Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for the ‘ Learning ’ Category

Is the net a vehicle for learning or unlearning?
March 19th, 2009

Scott McLeod posted an item regarding Trent Batson’s refutation of Nicholas Carr’s position that Google is making us stupid. Scott quotes Trent Batson’s views and sought those of his readers. Well, I posted a comment and went to bat with my own perecptions. I repeat them below.

Many, including myself, are not ‘reading on the web’. They may spend only minutes or even less on a site. That is not reading. At least not in the way that I perceive reading. It is skimming.

Certainly there are individuals that are seriously and critically reading the publications of others on the net and responding in kind via other publications, commenting and sharing. That is enlightening and adding to the sum of human knowledge and experience. No argument with that. That is intelligent behaviour. Yet the percentage of web users actually doing that is minimal.

I feel that the vast majority of web users are skimmers. Catching bits here and there. Regurgitating existing bits of content.

Most of what happens on that net is not gregarious. Sure, social networking, blogging, twitter et al facilitates contact, primarily virtual in nature. These contacts are augmented with real human contact from time to time. That is gregarious. Face to face. The virtual stuff is not gregarious. That is wishful thinking.

I cannot help but feel that much of the ‘networking’ that happens via tools such as MySpace and Facebook is an extension of individualism. Not an individualism that expresses creativity but an individualism that is wired to benefit the self as opposed to the community ~ that real community that exists outside their front door, down the street, in the village and in the town. That community is suffering neglect.

Trent Batson writes that, “The web is helping us to reclaim our human legacy of learning”. Is the net making for a betterment of humanity? What are we learning? We are certainly more connected globally. Yet local connections seem to be diminishing. Individuals, particularly youth, are devoting more of their leisure time to pursuits indoors. The exploration of the big wide world that exists down the lane from their home, across the field, down by the creek or even in their own backyard seems to be rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Humanity is unlearning. We are learning how to survive as disconnected individuals in urban boxes. We are unlearning how to be human, real, speaking, listening, coughing, farting, together, exploring, climbing, walking, tripping, falling, hurting and so on.

Humans may have more access to knowledge but that does not necessarily make us a smarter. Access to knowledge does not equate with intelligence. Knowledge itself does not equate to intelligence. It is what you do with that knowledge that makes one intelligent and considering the state of humanity ecologically and economically at the moment it seems to me that all that knowledge is not being put to intelligent use at the moment.

Only the few are discovering new ways to learn via Google and the Web. The vast majority are unwittingly acquiring new ways to unlearn. Wired for immediate gratification.

Conclusion: Education needs to step in and redress this situation.

If homework is work when do I get paid?
March 2nd, 2009

This evening my wife was sharing some anecdotes regarding some of her young students of Manadarin. She tutors these students after school and during the weekend. The students are very bright. Anyway, one of her students has a saying, probably garnered from a t-shirt, that goes something like this, “If homework is work when do I get paid?”

I was quite amused by this and then later thought, “Why not?” ~ Why not give all students a scholarship to attend school? All students. Surely if governments around the world can summon up trillions of dollars to bail out badly managed banks surely they could allow all students to receive a scholarship to attend school? 

What are the implications of that? Obligations, responsibilities, contracts, disbursement, etc. Thinking out aloud.

Grab that YouTube video via a single click
February 28th, 2009

Australian War Memorial YouTube Channel

I discovered that the Australian War Memorial has its own channel on YouTube the other day when doing some research on the Vietnam War for a series of lessons designed for my Year 10 class. I showed the students a variety of video clips focused upon the Vietnam War. The clips were authored by war enthusiasts, students, news media outlets and several by the Australian War Memorial. I asked the students to compare the clips in terms of credibility, bias, usefulness and accuracy. Honing their Internet research skills and capacity for critical thinking, methinks.

This week several colleagues dropped by my desk with questions about PowerPoint and embedding video. Each had a different problem. It is a little weird when staff possess identical laptops and operating systems yet PowerPoint and video behave differently. Well, not that weird really. Typical if anything. That is another story.

I wanted to find an easy way for my colleagues to download the high quality video from YouTube that they could insert into their PowerPoint presentations, etc. From time to time one hears of different methods to download YouTube videos. MacUsers may like to use Tooble

But then there is this nifty little button or “bookmarklet” that you can drag to your browser’s toolbar. It is located at this page on the GoogleSystem blog. This is “old news” but good news. Simply click and drag the rectangle that states “Get YouTube Video” to your browser’s toolbar and that’s it. Simple, elegant.

Get YouTube video bookmarklet in situ

Next time you visit YouTube and locate a video that meets your needs click on the “Get YouTube Video” bookmarklet on your browser’s toolbar. A download of the high quality version of the video will commence. The downloaded file will be in .mp4 format. The video will launch once the download had completed. You will need to rename that file. Each download has the same generic name which is “video.mp4″. The video will insert within a PowerPoint presentation.

Global v local, wired individualism v real communities
February 24th, 2009

Dean Groom has written a thoughtful post on infinite learning and the need for information literacy and schools that prepare students for the infinite world of information given the advent of the Internet. He writes of the Florida Virtual High School and its programme of personalised instruction. Dean mentions that perhaps a virtual HSC High School could be established here in New South Wales. Dean’s post prompted me to comment…

Dean, the Florida Virtual High School is an interesting concept. It has evolved from a distance education background and it certainly delivers a significant number of courses each year.

I cannot help but feel that “Personalised instruction” should be labelled “Tailored instruction”. Personalised instruction for me would be face to face tuition.

eLearning is an excellent vehicle for distributing knowledge and skills for those willing to learn. It allows opportunities for further education, particularly for those unable to travel or situated in remote areas. eLearning can also support existing face to face instruction.

A learning environment that is entirely online suits some, not all. Experience with eLearning programmes involving organisations such as the University of Wollongong, Nokia, Singapore Airlines, JPMorgan Bank and others illustrated for me the pros and cons of 100% online delivery of courses. I feel that face to face instruction is an important facet of the socialisation process of our youth. Schools provide opportunities to acquire skills in interacting and coping with your peers.

A virtual HSC High School that augments face to face instruction, supports students in remote areas and facilitates subjects with very low enrollments is a good idea yet I feel that students should still be engaged in a significant face to face component as well.

Infinite possibilities, true. Infinite learning? Infinite memory? Not so sure about that. I sometimes get the feeling that we are filling our lives with too much stuff. Endless streams consisting of immediate moments of gratification and tenuous connections. Too many choices in today’s world. information literacy should focus on instructing students how to filter out the unnecessary stuff and how to focus on media that can facilitate lifelong growth, community connections and local benefits.

Local is broken. It needs fixing. Global connections are fine yet let’s not lose sight of local, community, real neighbours. The infinite possibilities that are now available can be used to try and regenerate local connections and people stuff. Local is becoming the poor brother of global.

Wired individualism versus real communities.

Cheers, John.

Productive communities or wired individualism?
February 22nd, 2009

Chris Lehmann has composed a post in which he speaks of the need to be proactive as opposed to reactive in the lives of the young as they ‘navigate the world’. I responded to Chris’ post with the following comment and I thought why not reproduce my thoughts here…

Agreed, a proactive approach is required. Our students, the kids, require good exemplars and direction. They have taken to MySpace, Facebook, and other publishing platforms with a passion. Educators and responsible adults need to illustrate how these publishing tools and others such as blogs can be utilised to create communities that give to society, that are productive and helpful. Collaborative communities that benefit society and not wired individualism that seemingly takes from society.