Archive for the 'Technology' Category

A Real Test

April 28th, 2009

I love this guy.

Class members should have seen this on their aggregators, but this is too current — too important to let slide.

My idea is simply this. How can we use an event like this, and all of the news sources that are available on a breaking, global story in our classrooms? How can we teach kids about which sources of information are valuable in the midst of swirling rumour? They must be able to evaluate the worthiness of primary information surces at a time like this. There are many different channels of information available. How can our understanding be collated and improved instead of swamped by information and rumour?

This is a real test of information literacy skills.

via Remote Access: Swine Flu and Breaking News in the Classroom.

Clarence is right. This is a real test. More than a test for his kids, it’s a test for us. We *think* we get it.

Do we?


Hole in the Wall

November 18th, 2008

Brian Lamb has a new post up that was inspired by meeting Dr Sugata Mitra. For those who’ve not heard of Dr Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” project, Brian has the best links (including the TED Talk on the subject).

This is the interesting point for me:

Dr. Mitra is convinced that these methods cannot work for adults. Based on my own instinct and experience, I have to reluctantly agree with him. Why not? And what would adults need to unlearn in order to learn the way these kids do? I again find myself thinking that the teaching of skills is less important than changing attitudes – but I have no idea how best to do so.
Abject Learning: The hole in the wall: the holes in my thinking and my life.

I think this does work for adults, but perhaps we don’t recognize it. If there’s a difference between kids and adults, it’s the driver. A kid sees something new and says “Ooo, what’s this? Can I play with it?” An adult says, “Oh, great. Can I avoid this for the moment while I deal with the urgent problems of the day?”

The difference is that a kid will see how this new thing — whether it’s an idea, a device, or a process — can be adopted, adapted, or otherwise integrated into his or her life. They’ll poke at it a little bit to see if there’s anything interesting there and then make a decision. An adult will have to be shown that it’s useful before they’re willing to invest the time to learn about it. For many adults (and I’m not sure that maybe it’s “most” adults), the demands on time and attention are so overwhelming that they just can’t add another thing without dropping something. Yet, when they need to know something new, they need to know it in a hurry. How to buy a car? How to finance a house? What are the employment regulations in my new state? How can I cut calories, reduce fat, get the doctor off my case, and not want to lay down in traffic?

I’m not sure that Brian isn’t right about the dichotomy between skills and attitudes, but I also wonder if the issue is that we’re so tied up in teaching “core competencies” and “required knowledge” that we forget to teach people how to learn and how important it is to be constantly scanning the horizon for new things to learn about.


Internet Identity

November 13th, 2008

Students and teachers are constantly exhorted to evaluate content for credibility. Here’s an interesting case:

Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.
A Fake Expert Named Martin Eisenstadt and a Phony Think Tank Fool Bloggers and the Mainstream News Media – NYTimes.com.

I’ve known for months that Eisenstadt is a hoax. I’m a little shocked at the degree to which mainstream media was taken in.

One of the ongoing issues for everybody in these early days of the 21st Century is how to know what’s real, what’s true. It’s made more difficult by the ease with which deception can be promoted. It’s always been a problem, by the way. Micheal Eisenstadt is part of a long tradition that goes back at least to Martinus Scriblerus in the early 1700s.

As the field considers assessing 21st Century skills, it might be wise to keep this in mind.


Life in the MUD

November 3rd, 2008

Time flies when you’re having fun. Some of you have noticed that I’ve been in-world at Last Outpost for the last couple of weeks. Teaching in a multiuser environment — especially one so foreign — is a challenge. In this case, literally teaching in the (virtual) town square.

Playing in the MUD requires much more skill and attention than might be guessed from the initial simple introduction. Because it’s text based, there are several advantages to the environment.

First, it’s accessible to almost anybody with a computer and a connection. Even people who are blind or visually impaired can play. People on dialup can play. People with really old, slow computers can play. The barriers to entry are very low and for an educational environment, that’s key. Not just important. Key.

Second, it’s interactive. What you do has an effect in the game. Whether it’s picking up a weapon, donning your armor, learning a spell, or saving your companions, it’s reflected in the game. This is real interaction, not the pseudo-interaction “click here to advance” or “pick the answer that most closely agrees” level of question response. From the time you first stand in Town Square, everything you do has an effect on your character in the game.

Third, it’s multiuser. You are not there alone. One of the earliest computer games was “Adventure in the Colossal Cave” which is actually the antecedent of all modern MUDs. In that, the adventurer solved puzzles, slayed monsters, and explored the cave. From “Adventure” a whole series of single player games called Zork came on the scene and evolved in the early days of personal computers. Dialup networks gave access to similar single player “bbs games” and finally the MUD-engines were developed to provide a full multiuser, persistent game space.

Fourth, all the characteristics of an educational game are in play, except – perhaps – core content. Personally, I maintain that this is an artificial contrivance to make educators feel better about using games but that it cripples their ability to use them effectively — Grendler, notwithstanding. While many things that happen in the game are generated by random number selection, the reality is that the actual game play is almost entirely within the player’s control. If you make a mistake, the game will punish you. If you play well, the game rewards you. The occasional dispute between players — and the occasional interference from ‘pkillers’ who delight in messing up the game play of others — is certainly not random, any more than a fistfight in the back of the playground is random.

Fifth, it’s horribly time consuming. Going through the same instructions for everybody take time as each new player comes up to speed in their own way. Other players in the game are excellent sources of information and more advanced students regularly help those just starting out.

Lessons learned so far:
It doesn’t matter how much instruction, how many resources, or how well the ground is prepared, students don’t pay any attention to it. Several people have asked for more instructions on how to play the game, only to find out that the instructions existed already and they’d ignored them.

A corollary to that is that the game is, in fact, an instantiation of “exploratory learning.” You’re supposed to learn to play the game by playing the game.

One piece of instruction was missing. When following another, the screen goes into a “compact/brief” mode to cut down on the amount of information flowing. This is not necessarily a good thing for somebody trying to learn their way around. It’s easily reversed by typing “compact” to turn it off, and “brief” to reestablish the view.

The reflection papers from 688 were due last night, but the rubric wasn’t available until the evening. I’m looking forward to reading them.


iBrain Research

October 27th, 2008

In what might be the first legitimate inquiry into internet use and brain connections, this story showed up on my Reuters feed this morning:

He said a study of 24 adults as they used the Web found that experienced Internet users showed double the activity in areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning as Internet beginners.
Is surfing the Internet altering your brain? | Technology | Reuters.

There are some questions I have. The study is very small. The generalization is not clear to me. Is he seeing the increased activity because of the internet? Or is he observing the difference between expert and novice thinking? This is a significant question because it has long been established that novices and experts in any domain have different thought processing patterns.

So, is this finding relevant to internet or just another instance of somebody selling his book by tagging on some well-known snake-oil saleman?


Blinded Me with Science

October 20th, 2008

Is education an Art or a Science? Here’s what I wrote about the science question two years ago and my opinion hasn’t changed yet:

Education is probably classified as a science by most definitions. Educators generally believe that their practice is a system of knowledge attained by verifiable means. Many spend their careers engaged in the research that defines the body of knowledge which encompasses Education. My personal problem with this classification is that, too often, we try to apply the generalizability of science — the value of science to predict and be replicated — to Educational outcomes and I believe that gets us into trouble.
Education as Science.

One of the problems is defining which “Education” we’re talking about at any given moment — the business of teaching, the process of becoming learned, or the industry that’s grown up to support those.


Fifty Years Later

October 16th, 2008

The ‘gator turned up this tidbit this morning.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Edward R. Murrow’s seminal address about radio and television. Now known as the “wires and lights in a box” speech, Mr. Murrow implored the attendees at the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention to make the most of the two electronic media, rather than allowing them to insulate Americans “from the realities of the world in which we live.”
‘Wires and Lights in a Box,’ Fifty Years Later – NYTimes.com.

I’ve long been a fan of Murrow’s. That era of television is fascinating in the parallels it has with the evolution of the Internet. Murrow, Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley … names to conjure with. Sometimes I compare those names to the ones we have today and just sigh in dispair.


Alec Courosa Open Doctrine

October 9th, 2008

Darrell Cannell is a member in good standing of the Canadian Content Contingent. His Teaching and Developing Online blog is one of my “Must Read” feeds.

I like the tone of this, why does it always feel like we are fighting to be accepted.

Teaching and Developing Online.: Alec Courosa Open Doctrine …made me laugh..

I didn’t track back to the source of this video because I’m short on time, but it made me laugh, too.


The Video Game Revolution

October 9th, 2008

There’s a great conversation swirling around this interactive timeline of video gaming over on the GAMESNETWORK list: The Video Game Revolution: The History of Games | PBS.

The conversation has to do with “why this game instead of another?”

As in any field, there are opinions on both sides.


SuperStruct : The Game?

October 8th, 2008

I did a quick post yesterday on SuperStruct. I spent some time yesterday exploring the site in some detail and looking over the various features and facilities. There’s a lot there – video, text – organized in a variety of ways. I’m looking at this site from two perspectives — one as a game, and the other as an educational setting. There’s a LOT of stuff that’s available to the public (that is, non-members) and even more that registered players can see.

As a game, the scoring is perhaps a bit arbitrary. As an educational environment, it’s probably best described as “problem based learning.” It’s particularly intriguing from that perspective because the problems are hypothetical but based on dystopian extrapolations of the present. Finally, the “game play” is probably best described as “interactive fiction” because discussions, stories, and user contributions are intended to visualize what our real lives might be in 10 years’ time. It’s a sort of “imagine what you’ll be then based on what you are now and what you’d like to do between now and then” scenario. It’s a kind of ‘predict the future’ game based around the six threats.

While the threats are speculative, they aren’t that far out. Based on food, climate, energy, politics, and health, the roots of these challenges are already with us. The game, while speculative, may well provide some interesting ideas for charting a future where these catastrophes might not happen.

So, for the gamers (688? You know who you are), what do you think of this as a “game”? Does it work? Is there a place here for educational application? Either in this game, or as a derivational idea?

For the distance ed people, what do you think of this environment as as an educational environment? A learning environment?