My bogging experience so far

Although I find it very valuable to make informed reflections on my practice, I am not a diary writer. I think I would have found it more valuable to have had direct experiences to blog about and used literature and research to inform these reflections. However, as I wrote in my assignment e-learning requires the student to take more responsibility for their learning and I have not made the most of my learning in this area.  To begin I thought I would find it difficult to voice my thoughts online and publically, especially given that they are always there for you to revisit and cringe at. However, I have not found that the case. I think one of the main reasons for this is that they often result in a dialogue with others, which validates or challenges your views, but wither way helps you expand and make sense of your thinking. I think engaging with people’s comments on my blogs and commenting on others blogs has been the most rewarding aspect of blogging. It actually feels productive and at times resulted in new and inspired thinking.   

I did however, learn what a blog is and I am now a trillion times more wiser about how they could be used in the classroom, along with discussion boards, multimedia resources, virtual worlds and so on. Based on the lectures and this blog and my assignment I am fairly confident I will apply these digital technologies and online tools in appropriate and usful ways in the classroom. Not only am I wiser about using these tools I am also excited, rather than scared, about applying them and already have plans to do so in my practicum with year sevens when I teach them about information texts in literacy. 

My blog was held up by my lack of technical expertise and clunky computer, which resulted in immense frustration at times after hours of trying to embed something or establish links (i.e. Vokis!). Despite all the best intentions I did not manage to achieve all I wanted to in this regard. I had wanted to try our Storybird as I think it will be a good scaffolding tool for students struggling with writing, as would Moviemaker as pointed out by others. I had also wanted to have my Delicious tag cloud linked on my blog, as I find this an incredible tool for organising all the resources I have collected and will continue to do so. I think in my own time these things will be achieved.

What I have now from my blogging experience is a reference of what I feel comfortable with and can use in the classroom and what needs further exploration. This is a good starting point from which to continue to develop my knowledge and skills in e-learning. It would be great to keep blogging as a way of recording and reflecting on my learning and hopefully others in the class will also continue to do so, which will maintain the value of the shared dialogue. What I will do differently though is blog about my experiences in the classroom, primarily in relation to e-learning and more actively seek out solutions to the issues I face and the ideas for expanding on the sucesses. 


Potential for exploring psychosocial development on the semantic web

I found it very surprising when Mark noted that despite its potential, people participating in virtual worlds like Second Life do not adopt different identities. I also came across similar findings when doing some research for my assignment that students are often stuck in predictable patterns stemming from the real world when engaging with the virtual one and how the real world limits the virtual world (see Turvey, 2006). While this may bring some comfort to those of us anxious about the impact of virtual world, I would hope that as these technologies become more common people will let their creativity run wild and be more adventurous. I cannot think of anything more boring than playing out my existing life virtually as well as in reality, although the popularity of reality TV suggests that perhaps my views are not widely shared. 

In terms of  education, I think Second Life and other virtual worlds could be a valuable medium for students to explore and resolve issues in elation to their psychosocial development. For example, role playing conflict resolution, thinking through different career paths, representing what is happening at home and what they would like to be happening and so on. For me, who cringes at the idea of real life role play, how cool would it be to play it out in Second Life and use that as a platform for thinking through ‘stuff’.  

Turvey, K. (2006). Towards deeper learning through creativity within online communities in primary education. Computers and Education, 46, 309-321.

Creating clarity amongst the confusion

I was very excited to leave the lesson before last, the last one was just frightening, but more about that later. I am getting increasingly frustrated with the information overload and seeming chaos of searches I perform on the internet. So the prospect of having tools such as Delicious make me very happy. As soon as I can manage to read the German instructions of my computer I will be downloading the buttons and hopefully putting a link on my Blog. This is going to be a very valuable tool as we progress through our careers and collect more and more stuff.

I might also start trying to tap inot RSS feeds and so on on topics that interest me, but my question is how do you go about doing that. I mean I know which TV and radio programs I like to watch and listen to and I have come to know this through trial and error or now and then stumbling on something worthwhile by chance or beign recommended something by a friend. Is this how it is does on the internet as well Mark? I have found a few Blogs for instance on technology in education and have been following them during the course and I am now at the stage of dumping some of them and keeping others.  However, it just seems that there is so much out there to experience on the internet and I wonder how you get to it all and weed out the rubbish and tap into the good stuff. With TV and radio there are finite options but with the internet it is infinite and constantly changing.

And here’s why schools should use social networks …

Forbid Facebook? That’s what one New Jersey principal recommended in an e-mail to parents. But is that really a good idea? Let’s face it: Technology isn’t going anywhere — and that’s a good thing!” And here’s why schools should use social networks ….”

I am quite pleased with myself right now. I was sent this Education Tech News newsletter entry and managed to post it straight into my blog using the Share button! It includes ideas of how to use Facebook and Twitter (including Twittory). Some of the ideas are designed more for older students, but there is a few good ones amongst them. I thought the idea of creating a Facebook page for your favourite character in a book was clever and would catch the imagination of a lot of students. It would also make for a lovely mix between traditional literacies and digital literacy. I also thought you could extend the idea to a cybersfaety lesson. For example, create a Facebook page for Ned Kelly for example and think of all the information you might not want to include for his own safety.

I also liked the idea of using Twitter for students to tweet one thing they learnt in class each day or for that matter what they had trouble learning. This would perhaps encourage some reflective learning (God forbid), but it would also help teachers know what was easy/difficult, boring/exciting, clear/confusing etc for students. You would very easily be getting up to date information for your formative assessment.

Winning back enthusiasm for social media

Just as I had had about enough of anything related to digital technologies, we see the power of social media for creating change. In two months Greenpeace’s campaign to stop Nestle using palm oil sourced throgh deforestation has been successful. The campaign relied on social media to achieve its outcomes. The speed with which action was taken, the number of people involved and the international level of the movement are exciting features of social change through social media. This could be a very engaging and meaningful way for older students to be involved in social change and one way that I would be keen to use social media in the classroom. I have included the video because I haven’t done so yet, but don’t watch it if you are feeling queezy or enjoying a Kit Kat.

Of course one must be careful about the issues you address – we don’t want to upset the beef farmers like the latest NAPLAN test!

The risk of blobbiness

While I am at risk of Radio National becoming the source of all my posts, I have to make at least two references to programs I have listened to over the last week.  It is just that I can do the dishes and make the bed etc while being educated. The first one was  talk back on Life Matters about Digital Detox based on a experiment social commentator Susan Maushart put her family through. No digital devices for 6 months.

The interesting aspects to me was what she referred to blobbiness (a lack of distinction between work and play, family and friends etc because everything is linked or can be always accessed via digital technologies) and also the need for boredom (often not experienced given access to digital devices). Both topics have been covered in the latest discussion board under the topic 24/7 learning and perhaps are greater risks than what are normally considered cybersafety issues. We will inevitably have no privacy and according to research students are not at great risk of many supposed ‘cyber’ risks, but what about the risks of being consumed by digital technologies?  

The other program was on Future Tense this week on the Digital Classroom and was a report on some of the presentations made at the Digital Diversity conference held by the Austalian Council for Computers in Education. One of the speakers Helen Otway is a principal at a school where each child has access to a laptop. She pointed out that while many students were tech-comfy and able to access social networking sites, they were not tech-saavy and that a lot of instruction was required about safety as well as the understanding the basics of using laptops. Lessons needed to be attended and passed before students were able to have certain access, for example being able to take computers home.

Google Search Tips

In relation to my last blog entry I have come across these Google posters that provide some search tips through the Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom Blog. These could be helpful in a number of ways of limiting the sort of information students are searching for and perhaps make it a little less overwhelming.

A suite of search skills

My abrupt introduction into critical literacy happened in my first year at university within my first assignment for a sociology class. It was cruel and difficult, but from there I definitely learnt the hard way completing honours and a PhD during which I have to trawl through copious amounts of information, determining what was valuable, what was not, the position the author was coming from, the arguments being made and so on. At least for my honours these searches were still limited to the journals available at the universities in Perth. It was always a quiet joy and relief when half the journals on your 10 page print out of references were not available. Things changed though for me PhD, when suddenly everything was available to you via the internet.

As Vanessa has commented this can be overwhelming for students, who don’t know where to start or where to go. The other reaction I have seen from Arie is to write down whatever comes up first on the screen with no consideration about the validity or reliability of the information. I think before teaching students the skills of critical literacy, we have to show them ways of limiting the amount of information they are exposed to in the first instance and teach them to know when to persist or when to stop searching. I think in these circumstances the availability of so much information is counterproductive in teaching students to be good learners and researchers.

Further delays

I am delaying once again about writing my entry on multiliteracies. From what I have been reading on everyone else’s blog, creating a Voki is time consuming and perhaps doesn’t have huge outcome benefits. But I have got it in my diary to try and have a go at it and a few of te other tools this weekend. So I will edit my entry after that.

Well I produced Voki, as well as a cube in Museum Box. I really liked the idea of students needing to provide information on a topic or person etc using the 6 sides and how this could frame different questions you could ask students or different representations they could show. Unfortunately I have nothing to show here of either of them. WordPress do not allow you to post Voki’s or place them on your Blog page, like many others have done. With Museum Box I made a cube but it seems the only option is for this to be sent to the teacher who would have registered your school. So the cube is contained within the Museum Box website as I understand it. I find these limitations really frustrating and is something you would have to be very aware of when teaching so as not to start with a piece of technology and then find it is not capable of going where you want it to. 

While I didn’t find creating the Voki too time consuming, probably because I was prepared from reading everyone else’s blogs, I can see how students could become very very distracted with the task.  The creation of the Museum Box did not take too long either, but it is the preparation and collection of materials that would take the time.  I think with these multiliteracy tasks I would be asking students to do a lot of pre-planning and prepration before asking them to create anything on the computer. For example, with a Voki I would want a description of the sort of character they want to create and why. This would then guide them through the choices available and require them to create something meaningful and purposeful.

Some relief for the digital immigrants

I have been delaying writing my entry on the usefulness of text speak because I am not all that conversant with it. It probably took me as long to read Blythe’s entry as it did for her to write and unfortunately I still did not understand all the codes. Thankfully, I followed a link from Shayna’s entry to a net lingo dictionary, so now I will have a tool for deciphering the text messages I just say ‘wot?’ to.

However, in this somewhat despairing moment I did get some comfort after listening to Future Tense last Friday – The thoughts of Douglas Rushkoff. The focus of the program was that we need to stay aware of how new communication technologies might be useful to us and how others may not be. This way we stay in control and we don’t become overwhelmed. I accept that you have to use new web 2.0 tools to understand them, but I think after doing that you also have to have the control and awareness to say this still doesn’t help me. For me I am not finding my foray into Twitter to be of much use, it feels like rapid and surface level information overload. However, as I struggle to maintain connections with people overseas and interstate I am slowly starting to see the value of social networkign sites, although I stil haven’t joined one.