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.

Haters Gonna Hate: A Look at E-Readers as a Viable Option

Pretentious is not a dirty word!

There are many stereotypes that go along with being an English major.  The “proper” English major has a passion for literature, appreciates poetry, will always correct your grammar and always has a book in hand.  However, it’s important to look at the English major in the digital age.  The trend of e-readers in particular is often looked down upon by those who consider themselves “true” lovers of reading.  I’ve heard this argument for years from some of my best friends, classmates and angry strangers in bookstores, and quite honestly it drives me insane.
There’s no reason why someone who finds it more convenient and accessible to read through digital means should have to feel ashamed or feel like they aren’t “actually reading.”

This isn’t just my individual prejudice, however.  An article I found on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website called “E-Readers: Powering Up for Engagement” argues that giving students the means to read digitally actually increases their confidence and motivation to read.  Students in today’s day and age are more interested in technology than other “boring” means of reading and learning, so by simply providing the same information through some means of technology, you capture the attention of students who would have otherwise been disinterested.

I have a ten-year-old brother who loves reading, especially because he can do it on his Kindle.  There are parental controls that can allow parents to block the internet and other capabilities on the Kindle, before I’m attacked with the argument that kids don’t have the attention span to keep reading without perusing the Internet.

Benefits of reading digitally goes far beyond the mental benefits offered to those who use it.  There are many more concrete examples to prove that e-readers are superior.  While the initial price of an e-reader, like a Nook or an Amazon tablet may be higher than the cost of a book, but  e-readers are inherently less expensive simply because of lesser production costs.

A new take on a classic novel.

Another argument against e-readers is the fact that students are missing out on the classics.  This is easily disputed by the fact that on many devices, classic books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick are free or deeply discounted, like this copy of Jane Eyre $0.99 through Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader. There’s no use in arguing that a reduced cost and easier access (you can buy these books with the click of a button!) does not increase to appeal to read more classic novels.

This has turned into more of a rant than an informative post, but I guess I’m just a little passionate.  I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts; I might be passionate, but I’d love a lively debate!