Wednesday, 13 July 2011

E-Books

I've been having a change of heart about e-books.  Much as I love the real thing, I have really been enjoying reading through ibooks. I don't like reading on-line on my main computer, maybe it's something to do with the set up, but curling up on the sofa with my ipad has been lovely. I like being able to change the font and the font size, I like the little bookmark feature and that it tells me how many pages are left in the current chapter. I really like the fact that the next part of a series I've been reading is available to download now rather than waiting until August for it to come into the bookshops (and it's cheaper to buy online). I love the back lit feature, so even if the room isn't brightly lit, I can still read clearly. Best of all, I'm going on a trip this weekend, and I'm taking 5 books with me that aren't going to weigh down my hand luggage.

I'm not giving up my beautiful hard copy books, but I definitely have room in my life for some very convenient and practical e-books.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Final thoughts......maybe not...

I've been putting off writing this post. I'm not saying I've taken to blogging like a duck to water (some weeks I've felt like I was drowning), but I have enjoyed the whole experience and I'm sorry that my structured blogging experience has to stop.

What have I loved?
1. Playing with all the toys:- widgets, gadgets, newfeeds, tags, books, vokis, digital storytelling, wordclouds, embedding. You name it, if I managed to control it  - I've loved it.  It probably means I'm a control freak deep down (maybe not so deep down), but I can live with that.
2. Getting to know my classmates better. In a class, it's not possible to interact with everybody and we do tend to mix mainly with the same few people. Blogging has enabled me to read other peoples thoughts, views and ideas and to interact with them through comments.
3. Along the same vein, learning from my classmates. Thinking how long it took me to research the topic each week - to write and post my own blog, to then go to 5 (or more) other blogs and read something new, or a different perspective was a brilliant use of my time - it really showed me the value of collaborative learning.  Some people are pretty quiet in class - I wish they weren't, they know so much and have really great ideas. Blogging has taught me to have great respect for my classmates.
4. Learning about how to use the technology to improve my teaching (I also think I learnt more about social constructivism and how to apply it on this course than I did in the whole of last year). Not just the toys, but normalising the technology so the pedagogy would take precedence.
5. Reflecting on my own thoughts and learning style, especially when I've then looked at another blog and found something I've thought was a brilliant way of looking at something.

Here's the downside, these are the things I didn't enjoy so much:
1. I have felt quite self-conscious, blogging did not come easily and I've found it hard to find my 'voice', I've therefore used my blog to explore and reflect on the themes of the course and to familiarise myself with the technical side of things.
2. It's really time-consuming.

I feel I have changed my views on blogging. I was quite apprehensive about it to start with and not sure what I would gain but I really feel that I have learnt so much through blogging. As a tool for reflecting on content and a medium for gaining technical skills, I have found it very successful. I will definitely try this with my students. I have already introduced a kidblog to my science students and although they have needed a lot of support, they have engaged well with it and it has been useful for recapping and providing a record of what they have learnt.

It's difficult to think what I would do differently if I were starting to blog now, as I have a whole new perspective and set of skills and I am happy with the journey that brought me here. Maybe, be not so apprehensive next time...

So, I think I might try to continue with my blogging, reflecting and playing with new technologies, even if it's just for my own benefit - but I will miss those classmates who decide not to continue.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Living in the Past....?

I loved this weeks lecture, I was so challenged, so many new horizons and opportunities were opened up.  My favourite genre of writing/reading is scifi and this week I felt like I had stepped straight into one of these books - my version of an augmented reality.  However, it did also make me feel like I was living in the past - that I didn't know what many of these new technologies were, never mind how many of them are with us right now!

There seem to be two schools of thought as to where all this technology is leading us:
1. Slow down, we don't know what we're doing!
2. Bring it on!

Where am I?
Somewhere in the middle I think. I believe that change and 'progress' is inevitable but it is a double edged sword and there are danger and privacy issues to be considered and addressed. I think that ignoring these technologies would put me and my students at a disadvantage. It is already happening and being informed helps me use the technology and to be aware of the dangers. I need to make sure I have a balanced view and don't get carried away with all the positive possibilities without considering the negatives.

Three of the digital technologies particularly intrigued me:

Augmented Reality
I can see some really great applications for teaching and learning with this technology, particularly in science and society and environment. The overlay of old photos on modern scenes was a very motivating and engaging application.  This video shows how Bing Maps are using augmented reality. This would be a brilliant way to bring S&E (for example) to life.




Cloud Computing
Many of us are already using some form of cloud computing (all your Facebook stuff isn't actually stored on your computer). This article from 'How Stuff Works' explained it really clearly and also explained many of the concerns associated with cloud computing. I think this concept could be a boon for schools in terms of making technology more accessible for students, costs could possibly be less, hardware would be less bulky and more mobile, software glitches and problems would become the responsibility of the server and greater processing/data storage power may be more available.

Virtual Worlds
This was also a very exciting concept. I joined Second Life to see what it was all about (my original choice of avatar was limited to bimbos or a man, which was a bit off putting), it was easy to join and download but I need to do some more exploring. For schools though, this is a great tool for collaborating with a wide community, interacting with ideas and information that may not be easily available in their own locality. I can see it having increasing relevance for remote and distance learners particularly.

I need a lot more processing time to take all these concepts in and think about using them in the classroom, but I feel that they hold some exciting possibilities. Real-life  has looked a little old-fasioned and mundane since Tuesday, maybe I need an ipad to augment my reality.......

Monday, 23 May 2011

Wordle

Wordle is a great digital tool and brilliant for visual learners. Really easy to use, but I suspect it might be more useful for older students.


Wordle: G&T
(This one relates to my capstone presentation)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Information Overload

Unfortunately, this is a concept that seems horribly familiar. Sometimes, it's a case of I have so much to do I don't know where to start. Other times, it's a case of doing only a bit of everything and none of it well. I looked up the concept on Wikipedia - really interesting, especially the idea that information overload is not new, just the terminology:

"As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." –Denis Diderot, "Encyclop├ędie" (1755).

Clay Shirky describes modern information overload as 'filter failure'.  His view is information overload is not new, it's been a fact of life for centuries: get over it.

What has changed, is that technology is delivering the information in a way and in volumes that we haven't quite worked out how to filter effectively just yet. Also, that technology has developed in a way that is changing social norms. Now, the introduction of a widespread technological innovation almost always changes social norms but this time the rate of change has been very fast and is visible because we haven't adapted quite as quickly as the technology has developed and spread.

This is quite a long video but Clay Shirky also makes some very pertinent points about privacy regarding social networking and collaboration using the internet/Facebook, themes that we have been discussing in recent weeks.




So, where do teachers and 'information overload' come together (and I'm just talking about technological information overload)?

I think our role is three-fold:
1. To teach students about the technological tools available to them to help them filter their information (folksonomies, RSS feeds, Network filtering).

ImageChef Word Mosaic - ImageChef.com

(This is a word mosaic I made using ImageChef - ironically, this potential teacher couldn't seem to import her tagcloud from Delicious).

2. Extending critical literacy. Helping students develop metacognitive strategies to be clear about what they are looking for and to extend their concentration span.

I also note that the school we visited this week also makes use of software to stop students being distracted by non-essential websites (it's called Self Control  and I know it is available for Macs, not sure about MS). The students switch on 'Self Control' when they have work to do, set a time limit and the sites to block and just get on with it. Apparently, it's very popular and helps with focusing.

3. The point that Clay Shirky makes about how social networking has changed social interface and notions of privacy also affects us as teachers. We've touched on it in terms of cybersafety etc but I think that Mr Shirky has made me see that it's a much bigger picture. Social norms are changing/colliding with the advent of social networking and students may need help developing strategies to deal with it - how to filter their own information - at source (you don't have to post every little though that pops into your head) and using the filters available to them on the social networking sites.

In terms of managing my own information overload (not just technological); this year I've cut down on the number of my other commitments and try to make conscious decisions about what to prioritise. However, it does come down to what's engaging, and I probably spend far too much time on this unit and the other ones suffer..... If anyone has any other handy tips, please feel free to share.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Wikis promote collaborative thinking

Just a little note. I had an interesting example of how wikis promote collaboration today.  I was showing a group of students how they could contribute to a wiki and asked for a sample sentence in their own words to insert. A sample was offered by a student. There then followed a great debate amongst the rest of the students about how to word the sentence for publication. It only took a few minutes and the sentence went through several evolutions but the class came to a friendly consensus. The sentence was grammatically correct and although the message was the same, the amended version was more sophisticated than the original. Now, I know this took place in class, but it was the wiki that inspired the debate and the fact that the sentence was going to be online. It was really interesting to listen to the discussion, follow how the sentence evolved, why the students thought some combinations of words sounded better than others and how some of the students learnt from each other.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

On Line safety

I 've had a few goes at voki's and movie making (I've been having so much fun).  I still need quite a lot more practice and the voices are sometimes an issue but I can really see how engaging they could be for students. They also require quite a different skill set in presentation ideas. Here's a little one I made earlier today. It's brief and does not address all the issues to do with online dangers for young people, but I'm still learning!