers with a rich source of professional learning. Teachers gather practical classroom strategies from other teachers (Duncan-Howell, 2010).

Implementation of technology into the classroom requires a solid understanding of learning theories. Scholarship in instructional design and technology views learning theories as the principal mechanisms for advancing research and understanding. We must keep in mind that while theory can have a significant impact on technology integration, the range of theories chosen is limited. Many designers dedicate their decisions to intuition and wisdom. Essentially, technology integration requires the ability to creatively articulate learning theories into sensible, justifiable designs derived from many factors (Yanchar S., South J., Williams D., Allen S., & Wilson, B., 2010). One cannot use intuition and wisdom if they do not know how people learn.

Implementation of technology is vital to education in the twenty-first century, as it finds its way into our lives. You cannot change evolution in its natural state, so all one can do is embrace it. Educators ill equipped for such a task will have a difficult time with integration, but with training, it is possible. The most prominent benefit to integrating technology into the classroom is preparing twenty-first century students to enter the world with those skills necessary for success. Secondly, it educates students in proper use and maintenance of such technologies.


Battelle, J, & O'Reilly, T. (2004). Opening welcome: state of the internet industry. Proceedings of the Web 2.0 conference San Francisco, CA: O'Reilly Media.

Duncan-Howell, J. (2010). Teachers making connections: online communities as a source of professional learning. British journal of educational technology, 41(2), 324-340.

Eggen, Paul, & Kauchak, Don. (2007) Educational psychology: windows on classrooms (7th edition). Ohio: Merrill.

Eggen, Paul, & Kauchak, Don. (2010). Educational psychology: windows on classrooms (8th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society – the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University.

Yanchar, S., South, J., Williams, D., Allen, S., & Wilson, B. (2010). Struggling with theory? a qualitative investigation of conceptual tool use in instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development. February 1, 2010; 58(1): 39-60.

Yang, Y., Yeh, H., & Wong, W. (2010). The Influence of Social Interaction on Meaning Construction in a Virtual Community. British journal of educational technology, 41(2), 287-306.

[1] Darcy DiNucci coined the term Web 2.0 in 1999, but it became popular in 2004 when O’Reilly Media and MediaLive hosted the first Web 2.0 conference. John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly outlined their definition as Web Platform, where software is web-based rather than desktop based (Battelle, J., & O’Reilly, T, 2004). This birthed a plethora of internet trends, the most popular being social media.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

So hey, no updates in well over two months. What’s up with that?

So I’ve been bogged down with a lot of work. I have three articles that need to be proofed before I post them up, and I’m currently working on a larger one based on cognitive learning theories and technology. I’m arguing that technology should only be used in the classroom if the benefit outweighs the cost. This means no iPads in my classroom and for good reason.

So yeah, I didn’t die, and anybody who was reading my posts over Christmas break, I apologize for the lack of updates. More to come eventually, but I can’t promise you anything.

Looking forward to seeing people at Penn State 1 to 1 Conference, April 21st is when I’ll be presenting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Digital Textbooks – useful? If used correctly (Higher Ed)

So until recently, I was a big advocate of keeping textbooks in print format. My justification was sort of clear-cut and I couldn’t understand why some people disagreed. See, to publish a textbook that costs $100, perhaps after the cost of the print and the the whole retail level, the book might cost $80 or so. Now, $200 for a digital reader + 80 for the book? Digital formats = higher piracy rate, Back to $90 we go. Now, $10 per book saved. I spent 5 years as an undergrad, and didn’t purchase 20 textbooks. Average was 2 per semester, and I sold them back. Digital copies can’t be sold back. Perhaps a rental of them at half price might do.

Now that was fine and dandy until somebody sparked some imagination for me on Twitter the other day. @akamrt made the suggestion of collaborative textbooks. Now this was a “WOW” to me. I never thought of the idea, even after giving the topic much though. Now, I invite some insight on this. What is thought of the idea of having graduate assistants write textbook outlines and fill them in as class progresses. Very low cost, make it uploadable to Google Docs, perhaps and fully collaborative. This type of software, used throughout all four years of college, and there you go - $200-400 for all of your textbooks.

The idea of cognition arises, however with this. For higher-level classes, I would remember studying with three or four textbooks, not even necessarily from that class open, notes from three or four years of classes, and a mess of other things on my desk… for one exam. I don’t know that I can see doing this quite yet with digital textbooks. The notebooks are one thing, but the textbooks are iffy still. I’m all for helping the environment too!

Another factor that I want to bring up is subjects. I want you to think really hard about what subjects can this possibly not work almost at all for. Think hard… Think about laying out a bunch of pictures out. What subject is that? No? Art. Art history. Even for an introduction to art history, I would sit there with cutouts of about 30 different paintings I needed to remember. Color screens on a Kindle isn’t something we have, and not something I could see having cheaply.

So, working for some subjects, yes? But the end of textbooks as we know them? Far from it.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Education, and what I think it should be

We teach traditional subjects, proper grammar, and ancient mathematics. We need to stay conservative with topics that should be liberal (such as sex education). Our history teachers sometimes don’t explore changes in historical facts. Our arts teachers sometimes refuse to teach aesthetics they don’t agree with.

Now, let me state my philosophy on “truth”. Those truths that we learn are facts created by conformity to the norm. What that means is that we make our truths. “They’re”, “there,” and “their” are different because we make them different. Now, if the entire world misspelled the sentence, “Their going to the mall” rather than “they’re going to the mall,” is it wrong to spell it the first way? That is, if the entire world makes the same mistake?

OK, where I’m going with this is here – Today’s world is structured by the internet. Our students know Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Deviantart, Flickr, Skype, AIM, Youtube, etc. There are people that will say that students spend too much time on these things and need to read Catcher in the Rye more or something to that extent. While I do agree, understanding the meaning behind the story is more important than saying that you’ve read the book. You don’t NEED to read these materials. However, I know just as many middle-aged people that spend their free time on Facebook and Youtube as us younger generations, and don’t deny it.

What do you mean? Are you insinuating that what I learned in the 70s in school is obsolete and we need to resort to teaching Facebook and things to our students?

That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying. Cursive writing? I was in school and spent two years, first and second grade, practicing cursive writing, at an age that I didn’t know what words really meant. I had no business writing or reading back then. I wanted to use my imagination and do art and music, but curricula only limited the amount of time that I could do that.

What is happening to students, reading old literature without comprehending it? (Quite frankly, it’s because they don’t care). They’re putting themselves in situations with the wrong people on Facebook.

Now, I’m not saying that we should replace Science with Facebook. What I’m saying is that while there should be time spent on these classical subjects, there should be equal time spent on real-world scenarios. I’m sorry, but FBLA and the “Careers” course that I took in high school are NOTHING like what the world is. Such a thought is pure mindwash. Why not have a course called, “Safe internet practices” or “How to not ruin your life.”

We need to adopt the real world into schools and stop holding things away from it because they’re politically incorrect. Guess what, the world is very politically incorrect.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tools of a 21st Century Educator

Twitter, @Socratech sort of triggered an idea for me. What computer skills does a 21st century educator need? What can we do to ensure that pedagogy is still effective? Technology is important, but it’s not everything, right?

Let’s start off-topic. I get into a debate with some zealous colleagues in my major (Instructional Technology) that tech doesn’t necessarily need to be included in ALL aspects of education. Tweeting / texting homework assignments, vodcasting additional lecture material on Youtube or TeacherTube, podcasting on iTunes, and collaborating on Google are all fine and dandy, but is it excessive? Are these the skills that an educator needs today? No, of course not, as that would be the qualifications for any 14-year old. I have a 5-year old cousin who knows how to use the internet a lot more proficiently than I did when I was 15. Show’s something about the generation.

So what tools does an EdTech Teacher need nowadays?

Let’s start with something simple. Operating systems. From the perspective of a computer programmer, this is not simple but from the perspective of a user, this is the simplest thing in the computer. Operating system fluency is absolutely mandatory to be effective on a computer. Knowing your shortcuts, your hotkeys, and understanding the logic behind the tasks you do with your computer are vital. It will allow you to fix mistakes, improvise when there’s a tech problem, and be able to get things done faster than a good majority of your students. In Windows, some very effective tips that I can provide:

1. alt+tab – quickly change between windows. You can hold ALT and press tab to scroll through different windows as well if you have more than two open at once. In Vista and Win7, you can take advantage of Winkey+tab (Winkey is usually on the left and less frequently left and right, between the ctrl and alt keys – has the Windows logo on it. If you’re running Windows on a Mac, it’s the Apple Key, bottom left) for a 3D version of Alt+tab. Alt+tab also works in Vista and Win7.

2. Winkey+D allows you to quickly minimize everything to a bare desktop.

3. Learning to use your right click menu and understanding what each function does will save you a LOT of time.

4. Ctrl+C / Ctrl+V is Copy and paste. Woo! Ctrl+X is usually Cut
Cut is essentially move. You cut something from somewhere and paste it somewhere else. Copy is just that, you make a copy of it.

5. Home and End bring you back and forth between the beginning and end of a line.

6. Ctrl+home / Ctrl+end will bring you back and forth between the beginning and end of a document.

Now, after the computer literacy end of it, you will become more proficient in your programs overall. Find GOOD software, not just that software which is made for what you do. A lot of teachers use Inspiration to make concept maps. Webspiration is free (for now – still in Beta) and you can collaborate on it, and Visio in MS Office is more “adult” than Inspiration. There’s just one example of something you may use. Also, use software that is considered “industry standard”. If you have a graphic design class or department and can’t afford Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign, kill the department or get the appropriate software. Gimp and Publisher are not graphic design. Not even close.

Last, this might be obvious, know your pedagogy. What makes students understand what you teach? How can you apply tech to it? Better question, How can you apply tech to it without making the tech take the assignment over? That’s the key.

1. Know your OS
2. Know your software
3. Know your pedagogy
4. How can you mix the three together without eliminating the important part?
“If a teacher can be replaced by a computer, that teacher should be.”
- Dr. Beth Rajan-Sockman, East Stroudsburg University

Further Reading - Check out
Socratech's blogpost on TPACK

Friday, January 8, 2010

My problem with Apple

A lot of people that know me know my distaste for Mac and all things Apple. I’m going to describe a few things, and justify myself. Now, I know, and we all know that my experiences are a lot less likely to happen to everybody else (Since I have so many), so here goes.

1. Security

We all talk about Mac’s not needing antivirus and all that jazz. Perfectly fine for a Mac, however Apple products on my Windows machine have caused some issues.

Quicktime conflicts with two antivirus programs that I’ve had across two reinstalls of XP and Vista 64 (Kaspersky and NOD32). Both of them consider QT to be a virus on my computer.

My firewall through Kaspersky found an intrusion through iTunes.

iTunes would randomly make my system hang. Two completely separate builds, so it’s not the hardware.

2. Actually using a Mac

I had about 2 hours of recording work done on Pro Tools on a Mac. I saved, went to the bathroom, and came back. The system went to sleep and I assumed I could just load from where I came from. This wasn’t the case. My file was nowhere to be found. I consider myself tech-savvy enough to be able to save correctly, but no.

I went to learn to use Mac to get Photoshop stuff done, and I found that by comparison to the Windows version, it’s more difficult to do things quickly on a Mac because if you click outside of the area you’re working, everything goes into the dock.

Not knowing if a program closed is annoying. - This wouldn't be as annoying if the 'x' button could be programmed to just close the program. Windows users typically find it very annoying to have to do the "file close" thing.

Not having a maximize button that actually maximizes is also annoying.

The ability to customize a Mac's interface is lacking. You can completely dismantle Explorer and the shell in Windows and Linux respectively. Why not Mac?

3. iPod.

I had an iPod. I traded it in when I realized that my Creative of equal specs had a microphone, voice recorder, and radio, didn’t require me to install iTunes, and was $45 cheaper. I traded it for another Creative.

Now with that in mind, for audio recording, GarageBand is free and better than EVERYTHING on Windows that you pay for, except Pro Tools (But that’s on Mac too). Mac handles this like butter and the recording quality of the default hardware is much better. No external sound cards needed. Final Cut blows away everything on a Windows Machine as well.

Twitter, again!

Yes, I’m here to talk a little about my favorite Social Media site, Twitter. The last few days that I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve come across a plethora of information and just awesome links.

I’m going to suggest to people that you should join Twitter and just toy around with it. The first thing you do shouldn’t be to add your friends. The first thing you should do is to do a search for a topic that interests you and see what comes up. Use the @(Username) tag to reply to somebody and see who replies back. Those who you find to be interesting, you might want to follow. Later on, see which of your friends have it.

Twitter isn’t about social networking, but rather a giant chatroom, as somebody mentioned to me tonight. (@va1d1v1a). I’ve been keeping up a lot with trends in education, (check out @ShellTerrell for more information on edu-blogging), and all of my old RSS feeds, from Wired, CNN, NYT, ClientsFromHell and more.

Good place to start getting in touch with what’s actually out there in the world. There’s quite a bit more to it than you may think.

Follow my “professional” – HAHAHAHA! account - @jscognam or my personal one - @asianjohnpa and have a chat with me!

Textbooks should NOT be digital

OK, I can see the prettiness that a digital textbook could supply, but let’s be realistic, folks.

1. Cost – Let’s use a $100 textbook as an example.

The price to print a textbook, from my assumption and from working in the printing industry could be about $10-20. The cost of the book might now be $80-90 that’s still going towards the writers, the picture and designers, the publisher, etc. So now you’re paying $200+ for the reader and $90 for the textbook. Your $100 textbook now costs $290. OK, so you think that maybe, 10% less per book, after ‘x’ amount of books, you’re saving money?

With digital formats, piracy is much easier. There, the price just went back up.

Textbooks are NOT affected by supply / demand like many other products. It’s a required purchase for education.

2. Inefficiency – Let’s use a 400-level, capstone class for an example.

I don’t know about the study habits of everybody, but as an undergrad, for my capstone classes in my last semester, I might have had 3-5 textbooks on my table as I was studying, to provide me with multiple perspectives and to cover as many details as possible. Now, you’re talking about buying 3 or 4 of these digital readers to do something like this. More money issues, eh?

Backtracking is another issue that comes up. It’s not easy to quickly flip through and backtrack your textbooks when in this format. Go ahead and give it a try. I used a Kindle, very good for a novel, but if I forgot something that happened on the previous page, it was annoying to go back, find it, and then go back to what I was doing. That’s my own preference.

Power and technology problems come up. So you’ve saved your notes, all nice and digitally… low battery, no power, how can you do anything? I think I’ve covered my point enough. Lately this topic has been getting me quite heated.

This is open for debate.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What is Twitter?

So I finally figured out a classification for Twitter.
First, I will say that I love Twitter, and to those people who say that Twitter is just Facebook status updates in 140 characters really don’t know what they’re missing.
Twitter is two things:

1. Twitter is a way that you can use little things called “hashtags” (Those words that have a # before them, so “#hashtag” is a hashtag) to find out what the world is talking about. Trending topics and all. It has nothing to do with telling your friends that you’re going to the bathroom or something else completely irrelevant.

2. Remember RSS? Really Simple Syndication. Remember Newsletters to your e-mail box and going through 2000 Border’s Rewards e-mails before you found your monthly bank statement? No? I might find this difficult to explain then. RSS feeds are a very small, low profile way for you to get headlines, usually right to your browser or desktop. They’re typically just an automatic link to the headline of whatever article you’re subscribing to.

At one point, I had ten RSS feeds, 8 of which were from newspapers, and every ten minutes I’d have another 15-30 things in my email box that I needed to look at. Twitter is where I keep my RSS feeds now. I never looked at all of the feeds that I subscribed to, as throughout the day, I might have 1000 articles to look at. I just typically would look at maybe 10 per day of the 1000. Twitter only keeps the most recent up at the top of my page. I don’t need to see all of the rest. You can now share your RSS feeds with other people via Retweeting.

That’s what it is. Twitter is a really simple way of getting a lot of information and discussing it with the entire world.
Have a great day.


Happy New Year everybody. I’m a bit late on this, but I gave it some thought. I had a small, preliminary version of this on my Facebook as a note. Oh, that site has everything, but it does nothing proficiently at all.
So let me start analyzing this year by starting with October of 2008. I woke up one day in my apartment at 24 Morningside Avenue and realized something. It was 5am, and I was getting ready for work. I worked at Staples as a sales associate. What struck me was here I was, a graduate of college, magna cum laude, recipient of seven scholarships and national honors recognition, working at one of the most dead-end jobs a person can work in. I decided to go to grad school.
At this time, I also met a group of people that had a profound impact on my life. They didn’t know that, and I don’t even much associate with these people, but the impact still remains. Thank you, art night for pulling me out of my slump and depression. Who’d have thought that you’d only put me back into it at some point, but meh, that’s another story.
January, I started classes with Dr. Beth Sockman, Dr. Craig Wilson, and Dr. Gary Braman, as my first ever graduate classes. I realized that this is what I should be doing: Instructional Technology. I was still working at Staples, but not for long.
I made it through and the summer began. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much this summer. Went to a bonfire and had a revelation, went to Chicago with some buddies of mine, and met a really awesome person there, thanks to Dan. Got out of retail, stopped hanging out with the art people that I loved so much at one point, killed my Facebook account, remade my Facebook account, started my Graduate Assistantship, killed Facebook again, worked through this difficult semester, started up Facebook again, had another raunchy holiday season, and here we are, 2010. Wow, interesting how quickly time goes. Never thought I’d say that.
So let’s discuss what’s gone on this last decade.
2000 -
I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Tobyhanna, PA when I was 15.
Quote that describes this experience: “Wow, racism is a real problem”
2001 -
Well, a whole lot of nothing happened until September, and that’s all I remember. I met Samer and Matt this year, and they were the first two people in the Poconos that I could call a friend.
Started up my senior year in a different high school. Obviously, the school was separated on race, but there’s no evidence to that. It’s just obvious. Most of my friends in high school were black, and I no longer felt like an outsider because of them.
Graduated high school, started college, learned to drive, and experienced living on my own for the first time. Some of my friendships got stronger, and I met an amazing group of people in the coffee shop of my new college. The most profound part of this year was that I learned to play piano.
Quite honestly, I don’t remember this year. I was going through phases, and I did some mental training to block a lot of my past out. I was going through some weird times at this point in life.
Moved in with Mike as my roommate, and had the time of my life. 20 was a good age for me.
The best part of this year was going to Italy and France. Then I had Tom as my roommate and that was fantastic. Too bad it ended after a single semester.
I went to Vegas by myself, hung out with some amazing people in the Street Fighter community. I found a part of myself this year.
Finally graduated college, went on a second trip to France, and the birth of the me that stands today came out.
There, the decade… Thank you for everybody who contributed to my experience. I appreciate it.