While reading about the different genres of participation in Living and Learning in New Media, it was hard not to reflect on my own technology use. One of those genres, “hanging out,” describes the ways that teenagers are hanging out and how their use of technology helps them identify themselves in relation to their peers in regards to their likes and dislikes from music to gaming to style. These teenagers were using multiple modes of digital technology at the same time and I find that I am almost as asynchronous as teenagers in their use. Even at work, I’m using multiple mediums of digital technology for communicating such as chatting on Microsoft Teams with our tech department, messaging teachers on WeChat (the instant messaging platform most widely used in China), posting examples of student work to other teachers via seesaw, emailing teachers, and even answering my personal phone or the work phone. Just like in the studies show; the adolescents hang out online as an extension of how they hang out offline. I found the readings fascinating and confirms my feelings that while technology has changed the way in which we interact, it doesn’t lessen the quality of our communication and connections.
What does our changing interactions via digital technology have to do with research? Well, our use of technology has changed dramatically and there are multiple mediums of connection with social media, texting, phone calls, and instant messaging but my mode of research is still pretty much “old school.” I’m still reading books and googling for information but I don’t actively seek information in other ways. Even the books I read are passively found. They have been recommended by other teachers, professionals at conferences, highlighted within an email of an organization I subscribe to etc. How can I use the ways that I’m already connected to find the information that I want? One easy answer: asking or looking for it in the right places! Teaching in a public school, we were told which programs we were using for reading, writing and math. We were given training in the preferred models. There wasn’t much choice in what we used and so research wasn’t something that I did on a consistent basis other than finding particular projects for different units. However, that changed with the international school system where people would bring the programs they were familiar or liked with them.
One of the most important things about research is credibility. In the UNICEF article Children in the Digital World, it mentions this is a key challenge for children in the digital world but it’s also the same for adults. Even the president of the United States can’t stop talking about “fake news.” However, with such things as Google Scholar, researching is becoming easier. I’m hosting a parent workshop to discuss technology use and screen time with their children. I wanted to find recent findings from reputable organizations and sources about the effects of screen time on children. Using Google Scholar, I was able to find an article in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health in their August 2018 edition that discusses how children with developmental disabilities have less sleep when their screen times were greater. On average, those children had an average of 2 hours and 53 minutes of screen time. For every additional 9.17 minutes of screen time in a day, they lose one minute of sleep. What I noticed when I originally typed in screen time for children, I received a wide variety of options. There were articles about longitudinal behavior studies, self-esteem in adolescents and obesity and lack of physical activity. I realized that I needed to be even more specific to what I was looking for.
Sometimes in my job, I don’t need the studies but I need concrete answers to real life school problems. For example, I’ve been trying to find an app for the iPad or computer that grade 3 students could use to make a timeline easily. I’ve been looking at videos online and reading up about timeline apps. Unfortunately, the videos are a few years old (which as we know in the digital world means not up to date) and the apps are unavailable in the Apple iTunes store. Asking the Twitterverse could give me ideas of what’s available now. What are real teachers doing in real classrooms NOW. Ultimately this benefits my students the most. They get to reap the reward of the most up to date information and resources. Even though I didn’t get an answer to my tweet – that shows me that maybe that app that I’m looking for doesn’t exist…yet.
In this particular field, research is essential because the information is changing rapidly. Without the most up to date information, we are only making the job harder for ourselves. With a digital tool like G Suite for Education and more specifically the explore tools within Google Docs; it’s only making research easier for us and for our students. With one click, students are able to look up images, conduct research in the same window, and even adding citations.