Monday, December 21, 2009

Educause study on student use of computers and the Internet

The 2009 Educause Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology is out.

The study reports on the technology students use, how it affects their learning experience and their preferences in IT courses. This year's study held focus groups at 4 schools and surveyed 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and 12 two-year institutions. (Longitudinal comparisons dating back to 2006 are available from only 39 institutions).

A few of their findings about students this year were:

  • 44.8% post videos on the Web
  • 41.9% post on wikis
  • 37.3% contribute to blogs
  • 35% use podcasts
  • 37.7% use VoIP
  • 98.8% own computers
  • 87.8% own laptops
  • 34.5% own both desktop and laptops
As shown below, this activity keeps them online (doing school work and recreation) an average of 21.3 and a median of 16 hours per week.

(Click the image to enlarge it).

For comparison, Nielson reported that the average American television viewer watched more than 148 hours per month during the second quarter of 2009.

The Nielsen report cited above reveals that television viewing is not falling as Internet usage rises -- where do people find the extra time? If you are a student, how do you compare with those in this study?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Findings from the Pew survey on Writing, Technology and Teens

I just posted a note on an online survey on writing that was completed during spring 2009 by children between 9 and 16 in England and Scotland. The post listed some of the statistical findings.

During the spring 2008, the Pew Research Center conducted a more scientific telephone survey on Writing, Technology and Teens. Some of their findings are listed below.

The methodologies were different, but they covered many of the same issues.

If you are a student, what are your answers to the questions these surveys asked? If you are a teacher, how might these statistics influence your curriculum?

  • 85% of teens ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites.
  • 60% of teens do not think of these electronic texts as “writing.”
  • 50% of teens say they sometimes use informal writing styles instead of proper capitalization and punctuation in their school assignments;
  • 38% say they have used text shortcuts in school work such as “LOL” (which stands for “laugh out loud”);
  • 25% have used emoticons (symbols like smiley faces :-) ) in school work.
  • 83% of parents of teens feel there is a greater need to write well today than there was 20 years ago.
  • 86% of teens believe good writing is important to success in life – some 56% describe it as essential and another 30% describe it as important.
  • 48% of teenagers’ parents believe that their child is writing more than the parent did during their teen years; 31% say their child is writing less; and 20% believe it is about the same now as in the past.
  • 94% of black parents say that good writing skills are more important now than in the past, compared with 82% of white parents and 79% of English-speaking Hispanic parents.
  • 88% of parents with a high school degree or less say that writing is more important in today’s world, compared with 80% of parents with at least some college experience.
  • 50% of teens say their school work requires writing every day; 35% say they write several times a week. The remaining 15% of teens write less often for school.
  • 82% of teens report that their typical school writing assignment is a paragraph to one page in length.
  • White teens are significantly more likely than English-speaking Hispanic teens (but not blacks) to create presentations for school (72% of whites and 58% of Hispanics do this).
  • 82% of teens feel that additional in-class writing time would improve their writing abilities and 78% feel the same way about their teachers using computer-based writing tools.
  • 47% of black teens write in a journal, compared with 31% of white teens.
  • 37% of black teens write music or lyrics, while 23% of white teens do.
  • 49% of girls keep a journal; 20% of boys do.
  • 26% of boys say they never write for personal enjoyment outside of school.
  • 47% of teen bloggers write outside of school for personal reasons several times a week or more compared to 33% of teens without blogs.
  • 65% of teen bloggers believe that writing is essential to later success in life; 53% of non-bloggers say the same.
  • 72% of teens say they usually (but not exclusively) write the material they are composing for their personal enjoyment outside of school by hand; 65% say they usually write their school assignments by hand.
  • 15% of teens say their internet-based writing of materials such as emails and instant messages has helped improve their overall writing while 11% say it has harmed their writing. Some 73% of teens say this kind of writing makes no difference to their school writing.
  • 17% of teens say their internet-based writing has helped the personal writing they do that is not for school, while 6% say it has made their personal writing worse. Some 77% believe this kind of writing makes no difference to their personal writing.
  • 57% of teens belive that when they use computers to write, they are more inclined to edit and revise their texts.
  • 27% of parents think the internet writing their teen does makes their teen child a better writer, and 27% think it makes the teen a poorer writer. Some 40% say it makes no difference.
  • 93% of those ages 12-17 say they have done some writing outside of school in the past year and more than a third of them write consistently and regularly.
  • 49% of all teens say they enjoy the writing they do outside of school “a great deal,” compared with just 17% who enjoy the writing they do for school with a similar intensity.
  • 81% of teens who enjoy their school writing engage in creative writing at school.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Many UK children write on the Internet, and those who do consider themselves better writers than those who do not

The UK-based National Literacy Trust has done a survey on Young people's writing: Attitudes, behaviour and the role of technology.

The report, which is available online, outlines findings from 3001 pupils aged 9-16 from England and Scotland, who completed an online survey in May 2009. It explores the link between writing and gender and age differences, socio-economic background, mobile phone ownership, having a blog, and having a social network profile. It concludes with practical and policy implications.

A few of the findings:

  • 75% of young people said they write regularly -- online and off.
  • 56% of young people said they had a profile on a social networking site, such as Bebo or Facebook. 24% said that they have their own blog.
  • Young people who write on a blog were much more likely than young people who do not write on a blog to enjoy writing in general (57% vs. 40%) and to enjoy writing for family/friends in particular (79% vs. 55%).
  • Young people with a blog (61%) as well as young people with a profile on a social networking site (56%) also displayed greater confidence, believing themselves to be good writers.
  • Owning a mobile phone does not appear to alter young people’s enjoyment of writing, their writing behaviour or their attitudes towards writing.
  • Most young people said they used computers regularly and believed that computers are beneficial to their writing
  • Nearly 60% of young people believe computers allow them to be more creative, concentrate more and encourage them to write more often.
  • Just under 9 in 10 young people see writing as an important skill to succeed in life
  • In line with governmental figures, which show that girls outperform boys in writing.
  • There was a dip in enjoyment of writing, writing behaviour and attitudes towards writing at ages 11-14, but they recover again in pupils aged 14-16.
  • There was not a relationship between economic status (receiving free school meals) and enjoyment of writing, writing behaviour, or attitudes towards writing; however pupils who do not receive; howver, students who recieved free meals lacked confidence, rating themselves as worse writers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Presentation on writing for the Internet

I gave a talk on teaching Internet writing at an online teaching conference at Cal State Los Angeles last week. The talk put Internet writing in the context of the concept of IT literacy, then covered three types of Internet writing:

  • Conversational writing
  • Writing short documents
  • Collaborative writing
The presentation includes links to full presentations and teaching exercises on each of these types of writing.

(Click on the "writing" label for other writing posts on this blog)

Research on writing for the Internet

Stanford professor Andrea Lunsford headed a five-year longitudinal study of student writing. She and her colleagues followed the writing -- in and out of class -- of 189 students during their four years at Stanford and their first year after graduation (about 15,000 pieces of writing). Some of the findings were:

  • Students are writing more than ever
  • Some of their “life writing” is profound
  • Their writing is done to achieve some purpose or goal
A recent account of student blog posts in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings supports the idea that life writing can be profound. We should not underestimate our students.

You will find two videos on this study and related work here:
  • Interview of Lunsford on the study, 12 min. 18 sec. (left tab)
  • Moderated discussion among four professors, including Lunsford, on digital literacy, 39 min. 30 sec. (right tab)
You may also be interested in following the research at the Center for Writing in Digital Environments at Michigan State University.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PowerPoint -- criticism and reflection

I just read a blog post by a third year college student on her frustration with PowerPoint lectures. (The comments are interesting too).

She finds that PowerPoint lectures are rushed and she does not have time to take notes. When her instructors use canned material that came with a textbook, she has the feeling they are ill prepared and seeing the material for the first time. Some of her instructors use PowerPoint exclusively, rather than switching to other media like a chalkboard lecture or video when that would be better. Others use the medium poorly, for example, by reading from text on a slide.

This is my first semester using PowerPoint, so I became a little defensive when I read her post, but she got me thinking. Here are some thoughts and questions that occurred to me:

  • A good teacher will be good regardless of whether he or she uses PowerPoint.
  • An active, engaged student will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
  • Taking notes keeps students active and alert and improves retention. Even if they have printouts of the presentations, they should take notes.
  • Students who thoughtfully review their notes after class will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
  • A PowerPoint file does not stand on its own for self study -- it must be presented live or narrated and/or accompanied by a transcript.
  • If a PowerPoint presentation is narrated, should the narration be scripted or recorded live during a classroom presentation?
  • PowerPoint presentations may encourage a passive state in the students. It is important to keep the room lights on and engage the students while giving a PowerPoint presentation.
Here are some things I find myself doing:
  • I only use PowerPoint slides that I have prepared myself. That allows me to present what I think is relevant, and I essentially rehearse the presentation while creating the slides.
  • The first slide in each presentation lists the skills and concepts to be presented.
  • The second slide in each presentation shows where the presentation fits in the overall course outline.
  • I pause when a new slide is displayed to give the students a chance to look it over.
  • I use images in many of my slides.
  • I add fat, red arrows or other call-outs to highlight material when appropriate.
  • A presentations may contain a link to a video or demonstration which I show at the appropriate place.
  • I talk about the slide on the screen, but never read more than one or two sentences from it. The slides are intended to enhance and illustrate the presentation and serve as a mnemonics (for me and the students), not to be the presentation.
Here are some of the things I found online after reading Carolyn's post:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will WolframAlpha impact the IT literacy curriculum?

I recently posted a few examples of symbolic math calculation using the WolframAlpha Internet service, and asked how it might affect math teaching. WolframAlpha, which presents a command-line interface to Wolfram's Mathematica symbolic math package, is capable of doing math homework and solving exam questions from junior high through graduate school.

The pros and cons of using WolframAlpha in teaching math are discussed in the article A Calculating Web Site Could Ignite a New Campus 'Math War', and there is a Wiki with many examples on teaching undergraduate math using WolframAlpha.

Math teacher Maria Andersen posted a discussion of the likely impact of WolframAlpha on math education, in which she predicts that students will flock to it and many, but not all, teachers will do the same. She uses innovation diffusion theory to analyze the likely rate of adoption of WolframAlpha relative to traditional symbolic math packages.

The conservative view of using tools like calculators or WolframAlpha is captured in Isaac Asimov's story The Feeling of Power, depicting a future in which a technician amazes people because he has memorized the multiplication tables and can do arithmetic without a calculator.

Are math skills and concepts part of IT literacy? Is there room for any math in an IT literacy course? Where can WolframAlpha be used in the IT literacy curriculum?

Friday, June 12, 2009

A textbook chapter with some IT literacy concepts

We talk about the skills and concepts making up an IT literacy course.

Some of the concepts I feel should be included in an IT literacy course are covered in a chapter I wrote for a textbook called Introduction to Information Technology a while ago.

The chapter, Technology trends, Internet Applications and Possible Roadblocks, does not cover all of the concepts I would include, and some are covered in too much depth. Here is an abstract of the chapter:

Information technology is improving at an accelerating rate. This opens the way for innovative applications, which make organizations and individuals more efficient and effective. This chapter outlines hardware progress, which has led to new forms of software and software development. Software evolution has brought us to the current era of Internet-based software. After describing some of the characteristics of Internet-based software, we ask whether the progress we have enjoyed will continue and conclude with a discussion of some of the non-technical issues, which tend to impede that progress.
  • Hardware progress
  • Software progress
  • Internet based software
  • Will the progress continue?
  • Bumps in the information technology road

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We should teach the skills necessary to build an e-portfolio

We've defined IT literacy as being comprised of the skills and concepts needed to succeed as a student and after graduation as a professional and a citizen.

But, which skills should be included? Today's student needs a mix of content creation and high-level application development skills.

One way to look at this is to say, they need the skills to create an valuable e-portfolio while in school and to continue it after graduation.

For more on e-portfolios, check this article, which discusses e-portfolios from both student and faculty perspectives .

Monday, May 11, 2009

Internet writing is important

A recent report on Writing, Teens and Technology found that 83% of parents of teens feel there is a greater need to write well today than there was 20 years ago. Eight six percent of teens ages 12-17 believe good writing is important to success in life -- some 56% describe it as essential and another 30% describe it as important.

Employers confirm the importance of writing on the job. Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals, a leading software company lists five characteristics he looks for in a prospective employee:

  • have a positive outlook
  • be well rounded and flexible
  • be a quick learner
  • be trustworthy -- will find a solution to a problem
  • be a good writer
Fried considers being a good writer most important, stating "Probably the most important thing and probably one of the surprises is you have to work with people who are good writers."

Joel Spolsky, well known programmer and author on the importance of writing to a software developer is also looking for good writers. He says "Being able to write clearly, to write English clearly is more important to developing useful software than almost anything else and that's something you're more likely to learn in the English department than in the computer science department."

The Fried and Spolsky quotes are from talks they gave. You will find links to the talks here.