Category Archives: Information Communication Technology
I’ve become a huge quadblogging fan.
For those not in the know quadblogging is when a group of four classes take turns to read and comment on individual blogs. The quad can be international or national.
After a few false starts, the quad I’ve been involved in this year has been nothing short of awesome. I feel bad that the class hasn’t been able to give as much attention as I would like owing to production practices, swimming and learning conferences playing havoc with the classroom schedule.
A few weeks ago a challenge went out. The students of one of the quads wanted to map our classroom in minecraft.
To say my students are obsessed with minecraft would be an understatement. There’s something about building virtual worlds which is almost as addictive as refined sugar to my learners.
One of my students took over the project and spent the next few weeks measuring up a storm. I wasn’t allowed to touch my whiteboard as measurements went up and were then put into written form. The initial write up conveyed an insane amount of detail and involved discussions about the Pythagorus theorem.
The excitement of seeing the build grew but there was one small problem – the set up of my classroom is very different to a typical classroom. My students don’t really notice the difference as that’s our normal. We are only reminded that our classroom isn’t typical when the odd student from outside of our syndicate walks in and goes ‘woah it looks different in here.’ As a result our quadblogging buddies were having trouble getting their heads around our classroom layout.
The initial result was wrong.
And from that wrong I ventured into the promised land as far literacy goes: boys talking to each other about their writing. Not just the surface ‘I think you did a good job’ or ‘how do you spell this word’ but those in-depth conversations, the ‘if you write this, the reader might think that’ talks which really develop kids as writers.
My students had a go at giving the blogging buddies feedback. Helping their peers put things right turned out to be a fantastic way for the kids to really stretch their explaining skills. As I sat working with a child on their reading, I found myself distracted wanting to the capture the learning conversation happening just a few meters a way.
One of my students suggested a fix was for our blogging buddies to make an initial build and then our class could rebuild. While I was impressed by the lateral thinking a quick reminder about the ‘task with the task’ writing and measuring had the kids back thinking.
As always there was extra learning for me.
How could we have explained our set up a bit better?
When did we need to get our rulers and when was time to make sure our explanations used words to helped create an accurate picture in the readers mind?
I’ve been hugely impressed how this connection has lead to so much unintended and unscripted learning. It’s pushed me to think more about how we can redefine our learning tasks.
I’ll freely admit that when using google docs for the formal writing assessment my primary purpose was actually to make my job a teacher a whole lot easier.
I loathe marking paper tests with the fire of a thousand suns. No matter how hard I try, I end up swimming in a sea of paper and I am overly paranoid about losing the tests. Then there’s the wasted time spent entering data into some of the world’s most user-unfriendly computer systems which I then enter into a spreadsheet so I have the information I want organised in the way I need (which is really another rant for another day).
There were some benefits for the kids from moving away from the traditional paper and pencil tests. Handwriting legibility isn’t an issue which means kids can read their work. When the students make mistakes, there is no messy crossing out and the writing still flows when they go back and correct their errors. Some kids like that they can move ideas around or go back and write an idea later.
What I was unprepared for is by using google docs for a simple writing assessment was that my students would use technology to start redefining assessment.
Even at a rudimentary level a word processor comes with a spell-check. Kids won’t be able to control themselves and will use the spell check to cheat. But here’s the thing, I used a spell check a few seconds ago because I didn’t know how to spell rudimentary. I had a guess that got me close (rudametary) but that red dotted line turned up to let me know I needed to go back and check my work.
Am I cheating or using the tools available to me?
e-asttle, New Zealand’s standardised writing assessment tool, forbids the use of dictionary and word cards on account that spelling and vocabulary are two elements of the assessment. While I agree that accurate spelling is important so that others can understand what we write, if we want to assess unassisted spelling then why not have a separate spelling test?
Moreover after two writing class-wide writing assessments, my observation is that kids with low levels of spelling are the same ones who have frequent spelling errors even when they have the option of using a spell-check. My opinion is that students with low spelling levels often don’t know have enough spelling strategies to get them ‘near enough’ for the spell check to work effectively or they select the wrong word when prompted. I’d argue that learning how to effectively use a spell-check is more important than memorising the i before e except after c rule because those spelling rules we teach have a whole raft of exceptions.
As I marked the students writing, I was surprised to see pictures and links to videos appearing in the students writing samples without any prompting from me. I worry that many teachers would see using a finding images and videos as off-task behaviour. I was concerned too but more because one of the students had used a copyrighted image in the work without any accreditation. In fact I was impressed that students had taken onboard the idea that we should use images and videos to enhance the power of their words. In every case the image or video used added another layer of communication to the students words. Yet there is no element for using visual images appropriately in the writing rubric as it currently stands.
The more conversations I have with my students, the more I’m aware that our assessment practices aren’t in line with our reality in the classroom much less the real world. I’m sure there are those that would argue that all this stuff just shows the need to go back to pencil and paper assessment in order to standardise our writing assessment. But maybe the writing assessments aren’t capturing what it means to communicate effectively through text in the 21st century.
I also learned that when you set tasks over the cloud, a whole new world opens up. While I have argued in the past that teachers shouldn’t assume that students are going to be the ones leading the way there’s something awesome when kids start using the tools available to start repurposing assessment. It’s going to make assessment more authentic but far more complicated.
I love Google Apps for Education. However managing workflow can be an absolute nightmare with students sharing new docs and not naming the correctly which can make it hard to find work. Moreover keeping an eye on your data can be even more cumbersome.
But what if there was a system that easily shared documents with students, gave you an overview of the class and stored the data effectively.
Doctopus (document + octopus) essentially acts like a giant photocopier which can send files out to individual students, project groups or the whole class. There’s a nifty little chrome extension called goobric where you can enter levels and feedback onto a form which then is magically pasted back to a spreadsheet giving you a view over your whole class while students have access to the class.
I’ve used Doctopus for formative writing assessments and rolled out through the specialist teachers reports. The downside of the script is that it doesn’t like to do more than about 100 kids at a time. However in terms of managing workflow in Doctopus is the bomb.
Before you get started make sure you are using Chrome. create a Doctopus folder which contains
- A spreadsheet with the names + gmail addresses of your class (you can export from your contacts) in two separate columns. You can create a 3rd column which groups students. If you want the kids to be in the same group, assign them same letter in this column. You might not want to share to all the kids in the class in which case just write exempted in the group column.
- The document/s you wish to share
- A folder for all the student docs you’ll be creating
- A rubric in spreadsheet form (optional)
Right lets party.
The first thing you need to do is to install the Docotpus script. In the spreadsheet with your student roster click on tools then script gallery. Doctopus will be right there. Install the script. You’ll get a couple of pop ups asking you to authorise the script for your account. Go ahead and authorise.
Once the script has been installed you’ll notice an extra tab on the top of the spreadsheet with doctopus go ahead click on it and launch installation.
The first choice you’ll be asked to make is what kind of ‘share’ you want.
Project group shares one document to a group of students to work on.
Individual all the same shares the same document to each student individually. Useful for whole class tests.
Individual differentiated shares different documents to kids based on groups that they work on individually. Useful for writing groups or giving extra scaffolds for some kids and not for others.
Whole class shares the same doc for the whole class to access.
Once you’ve decided on the sharing type, you’ll get some options about sharing. You can give editing and commenting rights to other kids automatically. There’s also an option of sharing these documents with other teachers which is useful moderation purposes.
Click on ‘save settings’ and you’ll get a weird octopus come up. That means the script is doing its thing.
The next thing you’ll be asked for is what document/s you wish to share and with what group. This is where the folder comes in handy. First click on the folder then select the documents you wish to share.
After that, click save settings again.
This brings us to step 3.
First you need to select where you want all these docs you’re about to create filed. This is where the ‘student work’ subfolder comes into play. This dumps all the files in the one spot making it easy to find when you are looking for tests.
Next you have to name the file. I always put $name (which creates a named file for each student) and then the project they are working on. You can also send a little message out when you share the file to let the kids know which assignment to find.
Now your final step, sharing the document. Have a quick check all the information is correct and hit the ‘Run copy and share’ button. This will send the document out to your class. You can redo step four if you have students that might have been exempted that you now wish to have the file.
You’ll get a little doctopus dancing as the files are being shared. Just leave the computer to do its thing.
Once you are done, you’ll notice some extra cells on the spreadsheet. The hyperlink will take you to the doc that’s been shared with the student. The ‘last edit’ lets you know when the student last edited the document. You can lock down the documents in the doctopus tab by hitting the embargo for grading.
Speaking of grading.
The chrome store has a nifty little extension called goobric. This basically puts a pop-box in each document for you to mark a students work and then give some comments. The comments paste into the doc and back into the spreadsheet you’ve been working on.
First install goobric onto your chrome browser. You know you’ve been successful when you see this little eye on the right hand corner of your address bar when you are a viewing a google doc.
Now that goobric has been installed, go back to your doctopus tab and hit attach goobric.
Now you need to select the rubric you’ve put into selected earlier. Here’s an example of the e-asstle (a New Zealand writing test) that I’ve converted into spreadsheet form. You need to make sure you’ve got the criteria going down one column and the levels going across the other.
Select the spreadsheet then wait a few seconds your pop up should have the spreadsheet in the window. Hit on the ‘attach Goobric to this assignment button.’
You’ll notice now that your spreadsheet has more columns filled in with the different criteria. Those will be filled in with grade. Click back to sheet one and then you can start grading.
To mark a piece of work, simply click on the eyeball thing in the corner and you’ll get a pop up.
Enter the levels and the comment and then hit submit and paste into the document. You need to make sure you’ve hit submit before going to a different page otherwise you’ll lose the comments. You can choose to email the grade to the student or perhaps you might want to wait if you are moderating work.
Once you are finished, the goobric will be pasted into the students work.
But what makes goobric awesome is that those marks and comments are also pasted back into the central spreadsheet. You can mark a piece of work multiple times and decided between an average mark or a last mark.
This lengthy post probably makes scripting seem hideously complex. But once you learn the process, you can set up a copy in a few minutes and it makes managing data, particularly for teachers of multiple classes so much easier.
I also like that teachers can easily share student work easily for moderation purposes.
Scripting probably isn’t a sexy topic for normal people. Moreover doctopus probably sits more down the modification end of the SAMR spectrum. The technology is doing the same stuff we always did on a computer but with a few functional improvements, making data and online workflow easier to manage for teachers. But hey sometimes teachers need to make life easier for themselves.
Stay tuned for what happens when the kids start using the task…
As iPads and tablets are gaining popularity in schools, I often hear questions from teachers like ‘I’m getting some iPads for my Year 3/4 class what apps do you recommend?’ That question is often loaded with the expectation that somewhere out there is an app which will drag an existing classroom programme into the 21st century with just a few downloads from the app store.
Anyone know of a good reading app?
Yes I know of an outstanding reading app, it’s called a book. There are thousands of them at your local library. But surely we’ve all worked out that plonking students in a library and leaving them to it will not on its own ensure kids learn to read?
Which is why I feel so uneasy about app farming.
There are plenty of apps out there that seem educational and undoubtedly find their way onto classroom iPads without much thought. However once you take the bells and whistles away many apps don’t do much to enhance student engagement. Lots of skill and drill but is that what really engages learning? If the app keeps the kids quiet while you get on with group work, then it must be good right?
What happens when the kids tire of the gimmick?
That’s an expensive piece of hardware on the table.
For me it always comes back to purpose.
What is it your kids need to learn?
It’s such a simple question that gets lost in the quest to get technology into classrooms or the latest and greatest app on your device. In fact without knowing your kids or your classroom it’s probably impossible for me to recommend effective apps for your students.
Do your kids to show in words and writing a maths strategy? Explain everything is pretty cool.
Collaborate with others? Skype, blogger, twitter, gmail.
Create a rap to explain key ideas from a novel. Garageband is awesome.
Show fermentation at work. iTimelapse is fabulous.
I often wish there was label on each new classroom iPad warning the teacher in charge of the device that just like the book or a pencil, there are millions of ways that the tablet could be used in your classroom and it’s your job to figure out how to make it work best for your learners.
If you don’t know what the specific app does and why you need it what is the point in having it in your classroom?
Lets take the focus off the technology and bring it back onto the learning. Figure out what your classroom needs are then start looking for tools to do the job.
Oh dear the I suspect I will be the subject of much public humiliation both on the blog and via twitter for this post.
But here goes.
Despite my love of social networking and the fact I am pretty much almost always online, I actually run a very low-fi operation. My laptop is five years old and it is a little known fact that contacting me via cellphone is actually the least reliable form of contacting me. I’ll check twitter, facebook and my email in that order almost any time I’m near a computer however my cellphone is frequently sitting at home under my bed with the batteries having long run out of charge.
But then there have been times when cellphones do come in handy. For instance an iphone got me out of a rather sticky situation in China where a lack of transit visa at Harbin airport was saved by my travelling companion at the time showing the border guard an expedia ticket on his gmail account as proof of onward ticket. However in general I just don’t see the point of cellphones. In fact I would got as far as to say that not having a cellphone is an excellent way to strike conversations with people but I digress.
Last week something awful happened that rocked me to my very core.
I had no internet at home for nearly 5 days.
To put this occurrence into perspective the longest I’ve gone without internet since I first got online back in 1997 was 7 days and that was because I was in North Korea. I check my social networking feeds at least 3-4 times a day so to be without internet at home was, well, on par with BEING IN NORTH KOREA FOR A WEEK.
Which can only explain why I am now the owner of sparkly new iphone 4s.
Yes me, the same blogger who decreed apple worship as nothing but a status symbol, now has an iphone. And not just any iphone but the 4s. Yes I probably just used a sledge hammer to swot a fly as all I really wanted was a device I could tether to the internet but it is a little known fact that 4s actually means for ‘for Steph.’ Because now that I finally have one of these devices to call my own, I’ve had the biggest geek epiphany since I got online back in 1997.
Mobile devices are indeed not just a way to access the internet on the go, but those amazing augmented reality apps and QR codes really do change our conceptions of physical space. I wish every kid in my class could have some sort of mobile device and imagine how all the cool stuff we could do in a classroom where the walls could come to life with video and audio files or just a view of the universe. As it is, a few of my kids were absolutely entranced with sky view and I’m now determined to find out as much about this type of learning as I can.
In the meantime I will ask Siri to remind me about updating my blog when I get home tonight..
And why yes I have my iphone resting on my window every night with $5 and a picture of Steve Jobs for my daily worship of the awesomeness that is this device.
Let the mocking and app recommendations begin.
If you were to ask an online student what would be the most disastrous thing to happen outside of losing or destroying your device, a lack on internet connectivity would probably rate right up there.
My wireless, to use a technical term, is completely munted. I forsee a massive re-install in my future.
With just over a week to go and two monster assignments due in, this is not a good time. Although I suppose it could be worse, like during exams worse.
Although I have internet access via a netbook at the moment, the device is not good old pinky the laptop. My passwords are gone, the apps aren’t there, it just doesn’t feel like my laptop. Oh dear I’m now sounding like an apple groupie.
After writing my ‘Dear Teacher Education Providers can you enter the 21st century‘ post I had a real mixture of emotions. On one hand the post seemed to strike a real chord amongst the twitterverse and bought a lot traffic to the blog which was pretty cool, but on the other I felt somewhat uncomfortable about the attention the post generated.
Yes I was frustrated and annoyed however it is not my style to just complain, I like to do stuff about my complaints. In a previous life I would have been researching madly, rapidly gaining signatures for petitions, lobbying officials in my university furiously in order to get policies changed. However universities aren’t known for their speedy policy-making processes which would have lead to more frustration and annoyance on my part. What’s more it wouldn’t have helped me with my problem in the here and now.
As I mulled over my problem, I decided to do something so simple that I believe a sporting goods manufacturer made a whole bunch of money out of it, just do it.
So for this Teaching Experience I’ve uploaded all my forms onto googledocs for my Associate Teacher and I to use and then will print the various forms off to keep the various powers-that-be happy. I’ll give my Associate Teacher mad props for having a go at using an unfamiliar tool and I will openly acknowledge that I’ve probably created more work for myself than following the procedures set down by the university. However I will go digital simply because I can and what’s more I’ve introduced another teacher to a tool that they can use in their teaching practice.
My situation got me to thinking of a great quote I read by Pete Seeger on the teaspoon theory of social change. He conceptualised that millions of seemingly minor actions, like picking up garbage instead of walking by it, will eventually lead to radical seemingly impossible change on a wider level. Going by this theory even a lowly student teacher like myself has power to influence ideas on a wider level simply by making the decision to do their little bit to help. Which makes me think if more people just did e-practice instead of moaning and waiting for edicts, whether it be from a university or leadership within an organisation, then the change I ranted about in my first post would happen anyway.
So why don’t we?
The problem is that nobody wants to be the shirtless dancing guy or those first few followers who risk ridicule or failure for trying something a bit whacky and out there. Moreover it’s so much easier to point at things other people have done and shout No! No! No! as you stamp your feet. But you know what’s much harder? Creating what you want. I know I’ve been guilty of criticising other people for their stuck in the past practices this, their archaic technology that, their outdated whatever because it’s a lot easier to do that than examine your own teaching practice (not to mention your own life!) and determine what you actually want from it. In short, demolition is a hell of a lot easier than construction.
But what if every day we all chose to do a little bit to contribute to a wider picture? Not only do problems seem far less daunting, but it puts the onus back on the individual to decide whether they wish to be constructive or destructive.
Going digital with my Teaching Experience documentation is hardly the stuff that future scholars of education will study as an ‘aha’ moment. In fact on scale of 1-10 of revolutionary education ideas it probably rates in negative number territory. Nevertheless I saw a problem and thought to myself ‘what is that I can do to fix it? ‘ which is a lot more productive than ranting on the internet. I also feel a lot better because I’m doing something something pro-active rather than reactive.
So I will wield my teaspoon as if it were a mighty shovel because I choose to be part of the solution instead of the problem.
Last week I went on another treasure hunt called locating my course content.
My hunt looked something like this.
First I need to find the content. In one course the content isn’t labelled clearly and isn’t sequenced properly while in another course the modules didn’t get uploaded by mistake (which wasn’t rectified until the end of the day) leading to confusion for myself and other students as to what we are doing this week.
Content is finally located but I need to download and save multiple documents in ppt, pdf and doc form resulting in several types of applications needing to run in order to access content.
‘Why can’t the content just be there in the browser?’ I thought to myself.
I need to write a blogpost on dance resources but first I need to download a word document to find the template to use.
‘Why can’t this task be in wiki form?’ I grumbled.
I also needed to take part in a series of discussion forums which are hidden in different parts of the course management system from where I had to download several powerpoints of information.
“Why can’t I respond where the content is like a blog comment?”
Sometimes learning online feels like I have a stack of unstapled documents thrown at me and it was my job to try and make sense of the jumble before responding and engaging with the course content. Granted I’m a university student, and a graduate one to boot, so probably shouldn’t expect everything spoon-fed to me. However I can’t help but think that through its platform the university is modelling what digital learning is and that model is often one of frustration and disengagement as a learner. We wouldn’t expect this in a physical space why is it ok in a digital one?
But there is some good stuff, I really enjoyed the video footage that some courses are using while some lecturers have been really effective in facilitating student discussion in the forms.
So rather than have another whine-fest I thought I would turn the problem around and ask: what makes effective digital spaces for student learning?
- Easy to navigate – Is your content easy to find? Is it easy to read on a screen? Can you print it out? Is your information organised in any sort of sequential order? Does the first lecture link up easily to the second lecture? Is there are central point where you can go back to if you get lost? Do you have RSS feeds enabled so students know when content is uploaded? What about email updates? Can content be accessed on mobile devices?
- Interactive – Obviously students need to be interacting with each other but it is great when academic staff members are there interacting with students rather than virtually lecturing to them. Students really enjoy it when academic staff members take the time to respond to bulletin boards, it makes us want to respond back. Engaging with elearners in your teaching practice should be changing your pedagogy for the better.
- Collaborative - Think about the way you assign digital tasks, writing content on bulletin boards/wikis/blogs is one thing, getting students to respond to each other and give feedback on each others work is better.
- Personalized - What might seem intuitive to one person is probably cumbersome to another. I much prefer reading my content in browser form while some students prefer to print it out. Course platforms should reflect this.
- Easy feedback mechanisms - Students get that human beings (not to mention computers) aren’t perfect. But there should be an easy way to report any glitches in your system through a feedback button so that problems can be rectified quickly.
- Multimedia – The technology to upload or stream lectures is there and quite powerful. Set up a youtube channel where users can make comments on the lecture as well as listening to it. As an online learner I find having to focus on a lengthy powerpoint presentation that was used in lectures without any other information quickly leads to disengagement from my course material.
- More blending between offline and online students - I really enjoy interacting on my course’s facebook page but it could be expanded. You know all those little conversations that students sometimes doodle to each-other during class on paper which you might think off as off-task behaviour? Get them to put them online by setting up a twitter hashtag for courses where people can start tweeting conversations from lectures. Doing so might bring in people from other spheres of the education system into your course conversations and suddenly you have a powerful learning tool.
- Open – As I’ve been going through the process of writing this blog and having long since swallowed the red pill with regards to twitter, I’ve been blown away by how much of my learning takes place outside of varsity but also by how much learning we hide behind both physical and virtual walls. What if we opened learning up? What if students from other cities and other countries could drop by on a virtual classroom? What if instead of having students have several associate teachers assigned over the space of their teaching qualification, they could have hundreds of people to call on for advice and guidance on becoming a teacher?
How to do it?
To be honest I’m not a fan of the clunky course management systems like blackboard, cecil, knowledge net etc. when nimbler web 2.0 platforms that encourage user interaction like blogs, dropbox, youtube, twitter, google docs and facebook already exist. However I understand that as a blogger I’m pretty out there as far as putting my learning online for all to see and read. Nevertheless there are privacy settings which institutions can utilize when using web 2.0 platforms but the problem is of course that platforms change rapidly. Will facebook go the way of myspace now that google+ is on the scene? Not sure but I do know the systems I was using to communicate five years ago, msn/yahoo messenger, aren’t nearly as popular these days. In fact neither applications are installed on my computer right now.
What do you think an effective digital learning should look like and feel like?
Looking behind the attention-grabbing headline of Orewa College forces parents to buy ipad I would like to stop for minute and introduce everybody to my laptop.
She’s a Dell Inspiron 1420 that I ordered online back in 2007. The colour? I wanted something a bit different and for reasons unknown I went for a bright pink. I guess that decision goes on the ‘boy was I wrong’ list, right above The Macarena but just below the skirts over trousers phase.
My laptop and I have had our issues in the past but we are now coming up on four year mark. Yes the insprion is clunky, heavy and at times is prone to temper tantrums but yet our relationship endures despite the battery making the device a lot less portable these days.
It’s not as though I’m against upgrades.
I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me a macbook pro to use instead of this computer. I love gadgets but when the decision between a plane ticket somewhere awesome and a gadget comes up the plane ticket wins every time (though I’m pretty sure they had to wipe my slobber off the floor in the apple shop in New York).
The reason I’ve outed my laptop is because I think its important for people to realize that in order to take part in digital learning you don’t need to have all the new toys to play with it. Despite my love of social networking I don’t own an iphone or any sort of smart phone, in fact my mobile is a basic nokia but that’s ok. Right now I can access the internet, word process, edit videos, download and edit photos and faff around with itunes which is what I need to learn. As I mostly learn at home the lack of portability isn’t really a huge problem for me. If I was studying on campus, then I would be upgrading my device rather than coveting a plane ticket to India.
Looking at the letter Orewa College actually sent home to parents it doesn’t actually state that parents have to purchase an ipad but it does stipulate the school was moving to 1 to 1 devices. However students can bring in their own device or purchase the ipad2 which the school is only recommending as a device for those not sure of what to buy. Furthermore the school is looking for a way to work out a payment plan. This is entirely reasonable to me, the school acknowledges that the cost is high for parents and is trying to work out a cost effective way of getting devices into classrooms.
However reading through the your views section of the Herald and the comments on stuff I find myself in despair at the number of commentators that think learning online or via social media is just a giant waste of time. I am going to come out and say that aside from my regular studies, which I am completing online, I learn just as much if not more from my use of social media like twitter and this blog. I simply can’t imagine a world in which I have people from around the world interacting with me and shaping my thoughts on teaching and learning. My teaching practice will be richer from this experience.
Because it is not about the technology, it’s about the learning.
If I was a parent and went into a school where the classroom looked like it did when I went to school, I would be very concerned. In a generation we have gone from information scarcity to information abundance and as a result the knowledge and skills that made a successful learner when we went to school are completely different for today’s students. If your school isn’t engaging with this new world then you should start asking questions as to why your children are being left out. Because not being able to successfully engage with online learning: being able to frame questions, analyse information, connect with others and produce content, will make your children illiterate in a medium where the only constant is change.
At the guts of the problem isn’t that Orewa College wants to introduce 1 to 1 device into its classrooms, in fact they should be getting a massive round of applause for doing so, it is that the funding of this learning always seems to be someone else’s problem when it needs to be a collective one. We shouldn’t be pitting parents against schools to get technology into classrooms, the rest of our society needs to support moving our students into this digital world. It will be interesting to see if the funders of the New Zealand Institute report into New Zealand’s ‘failing education system’ decide to put their money where their ideas are around e-learning. Likewise perhaps the New Zealand government could follow South Korea’s lead towards a paperless classroom by putting a tablet into the hands of every New Zealand school student by 2015.
Because it is not about the technology, it is about who pays for it.
So here’s my turn.
This is the first computer I remember playing on an at my school, an apple macintosh where we played games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? One of the students on my last placement remarked that computer’s memory is now less than 1 mp3 file. This made me feel very old so best we move on.
In year 9 I had typing class which was probably the same way my mother learned to type, over a typewriter with a surly typing teacher who insisted on using covers over hands so we weren’t cheating at touch typing. Consequently I didn’t learn to type until year 12 when my family purchased a computer at home that had a typing programme and word processing.
Once I learned to type I could move ideas around, write half-finished sentences, paragraphs and come back to them later. Suddenly writing went from something I avoided like the plague to something I enjoyed doing. Technology changed my classroom discussions from, ‘I’m sure there’s some interesting ideas in here but I can’t read them and your spelling needs work’ to having a dialogue about my learning.
That was huge.
Then in 1997 I was the first one of my friends to get the internet. My father purchased a 28k modem, a speed which seems positively glacial now but a new world opened up to me. I could keep in contact with a friend who was doing a student exchange in Sweden, search for information to help with my assignments, and at the risk of outing myself as a complete nerd, I was a usenet frequenter and also built sites on geocites.
IT WAS AWESOME.
So when the opportunity arose to do an Information Technology and Education paper during my second year of university I was in. The year was 1999 and this paper was the first paper that my university offered that was entirely online with most course material flying back and forth over email and discussion boards. Despite being an online class, most students still showed up on a Saturday morning to muck around in the computer lab. We liked the idea of online study however we were still so attached to the idea that learning must take place in a classroom at a certain time. Nevertheless we were all enthusiastic about the internet was going to do for student learning, it was going to be huge.
And it was huge, just not in the way we had imagined.
While we were busy using html code to build websites so that students could learn at home it hadn’t occurred to us that the students would be the ones building the sites. No we were too busy mucky around with FTPs, making picture links and coding frames (remember those) to even start imagining that sort of stuff. We spent a lot of time talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using online communication in education and we also spent a lot of time talking about the digital divide. In general our approach was that the internet was a great tool for teachers to communicate with students we hadn’t quite worked out that students would be the ones building and consuming knowledge. But then we were using altavista as our search engine and Napster still lived.
Fastforward to 2011 and while the internet might have changed considerably in that time my teaching studies online to find that actually not much has changed.
- I still write essays in word documents which although I can now submit via email are posted back with handwritten comments on them.
- I still have exams where I write regurgitate memorized answers to essays.
- I have to fill teaching experience forms by hand.
- I don’t attend lectures but sometimes I feel like the modules are lecture notes from the campus option have literally been cut and pasted into documents for online students to read at their leisure.
There’s a lot of buzz around the term digital natives, kids and teenagers who have grown up with easy access to computers and the internet. Most of them can use technology, or at the very least aren’t afraid of trying the technology, but have they learned how to learn with technology? I’m not sure they have. Being able to source information is one thing, being able to define your problem, critically think about where your information comes from, communicate your thoughts and reflect on the process is another.
Which is where teachers come in, we might not know it all any more (not that I think we ever did) but we do know about learning.
Knowing about how people learn and how to create the right conditions for learning continue to be essential. Because the great rub about ICT is that isn’t about mastering the tools because the tools we are using now will likely be obsolete in 5 years.
Knowing how to learn with technology?
That’s a very powerful, yet highly underrated concept, which first and foremost requires that you use technology to learn.