Coleman's expressions

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Internet in K-12 Instruction

  • Check out the statistics on Internet use in today’s world – Can you relate? How can educational processes NOT include this widely used-tool?
    21 million Americans use it to get additional career training
    Helps 17 million when dealing with major illness
    17 million use it for choosing a school for a child
    16 million use it to buy a car
    16 million use it for a major financial decision
    10 million use it for finding new place to live
    8 million use it when changing job
    7 million use it to cope with family illness
    Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project (BBC News, January 26, 2006)

    As many of my classmates have done, I feel the need to post a reflective piece…these last two months have been a delightful learning experience – one in which I plan to continue growing! The use of blogs, podcasts, wikis, social bookmarking and other tools will have a huge impact on education and instructional technology. What a great feeling I’ve had in considering how to apply them to my own situation…and now that I can take a moment from “living and breathing” the knowledge acquisition, I’m anxious to put social software to use. This will be one of those classes that “won’t go away” – I’m so trained to check my bloglines and accounts everyday that its impact is already noticeable.

    A couple of basic tenets remain:
  • Learning is not an end-all product in the form of content iterated by a teacher – it is lifelong process that is more exemplified by knowing “how” to get the information rather than making the brain a repository of facts (unless, of course, you are going to play Jeopardy with Alex T.). The power of the Internet to harness all of that wonderful information is only as good as the skill of the learner to filter, screen and select the best fit.
  • Learning usually involves social construction of knowledge – how great that social software has evolved to help bridge the gap in our global community!
  • Learning is also tied deeply to motivation. Expecting our “digital natives” to conform to the agricultural-age education model is not only a “turn off” but does nothing to help promote learning in our students nor prepare them for their future lives.
  • Even with the abundant technology applications for education, the teacher still plays a huge role in not only facilitating the process of learning, but also providing the “touch” (i.e., that special caring connection that only exists between teacher and student).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wiki applications

Intrigued by the potential of this Internet-oriented tool, I’ve gone exploring…I settled on wiki textbooks as an emphasis for the purpose of this rumination.

Thinking back to the introduction of online newspapers, I remember my negative reactions to the prediction they would take-off in readership.  No way would I give up my daily morning dose of turning newsprint to discover the world’s current events!  Well, life played out differently for me – though I still hold on to my Sunday newspaper, I let my fingers navigate through the online version of the local paper (and oftentimes, the Miami Herald and the New York Times – which I would not be buying in print!) the remaining six days of the week.

So can wikitextbooks be a viable alternative to the current paper textbooks adopted and used in our schools today?  Can we morph from a linear resource to a hyper-text collaboration?  As linked in our class presentation, there are some in existence (and presumably in use) already – as exemplified by the South African curriculum (physics – media wiki).  

In the U.S., there is an emerging venture to use wikis for online textbooks in educational institutions. Education Bridges’ Wikitextbook Project is in the early stages of promoting wikitextbooks as online, free, accessible content which also involves the social construction of knowledge with students as active producers of knowledge (not passive recipients).  In addition to “expert” links, there would be current information that would be fluid and collaborative.  The obvious hurdles include:  maintaining “authoritative” stance and preventing bad information; issues of social disparity and access; acceptance by teachers, parents, and School Boards.

There are a couple of very interesting podcasts that explore this initiative and there is also one scheduled for Wednesday, March 1st when they are planning a live wiki-building episode – join them at 8pm EST (Education Bridges)!

Though not a textbook, I’m impressed with Shelly’s vision for wiki application:  wikibulletinboard!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Back to RSS - Week 6

Realizing how quickly this class has progressed through a plethora of content and new experiences, I welcome this week’s blog to reflect!  The one aspect to which I keep returning is the whole notion of RSS.  Six weeks ago I had never heard of the acronym or concept and now it is a part of my daily life – how could I live without bloglines!  I return to Mary Harrsch’s article, RSS: The next killer app for education, and her description of RSS being the next (after e-mail) “program that provides the capability for the average person to use technology to solve everyday problems and enrich their lives.” What a phenomenal tool awaiting our friends, family, colleagues, and students – I don’t know about you all, but when I mention “RSS” to folks, I usually get blank stares, so I feel like a real pioneer!

As well, this week I found two blog postings that seemed to relate.  Tom Hoffman comments that “there is more excitement about the potential for technology than there is over the reality of technology.”  This contemplation is a result of an informal poll of educators (who in the 1990’s were heavily involved in integrating new technologies in the classroom) noting that most had heard about blogs, some had read blogs, but very few had published them.  The numbers were worse for questions about podcasts and social bookmarking.  So how do we re-create the enthusiasm for this new generation of educational technology tools?  Will it be a ground swell from the grass roots?  I noticed that FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) appears to have down-sized from when I used to attend regularly in the late 90’s.  

The other blog, Will Richardson’s Class Content Aggregation, reflects on the ways that both tagging and aggregating can bring all different types of content together.  He suggests that students get a unique tag for anything they find relevant about that particular course which is collected and shared … similar to what we are doing with the UFET tag for this class!  One of the links on this blog led me to another extension of the RSS concept – BlogBridge Reading Lists, described as a collection of feeds, usually about a single topic, which someone has put together for the benefit of others.  The power of RSS is simply awesome and although I venture to say Harrsch’s prediction of RSS as the next killer app is true, I hope it catches on across a broader audience (especially educators!) soon.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Podcasts - Week 5

Podcasts (Week 5)
Option#5, select a strategy that is particularly interesting and doing additional research on it, was most intriguing to me.  Podcasts caught my attention immediately!  Though it is not as interactive as some of the other strategies, the fact that iPod (and its counterparts) are so popular and could be used to tap into learning was enough for me to review in more depth.

A podcast is an online audio and/or video broadcast that can be downloaded to your computer and MP3 player.  It differs from a traditional radio broadcast or even web-based streaming media in the way that the content is produced and sent, as well as that its listeners choose when to hear/view the podcast.  With podcasting, one uses RSS (Real Simple Syndication) to subscribe to and aggregate podcasts.  Although the term originated from Apple’s iPod, the format is not limited.  

Podcasts are available at a growing number of sites – usually for free!  I started my podcasting with Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver (others are iTunes and Doppler). It was easy to install and use.  I immediately subscribed to my local newspaper’s podcasts and the Today’s Show podcasts.  Now, when I come home from school, I can download the news to my iPod and listen to the broadcasts while at the gym walking the treadmill.  Since then I’ve added sites related directly to education and professional development to include:

So why are podcasts important?  With the choice element of “when to listen” also comes the concept of portability, which plays directly into all of our busy, multi-tasking, and mobile lives.  From the educator’s perspective, it also relates directly to our “digital natives” in (and out of) the classroom.  Students are using their MP3 players for entertainment purposes and are very familiar with their basic technology, so podcasts can be an educational match!  There are obvious benefits for the auditory learners and for all learners since podcasts can be repeated.

More specifically, the following ideas have been
  • Recording class lectures (good for those who miss or need to listen again)

  • Developing new supplementary materials

  • Accessing experts through interviews

  • Students can create their own as a log of activities, note-taking, and device for reflecting on their learning

  • Developing oral language skills

  • Student read aloud, summarize and/or critique readings

  • Pronunciation guides for English as a Second Language or foreign language classes

  • Broadcast research project results

  • Record oral histories and digital storytelling

  • Use for fieldtrips

  • Podcasting parent newsletters (especially helpful for Spanish- and Creole-speaking parents who often are left out of the educational experience)

  • How about “podpals” (i.e., penpals through podcasts!)

Downloading podcasts is easy – see reference in the WHAT? section above.  Even if you don’t have an MP3 player, you can still download for play on your computer.  

Creating podcasts is easy, too!  You will need a microphone (USB recommended) for your computer or you can record your “podcast” into the microphone of your MP3 player.  Then you edit it with music background, voice overs, etc with a software program (Audacity is an free open-source program), compress it into MP3 format and upload it to a web server.

If you want to try video podcasts, I would start with Bre Pettis’ site.

I recommend the following websites for further exploration (and from which I developed this posted overview):
Encyclopedia of Educational Technology – easy-to-read summary with other links
Educause – in case you are really SOLD on podcast, download the ones at this site to hear more about podcasts, instead of reading about them!
Podcasting Resources for Educators and Students – some how to’s and recommended podcasts
Edupodder Weblog – This is Steve Sloan’s blog – he includes some interesting website links and a Dec 2005 posting on podcasting family history
Educational Podcasting for Teaching and Learning – a UK site
Boys Literacy Online – this is an action research website exploring the use of the Internet in getting boys motivated to read – click on the Podcasts link
Jakesonline – scroll down for the PDF of 7 Things You Should Know about Podcasting.
Learn Out Loud Podcast Directory – there are some that could be content-oriented for your classes
Podcast Alley – Lots of variety in the education category from “Discovery Science” to “Verb Cast” – one I noted was Audiobooks with Annie (she reads classics – currently reading Pride and Prejudice)
The Podcast Directory – I found some Spanish lessons here
Podcast Net – Again a multitude of education-related sites from “Astronomy” to “German Poems”
Education Podcast Network – David Warlick’s site