TED and Me

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Archive for the ‘affordances’ tag

Schoology, OSS, oh my …

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Go figure that, after submitting my MET assignment (see previous post), I would discover alternatives to the “traditional” CMSs (Blackboard) and OSS CMSs (Moodle).

A new form of CMS in the market is the Social CMS, which I believe to be following the infrastructure of online social networks like Facebook. The example I’m talking about is Schoology.

From their brochure:

Schoology has created a course management system built on a social network. While current course management systems utilize some social network features, Schoology has taken a unique approach by first building a social networking platform and then adding in the essential course management tools.
A social network provides objectivity, allowing searchable profiles for users, groups, courses, assignments and schools. Instead of interacting with just an interface or website portal, users can interact with dynamic profiles, greatly enhancing the learning experience.
Schoology provides students and educators with all the  essential course management tools, including an online gradebook, student roster, course assignments, school events, class attendance, user management and online report cards. These tools are seamlessly integrated with Schoology’s social network to create the ultimate digital and interactive educational environment.

Schoology seems to be taking into account what I expressed early: Web 2.0 technologies need to be considered as competitors/alternatives among the more “traditional” CMS.

Good. But I’m still not convinced. The infrastructure still seems to be restrictive, limiting pedagogy. True: they’re going with the online social network trend; and, yes, communication and collaboration opportunities seem to be seriously taken into account. But what about being able to incorporate other online technologies, like Second Life, animation-making tools, or wikis. It seems, in this case, that a CMS is just a CMS. Students and teacher are restricted to a set/narrow pedagogical approach within 4 digital walls.

Do we really need another confined digital learning space? Or should we find new ways to harness the affordance of digital technologies for learning.

Written by seanmcminn

October 24th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Web 2.0 language learning

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I’m giving a short presentation for staff develoment tomorrow and thought that I’d share my abstract and slides. Comments most welcome.


In this session, we will explore the affordances and limitations of Web 2.0 technologies in today’s language classroom. Wikis, podcasts, machinima, animation, storyboards – in many ways these free online resources give learners new opportunities to be independent in their study and research; they encourage a wider range of expressive capability; they facilitate more collaborative ways of working; and they furnish a setting for learner achievements to attract an authentic audience. But this does not mean there are no consequences or issues when using them (for example: copyright and Terms of Use).

After a 20-minute introduction of some of tools and the theories behind
why and how they can be used in the language classroom, we’ll open the discussion to everyone to talk about how we can (or whether we should) use Web 2.0 technologies in our language courses. We’ll also discuss the concept of “digital literacy”. What does that mean? And whose job is it to teach students how to be digitally literate?

Written by seanmcminn

October 8th, 2009 at 6:24 am

More wiki-ing around

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It’s been a while since my last entry, but I’ve been traveling from Vancouver to Algonquin Park (what a beautiful place!) to Ottawa to Cambridge, Ontario in the last week and a half. I know in today’s social and mobile media world it’s not an excuse, but, hey, I needed a break. But that’s not to say that I haven’t been playing around with technology for educational purposes. In fact, this past week was rather interesting with regards to social media and communication technologies in education. Or, more precisely, the difference between wikis and discussion forums.

As an activity for the UBC MET ETEC565 course (phew — what a mouthful!), we were asked to perfrom a discussion through a wiki. Here is a part of the task:

Wiki Activity: Social Media and Learning

Both Wesch and Alexander claim that social media (web 2.0, social software) are having a dramatic impact on classroom spaces. How do the trends and issues identified by Alexander and Wesch resonate with your experiences in your own classrooms? What kind of opportunities and challenges do you see associated with using social media in the classrooms within which you teach?

Unlike previous discussions, we are going to conduct this activity in the context of a wiki environment.

Step 1. Wiki Edit

First we ask that you contribute a “sighting” from your own experience of how the presence of social media is apparent in the lives of your students or in how they (or you) interact in the classroom.  We can post our “Sightings” on the following page: 66A Sightings.

 What I quickly discovered was the difference in affordances of each technology. Some things that I wanted to do in the wiki, I could not (or found difficult). For example, unless everyone were equally organized in their standard forms of contributions (adding new discussions, replying to posts, re-replying), the wiki appears to be chaotic with what its discussion feature allow for. A wiki is great for collaborating and creating, but not for discussing ideas (NOTE: we were using MediaWiki).

Don’t get me wrong; the discussion feature of the wiki is very imporatant. How else can collaborators discuss how they want to create their product? But for assessment purposes (i.e. particpation, etc.), the wiki discussion page is, to me, not very useful. It’s diffiult to track, measure, and it’s diffiutlt to standardize or organize. So I prefer the structure and affordances of a discussion forum in WebCT instead. At least, if the purpose is to generate asynchronous communication about a subject hat you want students to learn and discuss about, but not create. On the other hand, creating wiki pages allows for many other learning activities that a discussion forum can not. See here fore information on that part: Wiki affordances.

Written by seanmcminn

July 8th, 2009 at 10:51 am

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