Favorite Quote of the Week

“Technology alone can make us neither free nor self-directed. The key lies with the individual, not the institution.” – Ken Carroll

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Week 9 -- YouTube, TeacherTube, and the Future of Shared Online Video

A vision of students today --
I have seen this video before, and came across it again today.  I thought I would share it here because it relates to the issue of significance in teaching/learning.  The week 9 topic of the instructional use of video has caused me to reflect on significance a lot.  I also read an article by Michael Wesch that challenged me to consider the lack of significance in many of our traditional approaches to education today. 
The use of video in the classroom…this idea has been around for quite awhile.  I watched plenty of videos when I was in school (elementary and high school).  Sometimes we got to watch movies as a reward for other work; sometimes we watched videos to learn class content; sometimes we watched videos just to be doing something.  As a teacher myself, I have often used videos when teaching. 
Sometimes I have used videos to fill in content gaps; sometimes I have used videos to grab students’ attention; sometimes, I admit, I have looked for a video that would take the place of lesson planning for a day.  Videos can be a powerful tool, but, just like everything else, they can be used in ways that do not contribute to significance. 
I was recently talking to my cousin, who is eagerly approaching his college graduation.  He has been a student for a long time and is now finishing up by taking a full load of 19 credit hours.  He talked to me about feeling frustrated, sitting in class listening to a professor read from a powerpoint presentation.  Why, he wondered, can’t the professor send the powerpoint to students via email, making it available for them to watch on their own time?  What is the purpose of attending a class session anyway?  He was intrigued and very interested by online learning opportunities that might allow him some flexibility. 
Then, I read a short article by Dian Shauffhauser, who shared about the use of streaming video for class lectures.  Some instructors are offering these to students as an alternative to attending class lectures.  Students seem to respond very positively to this.  Why, I wondered, is this not available to more students?  As an online student of three years now, I don’t know if I would have the patience to sit in a traditional classroom anymore. 
All of this led me to consider that instructors (of which I am one) need to evaluate the goals of each educational endeavor and choose the tools that best meet those goals.  If students can get necessary course content from sources other than a class lecture, what is the purpose of still having class lectures?  If students do come to class, what will happen there that will be significant?  If nothing significant, then it seems to me that we are wasting everyone’s time.  What needs to happen within the walls of a traditional classroom (or within the parameters of an online environment) in order to make it a significant, relevant event?  If I use a video, what is my rationale for doing so?  What can be accomplished with a video that cannot be accomplished any other way?
Learning … this is the goal of education.  Videos can be a powerful tool to assist our learning.  But, let’s not use them simply because they are available.  I, for one, hope to take advantage of some resources I learned about this week that can assist me in my home schooling efforts.  But, I still need to consider my goals and how a particular video can help in accomplishing those.  This is the constant tension…one that empowers me to strive for meaningful learning.  Significance is critical.  In the midst of so many useful tools, the ultimate goal remains the same…..LEARNING!
Michael Wesch, Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance."  Education Canada 48(2):4-7. Jan 2008.  http://www.scribd.com/doc/6358393/AntiTeaching-Confronting-the-Crisis-of-Significance

Dian Schaffhauser (2010, September 15). College Students on Streaming Video: Get Me Outta Class! Campus Technology. http://campustechnology.com/articles/2010/09/15/college-students-on-streaming-video-get-me-outta-class.aspx

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Week 8 -- Wikis, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and Collaborative Writing

When I was little, I really never thought that I could create something.   This may sound strange to some people…as I get older, I’m learning that there are people who actually like to invent and create.  I don’t think I’m one of them.  I don’t think much about inventing something new; I take what’s already available and assume that it’s sufficient for what I need.  As I write this, I realize that this is a pretty sad outlook, huh?
My own children have caused me to reflect on this.  Not only are each of them very creative, they also assume that they can do just about anything they want to do.  My oldest daughter has researched various publishing companies and has been asking from a very young age to send a book to a publisher…just like that, like it must be simple process!  One of my children was convinced that she was going to buy an old building and make it into a bookstore.  Most of my children have asked to start their own businesses, have created various things in this pursuit, and assume that whatever they make can be sold for a lot of money.  I don’t know what has inspired them in this way…maybe all children have these thoughts.  Maybe I did at one time too.  What is different, though, is that now creativity has a larger outlet. 
Our study during week 8 was on collaborative sharing through wikis.  My first thought when reading this information is that my children are growing up in an era in which it is very possible for them to contribute to something big.  They can post their writings to a blog, they can email real authors of real books, they can express their own creativity through various websites.  They can be a part of a collaborative wiki project.  This was not possible when I was younger. 
Over the years (I’ve been a mom now for almost thirteen years), I have struggled with how to encourage my children when they come to me with grand ideas.  Because it is not in my nature to embark on something completely new on my own, I hesitate when my children have their own, new ideas.  My first inclination is to redirect them to other, safer, easier pursuits.  But, I’ve begun to think a bit differently.  Now I realize that they are fortunate to be living at a time when it is easier than ever to share work with others and to create something that might be used by many other people. 
The Web 2.0 has opened doors for most everyone to make an impact.  No longer is it only the elite who become authors, movie producers, musicians, inventors, and scientists.  It is everyone.  I’m excited to have some tools by which to encourage my children in their creative pursuits.    And, who knows, maybe I’ll explore some ideas of my own someday too!

Bryant, S. L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia. In M. Pendergast, K. Schmidt, G. Mark, and M. Acherman (Eds.); Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, GROUP 2005, Sanibel Island, FL, November 6-9, pp. 1-10. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 7 -- Connectivism, Social Knowledge, and Participatory Learning

Honestly, this week has been an interesting one for me philosophically.  I may as well start by saying that I have some philosophical disagreements with George Siemens, a prime proponent of Connectivism.  Siemens was a featured guest speaker for our class meeting this week, I read several of his articles in preparation for our online discussion forum, and I also watched a couple of videos where he shared his views.
On the surface, I agree that we learn as we connect with other people.  And, we are able to “connect” now more than ever.  The acquisition of knowledge, in many respects, has never been easier.  So, this is not what bothers me about Seimens’ view.  What I have issue with is the notion that we are “creating” knowledge as we connect with others and collaborate, share ideas, etc.  Catherine McLoughlin and Mark JW Lee, in their discussion about Connectivism, say, “Students are no longer passive consumers but active producers of knowledge” (emphasis mine) (2008).
The way I see it, knowledge is knowledge.  Truth and information is out there…maybe I don’t know something yet, and maybe I need to connect with other people before I discover it, but to say that I will “produce” or create my own knowledge goes against some of my foundational beliefs.  I have a similar philosophical disagreement with Constructivism as well.  I feel that it’s important to at least state my disagreement, but I don’t want that to be the focus of my blog post.  So, I’ll move onto how I might be able to incorporate Connectivist methodology.
First, for my own children, I can see how Connectivist methodology can be of benefit.  Internet resources for collaboration and social networking allow us to take advantage of the opinions and knowledge of other people.  Even in our local setting, outside of the Internet, we are able to collaborate and share ideas.  Encouraging children to value and seek out learning with others cannot be a bad thing.  The videos I found online that show the practical side of Connectivist methodology were helpful to me in gathering practical ideas. 
As I’ve alluded to in previous weeks, I think that I would be doing my children a disservice to not allow them to access the multiple resources available to them on the Internet.  In fact, I am becoming more and more convinced that this is not a luxury; Internet access is a necessity.  However, this access cannot be completely open, without limits.  While my children are young, I must monitor the online resources they are accessing.  Also, while they are younger, I need to be vigilant to equip them with the critical thinking skills they will need to self-monitor later on. 
Some practical ideas that I would like to implement in my home school: 
·         blog for learning and sharing purposes
·         encourage my children to email authors and publishers of the books they read
·         utilize document sharing tools for collaboration (within and even outside of our family)
Connectivism….I’m not sure that I agree with the underlying philosophies regarding the nature of knowledge and learning , but I can still glean practical ideas to enhance teaching and learning.  I have certainly learned something this week and am very thankful for the connections I am developing with others who teach me so many things!
Catherine McLoughlin & Mark Lee (2008, June/July). Future learning landscapes: Transforming pedagogy through social software. Innovate. 4(5). http://www.innovateonline.info/pdf/vol4_issue5/Future_Learning_Landscapes-__Transforming_Pedagogy_through_Social_Software.pdf