Archive for the 'edTech' Category

Digital storytelling with iMovie

In the technology course for preservice teachers that I am facilitating this summer, we spent the past week creating digital stories with iMovie. Here is the story I created. I like it. What do you think?

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Competing copyright curricula

A recent eSchoolNews article about dueling copyright curricula couldn’t have surfaced at a more opportune time, seeing as how I literally just days before had utilized some materials from one of the curriculums in question.

On the one hand, the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (CAEF) recently published Think First, Copy Later, seen by some as slanted toward the interests of copyright owners.

On the other hand, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), unveiled Teaching Copyright. The EFF is characterized as an advocacy group that serves the interests of users and consumers of digital media.

Admittedly, I was not aware of the CAEF curriculum when I recently selected and distributed some of the EFF’s support documents to a group of pre-service teachers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But I am inspired by the prospect of having access to and using “dueling curricula,” if and when I teach about copyright again in the future.

What an opportunity for teachers to exercise professional discernment! What an opportunity for students to see copyright law presented from two different perspectives — owner versus user, industry versus consumer! What an opportunity to engage higher-order thinking and some good, old media literacy skills, such as evaluating audience, authorship, message, and meaning!

Teachers need these resources now more than ever. It was not too long ago that teacher training on the vagaries of fair use doctrine were conducted in the faculty workroom, usually between classes, as we waited in line at the photocopier. We traded in stories, myths, and half-truths and competed for bragging rights to the title of “Greatest Copyright Infringer.” We made half-joking references to a sinister, Gestapo-like “Copyright Police” waiting in the wings. (I know. I was one of those teachers.)

The surge of web-based information and communication technologies makes it easier than ever to facilitate content creation and sharing in our classrooms, but we must first be equipped to engage students in conversation about content creation that is safe, ethical, and legal.

The alternative is to do nothing for fear of violating the law. This phenomenon was documented by Hobbs, Jaszi, and Aufderheide in their 2007 report for the Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy. In 2008 the Center published the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, which states that fear and confusion about copyright:

detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning.

Check out the accompanying video:

Featured student blog: meet Ann

Cross-posted at Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Many teachers shy away from contemporary music. Why? It could be because their own teachers did the same.

That quote comes from Ann, an aspiring music educator at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She and 14 other pre-service teachers are enrolled in a section of IT486, Intro to Instructional Computing, that I am teaching this summer. The course examines how to use technology to support teaching and learning and is designed to prepare novice teachers to integrate a variety of computer-based technologies.

One aspect of the course design that I really enjoy and value is the blog for reflective journaling. This is a required component. During the first week of the course, each student signed up for a blog at Google’s Blogger. They were given a certain amount of license in the look and feel of the blog, but the overarching rationale for the pre-service teacher blog is the same: to develop and practice the reflective process. (More on that later.)

But why blend an introspective mode of writing such as journal writing with a public medium such as blogs?

As Christopher Sessums maintains:

Collaborative weblogs promote the idea of learners as creators of knowledge, not merely consumers of information. A collaborative environment like the one I’m suggesting can allow peers to be seen as valuable sources of knowledge and ideas; a connection that participants can rely on beyond any formal classroom structure, i.e., collaboration leading to a community of interest.

So to that end, I have been making readerly comments on each pre-service teacher’s blog, and I am encouraging the class to follow, read, and comment on each others’ blogs.

And now, to go a step further, I seek to shine a spotlight (or, in the case of our music major, “sound a trumpet”) on some provocative posts in hopes of inducting our novice edubloggers into some of the wonderfully generous and nurturing networks of teacher/learners that have supported me in the past — communities such as Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Ann’s commentary on the state of music education strikes a chord because she describes a phenomenon that transcends content area and grade level: teachers tend to teach in the manner in which they were taught. Why is this so? How do we press forward into new realms of teaching and learning and resist falling back on tired and familiar practices that have outlived their effectiveness for today’s learners?

What do you think? I invite you to visit Ann’s blog and share your thoughts and feedback with her.

Know the feeling

Now I get it all -- all at once! Help!?!

Now I get it all -- all at once! Help!?!

I love this sentiment! It perfectly encapsulates the classroom teacher’s state of mind when faced with the full potential of the read/write web.

The quip belongs to Peter Lane, a California middle school reading and technology teacher.  I stole it from his profile in Classroom 2.0, an online professional network that, if you are a teacher even remotely curious about technology, you must visit!  In fact, Peter’s expression could serve as the tagline for the whole Classroom 2.0 site, which exists, in part, for those “beginners” who seek a “supportive community and a comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog.”

For his part, Peter is engaging his students in the “digital dialog” using a mix of young adult literature, blogs, and wikis. Take a look at Mr. Lane’s Effective Reading Blog.

Wikipedia in the classroom?

This is of interest to classroom teachers and anyone else who cares about teaching and learning information literacy. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets to evaluate (and teach the evaluation of) online resources in the classroom without arbitrary content filters or system-wide bans, then here is some good advice regarding Wikipedia, framed in terms of curriculum:

If the curriculum is a closed body of information and skills to be transmitted to students, you should ignore Wikipedia and direct students to proven resources such as textbooks. Wikipedia—with its uneven quality, vandalism, and distractions—will disrupt this transfer. If your curriculum is an opening into critical thinking and knowledge construction, however, teachers must use flawed sources such as Wikipedia, alongside more authoritative texts.

It comes from the Point/Counterpoint column in the March-April 2009 edition of Leading and Learning with Technology from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The author is Thomas Hammond, a former classroom teacher and now professor at Lehigh University.

Some might take exception to Hammond’s reference to “proven resources such as textbooks.” Textbooks, along with all classroom materials, reside somewhere on a continuum of accuracy and authority and should be judged accordingly. They are not immune to critique.

Overall, I think Hammond does a fine job of cutting through the fog of fear and apprehension that shrouds Wikipedia. Quite possibly, educators could use his suggestions to teach about and through not just Wikipedia, but other collaboratively constructed knowledgebases and online communities as well.

And, no, that doesn’t make me feel all “warm and fuzzy,” as suggested by counterpoint author, David Farhie. Instead, Hammond’s argument gives me hope and a glimpse of the kind of classroom where I would like to teach again some day.

What do you think? Is there room in your curriculum for Wikipedia?

From analog girl to “digimom”

My mother thinks I should hang a calendar in the kitchen so my son can learn his days of the weeks and months of the year.

He is two years old.

“Well, maybe not now, but in the next few years you should consider it,” she said.

I told her that in the next few years, I fully expect my son to be able to turn on a computer and launch an Internet browser, much in the same way he can now turn on the TV and even navigate TiVo. At that point, what’s to stop him from accessing the web-based calendar my husband and I currently use to organize work, church, and household events?

“Well, it’s still an analog world,” she said.

No. It isn’t, I say.

I am about to be graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a master’s degree in instructional technology. Had the above conversation occurred at another time and place, it likely would have ended differently, with me earnestly shopping for the perfect calendar per Mom’s suggestion.

The 2008 Land of Liberty calendar by Thomas Kincaid looks nice, with the added benefit of exposing my first-born to a bygone era when subtle Christian imagery and blatant patriotism intermingled to form resplendent, light-filled tableaux.

Yechhhh.

If I were going to buy a wall calendar to support my child’s intellectual and cognitive development, I would choose one with more transparent instructional value. How about a calendar that not only reinforces concepts like time management and days of the week but also promotes responsible citizenship, the democratic process, and important mathematical problem-solving strategies, like counting down? A civics lesson on every page!

It is an election year, after all.

The point is, my child is not developmentally ready for a calendar, and in the next few years when he is, paper-based calendars will be even more irrelevant than they are today. I haven’t owned a calendar or date book in close to ten years since the acquisition of my first handheld PDA, and I don’t expect my son will ever have use for one.

Although, I suppose that even by 2010 when he starts Kindergarten, I can count on him seeing and using plenty of analog calendars — at school.

I joke about being “an analog girl in a digital world,” in part because I love the Guy Clark song, but I am serious when it comes to the “unfolding ‘literacy dialectic'” described by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel in New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning, 2nd edition.

I read New Literacies this spring as part of a semester-long seminar on redefining literacy. The book is largely framed by a “tension” caused by the rapid onset of digital and mobile technologies in daily life and the complex demands this places on teachers and students to merge “old” and “new” literacies — the “dialectic.”

At stake are two divergent worldviews about the role of 21st century information and communication technologies (ICTs) in contemporary culture. Lankshear and Knobel label these worldviews as “mindsets.”

The “newcomer,” or “outsider,” mindset values digital technology for the way it supports old business models and conventional, print-based literacy practices. The “insider” mindset sees opportunity in technology to radically innovate and abandon the business-as-usual approach. The bulk of New Literacies examines insider practices, giving readers a glimpse into the worlds of fanfiction, anime, memes, blogs, podcasts, and mobile computing.

Educators, school leaders, and instructional technologists are struggling to respond to all this change as it relates to the effective integration of technology into classroom learning. More often than not, they “simply end up reproducing familiar conventional literacies through their uses of new technologies” (p. 30).

New Literacies concludes with a challenge to teachers, administrators, and policymakers. Lankshear and Knobel do not advocate unflagging allegiance to wholesale technology adoption that does not honor “insider” sensibilities, nor do they believe schools should be left behind as the exclusive domain of print-based, conventional literacies (p. 259).

Rather, the authors encouraged their readers to just “take a look and see,” to try out the new technologies and experience the new literacies and social practices for ourselves. In doing so, we will begin to understand the implications for teaching and learning. These insights will guide the integration of 21st century ICTs into instruction in a manner that compromises neither the integrity of the cultural practices nor our educational aims (pp. 246-247).

This is my biggest take-away from New Literacies: I don’t have to be a practicing classroom teacher to feel the tension of the mindsets. (Note above conversation between dear, ol’ Mom and me.) The shifts are playing out all around me as I perform in roles as student, parent, and citizen, and I have an obligation to respond.

It’s why I still can’t stop thinking about the Rolling Stone March 20 cover story on Barack Obama’s campaign strategy. It’s a strategy in which the field operations consist of voters organizing themselves with web-based technologies, particularly social networking tools: “In the process, the Obama campaign has shattered the top-down, command-and-control, broadcast-TV model that has dominated American politics since the early 1960s.”

It’s why I helped my babysitter set up a Gmail account and MySpace page so she could stay in contact with her many geographically dispersed cousins. The babysitter, by the way, is a 44-year-old grandmother of three.

It’s why I keep needling my local school board representative to take steps toward re-visioning our school system’s outdated appropriate use and web publishing policies.

It’s why I am determined to master the text-message function on my cell phone. One of these days.

And it’s why I won’t be buying any Hallmark calendars for the rest of my natural life.

Education informatics and the teacher/learner

It’s been more than a week since Clarence Fisher delivered his K-12 Online Conference keynote about web-based tools and their potential impact on relationships, pedagogy, curriculum, and information access in the classroom.

Arguing that “technology is not about skills, it’s about connections,” Fisher concludes his presentation by calling for reform of technology assessments that are too narrowly focused on the acquisition and demonstration of skills. Fisher says that what is needed instead is a tool for generating “education informatics.” This application would allow teachers to track students’ actions and activities on the Internet and to monitor and assess their progress as they build out virtual networks.

I’ve been thinking on this for several days. Now, as I am currently immersed in the Professional Learning Networks strand of the K-12 Online Conference, the concept of education informatics is growing more relevant and urgent.

By all accounts, the old model of “sit and get” professional development delivered by high-priced outside experts is on the way out. Like student learning, teacher professional development has the potential to become more personalized and self-directed within the new Web landscape.

And, as with students, education informatics for teachers could provide invaluable feedback and transparency about the breadth and depth of their online learning.

In my community the local school system recently reduced the number of systemwide professional development days and tripled the number of hours (from 6 to 18) that teachers must document unscheduled inservice learning. There is a tremendous opportunity here for teachers to set aside time for unstructured experimentation with the many cutting-edge, web-based tools and receive credit for their effort!

But how many of our administrators are equipped or even willing to acknowledge learning pursued via wikis, webcasts, chats, forum discussions, and so on? I think documentation and accountability would be huge issues to overcome, unless they had access to a state-of-the-art technology assessment such as Fisher describes.

If teachers are to be the models of lifelong learning, we must be willing to allow others to examine that learning under the microscope of education informatics.

And that’s what I think.

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:


These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy