Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Final Blog (or not)

This class has been great.  How many times have I written this at the end of a graduate course?  Not that many.  I appreciate the practical tools that Todd laid out in front of us to play with.  I have to admit that some have already come and gone from my short term memory, but just the opportunity to interact with some of these tools, plus the list of links on the class web site, will be useful.

I'm in a different position than my fellow students, working in the corporate side of education.  I'm surrounded by technology every day, but even so, that technology is pretty focused in a few limited areas.  I am looking forward to becoming more comfortable with a variety of collaborative teaching and learning tools.  My clients are extremely interested in how students and staff from schools all across the globe can benefit from real time, high definition video conferencing.  I will be testing out my first transoceanic video conference next week as I attempt to present my final project to the class using Eluminate from a laptop in my hotel room early Wednesday morning in Tokyo.  I look forward to "seeing" everyone next week.

Take care, be well and I will be hoping for the best for all of you as you move through this difficult budget season.

Cheers (or shall I say Kampai)!

So, what about text books?

I had a great conversation with my guidance counselor today about the use and or importance of text books in online learning.  We are at a crossroads in our program right now around the question of whether or not we should be including a paper text book with our courses.  There seem to be two very clear sides to this topic and according to our survey results and anecdotal discussions with students and parents, the split is pretty darn close to 50-50.

Some are suggesting that the textbook is an antiquated relic of days gone by.  Our courses are developed by highly skilled educators and subject matter experts and include text, video, avatars, web links, etc. (sounds like entertainment education right?) all right there in the course.  To incorporate a text book would be sort of like saying that you need to include an abacus with every iPad sold... right?  All of the important content for the course is included in the online version of the course.  Purchasing and shipping of textbooks either cuts into your profit margin or means students have to pay a lot more for the courses (remember, I work in a private school, so nothing is free).

On the other hand, isn't it important for students to learn how to access information in a non-virtual format?  Having that big heavy textbook, the oracle of all knowledge on the subject of Algebra II, gives students another option for acquiring knowledge.  Tactile learnings may benefit from flipping through the pages of a text book and even marking up the pages (if we allow that).  Visual learners benefit from all of the nice photos and high quality graphics that a textbook provides.  And the smell!  Who doesn't remember the smell of a brand new text book?

I would be interested to hear your perspective.  Are hard bound text books important in elearning?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reflection on 2/12

Kids learning at Kiosks in India
Google Presentation

It just keeps on coming.  I look forward to having some time tomorrow sitting in my hotel room to mess around with some of these tools and concepts.  I continue to be amazed at the range of options we have available to "make our lives more efficient and effective."  The question for me is how much of this I will actually implement in my daily work life.  What often happens with very interesting classes like this is that I start to fiddle around with some new program or technology, then after a a little experimentation, I revert back to old ways.  I think the key is going to be putting a little time in upfront to really understand a few of these tools, then find ways that they will make my life more efficient.

I have great hopes for the Google Apps arena for a few reasons.  First, because I travel some and use a variety of computers (work laptop, home laptop, iphone...) this may help me with version control.  I always find myself messing around to make sure I have the most up to date version of important documents.  If I can keep everything in one place, it will save me lots of time.  I also find a need to collaborate with others on most of what I produce, so the collaboration piece is critical.

I fear that there will be issues with compatibility.  I don't know yet if this is going to be an issue, but I remember back when anything created something on a Mac couldn't be easily handled on a PC.  This seems to be going away, but I still get documents emailed to me from Mac users that I cannot access.  In the "real world" it seems that everything is based on Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  If I can be convinced (through experience) that the Google Docs can be emailed, printed, shared, etc. with Mac and PC users universally, then I will be sold.


My test form

Click here for my survey

Sugata Mitra video

What an interesting take on the role of adults in student learning.  As academic leaders it has been drummed into us for years that the single most important aspect of student learning is a quality, caring teacher.  Mr Mitra says that students are fully capable of learning without the direct, face to face interaction with an adult.  He even goes so far as to say that 6-13 year olds will self instruct without any formal instructional technology, only access to the internet.

While I absolutely support the finding that students will learn something simply by exposure to the internet and the use of technology, I seriously question what they are learning.  I didn't see in this short presentation evidence of what the students were learning.

I was particularly interested in the fact that the students in the study learned IN GROUPS.  I think we tend to generalize online learning as individualized and isolating.  The team aspect of online learning is a keen interest of mine and an area I need to dig into more deeply.

While I am currently working in online learning, I still believe that there is an important and significant role for the teacher in student learning.  I believe that this role changes though with technology.  Teachers no longer need to be the delivery vehicle of knowledge.  Student can collect knowledge from the internet or online courses.  Teachers can now focus their efforts on remediation, clarification, collaboration, extension, making connections and application.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Here is the video

Check out this video

Blaise is one of my students at The Keystone School.  She wrote and performed this song titled Gossip Kills.  It's pretty amazing.