Thursday, 2 June 2011

the last post.....?

I have delayed doing this final post, and one of the reasons was I felt was going ok with this unit, actually very well given my age and original stance towards technology; I was enjoying playing with the tools, my mind was ticking over how they could be used in the classroom, it was beginning to click for me, and then we were hit with web 3.0. Then all those concerns about technology, and us as humans, came flooding back.

For me there is always that concern that technology is stealing a little from our humanity - touch  keys on ipads cannot replace the touch, finesse skill of actual piano playing, a screen can never adequately depict the depth and texture of art, pressing a button on a hand-held control is not simulating sport; all these digital representations of the real thing steals something from us. And yet I haven't always felt we are able to express this concern, that we are expect just to shrug and go this it is the price we have to pay for all these cool gadgets. For me this is a huge price, and there is great sadness in this price. Seeing virtual worlds, computer screen on contact lenses, and peoples digital data displayed with any device held up to them, I feel this concern and sadness return.  And this is really why I have put this off, because I didn't really want to finish on this note, with this hesitation and sadness.

However I got around this eventually, by applying what I have gained from this unit, and that is I am not a technology lover, what I am is a teacher.  And my big attitude adjustment over these months has been that technology in the classroom is not about the technology - it is about the learning. The lessons are the same - the tools are different. As a teacher my first thought is still WHAT am I going to teach these students, then I look around at all the tools I have access to and think, what tool helps me reach these students, helps me get this learning to them. Its not, I know how to do a wiki, a virtual world, how can I fit this into the classroom. This was my big breakthrough, understanding it doesn't matter how brilliant (or in my case not) at technology, it is how you use the technology to enhance the learning of the students. Once I saw that,a lot of pressure fell away from me. I am never going to be a star at keeping up with all the latest technology, at the cutting edge of all things digital, but I am always looking to teach, and looking for a way to help students love learning. I can use technology to my advantage, not feel I am used and chewed up by it. If your web 3.0 can add to the learning of students, then I will adapt. Not because I think the technology is progress, and better than the real world, but because it can help me reach and teach students.

My three technology tips,
Balance -As exciting as all these new tools are, I think technology in the classroom has to be used with balance. If every single lesson involves technology, laptops, ipads then it may become as boring as everything else. It has to be about balance and variety.  Everybody gets sick of something you do all the time.  I think sometimes with all things new, you can get carried away with it.
Learning - It always has to be used with the teaching and lessons in mind. If your technology is not promoting learning - then are you doing your job as a teacher - what are the students learning always has to be the first concern.
Time - a great deal of e-learning can be time consuming to set up, if something takes 3 hours to set up and is used for 15 minutes by the kids, I don't think that is a good use of teacher time. Set something up that can be used again and again. Weigh time in, versus, time used and learning.

I have enjoyed writing this blog, and if I don't continue it is not that I haven't enjoyed it, it is more that I don't think I am of enough note yet to have anything productive to say. I have always chosen the reflective path, always thinking of ways to adapt technology for classroom tasks, as that is my interest area. I always tried to keep things tight, and concise as I have have found it time consuming just reading some posts, so I always tried to make my thoughts direct and specific. And my links and embeds were always with that thought in mind of applications to the classroom, as opposed to technology definitions and theory. I am a practical person first, and that's the direction I took with my blog, my voice.

When I look at all the fantastic and really lengthy time consuming things some of my colleagues have done, I think maybe I haven't done enough - but I think of what I have achieved during this unit, and I know it is big (for me). My shift in attitude is my greatest advancement. I don't have to like every application, or device, and I don't - but I see that it doesn't steal from education, it adds to it. It is a way to reach students, to engage them and teach them the lessons they need. In a way it is like getting kids to eat their vegetable (hiding them); for the classroom you dress up the lessons you need students to learn, wrapped up with ribbons of technology. For me this is the biggest revelation - same lessons, different stage. And you don't have to be a genius technology buff - I am a teacher, now a teacher with a few new tricks.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Smart Smart Boards

The smart board is an excellent addition to the classroom. I really enjoyed the session we had the other day on all its uses. To see all the possibilities and hours of play that can be had, was exciting. On prac we had a smart board but it was really only used as a dvd player, and maybe an overhead projector, on the occasions a website was viewed. So to see how lessons can be planned, saved, returned to, was great. The advantage of having a copy of previous attempts of students work, or your lessons is enormous. I just think as a tool to refresh, reflect, and keep track of learning it is a great leap forward.
With all these clever tools, I think it has to be used with clear intentions of the learning goals. I wonder too if it used for every single lesson if it does become less exciting and stimulating for the students and it is then viewed with the same excitement as a maths worksheet - so again balance I think is the key. Mixing things up, keeps the students involved.
My one piece of advice with the smartboard would be to always have a BACKUP plan. My first assessed lesson on prac I thought I would plan the ultimate lesson, with group work, collaborative learning, prediction, and of course technology (smartboard), just to show the assessor I had a handle of everything (or at least to create that illusion). But of course minutes before the beginning of class the smartboard has a hissy fit, is down for the count - and I am about to be judged on my skills. My mentor is so sweet, scrambling around in the background trying to get it functioning in time, knowing this is going towards my mark. I begin the lesson. The boys don't seem to notice the drama going on the background, they are focused on their integrated maths lesson. I've got half an eye on them, half an eye on the board to see it its working yet. By now the tech support (nice service if the school has it) is in the background with new cords and connections and 10 minutes before end of class I get the nod that we are a go, just in time for me to integrate technology into my assessed lesson. But just as they are all seated on the mat, eyes on the board, ready to apply the concepts of probability in a smartboard game, it flicks off again. But before I can reach for my backup plan, its back - and we get to wrap up with a fun game on the smartboard, with lots of class participation and applied learning.
At the end the assessor said I must have been panicking with the tech dramas, as she couldn't help but notice all the background commotion, and truth was I wasn't (which surprised even me, as it was my first assessed lesson) - purely because I knew I had a back up activity, that did the same application of learning, but was tech free. So,  having that back up plan, really does remove a great deal of stress from the classroom. Especially when you build a lesson around technology, I recommend always have that back up plan.
Some useful maths tools for smart board,
(create for creating a graph instantly with your own data - get kids to put in data collected and will produce instant graph of your choice)
great Australian resource for games(maths and literacy), you register (30 seconds), search and use all free games by year group, topic - every age group loves it. Used to be smartkiddies website, now new site with tag clouds and everything (keeping up with the technology)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wordle of blog

I  love wordle. The one at top of site is of all the text in my blog. A nice way to sum up what I have actually contributed (questionable) through this experience.
A little activity for the classroom - Can you make a sentence with the largest words from the wordle?
my attempt,
( wordle says this is the gist of my blog, visually you can draw that meaning from the display, then I think it has done a good job of graphically displaying what I have been trying to express.)

 I like the visual aspect of this tool, anything that gives an extra dimension to text, and therefore literacy, I think can only benefit students. Particularly those that are drawn to the visual as opposed to the written medium - wordle merges both and is a nice way of improving students multi-literacy skills.
Word sift, while not as impressive visually, does give the extra tool of an online thesaurus, so students can try and improve their vocab with words they have overused. Again same skills and lessons being taught just displayed in a more engaging, and layered way. We are just taking the lessons to where the kids are, and want to be.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Does technology simulate experience???

So, we have just visited the future - a very well funded school with a fantastic technology facility, and as impressive as it is, you can't help but feel if this is the future - is the future going to be fair????
Two issues for me - money and balance.
A laptop for every child,  ipads for pre-primary and year 1's,  no gadget over 2 years old, is this going to be the future ACROSS the board? Can't help but think this set up is not going to be replicated in country areas (where now they are still unable to access broadband!!!) and less advantaged metro suburbs. And for that matter any government schools - is the government really going to put in the money to provide such facilities? This is a fantastic facility for those who can afford to pay for it, and because of this doesn't it mean that the future will become a more exaggerated display of those who have, and those who have not! And will those who live in country, remote, or less affluent areas, have an education that is lacking?

The other issue for me is is this technology adding to and deepening the child's education or is it used for the sake of saying - 'we are using technology' - does it add to the learning experience of the child??? Yes it is engaging, yes it does motivate the students so that is good, but if it is used for the sake of using it (tokenistic) is it infact robbinbg the child of the experience of the task. Does hitting a screen on a ipad really simulate the atmosphere, tone, depth and experience of real music -the vibration, the depth of sound, the feeling that fills and builds in a room and gives you goosebumps???
Is technology being used in a BALANCED way or is it to replace everything, just for the sake of it. As a teacher are you bringing/using this technology in to the class to extend, deepen, and add to the students' learning.

My example of this (and my rant) is Wii Nintendo being used as a replacement for Phys Ed lessons - it is happening, and has been incorporated into the NSW curriculum.

And here is my issue, is using this technology really better than the actual activity. I am sorry - but NO. You may work up a sweat, increase the heart rate, but it does not provide the motor skills, the hand-eye coordination, the cooperation of teamwork and the fresh air - it is fun, but will this improve the child's skills (learning)? I have taught tennis for 15 years, the old fashioned way, on a actual court, with actual balls and actual people and there is nothing worse for your tennis technique than Wii tennis. I made a lot of money that summer fixing kids tennis technique damaged by Wii tennis. The skills cultured by this specific technology are not a true representation of the real thing, and not transferable. When this is used in a learning environment does it, can it, really replace the experience???
Is this really a phys ed lesson?? What learning is happening???

And so while I think a great deal of this technology is great, I think the question is how is it being used, - is it in the best interest of the child ( isn't that the whole idea of learning). Is using technology for the sake of it perhaps robbing the child of the experience? I would say use technology, but with BALANCE. Where technology can aid and deepen the learning, use it , embrace it, but avoid enthusiastically embedding technology just because you can, and depriving the child of the learning from actual experience.

An editorial that I entirely agree with,
but will stop now.

Remember what a book felt like?

 Here's one for all those lovers of the traditional yet beautiful experience of holding a book, turning the pages, feeling that world you hold in your hands and mind. This episode of the ABC's tuesday book club (aired on 17 may 2011) may sink you . It is 25 min long, but it is a topic you are interested in, it is well worth a view.

It is a debate between three very different views on the changing world of books and ebooks. Here's a summary for those time poor souls.
Some interesting points included,
- we actually read in a different way, digitally and traditionally. Digitally we skim, and so do not have as much of the sense of escapism and imagination provided by traditionally method.
- arguement is that our brains are adapting to the new digital environment, and our attention is in a constant state of division (reading on line, updating, accepting multiple streams of info at once) but while multitasking is good, the lack of depth of our thinking is the cost. And it is the depth of thinking that has brought us much beauty and discovery in the world ( think art, great literature, science).
- not only will the books disappear, but writers (quality writers) will.  If ebooks, that are so cheap, replace the book, there is no money, no living for writers, literature, the arts, - yes everyone has the opportunity to publish their own work - this is more 'publishing', but is it better product.  Is this what we want to read?
- collaborative books/authors is the future where everyone gets to contribute, update and change any publication - is this going to bring quality literature (I think not)!
- the future of book shops is discussed of course, but it goes beyond just that and the debate is much greater, it really is the whole literacy, publishing industry - and that will affect the quality of what we are able to read in the future.

For me it would break my heart if I could no longer visit my local bookshop, grab a coffee and take half an hour from the pace of life to touch, browse, feel and experience books.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Finally a voki

I made this voki ages ago, but waiting for these boys to win a game has taken a while. No way I was going to post it after that dismal derby. I realise even posting it now may set me up for some less than positive comments, but please remember our on line etiquette never type something you wouldn't say to someone's face.

Your world - anyone's world

 I think this subject of who owns your on line images is so interesting. For someone who does not have an online profile, or digital footprint (except when I am required to, in order to complete my degree) this kind of debate validates my decision.

It is these kind of issues that I think have not yet been answered by those who provide such sites. Is it to be a case in the future that you could see your image advertising a product that you would rather not have any connection to, because an advertising company bought your image from an online service. Or worse, could they have purchased pictures of your children or grand-kids, that you placed on line to show what you did on holidays. Not sure some people get the privacy issue, that once you post something online it is no longer yours.

In one of my previous lives I did some work as a travel writer, and taking pictures to be published in newspapers and magazines was always a nightmare as you had to get written permission by those in the images before they were published. You always hunted for the perfect shot when traveling without people, because of the legalities connected to anyone who may appear in an image. We all have the right to say how pictures of us can be used, it is a privacy right. But when you sign this right away, to post pictures of yourself on line - I wonder where it is going to lead.

At the moment it seems fun to show the world what you got up to on the weekend, but when you see your face on a 3 metre high billboard advertising a haemorrhoid cream - I'm not sure it is going to be quite as much fun. And to be honest, you ticked the box that says you have no right over how your image is used.
Remember - "You are not Facebook's customer. You are the PRODUCT that they SELL to the real customers- advertisers." Steve Greenberg.
We are yet to hear any misuse of images yet, but as the link shows, it may just be beginning. And legally you don't have any come back. Even if they changed the terms of contract from now on, they would have enough images now to last decades - your images.