Sunday, February 13, 2011

Technological Experiments

            I seem to go back and forth every week between loving technology and hating it! A few weeks ago we looked at Garage Band and had to create our own podcasts. It was an interesting experience, as I had never used a program to create an audio file before. Reading other people’s blogs the following week, I noticed that someone had mentioned that Audacity was another good audio program; they had even posted the link to a download. I figured the program might come in handy at some point, so I decided to download it. Needless to say I’m glad I chose to download it, as I’ve spent the past week working on a video project.
            I conducted numerous interviews around a topic I was researching for another class, and decided it would be quite fun to organize the answers into a video presentation. While I had downloaded Audacity a few weeks before, I hadn’t yet had the chance to play around with it. I spent hours recording narratives, cutting and splicing interviews, adding background music, and wondering why some of the tracks came out with voices that sounded a lot like Alvin and the Chipmunks! It took some time, but I think I finally discovered my chipmunk problem. I found a way around it, but I’m convinced there must be a simpler way. I’m sure there were many easier ways to do things, and I’m certain I would have benefited from a short tutorial, however it was still a fun experience. There are so many tools I still do not know how to use, but it’s amazing the things I managed to figure out. In the end I created nine audio files, most of which had at least background music, a narrative, and an interview clip. I had a lot of fun playing around with the program, but I hope I’ll be a little more prepared to use it the next time a similar opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stuck In A Rut

          I must say that I sometimes find myself getting rather annoyed with technology. Technology can be great when used appropriately. Sometimes, however, it begins to feel like a gimmick, or a show-and-tell over who has the shiniest, newest product. Why does it matter who uses a Mac and who uses a PC? Why do I need to know which is better: the iPhone or the iPad? Sometimes I simply feel like running face first into a brick wall. If I am purchasing new materials for my classroom, then yes, I suppose I will be doing my research before making any purchases. What are the customer reviews like? How do the products compare in price? Which product seems to run into fewer difficulties? I don't think technology should be the be all and end all though.
          I found the conversation over real books vs. electronic books to be hilarious today. You can buy 90 books, or you can buy 90 expensive electronic devices on which to read the books. Really? How many schools are going to allow teachers to run out and spend thousands of dollars on these things? Would students be allowed to take them home? I highly doubt it. So what, we "give up" hours of class time for independent reading because that's the only time and place the students can use these devices? It just doesn't seem reasonable to me. I'm getting so annoyed by the amount of time I'm spending on my computer this term. I seem to spend hours doing my homework on the computer every day. I'm not just being dramatic when I say I think my eyesight is getting worse. My eyes end up exhausted, and I end up squinting by the time I'm finishing up. I've definitely heard that from other people as well. So would books not be the "healthier" option?
          Why, when students are spending so much time fairly isolated with their technological devices, are we not focusing more on socializing? We've increased the number of physical education credits because students aren't getting enough exercise anymore. I would say it's fairly safe to venture that this is largely due to the number of hours they spend online, playing video games, etc. I'm pretty sure gym teachers aren't having students play video games in gym so that they exercise their thumbs. Could a similar context not also apply to other subject areas? When technology is the best method for teaching or learning, then by all means, we should be using it. If there are other options that will work just as well, if not better, why not introduce or immerse our students in those methods or activities too? That way they're gaining more exposure to other methods of learning.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saved by the Computer!

I found Thursday’s discussion about music copyright laws to be quite interesting. How can one claim a certain progression of chords or a short melodic fragment as their creation? It’s one thing to take someone’s music and change the lyrics, or take large portions of someone’s lyrics and change the music, but if it’s just something that vaguely reminds the listener of another piece of music…. I don’t really know where the line should be drawn. Liechtenstein has the same music, just different words, as England for their national anthem. Did they have to ask permission before borrowing that melody? I guess it depends on when it was done: whether the composer was still alive, and what the copyright laws were at the time. Then the Americans borrowed that same melody for My Country Tis of Thee. Was anyone given credit for that melody? Were the Brits referenced or thanked? How many people thought that music was newly composed, just for that situation?
            On a completely different note… I have to say how grateful I was this weekend for technology. I’m currently sitting in the Ottawa airport, on my way to New York for my audition. As I was packing last night…I know, I know, I shouldn’t have left it to the last minute…I discovered that my metronome was dead. “Why does she need a metronome for a musical theatre audition?” you may ask. Seeing as I won’t have a piano to use as a pitch reference for warming up, I figured I would use the chromatic pitches that my metronome sounds instead. Alas the batteries were dead, and so were the only other two triple-A’s I could find in the house. In a state of desperation, I pounded out pitches on my piano and recorded them onto my computer. Into iTunes they went, and subsequently onto my iPod. Success, I still have a warm-up method. Thank you technology!
              As an after thought, I hope I haven't violated any copyright laws...the creator of the chromatic scale may have a problem with this. [sarcasm!]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Technology To Use Technology

          I found it very intriguing to see a document reader used to project an image from a smartphone the other day. The computer wouldn't work for some reason, but other technologies were used to provide much the same effect. Would the lesson have fallen apart without the visual on the screen, I don't think so, but it did help provide a bit more perspective.
          Watching this scenario unfold, I realized how important it is to have a "back-up plan." I don't think it's realistic to rely solely on technology. If your technology won't work, and your whole lesson or presentation was to rely on that, what do you do? Can you fill a whole class by lecturing or creating improvised group activities when you can't remember the exact details of your presentation? One would hope that a presenter would be knowledgeable enough about what they're presenting that this wouldn't be too much of a problem. However what if you're filling in for someone? Or maybe you were asked to present on a topic at the last minute, and it's something you're not very familiar with. I'm someone that usually prefers to have a piece of paper that I can quickly glance at for a reminder, so hopefully I'll never run into this problem. I will definitely always be sure to check the technology I'm hoping to rely on before class starts though!

          In my last practicum, I ended up doing a musical theatre number with the drama class. We took the song Taking Care of Business, and rewrote the lyrics to make it about our class. I downloaded a karaoke version of the song and put it onto my iPod. We had a fantastic theatre in which to work, but neither my CT nor I had any idea how to use the sound system. I frantically went in search of the dance teacher, who I knew was quite familiar with the machine. Fortunately she was able to come and show me how to work it before the class started. I think I would have been quite embarrassed had I not sorted everything out before the students arrived though!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week Two

          I have to comment on the videos we watched in class this past Tuesday. Much of what I'm about to say is probably going to sound very "anti-technology," but I promise I do realize the value and worth of technology as well. I too e-mail people all the time with questions and such, but I'm now starting to think maybe it would be easier to just pick up the phone. I love to talk to people, but most seem to prefer texting or e-mailing so I find myself doing that more and more, simply to cater to others' preferences.... I think I'm getting off topic.
          The video: It absolutely horrified me when the students on the video were saying they were spending most of their day either watching TV, texting friends, listening to their iPods, or surfing the web. What about human interaction? I understand that they're still communicating with others via text messages or e-mail, but it is not the same. What's going to happen to this generation when they head out into the workplace? They're going to have no face-to-face communication skills. I hate walking into a store and not even being acknowledged. Not that I want someone hovering, but I can't believe it when I walk up to ask an employee for help, but first have to wait until they finish talking with their coworker about their plans for the evening. At least they're socializing I guess, but as far as respectful social skills go, it's pretty pathetic!
          The parents on these videos seemed completely unconcerned with the fact that their children were spending the majority of their time on their computers. What about going outside or getting together with friends? I'm sure some of this may depend on where they live. I nannied for twins that live in New York City. They're 12, and their parents have only just started allowing them to leave the building by themselves. From that standpoint, I guess you may spend more time "online" if you're always stuck inside. However there are still other indoor activities that don't involve staring at a screen. I think it would be interesting to see how time spent socializing on technology compares throughout different cities and towns. Does location make a difference, or is it mostly just a generational trend?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Technologically Challenged...Who Me?

I have never really considered myself to be technologically challenged. I've always found it somewhat amusing and endearing to watch someone struggle to work a DVD player. During practicum I walked over to try to help another teacher get the DVD to play. I looked from the machine to her and asked, “Did you turn it on?” Problem solved! Similarly, my dad has a great deal of difficulty with the remote. Of course I’m sure many of his problems would be solved if he would just put on his glasses, but that’s beside the point. We got one of those “universal” remotes a few years ago that you then program to work your TV, DVD, VCR, etc. For some reason he can’t quite grasp the fact that he needs to first push the button that corresponds to the machine he wants to use. Alas, he generally needs to ask for help if he wants to use something other than just the TV.
Despite the fact that I often giggle over others’ trials and tribulations with technology, the initial steps of creating this blog were infuriating for me! I no longer have a cell phone, something I surprisingly find quite refreshing. Yet I apparently needed a cell number or a house number the first time I tried to set up a gmail account in class. Fair enough, I figured, I’ll just do it at home later on. Success, I got my gmail account set up! Alright, on to step 2: create a blog. Well I thought I created a blog, but for some reason mine looked different than everyone else’s. Gah, why can’t I change my colours? Mine looks so boring! It only took me four days to realize I had actually just created a user account on blogspot, and hadn’t set up my own blog at all. So, five days later I believe I have finally, truly found success…. I’m sure I will find out whether or not this is actually the case in class tomorrow. I guess in some ways I am technologically challenged after all!