Debriefing . . .

by: Kristina

by: Kristina

Creating my first podcast was a lot of fun. I also really enjoyed using GarageBand for the first time and I look forward to using that next year in the computer literacy course instead of Audacity as it has a cleaner interface, it’s less buggy and it has more understandable effects.
I enjoyed seeing the use of the wiki in our class and I’ve been comparing that with my first time using ning sites in seven of my classes. Both provide great ways for communication and group collaboration. I find the wikis are slightly more powerful in that they allow for more custom tailoring to a specific situation but they also require more prep at the beginning. The ning sites are ready to go from the start and the students can join easily, without needing invites. I also feel that the communication on the ning sites is slightly better because that’s what they’re made for and that’s generally what I’ll need. I think a wiki will be useful for keeping class notes or creating some sort of project together which is done with text. My class projects tend to fall into categories whereby the online sites are more useful for collaboration than for showing the actual project as it comes together, like for example Lego Mindstorms programs created in the student groups or podcasts and videos. The students share ideas online, but the actual work is done outside the site. I could look into putting IB notes for the IB computer science class online. That would better suit the use of a wiki because the students work would go directly online and it would be collaborative. It’s been nice to see these tools used and to experiment in my own classes to help me sort out good times to use them.
I did use Jing to create my first tutorial but then it became a major headache trying to oupload it to blip.tv because Jing only gave me flv output and blip.tv wouldn’t accept it. I found one converter pretty quickly which worked, but the video quality degraded a lot. After searching for another hour or two and trying other converters, I eventually kept my original find. Part of this whole process reminds me of the adage that you get what you pay for. Macromedia Captivate has worked well for me in the past, but you have to pay for that extra ease. Jing is free and despite the drawback I encountered in this project, it’s better than nothing, and Jing does allow allow for uploading flv files online which would normally solve my problem. I do still prefer Captivate because it adds text automatically on mouse clicks and it works smoother and it has an easier to use interface for grabbing screens.
On top of introducing nings to the computer literacy class, I decided to try using a ning in my programming class for the Lego Mindstorms unit. I’ve been using it to allow the students to track their progress and I’d also like them to take pictures and video of their robots, though we haven’t got to that stage yet. It seems like it will be cool for them to be able to look back aftewards and remember their work, though I won’t know if it will work out that way until we’re done.
I still haven’t come up with a great idea for using podcasts, though I’m toying around with the idea of having my IB class create podcasts for lessons. They would go along well with a class wiki.
One of the fun things in the course was discussing IT ideas with other teachers and hearing about what they’re doing. I can see the value of having a personal learning network, though I’m still more inclined to keep it face to face. I don’t feel that I’ve progressed yet to having a large online personal network.
One of the topics I particularly enjoyed discussing was the whole copyright issue because this is a daily issue in my computer literacy courses with students using pictures, video and audio from other sources. The Ted Talk was very interesting and I look forward to seeing how this issue gets resolved in the future.
IT integration is a topic which I will need to evaluate each year and keep on top of so in a way, I should almost be going through this course every year. The Classroom 2.0 ning site has proved to be an interesting source in this way. I joined one of their elluminate talks last week and I find that the e-mails they send about their talks are quite useful. This is one addition to my personal learning network which I think will benefit me in the future and keep me up to date. Unfortunately, our school network booted me out and logged me back in every 5 minutes or so. Today I was unable to connect for more than one second.
This brings up a huge IT integration issue. The number of times that things don’t work can be quite deflating. IT staff often want to block and protect their network, but education is all about collaboration and sharing, so these two philosophies often come in conflict at school and frustrate me to death sometimes. But then when things do work, it can be very cool and beautiful.

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Copyright, Copyjoke, go to jail!?!

Larry Lessig brought up some interesting points in his video as regards creativity and the copyright licensing for music:

Everyone wants to use their favourite song in their videos.  A glance at a random YouTube video would probably uncover some sort of copyright infringement with music, videos or pictures.  So, by law, a large percent of the world’s population are criminals.  Does that make sense?
When something in the world doesn’t make sense, it usually means that something needs to be changed.  For example, if all of the students in a class fail a test, the problem most likely lies with the test itself so the teacher needs to re-evaluate the test and find some sort of solution rather than failing all of the students on the test.  Similarly, we need some way for the average person to be able to use and remix their favourite music in creative ways as Larry suggests in his talk, rather than throwing everyone in jail.
Take a moment and do a search to try to find out the legal way to purchase and remix music (there is one because Hollywood movies do it all of the time).  The problem is that the expense of getting legal rights to remix your favourite music is unreasonable for the average consumer.  The average person also has no idea how to go about getting legal permission to use a song, and waiting to get a response from different companies to get permission just doesn’t cut it with today’s microwave/internet culture.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some suggestions to use collective licensing similar to what the radio stations do.  The cost would have to be reasonable for the average consumer.  It’s not a bad idea, but I’d prefer to be able to pay an extra licensing fee for the music I want to remix when I buy it, rather than having to pay some sort of flat fee every month because I’m not remixing music everyday or every month for that matter.  However, their solution would give me access to a lot of music for a cheap price.
This topic is very pertinent to all of our classes because the students often want to put their favourite music into their slideshow presentations or videos.  Personally, I like the idea of asking the students to buy the music they want to use and letting them remix, but technically, that is still illegal.  Somebody really needs to update the copyright laws. 
Also, related to Larry Lessig’s story with the farmer’s wanting to sue the pilots of the planes for trespassing because of the damage to their chickens, the article from Electronic Frontier Foundation references a point in time where the music industry wanted to sue radio stations for playing their music (which resulted in the collective licensing laws we have now).
I am very happy to see that Apple finally removed digital rights management (DRM) from the music they sell through ITunes.  That makes it easier for people to buy the music they want to remix (with DRM, it wasn’t possible to re-use the music anywhere so people were either getting the music without even buying it which is a worse scenario for the music industry than simply remixing, or else they were cracking the DRM – a bit of a complex losing battle).  I guess if the courts see enough cases of average people being fined excessively and thrown in jail, they’ll eventually push the lawmakers to change the laws, but it would be nice to see a little more proactiveness.

Museum Continued

The museum visit went smoother than the previous week’s visit. When we first arrived, a guide came to find us and asked Phil to contact the museum in the future if he had a group of more than ten people.  He also told him that he would let him continue the tour that day because he only had a few more people than the alotted ten.  Interestingly, the senior consultant had told Phil that week that there were no rules limiting groups to ten people.  Obviously someone is doing something sneaky behind the scenes.  The senior consultant also asked Phil not to blog about the incident anymore, which suggests that the blogging and videos did exert some pressure towards action on the museum’s part.  The security in the second building still had an issue with admitting our group of fourteen, but the incident was rather short.  All in all, it appears that the issue has been resolved for Phil and his students, though I have a feeling that other groups might encounter the same problems if they tried.

A Powerful Educational Use of a Blog in Manila

So my friend Phil is a sociology professor at Ateneo Univeristy. Last Sunday March 1st, 2009 he took his university students to the National Museum in Manila planning to give them a guided tour. There were over twenty students in the group and four parents. The guard refused them entry into the museum saying that groups of over ten people had to pay to use their guides. You can read the full story here.
Phil is the wrong guy to challenge when it comes to human rights. He asked his students to take out their cell phones and record the conversation on video so that they could later post the videos on YouTube. Here he is reading the guard the constitution of the Philippines (yeah, he’s a well prepared fellow!):

The group was eventually let in to the museum, only to be confronted by another guard in another section of the museum, however they prevailed once again.
Later the following week, Phil had his students post their videos on the net and he posted them on his blog which I linked above. He also received correspondence from the Senior Consultant of the Museum acknowledging that there are no such rules restricting groups to ten people.
The most beautiful part of the whole story, which warmed my heart, are the students’ comments at the bottom of his blog:

Dear Dr. Truscott,
I have to admit that tour was unforgettable. Not only was I impressed that you know so much about the Philippines, I was actually more surprised you were prepared to stand up for our rights. What happened at our National Museum is sad, and I think … if I were hypothetically alone and banned from entering our museum, I would have just went back another day, or paid a fee. What truly struck me is that it took a foreigner like you to remind everyone of our rights as citizens[many of us were surprised you had a copy of the 1987 constitution at that time]. You have taught us a very valuable lesson which I hope we never forget.

Cool Stuff

What better comments could an educator hope for?

Did Phil win this battle because of his blog and his use of technology to put pressure on the museum, similar to the pressure which the media uses to win justice in North America or would Phil have won this battle without his blog? Would the Senior Consultant of the Museum given him the time of day without it? Would his story have been as easily shared with everyone without his blog? Does it encourage us as educators? Is it of value to us? Is it of value to his students?

Tomorrow, Sunday March 7th, 2009 he is going back again and I’m planning to attend this tour (I’m told that it really is most valuable to see this museum with a guide). Stay tuned to hear what happens . . .

Why do we blog?

holdhands

by: Judy Merrill-Smith

I liked what Steve shared about his daughter’s blog (Awe). She’s excited to be writing because she feels like everyone wants to read what she writes. After hearing his story, I started asking myself if we are any different? Why do we blog ourselves?
The answer I came up with for myself is pretty much the same as the reason Steve said his daugher (Awe) likes to blog. I am more aware than Awe of the fact that no one really wants to read my blog. However, I still feel some fulfillment and satisfaction with every entry because I feel like I’ve contributed to humanity.
A part of me also hopes that someday, a kindred spirit will happen along one of my blog entries and feel a connection with my thoughts and share some of their own. It’s like holding out my hand into space hoping that someone will reach out and grasp it. So, despite knowing the reality that very few people will probably ever read some of my blog entries, I think that I feel almost as excited and happy about putting up a blog entry as Awe.
The other irony is that I don’t want to read other people’s blogs.  I will sit down and read a book, page after page, but my patience for reading online is rather short lived.  The only time I do it is if I want a specific answer to a specific question.  Otherwise, I don’t go out there looking to read people’s blogs.  I think there is some truth to this article about how the internet is affecting our attention spans.  I’d like to come back to this in my next post.  For now, I’m happy to admit that I’m just as naive as Awe when it comes to blog posting.

Connectivisim

connectivismOne of the new buzz words with Web 2.0 and teaching is connectivism. It’s almost like a hidden/underlying driving force to which web 2.0 has been leading us, whether consciously or unconsciously.
I like the following three points made about connectivism in the article:

  1. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  2. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  3. Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

The first point is what the internet does – connect everyone together.
The second point, however, is at a higher level. It’s easy to connect things in one field together, but to bring together different fields takes work and planning. The 3rd point is just as difficult.
If we let web 2.0 lead us without thinking, we will easily achieve the 1st point, but the last two will not be reached. I think that Robert Rubis makes an important point:

Basically, it seems to me the Connectivity, while a powerful exploitation of the power of the new tools available to learners, is a new Means to an End, rather than the End itself.

We must remember to set the end goal ourselves and keep that in mind rather than be lead by some blind idea which is only a means to an end. For teachers, this means that we must evaluate Web 2.0 and decide where it fits, rather than letting it tell us what to do.

Week 2: Does web 2.0 change teaching and learning?

The question seems to have two parts. The specific mention of 2.0 suggests that there is an assumed comparison with 1.0, but I think it’s also interesting to ask the question whether the web in general changes learning.

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. As a teacher, anytime I have to look up something new, I immediately go to Wikipedia which is the case and point web 2.0 application which has not only changed the teacher’s resource boxes, but also the students first goto point for writing an essay or reasearching a topic. It’s still incredible for me to see students quoting Wikipedia as a source. Sadly, the teachers’ reactions to the students when they’re told not to use wikipedia as a source leads some of them to conclude that Wikipedia is evil and that is soooo wrong. Wikipedia is a great starting point for any research to get an idea of what is out there and where some good sources on a topic might be found. It is also likely to have a link to some of the newest reasearch on a particular topic which the most recently published book on the topic may not have.

YouTube is another great web 2.0 learning application (why on earth does our school block it in the computer labs!!!!!!!!$%@#$%). I show at least one or two YouTube vidoes in my classes every month. There are videos on every topic imaginable. It’s like having a guest speaker into class everytime I use them. The students love hearing other people speak and audio/video is a great tool for learning.

If we only look at wikis and blogs and how students personally use them in their learning, then I would still agree that web 2.0 changes learning. It’s very cool to have a class project and for the students to share their ideas and thoughts on wikis and blogs. We did this for ICare ’08 and it was superb. Every student got to read the reflections of the other students which was absolutely beautiful. It warms my heart everytime I go to the site and read their stories. I also believe that the fact that the students knew that their peers would be reading their reflections caused them to write even better reflections than they might have written had they only written for the teacher. Bing Miller gets at this same idea in his post where he also feels that the blogging brings out better work. This site is also valuable for future groups going to Zambales.
A question I am left with, though, is how much does web 2.0 change teaching and learning? I still feel that there is a lot of hoopla around web 2.0 pushing every teacher to get on board, but is the amount of time being spent pushing web 2.0 worth the effort? Is web 2.0 capable of changing every class, every day which would then justify spending a lot of time learning it, or is it something which fits in well once a week or once a month?
My experience thus far is that it fits in well with special projects and assignments and for some cool presentations every so often, but I don’t see it infecting my classes every day. I could put all of my class work on a wiki instead of putting it on the portal which would mean that I would be using web 2.0 everyday if my students were posting stuff and not just using it to get info, but I’m not sure that all courses need student feedback in that way every class. It would be cool, and maybe I should consider asking my students to write an online reflection every day. Perhaps that would help me in assessing them as well as improve their learning, but I would also be afraid of just giving them busy work or overloading them. Clay Burrell gets at this idea. He says that a student’s personal blog should be left to them to develop and that homework blogging should be done on a class site. His argument is that a personal homework blog will probably never get looked at again. This is my own struggle in creating this blog. These last two homework questions are personal for me, however my first two entries were more or less homework entries which won’t interest me much in the future or anyone else for that matter.

Week 2: What are your aims for the course?

1. I would like to do my first podcast.
2. I would like to find new ways to use IT tools in my classes.
3. I would like to use some new tools other than MacroMedia Captivate to create tutorials.
4. I would like to see some new doors open up in areas I haven’t thought of to bring IT into my classes.

I’m pretty excited about doing my first podcast. I love playing around with video and mixing it with audio. I’ve never posted a podcast before though because my video is a lot more fun for my friends and family to see. However, I have gotten into listening to podcasts this past year and I can see how they can be useful for some purposes. While I know I will have a lot of fun creating a podcast, I’m not sure how I’ll incorporate podcasts into my classes which brings me to my second aim.

I’m looking for ideas for using podcasts, blogs, wikis, video and any other tools in my class to improve the learning. Kim Cofino tries to summarize the tools out there but her summary is still rather general. Some ideas I currently have would be to have students summarize class notes into a podcast or else research a topic and create a podcast or video expalining the topic. I use the portal for all of my classes so I’m not sure how useful a wiki or a blog would be for class material. It would however be nice to get student input so I could think of using that in one of my classes. The question I have with that, though, is whether I would just be giving the students more work to do by writing a blog entry? I can see how a blog would be useful for a big project. I might have my IB students do their portfolios online next year. For everyday classes, I’m not sure how I could use them in a way which would improve learning and not just be forcing IT onto them for the sake of using IT. We are using a Ning for a big project in our literacy course. This will be my second experience of having a lot of student interaction with a social network. Mostly in the past when I’ve used blogs, they’ve just been a place to summrize the class notes and provide links to the materials, much like I’m doing with the portal.

I know there is another tool out there for creating video tutorials. I’ve forgotten the name of it and I seem to remember being told that our school network didn’t allow us to use it, so I’d like to find a tool for creating video tutorials other than Captivate.

I’m generally looking for any new ideas that others may bring up in class which I might find useful in my own classes.

Session 1.2

I was reminded of a story I heard at the web 2.0 conference last fall.  There was a student who was unable to go to school for a long period because of a sickness.  The teacher hooked her up to the class via skype and it turned into a very positive thing for all of the students.

I’m thinking that I’d like to create a teacher id on skype and have all of my grade 9 students register with me next year so that I can skype them into my class if they’re at home and would like to hear what’s going on in class.

Here is a great attitude towards  IT. Being open and excited to learn new things is a great attitude towards life and especially for teachers.  As teachers, our excitement about learning gets passed on to our students.

Session 1.1

The blog is created and I’m hooked up with Netvibes and the three RSS feeds.