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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Resolution and Finale

So the course has come to an end and my blog is seemingly complete. But is it really complete? In my limited experience of blogging over the last ten or so weeks I've found that creating and maintaining a blog can be an organic experience at times, but can also be frustrating and difficult to engage with. This is likely demonstrated in my posts over the weeks, where sometimes I have engaged with the technologies raised in the lecture and other times I have not been fully accepting of their uses in the classroom. My blog is one shaped on experience: I didn't want to post about anything I hadn't first tried myself and I feel this brings a genuine quality to a lot of what I've written. Every post based on technology I have tried to relate back to the fundamental basis of pedagogy and how to implement the technology into the classroom; the key here being integration, not exploitation. I tried to draw on some broader sources as I made my postings; however as I went along I found it more useful for myself to consider how I would use the technologies and in what context(s), as I found this would give me a better grounding if I try to use any of these new technologies later in my career.

The social aspect of my blog that I started with soon fell to the wayside as I found that my classmates were all using their blogs only for this course and I didn't want to move too far off-topic. Still, some postings relating to my life outside of university remain and I hope to keep using the blog for social purposes, adding in people from wider circles to have a look. It was definitely difficult knowing that my classmates would also be reading the blog and were free to make comments. This altogether helped to "smarten" my writing up and make sure I was posting something of relevance and/or interest.

Overall, I've found the blog a useful experience as a means of gathering my thoughts and exploring technologies I would have otherwise never heard of. My blog became a focal point for sharing these experiences of new technologies and for also really engaging with some of my classmates on issues I was truly concerned about. This offered a forum for these discussions that otherwise might never have come up in ordinary conversation. So for that I'm grateful and the blog shall remain as a monument to my thinking, knowledge, understandings and reactions to teaching and learning with new technologies.

Some points of resolution: Simon and I remain friends, despite our message-board meltdown; my trombone troubles still exist and I'm not sure what the cause is, but the short-term plan is rest and relaxation; Love Never Dies comes to Australia next year and I really like the soundtrack; Tinker the Voki character was retired after one posting here and one posting on the ESI blog; the ESI blog remains operational, have a look; Voki remains my favourite tool picked up in this course; I'm really happy I finally learnt how to hyperlink; I'm still waiting on that cease-and-desist letter from Facebook.

And because I want my blog to have a grand finale, here is the grand finale from a great film score: Independence Day by David Arnold.



The End.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brave New World

I believe the startling rapidity of technological advancement we are likely to see over the next decade is not necessarily a bad thing. I would hope that technology expansion throughout the modern world would make having such technologies less expensive and more available to the masses, with those who cannot afford computer technology still being able to connect with more versatile access points. I imagine all students will be able to engage with new technologies as time goes on, either with laptops or mobile devices, but this won't necessarily improve learning outcomes. I imagine that after a prolonged push to increase technology use in classrooms, government policy will scale back ICT's in schools and highlight the need for good teachers and good pedagogy. Books will still exist, but there will be more oportunities for creativity and critiquing for readers - interactive texts ("choose your own adventure"). Interactive desktops will allow students to do everything electronically (but with traditional writing still in place), with finished work automatically sorted and work for assessment sent directly to the teacher, streamlining assessment and feedback practices.

More worrying will be the continuing loss of identity with people spending so much time online, inventing, reshaping and retooling their personas that they can't really tell who they originally were anymore. Second Life will have melded with Facebook to create a one-stop avatar empire that offers everything for humans except organic nourishment. Where does science become fiction and vice versa?

It's a brave new world we are entering, but are we ready? Are teachers, students, schools, parents, politicians, universities, businesses, employees, employers ready for it? In the immortal words of Hans Solo: "I've got a bad feeling about this." Now's the time to begin preparing people for the technological horizon that's approaching, because soon being an active citizen will mean being conversant and capable with all of these technologies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creativity with Foksonomies (sidebar: Techno-Overload)

Some of the creative applications of folksonomies, as shown in yesterday's lecture really appeal to me as a further method for integrating learning areas. I think many students (and teachers) when they think of creativity don't immediately also think of technology. Granted there are visual art projects happening in schools, including photography production and editing, movie making, poster making. Using folksonomy providers such as Tagxedo and Word Mosaic can bridge the gap between literacy and visual art. Folksonomies also put an interesting spin on brainstorming or mind-mapping, with the added bonus of having web-content behind each key word/phrase.

In saying this I'm looking at the aesthetic applications of folksonomies, but there are also the broader need for simplifying or organising information found. The functions of Delicious, whereby you can post a description of your tag has fantastic benefits for working on annotation and note-taking skills and critical literacy skills. Likewise, using Instapaper to then go in and assess what has been written for each tag and give students constructive feedback. Instapaper could also be a good way for developing critical literacy skills and even have students review each other's online work (e.g. students use Instapaper to peer-review other people's blog postings or tag definitions). There are almost endless possibilities.

And that brings me to my next point and something I have been thinking of during the course. We've been talking about information-overload, but what about technology-overload - I feel overwhelmed by the number of tools I've been shown and their applications for classroom use. It's not that I don't want to use these tools in the classroom, it's just that I have one idea and then I find another tool that does something similiar, but takes it in a more interesting direction, then there's another tool that is more like the best of both worlds before I find yet another tool and another and another. I feel like the Ark of the Covenant has now been opened and whilst what's inside is wonderful and mesmerising, it's causing my mind to have a meltdown. I was never all that technically skilled with computer technology, so this is a major learning curb for me and I'm having to prevent myself from running away with these nifty integrated lesson ideas for fear of getting carried away with the technology.

So this again comes down to using the technology as a tool, but also knowing the limitations of my own knowledge and skills, the students' knowledge and skills, the schools resources, the context in which I'm teaching and being able to integrate the technology with a teaching style I'm comfortable with. I imagine getting this balancing act right will come with time and experience as I fiddle around with these new technologies in different contexts.

And finally, my own try at a Tagxedo cloud for my integrated unit:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And so it's come to this...

As I begin to think about my e-Learning assignment and scramble to find learned writings on my chosen topic, I stumbled upon this video that I wish I'd posted sooner:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is Social Networking a Necessity for Primary Students?

After all the scary talk about social networking websites and student safety today, I've been wondering how vital it is for primary-aged students to be using any of these sites. I guess I'm just struggling to find things to do that could involve using social networking websites, except perhaps using a networking group page as a class hub. This appeals to me, however I think better ideas would be to use a Wiki, a blog or a walled garden to meet these purposes (my personal preference would be a wiki). A school network would be an interesting idea, where students, staff and parents could all interact in a single hub; however then there are age restrictions to overcome for the main providers of these kinds of services. Something I've just come across is Schools United, which seems like a social networking site designed to link schools across the globe, a kind of penpal system, although it looks like it hasn't been updated since 2008 suggesting it has fallen to the almighty Facebook Empire.

I remember using Neopets when I was in primary school and it was a fun, interesting experience but it didn't have all that much educational value, nor did it add much to me socially. By bringing social networking sites into the school, I fear that they'll be used as a "oh, you've finished your work, OK you can go onto such-and-such website", which undermines the idea of normalising technology in schools. I agree that there is some value in social networking sites in actual (or metaphysical?) social interaction and networking (especially in the teenage years, when some confrontations might be better behind a monitor), but I believe at primary level face-to-face interactions are far more important if we are looking at the bigger picture of moulding socially capable, intelligent and responsible human beings - we can't downplay reality, for all its ugliness.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trombone Conundrum

I was at orchestra rehearsal last night and during a particularly rousing brass part in Vaughn-Williams English Folk Songs Suite my playing cut out and I suddenly realised I was unable to play the notes. This was at once bizarre and terrifying. I took the trombone outside and tried to blast a few notes, but it wasn't working - nothing was working. I've been playing for around eleven years now and played with three trombones and four mouthpieces, but I have never encountered this problem. I felt so helpless, like a runner who suddenly loses eyesight. I've Googled the issue and there are problems associated with brass playing, ranging from a broken embouchure (the position of the mouth to play the instrument) - the severest and career-ending malady, problems with the lips (swollen or chapped), nerve damage in the mouth, muscle damage in facial muscles, facial fatigue - a lot of scary sounding things! I have to play in a concert on Sunday, so I'm having a rest and hoping (and praying) the problem resolves itself. My reason for posting this is just to relay a bizarre event - something I've never thought about, I've always just picked up the 'bone and blown, all-of-a-sudden has fallen apart! I'll keep you posted...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Some Interesting Articles on Critical Literacy

These two articles offer up different methods for approaching critical literacy.

The first article, by Jackie Marsh, emphasises the need for popular culture that students are interested in to be brought into the classroom. Marsh uses the now outdated Pokemon phenomenon as an example, but there have been times when I've used examples from recent kids' movies and TV shows for a particular reason. I agree with Marsh's view that we should use popular culture within our lessons as a way of engaging students with the material; however in terms of critical literacy I wonder if students would be reluctant to criticise something that is important to them.

The second article, by Julie Martello discusses using drama as a critical literacy tool in early childhood. This outlines a definition of critical literacy and then demonstrates how drama may be the best avenue for developing these vital skills for younger students. I also like this idea as drama is always well-received by young students and yes, I agree it could be a simpler way of approaching critical literacy.

Whilst neither article is specifically related to ICT, our discussions surrounding critical literacy suggest that students will benefit more if they are released onto the web with critical literacy skills in place. I would suggest that an integrated approach is required, using a variety of online and offline texts to teach critical literacy skills, with those skills being on a continuum that continues to develop and adapt to new situations.

iMusings: For Your Amusement

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