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Education, Technology, and Society: Altering Environments

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alesnick's picture

Welcome to the course pages for Education 255: Education, Technology, and Society: Altering Environments, a course given at Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2012.  Students, colleagues, and visitors are invited to join in conversation about online networked experiences and -- and as -- learning. 

syllabus, Part 2/Take 2


about the instructor


asweeney's picture

Is it dangerous to label certain things are being "relevant" only for certain students?

Today during the presentations the idea that certain themes are more "relevant" to certain students came up. I'm wondering if this is a fair question to ask? While I too see the merit in quetioning whether or not we are teaching certain topics correctly (civil rights, slavery, and the black power movements were discussed in class), I don't think it is necessarily fair to argue that these topics are more relevant to certain students based on race. Perhaps it is true that a black student might glean different meaning from a lesson on US slavery than would his or her peers of different races, but I'm also sure that students of all races would take something important from the lesson. By suggesting that a lesson would be MORE relevant to this student because he or she is black, however, I think we risk re-inforcing a commonly used concept that being white means being "culturless." I'd like to aruge that EVERYTHING we teach in a classroom is equally relevant to all students----relevant to what it means to be a human, and what is means to understand common human phenomena that are still present today in the world---like hate and prejudice. Students of different races might take different forms of meaning from certain topics, but I think it might be dangerous to suggest that some topics are inherently more relevant to certain students. We wouldn't want to block students from exploring things that they find truly interesting simply because they do not belong to the group to which this topic is truly "relevant." 

besanradwan's picture

Hunger Games

Hello All,

I found this article, and I thought it would relate a lot to the work we were doing in class for the hunger games and the idea of technology and learning:
Please let me know what you think!
besanradwan's picture

Field Notes, the bigger picture

Going into this field placement on Friday, I knew exactly what the problem was. Though I had been deterred from going into the classroom, I finally understoof why. These teachers were most probably amazing teachers, they were capable of engaging their classroom and using innovative tools to get their idea across. However, there was NO technology in the classes, but this was not a random occurrence. This was the result of hesitation from the teachers because of their lack of experience in the field of using computers. Therefore, I finalized a script and began my camtasia video on how to create a google calendar  

mzhang's picture

racism in Media literacy and how that should be involved in education

After all discussions held passionately in class about the potential racism reflected in books and movies, I think our discussions has gone way too far. The Hunger Games might not be the perfect example for us to examine the racist ideologies but due to its popularity among the teens, we take it as an entering point. As Alice pointed out that what we had got from the book was far beyond the book's orignial intentions and I think we should not put that much effort on the content, per se. 

maddybeckmann's picture

'Color Of Christ': A Story Of Race And Religion In America

Our discussion today reminded me of a story I listened to on NPR last week about the multiple perceptions of Jesus. It is really very interesting. This is the link:

asweeney's picture

She Would Not Be Moved----How we pick "safe" heroes to teach in school

mzhang's picture

field notes 2

After I watched the girl sitting in front of me playing her online games all through the class, I started to doubt whether or not a computer class should be held in this loose tension. I have noticed from the very beginning of this placement that the teacher does not give any lectures and the class begins and ends in chaos as always. Is it because that this is a computer class which is not a traditional discipline course?

I interviewed the teacher afterwards and the teacher gave her answers as that first of all, many of students had already have those computer skills before they come into the class and secondly, sixth and seventh grade girls will probably not focus on her lecture for long. 

In this classroom, there is no doubt that most of the students have access to computers and technical skills outside the class and according to the teacher, besides the transfer students, students in this school would receive the computer education from kindergarten. I agree that prosperous economic background of these students may bring them advantadges in utilizing computers but since if the kindergarten in this school has already provided the technique education, why the curriculum in middle school still stays in the same material? If the students were simply taking a break and surfing online randomly, school might need to reconsider the curriculum and the course arrangment, otherwise, the class would be a waste of time and resource.

besanradwan's picture

The Hunger Games-another perspective

Hello All,

In my quest to better understand the hunger games as a tool for learning in the classroom, I have found this article written by a student at another university:

This persepctive compares themes found in the hunger games to classical themes found in other classical, well know books that are typically used in classrooms. This further leads me to thinking that our classmate Kelsey had the right idea, by using the hunger games alongside another text to highlight certain themes and ideas that could relate to real world historical events. This could both engage the student, while teaching history in a new and innovative way. Please let me know what you all think!


asweeney's picture

Panem propaganda

asweeney's picture

Abby Field Notes 5

What? When we are outside at recess, this one little girl comes up to me at least 10 times each minute and says “Teacher Abby! Watch me! I want to show you something” and then does some sort of swinging motion on the monkey bards for me to watch. I come over and watch every time, but the action itself rarely changes. Eventually, I try to go to a different area of the playground, but she follows me insisting that I watch her “do this” and “do that.” Every time, I feel the need to say “Good job!”

emmagulley's picture

Field Placement III

At my field placement the 8th grade girls have been spending each class working in the same group on a series of projects.  It wasn't until this placement, however, that I realized the projects were all interrelated and revolved around the same core.  The girls chose their own groups and decided on a research topic that interested them, then together conducted empirical research by surveying their group of subjects (i.e. classmates.)  The girls first entered this data into Excel and then designed it into an aesthetic graph/visual representation.  At my most recent placement, they used the "green room" in the back of the computer lab to record and present their findings. 

Some data projects included: favorite Starbucks drinks; favorite vacation spot; which eyeshadow goes best with which complexion; favorite Broadway show.  There's obviously a lot of socioeconomic dynamics at play here (i.e. the assumption that everyone in their sample group will have seen enough Broadway shows to have a favorite) and part of me just instinctively cringed a little when I saw these bright, developing girls with so many incredible resources at their disposal choose to talk about eyeshadow. 

I originally wasn't sure how I felt about the value of teaching these girls Excel, etc, but now that I see it all fits in with a theme for the larger trimester it's easier to justify the excel unit.

besanradwan's picture

Field placement items

Sadly, there is not much to add to my field notes from last week. constructing writing and creating videos to teach students about basic ways to use technology. E.g. How to create an event in their google calendar. therefore, i haven't really interacted with how students at my placement school use technology, or how teachers use technology to interact with their students. I have however devoloped insight into the basic technology gap that is present amongst the teachers. 

Julie Mazz's picture

Map of Panem

I just wanted to share this map, a projected look at where each Panem district would be based on The Hunger Games. It's a little obsessive/silly, but I thought the geography and history that the designer considered was very smart. (I found it through Entertainment Weekly this summer. Ignore the random picture that doesn't show up)

Julie Mazz's picture

Site Visit

Although I'm in a journalism class, the teacher, Mr. A, also has most of the students in his ninth grade English class as well. Today, if the students had already finished their articles, he told them to use a website called, a website that runs grammer drills. To make it more appealing to students, when they sign up for the website they can pick a few of their favorite things, the NFL, country musicians, Modern Family, etc, and it uses those topics in the sentances. There are around 50 different grammar exercises they can work on, and because they sign up through a class code, Mr. A can check and see how they did on each exercise, plus how many attempts they made to get the correct answer. 

Mr. A explained that he really liked this program, even if the favorite things aspect is a little silly. He likes that it cuts down on paper use, it instantly grades their responses, and students can work on it whenever they have downtime. 

This is the first time I've seen them use this program, so I'm curious as to how much they learn from it, and whether Mr. A will address the students that make multiple attempts to figure out the right answer. Overall though, it seems pretty effective and perhaps this version of gaming appeals to some of the students. 

asweeney's picture

Abby field notes 4

What? When Teacher S is absent, the entire class goes into Teacher A’s classroom. 50 kids and one lead teacher with a few aids (volunteer grandparents). This is sure to be a challenging situation. The chosen method of teaching in this situation is using the smart board to play various YouTube videos of educational merit. More specifically, they watch President Obama’s speech and a video about Veteran’s Day (with country-style patriotic music and pictures of soldiers dying and children crying). Because there are so many kids in the classroom, some of them are sitting quite far away from the screen on which these videos are playing, and therefore have difficulty seeing and paying attention.


When the teacher tries to access a certain video, she is unable to do so because of a block with the school’s internet server. She then has to spend almost 25 minutes trying to get the video and filling out various online forms. The music teacher comes in to distract the 50 kids with impromptu music while they wait.


leamirella's picture

I'm still anti-Hunger Games...

After yesterday's discussion about Hunger Games, I do not think I have been convinced by the inclusion of Hunger Games into the curriculum. While KCHarris made a fantastic suggestion of putting Hunger Games in conversation with another text, I'm still not sure that I would consider the text to be of great value to a classroom -- it just seems that there are other books out there that might address some of the things that we discussed.

1. I felt that a lot of the emotions surrounding the inclusion of The Hunger Games revolved around how it would motivate students to "read". But what do we mean by "reading"? Do we mean (as N. Katherine Hayles talks about in her essay, "How We Read") hyperreading, close reading....? What about the motivations for reading? To be able to think about how The Hunger Games would really affect the ability/love of reading, I think that these are important questions to consider.

2. I do see the point that some of our classmates made passionately about tailoring books to fit in with student's backgrounds. While I didn't take the comment about not being taken seriously in certain contexts personally, I do urge the consideration of how well these students will be prepared to enter college. (Since this seems to be the path that MGuerrero mentioned as being the "model") Would The Hunger Games prepare students to do the type of analysis/close reading required by freshman seminars? I can't speak generally, but probably not at Bryn Mawr.

MGuerrero's picture


When we spoke about us imposing reading on the students of lower levels. An image came to mind, this is not it, but the idea is the same.

alesnick's picture

Notes from Minecraft

Complexity -- not evident to neophyte

Skilled players add complexity!

Content v process, skills

self-directed -- or what kind of display board is their interest?

How diff people use the same tool

value of hearing what people are passionate about

confident in speaking

They learn tangible things

tools but do things for themselves

games link to scholarship -- an asset

creativity -- what you can create is limitless

pedagogical community around it

large variety of skill sets -- how provide access to all

incorrect information -- worry about type of information - guiding you towards failure

Notes on small groups:

learning the tech vs. using the tech.  Where do students get the computer skills they need?

Role of computer classes in education field

changing job of teachers (both computer sci and other subjects)?

What is educational?  "Since you are on Justin" -- get points on math site

personal choice of students

personalizing their computers (not just school logo) -- ownership

Idea of not being up to date with technology . . . 

if it's not broken, don't fix it -- time to learn about it and its full functionality  . . . 

quantity vs. quality

portfolio of computer skills -- basic competencies

emmagulley's picture

Field Notes II

Rather than write a reflection on the entire class period, I wanted to share a small vingette I noticed as I was settling in.  

The class was supposed to be finishing their Scratch projects (we've talked about that software before; it's sort of a game for middle schoolers to learn the principles of computer programming while still producing a cartoon) but two girls couldn't access their group file because it was saved on another student's harddrive and that student was absent.  

As they waited for their teacher to give them new directions, the two girls started looking through their harddrives.  They opened up different files and tugged at each other's sleeves with excitement.  

"____, guess what I just found!"

"Ooooh, look!  We made this in first grade!"

"I remember!"

"We totally had the best project." 

With one double click they were transported back in time, to work they submitted in the first, second, fourth grade.  Their sense of nostalgia and pride was palpable. Sitting there, looking through an unorganized Finder window in the middle of a computer class, they might as well have been sitting in their bedrooms, looking through old scrapbooks--that's how sweet and moving it was to watch their excitement.  

asweeney's picture

Field Notes 2--Abby

What?  No technology used When spelling new words, the teacher writes on the board: “saw to frnds” instead of “saw too friends.” I assume this is a strategy for helping kids learn to spell phonetically. The students learn their letters by tracing them on whiteboards in their laps. The teacher describes the letter “a” as “ a ball and a wall.” 

One child  (Student A) really wants to tell everyone something. The teacher explains that now is not the time for chatting, but for reading When the teacher says he can tell her in private at recess, he says loudly that he doesn’t need to tell her in private. “I want to tell all of yall” he says to the circle. Child R lost his lunch.  His mother must have packed it but did not remember to put it in the backpack. R starts to cry hysterically and refuses to join the line to go out to recess. When he finally does go to recess, he embraces me in a hug and does not let go. He cries the whole recess, worried that he won’t have lunch. 

So What?

It’s interesting to me to see how kids need to be reminded of when it is appropriate to talk and share and when it is not. School’s timing is so strictly scheduled, and I imagine it is difficult for kindergarten students to adjust to this in the beginning.