Voki Update

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The FINAL blog...ever???

Pheww! It's over! What a journey this blogging has been! I was initially excited about the prospect of blogging and the various benefits it would bring i.e. causing me to reflect on the learning outcomes each week, collaborating online with our peers, getting hands on with technology BUT when I sat down at my computer I really struggled to (a) articulate my thoughts and (b) to feel comfortable posting my thoughts for the world to see! I had a true love/hate relationship with blogging. Loved it when I could actually sit down and write it and when I discovered something new and useful and interesting BUT also hated it with a passion when I felt overwhelmed with the abundance of information, widgets, gadgets and links out there. HOWEVER (and that's a bit however for a reason) when push came to shove (i.e. deadline looming) I really began to enjoy posting my comments online and somehow 'forgot' about my prior concerns once my mind set had changed to 'just do it' (thanks Nike). I have found the experience of blogging has caused me to reflect so much more (and in greater depth) than I normally would have. I especially found useful the focus questions each week as they made me address each area we covered, not just the ones I could write about easily. I feel like a whole new world of technology has been opened up to me - I was probably using 2% of my smart phone/laptop/Internets capacity before - you know just searching for journals, checking FB, newspaper, emails, downloading music BUT now I have found other ways to spend my evenings....creating voki's, storybirds, glogster posters and the list goes on! Oh and I love Diigo - it solved my issue of not liking to read articles online but then not wanting to print 2 trees worth of research!

After looking over my blogs, I can see the tone of my public voice, changed from week to week. Sometimes I feel I am being very colloquial and using informal language and other times I feel I am in 'presentation/assignment' mode and drawing upon my academic language lexicon... Just as my moods change daily, so too does my blogger mood and I think this creates a nice record of reflection, emotion and ideas.

I spent a lot of time looking at YouTube clips on how to embed different gadgets and widgets and looking at sample blogs from practicing teachers from all over the world. I initially found it very difficult to embed and link etc but got the hang of it after a few weeks. Of course, I have only scratched the surface of the potential of a blog so it will be a work in progress. Which means...yes that's right...I'm going to continue blogging! Who would have thought! I went from finding blogging as an invasion of my thoughts and ideas to enjoying the reflective and interactive nature of blogging.

So, in conclusion, my love/hate relationship with blogging has become a more stable 'like' relationship and I will be blogging in the future - both with my students in the classroom and as a teacher!

Tutorial 10 - Web meets World /M-learning & Virtual Worlds

1. How do you think digital technologies will continue to develop over the next decade?
I think the scope is pretty much endless for digital technologies. Since the implemention of the world wide web in 1991 the world changed. Suddenly it was possible to access a cyber universe of technology, information and to communicate with people from all over the world. Spatial and time boundaries were overcome and it was possible for someone on Africa to access information from New York. Of course, then came Web 2.0 which saw the creation of a social web where users were active and collaborated, instead of being the passive recipients of information under Web 1.0. What is currently evolving now is Web 3.0, also known as the semantic web. This next evolution of the web will be able to collate and integrate information about each different user of the web so that intelligent, tailored answers or search results will be made. Mark gave us the example of typing into Web 3.0, 'where to go on holiday?'. It would be possible for Web 3.0 to spew out an answer of plausible holiday destinations customised to your salary and budget and preferred style of holiday and destination. This sounds fantastic - like your own personal travel agent BUT the implications are not so nice. It would mean that software was constantly collating and integrating information about you and your preferences - like being watched by Big Brother...I find the privacy issues reason for concern.

2. What benefits might such developments bring for education and more generally?
As time goes on and technology continue to develop at great speed, the normalisation of technology into classrooms is going to become a greater necessity. Our role as teachers is essentially to prepare each child for integration into mainstream society so they can reach their potential. Just because we (teachers) were not born in the digital era and grew up in a time where each family did not have a computer and the internet and may not be that IT savvy, doesn't mean that we have the right to limit our students exposure to and use of technology. We need to equip our stduents not only with numeracy and literacy skills but also with ICT competence as technology will be a way of life for these people: an integral skill needed for entry into University and the workforce.

I'm of the opinion that we should embrace technology in the classroom. Yes it may be daunting and more time consuiming BUT it is a necessary skill our pupils need. Integrating ICT into the calssroom as a way of framing the pedagogy can also serve to better meet the curriculum outcomes and to engage and motivate our students.

3. How relevant do you think m-learning will be to future education?
M-learning is a bit of a Pandora's box. M-learning is using mobile phones, iPods and the like and PDA's to educate students. I think there is scope for this type of learning device i.e. on field trips students can directly add to their blogs or wikis or iPods can be used for guided reading and to listen to podcasts.I personally find the idea of M-learning a slight contradiction. School's don't like to have phones in classrooms, but now we are saying that there is a huge learning tool sitting in their back pockets that we want them to use...in the classroom. I think it would be difficult to supervise appropriate usage of mobile phones  - what happens if someone calls or texts when your trying to update your wiki?

I found this clip on m-learning in America ot be quite interesting:

4. How relevant do you think virtual worlds will be to future education?
Virtual worlds can be used in schools to take students on excursions to destinations previously inaccessible - whether it be due to financial restrictions or if it is physically too far away. Innately, virtual worlds have a gaming type feel to them and this may well aid to engage and motivate students in their quest for knowledge. Virtual worlds are able to immerse students in the context where they can interact with other avatars and the virtual world. However, I don’t think educators and students can go past the tactile experience of physically being somewhere and the multitude of sense stimulation that naturally occurs e.g. taking a tour of a bakery without smelling the yeast and freshly baked bread wouldn’t be half as stimulating as actually being there. Furthermore the physiological and psychological implications of experiencing life through an avatar worry me greatly. I remember watching a movie eons ago where people controlled an avatar from a ‘digital cacoon’ at home. They spent every day in the cocoon while the avatar went to work for them, shopped for them and had coffee with their friends. The idea was that it was, ‘too dangerous’ to go outside so an avatar was used. This is obviously taking virtual worlds a few steps further but the sentiment is the same!  Such a depressing thought to think this technology could, one day, go mainstream. However, to get back on track, in an educational setting when the choice is to between visiting a virtual world or no field trip at all, the virtual world should be used.

Tutorial 9 - Information Overload/Folksonomies & RSS

Before I delve into the focus questions for this week I think it is important to define just what exactly Information Overload is. In class, we came up with the definition of information overload being, "when so much information is available that you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start". The main problems with it are that:
1. Reduced ability to synthesise information which may lead to copy-and-paste behaviour by students;
2. Students need to be fully equipped with research skills such as critical literacy and summarising, skimming skills (these skills are more important than ever);
3. Action needs to be taken to filter the mass of information available on the web, so that only the most relevant and reliable information is made contact with. In the case of social networks, you can hide a 'friend' who's status updates are wearing down your patience or in the case of micro blogging on Twitter you can delete unwanted feeds.

1. How does information and communication overload affect you and how do you/could you deal with it?
My normal tactic is to hand pick what I deem as the most relevant and reliable sources of information (whether that means limiting the number of journals used, social networking sites logged into etc) and limit my research to these few sites. In this way, I can more easily synthesise and regulate the information I need to sift through to complete the task. I can definitely see an application of RSS feeds to bring together the different social networking sites I like to use, so in just one log in I'll have all the information I want (rather than 5 different logins)

2. How might information and communication overload affect your students and how could you help them deal with it?
When I was in primary school completing assignments meant getting out the Encarta CD and completing my research. Nowadays, students have a staggering amount of resources available to them so sorting and filtering information is a necessity. I can imagine that when conducting research for an assignment they may stagnate in their assignment completion from the sheer abundance of websites pulling them every which way. As a teacher I can attempt to minimise this horrible feeling of information overload by using search vehicles such as Rollyo where you can limit the sources from which the search results come from. By creating a delicious style tag cloud I could limit my student's search to that of reliable, relevant information only. Using customised folksonomies/tag clouds in conjunction with instilling competency in summarising and skimming may alleviate the extent of information overload encountered by my students.

3. When might folksonomies be useful in education?
Folksonomies are a collaborative indexing system where the ordering is built from the bottom up. It is pretty much the exact opposite of a taxonomy as a folksonomy starts with the information that is then organised by topic or theme so that a pool of resources can be easily accessed. Site organisers such as delicious.com are useful in education as they can also be shared and are visually represented in tag clouds. I like how tag clouds break away from the traditional boring list format of search results, into a bright spatially organised cloud!
c) Network filtering: A way of connecting a range of networking sites onto one site

4. When might RSS be useful in education?
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is about bringing into one space information of interest from all over the web. Newsfeeds are an example of RSS. RSS feeds are a source of instant up-to-date information from sources you select i.e. the Herald Sun and The West.
RSS feeds can be used in education to provide up-to-date information on curriculum topics and to incorporate different perspectives on the topics. A class RSS feed could be set up to facilitate group work/class discussion.
5. When might folksonomies and RSS be useful to you professionally?
Just as folksonomies and RSS feeds are useful for students, they can/are useful to me in a professional capacity. I can remain up-to-date with different sections of newspapers, certain twitter feeds on education topics through use of an RSS. Folksonomies would be a great way to organise the resources used to plan and execute classroom activities.

Tutorial 8 - Digital Safety/Social Networking, PLE's and e-portfolios

1. What are the most significant online dangers for young people?
The most significant online dangers for our students fall under three main areas:
(1) Cyber bullying - Cyber bullying behaviours include, but are not limited to, online threats, insults and any other malicious behaviour. It can occur in social networking sites, IM, email, chat, Twitter and has the potential to be posted on wikis and blogs. It is important to note that one-off nasty messages are not classified as cyber bullying as the definition requires repeated hostile behaviour. A useful definition of cyber bullying was given at out Cybersafety lecture by ACMA. It defines cyber bullying as, 'when the internet, email or mobile phones are used to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behaviour to harm someone'. ACMA also goes onto state that, 'those involved in cyber bullying can experience social, psychological and academic difficulties'.
(2) Cyber pornography or other inappropriate content - the latter is dependent upon the age of the student however, sites containing guns, drugs, pro-anorexia and hate sites fall within this category.
(3) Cyber predation - this refers to people on the internet who befriend and gather personal information about the child to be used with harmful financial or bodily intent. I found this newspaper article on cyber predators which you may like to take a look at - ABC Cyber Predator Story

2. How do schools deal with such dangers?
There are many strategies schools can employ to limit students exposure to such online dangers as mentioned above. First of all we can take screen shots rather than go live on the internet where we may be subjected to a popups and inappropriate advertising. Secondly we, as educators, can use a filtering system to block out inappropriate websites or undesirable websites such as FB and MySpace. Most schools have an ICT usage policy that is delivered to the stduents and parents alike and signed off on as a contract. I think this type of safeguard is probably more effective in limiting the school's liability than truly protecting children from online dangers. However if the policy is read and explained to the children at school and then co-signed by parents, I believe such policies can go a long way in beginning the process of establishing positive Cyber Citizenship.

3. What classroom strategies might you use to help educate students about the dangers?
I think awareness os the key. Teachers need to ensure children know what is safe and conversely what equates to unsafe behaviour (such as sharing their details with unknown 'friends'). Establishing a set of 'Positive Cyber Citizen Rules' in each classroom would be a beneficial strategy. Additionally, websites such as ThatsNotCool.com are great for gearing poignant messages to the target age group (young people) in a meaningful yet non-offensive way. See below for an example:

The clips above and below would be very useful to raise awareness of cyber dangers and how to manage such dangers for lower primary students. I think it is important to reiterate to students that the Web can be a dangerous place BUT if the right safeguards and cyber citizenship behaviours are implemented, the Web becomes what it was supposed to be - a collaborative online world where we can access, share and create audio, visual, text, images to better our own lives.

Tutorial 7 - Information literacy/Search

For this blog entry this week I have decided to give my keyboard a rest and to communiate my ideas and reflection through the use of a voki!

1. When and how should we help students to develop information literacy/critical literacy?

2. When are search engines and search services most useful in education?
3. Which search engines and services might you use in the classroom? Are there any you would chose not to use?

And in conclusion...

Tutorial 6 - Multiliteracies/Podcasting, Vodcasting & Digital Storytelling

1. When and how should we help students to develop multiliteracies?
Multiliteracies are the essence of literacy lessons across the world. In each lesson we are aiming to introduce or develop the students multiliteracies. Namely to (a) be a critical analyser (to question the reliability and perspective portrayed), (b) transform what has been learnt and use it in different ways, (c) make meaning from what they have read/heard/watched (using comprehension skills) and (d) to be a functional user of the information and isplay technical competence. These multiliteracies are founded in Luke and Freebody's 1990 Four Resources Model of Reading (http://www.readingonline.org/research/lukefreebody.html).
I don't believe there are too many difference in the pedagogy of teaching multiliteracies between the pre-digital era and the current digital era. We still need to teach the '3R's (reading writing and arithmetic) as well as viewing, speaking, spelling etc. The digital era has enabled teachers and students alike a newer, sleeker and faster vehicle in which to practice their reading, writing, critical literacy skills and summarising etc. Think of blogger - an authentic way to practice literacy skills using ICT - tick, tick tick I say!
Traditional print literacies are still required to access and navigate the internet and indeed they can be developed through ICT usage. In the current climate, students are requiring more literacy skills than ever - whether it be print or digital literacy or information literacy - they must navigate the Web and extract the inofrmation they are looking for while using their ICT skills and then present and design the layout of their piece of work.

2. How might you use podcasting and vodcasting in education?
Podcasting and vodcasting can be used by students to catch up on any lessons they have missed or to revise/reflect on past lessons. Podcasts can also faciliate guided reading for younger students and enable aural learners a flexible mode to receive lesson content or to read books. Students can also make podcasts and vodcasts as a way to practive their speaking and presentation skills which also drives collaboration and multimedia skills.

3. How might you use digital storytelling in education?

Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling.
Digital stories derive their power by weaving images, music, narrative and voice together,
thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, experiences, and insights.
Tell your story now digitally.
Digital storytelling can be used to express creative stories, recount historical events,  to interview people and the list goes on. My personal favourite is Storybird! Check out my digital story on Storybird below:

Toast and Tea and Autumn Leaves by JessGardner on Storybird

4. When and how might you use social sharing sites?
Social sharing sites range from textsharing to photsharing to slidesharing to videosharing.
Scribd is a text sharing site - http://www.scribd.com/
Diigo is a sticky note function for any website - http://www.diigo.com/
Flickr is one of the better known photosharing sites - http://www.flickr.com/
Slideshare is a slidesharing sites - http://www.slideshare.net/
Voicethread (a great site) is a form of videosharing - https://voicethread.com/
Check out my voicethread at http://voicethread.com/share/2086443/

How would you deal with the risks in using social sharing sites? Are there any you would avoid completely? You can use filters, and use silent tube/quiet tube which don't have the advertising popping up around the clips. However, dealing with and manging these risks is using social sharing sites is a part of growing up. I don't think we should block any social networking sites as it is ignoring the risk/problem rather than coaching the students and learning to mange such social networking risks.

Tutorial 4 - Collective Intelligence/Wikis

Welcome to Tutorial 4 of, 'My Musings'! This week the focus is on Collective Intelligence and Wikis. The term 'Collective Intelligence' stirs in me notions of aliens and superior beings monitoring life on earth BUT somehow I don't think that's what this 'Collective Intelligence' is referring to...
So what exactly is Collective Intelligence in terms of ICT? Well according to Wikipedia, Collective Intelligences are, 'a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in computer networks'. Hmm, so this means that Wikipedia is also a Collective Intelligence...by its very own definition! Nice.

The most widely known and used Collective Intelligence is indeed Wikipedia. Now, I'm sure most people know what Wikipedia is, but to be sure, I wikipedia-ed Wikipedia and found that they define themselves as, "a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopaedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 18 million articles (over 3.6 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site. Wikipedia was launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger[4] and has become the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet, ranking around seventh among all websites on Alexa and having 365 million readers"'. Wow! Thanks Wikipedia - such a great one-stop shop for all my definition needs...or is it?

What are the pros and cons of Wikipedia? How can/should it be used in an educational setting?
From my own experience on Wikipedia is a bit of a double-edged sword in that the very aspects that make it a great resource also act to detract from its usefulness. For example:

1. It can be edited by anyone which creates a great opportunity for people to publish their knowledge and share information BUT by the same token, the edit function detracts from the reliability of information provided;
2. It is not widely accepted in Universities as a reference and therefore shouldn't be/isn't accepted in primary schools as a reference either;

Some advantages:

1. The ability to embed diagrams, photos, audio, hyperlink text etc gives the source breadth and depth of information (but we must apply critical literacy to determine the reliability of the entry);
2. It is easy to use and quick - a 'one stop shop' for your entire encyclopaedia needs;
3. Given the authors aren't always experts in the field (albeit sometimes they are) the language used is more accessible to the masses (including myself).

Overall, Wikipedia is a very useful tool for educators and students alike. I think it should be used in schools but in conjunction with critical literacy skills so that any inaccuracies, bias etc are identified. It is a great 'first port of call' when researching BUT it definitely shouldn't be the only source consulted.

Now on to another Collective Intelligence - Wikis!
A wiki is a technology for creating collaborative websites. They are similar to blogs with the most noticeable difference being they are more collaborative than a blog and do not operate in a time-line format. Personally, I feel more comfortable with a Wiki than with a Blog, but that's just personal preference!

I found this on the net and thought it summed up nicely the topics of the last 2 weeks: