Friday, December 24, 2010

Thanks for the photo

Old Threads by fras1977, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  fras1977 

Because copying and pasting images is so easy now, we often neglect to give credit to the creators of the images we use.  As teachers we need to be model good attribution behavior for out students.

Finding and attributing photos from Flickr is easy to do with a tool called Imagecodr. On the home page of this site, you can click the Search tab to find photos.  To provide attribution in your blog or website, you click the Get Code! tab and enter the URL of the photo you wish to use.  Use the code displayed to put the image and the complete attribution information on your blog.or website.

I was looking for an image of threads to use when discussing Voice Threads.  The image above with the CC licsnse and link is the result using the code from Imagcodr.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

I attended the rally Oct. 30 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The rally officially started at noon, but when a friend and I arrived at 9:00 in the morning to find a spot, the mall was already filling  up. The rally  was a great experience. It was a mixture of good music, good fun, good sane people and a serious message.

Jon Stewart ended the rally with the message that despite what we often hear on tv or in the news about how divided we are as a nation, as individuals we actually do all work together everyday to get things done .  His complete closing remarks are in the video below.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

The signs people carried were creative and very humorous. Here are a few:

I'm as moderate as hell.
Politics has been too concerned with right or left instead or right or wrong.
Be quick to listen and slow to anger.
I'm using my inside voice.
My comedy channel Fox News.  My news channel Comedy Central.
Somewhat irritated about extreme outrage.
Separation of corporation and state.
Civil is sexy.
U.S. Department of Peace
It's a sad day when our politicians are comical and I have to take our comedians seriously!

Below is a video about the rally that was posted on Al Jazeera.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jumping into Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge 2010

By tsakshaug
Although I had signed up for a free, online course called Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge 2010 (PLENK 2010) facilitated by George Siemens, Stephen Downes,  and Dave Cormier, I hadn't had a chance to jump in until today.
On reading about various features of a Personal Learning Environment  (PLE) in an EDUCAUSE  brief, I found these two quotes particularly salient. A PLE ... puts students in charge of their own learning processes, challenging them to reflect on the tools and resources that help them learn best. This way of looking at learning changes the role of the teacher who then becomes a real facilitator instead of a provider of information to be learned.  As expressed in the article, ... [T]eaching is less a matter of data transmission and more a collaborative exercise in collection, orchestration, remixing, and integration of data into knowledge building. I have seen in the university courses that I teach, that graduate students can take charge of their own learning when given the opportunity.  I also assume (but haven't researched) that the idea of self-directed learning is the basis for Montessori schools.  What I am wondering is if this same process works in middle and high school.  Is it possible?  Is it being done?  Who's doing it?

In Learning networks in practice, Stephen Downes explains how the PLE allows the
learner not only to consume learning resources, but to produce them as well. Learning therefore evolves from being a transfer of content and knowledge to the production of content and knowledge. Now as far as producing is concerned, students have always produced things ranging from illustrating a story  in elementary school to writing a thesis in high school.  How does the use of a PLE change that?  The answer is in the formation of learning networks which become the basis for continuing the learning after producing something.  The feedback from others can lead to refinement of both products and ideas.

Learning, in other words, occurs in communities, where the practice of learning is the participation in
the community. A learning activity is, in essence, a conversation undertaken between the learner and other members of the community. This conversation, in the Web 2.0 era, consists not only of words but of images, video, multimedia and more.

According to Downes these communities should display four essential characteristics:
1.  Diversity - This means being exposed to a wide spectrum of experiences.  Diversity allows us to have multiple perspectives, to see things from a different point of view. These views moderate each other, and prevent us from jumping to a conclusion.
2.  Autonomy - This means that each learner operates according to an individual and internal set of
principles and values.
3.  Connectedness -The knowledge produced by a network should be the product of an interaction between the members, not a mere aggregation of the members’ perspectives.
4.  Openness - Each participant in a network must be able to contribute to the network, and each ...needs to be able to receive from the network.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mark all as Read!

By barockschloss

On her blog, Librarian by Day, Bobbi L. Newman gives some very practical advice regarding how to keep your Google Reader RSS  feeds manageable.  She gives some practical tips in her post Be the Master of Your Domain, How to Conquer Your Feed Reader .

One thing she suggests is exactly what I have been doing lately and that is - when my Google reader gets too full and I'm feeling guilty about not reading all the posts, I hit "Mark all as read."  What feeling of relief!

But Bobbi also offers some tips on weeding your Google Reader.  For example, she suggests:
1.  Ask yourself if you are getting the information somewhere else, like Twitter or Facebook.  Do you prefer that method? Unsubscribe.  
2.   Look at what you are reading. Under “All Stuff” is a “Trends” link. When you look at your own trends:

  • First weed anything under Inactive.
  • Then take a look at Frequently Updated.  Maybe if it (the blog)updates too frequently you should consider unsubscribing.  
Bobbi says she has unsubscribed from some really popular tech sites  because the authors just post too much information.  I've done the same, although it's always with a pang of remorse at losing a good connection.

Today I'm suffering from information overload again, so I'm going to follow Bobbi's advice.  I "pruned"  earlier this week, so I think it's time for "Mark all as read" until I can do some serious weeding!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Literacy in the 21st Century

I recently read Is Google Making Us Stupid? an article that appeared in the Atlantic magazine.  Despite the harsh-sounding title, it is a thought-provoking article  touching on issues which have yet to be sufficiently researched.  Soon after that I watched an IDEO video called The Future of the Book which shows the power of new tools that will change literacy as we now think of it.

Flickr photo by cindiann
For fun, be sure to watch the hilarious Youtube video clip Introducing the Book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Networking and Composting

From The Green Dollar

After spending a week with my sister who is actively engaged in composting, I started a compost pile of my own and started thinking about how a personal learning network and a compost pile had a lot in common.

Of course, the most obvious similarity is that they can both be messy and need to be turned over or revised from time to time.  But, in addition, think about these attributes of a compost pile and see if you can find the similarities to a PLN.

  • Good material goes into the mix.
  • The right balance of ingredients is crucial for a good result.
  • The ingredients get mixed together and interact with each other.
  • The mixture produces a compound that will nurture new growth.

New to networking or creating a personal learning network(PLNs) for yourself or your students?
Here's what Will Richardson has to say about student PLNs.

You can find more information on PLNs in my Delicious account.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Online Language Learning Resources

I am just beginning to learn Mandarin Chinese, so I found chapter 11 of Curtis J. Bonk's book  The World is Open, fascinating in that it referred to so many online sites for language learning.  In addition, my backgroundis in teaching second languages, so I was particularly interested to see what some of these sites offered.

I checked out beginning Mandarin at Live Mocha and was quite pleased with the presentation of material and exercises  which incorporate visuals as well as both oral and written language.   I haven't tried the interaction with a native speaker yet, but hope to do so when I have more of  basic vocabulary.  The ability to converse with a native speaker is an ideal situation for language learners.  However, the conversational exchanges that occur during these situations can vary tremendously.  The key to success would be finding a partner that fit your needs in terms of language proficiency, choice of topics, and patience on both ends of the dialog!

The Mixxer Language Exchange which utilizes Skype also looked appealing especially since it offers teachers the ability to create groups and exchanges can be either in written form or through Skype.

Friends Abroad is now owned by Babbel and offers courses that can be purchased, but does not offer Chinese. owned by the New York Times does offer free lessons in Mandarin Chinese.

Chinesepod is described quite well in chapter 11.   I like the fact that it has a mobile app. but wish the transcripts were free. 

As the summer progresses, I hope to check out each of these sites in more detail.  In the meantime, I am also using these online resources in my study of Mandarin:

Mango (Online Chinese course from Montgomery Co. Public Library)
On home page click Language Learning Tools, then Mango languages
Pinyin Chart with audio pronunciations of initials and finals
Chinese/English dictionary
List of free Chinese classes on iTunes
List of Chinese resources on the web
BBC Chinese lessons with videos and transcripts
List of links to videos for learning Chinese including Benny's "I Like Chinese"

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Future Belongs to Those Who ...

I just read The Future Belongs to Those Who...which has as its subtitle "a guide for thinking about the future."  This is the first suggested reading for the Open Course in Education Futures run by George Siemens and Dave Cormier.  Amazingly this course has over 500 participants who are all concerned about and involved in the future of education.

I found The Future Belongs to Those Who...quite enlightening.  It clarified for me why forward-looking researchers call their endeavors "futures studies".  The plural is used because "there is no one preordained future that is fated to occur.  Rather there are many different possible alternative futures."  In order to explore these various possibilities, futurists use various methods including trend monitoring and scenarios.  One of the trend monitoring techniques, scanning, for example,   involves "searching through a variety of information sources to identify trends and emerging developments."  This reminds me of what many of us do through daily scanning of rss feeds from edubloggers and by checking tweets from other educators. 

From the data that is gathered, futurists develop sets of various possible scenarios which could occur.  The purpose of these scenarios is "to encourage people to think about how to navigate successfully across the different circumstances that might be encountered." 

Having just read The World is Open by Curtis J. Bonk, which is about all the changes that are occurring right now in the field of education, I am eager to hear what scenarios the participants in this course come up with.  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Disrupting the University

Katie Hafner's recent NYTimes article An Open Mind, answered some concerns I had had about students learning through free, online courses such as those offered through the M.I.T. OpenCourseWare Initiative.  

One of my concerns was that students accessing these courses as independent learners would have no one to answer their questions or reply to their reflections. One solution to this concern is answered at the Peer 2 Peer UniversityPeer 2 Peer University, which is a tuition-free nonprofit experiment financed with seed money from the Hewlett and Shuttleworth foundations.  At P2PU a 'course organizer' leads the discussion but you are working with others so when you have a question you can ask any of your peers.  Ability to network with others taking the same course could be extremely helpful.  It sounds as if you could even create online study groups.

Another site which pulls together open courses from various universities and encourages students interaction is the University of the People.  According to Kafner's article, students not only interact, but  students even grade one another's papers!  My reaction - Why not?  In my own teaching experience I've found that given a good rubric to follow, students usually grade each other very effectively and sometimes even offer good, constructive feedback.

My other concern with open educational resources was accreditation.  Students may accrue a great deal of knowledge, but if they don't receive any official certification of this knowledge would it ultimately be useful to them for job-seeking purposes?  Both Peer 2 Peer University and the University of the People do not at the present time offer accreditation, but both seem to be in the process of seeking to offer it in the future.   It's a wonderful world!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Disrupting Class and the Future of Education

I am currently reading Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen., Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson. You can get a quick synopsis of the book by listening to this interview with one of the authors.  According to the authors, If we acknowledge that all children  [and adults] learn differently, then the way schooling is currently arranged-in a monolithic batch mode system where all students are taught the same things on the same day in the same way-won't ever allow us to educate children in customized ways. 

My interpretation of the view of education in the book is to have each student accrue knowledge  through his/her best learning style for that subject matter.  This means that teachers will piece together an array of modules containing different ways of learning the same material based on various learning styles.  These modules will have been created over time through online networks with teacher and user input.  When enough modules have been developed, then teachers can start piecing together enough ... modules to create entire course designed for each type of learner.  In this view teachers will serve as content architects and learning coaches supporting students in their choice and interpretation of online modules.

As I see it, some of this is currently being done.  For example, the number of online networks where teachers share their insights and expertise now exist and are growing exponentially.  Here are some examples:
And here is a snapshot of a present day classroom that may foreshadow classrooms of the future, This is Our Classroom .  There are also currently projects such as NYCDOE One to One project which incorporate some of  ideas of teaching students through their best learning styles.

The future of education  is the topic of an open course  beginning on April 19, 2010 and being facilitated by George Siemens   and Dave Cormier  through the University of Manitoba.  I'm sure many of the ideas presented in Disrupting Class will be discussed.  I'm really looking forward to the course!

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Love ISTE!

I have found the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to be a fantastic organization for expanding my personal learning network (PLN)on a grand scale.  I attended the annual conference which was held in Washington, D.C. in 2009 and came away very impressed and full of new ideas. The conference this year will be in Denver.
One of the most useful aspects of belonging to ISTE has been the Social Networking opportunities, particularly through the 20 special interest groups.  The variety of the "buffet" of SIGS offers something to delight everyone!
Recently I have been participating in the book discussion from one of the SIGS on Christopher Bonk's book The World is Open.  Knowing that I am going to share ideas with other professionals has motivated me to be more reflective in my reading.  I not only highlight, I also reread and select the ideas that most impressed me.  I hope that there will be more of this type of reading and reflecting in the future!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Read, Reflect, Share

Thanks to a Christmas gift card to from my family, I have been reading some exciting books lately about the changing world of education.  Two of the books, The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education and Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education & Training are being discussed in ISTE Ning forums at The World is Open and SIGML Book Study 2010.  I've found that discussion of books on line by people who are passionate about the subjects of these books is a very exhilarating experience.

In the mobile learning discussion I learned that efforts were being made to provide solar-powered mobile learning devices to people in rural Haiti and in Kenya.  I'm sure that there are more such efforts going on worldwide and I hope to learn more about them.

In Curtis J. Bonk's The World is Open, I have only finished the intro and chapter 1. The phrase the jumped out at me was participatory learning culture Bonk deftly illustrates this with the metaphor of the Borg from Star Trek the Second Generation. He writes, Once you arrive [online], you will discover that you are not simply using the Web of Learning; instead, like the Borg in the television show 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', you are now a part of it. Your actions-contributions, reactions, comments, and designs-have been assimilated into the corpus or being of the Web of Learning.

I think this is a concept that bears reflection. Actually, it wasn't until I had significantly expanded my own personal learning network that I began to feel what he was describing. We definitely become a part of our networks by the contributions we make and the input we receive. Both change us in many ways and online book discussions can be part of the process.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Video Games in the Foreign Language Classroom

As part of week 2 of the Electronic Village Online (EVO) session Online Games for EFL/ESL,  I just finished reading 10 Key Principles for Designing Video Games for Foreign Language Learning by Ravi Purushotma, Steven L. Thorne, and Julian Wheatley

These are the  ideas from the article that resonated most with me:

Principle #1- At least as much thought needs to go into the design of failure states as for success states.
The authors give two very good reasons for this.  The first is that  learner anxiety about making mistakes could impede successful language acquisition.  The second is that L2 learners need to make mistakes as they develop their interlanguage and the feedback they receive can be very helpful.

Principle #4 - Metalinguistic descriptions and terminology should be presented through optional supporting material, not as part of the core gameplay.
This principle like principle #1 deals with feedback a player needs to complete the task at hand.  The authors suggest using a three-tiered approach to presenting language concepts.  The top (or first) type of interaction with the game would be meaning-based.  If players are not successful after receiving that type of feedback, then the next level of feedback they receive would allow them to consider the language that they have been using in new ways (focus-on-form) but without complicated grammar explanations.  The third tier of the game for players still having difficulty would include extensive explanations  of grammar terms and language structure

I've left for last, perhaps, the most important principle.  
Principle #3 - All elements of the game, particularly communication and input mechanisms, should have a playful spirit to them.
The authors give examples of well-designed games in which players purposefully make mistakes because they find the humorous feedback fun.  They also give examples of players who are motivated to learn new languages so that they can participate in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).  Now that is motivation!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

George Siemens in Second Life

I just finished a session in Second Life run by Universidad de San Marin de Porres of Lima, Peru.  One of the ideas that George Siemens , the developer with Stephen Downes of the theory of connectivism,  touched on that really hit a chord for me was that competency today implies the ability to create and support networks.  One of the implications of this is that as teachers we need to give students the skills to do this and to let them immerse themselves in the networking process to get a feel for it.

We need to give students the ability to initiate conversations and become active participants in learning networks.  As teachers we all know that each learner has both a different starting point and a unique perspective on content or concepts that we would like them to learn.  Negotiating meaning with other networked learners can lead to both clarification and growth of ideas for all.  Learners can actually create new knowledge through conversations with others in their networks.

What implications does new technology have on us as teachers?  Siemens suggests that the ability of learners to network and create knowledge has created a power shift in teaching and learning.  Learners don't need teachers in the same way as before.  I view education today as going through a transition period as this power shift occurs.  Teachers need to learn to be promoters of networking and guides in directing students to good modes within networks.  Learners on the other hand have to realize that their learning will depend on their active participation in creating network and contributing to the conversations in those networks.

This is definitely an exciting time to be a teacher/learner!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Teaching in the 21st Century

Image from Andrew Churches' blog  Edorigami

Today when I decided to reread articles form my delicious account about web 2.0, I found Andrew Churches' excellent post 21st century Pedagogy which sums up what web 2.0 means for pedagogy in the 21st century.

How we teach must reflect how our students learn, it must also reflect the world they will emerge into. This is a world that is rapidly changing, connected, adapting and evolving.

Teachers of any and all subjects in  today's classrooms need to take advantage of the many internet tools that allow for 21st century learning or social learning.  Most teachers are familiar with cooperative learning and probably incorporate this type of activity into their lessons.  However, new technology allows students to cooperate and collaborate with others beyond the classroom walls.  Students can now participate in real world projects with global partners.  Such projects take careful planning on the part of teachers, but like any good learning activities, the rewards for the learners can be great and there are many sites such as ePals ,to name just one, that can facilitate such activities.

In a similar vein among the emerging trends that have special significance for educators, Steve Hargadon in Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education includes the following trends:
  • The world gets flatter and faster
  • Social learning moves to center stage
  • The age of the collaborator
Some teachers are fearful of the new technologies because of unfamiliarity and because the tools themselves  tend to mutate (usually for the better) so quickly.  However, if teachers keep in mind the aspects of 21st century teaching  outlined in Churches diagram, and choose just one collaborative tool to use to meet their teaching goals, they will have contributed a great deal to their students learning in this new era of teaching and learning.