We were taken through the history of educational technology by Rick Schwier in our EC&I 831 class this week. I too enjoyed Rick’s story about his science class that Travis shares in his blog and remember similar experiences in my own education where there was a meager attempt to incorporate a technology, but the philosophy of the teacher really hadn’t changed.

The chart Rick presented showing the major shift in epistemology from individual learning [objectivism (1975-programming/drill&practice), cognitivism (1980s-CBT), constructivism (1990s-IBT, 2000- elearning)] to group learning [collective constructivism/social learning (2003-social software & free and open content)] was really interesting. This is definitely a different way of looking at how our students learn today. This is extremely important for teachers, parents, and society in general, because teachers need to change their philosophy of teaching and receive adequate PD and support to do so. Parents need to understand and support these changes. Society needs to be aware of this also because the workplace will also see these changes in how people learn and work.

Traditional teachers may show some resistance to group learning because it will be noisier and in some cases more difficult to assess individual achievement and just as its predecessor (individual learning) did not suit all learners, neither will group learning. The level of comfort that the teacher has with technology will also determining the amount of resistance.

New technologies = new philosophy = new pedagogy = progress?


Social Networking Humour

January 31, 2008

A humourous look at Social Networking:

Demetri Martin Trendspotting – Social Networking


The Bucket List

January 30, 2008

I found this neat post on Injenuity about the bucket list.  It is based on the movie which is about making a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”.  Now this list would be FAR too long, as I hope I have a lot of life to live and many aspirations, so like Jen, I am going to shorten mine to things that I might reasonably be able to accomplish in 2008.  So here is my 2008 bucket list in no particular order:

  • Learn about, become more comfortable with and use (hopefully on a daily basis) more of the technology tools that are out there – Twitter, this blog, GoogleReader, Voicethread, del.icio.us, wikis… and keep in touch with the network of people that develops
  • Spend a lot of time with my son and husband – quality time and find that balance between work and “the really important things”
  • Complete 3-4 grad classes (hopefully more with technology as the subject – maybe Alec is teaching some more online classes??)
  • develop and implement a 360 feedback system at work (there is nothing in place) when I return
  • complete our basement renos

Hope to see some other interesting “bucket lists” out there!

Frustrated Brainstorming

January 29, 2008

So I am very frustrated trying to brainstorm an idea for my final digital media project for my EC&I class. Unlike almost all of my classmates, I am neither a teacher in a traditional classroom (I do HR and training at a law firm), nor am I working during this class as I am on maternity leave. Our law firm has e-learning software that I thought might work, but after emailing back and forth with my boss, this just won’t work for several reasons, including: access to the e-learning software, access to our other programs, giving access to my professor to mark it, and several procedures and programs have changed since I have been on leave, so I am no longer familiar with them. Unfortunately, because of our confidential work place, this makes using anything from the firm very difficult.

Back to the brainstorming! This is turning out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated and I really like the tools that we are using and seeing in class, but I don’t have the audience for blogging, wikis, etc. or the work to present in Voicethread, Slideshare, etc. A lesson in frustration!

I watched the Frontline episode of “Growing up Online” that aired on Tuesday night (you can view it here) . I thought overall that the episode was pretty good. It was a bit of doom and gloom, however, it showed a pretty realistic view of what youth are experiencing as far as the social networking tools that they use so frequently and how it is affecting SOME of them. Hopefully these were not seen as generalizations because not all teens are committing suicide, putting up questionable photos of themselves, or searching for the best way to become anorexic. There are numerous positives to the technology and our youth using them.

My interactions with these social networking tools have been very similar to how Will Richardson described his own experience: “And I think that was the major point that was driven home to me, that as much as I look at these social tools and “properties” as learning opportunities, as much as they are a part of my life, I understand them only from the viewpoint of an adult, one that came to the Internet and blogs and live streaming television with a pretty healthy sense of who I am and a well-developed and tested decision making process that made navigating these spaces fairly straightforward. ”

In saying that, these tools need to be considered from the perspective that teens are viewing them with, rather than how we might see them as adults and then plans can be made for teaching them appropriate uses.

The most disturbing part of the episode was the clip about the father of the boy who committed suicide who reached out to the friend of his son’s who also seemed to be toying with the idea of suicide and then talked to the father who did not know anything about computers and seemed unconcerned about what he was being told about his son. It would be nice for parents to know something about computers if they are equipping their children with these tools, however, at least they should be involved in their children’s lives and be able to have a discussion with them.

In Angie Balkwill’s blog about the episode, she included some key quotes that rang out for her. The one that I am quickly learning this semester through blogging, Twitter, email, Facebook… is “The Internet is always a willing listener.” How true!! Available 24/7 to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, there is always someone you can “talk” to and it is an arena in which you will be heard – though as one of the other quotes infers, you are not always sure who it is that is listening.

A lot to consider…

We were very fortunate to have Darren Kuropatwa present to our EC&I 831 class last night: “A Day in the Life of a teacher teaching with technology“. I think I sat through most of the presentation with my jaw on my keyboard! He is absolutely AMAZING! I have not taught in about 6 years now, but watching him was so inspirational, that I started having all of these great ideas pop into my head about what my classroom would look like now. My biggest question was where does he find the time? One of my colleagues in the class actually asked him how does he balance work and home life, because he painted the picture of a very involved Dad and husband, but has what I would call a “Utopian classroom”. He is the type of teacher that takes his career seriously and I applaud him for bringing his classroom into the 21st century in a big way.

The format of his presentation was a great way for us to actually “feel” what it is like to be in one of his classes and as someone who would have fit into his class of the “mathematically wounded”, an interactive setting like Darren is providing for his students would have been extremely beneficial. Darren actually sees that our students are different today and does unique things like opening each class with a picture from Creative Commons on Flickr that relates to the concept being taught that day. He uses numerous technologies with his Smartboard, but the two that stood out for me especially and that we spent a considerable amount of time looking at, included the blogs that he has going for each class (see one of his class blogs here) and the use of Slideshare to share his daily lessons online. I never thought of it until now, but both ways are also very helpful if students miss a day of school, they can catch up online! (sorry for the blurt)

Darren’s classes use blogs to ENGAGE in math conversations, creating their own textbook (each day one student writes a summary of the day’s learnings), reflect about their own learning experiences, and for some of his ESL students (33% of his school are ESL students), there is a widget “Answers” so that when any word in the blog is double-clicked, you can HEAR how it is pronounced, SEE what the definition is and EXTEND their learning by linking to other resources. WOW – talk about attending to the adaptive dimension! Plus,students are more comfortable in this forum, so they share more and they have another way to communicate with their teacher (his email is right at the top of the blog and there is also a link to yackpack so they can verbally talk online). Talk about being connected!

There are three great ways that the daily lessons that are posted online can be used:

  1. are another great way for his students to connect and review what they have learned (or stay caught up if they are unable to attend the class);
  2. a great tool for Darren’s own reflection and professional development; and
  3. the philosopy of web 2.0 – open and free sharing of ideas! (if only all the math teachers out there knew about this).

Obviously, I learned a lot from Darren last night and was extremely inspired by him. But as my last point above states, how many math teachers (or any subject really) are actually forging into the vast array of technologies that are now available? How many of them fear it? How many of our students fear it if they are, for example, one of the students that does not have a computer in their home? Does this single them out and make a subject that is already feared by many(sorry to all of you math teachers – you have a tough job!), even more difficult? Conversely it can also be argued, (and this is probably more where I come from on this subject), are these students who fear math going to do better because there is finally a forum for them to “compete” and be heard in? How many students are now enjoying a subject that they maybe hadn’t in the past because it is engaging them?

Although there will be some teacher resistance, many challenges and much learning to be done, I hope that more teachers are brave enough to give it a try and bring education to a new level of engaging students. Darren said two thing that really feed in to the idea of engaging students :

  1. “Watch it. Do it. Teach it.”
  2. It is in “the quality of connections”.

Thanks to Darren Kuropatwa for the inspiration! Thanks to Alec Couros for bringing in such a great presenter!

The Social Web

January 21, 2008

So I had signed up on Facebook some time ago and thought that it was just fantastic! I got in touch with several people that I would have had no other way of finding because they had moved or married and changed their names or I just didn’t think to look them up. Now, I am reading all of these articles about the dangers of Facebook, such as Facebook Everywhere and The Evolution of Facebook’s Beacon.

Now I question whether I should be on Facebook and what information about me is really available to people that I don’t know? I have set my security settings so that only friends can access my profile and pictures and only include my email address in my contact information, but have I missed something? I see people all of the time that have all of their information open to anyone in Facebook, including home address and phone number. It is scary to think what kind of information children could be providing on this type of site. Children REALLY need to be taught what type of information is safe to give out and to whom. The problem is, on the web, you don’t really know who you are talking to for sure. I find the whole plethora of safety and privacy issues on the Internet very disconcerting because there are no clearcut answers at this time. There was also this blog “Professional Suicide” that opened my eyes to the problems of these tools for professionals.

In the article, “Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a new Security Concern for Teens and Schools”, the author says “educators have long held the belief that technology is here to stay and that educating our teens to the wise use of technology makes the most sense. The successful adults of the future will be those who know how to incorporate the use of technology into all facets of their lives.” I agree that technology will definitely play some part in the success of our children’s futures, however, after several discussions with teachers, I don’t know if ALL educators see technology as here to stay and important.

I also found it surprising the author actually had his students lying about their age to sign up for online free email accounts to keep them safe from predators, but I am glad that he also recognizes that this was probably not the best way to teach students about “safe” computing. As seen in this quote, things are not always what they seem “It is ironic that what was developed as a tool for students to connect, share ideas, and be good “netizens” has evolved into a place that can be so powerfully negative and hurtful.”(Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a new Security Concern for Teens and Schools)

This statement was profound for me: “Digital footprints exist and are real, and we must ensure that students understand that point.” I like this phrase, because we often don’t see that we are leaving a mark as we work our way through the numerous social networking tools available on the Internet today and we need to be aware of what that mark is actually saying about us. The author even mentions that future employers may view these sites as part of the hiring process – wow!

In the end, this school ended up blocking social-networking sites. The issue of how to deal with Internet use and education is a hot topic, but I agree with the author, that prohibition on these teens is probably just going to make it more enticing for them to pursue it in other arenas (i.e. at home) where they may not practice safe computing skills and then what have we really taught them? I am against banning or blocking these sites as a form of “educating” as it does not teach our children anything.

I feel very strongly about the issue of privacy and teaching safe computing skills on the Internet, however, I don’t know how this can be accomplished. I think that repitition throughout a student’s school career would help somewhat, but this is an issue that I plan to investigate further, especially since I am a new parent that will have to battle this issue in the very room that I sit in now 🙂