Tuesday, 12 March 2013

the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly - Group presentations and Final reflective projects

[Before you read my actual blog post: I was struck tonight that while I am able to add hyperlinks, share images and upload videos to my blog, I am expressly forbid from adding simple audio (I'm inferring). So I've tried to circumvent that using embeded code from soundcloud.com to share a new song from City and Colour (aka Canadian and Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green). Now you can read while hearing what I heard when I wrote this.]

We've been exposed to a lot of information this term and perhaps it was only fitting that the last few weeks were dominated by two major projects. The first was a collaborative group project that (for our small group of first-year pre-service teachers) proved to be a lesson in creating content in the cloud via google docs, communicating using mobile-based apps and sharing the responsibility of a large project.
[click through the presentation here: https://t.co/FViumGDe]
I feel that we were all a little daunted by the open format of this lesson (our assignment contained a title to use for our presentation, and left the interpretation and delivery up to us), but within a week had the brunt of the data and ideas available on google Drive. One of the more difficult problems that presented itself was not so much the content itself, but rather the matter in which to present it. We discussed (face to face) whether we had an argument to make, or whether to follow a more general "The More You Know..." format (via 1980's Bill Cosby, thanks to archival footage from NBC). 

In the end, Bill won out - but that didn't stop the presentation from taking a debate-style approach at times as we often disagreed as to what was 'good', 'bad' or 'ugly'. That conversation was, interestingly to me, the beginning of a thought that I've talked about previously in another post. Our group debate focused on the positive and negatives of open-source resources such as Wikipedia, with both pros and cons raised. The short of the argument is that the internet is neither good or bad, but like any tool, highly politicized for its various low and high points. 

Our peers also made amazing presentations that utilized wiki's, back-channeling (via todaysmeet.com), and a mobile-based realtime survey. While each group made very thorough arguments, I was particularly impressed by notions of a traffic light system for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) usage; and the wiki on 'How not to steal' - a highly valuable skill for anyone in the digital age. 

The same group behind the wiki also presented on Creative Commons - and it brought to mind that we may have a problem admitting that any idea (blog, essay, presentation) is not entirely original. I wonder if we can better support the sharing of where ideas come from, in order to teach children that it is great (and important and needed to avoid plagiarism) when using resources. Perhaps emphasizing that others will read the same material and come away with very different perspectives, that their view of that material is (in itself) unique and original? 

Finally, as part of our final assignment, each of us (in #I4Ed) presented a reflective piece about what we have learned this term. Generally, many of us utilized a piece of social media called Slideshare to upload PowerPoint-esque presentations online that contained an audio or video component. Awesome as it sounds, it was not a simple process as Slideshare required a separate recording of the audio to be uploaded, thus eliminating any work that some students had previously done with PowerPoints audio recording extension. Several of us utilized the WhatsApp chat group we had used in the previous group project to troubleshoot through the process and share tips (big thanks go out to @Affleck24 and @mslinzebraun for attempting it first!). 

While attempting to get a handle on the past nine weeks was definitely a scramble, as an exercise in reflection - before heading out into our field experiences - I feel that it was a needed assignment just to revisit everything that we had covered this semester. Archived WhatsApp chats provided both commentary and context, while blog posts became my class notes. Bookmarking of websites via diigo.com (love that diigo dates items when they are tagged!) aided hugely in adding depth to ideas from each of our presenters; while I kicked myself in the same breath for not 'favorite'ing more useful tweets

In Σ, much thanks goes out to Prof. Mike Nantais (pronounced na-da, for those not in the know) on behalf of a small cohort of First-Years for generally saving the semester. Looking forward to another awesome semester in the fall! Till then...

Monday, 11 March 2013

The future of education: on the Horizon.K12 report

The NMC Horizon Report 2011 K-12 Edition, informally known as the Horizon.K12, is this massive international collaborative report that not only produces a snapshot of education trends and challenges across the world, but operates as a wiki. In order to focus the vast scope of material, the report returns just five key trends, five critical challenges and 6 practices to be aware of over in the next year, over two, and after five years. 

While it is a fairly dense, technical document - it is actually quite approachable and appears in reflection to be a great resource - so much so that I'd make the suggestion that this might be better as required reading prior to taking a course on the Internet or Technology in the today's classroom. Most handily, each section of the document is wonderfully referenced and includes detailed links regarding further reading, organizations that are implementing each trend mentioned and useful websites that the every-day pre-service teacher might utilise this upcoming semester. 

[While I found several familiar faces in the references, Northwestern Universities 'iLab Central' holds heavy promise as being a great resource for students in schools that may not have a developed science program or simply lacking some of the more expensive tools.]

I was often impressed by the forward thinking of the report, reflected in comments on digital literacy ..."[sic] is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat [short-lived] (p. 5)", and open content that I felt were not only inherently truthful statements, but also ones that I want to become a part of solving; such as: "Many believe that reward structures that support the sharing of work in progress, ongoing research, and highly collaborative projects, along with a broad view of what constitutes scholarly publication, are key challenges that institutions need to solve (p. 22)."

One of the more transformative ideas within the Horizon.K12 was the concept of Learning Analytics, which when paired with Personal Learning Environments, appears to me to represent the future relationship between educator and student. As classrooms shift from the one-size-fits-all, teacher-centered lecture-methodology to that of the differentiated, inquiry model, the role of teachers (I feel) will increasingly be that of the guide. We are all well aware that the best teaching happens in a one-on-one environment, but outside of highly funded private contexts that situation is unattainable for (the 99% of) students. Yet with increased learning analytics of student behaviour, the ability of a single teacher to first understand, and then guide the learning of individuals students appears to be ever more possible.  In Σ, as knowledge becomes ever more accessible to all students via advances in technology, connections to the internet and the rapid expansion of content a la open-source resources and creative commons, our role as knowledge-holders will decrease exponentially. That does not mean that we will be replaced 'hole(s) in the walls', but rather our role will be to teach ways of learning and critical skills needed to to sift and make meaning of all that information.

[For those that don't feel like reading through the report, "Learning analytics loosely joins a variety of data gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice, with the goal of using what is learned to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time. Building on the kinds of information generated by Google Analytics and other similar tools, learning analytics aims to mobilize the power of data-mining tools in the service of learning and embrace the that dynamic learning environments can generate (p. 7)."]

Ps. Not related to the above, but I'd like touch on something that I found amazing:

WHO from Bangladesh is reading my blog? From Indonesia? From Venezuela?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

show & tell with Socialcam


My first attempt at both video-blogging and showcasing the Socialcam app. Much thanks to Mike Nantais for introducing us/me to Darren Kuropatwa who uses this app for his WhileWalking series on youTube.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

on great TED Ed videos and questionable Vimeo mini-doc's

The first video that I'd like to share comes from a TED-EdB Best Flip lesson plan titled 'The Dawn of Art' by Genevieve Von Petzinger. The video shows ancient paintings recorded at Chauvet Cave in France, and may be used with a given lesson plan that provides a few summative questions and extending resources that explain what the images are and where they came from. This video/lesson plan would work well with the Manitoba Grade 8 Social Studies curriculum about World History: Societies of the Past.

I would feel comfortable using the above video in any school setting - however my second choice would require some discretion:

I've chosen to share a video titled SKATEISTAN, a mini-documentary about a skateboarding program in Kabul, Afghanistan and its impact on the youth there amid the withdrawal of the the Taliban and the subsequent war. Do to the mature content and themes, I feel that this video would be best used in a Grade 12 Social Studies setting where students were possibly discussing global issues of social justice and human rights. However it may be possible to work this video into a younger grade level, if given proper context, due to the age of the children in the video and the possibility that it may help students here develop empathy and a common ground for children on the other side of the world: both physically and culturally.

SKATEISTAN: TO LIVE AND SKATE KABUL from Diesel New Voices on Vimeo.

Mike also put forth the question of "would you consider (if your school allows it) putting student/class made videos up on YouTube (or another site) & share? Why or why not?"

In a word: Yes! When looking at the way social media and technology are escalating, it is quite clear to me that as internet speeds increase and video capture quality increases, we will continue to see more and more people utilizing video over 'traditional' text, images or podcasts.

Since Christmas my significant-others nephews (who are nine, seven and five years old) have been using facetime to call us from the oldests iPod. If we don't answer, we often receive a 5-10 minute video of their latest Lego creation, or an examination of what their puppy dragged home. The first video's had classic too-close shots of the face (reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project) and long pauses, but since we've been talking more with them, their use has also gotten better. 

Don't be a Dodo
I can imagine that by the time the boys are graduating from high school, the majority of the way they express themselves in an ELA course will be dominated by simply speaking & representing, rather than traditional writing. I'd probably even wager that with the proliferation of speech-to-text apps that appearing, that the physical act of typing will go the way of cursive hand-writing and the Dodo bird.

What I'm long-windedly getting at is that using videos in class will be an excellent opportunity to model  appropriate and responsible use of a technology that will only become more and more prolific with time. I believe it's best to get on board now.

Darren Kuropatwa: edu (video) blogger

I have to thank Mike for sharing Darren Kuropatwa's video blog last month on Ning: it was Darren's WhileWalking video about assessment that introduced me to this Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Learning from the St. James-Assiniboia School Division in Winnipeg, MB. 

Darren's blog can be read at adifference.blogspot.com, where he shares stories like his transformative experiences at the Unplug'd educational conference, to the differences between traditional reading & writing and writing with digital text using hyperlinks, or the CJOB radio debate that sparked a blog post about the differences between curriculum and pedagogy. Overall though, what has set Darren apart from other edublogger's for me has been his narrative. He is - first and foremost - a great story teller, and it comes through in everything he speaks about. Please listen to Darren talk about the importance of the narrative and sharing stories with others:

It was actually a week or so after I first began reading through Darren's posts that I realized he hadn't published anything since last August - panicked (I had mistakenly thought that Darren's video was a one-off), it was almost another week before I watched Darren's video on assessment again and was drawn to his youTube channel, where he has continued to share his experiences via his WhileWalking series since last September.

Darren has utilized an app called socialCam to share the videoblogs he creates on his walks to work in the morning - which really showcases his well-spoken, narrative approach to philosophizing on education, technology, and the internet. His most recent vlog discusses the type of questions we can ask our students that aren't 'google-able': questions that don't have a strict knowledge component to them, but rather tap into each students thoughts and beliefs about what the answer may look like. 

While Darren speaks to a number of topics, one of things that really stands out about his blogging is that while he longer is teaching at the K-12 level, he constantly relates his ideas and reflections to (what I would call) real-world teaching moments. 

A great example of this is Darren's post on Evernote (#WhileWalking 77: Evernote For Public & Private Sharing) where he is considering the real world integration of an app into a classroom setting - and he gives a step by step guide of how he would implement it in, and then reaches out to his audience to ask how they may be using that particular piece of tech. 

It is that relatability between tech, educational philosophy and real world pedagogy that sets Darren apart from the field as an edublogger

podcasts for education: a case study

So - despite my chronic procrastination when it comes to publishing - I've been listening in to a daily podcast for the past week from CJSW 90.9FM out of Calgary, AB, titled: Today in Canadian History.

Covering all things Canadian (like did you know that on today in 1994, the venerable John Candy passed away?), the podcasts vary from 3-15 minutes and often feature snippets of personal stories regarding a notable birthday, the opening of a historical hockey rink, or the day Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces in 1905.

(September 1st, in case you were wondering)

While the facts themselves have become, well, trivial - these easily digestible sound bytes provide an interesting resource to add to my social studies toolbox. Maybe something for my auditory students to listen to in the background during class work, as a novel activating strategy, or as an example of what a podcast may look like. Additionally there is a balance or fairness to each podcast, which would require students to conduct research before they put together a podcast as a piece of journalism. 

Overall, Today in Canadian History is a great model for students to follow, as it doesn't follow a particular length or structure - but aims to entertain and connect on a common level. There are cross-curricular connections to be made, primarily in the English Language Arts, and in Information & Communication Technology. 

Smarter, dumber, and the bits of grey in between

What if the internet neither makes us smarter or dumber but it is our interaction with it, that gives it meaning. It is only a tool after all.

Lets use the car as an analogy.

We could easily make the argument that having cars make people lazy:  it enables us to not use our bodies in the way that millions of years of evolution have given us. People are know to drive a few blocks, distances so short that driving may actually be less inefficient than walking. The problem is especially evident in car-loving North American towns and cities where mass transit or bicycling is almost non-existent compared to similar-sized European equivalents. Our love affair with driving only exasperates the obesity health problem that plagues our society.

Not only do some of us use cars when we needn't, but worse are people who are just bad at it: the stereotypical 'bad drivers' that plague our roads. Now we don't put the blame on bad cars, but understand that intrinsically some people have not developed the skills to aid them in operating a vehicle at speed amongst other drivers. In Canadian society we're aware that youth are not developed physically and cognitively enough to make mature decisions about their operation of a vehicle, and we limit their experiences to drive until they're 16 years old.

So are cars good or bad? Remember, they - like the internet - are a tool. The development of the automobile: the shift from steam power to internal combustion engines, the creation of a personal method of transportation was fired by the minds of generations of engineers and craftspeople who tinkered, thought critically, modified their technology to its physical limitations and then created new iterations. It has taken an unbelievable amount of SMART people for some people to be able to drive two blocks the wrong way down a one-way.

As with all technology, their is a certain amount of the population that take it for granted and do not take the time to 'get under the hood' and understand exactly what it is they are using. That does not mean the internet has made them dumb - it simply means they've chosen to pick up the keys before considering the distance their going.

For our youth, we should recognize that their are levels of their own cognitive development that is needed to form before they are able to use the internet in what would look like a responsible manner. The internet is the entirety of human knowledge at one time, and that can be daunting. As Prof. Nantais mentioned during our discussion yesterday, the internet has given everyone a voice and broken down the traditional filters of disseminating information. The responsibility is now on you to decide whether or not my (or anyone's) voice is worth sharing with others.

A map of internet traffic produced by the Opte Project. Licensed under Creative Commons.

[I got off writing on a tangent earlier - it no longer fits with this blog - but I felt I should share rather than delete:]

Now I'm not saying that the internet is a car - but rather a method of transportation. We crawl, walk and then run. We pedal, with training wheels, before attempting any sweet jumps. We observe others transporting us in motorized vehicles before trying to pilot it ourselves. Clearly some of us will be more adept than others, for various reasons, but the important factors are that the rules have been in place for sometime and there is a method of development in place. 

Interestingly, some internet sites have attempted to limit or control the impact of immature 'drivers'. Notably the social sharing website 'reddit' utilizes a robust voting system that is policed by a team of moderators. Clear rules for posting content are in place and users often regulate one another via the up-down vote system to re-inforce social conventions like grammar, spelling and even the location of some votes into 'sub-reddits'.