We Need to Talk: It’s Not The Technology, It’s Me (and You)

Tonight’s class was a wonderful example that paralleled an article I have been working on for another class, which focuses on a meta-analysis of the effects of meta-cognitive instruction on students’ reading comprehension in computerized reading analysis (Lan, Lo, & Hsu, 2014). The analysis summed up that the results overall were inconsistent, pointing to the idea that it wasn’t necessarily the technology which aided in learning and using these meta-cognitive comprehension strategies, but rather the community of learners and instructors that interacted with the learner through the software, promoting motivation and further ability to master these strategies.

Tonight’s interactive lecture via zoom, a video chat based app, certainly wasn’t without hiccups. Alec’s Stephen Hawking impression made for difficulties in sharing content to the rest of the class. However, having read the articles beforehand, the rest of the community of learners were able to make up for the limitations of the technology, and this type of interaction (as well as Katia’s ‘slideshow karaoke’) made for a very effective learning lecture.

I was happy to see Dave White’s new interpretation of Prensky’s Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. His reinterpretation, using Visitors vs. Residents, is much more relevant. As a teacher I can relate to the idea that simply because children have been born with technologies such as the internet and online social communities, doesn’t mean they are necessarily good at all technologies. White’s addition of a vertical axis showing personal and institutional use can clearly show that while individuals may very well have a well established resident status in the personal realm (Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), they may still only be seen as visitor when using online technologies for academic/institutional use. Many of my students struggle using online apps such as Google Drive, because they lack the familiarity with the software, as well as the meta-cognitive strategies that must be learned to use said tech effectively.


That said, the idea of gamification in the realm of educational apps is likely going to turn that tide. By changing the way we interact with the learned content, to something familiar and motivating, students will likely be more capable of showing mastery faster, and leaving much more of a ‘residential’ footprint. An independent study on the effects of Duolingo shows that 34 hours using a gamified way of learning a language, can be as effective as one university semester in that same language (Grego & Vesselinov, 2012).

Yes, I love memes…

What has drawn me to using Duolingo as a supplement for learning French in my Grade ⅚ classroom is not only the ‘gameified’ approach to building levels, but the community of colleagues/friends, whose progress is constantly available to see. This promotes students to go the extra mile, and to make the effort to catch up to those putting more time/effort into the app. This type of motivation captures those students who may have little interest or contextual need for to learn another language, but are drawn to friendly competition with others. Even if they aren’t sucked in by the gameplay, or the interest of learning the language, they are still absorbing content.


Other applications such as Prodigy take the same approach, but this time with mathematics, and again students who have had no prior interest, or have expressed real anxiety of learning math (especially in the traditional classroom environment) are still capable of finding the motivation and freedom a virtual gamified approach provides to excel.   


4 thoughts on “We Need to Talk: It’s Not The Technology, It’s Me (and You)

  1. Nicely done, Jeremy! So I have a question for you. Do you have any ethical issues about using third party gamified learning software/apps/websites? The reason I ask is that I am interested in how we do or do not protect data and how that influences our edtech choices. I’m curious what process you went through to decide that Duolingo is okay for recommending to your students. I’ve signed up on it myself and played around for a little while to try to brush up my French until I got bored and distracted by more pressing concerns. But in doing that I provided a company with my data for free. I didn’t have to pay to use their site but they don’t have to pay me to use me as a test subject. They learned from every choice I made, ever right or wrong answer. They compared my data to that of other users to see how well their system was working, to learn what did or did not work. I can’t remember what data they ask for when they sign up, but they could have compared me to people in my age range, people of my self-identified gender, people in my region, people with my background knowledge of French. That’s research that used to cost big bucks for companies. Now, suddenly, we’re offering it up free. I have no idea what data analysis they are running in the background because they never show us. It’s something a lot of ed tech people like Audrey Watters and danah boyd are talking and writing about. Pearson got scrutinized for watching Twitter for any posts from students about specific tests they wrote. Gross, right? But in choosing to use tests by Pearson rather than open source, open educational resources, something we made ourselves, we’re giving away some knowledge and responsibility for data. And we do it ALL THE TIME. Our browsers, our operating systems, our phones, they all want to report back to make sure everything is working. Sure, it can help improve performance, but that’s a lot of data we’re offering up for free or paying for the privilege of providing. Katia mentioned that Instagram owns any photos we post (Snapchat has been accused of not deleting images and some odd Terms of Service issues over the years, fyi). At work, I deal with UR Courses which is handled by U of R but also third party software and I try to think about this kind of thing before suggesting a student use it. Or at least try to make sure they are informed of what it means if they choose to do so.

    1. Hi, thanks for the awesome comment. In all honesty, I am not too worried about the data mining that is happening with my student’s aptitude scores in math/french. Students are not putting in their own personal details, so the data they are collecting is not going to come back to the specific individual, rather it will provide data that is of a generic age group, and I suppose the geographic location of where the IP is coming from. The data being input is helpful not only for students getting instant feedback, and a way to track their progress/mistakes made, but also helps the instructor as they can quickly pinpoint areas where a student is weak, and provide further instruction/practice if needed.
      I agree that creative output, such as photos, should remain the intellectual property of whoever first created them (Instagram), and that it’s infuriating that social media sites such as Facebook data mine to sell to marketing companies, etc. In terms of academics, and especially in the way they are being used to assist students, I feel they are welcome to share such data. Doing so may put more focus on what is the current situation in math, for example today, and what are the causes of such high/low academics? More importantly we can use this information as a society to better recognize what solutions we can come up with to better assist such children who are struggling academically.

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