Books: Paper vs. Screen
old book clipart

Recently, the High School English Department had me pulling out my hair. I don’t have much to spare so you can imagine my frustration levels. They assigned non-fiction war memoirs and the students were responsible for obtaining their own copies. The books were not available in the text book center and the teacher did not have a class set. This would have worked fine if we were in the States where there is Barns and Noble seemingly in every city or Amazon can deliver anything within a couple of days. However, we are in the Philippines  and getting a paperback copy of a non-fiction war memoir can be tricky. This left my students to find a copy online. Only one of my students have a kindle and another one was planning on asking his parents to borrow their IPAD. The rest were planning on finding a PDF version online or trying to torrent a copy of the book.

I found myself frustrated with this solution because I feel students would be better served with a paper copy of the book. I decided to go online to do some research. Like anything online you can find evidence to support what you want to believe. Take a look at this, and then take a look at this.

I see the validity of both sides. E Readers are great! It’s a library that fits into your bookbag! It’s especially handy overseas, when bookstores aren’t stocked with the titles you are looking for, and I think most importantly when you have a wife who goes to bed way earlier then you and doesn’t like when you keep the nightlight on. However, I find there is something comforting about holding a book in your hand, the fact that it is not an illuminated screen, and, most importantly, how smart you look when you have a really great looking, custom built book case in your living room. I digress.

On just pure observation with no research to back up my claim, I feel that the ADHD male teenage population (the majority of the students I work with) have a very hard time respectfully using the technology at their disposal. To put it bluntly they are not the most responsible digital citizens. All students have multiple tabs open and use google chat to talk with their friends, however, they are able to get back to the task at hand. My boys get caught in digital vortex they can’t climb out of. It’s one long dark hole of youtube skate videos and subreddits. They are never fast enough with the three finger swipe left to take them back where they are supposed to be, a kind of digital middle finger, plus another two, to the teacher. Which brings me back to the digital books. I knew how hard the upcoming unit was going to be, research be damned. My boys already didn’t like to read, now they have to read a book online, probably with a computer (or IPAD) with all those digital distractions right at their fingertips! Sacré bleu




Trial and Error with Google Read and Write

I have had a love and hate relationship with the Google App Extension,Google Read and Write. I love the App and hate that my students won’t use it on consistent basis. Read and Write was recommended to me by an Ed-Psychologist who thought it could be beneficial to use with students who have Dyslexia and other reading and writing learning disabilities. It is really easy to set up and add to your browser. Just click “add to Chrome” and the extension is added to your browser. It will then appear as a purple icon in your search bar, as you see in the screen shot below.

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When a student opens up an article to read in class, or a google doc they are going to type in, they click on the icon and it will give them a plethora of choices depending on what they want to do, and what kind of help they need (see screenshot below)

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.26.21 AM

A little description what’s available:

I had students download the extension a couple of weeks ago and we practiced its variety of features while we read Sean Penn’s opus in Rolling StoneEl Chapo Speaks. Students played around with the variety of options and seemed to especially like the text speech option, the dictionary, and the fact finder for research.

Late last week, I did an informal poll of both classes who downloaded Google Read and Write. Each said they were not going to buy the premium version, and more then 3/4ths of them had already removed the extension from their browser. I think first and foremost students want “Free.” They were not going to ask their parents to buy them the extension. Google Read and Write also has the annoying habit of constantly requesting permission to view pages. This seemed to really frustrate the students. Both issues are fixable. As a Google School with a pretty hefty budget, I feel like we could buy a subsciption for our Learning Support Department. I also feel that permission to view pages is a user error and something that is correctable. The benefits of Google Read and Write for our struggling students are too great to dismiss this helpful extension. I will continue to trial and error the program until I can make it stick where it it something they use automatically, like the right click function.


Technology–To the Stars and Back


When it comes to technology as it relates to Learning Support , I feel a bit like a young astronomer staring into space with a powerful new telescope he got for Christmas. He wants to see a certain consetellation, but isn’t all that sure where to look. I want my students to be responsible digital citizens but am not all that certain where to start. We have the devices but how can I make sure my students are using them responsibly and how can I help them to? I often see unresponsible tech usage in class throughout the day-what is the best way to address this and how can we make an open and honest conversation where lasting, positive change can occur? I’ve played the big, bad, mean tech nazi before and it isn’t a role I relish playing. I don’t want to have unreasonable tech usage parameters in my classroom. I want the dicussion to be honest and reasonable. I want my students to use their technology as our young astronomer would use his new telescope, with careful, nuanced practice that pushes boundaries into the unknown but so far where he’ll see something he shouldn’t, as if it was pointed at his neighbors’ house.

Learning support teachers, like all other educators, are constantly bombarded with the newest and latest technology offerings. Many of the journals I read are always spouting off on the new “it” technology that is going to change education forever!I want to make sure the technology I adopt is something that is sustainable, allows my students to achieve success, is streamlined and easy to use, and something that is adoptable over multiple platforms. There are many helpful apps that I can access , how do I know they are right for me and what is the best situation to try them to practice where they will induce the least amount of harm? I hope this course can shed some lights on some these questions and take me to the tech promised land!