Archive for February, 2005

Easy Bake Weblogs » Blog Archive » Blogs and Education

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Easy Bake Weblogs » Blog Archive » Blogs and Education

This is a good sceptical approach to blogs in education… with a focus on fostering dialog.

Citation Machine — The Landmark Project

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Citation Machine — The Landmark Project

Looks as if this might be a good resource for students, teachers, and academics. Came to me from Exactly 2 Cents Worth.

Open Source Software in Education

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

This is only barely about education, but this is a topic that I am passionate about that I have not had much opportunity to post about here. This was written in response to some Windows versus Linux discussions my colleagues were having.

Yay! An open source software thread!

Let me respond to many items in this thread…

XP vrs. 2000 – XP is 2000, except that it’s faster (even on old hardware), more feature rich, more customizable (even if you dislike the default settings), more approachable to the novice (particularly on account of the included drivers), and more compatible with cutting edge software such as games.

Linux – At home I use XP, OS X, and Fedora Core Linux. Since I’ve got the others, there isn’t much reason for someone like me to use Linux, except to learn it. However, having become comforatble with it, I can highly recommend it to anyone that needs a low cost computing plaform, even for multi-media! Fedora Core 3 is a mature modern opperating system. (So are many other distributions of Linux, but Fedora Core is geared toward the end user and is seeing widespread use.) There is no more need to know the command line than there is with Windows and OS X.

Open OfficeOpen Office is Star Office, minus some copyrighted third party content. It is free. It can read and write Word, PowerPoint, and Excel Documents (as well as many other formats, including its own superior xml based format). It can serve as a front end to a SQL database (so no need for Access). And, it runs on most major Operating Systems including Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. There is no reason in the world not to suggest that your students use this at home if they don’t own MS Office.

If you think that sounds good, check out The Gimp… this is basicly photoshop for free… on any of these operating systems. ;)

And of course you should consider browsing with Firefox. ;)

-Mark

Email, IMs, blogs, and “good” writing…

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

I felt this response to a colleague would be relevant here…

With email, discussion groups, blogs, etc., the interest in writing (albeit bad writing) is coming back. And as you mention, the importance attached to "good" writing needs to be emphasized. Perhaps one of the new roles of teachers, is back to basics – ie. reading, writing.

Initially, I thouhgt it would bve very imporatnat to respond to this post, but I realize now that you’ev actually captured much of what I meant to say. Our computer using students are writing all the time… for email, instant messaging, blogging, etc… and much of the higher order thinking that is happening is exactly what teachers have been struggling to coax out of students writing a five paragraph essay for years… in terms of the analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. I think this is a wonderful thing. These new forms of writing encourage many students to compose, and reflect, on a daily basis. Most are very concerned about their tone, syntax, and the effect their writing will have on its audience…. they are just not writing for us.

They are developing new vocabulary and new grammar at a rapid rate. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and I see now that you’ve put "good" in quotes, so you too realize that we are only concerned because they are not following the same formal rules that we were taught. (Then again, maybe you didn’t… since you didn’t but "bad" in quotes) These rules have always changed over time, they may just be changing more fluidly now than they did a generation ago. Consider the differences between our writing and our parents… or our founding fathers, for instance.

In my estimation, as a former English Teacher, the writing that they are doing is more valuable in more important ways that much of the writing they are doing in school, which is not to say that I think there is no value in their formal writing assignments, but rather that I am not concerned. I am excited about their new forms of writing… and further, if our formal standards change (and there have been some I have actively sought to change), I won’t be terribly upset.

Well, not yet… I suppose once I have my own children and grand children this may change.

-Mark

Online asynchronous distance education: number of posts per week?

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

This came up in class…

One question that I struggle with, and have had different experiences with at Walden U., is how often should students be required to participate in online discussions? I have had classes that required posting on four separate days, and others that required only one.

I’d definitely like to put my 2 cents worth in here…

I too had a class in which I was required to post on four separate days during the week. This was an awful experience. I think this requirement was wasteful and ignorant, revealing our instructor’s utter misunderstanding of the power of online education. Did I word that strongly? I meant it strongly. This removed most of the advantages of taking an online asynchronous distance education course. I felt I might as well have been going to class every night and I felt that my classmates and I were posting a lot of low quality writing. The ironic thing is that even in classes with more reasonable requirements I tend to visit the class site and read posts at least once a day. However, if I need to miss a day, it is not a source of stress, and as you can tell, I post far less often – only when I have something to say if I can help it.

Other classes, such as this one, require a high number of posts… such as 3 to 5 topics per week, plus 3 responses to our colleagues. This has worked well in this class because most of the prompts require an interesting composition in response, and because we have a large number of students with something to say. Here the sheer number of posts can be overwhelming, but the chances of identifying with a post and wanting to respond to it are much higher. However, this might also backfire in a smaller class where there there is less to chose from when responding. I have sometimes found our Thursday requirement artificial, but I understand the need to post in time for others to respond. (Incidentally, these late posts come after I was out of town and informed Dr. Shepard.)

Of course I’ve had other classes that required fewer postings. A common format seems to be a single weekly discussion question to which everyone must post, but then you must also respond to three of your classmates. This I have found focused and productive. It was worth spending time composing each post, and it was worth reading most of them as well.

This quarter, I am also enrolled in a class that is completely at the other end of the spectrum. The instructor is requiring 1 post to the weekly discussion topic and 1 response to a classmate… anytime before midnight of Day 7. The class is also very small (about 8 people) and it is rare for anyone to post extra or to offer lengthy posts… the volume of discussion is very low, and it is not very rich.

I think a similar discussion might be had about the number of assignments… and about group assignments as a subset, but I’ll limit the time I’m putting into this reply. ;)

-Mark

Visual and Information Literacy: Which is more factual… text, audio, or video?

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

After writing a few very dry posts for class this week, I kind of liked this one. It also inspired me to do my first real podcast, which is included here.

I know that we have all been taught that the written word is more reliable than that which is seen on televsion, etc. But is this really true? If a student researches a topic and presents his/her findings visually vs. in written form does it lessen the ‘factual’ content?

I think I can reply with a resounding "no!" here. When it comes down to it, the written word is a communication medium devised when we could not transmit direct experiences over space and time. While "direct experience" (via VR or whatever) may still be a way off, our ability to transmit audio and video facts over great distances – and our ability to store and replaly them as well – has significantly increased the accuracy of information we can share with each other.

I can think of dozens of examples… but for starters, why do you think newspapers included photographs as soon as possible, and then color? And why do so many people choose the television for their news delivery? The only reason I chose the internet for news delivery is the flexibility and customization available in contrast to a broadcast… if I could get full motion video and audio news from clicking on a link in Google News or through my RSS aggregator, you better believe I would want that more than the simple text.

Why do you think an image, can generate so much more of an emotional impact with people… it contains much more meaningful information for a human being. (This is also true of audio – consider the power of music.)


Consider the tsunami as a recent example. How poorly did text articles convey the truth about what happened. Weren’t the pictures and footage much more powerful? And I can tell you from experience, sanitized american news footage does nothing to communicate the horror of the event compared to looking up amateur footage of survivors online and seeing elderly couples washed away while on vacation… as those around them scramble to climb buildings.

And this touches on why teaching our students visual literacy is so important. What is shown, and how it is shown, is very important to the interpretation of an event – just as what is written and how it is written can in a text story (think pro-life or pro-choice.) We must teach our students to understand the power of everything from a Yu-Gi-Oh advertisement (and is the cartoon simply just an add – or entertainment in its own right) to the images from Abu Ghraib which undermined much of what was left of the United States moral standing in Iraq. Have the images of Iraqi women with ink on their finger as they step out of the voting booth helped to repair this damage?

This touches on the broader importance of information literacy, of which I consider visual literacy a subset. How will our students deal with the information available to them? How will the learn to sift through the deluge, ignore what is useless, and find what is important? As they use powerful and customizable tools for doing this (such as RSS feeds) how will they keep from merely reading, hearing, and seeing information they agree with – and thus losing the opportunity to explore and acquire other perspectives?

We are crippling our students if we only teach them to read and write. They need the power to express themselves with sound and visuals… and to critique the expressions of others. We should be encouraging students to present their findings through audio and visual mediums as well as the written word. The final product of a research project should be more than just a "paper", it should be an evening news story.

And in today’s world, that news story need not be broadcast, and a student’s podcast to an authentic audience might be even more powerful.

Or a teacher’s for that matter.

-Mark

Instant Messaging in Education

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

I orginially wrote two responses to two class prompts on this topic, but I have elected to omit the first response from this blog because my examples were very specific to my workplace. Still here is the second response, and some good questions to consider… and frankly, in the context of this blog, I should go ahead and offer answers to these questions… but it is midnight. ;)

Pretending to be your colleague who resists the integration of technology, ask three tough questions to those who have adopted technology for teaching and learning.

I suppose I’ll continue in the same vein that I started with the last post. I’ll focus on Instant Messaging from the perspective of a fictional resistant colleague.

Even presuming that having access to Instant Messaging is useful for students (and staff), then…

1.) How do we ensure that students (and teachers) are able to manage interruptions with efficiency and etiquette?

2.) How do we ensure that Instant Messaging when in the presence of others does not give the impression that students (and teachers) are not being attentive, or not being productive? And, how do we help students (and teachers) to be attentive and to be productive while managing Instant Messages?

3.) How do we ensure that students (and staff) learn to manage Instant Messages in a way such that they are not distracted from their work, and such that they are safe from predators and other harm?

Now, these I think are actually valid questions, concerns, and, ultimately, challenges. Still, I’d love to start by explaining how the benefits might outweigh the potential pitfalls (and how we might teach people to take advantage of those benefits), and then I’d like to tackle the answers to these questions above.

-Mark

Henry Jenkins – “COMPLETE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT”: VIDEO GAMES AS GENDERED PLAY SPACES

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

Henry Jenkins – “COMPLETE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT”: VIDEO GAMES AS GENDERED PLAY SPACES

Brought to you by my MSN search Feed. :)

Teacher’s roles are changing through technology integration

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

A companion to the last post…

What are some ways teachers’ roles are changing through technology integration?

As many of you have, I have tried to provide a correlation between my answers in this response, and my answers to the previous question.

Teachers will…

Wow. Teachers will have to do everything I posted in my response to the student prompt, even the fifth one, which will become more important as there are increasingly more specializations and each of us can know correspondingly less of what there is to know in our fields.

So, teachers will…

1.) … become active creators, as well as consumers, of educational content.
2.) … interact (and solve problems) with global networks of peers with similar (or related) interests. These peers will be a variety of ages and have a variety of ability, experience, and skill levels.
3.) … interact (and solve problems) with experts in a variety of real-world fields and applications.
4.) … become reflective meta-cognitive thinkers (and problem solvers).
5.) … show us a thing or two, but need to learn to be graceful about it at the same time. In general, they will need to come to terms with the awesome and unprecedented responsibility they will be burdened with along with these amazing new powers.

At the risk of being repetitive, I have taken a systematic approach to this…

Teachers will also need to support these things in students (this is the hard part – and what we need to be focusing on), so they will also need to …

6.) … help students acquire the skills, experience, and relationships necessary to become active creators, as well of educational content.
7.) … facilitate student interaction (and problem solving) with global networks of peers with similar (or related) interests. These peers will be a variety of ages and have a variety of ability, experience, and skill levels.
8.) … facilitate student interaction (and problem solving) with experts in a variety of real-world fields and applications.
9.) … help students acquire the skills, experience, and relationships necessary to become reflective meta-cognitive thinkers (and problem solvers).
10.) … help students acquire the skills, experience, and relationships necessary in order to come to terms with the awesome and unprecedented responsibility they will be burdened with along with these amazing new powers.

Note that I have placed the teachers own development ahead of their facilitation of students’ development. I think the more common reversal of these changes is so grave an error that it may account for the failure of many school reform initiatives. Quite simply, many educational technologists are asking teachers to help students become something that the teachers have not already become themselves, and which they may not even yet comprehend.

Well, that lays my arrogance out on the table now doesn’t it. ;)

BTW, when I say that we need to focus on the "hard part" (ie 6 through 10 above), it is as much because we as educational technologists must do these things for teachers as it is because teachers must do them for students.

-Mark

Students’ roles are changing through technology integration

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

I’m writing to class prompts again this week…

What are some ways that students’ roles are changing through technology integration?

Wow. This is once again one of those questions that must either be answered with a magnum opus, or a very digestible list. As I catch up with the class again, I offer a digestible list. Also, as I once again enter a very full thread… I will try to focus on this prompt from the perspective of the changes read/write web services, such as blogs, are bringing.

I think you’ll find these suggested new roles for students include a variety of opportunities for "learner participation", including many opportunities for feedback and for practice. (Smaldino, 2005, p. 66-68) They are also very much in keeping with Papert’s (1993) vision of "the child as epistemologist" (p. 229), and very relevant to Berman and Tinker’s (1997) discussion of the virtual high school. In fact, our own blackboard environment is very much a part of the read/write web, albeit an exclusive and password protected service. I wonder, what would be the downside to Blackboard classes being available to all (or at least to the search engines)? I can imagine a few answers to this, but thought it might be interesting to ask. Perhaps it might be better to ask what the pros and cons might be…

Anyway, on with that digestible list…

Students will…

1.) … become active creators, as well as consumers, of educational content.
2.) … interact (and solve problems) with global networks of peers with similar (or related) interests. These peers will be a variety of ages and have a variety of ability, experience, and skill levels.
3.) … interact (and solve problems) with experts in a variety of real-world fields and applications.
4.) … become reflective meta-cognitive thinkers (and problem solvers).
5.) … show us a thing or two, but need to learn to be graceful about it at the same time. In general, they will need to come to terms with the awesome and unprecedented responsibility they will be burdened with along with these amazing new powers.

Funny how this reads like objectives, eh? Well… up until the end there anyway.

Here we go…

-Mark

References

Berman, T. Cuban, L. The world’s the limit in the virtual high school. In The Jossey-Bass Reader on Technology and Learning. (2000). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Papert, S. Computers and computer cultures. In The Jossey-Bass Reader on Technology and Learning. (2000). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Smaldino, S., Russell, J., Heinich, R., Molenda, M. (2005). Instructional technology and media for learning. (Eighth ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall