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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Week 15 -- Networks of Personalized Learning

This week’s topic, I think, is an appropriate ending to this semester.  In light of all we’ve learned in relation to web 2.0 tools available for learning, it’s fitting at the end to discuss personalized and self directed learning.  All of us have resources at easy access to facilitate our learning on a variety of topics.  And, the instruction we can receive is not only surface level.   Real, hands-on, learning can take place with the click of a button.  And, all learning styles are catered to.  A close friend of mine turns to YouTube when she needs to learn something fast (cooking, sewing, etc.).  I know others who turn to Google quite frequently when they have trouble with a software application.  This week’s tidbit articles remind me that even a new language can be learned without leaving the comfort of a home. 
With all the tools available, it’s no wonder that people everywhere are exploring options for learning on their own, in their own style, at their own pace.  After listening to Ken Carroll speak, I realize that we must consider whether or not we are ready for that level of independence in learning.  I think it certainly depends on the individual.  Ken said, “Technology alone can make us neither free nor self-directed.  The key lies with the individual, not the institution.”  I agree that no amount of technology can make a person want to learn on his own.  Also, I believe that left completely to ourselves, we may not learn the right things.  Proper direction and guidance is always necessary.  But, internal motivation to learn certainly has an outlet in this information age.
As I look to the future, I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.  Because I am a home schooling mom, I am forever looking for opportunities to enrich my family’s educational pursuits.  When my daughter expresses an interest in learning French, I am happy to know that there are good resources available.  When I know that music instruction is important, but also realize that I am not qualified to teach it, I am thankful that I can turn to the Internet for help.  There really are no limits to what can be accomplished. 
The web 2.0 has certainly opened doors in ways that were not possible before.  As a final tribute to what I have learned in this class, I share my YouTube video creation with you:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts45BkAnqTs
It is a summary of what I’ve learned and a glimpse into the home school.  Much of what I have discovered here will be applied, in the short term, to the context of my own home school.  Beyond that, time will only tell.  But, I go forward with more confidence in what can be accomplished. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week 14 -- Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

As with every other week in this class, I learned something new this week.  I thought I knew what a podcast was, but as a result of reading a good article this week, I discovered that it was more involved than I realized.  More than just an audio recording, a podcast must have some “behind-the-scenes” capabilities.  The real value in a podcast is the fact that subscribers can get regular, automatic updates to a podcast series.  This article gives a good visual depiction of how a podcast is made:  http://www.educause.edu/sites/default/files/2007/07/CMU_Podcasting_Jun07.pdf
One educational use of the podcast is to record and distribute classroom lectures.  While most students use these recorded lectures as a means of reviewing material, some instructors hesitate to distribute podcasted lectures for fear that students may start to skip the live class altogether, and instead rely on the podcast to “attend” class. 
Since becoming an online student nearly three years ago, I think I would be more inclined to prefer a podcast version of a lecture rather than sit through a lengthy class session in order to listen to a live lecture.  If I knew that I could get the same material from a recording, I would do that in a heartbeat.  The flexibility to listen at a time when it is convenient for me, along with the ability to fast forward and rewind as necessary, would lead me to prefer this method.  If, however, the instructor would give me a good reason to attend the live class session, I would go.
The reluctance of some instructors to use podcasts has me thinking once again about the need for significance in teaching/learning.  Rather than simply making face to face class lectures a requirement for students, how about if instructors made the face to face sessions actually worthwhile?   If a lecture needs to happen in a class with a large student population, and if the lecture is simply used to distribute content, then it seems to me that a podcast is a better option.  However, if there is an element of interactivity and engagement within the class session that a student can’t get from a recorded version, then students will figure out on their own that it is to their benefit to attend the live session. 
Maybe one great advantage of web 2.0 tools is that instructors, because of the availability of a variety of delivery methods, must think through their reasoning for using each method.  If instructors still want students to attend live class sessions, they might now be forced to present students with a good reason for doing so.  The live session, used in connection with a podcasted lecture, can be a powerful learning method.  Why not deliver content with the podcast, thus saving time for the class session to be used for other, more interactive components of the class?  Let’s think through the most effective use of each tool we use – as we do this, students who want to learn will respond with enthusiasm because we have chosen our methods wisely. 
Deal, Ashley (2007, June). Podcasting. A Teaching With Technology White Paper. Educause. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://connect.educause.edu/files/CMU_Podcasting_Jun07.pdf

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 13 -- Educational Blogging

I think it’s time for me to join Twitter.  I’m not sure why, but I have yet to participate in this social networking site.  I joined Facebook about 2 years ago.  I was kind of behind-the-times when I did that too.  Honestly, I think I just didn’t want more stuff to do.  Maybe I feel the same way about Twitter.  Won’t it just be one more thing to keep track of? 
After this week’s readings, though, I think choosing to not join Twitter, or the overall blogging world, might not be an option anymore.  Just like so many things, it just might be a part of being “digitally literate.”  The weblog, such as this one I am keeping this semester, is a means of sharing personal ideas and personal interests.  Beyond that, blogs are fast becoming a means of distributing information.  Stephen Downes says, Through the interlocked network of weblogs, information can spread like wildfire” (2003).  What one person shares on a blog, another person picks up on and shares some with others.  Twitter works the same way, only much more concise.  With just a few words, a person can send out a “tweet” and the thought is in fast distribution. 
What caught my attention most this week, especially about Twitter, is that it is a tool for learning.  Twitter, or any microblogging tool, can provide a venue for expression and further discussion in the midst of a large group of people attending the same conference.  In the past, individuals at an event may not have had much direct influence on the content.  Now, though, there are tools available for near-constant interaction.  Maybe Twitter is not an option. 
Aside from the educational uses of microblogging, I am also considering the use of weblogs for educational purposes.  In this era of texting and tweeting, I wonder if we are all getting rather lazy in our written expressions.  Spelling often takes a backseat to the need for short and quick text messages.  Maybe requiring students to keep a blog would be a way to encourage more reflective written expression.  I have a feeling that my own children would enjoy having their own blogs – somehow this seems much better than writing on paper with a pen.  I might have to explore that more.  I informally surveyed a group of high school students I teach at our local home school co-op.  Some of them seemed rather intimidated with the thought of keeping their own blog.  I was surprised.  But, it’s something to keep in mind.  Blogging might not be for everyone. 
Regardless of how I use the blogging tools, it does seem that they are a reality in our world.  The reality of blogging demands that I give it some attention.  There, I did it….I just joined Twitter.  Now, what do I do??  That might take some time for me to figure out J.
Downes, Stephen (2003, May). More than Personal: The Impact of Weblogs (includes comprehensive listing of Blogging software, tools, and resources). http://www.downes.ca/post/31449

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 12 -- Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

When I was younger, I remember begging my parents for a phone in my room.  I was a typical teenager (and pre-teen) who loved to talk on the phone and couldn’t imagine anything better than being allowed to do so in the privacy of my own room.  My parents finally gave in.  After that, I began begging for my own private phone line!  Never did get that, though.
I now have a near-thirteen year old who is begging for a cell phone.  I, honestly, haven’t given her request much serious consideration.  What in the world would she need with a cell phone?  She’s not old enough to drive.  She’s not usually out on her own for any length of time.  My perspective has been…there is no practical reason to give her a cell phone.  And, surely it’s not wise (or safe) for my young teenager to have a cell phone….is it?
The articles I read this week, along with the class discussion, may have me singing a different tune – but, I haven’t shared that with my daughter yet.  I’m still not sure I’m ready to take the plunge on the cell phone for her, but I will say that I have learned that cell phones (or mobile devices) are used for much more than just talking on the phone.  In fact, among younger users, it is probably used least for phone conversation (Smith, 2010). 
Mobile learning – this is a concept I thought I understood, but now realize I didn’t fully know what it was about.  Previously, when I thought of mobile learning, I thought of the flexibility it must provide – learning wherever and whenever you want to.  Learning that you take with you! 
But, I learned that mobile learning is about much more than flexibility.  Mobile devices allow for intentional learning to take place within authentic environments.  Think about the student in nurse’s training.  What if his/her instructor provided links or materials, accessible through a mobile device, that can be utilized while participating in on-the-job training. 
The little cell phone – that mobile device – is useful for much more than talking on the phone.  My, oh my, teenagers these days are much more creative than I was.  My daughter will probably be using her cell phone to write the novel she dreams of publishing!  I can’t think of a better way to spend a few spare minutes waiting for her rehearsal time to begin at the drama club meeting. 

Aaron Smith (2010, July 7). Mobile Access 2010. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Mobile_Access_2010.pdf

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Week 11 – Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

I will admit it – I am not a “gamer.”  In fact, I am probably more inclined to think that those who do “game” are often wasting time.  What value could possibly come from spending hours in front of a screen playing a game?  This week’s topic has caused me to challenge that assumption.  I wouldn’t say that I’m entirely “sold” on the idea of gaming, but I’m certainly more open to it than I was before. 
First of all, for those who like to game (lots and lots of boys do), then it might be a very good idea to use their natural interest in games in order to teach them something.  I have two sons who love video games.  One, in particular, would spend all day playing video games if I would allow it.  I have found various educational computer games for him to play and he really likes that.  It has been a great way for him to develop some math and reading skills.  All of my children – daughters included – often respond very well to a new game to play on the computer.  It’s like they don’t even realize that they’re learning – it’s just fun.  This type of gaming has been more “acceptable” to me as their teacher.
But, what about taking it a step further – what about the use of virtual worlds like Second Life and others?  This is an area of which I am much less familiar.  While I’m not ready to create a space in Second Life, I am very intrigued by what “worlds” like this can offer.  Mostly, I have learned this week that virtual worlds and simulations can serve as wonderful training tools when a real world scenario is needed.  Students can participate in near-authentic environments, solving problems and applying what they have learned (and for learning completely new things). 
I have also reflected on the idea of how gaming is now becoming more of a social rather than a solitary activity.    Because of this, collaboration can occur in a virtual, simulated environment.  Within the context of a game, students can work together with others to solve problems, etc.  I can see how this could be an effective teaching tool. 
With all of that being said, I think there are still dangers.  Bonk and Dennen write, “…the social support, challenge, feedback, and sense of identity that players receive online in MMOG often provides psychological fulfillment that they may not be receiving in real life.”  To me, this can be a danger.  When gamers start replacing the real world with their virtual world, a dangerous line has been crossed.  When virtual worlds are preferred over the real world because of the fulfillment one receives in a virtual environment, then what was once a tool for learning and positive social interactivity becomes a hindrance to personal well-being.
The bottom line for me is that games can be an effective tool for learning.  However, I am still cautious about the potential negative effects.  For this reason, it’s important to be intentional about their use within an educational environment.  Games should not “rule” the classroom.  Kept in proper balance, they offer much potential. 

Bonk, C. J., & Dennen, V. P. (2005). Massive multiplayer online gaming: A research framework for military education and training. (Technical Report # 2005-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense (DUSD/R): Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://mypage.iu.edu/~cjbonk/GameReport_Bonk_final.pdf
Korzeniowski, Paul (2007, March 27). Educational video games: Coming to a classroom near you? TechNewsWorld. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://www.technewsworld.com/story/56516.html

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Week 10 -- Interactive and Collaborative Learning

At this point in the semester, I am feeling excited about the many tools available for educators today.  This week, we have focused on some tools for collaboration.  Some of the resources I have discovered this week include:
http://www.watchknow.org/ -- a portal of videos for educators and students to use and create
http://nwf.org/ -- a site for the National Wildlife Federation, where students can even post their own wildlife observation data

Some other resources I have learned about throughout the entire semester are:
http://www.khanacademy.org/ -- a great resource of free teaching on a variety of subjects
http://www.freerice.com/ -- fun supplemental site for a variety of subjects
http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm -- online teaching and learning materials
http://cnx.org/ -- Rice University’s Connexions
http://www.coudal.com/moom/ (Museum of online museums)

The list could go on and on… I feel excitement, sure – but also a bit of intimidation.  How is it possible for me to make sense of the many resources available? I could spend all of my time just looking at resources, which would leave no room for me to ever use them!  It reminds me of the way I felt after attending my first home school convention – seeing the exhibit hall, with all of the vendors and resources, almost made me leave it all behind.  There is just too much to choose from! 
What is important, though, is not how many resources are available, but choosing the most appropriate ones to use in a given situation.  Maybe it would be best for me to start with a few recommendations from my peers (like I’ve been given in this class), use those for awhile, identify other areas of need, then start looking for more resources to fill those gaps.  I’m sure I will not know about every resource, but if I identify some helpful ones, then I have gained something.
This all gets me thinking about how I might be able to serve the home school community in the area of technology.  Is there a resource I could develop that could gather a bunch of resources together, categorize them into topics/areas, and then give ideas for how a home school parent could best use the resource?  Surely I’m not the only parent out there who feels overwhelmed by choice.  A “starting place” resource would be great!  Maybe for my final project….we’ll see…

Jennifer Demeski (2010, August). Web 2.0: 3 for 3. Ed Tech Experts Choose Top Tools
Which web 2.0 tools are best suited for enabling collaboration in teaching and learning? A trio of ed tech experts offer up their top three choices apiece, 07/28/10, THE Journal, 37(7), pp. 32-37. Available: http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/08/01/3-for-3.aspx