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Guest Thinkers

5 questions: Steve Dembo

[This is a new feature here at Dangerously Irrelevant, meant to help us get to know some edubloggers a little better. If you’d like to be featured sometime, drop me a note.]

Name: Steve Dembo

1. What’s something that recently caught your attention from your personal learning network, RSS reader, Twitter feed, etc.?

Lately, I’ve been very focused in on the iPad, and many people in my PLN have shared some interesting insights with respects to it.  It has become a tangible representation of so many polarizing issues, from 1:1 initiatives, to digital books (textbooks and otherwise), as well as the role of technology in education.  While only a few are doing the exploring, the initial comments create conversations that ripple outwards, increasing in size and momentum as more and more people chime in.

2. Besides your own blog and Dangerously Irrelevant, what are 3 blogs that you’d recommend to a school administrator who’s new to the education blogosphere?

  • 3. What is a digital technology tool that you can’t live without (and why)?

    The iPhone.  It has truly become my digital hub for an incredibly diverse number of things.  I use it to read and respond to emails, both work and personal.  I use it to manage my various calendars and to wake me up in the morning while traveling.  It entertains me through movies and music, as well as serving as an e-reader in a pinch.  I take notes on it, set reminders, and store my passwords there.  I use it to log how many calories I consume each day and it connects to my shoes to keep track of how far I run (and have lost 25 pounds thanks to these two).  While away from a WiFi network, I use it to provide internet to both my laptop and iPad.  It keeps me connected to my instant messenger while away from my computer, and provides me with easy ways to keep up with Facebook and Twitter.  It is my news reader, my digital camera, and digital photo album.  I have ordered books with it and played music on it.  I am playing Scrabble-like games with 15 people right now.  It is my mobile reference stations as well as entertainment console.  It is a distinct pleasure watching my son practice his letters, numbers, shapes and colors through the games I have provided him. /  / Oh yeah.  And it makes phone calls too.

    4. How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘The kids know more about technology than I do. How do I handle this?’

    I’d say that’s a wonderful problem to have.  The key to remember here is that just because one knows how to use a application, program or piece of hardware, doesn’t mean they know how to do so effectively.  When to use and when NOT to use it.  What students may have in natural aptitude, they lack in experience. They may be experts at social networking, but don’t know where to draw the line.  They may know how to edit video, but not how to use it to tell a compelling story.  They may know how to create a Powerpoint, but not communicate their learning effectively.  The main thing to keep in mind is that there is much more to an exemplary use of technology… than just the technological aspects of it.   /  / Educators don’t need to have more technical skills than the students.  They need to be able to guide them into effective usage of those skills.

    5. How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘Students have to learn the basics first. Only then can they work on 21st century skills.’?

    In some sense I agree, but only to a point.  The issue is when students are being directed to a point that the instruction becomes a shell that students are unable to break out of.  For example, if you provide step by step instructions along with a clear description of what exactly you want the students to create, they will likely be able to provide you exactly the results you requested.  However, change just one or two variables, and they will have extreme difficulty adapting.  Part of 21st century skills is being able to look at problems analytically and determining the best course of action.  When failure is encountered, being able to take it in stride, make adjustments and try from a different angle.  In many situations, a heavy focus on what is known as ‘basic skills’ can be a detriment to the sort of flexibility students need to succeed in these situations.  By focusing on the larger concepts instead of the basic skills, students are better equipped to be able to transfer the same ideas to new problems that they may encounter.

    Thanks, Steve, for sharing your thoughts with us!


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