Curing the Relationship Between Technology and Learning

Media, Serious

The coronavirus has violently thrown the world into utter chaos. Non-essential businesses have shuttered their windows – some for good. Hospitals turn away visitors as a measure of caution. Stay-at-home orders are handed down by the government in hopes that it will slow the spread of the virus. Normalcy is painfully craved but not lived. The coronavirus has also squeezed the breath out of school, forcing it to keep itself alive by means of online learning. Some students prefer this virtual method; some don’t. The positives and negatives of distance learning have been discussed many times over the years. For some teachers and students, the issues of online learning have outweighed the benefits, and so they have shied away from it.  As the pandemic continues, and online learning is thrusted upon America, it is time hunt down some potential solutions. Solutions that will help all students, who each have their own way of learning, to get the education they desire.

 Of course, for a solution to be suggested, the concerns must first be identified. One that is often brought up is the lack of personal interaction with the instructor. Some students find it easier, and quicker, to communicate their lack of understanding to the instructor face-to-face, and it may be easier for the instructor to understand as well. Marcie LePine states in her book, Globalization, Employment & the Workplace, that the,

“… instructor-as-facilitator approach enables the instructor to rely on a variety of cues (body language, tone of voice) to communicate course material, to personalize the material to fit students’ needs, to provide immediate feedback, and to facilitate discussions among students” (LePine 242).

Lucy Debenham also says, “… the tone of voice and body language are combined to become the most powerful form of communication. However, body language … is often used on its own, and is thought to be one of the most ‘telling’ modes of communication” (Debenham).

Pure online learning would eradicate the ability to read silent communication such as body language. Lack of body language, and tone of voice, would make it harder for the student and instructor to communicate on a deeper level. This could potentially slow down learning and students may not fully comprehend the material given by the instructor.

Concepts being misunderstood and overlooked is another grave concern. For example, if a student depends on their calculator to do a permutation, does the student truly understand how a permutation works? Can they solve such a simple math equation without a calculator? Would technology become a crutch instead of a helpful tool?

Michael P. Clough and Joanne K. Olson express heartfelt concern that,

“technology is often a ‘black box’ that either misleads students into thinking they need not understand conceptually what the technology is doing for them or, worse, promotes serious misunderstanding of the concept under investigation … they can perceive the technology to be a necessary part of the concept, or worse, have little understanding about what they are doing” (Clough and Olson 8).

            It is reasonable to believe that this would likely happen. We see this occur in many different areas of life. Map reading is a lost skill. People depend on cash registers to tell them what change to give back; if the register fails to do so, people are stumped. Society, as well as learning, is increasing dependency on technology and decreasing on understanding.

While some fear students will become entirely dependent on technology, others fear it will replace teachers. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education is growing in America, and it strikes reasonable anxiety into hardworking teachers. AI is more efficient and can personalize learning material to fit a particular student’s strengths and weaknesses. Time is precious, and AI saves some of it. Teachers, being only human, cannot compete with the AI’s efficiency and speed.

            However, being human is something AI can never be, and that is an invaluable aspect of teaching. Andreas Oranje, general manager of research at the Educational Testing service, was asked in an interview if teachers should be concerned about AI technology. He acknowledged that some aspects would be fully automated but also reassured that,

“teaching is a very complex profession and AI will not be able to automate that much. In fact, I predict that it will lead to an expansion of education, not contraction … I think that the demand for teachers will go up. And, they will be asked more and more to do what they are uniquely qualified to do: instruct, coach, mentor, differentiate, individualize, and inspire” (Oranje).

            Instructors and how they approach online learning are essential into making the virtual method be just as good as the face-to-face method. Instructors can help their students understand basic concepts by making their material concise and easily understood. Avoiding needless technical language will aid this. Teachers should speak to their students as people who are learning instead of people who already know.

Easily understood material emphasizes the need for high quality course design. Whitney Lowe says, “New research in learning shows that the quality of instructional design is far more important than the method of delivery (online versus classroom) when determining outcomes” (Lowe 68).

Instructors can force their students to understand basic concept of the course by testing them on it. If students know that they will be tested to see if they can comprehend concepts without computer aid, they will be motivated to learn and understand it. If students have questions, they can contact their instructor.

If email is not satisfactory to either student or teacher, the instructor should have a physical office that a student may visit. If a student is struggling with a concept and needs to be physically shown, the instructor can set an appointment to demonstrate it. If the student lives far away or is unable to meet their instructor for any reason, the instructor may set up an appointment via Skype or any other type of online meeting. If this is still unsatisfactory, a virtual version of class can be created by the instructor through Skype or Zoom. These will help smooth out any wrinkles in communication between student and teacher.

The students, however, have their own part to play as well. Virtual learning may require the student to have more self-discipline since they will be surrounded with more distractions than normal. It will be hard at first, but self-discipline can be learned. Also, by increasing self-discipline, it will seep into other aspects of life, and so help the student succeed even more.

Overall, the relationship between technology and learning is good thing, and most issues can be resolved by teacher and student. Franky Mantiri believes that, “Regardless of the disadvantages and challenges of technology use in education … the benefits of it outweighs when it comes to learning and the much readily available of information and opportunities of varieties of information that are otherwise challenging” (Mantiri 589).

The benefits are undeniable when it comes to online learning but so are the benefits of in-class learning. To reap the best of both worlds, a hybrid of the two would be the best. Some students learn best by being hands on; some do just as well without. By implementing a hybrid of online and in-person classes, it will ensure that all students, who each have their own unique way of learning, will get the education they desire.

 

 

 

                                                                  Works Cited

Davis, Michelle R. Interview with Andreas Oranje. “Dynamic Duo Or Big Problem?” Education

         Week, vol. 39, no. 12, Nov. 2019, pp. 30–31. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.

aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=139552982&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Accessed March 31 2020.

Debenham, Lucy. “Communication – What Percentage is Body Language?” Body Language 

        Expert. Updated 7 April 2020. http://www.bodylanguageexpert.co.uk/communication-what-

percentage-body-language.html. Accessed 9 April 2020.

LePine, Marcie, et al. “Chapter 12: Globalization, Global Human Resource Management, and

Distance Learning.” Globalization, Employment & the Workplace, 2001, pp. 239–258.

EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=17148629

&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed March 30 2020.

Lowe, Whitney. “The New Era of Education.” Massage & Bodywork, vol. 30, no. 2, Mar. 2015,

  1. 66. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sch&AN=101157

066&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed March 30 2020.

Mantiri, Franky. “Multimedia and Technology in Learning.” Universal Journal of Educational

         Research, vol. 2, no. 9, Jan. 2014, pp. 589–592. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/

login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1053960&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Accessed March 30 2020.

Olson, Joanne K., and Michael P. Clough. “Computer-Assisted Education Can Undermine

Serious Study.” Computers and Education, edited by James D. Torr, Greenhaven Press,

  1. At Issue. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-

com.ezproxy.otc.edu/apps/doc/EJ3010248207/OVIC?u=spri43060&sid=OVIC&xid

=864338f5. Accessed 31 Mar. 2020. Originally published as “Technology’s Tendency to

Undermine Serious Study: A Cautionary Note,” The Clearing House, vol. 75, Sept. 2001, p.

  1. Accessed March 31 2020.

Autumn

Art, My Life

I was creating decorations for my sister’s baby shower. As I was cutting out construction paper baby dresses and onesies, I was suddenly hit with artistic inspiration. Like a truck. As you can see, I was inspired by the top cut-out part of the dress. Why it made me think of a fairy, I don’t know. I have named her simply Autumn. Here is the result:

There’s Still a Chance to Save Her …

Art, Media

Final Cass Raps Pic 2

This blog post will explain the artistic reasoning behind every detail for the picture above. For those who don’t know, the picture is in reference to Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure – a Disney channel show whose final episode will air on March 1st. If you have not seen the show, the first two seasons are on Disney Plus and are definitely worth a viewing. You will not be disappointed.

As you can tell by the title, the picture is called There’s Still a Chance to Save Her – a line from the episode Be Very Afraid. An alternative title is The Fight for Cassandra’s Soul.

I found inspiration for the picture from not only the show but also from a song called Illusion by VNV Nation. Particularly the first verse and chorus. The chorus goes,

Please don’t go, I want you to stay

I’m begging you please – please don’t leave here

I don’t want you to hate for all the hurt you feel

The world is just an illusion, always trying to change you

Here is the link to the song if you’d like to give it a listen:

And now, to explore each detail in the picture and why I chose to do what I did. Let’s begin with the characters themselves.

Cass

Cassandra has her back turned on Rapunzel, Eugene and Corona. Cass has left this old but good life behind and is refusing to look back. Cassandra is standing in a very stiff position – her back is arched, her shoulders raised, and her arms pinned to her side. This is to show Cassandra’s determination to continue in the new path that she has forged for herself.

Cass close up

However,  her compressed lips and – most importantly, her tears – question her resolve. They betray her conflicted feelings. While it appears she has fully committed to the darkness of her soul, her conscience is still alive, whispering to her the wrongness – and guilt – of her actions.

Cass is also holding Shadow Blade, a sword that was forged from the Black Rocks. Cassandra uses this weapon to cut the bridge between herself and Rapunzel – doing to Rapunzel what her own mother did to her (we’ll get to that later). The cutting of the bridge signifies Cassandra removing Rapunzel out of her life forever.

Rapunzel

Rapunzel, with tears in her eyes, is leaning forward and her hand outstretched, pleading for Cassandra to come home. I purposefully placed Rapunzel on the edge of the bridge. This signifies that Raps is trying to reach for Cassandra as far as humanly possible but if she takes one more step, she, too, may suffer the same fate as her friend. Rapunzel is being anchored by Eugene, both physically and emotionally – being there for Raps when she needs him the most.

In Rapunzel’s outstretched hand, she is wearing the friendship bracelets she made for herself and Cass. These bracelets made their first appearance in the episode Beginnings where we learn how she and Cassandra became good friends. The bracelets emphasize Rapunzel’s outstretched hand; the invitation that, despite what has happened, her sister-like love is still intact – Cass must only accept.

Rapunzel is also wearing the purse Cassandra gave her as a token of friendship in a flashback in the episode Rapunzel and the Great Tree. There is no major significance to this, but I thought it would be a nice nod to another moment in their relationship.

Flynn

As stated previously, Eugene is holding Rapunzel’s hand, being there for her. However, Eugene’s focus is on Cassandra and not Rapunzel. Eugene, though he once despised Cass, is greatly concerned for his friend. I consider Eugene’s relationship with Cass to be like a little-sister-big-brother. They are frenemies but will do anything to keep the other from being harmed.

Final Cass Raps Pic 2

The background portrays two different worlds – two different worldviews. Cassandra stands in the Dark Kingdom where the Moonstone originally fell.  The lighting of the Dark Kingdom – as well as its name – represents an evil, fearful, and dangerous world. The further you go in, the harder it is to return. Rapunzel is pleading with Cassandra from the brightly lit Corona. The lighting of the kingdom represents the goodness and safety of the side Rapunzel stands on.

red rocks

In the background, on Cassandra’s side, we not only see the Black Rocks but also the Red Rocks. In the episode Be Very Afraid, the Red Rocks pop up because of Cassandra’s fear of having to potentially killing Rapunzel. The Red Rocks spread and soon infect the inhabitants of Corona until it was resolved by Rapunzel and Varian. I briefly thought about adding the Red Rocks to Rapunzel’s side as a nod to the episode and to represent Corona’s own fears. However, I decided against it. It would mess with the aurora of Corona and what it stands for. By leaving the Red Rocks solely in the Dark Kingdom, it emphasizes Cassandra’s conflicted feelings.

enchanted girl

We see the Enchanted Girl evilly smirking in the background – happy to see her new pupil doing exactly what she wants. We first hear her voice in Rapunzeltopia but finally see her in Rapunzel’s Return. In the show, the Enchanted Girl strokes Cassandra fears and insecurities. While appearing to sympathetic towards Cass, she manipulates Cassandra’s insecurities against Rapunzel. The Enchanted Girl, in a way, represents the selfish, dark side of Cassandra. Cass listens to the Enchanted Girl’s twisted truths for several reasons: she’s hurt, tired of not being understood or seen, and impatient for her time to come. Cassandra’s position is sympathetic but not right. Therefore, I included the Enchanted Girl who is a warning and an affirmation to Cassandra and her journey. It serves as a warning to us as well. If we’re not careful, we too can end up the same way – listening to our fears and insecurities and acting on them in a selfish, hurtful way. We must be very purposeful to not be this way – especially when we think our soul isn’t in any danger. Cass thought – perhaps, thinks – the same.

torn picture

In front of Cassandra, we see a torn picture of Rapunzel and Cassandra. Rapunzel had painted it, I assume, on their way to the Dark Kingdom. It is perfectly ripped right between them – a symbolism of a friendship rendered apart. In the very last scene of Beginnings, Cass tears this picture in anger towards Rapunzel, seemingly to confirm a sisterhood lost. I added the torn picture to add to the sense of Cassandra’s downward spiral.

music box

               Just below Cassandra, we see a broken music box. It made its appearance in Rapunzel’s Return. In that episode, we learn about the circumstances of Cassandra’s adoption. Cassandra is Mother Gothel’s biological daughter. When Cass was four, she had a music box that she adored listening to which, incidentally, plays the melody of Waiting in the Wings – a song where Cassandra sings of her desire to be finally seen for her talents. Young Cass sings a heartbreaking reprise of Waiting in the Wings. Here’s a snippet of it:

“Mother knows how much I love her,

But she’s always doing other things,

So I’ll keep waiting in the wings,

I crave so much and yet I kept on waiting,

One glance, one touch,

And still I kept on waiting,

And when it came, it came with strings,

So I kept on waiting in the wings.”

               On the night Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel, she abandons Cassandra. What makes it worse is that four-year old Cassandra watched helplessly as her mother cut the cottage bridge, hop on a horse, and didn’t even look back. Young Cass dropped the music box and it broke in unison with her heart. The Captain of the Guard, who was present when this all happened, adopted Cass on the spot but even that cannot fully remedy what Gothel did to her. The broken music box represents Cassandra’s broken early childhood and her insecurities.

picture

On Rapunzel’s side, we see a picture of Cassandra and Rapunzel together. We see Eugene in it as well but its torn. It was probably done by Cass when she absolutely despised Eugene. I, personally, find that absolutely hilarious. The picture made its first appearance sometime in the first seasons. It periodically reappears throughout the show. This symbolizes the friends, her dad, and the life Cassandra chose to leave behind. However, there still is hope for her. She still has a chance to go back home – she just needs to accept Rapunzel’s offer.

Anyway, those were my artistic reasons. I created this artwork in Corel Painter; the first time I’ve ever used it. I hope you liked it! Let me know if you remember when the picture of Rapunzel and Cassandra made its first appearance. 😉

 

A Mighty Fortress That Still Stands

Media, Serious

a mighty fortressLyrical works never last. After a decade or so, they often fade into oblivion due to the new trendy style of the next generation. The Beatles music has made an impressive run but has yet to be truly tested by time. A couple of band members are still alive and so are many of the people who popularized them as teenagers. The Beatles will surely go down in history, but will their songs still be sung in the generations to come?

            There is one song, however, that has carried through generations, languages, and cultures. To this day, it is popular in this country but was born centuries before the United States of America drew her first breath. A Mighty Fortress still touches the hearts, minds and souls of the world today.

            A Mighty Fortress was penned by Martin Luther – a former monk and the most influential leader of the Reformation. The song was written in the upbeat German folk-style of the 1520s. Originally written in Luther’s Germanic tongue, the hymn was translated many times into English. The most popular translation was provided by Frederick Henry Hedge in 1853. It is unknown when exactly Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress, but it is commonly agreed that he wrote it between 1527 and 1529.  It made its first appearance in the printing of Form und ordnung Gaystlicher Gesang und Psalmen, which was published in 1529. It is theorized to have been written in that same year. However, Louis F. Benson states in his book, A Study of Familiar Hymns, that, “…Scherer, the recent historian of German Literature, states with entire confidence that the hymn was written in October, 1527, at the approach of the plague. Luther’s biographer, Julius Kostiln, in the later editions of the Life, accepts this date as probably correct” (Benson 158).

            It is believed that Luther wrote this hymn in his darkest hour: a plague was coming, Luther’s health was precarious, and a friend of his was martyred. Luther took great comfort in Psalm 46 and so was inspired to write A Mighty Fortress. The inspiration is crystal clear as Psalm 46 begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” A Mighty Fortress opens similarly with, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” Some consider the hymn to be a metrical paraphrase of the psalm. While there are many similarities, the hymn does deviate from the psalm and in doing so becomes its own.

            The hymn is delightfully poetic. The rhyming is rich, and nothing is forced. Each verse flows seamlessly to the next, first stating the helpfulness and mighty power of God before delving into the cruel strength of Satan. One example of Luther’s extraordinary songwriting skills is in the third stanza, where it says,

“And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us

We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him

 His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure

One little Word shall fell him.”

            Benson considered A Mighty Fortress to be, “An imperishable hymn! not polished and artistically wrought but rugged and strong like Luther himself, whose very words seem like deeds” (Benson 160).

            The melody is generally upbeat and jovial but has the unique gift of conforming to the emotion of any verse. For instance, there is a hint of sadness to the line, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.” However, the tune picks up again at the end with, “His (God’s) Kingdom is forever,” where it becomes firmer, more confident. Lutherans traditionally play the hymn on an organ or, if finances permit, a pipe organ. This type of instrumentation gives the song more power, further amplifying the power of God and the comfort that is drawn from that.

            The hymn clearly rings with its message of God’s sovereignty and help in troubling times. The song is encouraging in the way it tells its listeners that their strength is not enough but they can rest in God’s arms while He fights the battle they could not hope to win themselves. Satan, though evil and powerful, cannot stand against the might of God. The music boosts this emotion – the melody swelling up with joy at the mention of God’s strength and care but softening when realizing the difficulties of life. The brilliant blend of music and words evoke a series of emotions: comfort, elation, and peace. These emotions lead the listeners into a serene but joyful mood.

            While the hymn is not known for its pioneering ways in the musical world, it is famous for its historical role in the Reformation and Protestant Germany. Protestants found solace in it and so clung to it while being persecuted. Benson states, “It was sung in the streets; and, so heard, comforted the hearts of Melchanthon, Jonas, and Cruciger, as they entered Weimar, when banished from Wittenberg in 1547. It was sung by poor Protestant emigrants on their way into exile, and by martyrs at their death” (Benson 159).

Germany eventually grasped the hymn as well – as a source of comradery. C. Michael Hawn writes in his article History of Hymns: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”: “Often called ‘the true National Hymn of Germany,’ the hymn spread rapidly and was sung on the battlefield of Leipzig in 1631 during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Heinrich Heine, the famous nineteenth-century German poet, called it ‘the Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation’” (Hawn).

             Benson wrote that A Mighty Fortress “is dear still to the German people; one of the hymns lodged in their memories and hearts, ready for the occasion” (Benson 160).

            Luther’s much beloved hymn is nearly five hundred years old – a remarkable stand against time. It has skipped across oceans and languages, assuring millions of God’s loving care in trying times. The hymn is still sung in thousands of churches today, not only in Protestant churches but even Catholic ones as well. It touches the souls of both the elderly and the young and it is dearly loved by them. Perhaps one of the reasons for the hymn’s long life is that it sings of God’s eternal assurances – a reminder that is needed throughout life. Sometimes it can feel as though we are children again, petrified and sorrowful at the trials life has set before us. The song gives a sense of God’s fatherly touch on our shoulders, saying, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

            And nothing is more comforting than that.