Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grazing, Gaming, Changing, Creating and Crystal Balls

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Jamie McKenzie's 1994 article "Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free Range Students" reads a lot like articles today that discuss the importance of digital literacy. Moreover, his metaphor of information as food is one that has recently been discussed on TEDtalks by technologist JP Rangaswami in March 2012. 

The future that McKenzie writes about, in his insightful and entertaining style, is here. I would further argue that it is not only here, but has gone beyond some of his insights. Not only is there are a major push to teach digital literacy in our schools, but some are arguing that digital literacy includes the ability to code programs. On an episode of CBC's Spark author Douglas Rushkoff argues that young people should learn to code to understand the bias of digital technology. He states that "programming is the new literacy of the digital age." The question becomes whether "we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it?" 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Considering WebQuests

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When I think about doing WebQuests in my own classroom, I keep coming back to an observation from that states, "The amount of information available to everyone will grow at an accelerating pace; much of it will come directly from a growing number of sources without filtering or verification."

This is a fact that continually resurfaces in my Journalism and Media Studies courses. Media corporations tend only to be concerned about their bottom lines and the need to fill space. So they pitch endless amounts of information and title it "news." This is what Drew Curtis likes to call "Fark," passing off crap as news. (A cautionary note: the Fark site is quite "blunt" in some of its language.)

PBL: Questioning, Acting, Assessing, Reflecting and Celebrating

Learning by doing is one of the recurring themes in Project-Based Learning. makes reference to John Dewey who challenged the view of the student as a "passive recipient of knowledge." The quote from Dewey that is cited, "education is not preparation for life; education is life itself" is a very powerful quote with many challenging implications for both educators and students.

A few years ago, in the school where I work, the students were excited over some of the new courses that were being offered. These courses included Welding and Power Recreation & Technology. Taking the advice I had heard (and which is also mentioned on to "start small"), I decided to try to take advantage of the students' enthusiasm, since many of the students taking the new courses were also in my Media Studies course. Their driving question was how do they promote and make the larger community aware of what was being offered at a smaller rural school. In working groups, they decided the best medium was video. I was lucky enough, through a friend, to connect with Terry Gadsden who works in animation and film as an instructor at NBCC-Miramichi.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The "E" in E-Portfolios Does Not Stand for "Easy"

Relics of the past?
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When I did my education degree back in 2001, we were required to create a portfolio. For many years after I continued to add student work or other items to my portfolio. When I was hired as a long-term supply, my district had implemented the use of portfolios, although the implementation was very standardized with every teacher receiving a binder to create their portfolio. It was not taken very seriously. And for good reason. For practically every job interview I did, no one asked to see my portfolio. I would offer it, and I think once they told me to leave it behind and pick it up the next day. I highly doubted anyone looked at it.  

The article "Conflicting Paradigms in Electronic Portfolio Approaches" discusses the different, and sometimes conflicting, views of the e-portfolio's purpose. I think within my experience with the traditional paper-based portfolio the stage of being conflicted over the portfolio's purpose did not even develop, because it seemed like there was no initial agreement on what potential purposes might actually exist. Portfolios just appeared to be the thing to do because they were in fashion. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cults, Brains and Education 3.0

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The article, Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile Learning, both excites me and makes me uncomfortable! It excites me because it recognizes the power of technology, and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance the learning experience. But it also makes me uncomfortable because I find it follows a very bizarre notion that has become popular lately that, simply put, children are now adults.

Granted, the author does observe that "it is not as simple" as stating an educator "uses one teaching orientation over another." For example, I did a fair amount of training on Project-Based Learning and have applied it to some of my courses. But at one session I was forced to ask the "expert" on the topic (the facilitator): is Project Based Learning for every course or every student? The answer, unsurprisingly, was no, it is not. What prompted that question? It was this overwhelming tide of enthusiasm that PBL (I hate acronyms!) was going to transform our schools. Now, don't get me wrong, my experiences with PBL have been overly positive, but why is it when a new approach, new theory or new model is introduced and promoted, a cult-like atmosphere appears to develop among educators? There is sometimes this all or nothing attitude. So to see an acknowledgement that one philosophy or one approach is not the end all or be all and "educators need to examine what they are teaching and the population to whom they are teaching" is very refreshing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Different Routes in Teaching and Learning

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When I read over summaries for the five different teaching perspectives, I was struck how I saw myself more in the nurturing role than the other four. I was surprised because the running joke among most of my peers is I should become a guidance counselor. It is a running joke because I spend little time getting wrapped up in the personal lives of my students, and I seldom have students come speak to me one-on-one about their problems. So I never considered myself a nurturer.

So relating to that description and then having my results from the survey confirm my initial thoughts, I started to consider why this perspective was the strongest (albeit not off the charts, and there are two contenders right behind it - Developmental and Apprenticeship). I think it is the strongest because within the learning environment I want my students to do the best they can and feel confident in their work. I thought of two courses I normally teach, Journalism and Media Studies, when I read the statements. Normally the students that come into these courses at the school I teach are not the "strong academic" types. The courses are normally set against academic courses. So I usually get a fair share of students who are not strong writers and are not always that inclined to use technology for overly productive activities. Absenteeism runs high and many of the grade 12 students taking the courses do not even need the credits to graduate. It is strange when you have a system that allows students to get to second semester of grade 12, and they may only need one or two courses out of the five they are taking to receive their diploma in June.

Thinking about Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom: The Storyboard

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One of the topics of instruction that comes up quite often in my classes is the ability to storyboard in preparation for video work. Whether it is for Journalism 120, Writing 110 or Media Studies 120, the students do different types of video work, from news videos to how-to videos, to taking the written word and transforming it into "moving pictures." Part of the process is planning, and part of the planning is creating a storyboard - a plan of action which considers camera shots, text, audio, etc. Taking into consideration the nine different intelligences, below are some examples of how they could be used to teach the concept of storyboarding.

Verbal-Linguistic - Have students consider: What words will be used to convey the message? Most videos carry a message through the visual effects along with sounds and music. Many times few words are used. But the words that are used have to pack a punch and leave the audience with a lasting impression. Which words will be most effective and memorable for the audience and complement the visual and sound effects?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Learning Styles Versus Multiple Intelligences

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Looking at learning styles and trying three different learning style assessments, I was surprised to discover I am an auditory learner. I had always assumed I was a visual learner, maybe because I once heard that the visual learner is more common than the other two (and that in itself could very well be an inaccurate statement). I think this is why I tried three different inventories, because I was not totally convinced of the results. 

But upon further reflection, I can see why the results would indicate that I am an auditory learner. Even when I look at my daily routines, I rely a lot more on audio for news and information (podcasts and radio streams) than I do the written word. I always figured it was because listening to news and information, as opposed to reading it, allows me to do other activities at the same time (like drive a car). 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Naturally Intelligent?

According to the online assessment I completed on my multiple intelligences, I am not brimming over with strengths in any of the areas. The highest a person can get on the assessment is five, and I was a 3.86 in Naturalist Intelligence, a 3.57 in Intrapersonal Intelligence and 3.43 in Interpersonal Intelligence.

If these were grade point averages, I would be ecstatic.

However, sitting here typing this with some soil still stuck under my fingernails from taking care of some roots and seedlings this afternoon, I cannot argue that I love working outdoors and do possess a fair amount of practical knowledge in the areas of gardening and landscaping. I also enjoy walking and hiking and taking photos of nature. So maybe it is not that surprising that the Naturalist Intelligence is my highest area. I think since this was my highest intelligence, my learning environment would include time outdoors to explore patterns in nature.