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Technology is Magic. Stop Thinking in 19th & 20th Century Metaphors Already! #edcmooc

Our relative view of the magic

Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Don’t you think someone born 300 years ago would think this is magic?

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How about someone alive 30 years ago (including myself). Wouldn’t I think this is magic?

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For nerdy little me… it’s this dream come true:

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When I watched the films from this week’s resources: A Day Made of Glass & Productivity Vision of the Future, Clarke’s law repeated in my mind. Glass becomes a tool that people use to access information, view entertainment & learn. The other thing that struck me was how incredibly antiseptic & affluent both views of the future were.

As we are fixed in our time and reality, technology that is unfamiliar may seem like magic to us, but because we live in times where things are changing rapidly and imagining the future and it’s technology is a normal part of our culture. Thinking about my relative understanding of technology as magic got me to think about my own education and understanding of how things have developed even in my lifetime. I decided to create a timeline of my own education and compare it to the development of technology in that time. It’s in rainbow colors because I was a child of the 80’s.

My Digital Timeline

Click to view in full size

So just by looking at this timeline that spans over forty years, claims made that technology pundits that technology is developing and advancing at a more rapid speed. The ways and tools that we can use to learn and whom we can learn with has expanded even in my lifetime.

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Many science fiction depictions of both utopia & dystopia paint a view of the future in which humans have been replaced by technology. Similarly, I’ve seen this question come out of several discussions in the #edcmooc class: Will technology make the teacher obsolete? As is evidenced in numerous forum posts, tweets from students in this class. The act of making order out of the chaos of a learning experience with so many people and so many learning tools has required guidance, the human kind. If not from a facilitator, from the other students. We still need teachers and guides. Every learner is different and how the learn best is unique. Can we assume that technology will devise a mechanism, automaton or script functions like a combination Yoda & “Electric Grandmother.”

I think what’s more likely, is that learners are learning how to adapt to use the tools and technology for learning to their best advantage. We learn to use tools online that help us filter and use content. Here are a few tools, some of which were new to me before I took this course. But here’s the thing… no tool is perfect. Again, it’s all about diving in and finding out what works for you.

Twitter Feed → Tweetchat, TweetDeck, Paper.li

Content Curation (Bookmarks) → Scoop.it, Storify, PearlTrees – pearl trees provides a visual map of what you’re curating or sites your saving online.

Blogs → Quadblogging (to connect and reach your audience) edutopia article on

Stop Using the Classroom Metaphor to Describe the Online Learning Experience!

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I know that metaphors are powerful in explaining and introducing the strange and foreign to the natives. But is it just me or am I the only one who’s tired of hearing this metaphor used to describe online learning. Perhaps my irritation and other’s indicate the obsolete nature of the metaphor. This bothers me just as much as my last boss insisting on using the logo below to indicate a phone contact for an audience of 20 somethings:

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Here’s why we’re not in a classroom anymore:

  1. You might be sitting at a desk but not looking out a window wishing that the teacher would stop droning on and on
  2. You don’t have to have your attention fixed only on the teacher. In fact the other students can provide just as much information and knowledge as the teacher
  3. You’re not learning from a text book that has gum stuck to the cover or doodles from the previous owner anymore; texts and media are available online

I could go on…. but most importantly, when you’re learning online you expect to be able to share, re-mix, create content. Like these kids:

Notes from the TCC – Learning Times Conference Day 1

TCC Worldwide Online Conference is a virtual conference for online educators. The global team that puts this conference together has proven yet again that it is possible to effectively run a virtual conference. Each year their preparation and translation of face to face activities into rich virtual experiences improves. I highly recommend this conference to anyone in education who wishes to glean from the pioneering experience of those in online distance learning. For the next few days, I will try to include my notes from the talks, papers, experiences and demonstrations that I thought were most valuable.

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PAPER: Videoblogging in Education: The new wave of interactive educational television

Rebecca Meeder, Educational Technology, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, USA,

This was an excellent presentation/sharing. Rebecca Meeder provided a terrific introduction into the world of video blogging and how educators from elementary, secondary and higher education.

Importance of Video Blogging- Rise in educators who are using this medium.

<My note: students are using this medium to interact and communicate with each other>

Some Questions for Research

  • How does video blogging influence students with diverse background?
  • Connect learning in and outside of the classroom

Some resources with data:

  • Cofield, J.L. “Effectiveness of streaming video in web based instruction”
  • Sawa, S.K. Online vs. traditional: A comparative analysis of student grads in an online and traditional f2f environment
  • Le Blanc, G. Student and faculty survey reveals attitudes to streaming video.

Examples of Educational Video Blogging:

http://room132.com

Teacher gave weekly updates on what his students were doing in the classroom. Teacher shot from ‘nose-down’ to help students maintain their privacy.

http://speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/

Teacher has students to set up audio blogs where he podcasts on class materials. Students can comment on podcasts and interact. Note: this method can be applied to video blogs as well.

Privacy and Identity à Teacher made sure that students used pen names.

Http://bicycle-sidewalk.com/

Video blogging for ESL students in Japan. Uses videos from himself and other video bloggers to instruct students in English language… exposes the students to what English speakers sound like and also expose students to American culture.

Johnny Goldstein: http://jonnygoldstein.info/bx21

Another prominent video blogger. Taught over 100 Bronx highschool students how to video blog and share things from their varied perspectives.

http://www.youtube.com/user/mwesch

Mwesch (Mike Wesch). Had his students create video blogs… do an ethnography. They got a lot of responses from other on their experiences with video blogging.

Check out the video from this site “A vision of students.”

Good Practices for Video Blogging:

  1. Video length – average video length should be 5-7 minutes. Human attention span. <my note: also video size should be a consideration>
  2. Addressing Accessibility – Need to make sure video is available in a variety of formats (DVDs, or provide alternate way to access via library or school computer labs.) One teacher used subtitles in videos for some students
  3. Video blogs address differentiated learning styles: Auditory, Visual, Textual, Media Richness Theory (Need to learn more about this-> A variety of media works better for certain tasks than others). Some videoblogs can help students keep up with learning in class.
  4. Addressing multicultural education: Allows students to share different perspectives based on their own experience and background. Allows all participants to compare viewpoints and cultural perspectives.
  5. Identity vs. Privacy –
    1. Langhurst – Virtual Book Club discussed content in text communication/chat they can participate in active learning.
    2. Use Pen/Screen names so students can remain anonymous
    3. (Use consent forms)
    4. Comment moderation from teacher is necessary – view students comments before it is posted/ prevents flaming.
    5. Film students from nose down.
    6. Make posting optional (do not force)

Math-a-blogging

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So, I sort of lied. I have been blogging in another life. As part of a Math course I recently developed, I set up my own blog to explore many of the concepts in the Algebra course. It’s called Maththinker. Initially I set up the blog as an example for students of my course. Many of the course activities are designed around the blog as the goal is to teach teachers the importance of getting students to express their mathematical thinking in writing. Writing out the thought process of math helps reinforce the learning and also helps students develop a solid understanding of what they are learning. Blogs naturally present a great tool for achieving this.

In addition to the blogs, the course will help students practice developing their own electronic visuals for teaching using simple graphics in PowerPoint. I truly believe that developing visuals or even drawing out concepts helps reinforce learning just as writing does. Even though the students of this course are producing something that they can use in their classrooms, they are also using that visual-spatial muscle to think out problems and concepts. The illustrations also allow the students to enhance their reflections and descriptions of concepts in their blogs.

In addition, to encouraging math writing, the course also focusing on helping teachers develop their own ‘real life’ applications and examples of math concepts and stories. Students share their examples including their own illustrations or diagrams in their blogs. They are encouraged to respond and provide feedback on each other’s work in the blog comments.

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Here’s a screenshot from a quick slide show I developed that demonstrated the effect of changing variables in a quadratic equation. I used an applet available in the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives to create the graphs quickly and painlessly.

Working on this course also gave me the opportunity to re-learn some of my ‘rusty’ math. Imagine, I now remember what to do with a quadratic equation. In general, I feel like I’ve developed a greater appreciation of math and it’s applications.


2007 Statistics on Technology Users in the US

I’ve been looking for a better snapshot of what technology consumership look like. The Pew Institute released an interesting study which identified 10 different types of consumers of internet and technology. These types were determined by the possession, use and activity of technology assets (mobile devices, computers, cell phones, internet connection, etc.). At the top of the list “Omnivores” (8% of the surveyed) could be characterized by having a lot of gadgets and subscribing to many services. These individuals frequently participate on online social networking and expressing themselves via blogs, website authorship, etc. In contrast, the “Off the Network” people did not have cell phones or internet connectivity (15%)

These types were labeled as follows:

Elite Tech Users ( 31%)

  • Omnivores
  • Connectors
  • Lackluster Veterans
  • Productivity Enhancers

Middle of the Road Tech Users (20%)

  • Mobile Centrics
  • Connected But Hassled

Few Tech Assets (49%)

  • Inexperienced Experimenters
  • Light But Satisfied
  • Indifferents
  • Off the Network

More on technology and internet usage:

Why Susie Doesn’t Want to Go into IT

Well, the first thing I thought was… Susie doesn’t want to go into IT, because most IT jobs are being outsourced, but seriously, many girls are not considering careers in technology or are tuning out from subjects dealing with technology simply because they perceive the world of tech and computers as being the Realm of the Nerds (Not all girls feel this way; obviously I don’t). At least some of the literature on tech ed for females asserts that the nerd factor is a deterrent for female interest in tech, mathematics and science fields.

I recently ran across this paper from California State University that addresses girls lack of interest in tech. According to the author’s research boys are more likely to be found working with computers than girls and parents of boys purchase computers for their children more than parents of girls? More, girls still tend to think of technology fields and subjects as more of a masculine domain. It seems to be a backward assumption, but statistics are telling us otherwise.

So what do we do to reverse this trend of girls’ lack of interest in science and tech?

I liked what this paper has to say about getting girls more engaged in technology projects, or simply that teachers and educators should appeal to what many girls are interested in their early adolescent and teen years like building relationships and social networks: “Technology production and broadcasing via blogs or podcasting, offers effective ways for girls to express themselves creatively.”

I can see or imagine the following activities:

  • A project that involves teaching girls how to code xml to set up their own podcasting site. They choose their own topics and decide to share about the things they are interested in.
  • Or how about learning simple javascript to build features on a topical webpage on crafts or the arts
  • Maybe developing a simple discussion forum for girls issues in a class
  • Girls can be engaged to start an anti-cyber-bullying campaign within their school
  • Girls become involved in building computers and servers for charity centers or even their own schools

More, I can see where the parents or educators who lead these activities need to structure them so that they are team dependent activities. Honestly, I think kids today have a leg up on understanding how to work more effectively in teams than we did. Perhaps all those reality T.V. shows that focus on team competition and activities are actually worth something. I’m not sure the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation teachers really understood how to teach team or group activities effectively. I remember having teachers that would avoid group learning because they really preferred sitting up in front of the classroom and lecturing.
Additional Resources for Getting Girls Engaged in Tech/Resources for Science Ed for Women:

My mind map for “Engaging Girls in Technology”

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Lifelong learning is important for 21st century living

I found this great piece on Nethack: 15 steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning

I thought that this list had some nice suggestions for keeping the passion for learning alive.

UNESCO characterizes 21st Century education as being education geared to developing  lifelong learners.  It’s no secret that these types of learners are usually the best innovators, problem solvers, etc. I suspect an indirect consequence of being a lifelong learner is that you are able to solve not only professional issues but personal ones as well. Well, at least we can only hope.

I started putting together a list of characteristics of lifelong learners. It’s not complete, but it’s a start.

Lifelong Learner Characteristics

  • Are insatiable knowledge seekers - they continually seek learning experiences or opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills
  • Are social learners – Lifelong learners learn both from and with others. The will take classes or look for social groups. They usually seek out acquaintances who are better or more knowledgeable in fields than they are
  • Don’t simply just take in information - they analyze, synthesize and or apply what they’ve learned
  • Are teachers themselves – lifelong learners usually openly share what they know because they understand that having open networks actually gives them more access to the information from others.
  • Never think of themselves as the ultimate expert in anything
Characteristics of Lifelong Learners - Click on the image to view a larger version

Characteristics of Lifelong Learners – Click on the image to view a larger version

 

Two little things

… that bother me.

#1 – Sesame Street (old version) rated unfit for children

There’s something about this that really just doesn’t sit right with me. Apparently, someone thinks that the early characters of Sesame Street are bad role models for their children. A bright blue googly-eyed impulsive monster who demolishes cookies and a cantankerous and scruffy old man with green fur who lives in a garbage can with his garbage. Come on people! These are probably the most beloved characters from Sesame Street’s Golden Age!

Can these studio executives, adults and parents be this obtuse and pudding-headed? We, and I’m speaking literally because I was one of the early generation who grew up with Sesame Street when Mr. Hooper manned the store – we loved those characters because of their faults.

What’s next will they deem Grover unfit for young viewers because he’s a classic ADHD case? Or will Big Bird be out because he’s addle-headed and slow?

#2 Ad spies in the blogosphere

I cannot really approve any comments unless I see that the commenter has a ‘real blog.’ Yes, I mean a real blog that doesn’t have a bunch of random gobblygook mashed together or a blog that doesn’t ‘smell’ like it’s being powered by a search generator or programmed spider. I’m thinking about those old Hammer movies from the sixties and seventies and the old beliefs about vampires. You should never invite them into your house… otherwise.

So if you’ve left a comment and were a real person and not an internet vampire and I didn’t approve it, I apologize but I cannot do so without prove that you’re not from the underworld of advertisement.

Vampire Circus

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Hate Index – based on internet searches

What ever happened to that old addage… if you’re going to say something bad – then don’t say anything at all. Obviously the first person who uttered this wasn’t around when the internet was in existence. This is one of the sad but unfortunate things about the internet, it gives people an ample amount of space for airing out their dislikes. Okay, I know I’m just as guilty of this as the next person on the web. Who hasn’t been at work on a bad day and typed in a phrase like “I hate work” into Google. I remember doing this when I was in a job I was having a difficult time with. There was a moment when I actually felt a little paranoid about typing this, as if someone would watch the meanderings of someone as insignificant as myself and then punish me for it, but I quickly shrugged that notion aside. Perhaps even discovering the voices of other people on the internet who felt the same way I did actually help reinforce my resolve to hammer on at work like a good corporate citizen… until I found a better job.

Today I ran across this curiousity, The Hate Index. I’m not sure how the actually qualify occurrences of what counts or how often the counts are tabulated. I question their methods of gathering data, but the whole concept is interesting if not somewhat disturbing. Do they do specific or exclusive searches by searching for the text “I+hate+hamburgers”? Also are they searching in different languages or just English?

According to this index:

  • 335,000 people hate to think
  • 111,000 hate reading (but obviously they still like posting their opinion about reading on the Internet)
  • More people (112,000) hate music than reading or math
  • More people hate America than reading, math, and spiders

Also, it’s terribly disturbing to see the intolerance of people portrayed in this list. Now, honestly, I don’t know that we should give this particular list a lot of credence (especially considering the number of ads all over it), but it is a bit of a frightening thought that through the technology of powerful searches you can basically take a litmus test of what everyone who is verbal on the net is thinking or feeling. It’s almost as if the net houses our collective opinions and thoughts. This body of feelings can become a ‘living’ entity as it grows and changes like a coral colony with the different people who add to it.
Hate Index: http://www.hateindex.com/index.jsp?number=100

I’m just a little bummed out…but it will pass

I know it’s Friday and I should be really happy, but I’ve just been a little bummed out about blogging in general. I’ve suddenly become incredibly self-conscious about anything I write. I know this can be the death-knoll for a blogger and a creativity killer, but I’ll get over it eventually. Nun with a ruler

I know I’ve said my piece once or twice about the focus on standardized testing in our schools. My gut simply tells me that focusing on teaching to these tests just saps or draws away any interest that people may have even had in learning. I also suspect that it really negatively affects the joys many teachers find in their jobs. Moreover, it can’t help that students perceive the anxiety from the principal, parents and teachers. Still, while I was reviewing research on why some people are better problem solvers than others, I had this thought this morning that perhaps there might be a way to make prepping for tests perhaps a little more engaging. For example, in taking a particular math problem on a test… perhaps teachers could throw it out there to the students so they can solve it together and share their logic and process. They could also work together to verbalize and explain how they solved the problem. I had teachers who did this but for some reason when they called us to the front of the room it aways felt like we were in the limelight performing in front of a dead audience who didn’t really get what we were talking about. It was more of a chore than anything else. Though considering where education and pedagogy were when the paddle and ruler had their active role in classroom management, I think we had it pretty easy.

I found this really neat nation-wide project called The National Math Trail. The Project is described on the website:

The National Math Trail is an opportunity for K-12 teachers and students to discover and share the math that exists in their own environments. Students explore their communities and create one or more math problems that relate to what they find. Teachers submit the problems to the National Math Trail site, along with photos, drawings, sound recordings, videos–whatever can be adapted to the Internet. All submissions will be posted to the site as they are submitted. They are also be indexed according to grade level and math topic and will remain on the site for access by educators, students and parents.

What I love about this effort it it allows teachers and students to learn from the real-life examples of real kids; it bring the mathematical interpretation of our surroundings alive from the view points of real people outside of a text book. I found what Kay Toliver, one of the founders of the project, said inspiring: “Mathematics is a subject in which we have to create thinkers not memorizers.” Okay… so how can we get them to think and still get them to pass these tests? It seems like a stupid question, but it’s not. Here’s another chicken-egg conundrum… but maybe we have to teach them to think before they can pass the tests… and just practicing taking tests or teaching to the tests isn’t enough. Sorry… I’m just venting, but that too will pass.

We need to teach people to be better writers

I’m venting from having to re-write something right now, but this has really been bothering me lately. I’ve been struggling with this… and maybe my historical understanding of the state of our collective ability (as a nation of adults) to write is muddled. Is it me or are there just a lot of people who need help writing text that explains things?

I’ve been working with subject matter experts for the past 7 years to develop instructional design. I’ve been fortunate to work with a few who have a really good command over their writing and who could literally write circles around me, but lately I’ve been noticing not just among subject matter experts but among professionals in general there is a growing dearth of people who can simply write good expository.

I’m not a perfect writer, and I know that my writing is kind of like torn paper, rough around the edges, but I consider myself fortunate enough to have teachers who tried to hammer in me the importance of organizing and linking ideas and structuring writing so that someone could at least understand what I was trying to get across. I think that I wasn’t a very apt pupil, and to some extent I still struggle with this… but I have worked in the corporate environment for over six years and I have to say I’ve seen a great number of high level managers who have really abysmal writing skills. In one case, the writing was so bad everytime that manager sent out an e-mail, her employees would often huddle together in the aisle trying to decipher the cryptic and terse text to gather the gist of what she was communicating. This individual could not send out a department-wide e-mail without having her admin look over it. That’s just not right. Should someone who can’t even demonstrate an eighth grade skill in writing make that much money?

I cannot simply accept that people cannot write because it’s a God given gift and some people are blessed with it while others are not. Is it me or is this lack of writing skills growing in the adult population? Though to be honest, that manager I mentioned is from a generation or two before my own… so I guess her teachers might have missed the ball when it came to building her skills as a writer. Perhaps increased involvement in blogging will help, but I suspect that unless we take the teaching of writing far more seriously in our schools, then things won’t improve.


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