Embracing e-writing

A great article on e-writing was shared by Michael Ulku-Steiner with the Upper School faculty deserves a wider audience. Full disclosure would mean that DA parent, Lucy Martindale get credit for sending it to Michael. This is how connected learning happens when done in bits and bytes or ones and zeros and not in an analog form factor. We live in a new learning environment where we have new tools to incorporate into our teaching and our learning.
I did orientation this year for all students in the Middle School and asked them this question: “Can you use Instant Messaging Language or IM when you are writing messages in Moodle?” They all answered no, as they are good students and figured there was no way a teacher would let them write CUL8R or IMHO. Most mouths opened a bit when I said, of course you can as it is appropriate language for messaging. I went further by asking who invented it? IMers. Are there other languages that are confusing if you do not know them? Ever talked to a computer teacher when he said something like the CPU was 2.25 GHz with 2 GB or RAM or the IP address lease was not renewed by the DHCP server. We all use languages that are useful for what we are discussing or in the case of IM language, appropriate for the quick exchange of information. Therefore, I was glad to read this post/article by a professor of a institution of higher learning as it supports what I think is most important. Writing for an audience and know the difference between formal writing and IM.

Thank you to all who I learn from on a daily basis.

Scratch…Programming from MIT

A long time ago there was Logo which allowed users to interact and program a turtle to do certain actions. My predecessor, Rachel Avery wrote books on Logo. Logo still exists although it is now done via MicroWorlds or Terrapin Software. I remember conversations I had with the parents of students in the Lower School who wished I taught students some basic programming as a way to demystify how a computer program works as well as to introduce them to the power of programming languages. I was not successful in this as the schedule was always too tight or there were other skills or topics that needed addressing. Lost in all of this was the chance for students to tinker around with software and programming. I regret that I was not able to accomplish that in the Lower School which is why I am hopeful for the Lego Mindstorms NXT Club that will be starting soon in the Middle School. While still not a mainstream class, it will at least be offered as a club. Small steps still take you on a journey.

I listened to a podcast by Wesley Freyer who also writes a blog at Moving at the Speed of Creativity. He had a interview with his son Alexander who played with using Scratch from MIT. The value of tinkering is not lost on the youth of today. I remember tinkering with my dad’s old cars when I grew up as it was mysterious to me how they worked. I often could not put all of the pieces back which meant it no longer worked. Of course, I never tried this with a working car so there was no real harm done. I learned a lot with these adventures into a V8.

Today, students are able to tinker with all sorts of technology. Scratch is another wonderful tool. Alice is another that I will be exploring in order to bring programming to girls in the Middle School.

So, scratch the programming itch and tinker away.

We will have it installed soon on the computers at school.

If I gave an 8th grader a GPS?

I gave Nat G. the Garmin GPSmap 60CS to take on the coastal trip. I asked him to set some way points and see if he could collect as much data as possible. Actually, I gave it to Dr. Ward who gave it to Nat. I included a 150 page manual which I am sure was useful as a seat cushion for the long trip to the beach. What I got back was an incredible log of the trip as he set waypoints when they stopped at a rest area, Food Lion, as well as when they were driving, eating, and each activity that they did for the week. It is an awesome digital diary of the exact location on earth on what they did and when they did it. Here are some screen shots, although if you want to download the CoastalTrip_07 .kml file, you can open Google Earth and then use File – Open to travel the route yourself. Leaving DA

Here is a shot of where they lived and learned for the week.
Trinity Center and Carrot Island

The Rachel Carson Preserve on Carrot Island is a culmination of the trip. See where they saw the horses and where they went swimming.
Rachel Carson Preserve

So, if I gave an 8th grader a GPS means I will connect them to their learning in ways that only enhance the learning they receive by walking the walk, wading in water, and sighting a horse. Of course, now we have data as to where the horses were this year. Is this the normal location? Will next years group find them in the same place? How much do they move in a year? Where are you in relationship to the horses? As more and more devices have GPS, what will we use the data for, or will we use the data?

Open Source Learning: How well do you share?

Tech Learning Educator’s eZine appeared in my email today. Instead of clicking on it to delete it because I was too busy, I thought I would take a look as a title grabbed my attention: Open Source Learning: How well do you share?. The article by Cheryl Oakes hit the spot with me. I am thinking about topics the Technology Task Force has been considering for the future of Durham Academy. One topic that is of great interest to me is the Virtual Learning Environment which we started to build last year when we set up the DAILE Moodle. The adoption rate has been incredible and even today, I heard a seventh grade student say that she loves Moodle. Now, it could have been because she had 5 or 6 messages from friends waiting for her or it could be that she finds it more useful in accessing information for class. I did talk with students yesterday about messages using DAILE Moodle. They brought up a good point in that they liked it since they could communicate with friends they may not see at school during the day. It is a way to stay in contact. Hence, it builds community. While we may not like it that students can not always talk with their friends during school, the reality is time constraints affect them as much as it does us adults.

Cheryl talks about colleagues that she has worked with or listened to who have helped her move forward. Many of the people she listed are folks I have followed as well. I met Will Richardson in Memphis this summer and he felt like an old friend. Reading her article brought up a great link called VoiceThread.com that allow users to upload an image with narration. Once done, users can share it will parents or friends. Teachers can use it for free with their classrooms. While it is still beta and I see no revenue stream, it is a powerful tool.

This also brings up the use of Moodle over proprietary Virtual Learning Environments. Open source gives me 10,000 of developers who are committed to creating parts of a product better. I see the road map for Moodle and am impressed. Mahara will be built into Moodle version 2.0 due out next summer. This is a solution for our learning community as well.

Would we have this roadmap with a closed proprietary system?… Maybe, but at what cost?

When to use Wikis, Blogs or Fourms

From September 2006, I have moved this from my old blog on Moodle.

I have been listening to David Warlick\’s podcast on 1 to1 laptop programs where he is conducting a round table discussion on various Web 2.0 topics. He points out this information on when to use a Wiki, Blog or a Forum. I think his information is right on so I thought I would scribe it here. Of course you can just got to his podcast and download episode #67 and listen for yourself. It is about 7 minutes into the podcast.

Wikis: “Usually a small group of people working together to build a collaborative document that will help that small group of people”. Used to publish a collective of pages or material verses dated material which is how Blogs are constructed around a dated time line. Wikis are also easily formatted into a single page if needed. Wikis also have a history button so you can see what has been taking place since the wiki page was started and who is contributing to the continued creation of the content. If this is a class assignment, you can easily see how students are contributing. The creation of a “Digital Artifact” as one person says.

Blogs: They are a publishing event so it should represent the “best work” of the author. A more formal publishing event. Blogs are individual entries with comments. Useful for dated material with comments that will include time stamps with a more personal sharing aspect.

Forums/Discussions: These are used best for posing questions or getting feedback from students that will move a conversation forward. It is a conversational tone and not well formatted or sometimes well thought out.

Great descriptions on these technologies. Thanks David.

Video Games in Schools (NCETC 2006)

I first posted this in November of 2006 in the Moodle. I moved it here for a large audience.

David Warlick is presenting a session on A Beginners Introduction to Games and Learning here at NCETC. Handouts are at his handout wiki. Video Games are an interesting issue for me as I see students coming to the lab at lunch to get on a computer so they can play games. Runescape is huge and I see students working together to get into the same game and then helping each other play. While this game site may be against the Acceptable Use Code of DA, I am fascinated by how students are collaborating and problem-solving for the 15 minutes they have after lunch. It seems to be mostly 5th and 6th grade students. Linerider as of late is very popular as students tend to use it for two purposes. One purpose is to make really complex lines that the rider must ride that incorporate loops and jumps. A different approach is to create lines that end with the line rider crashing. Guess which ones boys do the most and which ones girls do the most. This is not a scientific study but a casual observation as I walk around the labs at lunch time. How can we harness the benefits of games in an educational setting? David said that a study has found that those of us who are over 35 years old are only 10% likely to play games.

This topic is of importance as students are engaged and interested in gaming at school. The Serious Games Initiative is a place to start looking at how we might incorporate games. Peacemakergame is a game created in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University.

Since my first post I also heard about Tabula Digita which uses Algebra in a game. Games are more sticky then some classes for students these days.

First Published at NCETC in 2006

I moved this from my Moodle Blog so a larger audience can see it.

David Warlick again takes a hard topic and makes it easy to understand. His introduction to wikis was interactive as he had us work on a wiki as we were active learners. Check out my notes.

I am now in Patrick Crispen’s Complete and Total Waste of Time.

Zombo.com is a web site where you can do everything you want.

Pandora.com is really useful if you like to listen to music. This site will allow you to create a web-based radio station based on artists you like. Check it out.

Makebigpictures.com – This site with a sort of bad name that means to Rasterize and images. It allows you to upload images and create multipage blow-up of the image.

FreeplayMusic.com is a great site to get royalty-free short background pieces of music for movie projects as long as you do not make the finished project public.

Tiny URL.com will allow you to take a long URL and make it small.

Concert Ticket Generator will allow you to create realistic concert tickets. Could be useful to make tickets for events in a classroom.

Laptop Institute – Ian Jukes (Live Blog)

I am in Memphis TN attending The Laptop Institute. Ian Jukes gave the opening keynote on the future technology and implications for education.

I am testing ecto for blogging right now to see how it works. So far I must say I am very impressed as it allows me to connect and publish to my blog without logging in to the blog. I am using the free trial at this point. I believe it costs $17.95.

Ian talked about the 4 things that are driving education as it relates to technology.

  • Moore’s Law – processor speed doubles every 6 months while costs decrease
  • Photonics – a glut of bandwidth will make the Internet available everywhere
  • The Internet – the “series of tubes” will be the creation and container of all information
  • InfoWhelm – how the information available will be overwhelming

For more information, see Jeff Whipple’s blog post.

Link and Books
Center for Media Literacy

“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” (Ray Kurzweil) Must read

“Information Anxiety 2” (Richard Saul Wurman, David Sume, Loring Leifer)

“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” (Malcolm Gladwell)

“Teaching for Tomorrow: Teaching Content and Problem-Solving Skills” (Ted McCain) Must read according to Ian who coauthored it.

“Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids” (Douglas Rushkoff) Good read

“Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life” (Steven Johnson)
“Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter” (Steven Johnson)
“Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching & Teaching Today’s Adolescents” (Sheryl G. Feinstein)
“The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind” (Richard Restak) Must read
“What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” (James Paul Gee)

“Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds” (J. C. Herz)

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Social Bookmarking Tools

Social Bookmarking is the process of sharing links or as Wikipedia says: On a Social Bookmarking system or network, users store lists of Internet resources that they find useful. These lists can be accessible to the public by users of a specific network or website. Other users with similar interests can view the links by topic, category, tags, or even randomly.

I have used Del.icio.us for at least a year and have found it very useful to share and get links for folks I follow in the blogosphere. On my way in to work, I listened to EdTechTalk.com’s podcast on Social Bookmarking and was turned on to a couple new players in this arena. Diigo is a new tool that allows much of what del.icio.us offered but with the ability to add more features like sticky notes, groups etc. I am going to give it a try. JKN.com is another one that allows you to add comments to pages. Trailfire is a tool that allows users to navigate a “trail” of links put together by a teacher with questions or comments along the way. I have not tried it but it sounds interesting. These tools make it simple for a teacher to make links that they think are important available to students. In fact it could become a class activity to find web sites on topics and “tag” them so they show up in the social sites.