Category Archives: Information Communication Technology
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.
New Zealand graduating teacher standard 4.d
“Graduating teachers demonstrate proficiency in oral and written language (Māori and/or English), in numeracy and in ICT relevant to their professional role.”
Dear Teacher Education providers
Yesterday I received my pack for Teaching Experience 2 containing a wonderful array of informational booklets, multi-coloured forms for myself, my associate teacher and visiting lecturer to fill out on my next Teaching Experience. The forms look wonderful in their different colours and I’m sure its taken someone a long time to collate.
For fun I’ve also added the paperwork from this course that I’ve already amassed. The red folder is my unit plan from my last TE, the blue envelope has copies of the forms of my last placement, the clear folder contains all the marked assignments that my institution has printed out and sent back to me while the black folder underneath contains resources I’ve had posted to me during my studies.
Is this evidence of twenty-first century teaching practice?
I feel a bit bad for ‘outing’ my university but I know that they are not the only ones who still like to churn out paper for student teachers to collect and organize into ring binders. At my last placement there were students from three separate institutions and we were all doing the same thing: dutifully filing away pieces of paper which were filled out BY HAND for our institutions (and in turn Teachers Council) to see evidence that we are meeting the professional and legal requirements necessary to graduate and therefore teach in a classroom.
I’m trying to remember the last time I wrote something out by hand and it was for my exam and application forms to get into university. These processes seem so far removed from my reality where I learn, bank, shop, socialize and watch TV online. Almost all the teaching I did during my last placement was done using my laptop with physical materials for students to manipulate. I would have happily incorporated more if the students had devices themselves.
Perhaps I’m the lone blogger in a sea of people who like to file paper away in ring binders where no one else can read it or see it. But then the associate teacher at my last placement made a remark that these forms should be available in digital form and apparently she isn’t alone.
There are so many reasons why pre-service teacher practice needs to go digital.
- Waste of resources – From an environmental point of view the carbon footprint from the paper generated from these courses is phenomenal and I haven’t even factored in sending these packets out. Throw in staff time collating all these packs, putting the envelopes, sending them out receiving them again at the end of the placement and that’s a lot of time and money down the drain.
- Content not easily reproducible - I needed to have a goal setting conversation with my mentor so my last appraisals were important part of this conversation. In order for her to have the data I had to take photos of the photocopied forms (since my institution needs to have the originals), covert them into a PDF and email them off for my mentor so that we could both have a copy of the form as we live in different cities.
- Data security – For some reason people seem to think that hard-copies of evidence are more secure. I really don’t get that. If my school bag gets stolen while I’m at the gym or my water bottle leaks over my paperwork or perhaps someone spills coffee then ALL my paperwork is ruined. Backing up my work via hardrive, cloud data or USB means that I have multiple copies ready to go. Likewise not all digital content needs to be public like this blog.
But the big one is:
The process of filling in forms doesn’t encourage collaborative practice.
Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a lot of incoming search strings (that’s visitors who have come to my blog via search engines) with phrases like
- “strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners”
- “promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively”
- “complex influences that personal, social and cultural factors have on teachers and learners”
Anyone working in teacher education should immediately recognize these phrases are from the New Zealand Teacher Council Graduating Teacher Standards.
These incoming search strings indicate students are coming here to look for information because the internet is where they go to find the information. Right now my e-portifolio is the only source of information of real-world examples of the Graduating Teacher Standards for students to easily access on the internet. In fact if you type the phrase ”working cooperatively with those share responsibility for the learning and well being of learners” into google, a blog post of mine is the first entry. That’s a great ego boost for me as a blogger because someone might be using my information but I would love to have other students out there responding to my reflections and challenging my ideas because it will make me into a better teacher.
Institutions need to think about how they are encouraging student teachers to become digital literate, how to blend the digital technologies into our learning so we in turn can teach to others. Don’t assume just because we can text, facebook and google with the best of them that we are automatically digital literate. We may have mastered the technology, but it doesn’t mean we know how to apply it to our learning or students learning.
But we need to.
The students in our classrooms want it, our country needs it.
Right now teacher education providers are part of the problem of digital illiteracy when they need to be part of the solution.
If student teachers aren’t integrating digital learning into our practice at a university, when we have people who are supposedly far more learned than us show us the way, how are going to do it when we are out being real teacher? It goes down the bottom of the to-do list as we work our way through survival mode of the first few years in the profession. I don’t understand why institutions insist on perpetuating old practices when they should embracing the benefits that this new technology for pre-service teachers who will soon be out in classrooms full of digital natives who also don’t want to be filing away work in ring binders.
I’m six months away from graduation and I can assure I’m not pondering how to fill in forms or organize information into folders because I stopped using ring binders once I left high school. I am wondering how to incorporate digital learning that I’m doing here into a classroom setting? What digital tools can I use to promote the learning areas and key competencies of the New Zealand curriculum? How can I maximize the benefits of social media platforms to enhance learners literacy while minimizing the risks? What applications exist to plan collaboratively? How am I going to communicate effectively with a generation of parents who grew up in the digital age? What platforms can I use to organize student work? How do I stay relevant as a teacher in a world of information abundance?
I don’t know to the answers to those questions but I do know I won’t find them by filling in forms.
A student teacher
Postscript, this post influenced me to go ahead and digitalise my practice for my next Teaching Experience rather than waiting for the wheels of the university system to turn.