Age Limits for Interacting with Tech Devices?

We’re so frequently surrounded by electronic devices of all sorts—phones, monitors, tablets, laptops—that we take their ubiquity for granted. That’s even truer for the youngest kids, who are literally growing up surrounded by glowing bright screens of all sizes and aspect ratios.

In a thoughtful post on the topic, “Young Kids and Technology at Home”, Digital Literacy Advocate Doughlas Rushkoff recently noted that parents and educators ought to pay more attention to what kinds of devices kids spend time on, depending on their age group.

“On a most rudimentary level, this means they either depict two-dimensional realities (like cell phone interfaces and sideways-shooter arcade games) or use their 2D displays to depict 3D realities, such as TV shows,” he writes, continuing, “No biggie — except for babies and toddlers, whose ability to understand and contend with 3D worlds is still in development. They don’t fully understand the rules of opaque objects (that’s why peekaboo behind a napkin poses endless fascination), so high quantities of time spent sitting in front of 2D screens may actually inhibit some of their 3D spatial awareness. That’s why so many pediatricians recommend that kids under the age of two probably shouldn’t watch any TV at all.”

He also raises interesting questions about whether the digital equivalents—tablets and handheld video games—do more to hinder than help children’s intellectual development, as “The weightless world of a digital game or virtual environment fascinates us for the way it defies the rules of the real world; until we are firmly anchored in the former reality, however, these new principles are not neurologically compatible with a developing sensory system.”

What kind of age-appropriate limits have you seen or implemented in classroom and home settings with respect to electronic devices?

Learning Outside of Technology

Although we’re fully immersed in the technological space, sometimes it’s useful to step away from the screen and take a look at some insightful in-person teaching methodologies, both for their inherent value and for their potential application in a technology-oriented way.

Two really valuable pieces addressing teaching methods appeared in Edutopia recently, one on student collaboration and the other on believing in students.

Though the posts pertain to two sharply different topics, what’s noteworthy is what they share in common: a core belief that students learn best when they are held accountable in a context that encourages learning and taking on challenges, not meeting static criteria or random metrics.

Since it’s so easy to fall into a metric-heavy mindset on the technology side of education,  it’s important to ask what kind of measures we can cultivate through technology that focus on rewarding the act of learning, not merely making learning more efficient or economical.

A Model for Integrating Technology in the Classroom?

In light of the terrible school shooting that occurred today in Newton, Connecticut, I want to convey on behalf of the entire Citelighter team our sincerest condolences to the victims and their families, and to all the students and teachers who endured this awful attack.

There are some good resources here and here on how to address the issue with children and how to cope, and we’ll be sure to speak to this issue further next week.

For today, however, we turn to some specifics on integrating technology in the classroom. So many exciting tools abound for teachers and students to experiment with, but without a concrete framework as a guide, it seems like it’s a dizzying problem to figure out how to apply them properly in a classroom context.

The Arizona K-12 Center at Northern Arizona University seems to have a solution. It’s developed a handy PDF-friendly chart, or “Technology Integration Matrix”, as seen here. The great thing about the matrix is that the cells include some lesson plans along with short videos of the lessons themselves, detailing to teachers how the model is intended to work.

The creators have dubbed the matrix “a living document” that will be continually updated with new less on plans and videos. As its creators explain, the point is to “assist  “assist schools and districts in evaluating the level of technology integration in classrooms and to provide teachers with models of how technology can be integrated throughout instruction in meaningful ways.”

What value do you see to this kind of framework—as either an educator or a student—and has your own school developed a similar kind of tool to guide along its technological adoption?

Citelighter PR Director

Interview with Gary Bender, University Technology Lead

As part of our ongoing endeavor to connect with educators across the country, our team loves to elicit feedback on our fact-capturing tool as well as broader commentary from thought leaders and experts in the field. Kevin, our Director or Partnerships, recently had the chance to chat with Gary Bender, who serves as head of the Technology Training & Development Group at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and who has spent 33 years in K-20 education.

Kevin demonstrated the Citelighter toolbar for Gary, who came away pretty impressed with its functionality. “It’s the ideal tool for me to use when I am looking for scholarly articles on the use of technology in teaching, or if I’m doing research on a favorite topic such as learning–or just web surfing and come across a resource I want to remember,” he observed, adding, “It’s great because it is integrated into my web browser.”

Asked how Citelighter might be useful in a university context, Gary said that it’s important to be able to quickly gather and organize information for student researchers. “We have many students who are learning how to do research as well as assisting in research, and tools such as Citelighter can enhance the research data gathering and organizational phases,” he noted.   He added that he thinks the tool would be valuable for its broad application: “Whether they are in freshman English or Petroleum Engineering seminar, students need to learn organizational and research skills that will be foundational regardless of career choice.”

We were equally curious to know how technological advancement in general has shifted the position of technology experts like Gary who work in university systems. He offered that as technology takes on an increasingly critical role in everyone’s lives, it’s compelled more educators—even those “who have stood by the sidelines”—to become active in fostering that integration. “Faculty are looking for greater support and ideas on how best to either begin the process of integrating technology into their teaching or are looking to expand what they are currently doing,” Gary noted, further adding,  “We’re the office they come to, for help, questions, discussion, and ultimately confidence building as they incorporate technology into their teaching.”

In many ways, we here at Citelighter seek to play exactly the same role for educators on a larger scale—so don’t hesitate us to send over your own questions and comments!

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Interview with Julia Ebel, Experienced Educator

Connecting with teachers and experts in the education space is an important goal for us at Citelighter. Sure, we believe we’re building great tools that will help students–but who knows more about helping students than those who do just that day after day?

Julia Ebel has been at it not just day after day, but year after year. She’s taught English, ELL, and history for grades five through twelve at various points for public and charter schools, and  in Oregon and Arizona, for almost 20 years. She’s now a Technology Training Specialist for the Dysart Unified School District in Arizona.

We asked her to share her thoughts, experience, and expertise on how Citelighter helps students, the role of technology in classrooms, the importance of collaboration, and more that we could all be doing.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Julia! How did you first come across Citelighter?

The Dysart Unified School District was named a Salute Distict by the National School Board Association. It was a prestigious award that was presented to us because of our innovative use of technology in the classroom. Part of the award required us to host a site visit for educators around the country. While preparing for this visit, I was contacting sponsors and vendors, and met Kevin West through the Phoenix Coyotes. During our first meeting, he mentioned Citelighter, and I was sold immediately.

What about Citelighter’s fact-capturing tool most appeals to you in your capacity as an experienced educator? How do you think it helps students in the research and paper-writing process?

As a high school teacher, I found that one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of teaching research was the actual MLA or APA formats. Each college requires different formats, and it was difficult to keep up with the changes in the formats each year. It is hard enough to teach students how to choose valid information, and how to incorporate their research into an essay format. To add the citation process on top of that led to many blank stares on the faces of even the most intelligent students.

Citelighter makes it all so much easier. It takes away the guessing game of “Do I have the information cited correctly?” It also assists students in forming their paragraphs. They do not have to bother with messy index cards or several pieces of printed paper, which most of them misplaced. All of their information is in one place, and allows the students to focus on their content, instead of spending the bulk of their time trying to search for the author of a website.

What are your thoughts on Citelighter’s Knowledge Card database? Do you have particular ideas on new and different ways that you’d like to see those cards implemented – for example, tailored to teachers’ lesson plans for individual classes?

I really like the idea of Citelighter’s Knowledge Card database. It creates a safe and more manageable database of material for students that is guaranteed to be accurate. I was teaching about Manifest Destiny and the Wild West in American History. I received an entire research paper about Wyatt Earp’s son. Wyatt Earp didn’t have any children. The Knowledge Cards will ensure that students are not finding information that is inaccurate.

These cards also will save them time. I have found that many students spend so much time looking at pictures and video, instead of actually doing valid research. The Knowledge Cards will really assist them in managing their time by limiting the overwhelming amount of information they find on the Internet.

It would be amazing if Knowledge Cards could have Lexile levels so the kids know what reading level the article is. It would also be helpful to tailor Knowledge Cards to particular units, or if the cards were tied somehow to Common Core Standards.

Based on your extensive experience, what are your own thoughts about how technology tools in general can contribute to learning in the classroom? Do you see the education landscape changing significantly over the next 5-10 years as a result of technological impact? Or are you seeing it even sooner?

The new generation of kids do not know the world without technology. Technology tools, therefore, must be incorporated into the classroom. We need to be teaching our students New Century Learning Skills. Teachers cannot revert to what they have done in the past because technology is moving so quickly. If this is not done, students will not be prepared for the workplace.

We are preparing students now for jobs that do not even exist yet, and if technology is not introduced at an early age, the students will struggle in college and in the real world. The education landscape is changing, but it is not changing quickly enough. Technology changes at an incredibly rapid pace, and education does not change at the same pace.

There are still educators and administrators who resist change and want to still teach how they did 25 years ago. The education from the past is not working now, and will not work in the future.

How important is it for companies developing technology products in the education space to stay connected and work collaboratively with educators, and vice versa?

It is extremely important for companies developing technology products to connect with educators. First of all, educators do not have time to research the new technologies all the time, so companies keeping educators informed about new technologies helps immensely. Secondly, with the new development of most states in America transitioning to the Common Core Standards, which will make curriculum more standard across the country, the collaboration of businesses and education is imperative so that developers are familiar with the curriculum, and can create products that will support the Common Core.

Also, businesses seem to develop with the technological trends, and do not necessarily stay as stagnant as education does. Collaboration between business and educators will help to push education into embracing the New Century Learning Skills that we should be teaching our students.

A big thanks to Julia—and to all the other hard-working educators out there who are striving so hard to improve learning for millions of students.
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Citelighter PR Director

What is Citelighter?

What is Citelighter? Is it best described as  an automated citation tool? Or  a research platform? How about a knowledge library?

Citelighter features all those things. But as I’ve come to find out over the past couple months, here’s what Citelighter is really about: passionate and committed people coming together with the common goals of engaging teachers, helping students, and spearheading positive change in the tech-education space.

I joined Citelighter almost by accident: after spending years as a writer for newspapers, blogs, magazines, and non-profits, I wanted an inside look at a more entrepreneurial space. Citelighter’s CEO–my cousin–had for months been telling me with great excitement what his team had accomplished in just over a year: building a unique browser tool that allows anyone to quickly capture and organize facts with citations automatically saved, signing a major partnership with a large company in the academic space, and capturing awards for showcasing innovation in technology.

So when the opportunity arose to spend some time with the team to help out in a writing capacity, I jumped at it. The spirit of collaboration and camaraderie to achieve Citelighter’s goals was immediately self-evident, magnetic, and infectious.

Which brings me to the goal of this very blog: to bring you an inside view of everything our team is working on and thinking deeply about. Our core mission is to advance learning–helping students, teachers, and researchers–and our vision for doing so is participatory and inclusive. That’s why we think it’s important to share our passion with our audience: you.

In the coming weeks and months, we aim to bring you a steady stream of engaging and insightful content– whether it’s exciting new product features, passionate posts from teachers using our tools in the classroom, thoughtful interviews with leaders in education and technology, or examples of best practices for research and writing from students using Citelighter.

Our blog space has previously been in hibernation for some time, but that’s about to change. We hope you enjoy what’s to come—and I look forward to your feedback and recommendations for future content!

M. Junaid Alam
Director of PR