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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Slán go fóill (Irish - Goodbye for now!)

Reading over my blog postings, I note that I chose to venture down the reflective path. I find this interesting considering that reflection would not be one of my strong points. Reading my postings and reflecting, once again, has shown me just how much I have absorbed and adjusted my mindset to becoming a more digitally minded teacher.

Initially, I could not see how the varying online services and technology could be introduced and used meaningfully in a classroom despite the fact that we are immersed in a digital age. I suppose we are still part of the generation that used the traditional tools of pens, paper, libraries to learn and we are carrying that with us through our teacher training and consoling ourselves with the notion "we did alright as a result". But how my outlook has changed.

As for the blog itself, I must admit that I have not exactly been "pro blog" over the last number of weeks because I often felt that I didn't have anything to say on the topic. However, once I began a posting each week I became consumed by it and sometimes it could take me three to four hours to post something. Now that I think about it, it was time well spent especially when I consider all that I have learned. For example - searching certain programs on the web, reading people's comments, reading articles and the advice of others teaching students all on the worldwide web. Even though not too adventurous, I did make a comic strip, became a little addicted to youtube, ventured into the world of digital storytelling (which I loved) and learned some other invaluable bits and pieces along the way like how to input a hyperlink and embed images/videos.

Although the blog has taught me a great deal, I think I am a wiki girl. Creating the resource for our second assignment has been rather an enjoyable experience and I am looking forward to being able to use it and integrate it within the classroom. After introducing some students to it last week and seeing their interest as well as hearing their questions about it, I have been at last convinced of the necessity to use these available tools to engage our students and help them learn.

This blog illustrates the learning journey I have undertaken since March and I am proud of it. Thanks Mark, who knew you could convert me!

Monday, 30 May 2011

You want to put a chip in my brain? What the ....?

My thoughts on Virtual Worlds

Upon hearing and seeing some of the current developments happening in the world wide web, my facial expression reflected the statement "Oh, my God!" for the entire 90 minutes of class. Listening to how the web is transforming to become more intelligent over the coming decade was like watching a futuristic movie. I found it very difficult to wrap my primitive little mind around it. To think that some large web based corporations see a future where they could possibly place a chip into people's brains to tap into exactly what the person wants just about finished me off. It felt like we were ready and willing to hand over our minds to the digital devices. But I have to say some of the things seen astounded me like virtual worlds.

This class was also my first introduction into virtual worlds and although I found it difficult to grasp some of what is possible, I loved the capabilities of it. To think that we could bring students to a replica of the Louvre Museum or the Sistine Chapel, how fantastic to be able to do that within the classroom, for students who may never get there otherwise. Found this video on how second life could be used in education and learned a little more about how it could work in the class.

Augmented Reality

I do not own an iphone or android phone (yet!) so I find it very interesting looking at the nature of applications that are available and the information they provide. One particular application I thought would have great advantages for the purpose of school excursions is the augmented reality browser provided by junaio which provides you with information on all that surrounds you.

A couple of Concerns

My concern with an application like what junanio offers lies with privacy. I would not like to think that someone could look through the camera on their phone be able to find out information about me which is where this seems to be heading. It is as if there are no barriers anymore.

Also with regard to a point made during the class, that websites such as these require high speed internet. At present, schools have difficulties with their basic internet connections, so realistically are we going to be able to use these virtual worlds in our classes?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Should be called "Brain overload"!

I have to admit that prior to commencing this course, if anyone had asked me about dealing with information overload I would probably have given some offhand remark like "time management" or "organisation" is all that is required. The thing is I am an organised person or perhaps "control freak" as as my sister calls it and I have to say that organisation and time management just doesn't cut it. Interesting to note really when we are considered mature and one would think that we should be experienced enough in life to "filter" what it is we need to focus on !

It seems to be the simple things that cause the greatest grief. Only recently, have I become aware that when I commence an assignment, rather than focusing on one element of the topic, my mind wanders and I could start researching four/five/six other aspects to it at the same time. The end result  being 10 tabs opened within Internet Explorer as well as numerous pdfs, word documents etc. and a befuddled mind. I have tried to stop that from happening, yet as I type this blog, I have 7 tabs open as well as a word doc and a document folder, but I admit it is a work in progress.

Not only do we have to deal with information available online, we also have to think about not just the information online, but the information transmitted by television, radio, marketing campaigns. All of this, in my opinion, affects adults much more so than children for the simple reason that adults are afraid that if they miss a piece of information or news it could cost them. Cost them what, I am not so sure!

From what I have seen, a lot of children are lucky in that they often have this ability to switch off and ignore what they don't want to hear or see, therefore they are not subjected to the same form of information overload as adults. I think that their definition of information overload would be different. By this I mean they may define it as lesson or teacher overload. Teachers can communicate information to students over the course of a lesson and the concept may be too difficult or may be too much and in that sense the student considers themselves overloaded. This we can control by modelling appropriate delivery of information and the format through which it is delivered.

If students begin to fall into the traps that we have fallen into in terms of feeling that they need to know everything that crosses their path, once again this is where we can have a role in terms of providing focus.

By the way, I watched the Clay Shirky video on youtube titled "It's not information overload, it's filter failure" and actually watched the full 23min clip. An interesting listen if anyone is interested. Click below if you are.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Where do we stand on digital safety?

From the outset of this course, digital safety has probably been the area with which I have greatest concern. Hence the reason that it is with great trepidation I endeavour to take any classroom of students on the internet to complete a course of work. It seems that my concerns are not foundationless either! When I saw the results of what children of a certain age "search" on the internet, it is rather alarming. However, it also highlighted the need for me, both as a parent and a teacher to be aware of what our children are looking for and more importantly why they are looking for it. Therefore for me, I think digital safety means dialogue with the children in a positive and reassuring way! Amongst all of this though, it was pleasing to note that the prevalence of sexual predators accessing children via the internet was not as high as I had believed. Twice as interesting to note was the fact that most teenagers that encounter a sexual predator have actually sought them out rather than the other way around. A very enlightening session of information transmission.

In terms of schools dealing with such dangers and exposure, I guess there are two trains of thought i.e. blockage of all sites except those authorised by the schools and secondly, full exposure with explicit teaching of the dangers that are out there. To my surprise, I found myself erring on the side of "full exposure". At the end of the day, our role as teachers is to educate students on what to expect from the real world and what the real world expects from them, so should we not teach and show them how to deal with these potential dangers? If so, we can only do this by educating them as to what to do when they come across potentially harmful material therefore they need to be exposed to the internet as it is not as it is represented by the school. When the student goes home to look something up on the computer they are exposed to the internet in all it's glory and, if we are doing our jobs correctly as teachers then the students should not be surprised by what they see and if they are they should be aware of what they need to do as the next step.

I was reading a particular blog on this topic and particularly liked the following point made:
"Combat the Myth of Anonymity
Teach your kids that behind every avatar or username there is a human being with feelings. We are never anonymous. Everything we do should have our name attached to it. Help your kids recognize the power of their digital footprint and give them opportunities to build and enhance their own."
Hope you like my first little comic strip created to illustrate how to start the discussion. Easy on the comments, people, I am rather proud of it!!!! Will try to make it more viewable when I eventually figure out what is up with it!


Monday, 9 May 2011

Let's look for ......

Had I been asked, prior to our previous ICT session about search engines, I probably would have been heard to say “there is only one and that is google!”.  I think that the Learning with New Technologies class is now beginning to illustrate to me that one can really become very boxed in with regard to what facilities they use while online. The class has highlighted the importance of going beyond what one would use every day to see if there is anything out there that would work better or be more suitable for example using tag galaxy to search for images of a particular interest rather than just googling as I would have done before. I think it is good to consider information literacy here too. There is more to information literacy than students being aware of online information that is valid and trustworthy, we also need to have them be aware that there may be a better or more appropriate online resource that can assist them in their specific search. Often advertising, what your parents do can influence the way you use something so it is important to stay on the pulse of what is out there to be utilised.
It is also interesting to note that search engines can store the information searched by a person with the intention of bringing forth the most suited information for you. When reading a review of J. Battelle’s book on Google, I thought the following was a good synopsis of what a search engine should do for someone “searching reveals a culture of who we are and how we think and feel”.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

To be social or not to be social? That is the question!

This week has been both enlightening and rather frightening (must be in rapper mode this week!). Firstly the web programs out there really provided me with some food for thought in terms of how I could use it to benefit the students and make their school work more accessible for their parents. The social sharing programs and the interactive websites were the most engaging.

There is a saying that springs to mind when I think of social sharing "why have a dog and bark yourself".

These services provide unending resources for teachers to use in their classrooms to stimulate thought and discussion and all at the click of a button. Therefore the time saved on creating the resource for the lesson allows the teacher additional time to develop a more stimulating lesson. In addition, students are provided the opportunity to see whether the quality of what is out there from text, image, audio, video is valuable or not. This can then be extended to allow for guidance of the students to create their own product which they may share within a suitable forum. It is great to know that the students could write their own script to a story or poem and play around with audio/visuals to create their own online play. Once again here, I hop on my privacy horse and would reiterate the importance of the student sharing being done on restricted or private channels.

However, I am aware that feedback from a wider audience is important in certain instances. This is where the teaching opportunities on internet usage and safety must come into play. Following a Cybersmart information session with ACMA last week which I attended, our responsibility in helping students understand safe internet usage has only become more apparent. Thankfully, ACMA have a large amount of resources to help us with this. I particularly enjoyed this animation. ACMA also have a good series of cartoons called Hectors Cartoons

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Online Chitter Chatter

In terms of print literacy within a digital era, I think it is a matter of adapting the way we would have tackled this area 10-15 years ago versus the way kids interpret print literacy now. Just look at the number of books that are now sold with CDs/DVDs telling and illustrating the story. The position of print literacy within the classroom has not changed, what has changed is how we use it and ask the students to relate to it. We still have to teach the principles of it in terms of text structure, grammar, skills, etc., but now we need to adapt the way we were taught to the way students now interact print literacy. When I read that in 2004, Google stated that "it would digitally scan the books of five major research libraries to make their contents searchable" , we need to come to terms with the fact that this is the way of the future. To be honest, I believe it is the way of now, considering I do most of my article searches from the comfort of my own desk in my own house.

However, I believe books will exist in classrooms for another few years so students will be fortunate enough to hold and savour a book as we did when we were younger.

I found it very interesting to hear that research now indicates that text speak benefits literacy, particular when one considers the "poor" spelling element that seems to permeate the phenomenon. However, the point with regard to a person needing to know how to spell the word in order to play around with it sufficiently so that is understood makes logical sense. In essence the literate classroom is benefitting from the practice of sending texts, therefore why disparage it? It is also one of the main modes of communication for all ages so we need to incorporate it and ensure that students are fully aware of it's position in their lives i.e. whether it is appropriate speak for the classroom. We also need to ensure that we understand the abbreviated versions even for the purpose of duty of care.

Hypertext literacy wasn't even something I was aware of until our lecture today. Now however, I can see the importance of how we look at pages that contain a number of hyperlinks and the credibility of same. It is a little concerning how ignorant we can be of a large element of these online services/features especially when we have a lot of responsibility in informing the students how to use them responsibly while gaining the most advantage.