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Librarian Blog

Hard to figure it out

The New York Times recently published an item under this headline: "Study Gauges Value of Technology in Schools."

Turns out the study, by the Center for American Progress, found very little value in the technologies available in schools, according to the article.

But, I am flummoxed by the piece more than I am enlightened.

One criticism, for example, is that 34 percent of eighth-graders used computers to drill basic math facts rather than doing spreadsheets or whatever else the author had in mind that eighth-graders should be doing. Programming? Designing games? Discovering algorithms?

I just don't get what the Center for American Progress would have educators do. I mean, many schools right now give elementary studnets iPads, with which one imagines they access Internet resources of all kinds beyond e-mail and Facebook.

And I am trying to square up the conclusions of the CAP with the now-widely-shared TED talk by a scientist in India who placed computers programmed in English in remote villages on that continent to see what kids would do with them. Turns out the kids learned English so they could learn everything else that was out there, and they did so without adult intervention.

Is it a waste of money if they aren't doing spreadsheets?

Training possibilities

Earlier, I mentioned here that the library will be offering training, thanks to generous donations from the Friends organization, on hardware and software starting this summer.

We are trying to survey our patrons and others in the community about what they would like to see us offer in the way of training. The survey form is available at the library and on our Facebook page.

Here are the classes we are proposing, although this does not have to be the comprehensive list:

Basic computer skills, to include basic Internet searches

How to set up and use e-mail and maintain an e-mail account

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Powerpoint

Microsoft Publisher

Adobe Photoshop

How to use a Kindle or other tablet

Google search techniques

Google applications

Verifying information/rumors using the web

Craigslist for beginners

Facebook 101

Resume-building 101

Using the web to search for a job

See something of interest? Let us know.

-- Carroll Wilson

Circulation Librarian

Leaking out of the MOOC

A month or so ago I signed up for a basic course on how to play guitar offered by the Berklee music school.

The course was to include six lessons taught by a professor at the school.

It was offered online. And it was free of charge.

I attended exactly two of the classes, then walked away.

Why?

Well, I knew the material. I've been playing guitar since I was a sophomore in high school.

Second, I was going to have to play some music, then send it to the professor via the Internet, and I didn't want to mess with doing that.

I have no idea how many other people signed up for the Berklee course and no idea how many dropped out.

But, I am betting that I was not alone by a long shot.

Turns out that research shows that MOOCs are hugely popular -- at the outset.

Just recently, six professors from MIT and Harvard published a report in "Research & Practice in Assessment," a professional journal, in which they state that at least one MOOC that they studied was a massive flop.

The course, called "Circuits and Electronics," began in March 2012, the first MOOC developed by edX, the online consortium led by MIT and Harvard. The course ended in June 2012. More than 154,000 students signed up to take this course online.

Of that number 24,000 tried the first problem set. About 10,000 made it to the mid-term exam. And 7,-000 finished the course and earned certificates.

That is a completion rate of less than 5 percent.

Whoa!

The researchers indicate that this is a problem for all MOOCs.

Makes me feel better. A little.

Feeling left behind?

For 20 years observers have lamented the "digital divide," and rightly so.

There are those who "have" technology. They own tablets, they spend a lot of time on the Internet, they play games onlilne, they have Facebook pages that they keep updated on a regular basis. They might have an iPhone, an iPad and an Apple laptop.

Then there are those who don't "have" it. They are likely to have been so busy trying to find a job or make a living, especially since the economy collapsed around them, that they have simply been left behind.

If you're feeling lilke you are in the latter group, we can help.

Right now we are taking a survey to see what you folks, our patrons, would like to see us offer in the way of technologically oriented training.

Please come by the library and fill out the survey form. Before too long, we will have a copy of the survey up on our Facebook page and on our web page, too.

-- Carroll Wilson

Circulation Librarian

 

And some have way more than one

My grandsons and my daughter spent the weekend with my wife and me.

At least their bodies were at our house in Wimberley.

Their minds were far, far away.

Both spent most of their time on the couch doing things on their iPads.

The boys are 14 and 9.

That's right, each one has an iPad.

And their mom has an iPhone.

She doesn't have an iPad or a Kindle ... yet. But, she will. She has returned to college, and she anticipates needing one to download texts and other materials.

The oldest grandson says he will use his in the fall because the school district is going to e-textbooks.

Wow. How the world has changed in just the last three years.

Back in those dark days of 2010, only 3 percent of American adults owned a tablet computer.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported today that right now about 34 percent of adults own a tablet.

Doesn't say how many kids, a lot of whom are getting iPads or Kindles through their schools. (My daughters says the Clear Lake school district patrons approved a bond issue to help buy iPads for every child.)

I'm not complaining, actually. If the boys hadn't been on their iPads, they would have been gone anyway -- playing outside, watching TV, reading. They don't suffer their grandparents kindly.

That's just kids.

--Carroll Wilson, circulation librarian