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    Taking Control Over the Data Narrative

    By Kip Glazer
     | Jan 25, 2017
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    When I tell people how much I love statistics, data, and numbers, I often get a funny look, especially when people find out I have been an English teacher. But mathematics is a universal language! Yes, I love great literature, but I also adore numbers!

    Even if you do not love numbers like I do, you might be able to appreciate the simple fact that data create a narrative, and taking control of the narrative is more important than ever before with the amount of data that we now have access to. Besides, our daily lives are filled with conversations about numbers, as we have all heard statements such as, “The median housing price is…” or “The average snowfall for this year is…” Whether you want to, we could probably all agree that being able to understand and work with data is extremely important. The following are some suggestions on how to work with data.

    Know that sampling matters

    Any lover of history would remember the famous picture of President Truman holding a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune that said, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Since then, we have had many instances of data being incorrect because of who answered the questions. When looking at any data, we should remember who answered and in what context, which leads to my next point.

    Be aware of the averages

    To draw accurate conclusions, we should take time before making judgments about numbers, especially averages and the trend they are supposed to tell. I remember looking at performance data with my English department one year. We received graphs for tests for two years. The graphs showed the averages of a standardized test for ninth, 10th, and 11th graders over two years. Someone asked, “Does this mean the averages went up from last year to this year?” To that I replied, “No. It doesn’t. The group that is now 10th grade performed extremely well when they were in ninth grade. However, their performance dropped by 10%, while the current 11th graders’ performance dropped only by 5% from what they did in 10th grade. If you factor in the increased in difficulty for the test, our 11th graders are doing much better than the 10th graders.” Rather than simply looking at the average, we must consider the context of the data and what the average actually says. After all, if you stick one foot in ice water and the other in boiling water, the average would be warm even though your one foot is frozen and the other is burned!

    Verify the scales

    Another thing to remember when looking at statistics is that the scale matters. For example, if you heard that a school has a score of 800, would you be impressed? Once I tell you many schools’ Adequate Yearly Progress score is supposed to be between 0 and 1,000, you would realize that 800 is a solid number. What if I told you 800 was someone’s SAT Math Subject Test score? You would be impressed because 800 is the highest score a student can receive on that test.

    Question the questions

    When discussing data, we must remember the importance of the right data collection tools. Asking good questions is vital in all data analysis. Some say standardized tests do not tell us how well our students are doing. I say it does tell us something; it doesn’t tell us everything.

    Fortunately, we have lots of tools that allow us to illustrate data easily. For example, Plotly allows you create graphs and charts easily and quickly. It’s three-panel dashboard offers simple options for you to enter data and create different charts. ChartGo is another website that allows you to create different charts. You can also import Excel or CSV files. But my favorite data illustration tools have to be Wordle and WorldClouds. As an English teacher, I used this tool with my students often. For example, we created a word cloud for the Gettysburg Address. It shows the repeated words in the speech to quickly discern the author’s purpose. My students and I had frequent discussions about the author’s purpose as we looked at the word choice.

    Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight and author of The Signal and the Noise, once said people think they want information when what they really want is the knowledge. The bottom line is that having good data helps all of us to make better decisions. By accepting that we must learn to work with data and becoming critical about how they are collected and analyzed, educators can model a good use of data to our students.

    Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.

     

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    Avoiding “Fake News” in the Classroom

    By Kip Glazer
     | Dec 15, 2016

    shutterstock_244010971_300Late on the Friday before my school’s weeklong Thanksgiving break, a senior came by my office. He wanted to know why he received a D on his annotated bibliography assignment. After all, he had all five sources his teacher asked him to find. He was frustrated and wanted help.

    Having been an English teacher for over a decade, I directed him to look at Google Scholar. We put his keyword food politics into the search bar. I explained to him that sources should be current, preferably within the last five years, and showed him how to reset the date range to 2011–2016. Then I explained to him that the best sources should be peer-reviewed journal articles with digital object identifiers (DOI)—kind of like a social security number for a reputable article. Then I pointed out the Google Scholar–tracked citation counts. I told him he should use books and then other credible websites sponsored by governmental or educational institutions, in that order, only if he couldn’t find any peer-reviewed journals for his topic. After my explanation, we looked at his paper together, and he said, “So one source like that book I picked would have gotten me a B, but using four random websites, I deserved to get a D.”

    Moments like that gives me hope despite reading “Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds” published by The Wall Street Journal and many other news organizations. Citing the recent Stanford University study, many were alarmed by the fact that 82% of the middle school students “couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled ‘sponsored content’ and a real news story on a website.” The study finding was not surprising to me because, having been concerned about this issue for a while, I have written posts about both digital literacy and digital footprint. The article also correctly pointed out how a lack of trained school librarians at many public schools had made the situation worse.

    To continue to make matters worse, there are numerous fake news sites that deliberately mislead their readers. Recently NPR broadcasted a story on fake news sites, which revealed how numerous websites that appeared to be legitimate posted completely fabricated stories. One such story was shared over half a million times on Facebook. Although many social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google had announced their commitment to reduce the number of such postings using various computer algorithms, today’s media consumers need to be vigilant.

    So what can we as teachers do to help our students?

    1. Discuss credibility of sources. As a public school teacher, my students have asked me about my political beliefs more than once. I often used that as an opportunity to teach my students about the credibility of the source. To make my point, I would ask my students to look up articles on medical research findings. I pointed out whether an article was posted on websites like the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or Harvard Medical School. Then I had students look for the articles posted on other websites. I also pointed out the tone of the language used in certain articles. Then I explained the difference between an opinion posted on BuzzFeed and The Washington Post by discussing the role of an editorial board and journalistic ethics. When a student brings up a topic, ask the following questions, “Where did you hear that?” “Who was the source?” “Do you think they are credible on the basis of their education, expertise, and experience?”

    2. Model productive research behaviors. I also shared how I conducted my own research for my publications. I introduced different digital tools such as Google Scholar and EBSCO and how I used my tools such as RefWorks and Paperpile to collect sources. I also encouraged my students to request help from a librarian in their own research. I often added a lesson on the difference between the manuscript requirement of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and that of the American Psychological Association (APA). I explained how the MLA valued the author whereas the APA valued the publication dates as indicated in the requirements of their respective Works Cited and Reference sections.

    3. Teach the explicit differences among the sources. I had my students think in terms of points or grade as to which source should get an A, B, C, D, or F. I had students evaluate different Works Cited pages and grade them before creating their own. By formalizing the evaluation process, I emphasized the importance of using credible sources.

    4. Require citations. Even when my students created a multimedia presentation such as a video or a slide presentation, I required my students to cite every source including any picture. Toward the end of the school year, all my students knew that they would not receive a passing grade without citations.

    In a society where the number of views on a YouTube video or retweets on a Twitter feed becomes the standards for one’s credibility, we must do better to inform our students of which sources they should trust.

    Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.
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    Imparting Lessons in the Face of Artificial Intelligence

    By Kip Glazer
     | Nov 23, 2016
    Watson's_avatarI watched Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey as a little girl. I felt both extremely frightened and profoundly sad as Hal 9000 begged for his life by saying, “Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop Dave? Stop, Dave.” I knew intellectually that Hal was a machine and not a person, so to think of his death was rather strange. But when he said, “I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it... I'm a... fraid,” I felt conflicted. After all, he said he was “afraid.” A machine having a mind? And it feels afraid? How is that possible?

     

    Recently, I watched an episode of 60 Minutes on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The episode featured a number of researchers working on the development of AI that could not only mimic but also surpass humans because it can learn through experiences and it never forgets. And it has already shown amazing results. Watson, an IBM computer, won Jeopardy! in 2011 and is now learning to become a cancer expert at University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

    Although the cancer researchers at UNC lauded Watson as a potentially lifesaving tool for doctors because of its capacity to read and search nearly 8,000 cancer research papers being published on a daily basis around the world, some experts are expressing concerns on its capacity to become smarter than humans. For example, both Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have said there could be dark sides to the future of AI if machines become smarter at the expense of kindness and generosity toward humans.

    Consider that scientists can now edit the human genome to cure diseases but are calling for a moratorium on such practices while ethical issues are sorted. I believe that’s a sign scientific achievement must be balanced against the advancement in humanity.

    One way to do this is to read more literature pieces that ask the hard questions. Our students can learn the peril of scientific creation sans human guidance by reading Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. Before students become computer scientists, shouldn’t they read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov to learn The Three Laws of Robotics? Unfortunately, many English teachers are now asked to read more informational or nonfiction texts or than novels in the classroom.

    Having been an English teacher for over a decade in Bakersfield, California, I like to think that I understand frustration over Common Core State Standards better than many others. However, I would never give up teaching classics like the works of Shakespeare because our students need our fortitude and perseverance more than ever before. In the new world where AI could take over every aspect of our lives without a stronger moral compass, I would hope that our students will be able to recall the horrible fate of the boys in Lord of the Flies.

    Kip Glazeris a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.


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    The Digital Natives Myth

    By Kip Glazer
     | Oct 26, 2016

    ThinkstockPhotos-155787182_x300A friend of mine who teaches at a premier college in the United States lamented over Facebook about an e-mail he received from a student. In it, the student said he couldn’t figure out how to play a DVD on his computer even after asking a number of friends. My friend said he would be tempted to “staple the e-mail to a speaker’s forehead” if one more person talks about how intuitive young people are with technology. Considering how his university has been ranked in the top 10 public universities in the United States according to U.S. World News and Report, I want to talk about a couple of terms we hear often: digital natives and digital immigrants.

    In his 2001 article, Marc Prensky coined the terms that have been used frequently by various scholars. He claimed that students were vastly different from their teachers because of their exposure to technology. He declared, “The single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” He argued that educators should become innovative in the way that they teach their content because the old way of teaching was no longer serving our students who were so much savvier than their teachers.

    In my previous post, I pointed out the importance of access to all students in terms of computer coding education. I argued that access matters a great deal when it comes to technology education. So it may sound strange that I do not subscribe to Prensky’s idea of calling this generation of learners digital natives. No one can dispute that today’s youths have access to more technology in comparison with previous generations. Clearly our young people have more devices, more services, and more apps.

    As much as I believe in the importance of access, I also know access doesn’t automatically equal competency. It is true that access is a prerequisite to creating competency. However, to transform such access to learner competency, intentional instruction must follow. Just because a student can use Snapchat doesn’t mean that he knows how to harness the power of instant communication. Just because a student can post photos on Instagram doesn’t mean that she knows not to share sensitive photos in a text message. In fact, a Washington Post article indicates that access allows more opportunities for youngsters to make decisions that may compromise privacy or safety or may lead to cyberbullying. Calling our young people digital natives allows adults to relinquish our responsibility to our young people who need more guidance than ever before.

    Educators of today must remember that our students need us to set good examples when it comes to using technology. Rather than shying away from using social media, we can set good examples for our students. Rather than avoiding YouTube, we can use it as an instructional platform and a valuable resource. Rather than relying on someone else to post instructional content, we can use free blog sites such as WordPress or Google Sites to share educational content. In today’s digital wilderness where so many commercial companies lead our students astray, we all must step up and lead our students by behaving like the adults that we are.

    Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.

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    Developing Digital Literacy for All Students

    By Kip Glazer
     | Sep 28, 2016

    Glazer092816Recently, a computer engineer working for a local technology company contacted me. He told me his  freshman son was interested in starting a coding club at his high school. He remembered coming to one of my after-school club meetings to speak to my students about his choice of career as a computer engineer. He asked what my strategy was to have a club that had nearly 30–40 members, some of whom won the Congressional App Challenge, representing the 23rd California Congressional District. Because I consider coding as one of the major components of digital literacy skills, I’d like to share the answer I gave my friend.

    Access matters

    I began teaching computer coding by accident. I had to learn to code to pass a doctoral course that required me to create an item using an Arduino board. I quickly realized my limitations and hired a former student as a tutor. While I was struggling to learn to program and create a project to pass my course, I realized how much better my classmates were doing because they had some prior experience with coding.

    Focus on exposure

    I decided to start a coding club at my school. Clearly, I was in no position to be an expert coder in the room, so I asked for help. In addition to asking my tutor for help, I asked my classmates. That’s when I found out how many free resources are available. Although there are many outstanding resources now, I used CodeHS and Codecademy. I also wrote a grant to purchase more Arduino boards and e-textile materials. Finally, I asked my own students who have done coding to help. We began meeting twice a week, once during the week and on Saturdays.

    I thought of my coding club like the thousands of little league baseball teams or youth soccer leagues. Not everyone who plays baseball as a little kid will become a professional, but having some experience will help one to appreciate the sport. Not having the opportunity to play certainly hurts the chances of having quality players in the future. Likewise, we need thousands of coding clubs to create future computer coders and engineers.

    Interest over skills development

    In addition to introducing free tools to my students to learn to program, I encouraged my students to chase their own interests. Not surprisingly, many of my computer coding club members were also avid video gamers. They were interested in learning about game development. So when they chose to create games using different tools, I encouraged them to do so while looking at the codes behind the tools. Other students wanted to learn HTML to create a simple website or learn to use Photoshop.

    All hands on deck approach to developing digital literacy

    In a recent Quartz article, Idit Harel, CEO of Globaloria, criticized the way U.S. schools are treating coding. She called this new wave of desire to teach coding by using free online applications “pop computing.” She argued that just as a person playing Guitar Hero shouldn’t be considered a musician, someone playing with coding applications or programs shouldn’t be considered a coder. I agree that we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. I do not expect that my students who came to a few club meetings will all become expert computer programmers.

    However, as a former English teacher, I must say that I would rather my students read popular books like the Twilight or Harry Potter series than no books at all. I spent over a decade working hard to encourage my students to read more books, even writing a dissertation on a new pedagogy to help my students to read more classics such as Beowulf, Fahrenheit 451, and The Importance of Being Earnest. But when my students asked to read a biography of a baseball player or a book on how to assemble a race bike as their choice of independent reading materials, I always said yes because reading something was better than reading nothing. I believe that providing access to resources, creating structures to provide exposure, and supplying encouragement for interest-driven learning are ways to developing digital literacy for all our students.

    Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.

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