Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Powerful messages

There are several videos that provide the same message regarding technology in schools. Here is a seven minute version of one called "Pay Attention".

But has anyone examined the data contained? The message is powerful but do the implications necessarily follow?

The quotation from David Warlick sums up the video clip:
"How do we turn our classrooms into learning engines? Pay attention to our children's intensely rich information experiences."

Putting aside the term "learning engines" for a moment (what does it mean? is it desirable?), the quotation asks teachers to look at the intensely rich information experiences that our students are having and emulate these experiences so as to produce better learning.

I am no Luddite and heavily into technology. But I also recognise the rich learning that can take place within the social context of a classroom and without the recourse to Web 2.0.

Now, if the video implores us to add these digital ed-tech media and contexts, allowing us to expand the learning possibilities, then Amen to that.

However, the next steps that we take (in our particular setting and perhaps many others) are crucial because we have to take teachers with us. All (or nearly all) teachers - not just the enthusiasts.

Learning Platforms vs VLEs

The English Schools Foundation (Hong Kong) have been using their "Learning Platform" since September 2005. They call it a ConnectedLearningCommunity....

"We don’t see the CLC as a VLE or MLE because these suggest an instructional mode of teaching and learning; instead we regard the CLC as an open learning platform into which other Web 2.0 applications can be easily embedded. The CLC extends the learning zone beyond the physical boundaries of the classroom and serves as a bridge to the public social and learning networks in which our students actively participate."

Peter Woodhead is the ICT advisor for the ESF.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

VLEs - what do we want from them?

A Virtual Learning Environment implies a complete system. Within it the learner would find everything that would be needed to re-enforce and extend the F2F classroom course (remember I am teasing apart what a VLE would be like to support children in schools).

So the VLE would have some way for the teacher to write a general course and then specific lesson plans, together with differentiation learning and extension activities for particular groups.

It would have a method for individual students to receive learning, assignments, tasks, groupings, etc, and to be able to respond to the group or teacher with some kind of product (RSS to their own tab on a browser page???).

The VLE would allow the teacher to track what is happening, receive responses or products, and report on and record appropriate assessments.

How can Web 2.0 applications and opportunities be welded/melded/coordinated together to produce all the above?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

E-Learning - differentiation in action.

Doug Belshaw is moving into this field.

"I’ve mentioned this in passing in a couple of blog posts previous to this one: from next academic year I shall be E-Learning Tutor at my school. This new post (solicited by me, it has to be said) involves me spending 50% of my time (15 periods of 50 mins) per week teaching History and a bit of ICT. The other 50% will count towards the E-Learning Tutor role."

Doug asks about his job description - and it is not trivial to try to define it. Will it encompass VLEs? Or are all the Web 2.0 read-write technologies included as well?

Rightly, differentiation still remains a hot topic requirement in classrooms. It is really difficult to achieve well - at least consistently over a long period. But VLEs could be the additional places where all students could have learning re-enforced or even learning take place when it has not been learned in the first place. And the top end would also be able to extend. Who will be in this top end? Not necessarily just those who the teacher might expect to be there...

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A Taxonomy of General Ecologies

I found this useful, a way of getting to grips with the different locations for learning and cooperation activities.

Dividing the axes into time (same time, different time) and place (same place, different place) allows us to consider the methods to employ.

Same Time + Same Place - traditional classroom with didactic presentations, videos, digital projection, electronic whiteboard, etc.

Same Time + Different Place - synchronous technologies such as videoconferencing, audio links, telephones, chat rooms, remote classrooms, Second Life, etc.

Different Time + Same Place - bulletin boards, teamrooms, workstations, etc - although I think I have exhausted the list here.

Different Time + Different Place - asynchronous technologies such as e-mail, voice, mail, web forums, messaging, Moodle and other VLEs, etc.

From O'Hara-Devereaux and Johansen (1984) quoted in chapter "Presence in Teleland" by Gary Fontaine in "Handbook of Online Learning" (Innovations in Higher Education and Corporate Training, Rudestam, KE and Schoenholtz-Read, J Eds, Sage 2002).

VLEs as complements to classroom courses.

There is a difference, I think, between adult learning and the traditional learning of children in schools. I am reading "Handbook of Online Learning" (Innovations in Higher Education and Corporate Training, Rudestam, KE and Schoenholtz-Read, J Eds, Sage 2002) - definitely in the realm of adult learning, but I wonder if there are insights to be had here which would apply in schools.

The non-participating student in class is generally a student who is not learning. What are the reasons for non-participation? There are many, but for some, the idea of being able to review notes and presentations afterwards (asynchronously) may be appealing.

What about the students who wants to take their ideas further? Can appropriate VLEs be set up to allow this interest to be tapped?

And to continue discussion after class, on an existing or new topic, moderated and facilitated by a teacher or better still a student.

What other complements are there for VLEs?

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ed Tech vs Digital Tech

I still have my notes. Written and drawn on a long sheet of faded paper, pretty much dog-eared, they formed my understanding of Educational Technology as needed for my degree in Education back in 1980 or so.

Much of it concerned film projectors, spirit duplicators, and something called programmed learning. It was the hyperlink system of the time. Answer a question, depending upon how you did you got sent to another page. A sort of multiple choice learning and not bad at that. I learned my calculus in that way, hanging over the edge of a gantry over a bubbling reactor whilst working for Boots.

What you reflect upon and write about you remember. This is the purpose of this blog - a way of putting thoughts and ideas - insights perhaps - into the digisphere for me to learn and others to read and comment.