Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Deirdre Bonnycastle has posted a collection of the latest and greatest related to active learning.


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Written for eighth-graders

cash advance

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In September I went to Scotland for a family reunion. For a week, we lived in a castle that had been converted to a educational centre for school children. It was a fantastic place but there was only one computer in the castle connected to the internet. Unfortunately, the computer also had filtering software installed. The reunion was wonderful but, as I stood in line waiting along with the other dozen guests for my turn to check my email, I wondered about the ways we control technology for learners.

The internet is one of the most important ways I learn. I use it to stay in touch and participate in what’s happening in my field. I blog. I bookmark sites. I Facebook. I visit YouTube. I read feeds. I chat. I spend most of my time online using social software. That week, all the sites I use regularly to connect to my community and support my own learning were blocked. The internet turned into a completely useless place for me. It was like a car without an engine. Although I experience some blocking at work, I can’t imagine what it must be like for learners to experience this level of control.

ning blocked

Like a lot of other people, I wonder why we’re blocking instead of teaching. I wonder why we’re banning instead of finding constructive ways to use these tools to support learning. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d admit that security and privacy are less of a concern than our need to control. We don’t always see what learners see. We don’t take advantage of the fantastic teachable moments that learners sometimes give us through their use of technology, as scary or chaotic as they may seem sometimes.

I appreciate that it can be a challenge to teach while people are cruising Facebook. It can be especially frustrating when learners are chatting or text messaging on cell phones. I’ve taught in a classroom of email-checkers. I hate to say it but in a moment of total frustration I once threatened to flush a cell phone. (I’m so sorry!) But I was a lecturer. I was a stand-and-deliver teacher, and that approach just can’t compete with the connection and learning that happens online. Right now, there is no greater challenge to the traditional teacher-centered approach than the internet.

The great thing is we can all learn how to adapt. We can talk to people who are using technology effectively to engage learners. And, of course, there are some great resources online. Here are a few that I grabbed from my bookmarks:

Thanks for listening. I’m off my soapbox now. 🙂

UPDATE: Another point of view comes from Samuel Freedman writing in the NY Times about the new class(room) war.  (I like the line “present but otherwise engaged”.)

(Photo, Ning – Blocked, by Alexander Hayes)

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Trust the blog

Michael Hotrum did a small “trust test“. He searched the net for information about repetitive stress injury. He looked at web sites and blogs, and he concluded …

“Websites are primarily corporate, designed to deliver a message leading to a sale, and often dated. The weblog – personal ones – can be corporate and sales driven but then there are also gems like Amy’s where the message is up to date and more important than the sale. She as a blogger wants to share information and experience, not generate a sale. So for this trust test I side with the weblog.”

We hear a lot on the debate about how much we should trust the information on wikis (the Wikipedia vs. Britannica debate, for instance), but I never thought about trusting the information we find on blogs.

I’m curious. Which do you think you trust more? Blogs or web sites?  Why?

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Hey NSCC bloggers!

My friend Chris tells me that he’s doing a session on blogs and wikis for faculty and staff tonight in Truro. I wish I could be there, but then I’d like to be anywhere with Chris because he’s taught me so much & because he’s such a great guy. Have fun & hope you learn lots!

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In the lead up to this week’s National Media Education Conference, I was checking out Project NML. Project NML is funded by the MacArthur Foundation to look at how young people are using emerging technologies to learn informally, what skills they’re developing, and then to develop materials for teachers so that they can support that learning in school. MIT’s Henry Jenkins is the leading the project.

I have the feeling that this kind of information is going to become more and more valuable to people like me (I’m an instructional designer) over the next few years since many online courses are little more than migrations of classroom learning experiences. That doesn’t come close to how people learn “in the wild” online. The more we learn about informal learning with technology and use that information to create vibrant, participatory learning environments, the more effective online courses can be.

Ok, off my soapbox.

If you want a taste of the kind of work Project NML is doing, check out this 5-minute piece on videoblogging featuring Steve Garfield. The video would be a wonderful thing to show students to give them a sense of what (video)blogging is about. (I like the bit about trust.)

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I came across a wonderful podcast interview (mp3) with Dave Sifry, the founder of Technorati, where he offers some two great pieces of advice people who blog to develop their brand.

Sifry says the currency of bloggers is the link. The more that people link to you, the better off you are. Sifry offers three pieces of advice if you want to get those links. First, you need to use a human voice when you blog. Be honest, not “official”. Next, write often. Set aside some time so that you can write enough about what you care about so that people will subscribe to your blog. Finally, link proficially. If you want people to notice you, read what those people are writing and link to them. Comment on their blogs. Engage in a conversation with them.

This is great advice for the brand-name blogger wannabe, but do you think it might be good advice for student bloggers as well? After all, student bloggers are branding themselves for future employers.  Or maybe students will brand themselves elsewhere?

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