Archive for February, 2009

Understanding the 21st Century Learner

I’ve seen a few of these presentations floating around the web, but I’m sharing this one because it’s a good discussion piece for people to share with others. I found this on the Always Learning blog.

We make this case all the time that the “Net Generation” learns differently than many of their predecessors. I’ve seen many adults view their children’s way of communicating and connecting with suspicion and fear.  It’s almost as if some of us adults are living in the movie Village of the Damned with all the Midwich Cuckoos. We’re really not quite sure how to handle the quirks of our progeny and we fear what they’re capable of because we don’t understand. Well, in the movie they really did have a reason to be afraid because the children were evil aliens.


You can actually view the entire movie on Youtube.

Of course, our children aren’t evil aliens. What a silly thought. I do still think that the young can benefit from experience and guidance, and this is something that we star-struck adults shouldn’t forget. Part of 21st century education should truly focus on teaching critical thinking because of all the information out there that young people must sift through to separate the wheat from the chaff. Critical thinking should be a behavior ingrained in young adults. They should be able to analyze the nature any subject including the advantages and disadvantages.  This type of thinking should be as natural as breathing.  I can think of an exercise that applies to the subject of electronic connectivity.

There are some advantages to being connected all the time, but there are always disadvantages.  I threw this image together in less than five minutes. I’m sure if I had the help of others the responses would be much richer. As I was listing the pros and cons it was clear that many arguments for had an opposite argument against. This is something that young people (and old ones too) should be able to perceive. They must also learn to use their best judgment to determine the path of action or reaction that is correct for them based on their list of pros/cons. Of course, this is no comfort for those who like to have clear plans of action or rules set down for them.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Connectivity

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Connectivity

Accessibility Discussion: Informal Learning in Action

One of the lectures I attended this afternoon was canceled. An astute member of the audience stood up and decided that he would probe folks in the room about what they already knew about accessibility. He probably realized that there would be people in the audience who were passionate about the subject and he wanted to hear what they had to share.

Different people shared their definitions and experiences with trying to make their online courses accessible. In the end we walked away with a number of interesting thoughts and resources.

One woman shared a video of her experience in testing a site with someone who was visually impaired. The student was working with a website that had the ‘narrator’ on. They were using the mouse to scroll over items on the page. You could see the student’s frustration as you heard the narrator describe every item on the page. There were too many elements.

It actually made me think that creating pages with simple and shorter navigation is much more accessible than having multiple elements in a left-hand menu.  Also, providing some real estate between objects on a page might help the visually impaired find or move around a page much more easily.

In listening to the conversation, I gathered that several of the people there were frustrated with their efforts to make things truly accessible and 508 compliant. Many were most likely running into faculty or developers who didn’t see the value or simply didn’t understand what accessibility and true 508 compliance meant.

Here are a few of the notable resources that were shared (that I recorded):

Please note, I got many of these sites on my own after just listening to the conversation and looking them up on my own.

I felt that it was an incredibly valuable discussion; in fact, it was one presentation/session where I actually learned a great deal because I was learning from my peers. I mentioned this to an older gentleman who was sitting near me, and he only commented that he wasn’t sure what “was garbage” and what “was not garbage” from all that was shared and discussed. It occurred to me that he probably wanted ‘an expert’ telling him or lecturing to him rather than relying on the knowledge of his peers.   I simply replied, “But that’s like the nature of the web, you have to look through things and sort of determine this on your own.”

One man’s trash is another person’s treasure. He had a valid point, but in many of the topics shared at tech-conferences like these there is little or no expertise available because the topics are so new. You have to build knowledge or figure it out on your own or with the help of others. Is this a generational thing wanting expertise on topics to be fed to you while you passively learn?

Trash can be treasure (interesting art photo of trash - you can click on the image to view the original page it is featured on)

Trash can be treasure (interesting art photo of trash - you can click on the image to view the original page it is featured on)

Learning Languages Online

I just spoke to someone in the lobby of the hotel who was very interested in learning about language learning networks online.

Through friends and colleagues I’ve learned about these two:

These come highly recommended by friends who use them. Maybe I should brush up on my Italian.

The eLearning Queen actually has a more in-depth article/post on the subject of learning languages online. You can view it here:

The Open Sourceness of Everything

\Ancient Remixes\

This comic strip is a rather cheap and quick cartoon I created in ToonDo in less than 10 minutes.

I attended this thought-provoking talk yesterday by Michael Amick (Dean of Academic and Technology Services at Central Lakes College) titled “Remix Culture Appreciation (aka Art Appreciation).”

He emphasized the idea that “re-mixing” of art (and in a larger sense concepts, ideas, inventions, etc.) is essential to human creativity.
During the lecture I had to think. “How many things in this room would actually be possible if no one had copied someone else to create them?”

No, really?

I tend to think that the Internet has empowered us to be immensely powerful in our creativity. I’m a big fan of Jame’s Burke’s Connections series, and one thing I learned from watching these shows is that advances in human technology and cultures happen when individuals, peoples and cultures interact and share ideas. If you think of the potential creative productivity of hundreds of millions of people having access to the Internet, some of whom are intensely creative and innovative, the possibilities are mind-blowing.

Today in the breakfast lecture Brian Lamb shared the simple example of the Free Learning site. This site was originally a link resource list created by one individual in Malaysia. Other interested folks in England and Canada volunteered their time to create an active wiki/resource/search engine for free materials. Lamb notes that this project was developed without a budget, without a project planning team.

And we haven’t gotten to some of the larger possibilities. I wonder what would happen if many people contributed to solving some of the larger issues we face today: climate change, economic collapse. What if there were several or dozens of dedicated individuals, including experts, who orchestrated discussions and problem-solving attack groups? Of course, I wholly realize that what I’m suggesting here frightens more people that it excites and invigorates. As a species we are so ‘inside-ourselves’ that we often cannot appreciate or even trust these attempts at such broad collaboration, and yet, as Brian Lamb pointed out in his lecture, Wikipedia is a prime example of mass cooperation among human beings.

I’d like to spend more time blogging/writing about this topic, but time is short right now. I need to move on to the next lecture at this conference (ITC).

Speaking of re-mixes here’s a really good example of re-mixing from the movie Amadeus. It’s also a good example of how people can get pissed off when their work is re-mixed, but this just demonstrates how Mozart’s character probably wasn’t so diplomatic. Then again why did he have to be? He just saw a better way of doing it.

Schools, Please Don’t Kill Our Creativity

At a workshop I attended yesterday, Barry Dahl mentioned this unforgettable lecture by Ken Robinson at the TED conference. In his incredibly adroit and humorous talk, Robinson maintains that schools today thrash the creativity out of kids. I would argue that the final death knell takes place once they enter today’s corporate work world.

In another inspiring lecture, Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO champions the importance of play in productivity of design and innovation.

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

How can we, as educators promote creativity and play in our classrooms, while teaching important knowledge and skills? I feel that developing curriculum driven by “student created content” is key to developing the creative minds that will build our future. I don’t know about you, but as an old doddering woman, I would rather live in a world built by the next designer of earth shaking technologies and innovative policies that help promote progress and not in a world populated by people who are fettered by rules that squelch creativity and productivity.

“It’s in the making of things that kids actually do their learning”

(Exerpt below is from an article I wrote for our company blog.)

Creating content in schools extends past the traditional class-report or diorama making. I found this wonderful example of the King Middle School in Portland, Maine. I believe that this school is really putting the approaches to 21st Literacy Education in a Action. The video provides examples of how the school integrates subjects like science, English, math with technology education.

Click the photo to view the video. Note the video will open and play automatically in another browser window.

The kids participate in truly constructivist activities, by developing videos, artwork, and collaborating on the development of music and music scores. All of these activities and projects require formal knowledge in writing, math, science, research and history that used to be taught to students via textbooks in an isolated context. Here are a few quotes from the short film that really captured my attention:

“We don’t use textbooks, per se… we do a lot of research in class.”

“The approach is to bring out the best in every student.”

“It’s in the making of things, that kids do their learning.”

The school also partners with businesses like a local printing press to develop products. The students work together as teams to develop items such as books for the press. These students also have the opportunity to work with professionals like the professional documentary maker who help them improve the quality of their videos. They get real-life experience and are encouraged to stretch and deliver quality projects. They are not coddled or isolated from doing ‘real work’ because they are not ready to do it on a ‘professional level.’

As I finished watching the video, I realized that many teachers might have issues with the fact that some students contributed 7 pages of work to a final project while some contributed only three paragraphs. I like the attitude that these teachers at King have that “Everyone does what they can.” Plus everyone should contribute to the project using the skills and talents that they have. Perhaps a student who needs help with math but has kinesthetic talents can choreograph a dance, and teach the other students how to perform the dance to be included in a final project. A student who lags in writing but has design skills might lead the team that develops the costumes or set. Both students are exercising their communication and leadership skills in helping other get their tasks done. Students who are better at writing can help coach these students when they have to do the written component for the project.

I think the comment that sums up the value and power of this approach to education was made by the kids of King Middle School themselves, “No one feels stupid here anymore.”

Why wasn’t I born twenty years later? I would have loved to go to school in a place like this. Seeing examples like this really makes me excited about the work we do here at PLS because I believe that in what we do we strive to make learning experiences effective and powerful.

Dealing with Malware

I am so innocent!

I am so innocent! PS - I can't stay still long enough for my owner to take a decent picture of me.

Now, I know you’ll probably think I’m scapegoating my poor cat, but last week I had a serious issue with my browser being hijacked.

You know how Google ads pop up in your homepage and e-mail. I avoid clicking on these ads, but as you know, my cat loves sittting on my laptop and in the process of getting comfortable she click on the keyboard and tracking pad keys. On numerous occassions she’s actually started the search engine or click on links that the mouse cursor happened to be resting over. Well, one morning last week, she clicked on an ad that opened up a page that installed something onto my computer the likes of computer herpes (sorry to be so graphic). Any search I typed regardles of the engine (Google, Yahoo, even ERIC) would result in links that would open up adpages.  Yes, it was highly annoying. Somehow she also managed to turn off the NoScript program I use in conjunction with Firefox.

My dear husband helped me scour for options. I think he tried four or five downloadable or web-based  ‘cleansing/repair’ software applications. He even tried the latest version of the Microsoft systems malware detection tool. Not surprisingly this didn’t help at all. He finally found Malwarebytes, which actually did the trick. I’d recommend this application for anyone who’s experiencing issues. Apparently, there are scores of people who are having this very issue with browser hijacking. How irritating. It makes me want to write to the vendors/products advertised on the adpages and say I will NEVER buy your product because you choose ad systems that make these unethical and low practices.

About dealing with my overactive electronic kitty…I now have a Toddler Key Lock set up on my computer. When I get up to leave my desk, I can click the lock on. The lock also activates immediately after 5 minutes. To reactivate my screen and keyboard, I simply need to type a password. Now, if the cat figures this out, I know we’re in trouble.


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