Thursday, December 24, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Collaboration is hard. We throw this word around all the time as important and we speak of the need for it and yet it is extremely hard to attain. Sometimes we confuse it with cooperation. Cooperation means working together to achieve the same goal or end. Cooperation tends to lead to compromise depending on the situation. You work out what you can live with in order to achieve your goal.
Collaboration is a bit more complex. It requires true dialogue. We could define dialogue as exchanges or conversations between 2 people. In the original Greek context, it was an intellectual debate and exchange that developed discussion and led to rational, intellectual conclusions. The conclusion was not set at the beginning of the dialogue but the conclusion was reached through a journey of logic and rational arguments.
As we apply dialogue to the verb collaborate, it is not compromising a position. It is a sharing of ideas to create a position together. The process is a key ingredient to the outcome.
Within collaboration, an element of sacrifice is present. It is not about giving up an idea. It is about giving up some control. It means extending trust and faith to the person you are working with. It means it is okay to not have all the answers and to walk in with ideas that need to be molded. This is difficult. And it is much of what Web 2.0 is about. Web 2.0 allows, facilitates, and promotes collaboration, and content is seen in process. The transparency can be messy and unpredictable. Additionally, the content is frequently added to the conversation. My observation is that it is rarely taken away. For example, many Google docs become messy with time because people don't want to delete others' ideas. It is meant well and signifies respect for others' ideas. However, deleting some content is necessary to get to the final conclusion. This is where trust plays into engaging collaboration and the value placed on others.
Collaboration takes effort. It is not easy but as we practice and strive for it, it can become more a part of how we operate and our everyday interactions.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Shane Hipps, in his book Flickering Pixels, talks about anonymous intimacy in regard to electronic communication. He says,
This anonymous intimacy has a strange effect. It provides just enough connection to keep us from pursuing real intimacy. In a virtual community, our contacts involve very little real risk and demand even less of us personally. Vulnerability is optional. A community that promises freedom from rejection and makes authentic emotional investment optional can be extremely appealing, remarkably efficient, and a lot more convenient (p. 113-114).
Hipps points out that social networking and electronic communication can be attractive for many reasons. However, authentic investment on a social and emotional scale is needed for genuine relationships. We need to embrace the technological opportunities in front of us but we cannot get into the trap of having it as our only means of communication. In many instances, email and chatting might be very effective. However, in others, it lacks the richness that embodies the totality of human communication and therefore impacts the messages sent and received.
Hipps goes on to say...
Given the limitations of email, the chances of miscommunication are near certain...Using email to mediate conflict is like baking a cake without a mixing bowl or an oven. The very ingredients that make reconciliation possible are absent. Reconciliation comes in the context of clear communication, meaningful listening, shared understandings, civility, openness, and a lot of patience. The medium of email inevitably removes these delicate ingredients...Electronic text as a medium stunts our best efforts to resolve conflict (p. 118-119).
Whether it is conflict or just daily communication, I think Hipps articulates an important value of not getting sucked into a shallow world. As in so many areas of our life, balance is not just desired, but desperately needed. Embrace electronic communication and tools in certain areas but be intentional to retain, promote, and sustain the vibrancy of authentic intimacy in our communication and relationships. Don't settle for something that ultimately leave you empty.
Monday, October 26, 2009
“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.
Truly wowed, I asked, “So when does it launch?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I still have some changes to make.”
A little suspicious, I asked, “How long have you had it at this level?”
“Months,” she admitted.
“What?!” I exclaimed. “This is way better than what you have now,” I blurted out. “Just launch it!”
Unfortunately, many people get stuck in this kind of no-man’s land. They want it perfect before they share it with the world. The problem is that they are missing scores of opportunities by waiting. Instead, they should get used to the concept of “permanent beta.”
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Read it. Seriously. I think he is right.
Clutter is often a result of my unwillingness to act now. Sometimes waiting and reflecting is a good thing. But more often than not, it postpones action which adds stress to our lives and mounts up into bigger projects than a simple effort to finish tasks.
Whether it is email, dirty clothes, or the kids toys, I'm trying to keep the clutter at bay. Put in the extra 15 seconds or 2 minutes to get the job done.
Leo's mnmlist blog references the fact we fill our lives with a lot of unnecessary things. We buy lots of stuff we don't need and sometimes never use. How much time and energy have we invested into "things" that are not important. So much of this comes back to priorities. I'm no zen guru and don't desire to be, but there is something to be said for simplifying life. Leo says,
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I took the one less traveled by,
As I embarked on another school year this fall, I reflected on the past and considered how I wanted to go forward. And I wanted to travel a different road. I think my reflections were based on 2 realizations: 1) We fill our time no matter how much or how little we have; 2) We want to and have the opportunity to do more things than time allows. These 2 concepts are coupled together and I have known them, but I have not changed my actions to adjust -- until now.
Priorities are critical. When we have more than we can do, what do we choose to do? If we just let life happen, odds are good we'll work on trivial things but are we working on what is most important? Sure, I get stuff done, but is it the right stuff?
I've made a decision--I am not going to just let life happen. I'm going to do what I can to prioritize. Please note: I did not say control. That's God's job. But I can prioritize what does come my way. Prioritizing starts with knowing what we are doing and what we need to do. And it means some stuff may not get done today. And it may mean some stuff never gets done because it should not be a priority.
So, how am I doing this? First, I am working with a task list. My previous task list was my post-it note on my desk or my email inbox. If life was good, I had 25-30 messages in my inbox in each of my 2 work inboxes so a total of 50-60 messages. When life got hectic, I would double that. That is a pretty poor way to manage tasks yet I have a strong suspicion that I'm not the only one that does this. Anyone need to confess?
Getting organized is just one step I have taken. I use Things to accomplish this. It allows me to schedule tasks and even drag shortcuts of files into my to do list. Whether you use Things or something else, get organized and prioritize.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Wes Fryer stated our need as educators this way:
Another comment from Fryer in another session on podcasting:
I thought these were both solid comments for further reflection. What do you think?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I hope to post some updates from the conference in the coming days. If you want to know more about this conference, check out the website.
Monday, September 14, 2009
It takes us beyond our 4 walls of our classroom or the colleagues down the hall. It gives us access across the world to share excellent resources for the good of students. If you are interested in more info, you might check out this article on Edutopia.
When I tried to go to the Google Lit Trips page, it said it was down due to too much traffic. Perhaps I am not the only one that sees this as a good idea...
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Already in the short time we have been open, we have had opportunities for growth. During the 2nd week of school, we had to close the school due to concerns about the spread of the H1N1 flu virus. This instantly transformed our teachers into distant educators. Students worked daily on assignments given to them by their teachers.
Overall, I must say that I was proud of our staff to dive into a new and unexpected scenario with a positive and learning spirit. They tried new things with technology and stretched themselves. I was also glad that we had the infrastructure in place through our use of Edline, Moodle, and Google Apps among other resources to handle the school closure needs. It was not perfect but we grew as a school through the challenges.
Learning. That is what the 21st century environment is about. May it continue over this year and may we more successfully prepare our students for the 21st century as a result.
Monday, June 22, 2009
In some ways, no it doesn't. Many web services provide great tools free or at a minimal cost to users. And users on any platform can access and utilize them through their web browser. However, I still don't see the end to the local machine. People like to work on their laptops or desktops without being connected. As we are more connected in more places, this may change. But I think it will take awhile...quite awhile. The performance of editing photos or multimedia on the local machine versus the web is a good example currently. However, even simple tasks like typing word processing documents can meet a turned up nose. You can do many things via the web...but the performance often lags behind that of the local machine. The value of running programs locally remains important to many users.
Some people are just plain uncomfortable with the constant need for a connection. They can generate documents on Google Documents but the truth is that they strongly prefer to use MS Word. Perhaps they are stuck in a rut. Perhaps they do not have a ubiquitous connection to the internet. Perhaps some of it is the influence of their computer culture that surrounds them. I am sure there are many reasons for it but it seems to be my observed reality.
With that said, although many tasks can be completed independent of the operating system, the OS will continue to be important in the foreseeable future for both us and our students. Despite the many applications available on the web, our schools have decided to utilize the tools available to us on the Apple OS. It's not best for everybody but we believe it is best for our schools and the learning environment we are trying to create. We know Apple is not well known in Korea but we desire to implement it because of the advantages it brings to our students. My posts on our transition to Apple is not all-encompassing but it does at least give insight to some of the perspectives within our decision-making and transition process. I do hope you have found the information useful, and informative at a minimum.
It is summer time and my posts to this blog will take a vacation, hopefully like myself. I will resume more regular posts about technology and education topics in the fall. May you have a restful summer!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I have heard some question why bother to learn Apple if students have to learn Windows anyways. First, I personally believe students adapt much easier to adults to multiple platforms. Their learning curve is shorter and easier than ingrained adults. If a switch is necessary at a later time, the skills and abilities they have learned are not lost and will be transferred to new learning platforms. In that regard, it isn't a waste. Their exposure to multiple platforms diversifies their experience and widens their perspective.
However, I do not believe a switch is necessary for our students matriculating to universities. Most major universities support both Windows and Apple platforms. They have computer labs of both and their university networks are designed to integrate with both. To say that a student must change over to a Windows PC when they go to college is just untrue.
When surveyed in the fall of 2008, approximately 50% of students that intended to purchase a laptop within the next year planned to purchase an Apple. 1 out of 3 students (or actually higher in some cases) at schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Duke have Apples.
As I have recently traveled in airports, I see more and more business people with Apple laptops. To say that a switch over to Windows is inevitable is not accurate nor does it ring true with the data from universities. Regardless, the skills learned should prepare students to use technology as a tool that benefits their learning on any platform.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I have heard people say that Apple is the luxury machine that is too expensive. This is true in the sense that they do not offer a budget model that appeals to a cheaper market like many other manufacturers such as Dell, HP, or Compaq. But this is a bit bogus because it is not comparing apples to apples...(pardon the pun).
I have also heard individuals say that they can get a Windows-based PC spec for spec cheaper than an Apple. Again, I would tend to agree. If you get the exact same processor speed, RAM, memory, etc., Apple will not be the cheapest.
So it appears that Apple is 0 for 2 and perhaps they are too expensive. However, before I draw that conclusion, we need to take the operating system (OS) into account. To run Windows Vista, Microsoft said you could do it with 512 MB of RAM. They later revised that to something more like 1 GB. If you do some internet reading on the subject, you will find that you can "get by" with 2 GB of RAM but any serious user will probably want 4 GB for the Vista experience. For the record, Windows XP is fine and runs well off of 2 GB. Regardless, to perform adequately with graphics and multimedia, more speed and higher specs are needed. Overall, the whole computer market is seeking to "lighten up" their operating systems with Windows 7 and Apple's Snow Leopard. Whether or not this will really happen remains to be seen and this is good for everyone no matter what computer you have.
As a whole, the Mac OS is a lighter OS than Windows. It does not require the system resources in terms of RAM or memory. As a result, the specs on a Windows machine needs to be higher than that of an Apple for the same performance. This definitely varies by use. Multimedia is a good benchmark because it requires heavy resources and the Apple can handle more on less. As a result, the spec for spec comparison doesn't work out because I can't buy the same machine and run either system on it. Well, with the Apple, I can run both Windows & the Mac OS with Boot Camp or Parallels, but then I need to consider the specs needed to run both.
As a school here in Korea, the real question is what does a good student machine that runs for 3-4 years reliably cost? I am uncomfortable posting our prices in this public forum and will keep those within our community. However, I have found over the last 6 months that Dell, our previous supplier cannot compete with a comparable model at the same price. Context makes a big difference and this may not be true around the world. But in Korea, we are actually saving money, anywhere from $100-200 per computer by using Apples compared to our Dell prices. This is a comparison of the selected base models we recommend to students for either manufacturer. Prices definitely fluctuate, especially with the rapid changes in exchange rates in recent months. Overall, I would predict our student machines with Apple are cheaper right now but will probably break about even in the long run. Our goal is to offer a good student laptop for $1000-1200 USD equivalent and make it a good machine that will last a student 3-4 years. My interaction with other 1:1 laptop schools show this to be common practice and cost to students and parents.
Overall, I'm not saying Dell prices are unreasonable, but it does show that by choosing Apple, we aren't necessarily investing in the "Cadillac" of laptops. Don't get me wrong, I like Cadillacs...but I don't think this myth is an accurate representation of reality for us in our context.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
This is a broad generalization. Let's unpack this and see what is compatible and what isn't.
On the Mac OS, Mac Office 2008 runs just like it does on Windows. MS Word, Excel, & Powerpoint files can all be opened on either machine. I have noticed that once in awhile, an animation in a Powerpoint will get dropped between platforms. However, when this happened, I was also going between versions (I think I was going from Office 2007 to Mac Office 2004). Overall, the MS Office suite is compatible across platforms. MS Publisher does not open on any other application but Publisher. That is a Windows only application.
iWork is suite of applications for use on the Mac. iWork can import in any of the MS Office formats (except Publisher). They can export documents back out in office formats but certain advanced formatting like masking does not export correctly. The main reason for this is that some of the more advanced features just work in a very different fashion than MS Office. When exporting, these features that are not embedded into MS Office don't export correctly. Overall, I have not found this a problem as I bring documents in, rarely exporting out to Office. When I need to share an Apple created doc, I do so via PDF rather than the iWork suite. However, iWork has a beta version of online sharing which allows any user on any platform to access a document from the Web and give comments (but not actually change it).
Most image files come in JPG formats. However, PNG, TIFF, and GIF files are also used in various places. These all work across platforms and applications.
Movie files frequently come in MP4 format or MOV (Quicktime). Both formats work across platforms without difficulty. If one uses Windows Movie Maker, they may create an WMV file (Windows Media file). In the past, this has been a problem to play on the Mac. I have installed Flip4Mac (free plugin to download) which allows me to play WMV files. Although I don't use it frequently, I have not had any issues for close to 9 months of use. Have others had issues with this after getting any outstanding updates?
Adobe PDF files are designed to be easily maneuverable across platforms and computers. I have not used some of the Adobe CS4 suite to check compatibility. However, my Google search says that they are able to move between Windows and the Mac OS. Have any of the readers have any problem cross platforms?
Overall, more compatibility issues used to exist. Now, with the use of the Intel processor in the Macs, compatibility is not nearly the problem it was. Additionally, more and more web applications operate regardless of platform. This makes it advantageous for not only Mac and Windows platforms, but also the addition of mobile devices to access Web. 2.0 tools.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Professional development for teachers has several different avenues to impact teachers in the classroom. Some involve attending conferences with other educators. Other options include having educators that specialize in effective technology integration visit our campus and work with teachers. I have attended Apple Professional Development (APD) training sessions and the facilitators are quality educators that can demonstrate classroom uses. Actually, these trainers are required to also be in the classroom at least part of the time with their full-time job assignments. By utilizing Apple training opportunities, we are able to screen out professional development opportunities and participate in high quality, strategic sessions that move our school forward. These training events do more than just focus on Apple applications. Training includes the use of many Web 2.0 tools that can be used with either platform.
In addition to specific professional development, we are connected with other Apple schools that are implementing similar 1:1 laptop programs. The connections to other schools is a powerful way to network with similar schools and build from each other. We are already connected through associations with Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS). Although Apple is not a specific association, the network and facilitation of Apple to share ideas between schools acts in similar ways. As a result of our exploration of Apple, we have already begun to build partnerships in other areas like IB with 2 others schools running similar programs.
Friday, May 29, 2009
For those that have used it, Keynote is frequently said to be more powerful than PowerPoint. Their functionality is very similar in many ways. PowerPoint can insert media (photos, movies, sounds, etc.), but it isn't always smooth or easy. PowerPoint is designed and heavily used for text-based presentations.
Keynote is much more media-based. It allows for the fluid inclusion of media in many different forms, signifying the major difference from PowerPoint. Keynote smoothly incorporates many types of media in a polished look. It also has some very nice, professional-looking templates. And the difference plays out in important ways when we start talking about engaging students during lessons. It enables teachers to access the many digital resources available to them in our modern digital environment. And again, as previously mentioned, more time can be spent on content than troubleshooting or trying to polish the actual technology.
For example, teachers may want to show a clip from a video on the internet. They can bring that video into iMovie and edit it to the spot where they wish it to start and end. Then they can insert it directly into their presentation. Students do not lose time while the teacher cues the video/DVD but it is readily available, smoothly integrated into the presentation.
Keynote also allows the easy conversion of presentations into podcasts. This can be very useful for absent students or just allowing students to review their notes at home. Below is a presentation of our new campus as depicted by our architects. I already had the slide but in less than 2 minutes I converted it to a short movie to show the different aspects of the campus. (Note: I did not include audio but I easily could have.)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Not all projects are best as multimedia projects. The goal of student work is a key ingredient here. Teachers want students to attain certain skills and standards in their work. Students need ways to display their understanding. In many cases, multimedia gives a much more rich, deep demonstration of understanding than other options. When applied in this context, multimedia helps students demonstrate their understanding more clearly to their teachers. So, overall, multimedia has changed expectations and changed the types of assessments students encounter in their academics.
The Apple platform is the professional grade standard for multimedia. KBS, one of the main Korean television stations, is not alone in the world of broadcasting to use Apple for their editing and multimedia needs. Whether it is editing photographs, creating feature length movie animations, or editing live television shows, it is common to see Apple computers in graphic environments.
The average student or teacher does not use these advanced applications. However, the iLife suite is useful for the more common multimedia functions. iPhoto organizes photos easily and can create slideshows and convert them into movies in minutes. iMovie allows even beginning users to edit movies in ways that look like quality products. GarageBand can be used to create podcasts or record music and audio. All 3 of these applications work together and integrate easily with one another. As these tools make quality products easier and quicker, more time can be spent on the content and the depth of understanding.
We do not want to just do multimedia because it is "cool." We want to use multimedia because it engages students in powerful ways and allows them to demonstrate an understanding of the curriculum in a clear and effective manner. Apple supports this multimedia environment more effectively than the Windows platform. (Again, I am not saying it cannot be done on a Windows machine, it is just easier and works better on the Mac.) In addition to be designed for multimedia, designers and creators of such programs like the iLife suite specifically consider how educators can use the software in its design. Education has long been another niche besides graphics of Apple and their partnership with schools all over the world continue to demonstrate their commitment in this area.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Some people argue you can do such and such with a PC or you can only do this with a Mac. I'm more of the mind that if you know what you are doing and have the right software, either one can really work for you. However, in evaluating the needs of our students and our teachers, we felt Apple was the way to go. As I have transitioned myself over the last 9 months, I see ways that I can be more productive, efficient and include more multimedia effectively in my work through the Mac OS, enhancing my ability to engage my audience and allowing more of my creativity to shine through. It is not that I can't do it on the Windows machine, it is just that it is much easier on the Mac and therefore I do things that I would not even try on Windows.
I mention multimedia and Apple is well known for their professional grade multimedia capabilities. Multimedia companies and education are two of the key places where Apple shines. And as we evaluate what we want students to do in school, more and more multimedia is required. In the same way, as we look at what engages students in teacher's lessons, multimedia can play a significant role. In my personal experience, I have included multimedia in presentations on the Mac that I would not have even considered on a Windows' machine.
Overall, the decision to move to the Apple platform is multi-faceted. I've only scratched the surface here. In the last couple weeks of school year, I will attempt to articulate some of the rationale behind our decision. I believe this rationale is the same reason why many schools continue to look to Apple to support their efforts to integrate technology throughout their school environment, particularly in their growing Asian market. Please stay tuned for more in this series and feel free to ask questions along the way...
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I have read several commentaries recently on Twitter and observed as others have used it. For me, the jury is still out. I know Twitter is hugely popular and was valued at around 250 million USD in January 2009. The amazing part of this financial evaluation is that Twitter doesn't have any income. It is a free Web 2.0 service.
However, that digresses from the issue at hand. With Twitter, the user has 140 characters to share their thoughts and current actions. It is really much like the status message on Facebook or your chat program. For example, I could post to Twitter: "I am now writing a Be Literate blog entry."
I see Twitter like many other technologies--it is a tool. It can be used productively or result in a significant waste of time and act as a distraction. Some productive ideas that I have heard on how to use Twitter include the following:
1) Take minutes for a meeting--it time stamps everything and keeps statements to 140 characters. It allows multiple people to contribute to the minutes.
2) It is a way to take questions quickly during a live lecture session or Q & A time. I have also seen it used to comment on a big screen about what is being talked about--I'm not a fan of this.
3) I know of one service department that uses Twitter to communicate with each other versus email. It lets others in their department know where they are on campus and quickly communicates to multiple people.
4) In conjunction with #3, it could be used to network a group of people at a conference event, particularly if they are hosting it. The advantage of this over a audio network of walkie-talkies or cell phones is that everyone can see the same message at once and won't get busy signals.
If it isn't purposeful, I wonder if anyone cares that I am writing a blog entry at this moment. Does it matter? Is what I am posting about me or socially productive in engaging others? I am skeptical at some of the non-intentional uses and casual participants. I think it can, like Facebook, be a huge distractor time. For the record, I am not opposed to Facebook but I am amazed at the amount of time people spend on it.
In conclusion, we live in a culture of availability. We carry mobile phones because someone may want to reach us. We are constantly connected to social networks because we don't want to miss anything. Somebody may want me that I am not currently with. And as I reflect on my own practices, I recognize the need to make sure this culture of availability doesn't make me miss the present...the here and now. I embrace this culture in which we live but I see the need to discipline and balance my availability in light of it.
For some further reading, you may want to check out the following links related to Twitter:
Scientists Warn of Twitter Dangers (CNN)
"Just Say No" to Twitter (I take no responsibility for any offense you occur in viewing this link)
The Culture of Availability (The Thinking Stick blog post by Jeff Utecht)
- The previously listed blog posts links to Renny Gleeson: Busted! The sneaky moves of anti-social smartphone users (TED talks). (Again, I take no responsibility for anything in this video that may offend you.)
Monday, April 27, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
The initial cost is free but as with many services like this, the level of service changes with levels of payment.
For more info, check out this link as well.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I teach, therefore you learn... or do you? from José Picardo on Vimeo.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
At first thought, it seems easy to say these skills are mutually exclusive. Are we not emphasizing one over another? However, I don't think that this is the case. Visuals should not reduce auditory listening. Visuals should be a "hook" for the learner/audience to make the concept being talked about more vivid and easier to recall. Hopefully, the visual brings out some relevant relationship for an unusual way to think about the idea or reinforce the verbal description. If an audience can remember an image, it is much more likely they will remember a concept.
For example, in some presentations, I have recently used this visual:
Back to my focus, if we post less text and more images/media, then more listening is required, not less. Note the stark contrast to straight powerpoint presentations...typically heavy on text. Text-heavy powerpoints can undermine presentations as much as enhance. People become extremely dependent on the words on the screen--they listen less and read more. Why not hand out a sheet with the text and just let them read it if that is the goal? Some would rationalize this because students listen and write it down themselves as a kinesthetic way of learning. Although true, it seems to me that they spend more time making sure they "write" down the right things than understanding the concepts/content.
We need to find ways to use more images and multimedia to engage students and make the content memorable in place of text powerpoints. If we can do this effectively, it seems to me the images require more listening to make the connections and derive the content. However, I don't want to seem naive and say this is easy. It isn't. This is something I am working on in some of my PD work with teachers. It takes time and it is a skill which develops with use, practice, and effort. Effective teaching is not easy.
Let's note an exception...there is a value in helping ESL students by having more text visible. That doesn't necessarily mean less images, but more text may be interspersed. For ESL students, much of their learning extends to language learning and having a language rich environment. Their learning is more than just getting the content. However, images are invaluable to them as they use it for context and depend on it for understanding, perhaps even more than those without language limitations. For ESL students, they may not understand the oral language...again, they need to practice and do it, but in smaller chunks. For them, it is not the listening skill that is so weak as comprehending what is being said. Again, balance is needed.
Listening as a mental discipline. Effective visuals can be a way to engage and "appeal" to students to perform the discipline of listening in some non-painful, enjoyable ways. At the same time, a discipline takes effort and sometimes there is no way around it.
What do you think?
Monday, February 23, 2009
I have used YouSendIt.com in the past. It is easy to use. You just have to go to their website and sign up. Files can be sent via the web or with their desktop client you can run on your computer. Anything under 100 MB is free. You can send up to 2 GB with a paid plan. The nice thing about YouSendIt is that you can pay by use. You don't have purchase a full subscription if you just want to use it once or twice.
A colleague recommended Drop.io to me. I just used this twice this week. It is a free service again for files under 100 MB. I think you can pay for more premium services like password access and larger files. Your link is private and won't be caught by search engines. An additional feature is that others with whom you share your drop space can also add files. It becomes a common location of shared storage that can also store comments and you can even email attachments and information. It is reminiscent of a private wiki in many ways. It will also integrate with your Twitter account.
Dropbox a wonderful service that I have been using for a few months now. It allows up to 2 GB of space, and like other services, I think you can pay for more. An additional benefit is that any files you upload and then erase can be retrieved from the trash. You can use it entirely web-based but the real benefit comes in downloading the client on your computer (both Mac and PC work great). It can create a "dropbox" folder in your documents and anything added to your account will automatically sync across computers. I use this to share files between my home computer and school computer regularly. Although convenient for syncing files which can then be run locally on my computer, I find the real power in being able to share folders with others. By sharing a folder, any item placed in that folder is automatically synced to my colleagues' computer. It is a good way to collaborate on projects where multiple files are being used and updated.
These are 3 tools that I have found helpful in sharing files. Perhaps they'll help you as well.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
How does it work?
When you sign up, you identify categories and interests that you have as well as contacts. Based on that information, the service takes you to random websites that other users have identified as good and applicable to your interests. It's pretty easy and straightforward. And yes, I have run across several sites that were quite good but I may never have found otherwise.
What are the benefits?
This is a great way to share bookmarks as it is easy to send links to specific friends in your contacts. I have used this as part of my PLN (personal learning network) to trade links on several occasions. It is also a great way to stumble across some good sites that could otherwise be lost in the exobytes of data on the web.
I see this is a tool for professional growth but can also lead you to some good classroom resources and tools. In addition to finding some resources, it can turn some leisure surfing into productive and applicable professional or personal learning. Who knows...maybe someone will Stumble across the Be Literate blog.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Perhaps one of the attractive free resources that they highlight is free audio books. This is a great boon to ESL students or 1:1 laptops schools. Students can access a number of books via their iPod or computer. They also have some free digital books on their site which are available via creative commons (which I discussed in the previous post).
Sunday, February 8, 2009
One of the most telling examples of the changes technology has brought can be seen in the idea of citizen reporting. Cell phone videos, random pictures submitted to news sites, and twitter feeds have given instant information on a number of recent incidents. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai and recent emergency landing on the Hudson River by an airplane serve as vivid examples. CNN has sought to embrace this and they have edited their website to make it easier for individuals to submit newsworthy items. Anyone can become a reporter or a photographer. Everyone potentially has an audience and access. Technology has enabled someone that may have never had a voice in the past to be able to reach millions via the internet.
With many publications, you see items regarding copyright, like all rights reserved. With Creative Commons, it allows a creator to share their work with only some rights reserved. Typically, attribution and credit should be given. However, it lets others use it. Whether it be music, writings, photos, etc., it is contributed to the "commons" for the world.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization. It states the following on its website:
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that works to increase the amount of content (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons" — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, re-purposing, and remixing. Creative Commons does this by providing free, easy-to-use legal and technical tools that give everyone a simple, standardized way to pre-clear copyrights to their creative work. CC licenses let people easily change their copyright terms from the default, restrictive "all rights reserved" to a more flexible "some rights reserved."Whether you are looking for some different background music or a photo to spice up a presentation, check out Creative Commons. I use Firefox and in that browser there is a convenient search for CC in the toolbar. Just click on the default G (for Google on top right of your browser) and a drop down will appear and select CC. By using a general CC search, everything is included but many sites like Flicker will allow the advanced search features in a service to filter out only CC images.
People do some really creative things. Check out what is available on creative commons...
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I'm fairly new to social bookmarking. I don't particularly like to share all my bookmarks. And I don't always bookmark everything that is of interest to me. However, I have found some value to this concept. I have been able to leverage it to find new information on particular topics. Within my PLN of professional educational technology educators, I have run across many new sites that I see as valuable and helpful to my professional growth. It has become a way for me to expand my community and find new sites that expose me to new things.
Social bookmarking really steps into the beginning stages of the semantic web, or Web 3.0. It is "smart" and helps you find places that are of interest and value to you. Some social bookmarking applications learn and tailor themselves to your preferences on what you like and don't like. The concept is really not foreign. Do you use iTunes? The genius feature of iTunes recommends music to you according to what music you have in your library and the particular song. It is tailored to you. Social bookmarking is really just making the same types of recommendations, just in a different sense. iTunes is not the first to use this idea...Amazon has been doing it for years.
Social bookmarking works largely off of tags. Users "tag" keywords to sites so they can be searched or are associated as relevant to certain topics. Tagging is a common term and commonly used on many photo sites. It has many uses and makes accessing relevant information easier. Tagging is great when people work together. Instead of waiting for me to tag 1,000s of sites, I can leverage others to help me tag good sites and be able to search and categorize them effectively based on the wisdom the collective group. Tagging is often associated with images because the only way to search the content is through tags. However, it is also helpful in something like this blog to reference ideas. (This concept also links to Wesch's video of The Machine is Us/ing Us.)
Examples of social bookmarking sites might include del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Digg, Diigo, and Ma.gnolia.org just to name a few. I even noticed that Foxmarks, my Firefox add-on, is becoming a social bookmarking application. Wikipedia has a fair list of the many bookmarking tools available.
Friday, January 23, 2009
To answer that, I can say for sure it will come to pass...everything does. When we get to the 22nd century, 21st century skills will not be the moniker anymore.
To look at the article in more depth, I'll summarize Matthews' ideas by saying he calls it a trendy buzzword that has the pendulum swinging too far. He sees some value in the ideas but argues they aren't necessarily new nor does delivery or the implementation meet the expectations and rhetoric about it. However, people can't seem to get enough of it. He ends the article by saying:
Great educators tell me that teaching and learning are more about relationships than content, more about asking questions every day of everyone in class than depending on students to soak it up on their own. In our poorest neighborhoods, we still have some of our weakest teachers, either too inexperienced to handle methods like modeling instruction or too cynical to consider 21st-century skills anything more than another doomed fad. There might be a way to turn them around, but if there isn't, instead of engaged and inspired students, we will have just one more big waste of time.Although I think his article could use more focus and substance for that matter, he hits on an important point of teacher quality. No matter what we are teaching, if we do it ineffectively then it will not be a positive venture. Teachers are the most important factor in improving student learning. The research on this is clear. Schools have to get the right people on the bus and professionally grow these educators.
If you are a teacher reading this, are you the right type of person for 21st century learning? Let me rephrase...are you willing to learn new strategics and techniques to engage students? to model authentic learning? to engage students on their terms rather than your own? To explore new tools available to you? Are you willing to put students at the center of their learning? Are you willing to release control as the expert imparting knowledge and live with a "messy" learning process?
Another point that Matthews touches on is authentic learning. What are students learning? Is it really valuable and driven by the appropriate outcomes? It is not about having students jump through hoops or "do school." We need students to engage in their learning, critically engaging and problem-solving real world challenges.
Lastly, although I may not invite Matthews to my writing class due to stylistic preferences nor may I agree with some ideas that he wrote, the concept of balance is necessary. Our learning environment does need to be transformed into a 21st century learning environment. However, that does not mean all that we have done in the past needs to be thrown out. We need wisdom and discernment to mesh the new and the old together to create something new in its own synthesis of ideas. It is not about what is new or what is old, it is about what is best.
Getting quality teachers to engage students in authentic learning that is relevant to the context of the 21st century era is critical...and it is not a fad. From my reflections on this article, you can see 3 principles that I believe lay the foundations for success, transcending any trendy idea.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Do you think your students could take some complex ideas from any subject area and make them simple enough for anyone to understand? Aside from demonstrating understanding by their explanation in their own words, it requires effective communication skills...