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Description: Deep learning is having a serious moment right now in the world of AI. And for good reason. Loosely based on the brain’s computing architecture, artificial neural networks have vastly outperformed their predecessors in a variety of tasks that had previously stumped our silicon-minded comrades. But as these algorithms continuously forge new grounds in machine …
By Philip Downey
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Week 1 Summary: Transforming Integration or Is It the Other Way Around?

Moving through the readings for Block 1, I was struck by a comment made in one of the first articles I read.  This comment made me re-think how I have viewed my presence in the digital world and what influence I wish to have on not only my personal space but on the spaces of my students.  Yes, I realize I am hearkening yet again to the space-presence theme, but I feel this theme is a foundation platform of what my digital legacy should look like.

In The Historiography of Culture, Jonathan Sterne (2006) describes advertisers that have presented “digital technologies” as “. . . commodities to be integrated into everyday life rather than as epochal forces that will transform it.”  This simple statement forced me to look at how I use digital technologies in my classroom especially, and whether I use such technologies to transform my classroom or just integrate them into what we (myself and my students) already.  My answer to this question is both.  I fully understand classroom application is not the focus of this article however, I try and see if anything I read has some value in terms of how I present information to my students and how they can best receive and comprehend that information.

As I teach in an inner-city school, the range of technology devices and uses among my students runs from non-existent to all-reliant.  Some students, not many but enough, really have nothing more than a simple cellphone that allows them limited internet access at best.  It is very difficult for them to use it for anything beyond texting.  Other students seem to have the latest devices that can do anything and everything on the net from texting to phot applications and beyond.  We try and equalize everyone by providing classroom use of Chromebooks or laptops.  Even then, there is sometimes a distinct difference between students who are mind-numbingly adept at technology and students who do not have such skills because of the lack of access.

It is within this context I find both the transformation and integration concepts at odds with each other, yet willing to assimilate themselves within the context of academic achievement.  One the one hand, I am transforming the lives (hopefully) of students by exposing them to advanced technology and providing them opportunities to use that in ways they have never tried before.  It is a trial and error journey that has been both frustrating and atmospherically jubilant as students explore their personal digital space and discover how they may further express themselves within it.  For other students, technology is the simple integration of digital platforms they use already; now they are learning how each platform can be coupled with other platforms that allows further expansion of their own digital footprints.  The photos above are representative of the range of technologies used in my own classroom.  The achievement and engagement difference between the traditionally passive “sit-at-your-desk-and-listen-to-my-banter” method as opposed to student-driven and student-centered learning where every student is actively engaged in the learning process is massive.

In all of this presence in space is enhanced, in one fashion or another, as students (myself included) reach beyond the borders of the paradigms we have set for ourselves about the spaces we occupy.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)