Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Digital Pioneers - (tech adopter) Digital Immigrants bite back

Marc Prensky's terms digital immigrant and native were useful back in 2001 or so. They have become somewhat dated and there has been a backlash from those digital immigrants who have grown up and adopted each new digital medium/technology - the digital pioneers.
Most commentators put it this way (and I substitute my personal experience in place of theirs):
"I first encountered mainframe computers back in 1977 using a DEC mainframe - to start it you pressed a series of buttons to tell it to read a small length of punched tape; this tape taught it to read the fast paper tape reader; many yards of punched tape later and the computer was ready for use - no CRT screens, everything printed on teleprinter on paper, programming in BASIC.
Then came the Sinclair computers - my favourite was the ZX Spectrum, storage - cassette tape. After that various PCs including the BBC Computer. Macs around the mid 90s with my first internet usage and e-mails. Website production and all the Web 1.0 stuff in the early years of this century leading to the more recent Web 2.0 stuff. Digital Immigrant? Hardly, we grew up through all the technology!"
Kathy Schrock puts this very nicely in this video from Vimeo :

Digital Pioneer: The Movie from Kathy Schrock on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Taking Digital Wisdom apart.

Having participated in the Innovate webcast and listended to Marc Prensky, I am making more sense of the Digital Wisdom concept. One slide in the presentation summarised it nicely for me: Digital Wisdom is about accepting (digital/technical) enhancements and using these appropriately.
I also found it helpful to take apart the meaning of "Wisdom". 
Wikipedia defines it as: 
"Wisdom is knowledgeunderstandingexperience, discretion, and intuitive understanding, along with a capacity to apply these qualities well towards finding solutions to problems. It is the judicious and purposeful application of knowledge that is valued in society. To some extent the terms wisdom and intelligence have similar and overlapping meanings."
I believe that wisdom is acquired over time. There may be exceptions to this but it is a learning process where lessons learnt are converted to expert responses. And as with many experts, they may have a "tacit" understanding - ie they cannot necessarily explain how they have "done it". 
The digital part seems obvious, but it does consist of a huge range of possible technologies and tools. Prensky makes an illuminating distinction between digital tools as nouns or as verbs
Tools as nouns: Powerpoint, e-mail, Wikipedia, Flash, IM, Google (changes rapidly)
Tools as verbs: Presenting, communicating, learning (stays the same)
Thus H. Sapiens Digital's required tools (the verbs), Prensky says,  would be "the best way to network, to communicate, to present, to calculate, to learn, to think."
But, since digital tools do not automatically lead to digital wisdom, we need to partner together brains with enhancements so as to work together effectively.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Digital Learning Objects (DLOs): aids to learning.

I remember making a sort of bagatelle to illustrate the Binomial Distribution. It consisted of an array of nails on a plywood backing board, and the use of different numbers of marbles. Marbles were dropped down one-by-one and, if all went well, a nice experimental binomial distribution was obtained. Well, most of the time.

This was in the days before computers, of course, but was the educational technology of the time. Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) are the modern equivalent.

A digital learning object is "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning......Additionally, learning objects are generally understood to be digital entities deliverable over the Internet, meaning that any number of people can access and use them simultaneously (as opposed to traditional instructional media, such as an overhead or video tape, which can only exist in one place at a time). Moreover, those who incorporate learning objects can collaborate on and benefit immediately from new versions." (Wiley, 2000)

It is interesting that the word "object" comes from programmers: that is, the idea of object programming where units are programmed to be re-used again in different parts of the programme. Thus theses objects are small instructional components, put together by the learning designer (teacher).

But - where are all these DLOs?

Hidden behind passwords it seems to me. An hour spent looking for these on the internet produces several big repositories of DLOs. MELOT seems to be the one that is most accessible. It seems big in Australia and New Zealand, Universities and other higher level institutions.

Where is the open source DLO repository? The creative commons DLO repository? Surely it can't all be monetized....

Wiley, DA 2000. Connecting Learning Objects to Instructional Design Theory: A definition, a metafor, and a taxonomy. The Edumetrics Institute. (accessed 19 February 2009).

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Terms: Digital Immigrants/Natives, Digitally Entrenched and now Digital Wisdon

Terms can be useful since a term allows a new concept to be labelled.
Marc Prensky coined the terms "digital immigrant" and "digital native" in 2001. They were useful terms to highlight the possible differences that could occur between those that were learning the technology in adulthood and those that were learning this as they grew up. It implied, however, that digital immigrants would continue to speak with an accent (and be less digitally able) unless they took serious steps to learn the new digital language.
There seemed to be an implication that such people would never lose their accents.
As useful as it was then, the terms were not as good for describing the situation now.

I used the term "digitally entrenched" (although subsequently qualified this) in an earlier post.:
But there is another layer to this.
Probably occurring more often in the immigrant than the native, there is a "
just enough knowledge and no more" approach as well. There are those who have become entrenched in some Word, some spreadsheets, an on-board mail client, Skype and the ever present powerpoint, and that is it. There is not the wish to move further than this.
"Good enough for what I want to do", they might say.
How common is the entrenched digital user? What might move them on to consider other digital computer and collaborative tools?

The digitally entrenched concept may allow us to describe a situation in education.

Marc Prensky has published a new paper (H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom ). Here he uses the term "digital wisdom" to describe the situation where use of technology will make us not just smarter but truly wiser:

"Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities. Because of technology, wisdom seekers in the future will benefit from unprecedented, instant access to ongoing worldwide discussions, all of recorded history, everything ever written, massive libraries of case studies and collected data, and highly realistic simulated experiences equivalent to years or even centuries of actual experience. How and how much they make use of these resources, how they filter through them to find what they need, and how technology aids them will certainly play an important role in determining the wisdom of their decisions and judgments. Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgment, problem-solving abilities, and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human."

Do these ideas go beyond those of the term "techno-literate or digital literacy"? I think so.
Literacy implies the use of tools for communication and there is a sufficiency about it - the idea that you become literate to some level.
Digital wisdom is somewhat upwards open ended, implying a whole range of technological skills and tools, so as to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity, as well as in the prudent use of technology to enhance capabilities.
I had to read the definition very carefully before understanding it. Prensky points out that digital technology enhances our cognitive power already - by storing for us a huge amount of information which we can access later. We have become reliant on this. 

Prensky explains digital wisdom  by listing the ways that our unenhanced wisdom lets us down:

"As unenhanced humans, we are limited in our perceptions and constrained by the processing power and functioning of the human brain. As a result, we tend to go astray in our thinking in ways that limit our wisdom; for example:
  • We make decisions based on only a portion of the available data.
  • We make assumptions, often inaccurate, about the thoughts or intentions of others.
  • We depend on educated guessing and verification (the traditional scientific method) to find new answers.
  • We are limited in our ability to predict the future and construct what-if scenarios.
  • We cannot deal well with complexity beyond a certain point.
  • We cannot see, hear, touch, feel, or smell beyond the range of our senses.
  • We find it difficult to hold multiple perspectives simultaneously.
  • We have difficulty separating emotional responses from rational conclusions.
  • We forget."
I quote Prensky's conclusion:
"Within the lifetimes of our children, more powerful digital mental enhancements—the embedded chips and brain manipulations of science fiction—will become a reality just as gene manipulation, long considered a far-off dream, is with us now. Just as we have begun to confront the ethical, moral, and scientific challenges presented by genetic medicine, we will have to confront the issue of digital wisdom sooner or later, and we will be better off doing it sooner. Many of these enhancements will bring ethical dilemmas, but the digitally wise will distinguish between true ethical issues (Is the enhancement safe? Is it available equally to all?) and mere preferences and prejudices.
Nobody suggests that people should stop using and improving their unaided minds, but I am opposed to those who claim the unenhanced mind and unaided thinking are somehow superior to the enhanced mind. To claim this is to deny all of human progress, from the advent of writing to the printing press to the Internet. Thinking and wisdom have become, in our age, a symbiosis of the human brain and its digital enhancements.
I do not think technology is wise in itself (although some day it may be) or that human thinking is no longer necessary or important. It is through the interaction of the human mind and digital technology that the digitally wise person is coming to be. I believe it is time for the emerging digitally wise among us, youth and adults alike, to embrace digital enhancement and to encourage others to do so. With our eyes wide open to enhancement's potential harm as well as its benefits, let us bring our colleagues, students, teachers, parents, and peers to the digital wisdom of the twenty-first century."

Note: This article was originally published in Innovate ( as: Prensky, M. 2009. H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate 5 (3). (accessed February 9, 2009). 
The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services atNova Southeastern University.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

No moving parts - solid state drives

We have had several cases of hard drive failure. In some cases it has meant total loss of the data.
Conventional drives are not "hard" - in the sense of being robust and reliable - and the name comes from the days of floppy drives. The magnetic medium which spins around is made of highly polished aluminium or glass, turning at extremely high speed; some reach the equivalent of 170 mph!
Great for fast access since there is a fast moving head going back and forth just a minute distance above the disk. But a knock or jolt for the laptop could mean the end of the hard drive and the data within.
ScanDisk unveiled their latest product at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 . In a year when attendance was down and with no major goodies catching the media's attention, this little device made the headlines.
In her CES report , Ilse Jurrien states:
"The new SanDisk pSSD-P2 and SanDisk pSSD-S2 SSDs have capacity and performance for more full-featured netbooks which require a robust operating system. Designed as drop-in replacements for hard-disk drives (HDDs), SanDisk’s new second generation module has a SATA interface to meet new netbook design requirements. The SATA interface offers a significant boost in performance rendering these SSDs faster than HDDs in critical aspects. Booting and launching applications takes just half the time of an HDD."
In considering the specification for ultamobiles for student use, we have to ensure SSD technology for the hard drives. Even though SSDs may not match hard drives in ultimate capacity at the moment, SSDs are being produced with storage sufficient for our "in the clouds" era - after all ultramobiles are also called "netbooks"....

Resources for Safer Internet Day: Tuesday 10th February

Safer Internet Day will be held on Tuesday 10th of February.
The North West Learning Grid have a page of free dSafety games - for Primary, Secondary and for Parents. These are fun ways of learning to be safe on line.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Google unveil new Google Apps features

Several new features for Google Apps have come on stream over the past weeks.
Using Google Gears it is now possible to have your most recent mail and attachments available off-line. The amount depends upon your volume of mail - mine stores around 6 months on my laptop.
Additionally, there is labelling of mail which can then be displayed on panes within the displayed inbox. This allows you to categorise your mail and see it in these categories. Using label:unread and label:starred means that two panes (off to the left, right or under) will list these in full view when in your inbox.
The Google calendar is now also available off-line. Though this is available on mobile phones, having your calendar and appointments permanently accessible takes away the fear of losing this information at vital times.
Working off-line goes against the "in the clouds" concept but these features allow one to access mail and attachments when there is a connection problem.
Although in Beta, these mean some really good functionality using GApps.
The latest Google Apps additions have given us the confidence to go totally "Google Apps for Education" in our school. We are doing away with our webmail service and going Google over this weekend (staff first, then students later) - will let you know how this goes.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Web searches - In Plain English (from CommonCraft)

Here is another excellent video from CommonCraft on searching. Again, simple stuff but just these few tips will help students to search more effectively.

Monday, 2 February 2009

In the clouds or in your pocket

USB memory sticks have shot down in price and shot up in capacity. For $60 I bought a 16GB stick which fits all my documents in and more.
Laptop magazine reports in their January 2009 issue that USB 3.0 is on its way. This promises much more than the 480 Mbps speed of USB 2.0. How about 5 Gbps? Jeff Ravencraft states that "this would allow users to transfer 27 GB high-definition movies in just 70 seconds, as opposed to the 13.9 minutes that would be required with USB 2.0".
When does this roll out? Early 2010...
It is tempting then to think that you can carry all your documents around with you in your pocket. But you lose the power of collaboration that way.
Back-up yes, sharing huge files, yes. But let's keep our documents up in the clouds.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Learning On Line - Study shows that it is increasing significantly in K-12 schools

A study carried out by Anthony Picciano and Jeff Seaman for the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C ) shows that there is a significant increase in online and blended learning in K-12 schools.
The first study was done in school year 05-06 and the current report compares this with 07-08. They report that there was a 47% increase in the number of students engaged in online courses - now reaching over a million.
Three quarters of the 75% of districts that responded reported that they had one or more students doing fully online or blended courses.
The study mentions that for small rural districts, online courses enabled much greater student choice of courses, from those needing extra help or credit to advance placement and college level courses.
I was surprised to see that the students doing purely online courses (9016) K-5 was higher than those doing blended courses (305). The proportion of blended to courses to fully online increased for older students.
One lesson learnt was important. Students need much more discipline to succeed in an online course than a face-to-face one. It is not for everyone...