Saturday, February 28, 2009

Connection or Disconnection?

Plug in, switch on, connect, roam, SMS, 3G, wifi, GPS...

...At the center of the development of technology is a pressure to be 'connected'. Connected to what? who? how?

Connectivism is a modern phenomenon, so modern my spell checker is showing the word as incorrectly spelled. In order to understand this theory it is worth considering the principles that underlie it as suggested by George Siemens (2004):

  • 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.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist 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.
It all sounds good on the surface, People of diverse backgrounds connected, sharing new technology, experiencing lifelong learning together, this is a dream for most educationalists, including myself. So what on earth is the problem?

Can I disconnect?

I hear this time and time again; how can I disconnect? To survive we almost need to become hyper-connected. Staying current, nurturing connections, processing information, decision making all takes time. As we master one skill, a new technology requires a new shift, as we advance our social network and PLN we require more and more time to maintain the networks we are creating.

The result... Disconnection... with REALITY.

I know that in the short duration this course has run that I have felt more disconnected from reality than connected. I see it regularly. In youth today I see more and more connection online with a corresponding disconnection with the immediate reality in their lives. In the 'Hanging Out' section of the MacArthur Report the result of this is that we are '...constructing new social norms' are the new norms better than those preceeding them? Mizuko also raises the 'hypersocial' (MacArthur Report 2008, p.14) process which teens use to create their identity. Am I just too old fashion, too stuck in the past to see that this is the way of the future? I know for sure that as a Health and Physical Educator I am concerned.

I want students to use technology, please don't think I am suggesting technology is not a good option. I think the use of technology in sport and physical education not only can improve performance, but can assist in students gaining a deep understanding of their health and well being, which can inspire them to be more active over their lifetime; a goal most PE teachers would share. I am more concerned about the impact that such hyperconnectivity has on our student populations, and in particular how it disconnects them from what is really important. My challenge is to teach children to live a life of balance, one in which technology can assist them in relationship building and identity formation, but one in which they are still firmly connected to who they are without technology.

Final Reflection for my COETAIL course...

So this is my final reflection for the COETAIL course one I have been taking... late, but as I often (too often) say, better late than never! I have found this course really interesting, and can say now, looking back on it that I have used a lot of technology and learnt a lot in doing so. I have picked up a variety of skills that I feel have culminated in my final project.

I know I have
picked up some great IT skills that will eventually save me time, and help me to develop more as an educator. Using GoogleDocs is a huge time saver for registration of athletic events not to mention surveys for kids and collaboration prospects in the classroom. Blogging on Blogger has been an easy technical skill to master, although I still struggle to blog regularly. Using my Google Reader has taught me a great deal in how to manage the endless amounts of information continually arising on the web and participation within the class wiki on wetpaint, has been a great chance for me to understand through participation what a wiki can do, and the collaborative potential it holds.

I have gained an understanding of a few of the issues that are surrounding the integration of IT into education, and needless to say I am concerned about some of the outcomes of diving in deep into Information Technology. I am more firmly grounded on a few key principles:

  • IT is one of many tools that assists learning.
  • When IT begins to draw us away from reality we are becoming too hyper-connected, this is a dangerous state.
  • IT has to help our lives. It has to free us up more to do the important things in life.
I see a great potential in integrating IT into Physical Education and I am looking forward to researching more and continuing my blog to help enlighten any willing readers to understand ways they can integrate IT to improve student learning in PE. I can't wait to implement my multi-cultural games unit to my grade 8 students and see them collaborate with a class from another school. This has huge potential for inter-cultural understanding and appreciation.

Thanks to Kim Cofino and Jeff Utech who have been our mentor lecturers during this course, you have done a great job with a class of over 50! I have been challenged, extended, frustrated, excited and dismayed, but most of all I have learned.

Repackaged... ain't it the same thing?

Bloom's Taxonomy

The old... (Benjamin Bloom 1950's)

The new... (Lorin Anderson 2001)

The Techie new... '
Bloom's digital taxonomy map'


Elements coloured in black are recognised and existing verbs, Elements coloured in blue are new digital verbs.

So honestly, what is the difference?

I have only been in education for ten years and already I am seeing things re-packaged, re-worded, re-branded and regurgitated. Is this stuff completely revolutionary?

My opinion: No

I also tend to disagree with some of the words used under each of the headings in Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, which are explained more in depth in Andrew Churches article '
Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally'. I don't think that Bloom would place video editing as a higher order thinking skill (HOTS)... the reality these days is that many of the tasks appearing on the surface as HOTS are not. Technology has made these skills accessible to a wider range of people via a more user friendly platform, what we do looks more 'flashy', but the reality is that we do much of it without using many HOTS.

I also struggle to agree with Anderson's new Bloom's taxonomy. The change from using noun descriptors to verbs makes much sense. However, the swap at the top doesn't ring true to me... I struggle to see how one can evaluate before there has been some form of creation/synthesis. By placing creation at the top it almost assumes we have an endpoint in the thinking process, this is counter productive to further development of the thinking process. Evaluation above synthesis/creation inspires us to maintain our learning.

In saying all this, I see value in integrating the different digital tools and skills in
'Bloom's digital taxonomy map' in order to promote higher order thinking skills amongst my pupils, some do have merit and it is a good starting point when it comes to the integration of technology across curricula.

Are you a geek?

I'm confronted with this question and need to be sure that I am not a techie geek!

In order to answer this I need to consider the three genres of participation with new media that the
MacArthur Report (1998) suggest exist:
  1. Hanging Out
  2. Messing Around
  3. Geeking Out
If you imagine the above three categories along a continuum the hanging out stage is merely using media to 'connect' with others. It is quite a basic level of interaction with technology and is simple in it's interactions. Using Bloom's digital taxonomy map, the skills involved in this stage are low order thinking skills.

As one begins to "Mess Around",
they become more involved with 'tinkering with and exploration of new spaces of possibilities' (2008: 25). The thinking skills start to move up in bloom's taxonomy, but according to the MacArthur report the activity is still 'embedded in social contexts where friends and a broader peer group share a media-related interest and social focus' (2008: 26); few higher order thinking skills are reached.

“Geeking Out”, defines a serious shift and involves 'an intense commitment to or engagement with media or technology, often one particular media property, genre, or type of technology' (2008: 28). The key point here is that the intensity increases. There is a definite shift in thinking skills that involve higher level thinking and self directed learning from peers.

So what motivates my engagement in technology?

I primarily engage in technology for communication. I have very briefly dappled with blogs (with not much success). I tend to test technology with the attitude of... if it makes my life simpler, quicker and easier it is worth it. If technology pulls me away from reality, it I am firmly against it. Do I have the urge to become a Geek? Yes, on occasions, but something thankfully pulls me aside and makes me remove myself from 'the cloud' and see the real clouds in the sky. I'm not a geek, but I am sure grateful for the advances that the geeks have made for me!

The Wave... what are the implications for teaching and learning?

Prensky wipe the smile off your face...

I have to admit that if there is one author I find a challenging read, it is Marc Prensky, his '
Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom' continued to make me feel concern as to whether he is actually an educationalist or not. I feel he is so absorbed into technology that he has actually lost sight of the greater aspects of education.

One of the great things that education can promote in society is social justice, however if not delivered appropriately, education merely reinforces social inequalities. Prensky is pushing for an education system which is for the global elite, the effect of this merely will reinforce the social inequalities we see in society.

If you take the time to go to Global Rich List and type in your annual income, you soon realise the reality of the world.
Three billion people live on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 per day. One to one computers in all schools... haven't we lost the plot? How are the majority of the world going to afford this when they struggle to access clean water. Prensky seems to be lost from reality as shown in comments such as:

'But resisting today's digital technology will be truly lethal to our children's education'


'They (students) not only need things faster than their teachers are used to providing them, they also have many other new learning needs as well, such as random access to information and multiple data streams'

Resisting technology ...lethal? Multiple data streams as a need...why? Such 'needs' are not needs at all. Students today need to learn to live without limitless technology. Students need to be challenged to use technology to create action, action that promotes change, after all how can we achieve Prensky's edutopia without such social justice.

Utopia, an imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia' (1516) as enjoying perfection in law and politics, is a term now associated with perfection and idealism. Edutopia, a state of perfection in edcuation is idealistic and in reality, it is unrealistic.

The MacArthur Report clearly points out in its conclusions that there are a number of barriers to online participation (economic, institutional, social and cultural), these are embedded within greater societal issues that cannot be solved with a change in the educational system as suggested by Prensky.

I've vented enough. I don't agree with many of Prensky's perspectives, but I do believe he has some validity in the four step process of adopting technology that he suggests:
  1. Dabbling.
  2. Doing old things in old ways.
  3. Doing old things in new ways.
  4. Doing new things in new ways.
Schools are slow to take on technology, and when they do, they tend to rely on the old ways of doing things. Education does need a bit of a shake up, but I firmly don't believe that technology is the key solution. Technology will play a role, and as the MacArthur report suggests, it is impossible to disconnect today's youth from it, however perhaps what we need to see now is technology branching out from a consumer model to an action model.

Techin our Multicultural Games Unit

Kerry Dyke, our fellow Middle School teacher has been implementing a great unit on Multicultural games for a number of years here at International School Bangkok. I am pretty fired up to build on this unit and take it into the 21st century.

Here's my project sketch for our intercultural games unit:

Students currently partake in a very short unit which requires them to research and present a game from their culture. The unit begins by the teacher demonstrating some games from a variety of cultures to inspire the students to find games from their own culture. Students research a game from their own culture for homework, then are assigned to teach this game to their peers. They are also required to hand in a one page overview of their teaching plan and overview of the game.

The problem with the unit is that it currently gets 'squeezed' within other units. It needs to be more substantial, especially given that developing intercultural understanding is one of the key areas of the ISB vision. This project creates authentic learning experiences for children from a wide range of cultures, directly developing intercultural understanding. By 'Techin' this project it should give it more worth by expanding it's length, creating better opportunities for children to collaborate together online, and by forming a platform in which students from ISB can work with students in other schools.

Students will be peered up with someone from either their own culture or another culture. In peers they will research a physically active game unique to their or another culture. They will work on a wiki together to create a page which explains the game, includes pictures and the basic rules of the game and explains the games unique features relevant to their culture. They will also plan a short teaching lesson which they will be expected to deliver to their peers. The class will be divided in half for each teaching session to make the teaching itself less daunting.

Students will then deliver this lesson to their peers. The lesson will be recorded on digital video. Students will be expected to work with the recorded video to create a 2-3 minute video which assists explaining the game and shows them teaching. This will be uploaded to You Tube and embedded into their wiki page. The final part of the assessment will require the students to go onto each others sites, watch the videos and complete a small peer assessment task which will be managed through Googledocs. It would also be nice for students to offer feedback (via
threads) on the wiki.

The ultimate goal will be to actually do this with students from another school in another country. In the first year of implementation it will be completed with students from ISB to work through 'teething' problems. In the second year the plan will be to join peers together from one school with another so they work in groups of four planning their wiki page and mini lesson together on the wiki. Once planned the peers will deliver the instruction in their own school then each post a video to their wiki. They will then be involved in providing feedback to each other online and completing the peer assessment through googledocs.

The most relevant links to the NETS are as follows:

2. Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:

a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments
and media.
c. develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.

3. Research and Information Fluency

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:

b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources andmedia.

5. Digital Citizenship

Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:

b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.

6. Technology Operations and Concepts

Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:

a. understand and use technology systems.

Pretty exciting aye??!!

If you are reading this from another school and want to join my PE class in this adventure please respond to this post. Please also have a look at the unit plan which I am developing.

Truth and Peer critique…

So my blogging frequency is not scoring too high; we're supposed to be blogging on a regular basis (at least once a week), and have been encouraged to put our thoughts out into the ‘cloud’ with less editing than one would use on a traditional piece of written work…

I can’t do that.

When it comes to writing I write, re-write, edit, re-edit, all in order to come up with something that may be readable! I’m behind, and our course ends tomorrow… so expect a few blogs within the next 36 hours!!!

Although I am not blogging much, I have been reading, and in doing so I have learned a lot about information overload. My Google Reader is constantly flooded with information; much not worth reading. Online I am also faced with the same problems. How do I filter through the endless amounts of information available? How do I know truth? Can I identify bias? More importantly, how do I assist my pupils overcome these same issues?

Amongst the endless information online, how does one find truth and identify bias online?

In our session a few weeks ago Chris Betcher showed a variety of videos that highlighted how this has been a problem for a long time. What is truth has been a question pondered since the great philosophers. The problem now is with the multitude of information available online we have to filter and the number of judgments we have to make in filtering truth and bias in what we read. Chris offered some ideas for us in how to overcome these issues (See the bottom of this post)

This is a major issue for me, and highlights a major need within our classroom… How do we assist students in filtering through the endless amounts of below average information available on the web? How do we teach students to discern truth? How do we inspire critical thinking to ensure that our students can identify bias on the web, yet still be challenged to grow and expand their own perspectives on learning?

The answer… collaboration.

Using a PLN to find Truth and Bias Online...

I can only teach, role model and guide students so much when it comes to filtering information, I cannot be the expert.
In his article ‘World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others’, Will Richardson shares the power of the web 2.0. The web is no longer only about information, it is about connection with others, which seriously alters our role as educators...

“…we as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second."

Our role now requires us to teach the skills to allow students to
connect to others to assist them in their learning, and to help them identify what is true online.

we need to rely on trusted members of our personal networks to help sift through the sea of stuff, locating and sharing with us the most relevant, interesting, useful bits."

This brings with it a whole new range of issues, how do we trust the feedback and recommendations we get? How can we ensure that we listen to more people than those with the same perspectives as us in order to challenge and extend ourselves? How do we teach students online communication skills that allow for such sharing?

What is clear is that a personal learning network is critical in assisting us as teachers and learners and our students achieve success in navigating our way to find the right answers online.

View more presentations from sirchriss. (tags: google)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A few ideas for integrating Technology in PE...

After doing a little bit of research, I found the Charleston County School District website, which has a few ideas for integrating technology into PE, here's their list of ideas (not awesome, but may provide a springboard for you):

Technology Integration Ideas for Physical Education

1. Develop a HyperStudio presentation that allows students to view separate "stacks" of skills and knowledge for various instructional units, such as tumbling, basketball, soccer or jump rope skills. Stacks can include digital video clips or still images of the skills. At the end of each stack, include a quiz, which enables each student to test his or her knowledge. Students who utilize this program enjoy learning in a multimedia setting.

2. Videotape students during PE class performing specific skills. Students can then check out their tapes for overnight viewing. This is an excellent opportunity for parents to visit their children’s’ PE class.

3. Email parents a positive message about their child and include a picture of them participating during physical education class.

4. Create or use an existing WebQuest that allows students to research a specific physical education, fitness or health topic on the Internet, then create a final project or product using that research.

5. Create and display a slide show of photographs of fitness activities or healthy food choices for discussion or a game.

6. Create a web page in Composer or Dreamweaver. Post it on eChalk. It can display class rules, fitness ideas, class projects, contact information and resources for students and parents.

7. Using computer “stations,” students rotate to a computer and go to a specific interactive web site to perform a specific task.

8. Students exercise, then measure their heart rates using heart rate monitors set up at stations.

9. Prepare a spreadsheet for students to fill out information to demonstrate their understanding of the food pyramid. (Students type a reason for eating each food listed in the 1st section, the nutritional value in the next section, and the part of the food pyramid in which the food is found in the last section.)

10. Students time their heart rates and plot them on a graph in a spreadsheet.

11. Students keep track of their steps per day with a pedometer and plot them on a graph in a spreadsheet.

12. Have students collect digital images from the Internet depicting motion, movement, dance, or another theme. Insert the images into a PowerPoint or HyperStudio presentation and add music or text. Present the project to the class.

13. Students create a brochure in Publisher promoting physical activity, fitness, nutrition, or a sport.

14. Students keep a daily log of their nutrition, exercise, or number of steps per day in a MS Word document.

15. Check out the video streaming web site accessible to CCSD teachers beginning fall of 2005. You can search for videos on health, fitness, dance, or movement. Digital pictures are also available to help depict health, fitness, dance or movement.

Mobile Technology in the Classroom

So today we had the job of collaborating together to create an elevator sales pitch talk to sell our piece of the 2009 Horizon Report. This report gives some indicators to what the future may look like with the development of technology.

Here's our little Video on how mobile phone technology is creating a new landscape in our classrooms.

Update: If you want to read a good blog on mobile phones in the classroom check out Chris Betcher's recent blog post: Computers in Their Pockets.

Not impressed Mr Prensky...

So part of this Master’s paper I am doing requires me to give some feedback on some reading we are required to complete, and as per usual I am doing this too late. This blog entry relates to Marc Prensky’s article, "Engage Me or Enrage Me" an article which achieved it’s title in me! Let me vent…

What is the role of Education?

With such a range of educational philosophies one can see that this question is not easily answered. ‘To educate the child’ seems a simple and fair answer, but educate them in what? How? Do we strive for good character, scholastic achievement, well rounded, technologically literate students who are reflective and aware of their own strengths and weaknesses? Is lifelong learning a goal we encompass? How important is it to challenge students to extend their comfort zone, to encourage them to try new things or should we just deliver what they want and employ a consumer satisfaction model.

What is clear from Marc Prensky’s simple analysis of a complex sociological issue is that he has not taken the time to look at the greater underlying themes involved in education. I feel slightly enraged that he has looked at education in such a simplistic ‘user pays’ model in which everything happens as the customer wants. The educators who have influenced me the most are those that challenge me, move me beyond my own needs and take me to something greater. They didn’t give me what I wanted, they gave me what I needed.

Marc’s perspective is so limited ‘…kids back then didn’t expect to be engaged by everything they did’. Seriously Mr Prensky, who on earth is completely engaged by everything they do? And really, is the whole process of endless computer connection shown in this comment; ‘Every day after school, I go home and download music –it’s all I do’, …is this what we want our society to live like?

Marc discusses how school should be user selected, he suggests students are not ‘empowered to chose what they want’, and relates this to the idea of surfing hundreds of TV channels, personalized identities and ring tones. Sorry Mark, kids aren’t deciding these, advertising is convincing them they need them; this is not a good example of empowerment.

Ok, I have bagged Mr Prensky enough, after all he does say one nice thing… that perhaps ‘kids are sending us another message… offering the hope of connecting with them’. Here within lies the key, it is not engagement we have to aim for, it is connection, connection comes from a unique relationship with a teacher, not a computer, and when we have this special connection, then we get true engagement. Technology is a tool, not the tool.

Thanks Mr Prensky, you made me think.