Archive for January, 2010

Jan 28 2010

A little test

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I am trying to see if I can get a post on any page I like.  Larry tells me I can if I change the settings for reading to static page.  Let’s see if this works.

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Jan 27 2010

Group rubric

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Here is the link to our document – https://www.vista.ubc.ca/webct/urw/lc3015504632121.tp3015504654121/RelativeResourceManager/sfsid/3231081279231

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Jan 27 2010

Pro-D case

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Professional Development or PD as  Ontario teachers call it.

The elements that seem important in this case is that a place to upload information and discussion is required.  The teacher has minimal resources and not much training in web design.  Connectivity is also an issue.  Dial up is slow.

This brings to mind my daughter’s problems with uploading information and photos to the internet while she was in Nicaragua.  The connection was way too slow to upload more than text.  Images, slide shows and videos were just not possible.  The one thing she could do was update her blog regularly and respond to comments.  She could also use MSN.

So here we enter the realm of social networking.  Discussions are important in advancing ideas.  They get the creative juices flowing.  So Lenora would like to not only share her ideas with colleagues near and far, but also gather new information from an exchange of ideas.  Buffy Ste Marie, author of the Cradleboard Project, seems to expose the problem of distribution of resources:

“Even with regard to local tribal curriculum, teachers in a faraway state can’t find the best of the best in a concise and usable form.”

The nature of the information is an important aspect here.  Lenora can share many ideas without having to use multimedia such as slide shows or videos.  I see her site as mostly text driven.  But of course, she most likely wants to make it more visual than that, recognizing that visual literacy is now included in the definition of literacy (Biebrich, p. 27).

She can certainly address all these needs with a wiki.  Creating a wiki is a small matter.  It costs nothing, it can be created in a short amount of time, especially with good instructions (available online as part of the help function) and it addresses all her needs, including the need for a collaborative space.  She can also set permissions to allow only certain people to collaborate (through a membership she approves).

Not only are the pages collaborative, she can also make use of the discussion function that is integrated in each page.

If she is concerned about commercials on the site, she can ask for a site that is used for education and have no ads show up at all.  Wiki sites can be shared with the world or kept private for members only if she is concerned about confidentiality.

As for formatting pages, this is very similar to a simple wordprocessor.  She can use templates to choose the look and feel of the wiki.

I have used wikis in my classes for over a year now and highly recommend them for their simplicity and ease of use.  You can view one of my class sites at bmi3c.wikispaces.com.  It took very little time to create the wiki, maybe 2-3 hours to start the initial pages (1 or 2 pages) and make design choices.  I used a model from another course I saw when I attended a workshop.  The workshop was definitely useful for advanced functions such as inserting a video file.  If Lenora can access a workshop on wikis through her school system or her professional organization, she might find it helps her get a head start.  If that is not possible, she can easily find a tutorial on the web or even go to the help function on the wiki site.  She can justify the cost of training to her administrators as a way to integrate further technology into her classroom.  For example, a wiki would be a wonderful way to preserve cultural information by creating a class project where her students are invited to interview their parents and grand-parents and then post the results (it could be something like the adult’s favourite anecdote from their childhood or bedtime story or family recipe).  The Cradleboard project has ideas that could certainly be adapted to a wiki space.

Once the wiki is up, she will be able to add content as easily as saving a file into this new space (uploading).  With text based files, she should not be impeded by the slow connection.  Adding slideshows or videos will also be quick as she can simply post a link on the wiki page.  There are more sophisticated ways to show multimedia, like embedding the files, but she can do quite well without those functions for now.  From then on, it’s a question of maintaining, adding to and administering the wiki (memberships and permissions).  She can spend as little as 2 hours a week on these tasks or more depending on the membership demands and how much discussion happens in the discussion area.

And of great importance, she must make people aware of her wiki.  She can simply announce its purpose and provide a link within her teaching circle or other social network areas she participates in.  Word of mouth is accomplished in many forms.

Lenora is best advised not to use a website at this time unless her school provides a place to host the site.  For example, my board has created a license to use google sites for all its teachers.  Google sites is very easy to use and I would certainly recommend it for its ease of use.  Google docs is another application that might suit Lenora.  The major reason I would recommend a wiki over a website is that she will not be required to learn html.  Having to learn a programming language would substantially add to her time investment in this project, keeping her from her true purpose.

Sources:

Beibrich, J. L. (2006). Comics & graphic novels: seeing the meeting (Master’s thesis). Retrieved November 11, 2009, from http://www.informationgoddess.ca/MEdCappingPaper/LiteracyComics&GNJLBiebrich.pdf

Capriccioso, R. (n.d.). Cradleboard Curricula | Connect for Kids / Child Advocacy 360 / Youth Policy Action Center. Welcome to Connect for Kids. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from http://www.connectforkids.org/node/501

Marie, B. S. (n.d.). Cradleboard Project. AIPC Homepage. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from http://www.aipc.osmre.gov/Notes%20from%20Native%20America/99note7.htm

One America – Cradleboard Teaching Project. (n.d.). Welcome To The White House. Retrieved January 26, 2010, from http://clinton3.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/Practices/pp_19980729.6548.html#operations

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Jan 24 2010

Benoit’s dilemma

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Benoit’s decision about whether to use the university LMS (WebCt/Vista) or to migrate to Moodle as he changes his course to full distance delivery brings up the following questions:

  1. How much time will be spent making alterations to the course materials in order to make them compatible with the new delivery style?
  2. How much time will be spent learning the new LMS?
  3. How much time will be spent later on in administrative tasks, such as upgrading the course environment, course content and student information and content?

It seems that the key question is the relationship between time and quality of the deliverables.  Will Benoit have enough time to create a course of the caliber he is accustomed to in time for his anticipated deadline of September?

As an administrator or department head, I would council Benoit to concentrate his efforts on the course content, rather than the wrapper.  I would list the following reasons for that advice:

1.  Although innovation is the building block of academic work, it is best if that can be focused on the course content, rather than the delivery style.  Students have a right to expect a certain standard and experimentation with a new LMS (although Moodle has a reputable track record and some support in other university departments) may not be advisable.  The university does provide IT support and it is its responsibility to maintain it at the highest standard.

2. Standardization within an organization is easier to manage.  If each department starts to experiment with different systems, then transparency and content sharing (convergence) may not be possible, certainly not in an organized fashion.

3.  It makes no sense for a professor to be involved in the administration of student files, records and data on a large scale.  This would likely occur as a few semesters went by.  Benoit’s time would be ill used for this purpose.  If he decides to work with Moodle, he will find little support for these problems.  There is also the issue of confidentiality that would arise if Benoit decides to use a server that is located off site.

Therefore, I would advise that Benoit consider the trade off between time spent creating and loading a new course to an environment that is similar to his current work space and time spent in learning to navigate a new environment with the administrative challenges that will surely come up with an open-source LMS that the university is not fully supporting.  Benoit might consider learning Moodle as a job embedded professional development opportunity once his course is fully functional and he has had time to make any required accommodations for its new delivery style.  He should not see this as having to redo the same work twice as each innovation in technology requires adjustments to tried and true material.

This paragraph, where Panettieri quotes Ash Dyer, an MIT researcher, supports my response.

“A university-hosted system can draw on other administrative systems, which allows the course staff to focus on content and learning rather than managing registration lists and other issues,” adds Dyer. “It is also designed to assist course staff with issues unique to education, such as copyright protections for some replicated course materials or materials that will later be published.”

“Finally, a university-hosted content management system allows for the retention and reuse of the content with a minimum of effort. This feature is particularly important if course staff changes between semesters, or if the university has other programs that can reuse the course content.”

Panettieri, J. (2007). Addition by subtraction. University Business, August, 58-62. Accessed online 22 January 2010 http://www.universitybusiness.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=845

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Jan 15 2010

Response to Sections

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I’d like to discuss two items in this article that are particularly pertinent to my classroom situation. For some background information you might read the post (actually a rant) on my blog http://blogs.ubc.ca/cteachr565b/2010/01/13/section-2-readings/

The first item under Student is Access. At one time I was the site admin for my school. One to the main goals we had was to ensure equity in terms of access to the equipment. Historically, the Computer and Business courses were taught in a lab. That left little availability for other classes such as English, History or even Science. The Enrichement students had a special program that allowed them full access to the lab for 1 or 2 periods per day but they were a small, select few. I don’t even want to mention how under-served the 7/8 classes were.

A lot of money is spent developing curriculum and activities and updating textbooks to reflect the use of technology, yet little consideration is given to the limited access afforded to the majority of students. By now most students in our community have personal computers and unlimited (often unsupervised) internet access. However, that does not help the teacher who is teaching all classes in a portable and can only access the computer lab by booking it weeks in advance. This lack of accessibility severely limits and certainly greatly affects the chosen method of curriculum delivery, evaluation and assessment.

The second item is ease of use and reliability. Referring back to my blog post, it is frustrating to students to be working with older, slower technology. Their frustration is so great that they tend to destroy equipment, call out inappropriate comments to the tech guy (who’s office is adjacent to my classroom) or do everything with the computer except the assigned task.

The problem does not lie uniquely with the equipment. The software is frequently the problem. Our board does not provide MSOffice products. We are using WordPerfect (it’s free) and OpenOffice for our Business applications. A software that won’t load, freezes or shuts you down in the middle of an assignment is never appreciated.

The decisions as to what software is being used are made at the board level, so the teacher has little input. A further frustration lies with the network constraints that keep innocent software such as dumpr.net locked because it is interpreted as a game.

And finally, there is the issue of the slow connection that makes certain uploads impossible (like Toondoo) or watching video streaming a painful experience.

It seems to me that the teachers need a bigger say in what technology is chosen for the board. I understand that we are in a great period of upheaval with web 2.0 tools being the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, I can only hope that many of the tools I will explore in this course will be compatible with my environment. Although they show great promise, any technology that doesn’t have the basic qualities of being accessible and reliable is better qualified as an experiment than an aid to learning.

I know some of you have a lot of experience getting teachers to integrate technology in the curriculum. I’d like to hear your views on access and reliability?

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Jan 13 2010

Section 2 readings

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I’ve just finished reading the seven principles of good practice as assigned in this section.  I haven’t got to the Bates and Poole reading yet.  Maybe it’s just that my day started of with finding my car had been vandalized or maybe it’s just that we are at the end of the semester and the rush is on to get as many students to catch up and get the credit, maybe it’s finding students continually disregard school property as they destroy school computers, bit by bit (because they are old and slow and kids today have little respect for what they don’t own or what is not the latest technology) but… I am not very excited about what I am reading so far.

On a day like this, it all seems irrelevant that I make every effort to ensure that students try new ways to express their work, that differentiated learning and experiential learning are the norm in my class, that feedback comes from me not just in the form of a mark on a test but also in questions on discussion boards and comments about their answers.  Never mind that I use the computer to show the latest episode of Dragon’s Den so the class can discuss relevant examples or that I use episodes of The Apprentice to model good (and bad) group dynamics.  And I won’t even mention the many, many little chats I have, outside the classroom (sometimes via email) with students about what they are trying to accomplish (either with their good or bad behaviour) and what I am trying to teach them in my own style (respecting curriculum expectations, of course).

On a day like today, when I find myself hurriedly printing off copied notes for them to memorize so they can pass the final (because they didn’t settle down enough to let me teach all the material or the blasted flu caused so many absences), I shake my head and think:  “Who cares about technology?  They don’t see it as educational, they see it as a way to pass the time until the bell rings and they can get out of there (with the credit, I might add).  Gaddddddd!!!!!!!

What I am trying to say is that I think I am missing something here.  I feel like I am reaching my students less and less every year.  Are the students changing?  Am I getting too old?  Is the technology in our school outgrown?  We all know that a child’s mind is like a sponge.  I am delivering the content using as many approaches as I know how, adapting as quickly as I can.  Yet I feel as if I don’t know the magic password for them to open their minds to this information.  Is it that their minds are too cluttered with the many stimuli they are receiving at any given moment? (Not to mention the effects of teenage hormones.)

Where and what is the key then?  I guess I’d better continue my reading.

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Jan 09 2010

Self-Assessment with regards to NETS standards

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The NETS standards read much like my school board’s professional development policies, combined with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s graduate expectations.  I feel somehow familiar with the text as if I have measured myself against these standards recently, both while applying to the MET program and more recently when applying for a teaching job in a NATO school.  It’s difficult to sell yourself for a job unless you are very familiar with your strengths and have a good idea of what direction to take to fill in the blanks in your resume.

Professional Development has been a priority of mine since I started teaching in the 1990s.  I was constantly told that I had an affinity for technology so I seemed to naturally position myself in that field.  At the time, the field was wide open, with very little curriculum being available.  The career path was simple enough – do what few others can and do it well.  And so, through mostly intuition, I started accumulating as many skills and experiences as I could to achieve my career goals.

Many years later, I can now articulate, with the use of educational terminology, the strengths and weaknesses I can identify in my education and experience.

I am very comfortable with the flow of technology.  That is to say, I welcome innovation and don’t feel intimidated when my students know more than me.  It’s more a case of wondering how I can use new tools and knowledge in my classroom to keep students engaged.  Student success is a very big motivator for me.

Since I am asked to state what I hope to improve upon or accomplish in this course, I’ve made the following list:

1. I’d like to increase my knowledge of web 2.0 applications so as to synchronize my resources with my students’ ever evolving learning needs and styles.

2.  I’d like to increase my repertoire of assessment tools to align them better with today’s reality.  I often feel that students have so much to contribute, that they are more than willing to explore their creativity but the assessments don’t reflect their talent or don’t properly test their learning.  In particular, I’d like to find assessments that work with blogs and wikis.

3.  I’d like to pursue my interest in Global Citizenship through the development of a certificate program for my students.  This would include their inquiry into the cultural differences they will encounter when travelling and working abroad, their exploration of ethical issues such as environmental sustainability and hopefully will result in an increased tolerance of cultural differences both in their own community and abroad.  The use of inquiry tools, discussion boards and any other multi-media platform that allows them to articulate their findings would be promoted.  For this purpose, I need to find out as much as I can about the latest tools available to us.

4. I want to continue to position myself as a leader in educational technology within my school board and be a valuable contributor to the learning communities I have joined.  Our board has created a Ning where some of our brightest tech savvy teachers contribute.  Not only do I have to keep up, I want to continue the leadership role I have already established.

5.  Last goal, and certainly not the least, I want to participate in this process because it is so intellectually stimulating.  And if I am happy, then it is reflected in my professional activities as well. The joy of teaching is enhanced by the joy of learning!

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Jan 04 2010

Do you really want to know what I am thinking?

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That seems like a loaded question.  Unfortunately, people often forget to ask what others are thinking.  Or, they are so busy thinking up an answer, they don’t have time to really think about it.  So I guess that blogging and most of the internet publishing I do really does address that problem for me.  Here I have time to think, compose, reread myself, edit and sometimes I delete it altogether.  Sometimes I read something I’ve written and am honestly impressed with myself.

I do a lot of thinking at the most inappropriate times.  Like in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping but something wakes me up and my mind starts to race.  So if you are inclined to check out the time of my posts here or on the discussion board, it’s not that I live in the GMT zone.  No, it’s just me trying to write it down so it stops haunting me.

Welcome to my thinking space!

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