Friday, January 18, 2008

tt4t_021 Students and technology use

It’s Friday, January 18, 2008 and welcome to Episode 21 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. During the first two weeks of a semester I always survey my students regarding their tech ability to get a general feel for how they are using technology. As expected their skill level ranges from low ability to very high ability with most of their technology skills related to personal use. Most undergraduate students are comfortable with word processing and PowerPoint but few are familiar with spreadsheets and databases unless they have had a previous high school class on computer applications. I am often surprised by the lack of educational use of technology by many students. Ask them about Facebook or MySpace and the vast majority of undergraduates regularly use these social networking tools for personal use. Other technologies are also regularly used for personal use with the most common being the cell phone for voice calls as well as texting.

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With the proliferation of MP3 players most MP3 use is for listening to music. Educational uses of podcasts such as TechTalk4Teachers are often totally off students radar screens as most students that I have asked have never listened to a podcast. That to me is surprising given all the ear bud toting students on campus and the potential podcasting has for education. I can understand this to a certain degree as it probably is much more fun listening to music than to an educational podcast but this is unfortunate because podcasts have such a tremendous potential for student learning. We as educators need to be advocates for the benefits of technology as a tool for self-improvement above and beyond recreational use. After all life on a university campus should be all about learning. Establishing patterns of tech use for self-improvement can be a gift for a lifetime for your students.

As mentioned before on TechTalk4Teachers podcasting did not become a word until 2004 and now with over three years of existence it is still incredibly underused as an educational tool. How can this be? The general perception by faculty is that students are wizards with using technology but many times this is not the case. My point is that too often we take for granted the technology abilities of our students and too often we ignore the educational benefits that technology can have for learning. Student technology use is rarely harnessed to benefit the teaching and learning process. TechTalk4Teachers is trying to change that.

One factor that prohibits wide-spread adoption of certain technologies is the rapid pace of change itself. Too often technology companies promote new technologies for the sake of selling new software and hardware. Wait long enough and the next tech fad will hit the streets and the cycle begins all over again. Veteran teachers know and understand this and therefore technology implementation is often hindered because there is always going to be the next big thing being promoted by vendors that are in the business of selling products.

Take a step back and look at the big picture and you will soon realize that this cycle has repeated itself over and over again for the past fifty years. The good news is that each generation of technology makes is easier to use and implement. What educators are doing today with podcasts is what educators were doing in the 1960’s with reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. The fundamental underlying product is the same but the media delivery method is very different. The biggest difference between now and the 1960’s is that content can be accessible immediately and to an audience of millions simply by posting to the Internet at very little cost. What most do not realize is that most likely the average school or university already has what it needs to produce podcasts without buying anything additional at all, shhh technology vendors do not want you to know that. We can do an incredible amount with existing technology and now with free Web 2.0 tools the sky is the limit to what we can do in our classrooms. Making this podcasts cost nothing other than my time and the cost or regular Internet service. With such a low barrier to entry one does wonder why podcasting is not being used by more educators.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is a web traffic analysis program called Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to keep track of who is visiting your webpage and provides valuable information about your audience. Google Analytics provides some interesting statistics to help you better get a feel for how many visitors you have coming to view your website and is incredibly detailed. I have been using Google Analytics for the past six months and I am amazed at the detail it provides. I have gained valuable insight about my websites and information about where visitors are coming from. Google Analytics will tell you the total number of visitors to your website and what operating system and browser software they use. There is even a world map that identifies what states and countries your visitors are coming from. It does require a Google account and a bit of tech expertise with inserting the HTML code that is required to track page visits but this can easily be done by anyone that updates their own webpages. A link is provided in the show notes if you are interested in seeing how people are using Google Analytics along with detailed information about the reporting tools it offers and how to sign-up for a free account.

I am thinking about mixing up this show a bit, after 20 episodes it is in need of an update. What would you like to learn more about? Some have commented for a longer show and others like about a five minute format. I am also thinking of going to an interview format and dropping the transcripts as writing transcripts and transcribing note takes a lot of time. Do you fid it useful to choose between reading the posting and/or listening to the posting? I am interested in your thoughts about how we can improve the show. Please send your comments and suggestions to or leave a comment in my blog. Show notes for this weeks show are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 That wraps it up for this episode 21 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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