Activity 4.2

Both writers present a clear and thoughtful argument to cMOOC, but there hasn’t been anything Stephen Downes  (David Crosby look alike) argues that I don’t agree with.   Brennan’s arguments for self-efficacy and motivation (namely too high a cognitive load and students get frustrated and quit, or too low a cognitive load and students get bored and quit) is an argument for a traditional classroom.  In the MOOC environment I don’t think his position holds.  These are free classes, for motivated students.  In the digital age there are no excuses.  If a student doesn’t understand something, they have the tool to figure it out.  Actually, I would go as far to say, that teachers should design a “weeding out” activity early in the program to see who is committed and wants to be in the class, and who will drop out at the first sign of difficulty.

Check out these principals of Connectivism from Wikipedia:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Learning is more critical than knowing.
  • Maintaining and nurturing connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Perceiving connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of learning activities.
  • 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.

Could Connectivism even be a theory of learning before networked systems (internet) existed?  How many different opinions could a scholar attain 300 years ago?  How many different connections (between fields, information sources, idea and concepts) could a scholar attain?   Even the most well connected, dignified, rich student would not have the resources available to them as we do now.   But connectivism is for a mature student, most likely adult, who are already life-long learners.

In my future teaching (still TOC), connectivism could play a bigger role in a traditional classroom.   As Stephen Downes writes “to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect.”  K-8 students, for the most part, are in the model and demonstrate phase.  Instead of filling the gaps of knowledge and content, the teacher then becomes a model and demonstrator for using the tools of connectivism.  The “teaching” becomes less content, and more ways of finding, analyzing, comparing, evaluating, creating content– all the higher learning skills.

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 4.1

I’m not sure I’ve ever met an educator that self promoted a certain teaching philosophy.  I think the teaching philosophy questions are asked during course and assignment design.  How does the teacher want to deliver the course content and curriculum requirements?   The philosophy emerges in the course design: what to study, what to focus on, what is the final assignment requirements.

As a TOC in my district, the Teaching Philosophy emerges in the classroom and the activities that they plan for me.  In the k-5 setting, most teachers are still the Liberal/Perennial agents, the teacher the vessel of knowledge and the student the empty receptacle ready to be filled with knowledge.   The more daring teachers in Middle School are progressive partnering with their students, but mostly still in charge and the source of knowledge.  By High School, teachers begin to shift the responsibility of education on the students, and many of them have said they are more like humanist facilitators.  But in reality through all the k-12 the teacher is still the agent of knowledge and the gateway for students.

Maybe only recently, has the paradigm been shifting with the advancements of personal technology.  Now, teachers are not the knowledgeable ones when it comes to technology, and the millennial students are showing them how the tech tools work.  No instructions, no problem.  So many of the apps and tool are user friendly where the students can just “plug and play” and figure it out as they go along.  And in a DL online environment, a progressive teaching course design — problem solving, experimental, situational – might be the “language” needed to connect with the new generation of students.  Books like “Invent to Learn” and “Tinkerers” is tapping into this problem-solving approach to teaching.

I always found effective educators as the fulcrum on a scale, adapting and changing their teaching philosophy depending on the situation or depending on the students.  I know for myself, I wouldn’t be able to label what I’m doing in the moment, but I instruct differently depending on the type of student.  I haven’t had to design any courses, but if I do, I always enjoyed TOCing in classes with meaningful, project based, student chosen assignments.  They just seem to capture a majority of the students.

Assignment 1A — Annotated Resource List for English Teachers

I have evaluated web based resources for an English Teacher in the Middle School or High School level 7-12.

Here are the websites I evaluated:

Writing.com:  K-12 writing forum, with free tools, readings, contests

Grammarly.com An app for correcting and teaching spelling and grammar

https://edsitement.neh.gov/  A high end literature site offering content, activities, media, and lesson plans for High School students.

http://www.readwritethink.org   A site offering educators the “highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction”

http://cct2.edc.org  An introductory site to teaching digital literacy in the classroom. The website offers reasons to teach it, how to teach it, and provides sample lessons that can be used as springboards for further study

 

Visuwords.com  A website that defines words by creating a colourful mind map that associates the word with adjectives, homonym, antonyms, similar word groups, and usage

 

I evaluated the websites on the following criteria:

AUTHORITY: Who is the content creator?  Is the author and EXPERT or PEDESTRIAN?

FUNCTIONALITY:  Is the web resource EASY TO USE or A BLACK HOLE OF INFO?

CURRENCY: UPDATED or NON DATED?  I didn’t put too much stock in this area, since unlike Science or Social Studies, English resources are not as time sensitive.

COVERAGE: “You’ll find what you’ll need” or “Maybe, but it will take some digging”

GRADE LEVEL MATCH:  K-12 or 7-12?

Here are my findings laid out in table format.

Web Content Annotated Resource List

Let’s explore some of these websites for their use in supporting a lesson, unit, or entire course.

Writing.com:  Unless you want to spend your entire prep searching for content, this is by far the most unfriendly user site.  It’s part blog, part resources, part writing forum, part advertisement.  Writing.com started early (2000) and was probably the center for English teachers just beginning to check out online material.  But they haven’t done anything in the past decade to upgrade their site’s functionality.  I wish a better, more organized website would buy their name, because that’s the only thing they have going for them.

Grammarly.com:  Although I haven’t used it, I think I will install it on my FireFox and MS word software.   As a teacher, I would encourage all my students to edit their papers using this app before peer editing and handing it in.  Not only does it detect and correct, it explains the mistake in a side bar.

edsitement.neh.gov:  The .neh.gov stands for National Endowment for Humanities, so you know you are getting top quality, scholarly resources from this site.  By far the best resource site I evaluated.  Organized, functional, easy to navigate, the site offers digital and media student resources for English teachers, as well as suggested lesson plans, activities, tasks, that can all be used in a wider study of unit.  The material is organized under different genres and headings for easy searches.  The content is mature and for the upper high school level, and I would use it to solidify unit themes.

readwritethink.org:  Content is submitted by teachers but passes through two literacy educators using the benchmark of Classroom Tested and Evidence-Based teaching.  Most of the content submitted is for individual lessons, and could be use to reinforce unit themes or ideas, or for just something fun as a unit completion.

Digital Literacy:  Although the content is a decade old (2005) the resource is simple to use and unique in its presentation. There are activities that students take the same digital media (sound, image, movie) and put it in different contexts to see how it affects the message.  Decoding the Meaning, Critical Thinking Problem Solving and Decision Making  is one of six components of BC’s  Digital Literacy Framework

I’ve never encountered a site that offers activities for decoding meaning with digital media, and I think this would be an excellent additional resource for approaching the subject.

Visuwords:  A fun site that maybe students could explore for a lesson and use as a digital tool.  My mind does not work with mind maps, but for the visual learner they may gravitate to this fantastic technology.  However, using Visuwords for an entire unit of study may prove challenging.  A possible idea is to look up coded language or expressions during a novel study, that doesn’t translate as smoothly from the dictionary definiton, and decode them using visuwords.

Social Bookmarking

Looking over our Professor’s Social Bookmarking Diigo Page

I am doing the same thing but a lot less efficiently using my bookmark feature on Firefox.  It’s not transferable from computer to computer and I can’t share the social bookmarking with other students or teachers unless they are borrowing my computer.   But in reality, I don’t like services that add an extra step.  Now on Firefox, I just click on the little star and bookmark the site with a tag, done.  With a social bookmarking site you’d have to open the page and enter the url to search the article before tagging it.

I still think a universal tool like Evernote, can be used in so many different ways (RSS, Social Bookmarking, Notes, Search Engine, word processor) that everything is handy in one place.

In the classroom, an assignment, just like the one we’ve done in EDDL 5101, could be to collect web based resources for a final project.  Students could use the social bookmarking site to save relevant articles they find during their research classes.  All compiled in one place, it would be easier to access it for the future.  Students working in groups could also compile the resources independently.

 

Web-Resource Criteria (used to fact check a fact-checking website)

Web-Content Criteria:

The 10 second glance

  1. URL:  .gov  (government)  .edu (educational institution)   .mil (military)  .org (non profit)  .com (commercial) or .uk  .br  (country origin)
  2. Author:  Author’s name provided or anonymous?  (Search the author)
  3. Purpose: Teach/Inform/Persuade  or  Sell Product?
  4. Links:  To other relevant information   or  Click Advertisements?

The 60 second scan

  1. Authority:  Biased or Fair?  POV? Profession?  Reputable?
  2. Pass the smell test?  Use your OWN opinions.

 

 

After the 1st Presidential debate yesterday and reading CBC, CNN, FOX NEWS, CBS, and BBC articles on the debate — and most news agencies agreeing Hillary won the first contest — I wanted to find a website that argued Donald Trump won the debate.  It took a while but finally at  inforwars.com   I found the one.  A quick look at it, and it has all the professionalism of any network news agency: graphics, related stories, links, video content.  So let’s use the criteria like a High School student would:

Web Based Criteria Evaluation:

  1. URL — .com (commercial) but so are all the other American News Agencies.
  2. Author:  Alex Jones — never heard of him, but his name is listed as the content creator.  A quick google search and almost all the search results claim him to be a conspiracy theorist — warning bells should be ringing.
  3. Purpose:  To fact check — Inform, Teach, Persuade
  4. Links: To other articles that support his position (“Hillary outed as a racist before the debate”) and links to paid content clicks (advertisement).  Most network news agencies have the same click content (some of them identical from site to site).
  5. Authority:  Biased.  Profession: radio host needs to be opinionated.  Reputable?  Not sure.
  6. Does it pass the smell test?  Nope.  One sided fact checking on Hillary only.  The Donald isn’t fact-checked for any of his comments.

Originally I only had the first 4 criteria standards, but infowars.com would’ve passed the test and I knew there was no way this was fair content.  I needed to add the 5th and 6th criteria to probe a little deeper into the content.  Now I’m not sure if the first 4 criteria are even needed — but I’m leaving them for the most obvious untrustworthy sites.

 

KELLY’S WEB CONTENT CRITERIA

  1. Author
    • Is there an author listed?
      • Is it a person?  Is it an organization?  YES, Alex Jones
      • Can you find more information about this person or organization?  Yes, a quick google reveals that he is a supporter of conspiracy theory, and a right-wing conservative radio host
      • Are their qualifications relevant to the information you’re reading?   Tough question.  In political websites most of them are coming from one of the 2 camps, Republican or Democrat.  If the reader goes in knowing which camp they can understand the author’s perspective.
  2. Funding
    • Who pays for and maintains the website?
      • Check the URL (.gov .edu are most reliable)  Commercial, Radio Show
      • Is there advertising?  YES, pharmaceutical company on Oct 4th, but the advertisement content changes on a weekly basis, atleast in the past 2 weeks.
      • Is if funded by a drug company in the instance of medical resources?
  3. Last Update
    • How current is the information?   CURRENT, Daily updates to political coverage.
  4. Voice/Tone
    • Is a neutral tone applied throughout?  Nope.  Not neutral at all.
    • Is there any biased language that is being used?  Biased towards Trump and Trump supporters.  Most of the articles are not even “NEWS”.  I find CNN doing the same thing recently.   They are so hungry for content that a political supporter attacking a reporter makes news.
  5. Resources
    • When facts/statistics are stated, do they link to the resource they obtained that information from?  Is the link reliable?   No links within the articles
    • CONCLUSION:  Kelly’s web content criteria, though longer, asked several key questions that I did not have in my own criteria.  VOICE/TONE questions were the main differences in evaluating the two criteria.   As a practiced reader disseminating information a quick read of the articles makes it apparent of the political bias and I could detect the tone.   But I wonder if Middle School or High School students could pick up on the bias?  Would teaching about bias put your own bias into the article.  It would be an interesting class.

 

 

Copyrighted Sharing

Pearson Books, which I used to sell, has taken a major leap in the Open Commons Resources website.  It used to be that traditional paper book companies were dabbling in the digital domain, by offering bonus material online to compliment their text books.   Now with a simple search (or advanced search) it’s easy to see that many different institutions are offering their material on the open commons sites.

This entire 28 lesson Plan from oercommons.org lays out each lesson for teaching The American Short Story, along with tasks (listening, watching, reading, speaking), activities, assessments, going deeper segments etc.  On the OER site, Pearson won’t allow remix or share capabilities.  The digital resources are also still connected to the printed book that accompanies the course.  I can see why Pearson would offer the Open Commons resource as a “commercial” to purchase their textbooks.   I wonder if other institutions on OER, like College Programs, offer the material in hopes of selling the course for credit.

On the other hand, creativecommons.org is built more on the idealism of sharing material by individual contributors.  Just take a look at their suggestions for using, contributing, and saying “thank you” by giving credit to the author.  However the same search for “American Short Story Lesson Plans” took me to a page that amalgamates other search engine’s results.

I didn’t start with such a vague search, but when I searched for more specific lessons, both sites did not find any results.  The pay off with lengthy searches could be an ongoing unit or series of lessons with fantastic resources for the time spent to pay off.

DPA and Digital Literacy

Daily Physical Activity (DPA) has become a routine in our district.  For 15-20 minutes a day, students are encouraged to do something active — it can be as simple as a walk around the school ground, or as complex as a classroom designed game — but usually it is another task for the teacher to develop some short and fun tasks.

One class, I was group teaching, became creative with the DPA assignment.  Students were divided into groups of 3-4, given a tablet, and assigned the task of designing a 15minute DPA routine.  When the questions came, the task was vague, “get your fellow students to move around for 15 minutes, anything goes, but remember the students will be at their desks and won’t have much room to move.”  The students had several periods to research, evaluate, design, contribute, revise and remix their DPA video.

All the videos were then uploaded to a YouTube channel and the link was e-mailed to fellow teachers.  The students were creative with their delivery of the task — some filming themselves, some using animation graphics, some using movie Martial Arts footage.  The classrooms used the DPA videos throughout the winter as a “Brain Break” and a couple of the video performers became “famous” in their circles for the exercise moves they could perform.  For the energetic attention seekers, they had their platform for performance.  For the quiet, shy type, they could “hide” behind graphics or animation.

The Technological Help Team!!

Part of maneuvering through the  Knowledge Based Society we live in, is being able to assess, rate, and manage the knowledge we need.  We don’t need a floodlight to find what we’re looking for, when a flashlight will do.  It’s all about focus.

There is a ton of free information online regarding the use of technology in the classroom.  It can be specific, like actual lesson plans, to general, like ideas for using FaceBook in the classroom.  I am not currently teaching a classroom, but if I were here are some resources that I would turn to for help in implementing technology in the classroom.

  1. Computer Teacher/librarian:  every school has either a designated computer instructor, or a tech savvy individual that gets excited when using his SmartBoard, iPads, and websites that he spent the weekend creating.  Why not ask them how they would use their digital resources to teach the unit?
  2. School District Curriculum and Learning Resources:  I would think most districts has a person in charge of sourcing, developing, purchasing learning resources.  In my case it is Don Macintyre a proponent of technological implementation.  In our district he started the first multi school class, teaching from his home office to high school students in 3 different locations.  He’s a pioneer and a great sound board for ideas.
  3. Web Based Resources: This is the go-to resource for me, but distinguishing the wheat from the chaff becomes the issue.  I’m looking for general ideas when implementing technology in the classroom.  I don’t want the specifics.  Some of the websites that continuously pop up when doing a search for “implementing technology in the classroom” are:
    1. Edutopia — It’s pretty cool when George Lucas’ Educational Foundation hosts the website.  I think most students can relate to Yoda’s wisdom
    2. freetech4teachers  — Richard Byrne is the real deal!!   He sources the best Apps, software, hardware, websites, to use in the classroom for different subjects and grades — and best of all most of his technological suggestions are — FREE (hence the name).
  4. BLOGS:  Everyone is trying to get your attention with their ideas.   And at last count there are over 50 million bloggers posting on all sorts of subjects (and now we are part of them too.)  Just like you discern the people you choose to hang out with, the same rules apply to finding bloggers to follow.  Who makes you feel alive with their writing?  Who inspires you to try something new?   Who are you aligned with?  Who challenges your current thinking?  Who do you totally disagree with?  Usually a read of the latest post, or blogger bio will give you an idea of what they’re all about.  There are some good ones out there.
    1. Peter Diamandis — I’ve been following Diamandis for a couple of years now.  He’s not a teacher, but is a modern Renaissance Man with his hands (and brain) in everything from science, education, physics, astrophysics, Social Sciences.  I read his book Abundance and really took to his powerful and positive message that the future is bright.
    2. The Innovative Educator — What got me is she found school boring and irrelevant.  She’s on a crusade to change that.
    3. Steven Anderson — The creator of web2.0classroom, Steven has taken on the full time job of educating the educators.  He offers ideas in broad pedagogical strokes but also offers specifics for using certain digital tools.

State of Technology in Education

Education is still primarily a cult of personality.  After reading the Canadian Teacher’s Federation survey results in “Connected to Learn: Teachers Experiences with Networked Technologies in the Classroom,” it doesn’t surprise me that the results are as varied as the teachers that took the survey.   Bates then argues for the implementation of technology in education in his digital book “Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning.”  And I agreed with everyone of his points.  In our technological age, I don’t think many people would disagree Bates’ points. 

But Education still belongs to the figure at the front of the class.  If the teacher believes (or feels comfortable) with using social media, networked learning, programmed learning etc, in the class room then they will implement it.  If they are comfortable and satisfied with paper handouts (and they have a file cabinet full of paper resources) then guess what the students will be doing.

I have not taught my own class, and have TOC’d for the past five years.  The rich experience of being in another teacher’s class has exposed me to different teaching styles, methods, and philosophies,  and I have seen everything on the digital continuum — from no technology to entire units completed digitally.  And I have to say there is a freshness to a lesson plan that allows for the use of technology (websites, hardware, software et. al.)   In general, the students are “into it” and feel like they are part of something meaningful especially when creating new ways of displaying their learning.   Students are not excited about worksheets.   Like Bates argues, if we are preparing students for our knowledge based society, managing knowledge, disseminating, collaborating, creating,  then become important skills.   I know my idea of a successful class is engaged students, excited to learn.  Not managing students and putting out behavioral fires.

New RSS Feeds

This was like a magic bullet for me.  I had no idea of RSS feeds.  Now I need a feedreader.  I subscribed to a few, but find the FeedReader.com the best.  But I will probably set up my Evernote app and turn it into an RSS Feed Reader.

I added  my 5 RSS feeds to my EDDL 5101 Blog, under the widget option.

Edutopia — Practical Classroom Tips.  Short entries on practical tips and tricks to make a classroom tick.

Life Hacker– The pro said if he had only one RSS feed for the rest of his life it would be this one.  Sort of like a Zen Master meets Steve Jobs type of feed.  Get tips on how to work smarter and save time.

Mindshift — The feed and app is intended for youth with anxiety.  Practical tips for calming the class or an individual

Brain Pickings — the best of the best for anything creative.  Cross-Discipline spanning all my favourite subjects.  Something for everyone.

Writer’s Beat — Writer’s posting stories, talking about writing, giving advice and feedback.  Some day I hope to teach a Creative Writing Class.   This gets them an invitation to the party.