Mane (CRIN 604)

         Digital tools in education

March 1, 2010

Chile’s earthquake and social media

Filed under: Social Media — mepada @ 12:23 am

It is 7:00AM on Saturday morning. A phone call from sister wakes me up. She apologizes to me for calling so early and proceeds to tell me that an 8.8 (or higher) earthquake had hit Chile! I immediately told her I would try to get a hold of the family. I frantically started making phone calls. First to my mother, who is visiting Chile until the end of March. I remembered that she had left to go see some friends in Argentina on Friday – the day before the earthquake hit. I then started calling my brother, his children, my aunts, uncles, first cousins (I have over 50 of them), anyone who would answer the phone! The lines were down and/or I would get a busy signal, and/or a message that told me to try later…frustration was building up! I called the phone operator who suggested I contact the Red Cross. I thought it would be too early for the Red Cross to have a list of names of any useful information.

It occurred to me then that maybe, just maybe the internet could be still “operational”. I turned on my computer and opened my email app, Facebook, Twitter and Skype (all at the same time).

I first posted a message on Twitter: “8.8 earthquake in Chile. I have been trying to reach my family all morning!!” My Twitter account is synched with Facebook so this posting showed up on my “What’s on your mind” box. Immediately I started to get feedback. First, from concerned US friends. Soon after, from my friends from Argentina who were following the news very closely (some of them had felt the impact of the earthquake in Buenos Aires!). Nothing from my family at that point. I was starting to get very nervous! All of a sudden a message! A cousin who was letting me know that he and his family were ok. He had not been able to contact anyone else in Santiago or elsewhere in Chile. Via email I learned from a niece that she also was fine (scared and shaken but ok).Slowly but surely I started to get messages form more members of my family. However, nothing from my brother and his wife and five children.

I discovered – through a message in Facebook – Google Person Finder! I accessed the program and completed several forms with personal info of some of my relatives. I was told that many people were finding their loved ones via this app.

Around 2:00PM I got a call from Wavy Ten asking me if I was willing to do an “on camera” interview. I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to show a picture of my brother and expose it to the world– just in case!

At 4:45PM a journalist and a camera man showed up at our home and recorded an interview that lasted approx. 1 ½ hours. Later I was able to watch myself in the 6:00PM news and then again at 11:00PM! They also showed the picture I had given them of my brother and his family.

Later that night messages to my Facebook and my email staring to pour in! People I did not know were showing their concern and letting me know that we were in their thoughts and prayers! I was deeply touched!

Around 11:30PM I Skyped -and successfully got through- an uncle and aunt. They were re-telling their experience and describing the damages they had incurred when an aftershock hit Chile –again (they had over 69 aftershocks as strong as 7.3). It was such a surreal experience! I was actually watching them (we never lost connection) as the aftershock was taking place. I could see their lamps swaying back and forth. I could see the fear on their faces! When it subsided we decided to hang up our Skype call. They had been up since 3:00AM and had not eaten anything all day!

Finally around midnight I received a Facebook message from my brother’s daughter, Bernardita. Her message did definitively allow me to breathe again! She had been alone in their home in Santiago when the earthquake hit! She reacted in the worse possible way by hiding under her bed! I replied by telling her to remain calm. When I asked her about the rest of the family she proceeded to inform me that even though they were ok their country home (where they had gone for the week-end) had been damaged quite a bit and that since the roads and bridges had collapsed, and all the phone lines were down, she had not spoken to them in a while.

Well…needless to say I did not sleep much at all on Saturday night! I was wired and still very worried about not just my brother but also the rest of the family members who we could not reach!

My relatives asked me to be the one to communicate with the rest of them in Chile as news arrived about family members telling me they were safe. Too much pressure on “just” me! How could I possibly find/reach them all? I contacted via Facebook my cousin Macarena, who lives in Dubai. While the two of us were using the chatting feature  in Facebook, she was skyping her parents while I was emailing other relatives and sending tweets.  Talk about virtual collaboration!

Today I managed to contact my brother via Skype! We spoke for hours! They are still experiencing aftershocks. The reality of the magnitude of this natural disaster was just beginning to sink in. People are sleeping on the streets and/or still looking for their parents/children/relatives. Food and gas are in shortage. Many areas do not have electricity or gas or water!

The only reason I was able to communicate with my family was due to our world-wide wireless infrastructures!

I am so thankful to be living in a time where we have managed to develop technology tools – and more specifically – social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Google Person Finder, etc…which allow us to do what only a few years ago we could not have been able to accomplish: Communicating with our loved ones in times of tragedy in less than 24 hrs of it striking!

I will look at these technologies differently from now on! They are not just for “socializing’ they are much, much more!


My brother and his family.

My brother and his family.

 Wavy Ten:

February 21, 2010

Chapter 4: The Promise of the Computer

Filed under: Laptops,Larry Cuban — mepada @ 1:38 pm


Chapter 4 reminded me immediately of the “One laptop per Child” initiative that took place in Uruguay not long ago. In 2006, the government of Uruguay, most specifically their president, Tabara Vazquez, decided to provide all public school students with apple laptops. 380,000 computers were distributed.

A little history:

  • These mini/energy-efficient computers were designed at MIT by Professor Nicholas Negroponte.
  • US Scientist founded the “One Laptop per Child” group which distributes these computers to selected governments.
  • The computers are rugged, low-cost and energy-efficient laptop with Internet connectivity, learning software and a photo camera.

What great news some may think! Poor children can now have access to the same resources as their wealthier counterparts!

However, when we referred back to the questions posed in Chapter 4 (page 74):

  • What is the nature of the innovation?
  • How is it being introduced?
  • Who are the users, and how much are the machines used?, and
  • Should computers be used in the classroom?

It makes us reflect on how some teachers in Uruguay reacted to this initiative.

This article, All Public Primary School Students in Uruguay Will Now Have a laptop ( states that this decision did not please all teachers, “Some would have preferred to use the funds to reform the local school system or to increase teacher salaries”

Miguel Brechner who heads this program called “Ceibal Plan” stated:

“The goal is to teach students how to work in a different way, so they can get better jobs five to six years from now”, and added: “…we also would like to give students equal opportunity. As a result of this decision 220,000 more household now have a computer, and half of them are among the poorest ones.”

According to this article, (as of November 2009) the internet has not yet reached 25% of Uruguay elementary schools, however, they plan to have wireless connectivity by the end 2010.

When the students took the laptop homes they realized that their parents have never touched a keyboard before. Therefore they have implemented free local training programs for parents and community members on how to use the equipment.

The article also points out that this program is still too recent to measure its impact.

During 2010 they plan to extend this program to the high schools. Brechner stated that this time “It will be a compact version of the popular notebook, with greater power and memory than the computers given to elementary school children.”

“Preliminary results from one study… shared with a group of international experts who met in Uruguay… apparently show that, as a result of increased access to technology in the two years since the rollout of Ceibal commenced, eight-year old children now have the same level of computer literacy that 18 year olds demonstrated just a few years ago.”

More formal research and studies are being conducted to determine the impact of this program. They hope to discover useful information that would perhaps allow us to answer some of Cuban’s own questions:

“What is the most useful frame of reference for assessing the impact of Plan Ceibal in and on Uruguay?  Standardized test scores?  Something broader?  How about it’s larger societal and community impact?”

Cost of this program:

“The amount (of the Ceibal program) accounts for less than five percent of the primary school budget, according to Miguel Brechner, who heads the program.”

“…cost the state $260 (£159) per child, including maintenance costs, equipment repairs, training for the teachers and internet connection.”


February 15, 2010

Second Life: VSTE, Presentation on Internet Filters

Filed under: Internet filters,Second Life,VSTE — mepada @ 9:47 pm
Tonight I (well, Mane Sideways) attended this presentation, which proved to be an eye-opening experience.

Here are my notes:

Presenter: Craig Cunningham (First Life) “Dewey Jung” (Second Life). He is an educational philosopher and technologist.

Most schools favor some form of filtering.


  • Which words can we type in and which words are “inappropriate”
  • Cuba: Government controlled systems
  • Chicago Public School: A Siren goes off when an “inappropriate ” site is accessed (applies to students and teachers)
  • Schools filter due to CIPA (Children Internet Protection Act, which passed in 2001) I only requires blocking: Child pornography and adult sites.
  • US: Local control – dependent, however the presenter has not seen a School Board making filtering decisions.

Major filtering methods:

  • All words, phrases with the exception of those on the “white list”.
  • All words, phrases on the “black list”.
  • Certain words, phrases, images typed by the user.
  • Ports used for services such as games, email, voice-over, etc.

Great Britain and Australia: Federal Government makes filter decisions.

 Russia: State level makes filter decisions.

Presenter “Dewey Jung” would like to see everything un-blocked! Purpose of education is to educate not restrict. Students should be provided freedom to inquire.

Huge problem with filters:

  • Software determines what content is harmful.
  • They overblock.
  • Only some people may find content unacceptable.
  • School curriculum subjects and valuable information gets blocked.
  • Schools end abdicating their educational responsibilities to corporations.
  • Equity issue: wealthier students go home and access much of the info blocked at their schools (poorer students do not have this choice)
  • If a site is unrecognized the software/tech person bans it.
  • Schools can be open to lawsuits by parents (teachers and admmin can be sued)

What can be done: Teachers’ unions should be pro-active about this issue.

Getting around filters:

  • Some kids are becoming more tech savy and know how to bypass filters.
  • Use
  • Use (YouTube)
  • Right click on an image and copy/paste url intothe browser
  • Use mobile versions of Fb or MySpace
  • etc.
  1. There is a disconnect between principals and students.
    Our schools are not preparing our students for the 21st Century.
  2. Presenter agrees we should block pornography but not social networking sites.
     “In a playful context kids seem to have and almost infinite capacity for learning”
    “Better theories of learning are embedded in the the video games…than in the classroom”
  3. The National Research Council makes an analogy between swimming and the internet (and its apps): Swimming pools are dangerous to children. We can put up fences and locks and these help but by far the most important thing we can do is teaching them to swim 🙂
  4. We should aim to:
    Create a climate of trust
    Accept that students will make mistakes
    Build a “Walled Garden” (social media) with teacher supervision

Pics of the event:

February 13, 2010

Chapter 3: Use of Machines in the Classroom

Filed under: Larry Cuban — mepada @ 10:27 pm

This chapter hit home. Years ago -before changing careers from education to instructional technology- I taught for several years (at the Higher Ed level). Oftentimes new technologies would pop ‘up and there would be either an administrator and/or an “early adopter” pushing us to adopt it and use it in the classroom. My personal reaction is explained very clearly on page 60: Teaching itself nourishes a cautionary attitude toward change and an arms-length response to automated devices.

This type of “un-gentle” request always made me nervous however, as Cuban states on page 55: Compliance with authority is expected in organizations. I had (and the same applies today) many concerns that needed examined and questions that needed answers before I would even start to consider such an adoption.

Many of these items link directly to some of the assertions mentioned in this chapter. Even though Cuban concentrates in the K-12 environment, I believe the same criteria can be transferred to Higher Ed setting as well.

Today, in my role as an instructional technologist /technology programs coordinator, with less classroom teaching responsibilities but increasing faculty training obligations, I continue to bring to the table the same set of questions and concerns I had when I taught students back in the day!:

  • What is this technology tool?
  • What does it do?
  • What are its limitations?
  • Will it help deliver content in a more effective manner?
  • Will it improve teaching/learning? (pg 65: The changes teachers have embraced…have solved problems that teachers identified as important…)
  • Will this tool help my students get better grades?
  • Will I have time to learn it? (I was really overloaded as it was!)
  • Will the college/university offer training?
  • Will the college/university provide support?
  • Will I have to re-arrange my classroom layout?
  • Will the students require/need same level of training/support?
  • Will the students have access to the equipment?  In a lab?  In the classroom? At home?
  • Will the lab be open enough hours? Evening hours?
  • Will we (instructors and students) have to incur any additional costs?
  • What happens when something goes wrong?
  • Will this technology go away when a new one is introduced?
  • Is it worth the time/labor/effort?

After all, as mentioned in The Three-E Strategy for Overcoming Resistance to Technological Change: If you just build it, they won’t come—you need to shape users’ behavior by acknowledging their world view rather than your own as a technology implementer. (

February 6, 2010

Chapter 2: Instructional television

Filed under: Electronic Field Trips,Instructional television — mepada @ 8:54 pm

I agree when Cuban states that “instructional television…has been and continues to be used as an accessory to rather than the primary vehicle for basic instruction”, and then again…isn’t that the case with most technologies? Radio, film, TV, tape players, computers, social media, even the “out-of-date” blackboard they all constitute tools we use in instruction that help us (ideally)  effectively deliver content, successfully reach our students who have different learning styles and capably  improve on the quality of our teaching/learning process. In my opinion the “primary vehicle for instruction” still remains the teacher/professor her/himself. Everything else enables that course of action. Even “hard-core” online instruction encourage students to access the instructor/teaching assistants when they require help/instructions/clarification.

After reading this chapter I became curious about our own Colonial Williamsburg instructional TV production efforts. I visited their website ( and discovered many teacher resources available, among them the “Electronic Field Trips”

EFT are “Interactive, interdisciplinary programs that immerse students in the excitement of American history”

  • Live National Television Broadcasts that bring American history alive in your classroom
  • Innovative distance learning/Emmy-Award winning program for grades 4-8
  • Relevant stories of people, places, and events from the past that motivate today’s learners
  • Broadcasts air at 10 AM and 1 PM Eastern Time (closed caption/audio descriptions)
  • Broadcast on participating PBS stations and cable channels.
  • Streaming broadcasts live on your classroom computer
  • Live toll-free call-in and e-mail questions to Colonial Williamsburg historians
  • Online voting, video previews, and year-long student message board

 They based this program on the premise that it will:

  • Immerse students in authentic historical content
  • Build civics, history, and literacy skills
  • Infuse technology and interactive learning into a differentiated learning classroom
  • Fill information gaps and enhance background knowledge
  • Help students develop communication skills
  • Enhance students’ ability to gather and synthesize information from a variety of sources

They also state that these “classroom materials and programs are developed by teachers, museum professionals, and historians. Electronic Field Trips are designed to meet grades 4–8 state standards in social studies, language arts, arts education, and library/technology literacy, and science (when applicable).”

In my opinion, this program could be a very useful resource and “out-of-the-box” product that additionally provides step-by-step guidance to teachers interested in bringing this TV-based programming into the classroom. I should mention that there is price of $500 for the series or $120 for individual programs that obviously a school system would have to pay; however, the benefits may outweigh the constraints in this case!

Perhaps adoption of programs such as this one would prove the statements  made on page 50 wrong: ” If something happened tomorrow to wipe out all instructional television, America’s schools and colleges would hardly know it was gone”.

February 1, 2010

Second Life: VSTE, Book discussion

Filed under: Second Life,VSTE — mepada @ 10:43 pm

It is 8:00PM on 2/1 and I am sitting at a meeting in Second Life tonight (VSTE island).Very interesting!  The conversations are being conducted via mic (voice) and text messaging.
The moderator just sent us a link to a Google Docs  document that we all had to open. All the participants are writing something down …synchronously (within Second Life)!  She also asked us to click on a page of the novel being discussed (Blood on the River) – displayed in our SL site. A quote from this page appeared on my local chat window.
Next the moderator asked us to telport ourselves to a different part of the island (to the Sandbox) where she described a tool called: conceptualizer 0.7 (a 3-D graphic tool) which we learned to use to write text and create nodes.

Great experience!

Hope to go back!

Here are some pics:

Discussing the novel Discussing the novel

Learning to use the conceptualizer Creating nodes and writing text

Putting it all together Putting it all together!

January 29, 2010


Filed under: iEarn — mepada @ 5:07 pm

Wow! What an amazing article! The king of “stuff” I would hope everyone is considering when teaching in the 21st Century!

I first noticed the shift (and emphasis) from “prepare students to be motivated and active participants in their world” vs. the local community, which in my opinion is also important, reflecting the true neature of our world today. The whole worls has become our “local community”!

I recognize the importance iEarn place on instructional activities that link to important key terms in today’s education, such as networking and sharing (folktales project); learning from others, collaboration, and sharing of information (the Wetlands project); “movers and doers” (the land mines project).

I also learned a new expression: ACTIVIST TEACHING. What a great way to call it for what it is! According to Wikipedia (sorry Wikipedia skeptics), “Activism, in a general sense, can be described as intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change”. However, even though sometimes this word is directly related to extreme confrontation, It is apparent to me that iEarn embraces the sort of productive and positive activism rather than agressive and confrontational type.

What best way to achieve effective and longlasting change than to do it through debate, research and sharing of opinions.  I believ iEan has gotten it right! (if now the poloticians and rulers of our world would follow suit!)

I was also simpressed with the structure (premise) of the workshops at the World Bank: Learn – teach others – Follow up upon returning to your own school.

To me the best indicator of this program’s success is the students themselves. Students who complain and express disappointment because they are no longer exposed to global interaction…say it all!

January 27, 2010

Pre-Course Reflection

Filed under: Personal thoughts — mepada @ 10:20 pm

Course Expectations

The truth of the matter is that I love to take advantage of the wonderful resources (people and otherwise) we have at William & Mary. When I heard about this course (thanks Dale and Debbie) I immediately decided this would be  a great opportunity to learn more about technology in the k-12 environment,  an aspect/area of technology I consider to be an essential precursor ( and directly related) to what happens when students enter college.

I am very interested in discovering (and exploring) which technologies are being utilized and implemented at the k-12 level, what works, who uses them, as well as what are the constraints and challenges encountered  by the teachers who choose to use them.

Additionally, I would like to join professional groups such as Ning, VSTE and others which will allow me to share and discuss with other colleagues about real technology/pedagogy concerns and issues.

This class may help understand what our younger students are doing today so we can better prepare and anticipate what we will need (and/or should be doing) to do  by the time they start their college education.

I am already*so* pleasantly surprised to find out that the New Media Consortium issued a K-12 Horizon Report ! Some of the trends and predictions match the ones reported for Higher Ed. Topics such as Collaborative Environments, Online Communication, Mobiles, Cloud Computing, Virtual Worlds, etc. seem to be in everyone’s minds these days. All we have to do is visit Educause and look at the “7 Things You Should Know About” list.

I believe this course will open my eyes to the reality of educational technology in our area schools!

I like this quote I stole directly from the Educause’s website:

”I t is not about technology, it is about what we do with it that counts!”

Technologies I use:

Twitter/Yammer, Facebook, Second Life (Let’s be virtual friends! My name is: Mane Sideways), iGoogle, Picasa (I am running out of space – may have to start paying a fee to store more pics!), YouTube ( I have 85 videos uplodaded! – mostly of the grandkids), Skype (I call my friends in Argentina, relatives in Chile, colleagues in the US – for free!), FlipVideo (never leave home without it!), Digital camera, Palm phone ( I use it as a calendar, to store pics, texting, access the internet, play games, watch TV, listen to music…and… oh yes…to make phone calls!), iPod (would not excersive without it!).

Wish list:

  • Foci digital album (so I can get rid of all my hard-copy pics! Yes, this would be my way of being “green”)
  • iPad – OF COURSE! (I am saying bye bye to the Kindle idea)
  • Mini-Dell (would be great for meetings and classes)

What drives me crazy about technology:

Not knowing what all is “out there” and feeling silly when I can’t figure out a particular interface, and not being able to afford a really cool and innovative tech tool (it is what it is!)!

Looking forward to learning loads in this course!

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