Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life after Moodle :( or maybe not?

I have been using Moodle for sometime now and it has been quite effective at getting teachers to engage with using ICTs in their teaching and learning. However, a recent slide-share presentation, see below, has got me thinking about the possibilities after Moodle. My work colleagues would be shocked to hear that I am contemplating learning and teaching without Moodle - because I really adore it - it has served a wonderful purpose of engaging teachers at my school and opening up the classroom, but.... maybe

I think it maybe a bit premature to walk out on Moodle for one main reason, it provides a place that my students and teachers come to to start learning. Ok at times some courses can be a bit dull but there is no reason Moodle cannot be used as a place from which to leap into the wider web and return to in order to consolidate a learning journey.

For now I will re-frame my idea of Moodle as "The Classroom" - I find that learning is happening within non-physical space and Moodle serves as a common location, a point, an island in a sea of chattering hyperlinks, images and online video.Whereas the physical classroom serves as a place for students to come together face to face, learning within a physical dynamic environment, to (be) at and with(in) a learning context rather than just attend to mentally, the physical classroom as learning embodied . In contrast Moodle often is "The Classroom" a simulation of the linearity of the Lesson Plan, a beginning a middle and an end, temporal and bound despite it social constructivist origins; I wonder has its success and malleability resulted in its becoming an antithesis to is social constructivist origins?  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

the web of one, rose coloured glasses and filtering

"You couldn't get functioning democracy without free information." I really like the experiment he did with the take a screen shot and see the difference between each others searches. This would be an excellent activity for students to do for an assignment. You could define a search term then get each student to search and screen shot on their own PC and another PC in the house. The next day print off and gather all the images place them on the floor and work out what you can tell from the search results that were returned. This activity could be a spring board for discussion topics such as, ethical use of user information, surveillance, privacy and the rights and responsibilities of individuals and corporations. So there you go, online video leads to lesson idea, leads to increased awareness by students and real connected teaching based on data gathered by students... hmmm might rethink my senior IT unit on social and ethical issues and the Internet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

social media, the nature of news and meaning making, are we preparing our students?

Tweets per second. by @Twitter
Tweets per second., a photo by @Twitter on Flickr.

The news broke on Twitter about the death of Osama, which made me reflect upon how I have received information about world events. Now I very rarely purchase a newspaper, the only magazine I read, and infrequently at that, is now available online for iPad. When 9/11 happened I watched it unfold on the Internet, Osamas death I found out about via twitter, the demise of  the Australian PM Kevin Rudd I found out via Facebook and quickly turned to Twitter to see it all unfold. More recently I watched the riots in London via twitter and news reports from ABC online ( Despite the criticisms of using these sources as a way to gather and form opinions on world and local events it appears that even the more traditional media is also turning to these sources on a regular basis, one only has to observe the print and TV media around any  major international disaster or political upheaval to get a sneaking suspicion that it is not only the general populace that watch and gather news from the social web. So perhaps the new journalist now aggregates these streams of social media bringing to the fore their ability to contextualize meaning within contested political and social discourses. Therefore, as an educator my question is are we preparing our students to deconstruct the meanings that are constructed by others? There is always [His]tory, [Cult]ure and [her] story and more recently the London Riots will be part of British [His][Tory], but more importantly will our students be able to tell the difference.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blogs, what, why and is there a point to it all?

Everyone is so hot for twitter and Facebook so it may seem that Blogging has had it day, or has it! Unlike twitter or Facebook blogging (well at least interesting blogs) requires a longer attention span and the ability to bring together ideas and communicate them via text and images. Furthermore, blogging unlike much of our daily communicative writing gives individuals a chance to have a say, form an opinion and tell it to the world. However, often the criticism that is leveled at blogging is that you may as well be shouting at the ocean. But as more and more people shout at the ocean the sounds will be heard, yes as noise but a noise that is created by individuals. I am grateful that I can express my ideas freely and using a global medium with much greater reach than any medium I had access to as young man growing up with a head full of ideas and no place to express it. Perhaps we should see blogging as a global creative activity that consists of many seeking meaning and their voice in a time when the mass media of the past is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Some Resources
Blog report from technorati

Being online: social presence as subjectivity in online learning
Benjamin Kehrwald London Review of Education
Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2010, 39–50

Being online: a critical view of identity and subjectivity in new virtual learning spaces London Review of EducationVol. 8, No. 1, March 2010, 1–4

Education, the formation of self and the world of Web 2.0
Aidan Seery London Review of Education
Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2010, 63–73

[be]ing in a human world is what is important... NOT NOT NOT mindless, vacuous consumption

This info-graphic speaks volumes about how we and others find ourselves in what can largely be called Western Society. It now may appear that the world is waking up with a massive hangover from a debt fueled mad capitalist binge that has damaged the lives of so many and enriched the very few. I am amazed at the parallels that can be drawn with Huxley and to some extent Orwell. They are so stark that Brave New World and 1984 should be on the reading list for all students as a wake up call, a prod to awaken and develop the critical minds of our students. No kids things just don't stay the same! Yes change is violent and frightening! And no violence is not, not an answer to violence... Intellect, Human compassion and a deep understanding of what it means to be a human [be]ing in a human world is what is important... NOT NOT NOT mindless, vacuous consumption.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Education Finland and stating the obvious, what does it tell us?

So let's see the clip is telling us that education should be... caring, inclusive, focused on student needs, professional, learning in groups is good, self reliance, trust, time to think and just enjoy being young, hope for the future, engaged parents, society allows time and space for the nurture of young adults and overall education is highly valued. Hard to disagree so what is this saying about other education [systems] in other countries? And meanwhile as I write this riots continue in the UK, Greece and the ranks of the poor and disenfranchised grow in other supposedly first world countries. So what does this tell us?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The voice of life calls us to learn and the school of hard knocks

 This is what it should be but often it is rephrased to be " The voice of life calls us to earn". Education when debated in terms of cost/benefit analysis dehumanizes the whole idea of education. And this is the root of the problem. Education needs to be broadly seen as a project that enables humanity to hold up a mirror to itself rather than a diploma mill as the unexamined life is not worth living.

"Everyday our children spread their dreams beneath our feet"

But the great difficulty is making sure that children do not get a false sense of reality, not every child is going to become a star and telling someone that they will really is a lie. We can never predict the future with enough certainty to tell a wide eyed child that they will become "famous" nor should we. So yes dream because if we do not life can become a nightmare, and yes tread lightly on the dreams of others but false hope and folly can make us blind to real opportunities and our actual strengths. 

Though I cringe every time the term is used, resilience is generated by experiences where dreams are sometimes crushed but with support and empathy given by others we grow. Therefore, while noble TED-Ed is a collection of short online videos, it is just a start, but like genius education is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Ann S. Masten, Karin M. Best and Norman Garmezy (1990)
Development and Psychopathology, Volume 2, Issue 04, October 1990 pp 425-444

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Students doing research, Diigo, Google Scholar and ICT literacy

Currently my year 12 Information Technology Systems (ITS) students are creating an essay on a social and ethical issue in IT; really I have a hidden agenda here, that is to expose students to a key ICT literacy "seeking information online and  being critical of what they read". Key to this is learning about the wealth of research and information that can be accessed via the internet, the two tools I will discuss are Diigo and Google Scholar.

Google Scholar is a Google search service specifically for articles, books, journals, legal opinions and patents; ITS students are mainly interested in the books and journal articles. The beauty of this service is it provides our students with access to academically rigorous material to support their learning. The site details the number of times an article has been cited, a brief summary of the article and often a link to a pdf or HTML copy of the original article. This is undoubtedly a very valuable service because it enables students to gain an understanding about how knowledge and opinion is formed around the topic they are researching. Furthermore, when a book is retrieved from the search a link is provided to an online copy of the book on Google books. Interestingly very few students even knew about Google books.
Diigo is an online social bookmarking service. The key to Diigo is its ability to harness previous searches by others and so hopefully provide more relevant information. In addition to Diigo’s ability to share links it is also enables students to use virtual highlighting of online text if the free plugin has been installed, something that I recommend students try. Links, highlights and virtual sticky notes all can be shared and grouped together. All bookmarks can also be tagged with key term to assist with later retrieval. Often a student may find a website that would be of interest to another student. With Diigo they can save, tag and highlight the website and then create an email link to a copy of the website that has all their highlighting and sticky notes. Over time a user of Diigo can build up a large collection of links, annotations and notes similar to an online notebook. My own Diigo Library contains 1050 individual links and annotations which everyone is free to view and use. 

Some of you who are reading this post might being saying, "yeah so what, I use this stuff all the time". However, you would be surprised at how few students actually are! I have at times done a straw poll to see how many students are users of these types of online tools, I would regularly get about %10 who put their hands up. As the futurist Thomas Frey argues there are social and ICT skills that are vital for the future such as communication management, reputation management and privacy management. However, interestingly he appears to not mention critical thinking and a healthy skepticism for what one reads online. The inclusion of concepts such as Digital Creativity are also necessary because by being creative the students interactions becomes participatory rather than primary consumptive in nature.