Month: March 2015

Developing A Healthy Learning Environment With Technology

As I think back to the times when I was most interested in school, I remember it being when interactivity was involved in the classroom. The best way that interactivity was involved was through technology. In my sixth grade math class, we would play “quiz-up”, which was a buzz in answer game in which the students could anonymously post their answers. This lead to a sense of security, where I would not worry if I got something wrong because no one would know, and I was also awarded the ability to see if I was getting my answers correct. I have never been so engaged in a subject that I was so disinterested in, and this is why it is important to place technology within the classroom.

http://www.library.illinois.edu/diglit/images/diglit.jpg

 

Making our students become “digitally literate” will allow them to become more focused on school, as well as be able to see learning through a different lens. Typically students associate technology with leisure time, and this allows them to relax. This will be beneficial to the average learner in their classroom. The articles that I am sharing display how to incorporate social media into the classroom, and allow students to realize the pros and cons of using the internet to learn. An example of using the internet in a positive manner is through using twitter. In the article, the idea of tweeting as if you are a character in a piece of literature is used as an example. This allows the students an outlet for creativity, and humor, which will thus allow them to be more engaged in the classroom. This engagement will lead to better knowledge retention because the students are actually enjoying what they are learning.

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In the article, the students were also shown some of the negatives of learning with the internet, which may show them the cons of free knowledge. They were shown this with a funny video clip which is presented below, and while it displayed the negatives of the internet, it did it with a funny anecdote in order to further help the students learn.

Items such as quiz-up and “Google A day” will help students in their learning environment. This increased emphasis on interactive learning will allow students to become more engaged in their learning. This increased engagement in learning will make for a happier, and therefore smarter, student.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

A few weeks ago Apple had its March Keynote address and announced during that highly publicized and talked about event was the Apple Watch.  Whether you love or hate the idea of Apple products taking over the world and being on your desk, in your pocket, and now on your wrist, there is no denying the fact that with the advent of this new technology there is the possibility for great strides to be made in many fields, especially health, wellness, and nutrition.  The HealthKit thapplewatch3at is present on every Apple Watch will allow many people to be able to monitor their health with a greater sense of ease and precision than ever before.  Not only will the Apple Watch be able to help the average joe remember to get up from his desk every hour and move around a little bit, but it has the ability to help people with diabetes get an even tighter control over their blood sugar.

With the help of a new continuous glucose monitoring app by Dexcom, a person with diabetes can significantly decrease the amount of times they would have to finger stick themselves to find out what their blood sugar reading is.  Having your blood sugar readings available to you at all times is an astounding technological advancement that people with this disease could never have imagined twenty years ago.  This would also be an extremely helpful tool for parents of young children with diabetes who would now be one hundred percent aware of their children’s hDexcom-newealth at all times.  For the millions of diabetics around the world the Apple Watch is the latest, and definitely greatest tool to aid in the management of the disease that is a part of their lives twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

TechDay 2015

A few years ago in my school district on Long Island, history was made when a then-19 year old boy was elected to the Board of Education.  As my district (as I’m sure many others do) has experienced issues with the Board of Education and school administration communicating, a large majority of the town was excited to have someone fresh out of the very same school district there to make decisions.  The boy, who is still serving on the BOE, is named Peter Mountanos, and is actually a close friend of mine.

How does this relate to ENGL 340? Peter ran for the BOE with a platform of increasing the knowledge of the entire community about technology, spreading information during his campaign mainly through his website,  which he coded himself.

This January, for the second year in a row, Peter orchestrated a very successful TechDay event.  Being a friend of Peter, when he expressed a need for college aged volunteers, I offered my assistance in any way that I could.  Peter knew I was attending Geneseo pursuing English education and psychology, and that I had no computer science background whatsoever, so I assumed I would be manning the registration table or running snacks around to some little kids.  However, when I went to the first meeting for all of the volunteer staff, I found out Peter had assigned me to co-teach a class of 5th graders along with Chris, who had a strong technology background, as well as Lindsey, one of my friends who was equally as clueless as myself.

In about a week and half, Lindsey and I worked with Chris to master MIT’s Scratch, a very basic coding language, and learn how to code a Super Mario game we would be teaching to the kids.  While this was a very daunting task, the whole experience was really rewarding.  I realized that computer science, and coding in general, should not be limited only to those with a strong STEM background and mind.  The principles of coding are very simple; breaking down a task into a variety of smaller tasks.

After reading the syllabus of English 340, I immediately sent it to Peter, who was intrigued by the whole concept.  Personally, the concept of digital humanities is something that interests me greatly, especially as something to bring into a classroom.  Honestly, after finishing my TechDay experience I was a little disappointed I wasn’t going to be able to continue with any sort of technological or coding.  In that respect, English 340 was exactly what I needed.  I really like the idea that the digital revolution is not lost in humanities.  For TechDay, I was the only volunteer not studying a STEM field.  However, I really do think there is room for technology and, coding in particular, in different fields.

Literary Translation in the Digital Age

Literary Translation in the Digital Age

Thoreau famously proclaimed, “Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.” He went on to write, “Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race.” This brings to surface the important question of translation. Thoreau thinks that the only “right” way to read literature that’s not printed in one’s native tongue is to learn to read it in its original language. This seems a bit unreasonable today, when very few people learn Greek and Latin and instead read the Classics in English.

Unfortunately, though many English books are translated into other languages, very few books in other languages are translated into English. The University of Rochester runs a website called Three Percent—named after the tiny percentage of books published in the U.S. that are translated works—that keeps a database of all the fiction and poetry in the U.S. that is translated from another language into English. The website’s “about” page states, “The motivating force behind the website is the view that reading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures… To remain among the world’s best educated readers, English speakers must have access to the world’s great literatures. It is a historical truism and will always remain the case that some of the best books ever written were written in a language other than English.” My guess is that Thoreau would agree with that.

In that same vein, though Thoreau would have no idea, computer coding can also be seen as a form of translation. An academic paper entitled “Digital Code and Literary Text” by Florian Cramer explores the idea of innate textuality of the language of digital systems, and therefore the interconnectedness of all languages, including those of computers. The paper reads, “Zeros and ones are an alphabet which can be translated forth and back between other alphabets without information loss. It does, in my point of view, make no sense to limit the definition of the alphabet in general to that of the Roman alphabet in particular when we can the same textual information in this very alphabet, as Morse code, flag signs or transliterated into zeros and ones.”

Cramer writes that though it may be tempting to categorize language into either machine readable or human readable, it’s important to keep in mind that machine language is still relevant to human art and literature. Furthermore, computer code isn’t computer created. Rather, humans write all language. Cramer draws a comparison between computer code and musical notation, which is also a “written formal instruction code” yet is a creative human art form.

He writes, “Literature and computers meet first of all where alphabets and code, human language and machine language intersect.”

Podcasts killed the Radio Star

Podcasts anywhere anytime

Podcasts are nothing new and have existed since the first Apple iPod, but now they are gaining popularity in large numbers. According to USA TODAY, “Apple just surpassed 1 billion subscriptions for podcasts via its iTunes app, which is a major milestone for a category that had been considered an also-ran.” Podcasts are gaining popularity due to the ability for people, like comedian Marc Maron, to run them out of their garages or basements and they are a lot easier to download than they had been. “Last year, Apple said subscriptions of podcasts through iTunes reached 1 billion. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago.” Podcasts had first been downloaded first from iTunes, if they could be found, and then transferred onto iPods. The ability to create a podcast in a garage does not seem like a feat, but considering where podcasts began it definitely is.

Podcasts: Humble Beginnings

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The word podcast is credited to first appearing in The Guardian in 2004 in reference to audible.com and its downloadable radio programs. Two-thousand and four does not seem like that long ago, but in the digital age eleven years is a long time. In the digital age the formatting of the internet has changed, been upgraded, and download speeds have rapidly increased!  It is thanks to these speeds that downloading podcasts is as easy as hitting a button.  Podcasts first began as hobbies and less as money making occupations, which seems strange in an age when there are over 150,000 podcasts.

Podcasts and RSS 

Podcasts are digital media files, either audio or video, that are typically delivered via a Web feed (RSS feed); however, they can also be directly downloaded. ” We have seen RSS feeds and how they can be used in our Digital Humanities class, RSS-Logo-[Converted]but what are they again? “Rather than constantly visiting websites to check for new information, the user subscribes to various information sources, and the RSS feed delivers new content to the user automatically, allowing the user to streamline information and stay updated with minimal effort.” So, when a podcast is in hot demand and rather than crashing a website because too many people keep clicking the ‘refresh’ button or too many people are viewing the site itself, it would be more beneficial to download an RSS feed and then look for the newest podcast to appear there or it will automatically appear under the ‘podcasts’ app on a smartphone or tablet and also under the name of the podcast, too. If a person is lucky enough they do not need to download an RSS feed and the newest podcasts will be automatically downloaded to their smartphone or tablet! “Smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled cars have made it easier than ever for listeners — who are still mostly men — to load up their favorite programs.”

Intelligent Podcasts or Just Farce? 

Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan

Podcasts have come a long way from where they first started, but in a world of podcasts that “embody what is arguably the essential promise of the Internet: a means for surprising, revealing, and above all ennobling encounters with people, things, and ideas we didn’t know,” is there room for podcasts that are not intelligent and thought provoking? There has been a sudden surgof podcasts created by comedians, like Joe Rogan, Bryan Cook, and Cameron Esposito, and shock jocks, like Bibb and Yaz.

Cameron Esposito
Cameron Esposito

After listening to their podcasts nothing is learned or gained other than a good laugh. Podcasts are an escape for listeners like a good book or an audio book with more than one speaker, but they are painting a picture for their listeners. Both thought provoking and laugh provoking podcasts make their listeners think- thought provoking podcasts are more noted as being revealing and discussing new ideas, but laugh provoking podcasts discuss new ideas too just in a different formats.

Goodbye radio, hello Podcast

In this world of podcasts and their ever growing accessibility is it possible for radio to survive? Is it a dying media? “Adapt, adopt, improve,” quotes John Cleese of Monty Python, so that’s what radio did. Clear Channel Radio did indeed do so with their iHeatRadio app and now their radio programs can now be downloaded onto any smartphone or tablet. In fact iHeartRadio has become so successful that it has become a yearly festival in which the most talented and up and coming musical artists are featured. Unfortunately, there has been a fear among radio talk show hosts that their listeners will drift off to podcasts and will leave radio behind in the dust. However, if they follow in the footsteps of Clear Channel Radio then perhaps they will not have to worry about this after all.

iPads in the classroom

This semester I have been working with iPads in my childhood education class. They are our textbook as well as out main material for teaching. Its been very interesting being in a technology based english class, as well as a technology based education class at the same time. Throughout the semester I have found myself comparing the classes and how technology influences education.

Technology has made a huge impact on how classrooms run and how teachers teach. iPads have made their way into classrooms as a teaching/ learning tool. They are often advertised that they will lead to hands on and individualized education that children need to be successful in life. Are these devices truly as revolutionary as they seem to be? As I researched the topic, and work with the device, the positive impacts were are abundance, but behind all the good there is always the bad and questions still arise about their impact on a classroom.

Students learn best though experience and an iPad can provide just that. Through applications and web access, students can easily reach beyond the classroom and learns “hands on”though these apps. As I learn about this “hands on” experience it brings up the question, is it really hands on experience? iPads easily bring “experience” into a classroom though applications and simulations, but is it true hands on experience? One main point focused on throughout this class is that things are learned best through doing them and that is also a main point in my education classes this semester. iPads are one of the closest things to “hands on experience” students can get to many things, but will this cause teachers to forget the that real experiences are just as important? Even though the iPad does engage students and assists them in their education, its not the same as learning about science by going outside, or math with using hands on manipulatives. Being able to touch and manipulate a material allows for full understanding. iPads are extremely new to classrooms around the U.S. and even though the impact overall is positive, I am curious to watch the product and see how it impacts true experiential learning over time.

Besides experiential learning, another positive impact of the iPad that is widely discussed is that it is engaging and keeps students on task though individualized education. Teachers can use iPads to create individualized lessons for each student. This allows for the students to progress at their own pace through the applications the teachers assign them. As I have been working with iPads one large issue seems to have arisen dealing with engagement; students emily get distracted by the device infant of them. When I am working in classrooms, I am the only one with an iPad, usually reading an e book from it to the students. As I read I constantly watch the students get antsy and frustrated because I am reading off an iPad. Since there is a new device in font of them, they want to play with it; one common question I get while reading to students is “can i touch it?” putting me in the situation of deciding if I should stray away form the book to appease the students or keep going and hope that they regain focus. While the students are extremely interested in the devise, it is difficult to see the positive impact of it when it seems more distracting when the device is shared and in the teachers control. Students stay engaged while working on their own iPad because they are playing “games” to enhance their learning experience. Since iPads are new to classroom, students tend to stay on task and work with the device as told. Another thing I wonder is as students become more familiar with the devices, will it cause them to stray from their tasks and use it for its many other purposes, such as exploring the internet?

Overall im extremely curious to see how iPads impact the education system over the next few years and how they will impact my experience throughout college.

 

**I apologize for the lack of media in the post, the downloader kept giving me an error message every time I tried to add a picture.

 

The Cord-Cutting Movement

As a 16 year old going through high school, i was constantly pounded with some pretty intimidating and menacing questions about my future. What i wanted to be when i grew up, what college i wanted to attend, what subject i wanted to major in, who and what did i truly want to be and what path would i take to get there. However, i was focused on something much more important to me; which television would i be taking from my house and how would i be watching my beloved New York Rangers.

Never in my day-dream filled high school days did the mindful creation of what my dorm room would look like not include a television with cable. But as a now 21 year old college student, the reality is that i do not and have not had one for years and have not missed a single show i enjoy watching, or a single sports game that i have wanted to see. The key is simple, streaming with a laptop and the many services that are offered. This movement i have joined has been emulated by many and is causing Cable companies large concern.

“Cord-cutting” or “curd-cutters” refers to the act of people slowing down their cable service or cancelling it completely in preference to other ways of streaming via rival media such as Netflix, hulu, Google Video, AppleTV, Amazon Video, etc.

Most cord cutters make the decision to move away from subscription television because of the deregulation of cable television. This concept adopted by most major cable companies is what forces subscribers to pay a large monthly fee for a large bundle of channels that they may only want a few of (this is the same concept that i discussed in my first blog post on The Fight For Net Neutrality).

For me specifically, my main motivation was the overall ease of access to the programs i wanted. Including the ability to watch what i wanted on demand whenever it fit into my schedule as well as being able to get to these streaming services through various different mobile devices.

This movement is one that is extremely, extremely concerning for cable companies. According to a new report by Experian Marketing Services, from 2010-2014 the number of American households that no longer receive cable or satellite TV has increased 44% up to about 7.6 million. As well as finding that nearly 18% percent of all households in the US with Netflix or Hulu are considered to be cord cutters, which includes very many independent young adults who have never paid for TV services, like myself.

These statistics are obviously extremely concerning to cable companies. If the kids today are being brought up in an environment in which they watch their shows from electronic devices via streaming services, then there is a much more likely possibility that they will not ever start paying for a subscription to cable upon entering adulthood (this trend is something that can be related to the digital reading versus traditional reading). This would result in a large number of new adults entering the World with no plans on acquiring a cable bill which is cause for concern considering it is a completely new concept.

The cable companies are not completely out of the running though, for the DVR movement has helped them tremendously. That same report from Experian Marketing services said,  “But video remains popular despite the cord cutters. Some 94 percent of US adults watch some version of video content each week and one in six adults watch at least 40 hours of TV a week,” suggesting that live programming or video recordings of those live programs still hold very much appeal with the public audience.

While the cable companies do have those statistics to rely on, there has undoubtedly been a large shift in the way the younger demographic consumes media of all types. Whether it be news from our smartphones, sports from streaming sites, or shows from Netflix/Hulu/AppleTV, the Cable companies will have to do something to counter-act this large shift in consumption.

 

 

Art in the Digital Age

The digital age has changed the way people create and share art. I began thinking a lot about art in the digital age after a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. I (and I think most others) think of museums as being very physical spaces. You go to an art museum to have that connection with a piece of art that you cannot get from looking at it on your computer screen.

Did I use "The Starry Night" as an example in order to shamelessly insert this pic of me apologizing to the MoMA employee yelling at me for taking this picture? Yes I did.
Did I use “The Starry Night” as an example in order to shamelessly insert this pic of me apologizing to the MoMA employee yelling at me for taking this picture? Yes I did.

Seeing Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” in the flesh after seeing pictures of it your whole life is an oddly surreal experience. And while I would obviously recommend to anyone going to a physical museum and enjoying the art within it, would I say that this is the best way to appreciate art?

Oddly, no. I don’t think so. I think the best way to appreciate art is be a part of it. People love art so much because it evokes some kind of emotion from them. The artist is able to bring people together in experiencing these shared reactions. The digital age has allowed us to come together more than ever.

Take The Art Assignment for example. The Art Assignment is video series on Youtube produced by PBS Digigtal studios that encourages people to take part in a new creative “assignment” each week. PBS takes the videos submitted by these people, edits them together, and then uploads it to their channel. Here’s an example of the “Walk on It” assignment:

I think that the true beauty in these art projects is not the physical art that is created, but rather the spirit of collaboration and togetherness. The digital age has at the very least provided the necessary infrastructure for doing this. But more importantly, it has fostered a new culture that emphasizes sharing and communication—social media being the most obvious evidence of this.  It’s no longer necessary to be in the physical presence of someone to connect with them, and its no longer necessary to be in the physical presence of art work in order to experience an emotional connection.

Are We Taking the Human out of Humanities?

Digital Humanities can be seen as a system of advancing the way in which we study literature; the inclusion of digital technology usually has a connotation of forward progress and efficiency, after all. There is no doubt there are plenty of advantages to the technologies we’ve been discussing in class; TEI is only one example of how computers allow us to process and store information in ways that can make analyzing the texts easier by leaps and bounds. But for all the good of the digital aspect of the humanities, we should keep in mind the motto of this very page: “Improved means to an unimproved end.” Better technology is not the deciding factor of quality discussion and analysis, and while we can all appreciate the benefits of the new wave of humanities we should keep in mind some of the criticisms this field has been facing in order to ensure we all play a role in advancing our own work in a useful direction.

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It’s All Show Biz Now

How the Internet might be helping (or hurting) the Theater Business

For many people the experience of going to a theatre production is a commonality. Most of us have bought a ticket (maybe complained about the price), got dressed up, and found our seats in the semi-darkness. We have sat through good shows and/or bad shows, and may have felt an emotional connection to the main character, theme, plot, etc. This experience is one that some

When our generation is discussed by the one before it we are admonished for our obsession to technology. I have heard it said that the experience of living in the present is lost to those who find their phone more important. I have heard that because of our technology, the average attention span has greatly decreased. Going from 12 seconds (in 2000) to 8 seconds (2013), which makes us 1 second below a goldfish. It seems almost impossible that we would be able to sit still and attentive through a rendition of any Shakespeare production.

I cannot dispute this statement in many cases. There have been times when people have missed out on a moment because of their distractions. But I also feel that it is not as dire as many have said. This generation is not one of just tech-zombies, although there may be some around today. People are still able to connect, have moments, make memories, etc regardless of phone use. One of these experiences is going to the theatre.

Before the spike of technology, theatre was one primary source of entertainment. Since then it has stayed a pleasure, but has become a lesser part of the entertainment world. Some blame this on the smart phone generation. They believe that our generation has departed from the value of the theatre arts and, because of this, it is a dying business. After all how can it survive among all of the special effects, photo shopping, special filming, etc that we consume and expect today. Theatre cannot truly be experienced unless it is done in person, face-to-face with the performance. This complicates things in a society that is used to quick blurbs and easy shares.

How do we make theatre a priority today, to this generation, to the next?

I have found that it may not be necessary to do this. Even in small school productions there is still an audience. We may not need to make it relevant, because theatre is timeless. The older generation should look at the phone usage as an advantage, not a problem. We are able to find productions online and search for locations, ticket prices, and critical writings about the production in an instant. This ability can help the theatre business stay prevalent and alive.