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.