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Who Am We?

Back in 1996, Sherry Turkle famously posited the question “who am we” in her seminal article of the same name in Wired magazine in 1996.  I remember reading her essay in my hometown in the Bay Area, and being struck by how well she captured the shift I was seeing in the world of computing around me. 

Turkle’s key point is that shifts in technology and our interactions in the worldwide web explode the notion of a singular self.  It’s the idea that we can be multiple people at once at one time through the World Wide Web.  In one of the most interesting moments of her essay, Turkle notes that the “lessons of computing today have not to do with calculation and rules, but with simulation, navigation, and interaction.”  In other words, the way our engagement with technology has changed now has less to do with how we work with it then how we use it to mediate our interactions with others and negotiate our own identities as end users. 

 Now, I guess, this is par for the course, but in the mid-1990s her argument was game changing.  Turkle’s premise moved far beyond the “lets-all-play-Oregon-Trail-on-dad’s-Apple II e” paradigm of my childhood.  My teachers were now in chat rooms.  My boyfriend dropped out of Cal to work for Sun Microsystems at their isolated Silicon Valley campus then knick-named Sun Quentin and now apparently known as Zucker Berg.   To put things in terms that any seasoned veteran (emigrant?) of the Oregon Trail would understand, I was going to have to find a way to caulk my own wagon and float across to the side of the river in which all the new technology and potential lay, or I was going to end up dead of diphtheria  or a snakebite somewhere outside of Fort BASIC. 

I made it, I guess, over the last fifteen years, to the other side and figured out how to negotiate my own identity and interact with others on the web.  And I hadn’t given much thought to Turkle until this summer when I started to try to write my first blog post for this project.  The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Turkle’s question “who am we” continues to ring true as we think about the power, potentials, and problems that the use of iPads may raise. 

*   What exactly does the use of an iPad by an instructor or iPads within a class of students due to questions of authority, identity, and ownership of ideas in a classroom?

*    Does the navigation of technologies such as iPads and various iPad apps merit the logistical challenges and sometimes steep learning curve that their use necessitates?

*    Will using an iPad as an instructional technology change my sense of my essential self as a teacher?  I currently don’t actually use *that* many instructional technologies in the classroom. I’m curious to see how this changes things.

I hope that in participating in this project I can find some answers to the questions I’ve listed above.  And I'd love to hear from you, TLC folks.  What answers do you have?


3 Big Questions by Elis Lee

Since I received the iPad last week, my mind has been racing with questions and ideas on how to use this technology in my classroom. The main questions were:
1. What can I do with this that I can't do with a computer in the classroom?
2. What can I do with this that does not require the students to also have one in hand?
3. What can I do with this once all the students have access to it?

While I think about the answers, the plan is to find apps that I can use in ESL courses. There are two that seem very promising, but I have not been able to download the apps. I'm not sure if my connection at home was bad or if there was something I did wrong. I'll try again this week.

I'm excited about the possibilities out there. Because of this project, I've even changed one of my rules and I'm adapting some activities to include technology.This morning, the students were shocked when instead of reminding them to put their phones away during class, I told them to take the phones out of their bags, turn them on, and use them for an activity. The class worked better than ever before, so I can already imagine how it can/will be when I finally start to use the iPads in class.

Reflections for the Tablet Learning Collaborative by R. Kamei

I am very interested in applying the latest technology to enhance the learning experience for my students.  To do this, I am stepping out of my comfort zone.  Up until now, I felt most effective using the chalkboard or whiteboard to stimulate class discussions in a relatively spontaneous fashion.  Now, I would like to know how I can use technology, such as the iPad tablet, to build on the skills that have worked for me up to this point. 

Based on the mission statement for the TLC, I am still very much at the developing familiarity and comfort stage.  I have learned to download applications, e.g., Ted Talks that would be useful in my class.   One challenge that I am having that I hope members of this collaborative can help me with is figuring out uses for the iPad that are different from what the computers with internet access can do.

Adaptation and Migration

"those who aren't busy being born are busy dying"

I'm sure that when Bob Dylan wrote this, he was thinking of more than tablets.  But is the inspiration really different?  
The existence of disenfranchised or disconnected groups is, sadly, timeless.  The composition of the groups just changes from year to year.  Technology is creating a [digital] divide that further fractures the haves and have nots.  In schools, it presents itself as a widening chasm between educators devoted to their disciplines in very traditional ways and a generation of learners whose digital fluency has significantly shaped how they think, feel, and behave.  Early, insightful work by Chris Dede (on Neo-millennial learners) and by Mark Prensky has helped to clarify these distinctions as differences between 'digital immigrants' and 'digital natives'.  The immigrants, Prensky argues, must migrate into the world of the native in order to communicate and survive.  The irony, of course, is that the immigrant is the adult, and the native is typically the child.

digital immigrant

This migration is inescapable, often creating digital refugees of very well intentioned adults.  It is also governed by the social norms of the digital immigrant.  The resulting confusion is so remarkable that we have done little to confront its impact on our ability to prepare students to thrive socially, economically, and politically.  The social consequences are everywhere: texting someone while having a conversation with the person in front of you; contemplating salutations and paralanguage while skyping; or dining with a smart phone in hand, ready to capture an image for your latest Yelp review.  The economic consequences are even more troublling.  Today's students will graduate and look for jobs in careers that do not exist, or that have existed for only a decade.  A look inside any Google CampusDreamworks Studio, or Apple's Spaceship Campus reveals that jobs have been redefined or created as a direct result of emerging technology.  Politically, emerging technology has created far more questions than we are able to answer.  What happens in a world where presidents tweetcongressmen sext? or smartphones are used to create documentaries or capture injustice around the world?  Are we equipped to discuss labor and capital in world where companies are leveraging crowd-sourcing to out-source reseach and development?  

A deeper analysis of these issues reveals the real, growing impact of digital migration.  Fueled by the explosion of mobile computing technology and the rise of Web 2.0, it is clear that the chasm is widening still.  Just who will be disenfranchised remains to be seen, however.  Will it be the immigrant? or will it be the 'generation' who has 'grown up digital'?  More than ever before, the technology driving the internet has made it ubiquitous (smartphones, laptops, and tablets), accessible/mobile (3G, 4G, WiFi, and WiMax), personally social (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), adaptive/intelligent (Pandora, iHeart, Springpad, etc.), and editable (Wikipedia, Youtube, Vimeo, Minecraft, etc.).  It is the internet of the generation that has quickly become the largest learning group on campuses across the country.  We must be determined to better understand, engage, and responsibly educate this group.  Using the iPad as a vehicle for migration, we hope to study and, perhaps, cross the chasm between these groups.  To that end, we would like to 'get busy being born', and to document our discoveries here.  

Games and Books on the Same Device

After our meeting on 6/8/12, I had to look up the following blog entry from James Paul Gee.  Too often we see games and books- or work and play- as mutually exclusive.  But should they be?  When a device, such as the iPad, effectively blurs the line between the two, is the resulting resistance the result of cognitive dissonance?  How do you feel when you hear claims that people can learn to appreciate genetics more from a game like Spore, history from Civilization Revolution, or physics from SimplePhysics or Angry Birds?  Do books create such appreciation more effectively?  Prior knowlege and motivation obviously matter, but I still think we should have conversations about the merits of a book as a tool, and about games as tools.

10 Truths About Books and What They Have to Do With Video Games

Lots of people these days -- some old, some young; some in suits, some not -- are advocating that we use video games for learning, education, health, social change, and other "non-entertainment" purposes. However, lots of people who understand games, don't understand books and lots of people who understand books, don't understand games. There are 10 key truths we know about books. They happen to be equally true of other "meaning making technologies" like television and video games. Thus, in these 10 ways, books and video games are the same. They are both tools suited for certain jobs and best used in certain ways. So here are the 10 truths (for citations to the literature, see my book Situated Language and Learning, Routledge, 2004):

 1.  Books are a powerful technology. They can lead to aggression and violence (witness the Bible, the Koran, and the Turner Diaries in the wrong hands). Nazi Germany was a highly literate society. Games, so far, do not have this much power, but some day they may.

 2.   Books can lead to peace, tolerance, and charity if (and only if) they are read in a society and in families devoted to peace, tolerance, and charity.

 3.  For good learning, books require talk and social interaction with others around interpretation and implications.

 4.  Books can make you stupid by not questioning what they say.

 5.   Books can make you smart by supplying vicarious experience, new ideas, and something to debate and think about.

 6.   Books are often best used as tools for problem solving, not just in and for themselves.

 7.   To get the most out of them, books require the reader to read like a "writer" (a type of designer).

 8.   Just giving people books does not make them smarter; it all depends on what they do with them and who they do it with. For young people, it depends, too, on how much and how well they get mentored. Mentoring is, in fact, crucial.

 9.  Connecting books to the real world and to other media is good for learning, not doing so is bad for learning.

 10.  Books tend to make the "rich" richer and the poor "poorer" (those who read more in the right way get to be better and better readers and get more and more out of reading; those who don't, get to be poorer and poorer readers and get less and less out of reading. The former get more successful, the latter, less). This is called "the Matthew Principle."

 However, games do have some special properties that set them aside from books (and books have special properties that set them aside from games). Some of these are:

 1.  Games are based not on content, but on problems to solve. The content of a game (what it is "about") exists to serve problem solving.

 2.  Games can lead to more than thinking like a designer; they can lead to designing, since players can "mod" many games, i.e., use software that comes with the game to modify it or redesign it.

 3. Gamers co-author the games they play by the choices they make and how they choose to solve problems, since what they do can affect the course and sometimes the outcome of the game.

 4. Games are most often played socially and involve collaboration and competition.

The Secret Powers of Time

This 10 minute video talks about iPedagogy starting at about 5 min 50 sec

Teach Different, 2001

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