Monday, November 30, 2015

Dr. Faulkner: Chain Saw Carving

In a previous entry, I talked about technology as a tool and our opportunity to use this tool to improve student learning.  The message I tried to convey is that technology can be a highly valuable instructional tool when used appropriately.

One of my father’s favorite sayings was, “Use the right tool for the right job.”  As an auto mechanic for most of his adult life, he had a large collection of tools.  Some highly specialized and others more general.  Knowing which would accomplish the task at hand was a skill he developed over years of practice.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there is room for creativity when it comes to using tools.  I’m intrigued by chain saw art.  Perhaps some would say it isn’t art at all, but I’m fascinated by those that can take a tool designed to cut down trees and use it to create sculpture.  I’m also mystified by those that can engrave a picture on a grain of rice.  A Taiwanese artist Chen Forng-Shean carves amazing works of art on single grains of rice. Certainly you can’t carve a grain of rice with a chainsaw but you also can’t turn a tree stump in to art with the tools Chen Forng-Shean uses.

Two relevant articles recently crossed my desk - one from Campus Technology and the other from NBC News.  Both offer that using a laptop to take notes in class is not the best tool.  The NBC News article cites a study out of Princeton and UCLA that when students take notes on laptops, their “tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”  In the article from Campus Technology Ronald Yaros, associate professor at the University of Maryland talks about “low digital self-regulation.  That is, if the device is in my hand, I’ll think of a way I can use if for personal reasons, not just for the task at hand.”  So Yaros abandoned laptops in favor of tablets and smartphones.  He goes on to offer that the most effective use of technology is not just in presenting material but in engaging the student in researching, interpreting, writing, posting and discussing.

So the question remains what is the right tool for the right job?  It is easy to resist change by failing to try new things – by using the same old tool when there might be a better one.  Pick up a technology chain saw and try some carving.

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