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

Archive for March, 2009

Live concert audiences then and now
March 21st, 2009

I have been frequently listening to two live recordings by Neil Young of late. One was recorded at Massey Hall in 1971 and the other at Canterbury House in 1968. They are brilliant performances. Neil Young on acoustic guitar and piano. Another album I have been listening to a great deal lately is Live At The Corner Hotel by Jeff Martin, another Canadian performer. He was formerly with the Tea Party.

I really enjoy all three live albums yet the two Neil Young concerts are particularly appealing because of the audience that were entertained by Neil Young. Why is this so?

With each Neil Young performance the audience claps, cheers and whistles at the end of each song and then they settle down to either listen to Neil Young speak or to wait for the next song. Sadly, with the Jeff Martin performance there is a core of self-centered imbeciles that have to call out, yelp and holler at the conclusion of each song. Why can they not applaud and cheer like everyone else? They must really like the sound of their own voices.

This is not a recent phenomena. Concerts and television performances recently recorded live in Australia and the USA seem to suffer from this mindless calling out. You know what I mean. A quick listen to the two brief audience recordings that are linked below will give you an idea.

Live audience recording #1
Live audience recording #2

Another piece of the puzzle that constitutes the decline and fall of Western society.

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.

Those 184 RSS feeds twelve months on
March 15th, 2009

Twelve months ago to the day I wrote the following post….

This morning I read and commented on a post by Will Richardson in which he reflects on the 130 plus comments that one of his earlier posts received. He asked the following questions within his post and I replied as indicated below:

Question: Can anyone really read through 130 comments? Answer: Not all the time.

Question: Are we getting too distracted, too connected, too participatory for our own good? Answer: Yes.

When I began using Netscape I used to bookmark everything. It was all so new. It was like being a collector. An obsessive compulsive disorder. I just had to collect that next bookmark. Those hundreds of bookmarks are on a CD-ROM gathering digital dust.

There are only about a dozen websites that I regularly visit now. That is enough.

But then there is those 184 blogs in my RSS reader. Will the majority of those blog feeds go the same way as my deceased bookmarks? I think so.

That question again: Are we getting too distracted, too connected, too participatory for our own good? Answer: Yes.

I feel that there is a considerable amount of redundancy within the edublogosphere, a consequential reduction in original thought and the growth of an edublogging elite.”

Well, twelve months have passed and I find I that I now have 208 feeds in my reader. I did pare down the number to less than 100 at one stage but the number has crept back up. A number are subscriptions to Delicious bookmarks. I find those to be most useful. I still only regularly visit a select number of web sites. Online newspapers in the main. Will Richardson mentions he received 130 comments on a single post. It would take about 12 months for my entire blog to accumulate that many comments. Oh well. That’s life.

I use NetNewsWire on the Mac to keep track of the feeds I read. I find I can skim through the feeds much more quickly than with Google Reader. I scan through the feed headings and pick out those with the most interesting titles, particularly for those fetched from, for example, Read Write Web and TUAW. Their posts really pile up after a few days. I also apply a similar technique to those bloggers that are prolifically reviewing and linking to educational resources. A quick scan, select a post here and there and mark all the rest as read.

The NetNewsWire application is synced to both NewsGator online and the NetnNewsWire app on my phone. I am able to scan through posts quickly on the phone and any that I wish to follow up I add to Clippings. These turn up on the client on my Mac. Useful.

Twelve months on there is still a great deal of overlap and redundancy in the feeds that I read. Material is being reinterpreted, recycled and reposted. Just as I have done with this post. I feel that the micro-blogging service Twitter has had an impact on blogging. I follow 500+ people on Twitter yet I have not subscribed to all of their blogs. What am I missing out on I sometimes wonder. I even feel guilty about that sometimes. I should not of course. Comes from a Catholic upbringing.

During January and February of this year I rarely scanned through the feeds. Perhaps I missed some great posts yet the sun still rises and sets each day and the edublogosphere continues to rotate on its axis. Not too sure what forms the composition of that axis. That’s a thought.

I focus more upon the blogs composed by those members of my PLN that interact on a regular basis. Feels like the thing to do. Need to reciprocate more frequently.

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.

Tranquility amidst the urban
March 1st, 2009

During 2001 Shao Ping and I lived in Choa Chu Kang in Singapore. It is a ‘new town’ located in the north-west of the island. We lived in an 11 storey Housing Development Board building on Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4. As you can see from the Google Maps image below the town is a maze, albeit highly organised at that, of high rise buildings.

View Larger Map

We quite enjoyed our time in Choa Chu Kang. The bus service was excellent. The MRT was nearby and there were plenty of handy shops. In the midst of this highly urbanised environment were two nearby Buddhist temples. Within a couple of minutes of our flat is the Hai Inn Temple. About 15 minutes in the other direction is the Uttamayanmuni Buddhist Temple. From time to to time we would visit either temple. The temples provided a moment of tranquility.

The Hai Inn Temple, Singapore. Gallery.

The Hai Inn Temple is positioned to the south of Choa Chu Kang in Bricklands Road. Here are the directions to the temple. It is quite a beautiful temple, like all Buddhist temples come to think of it. The temple has its own web site which you can explore here.

The Uttamayanmuni Buddhist Temple, Singapore. Gallery.

The Uttamayanmuni Buddhist Temple is an interesting temple that follows the Theravada tradition. It has a statue of the four faced Buddha. The decorations on the temple are quite exquisite. The temple is almost completely surrounded by the HDB Blocks of Choa Chu Kang. There is a private condominium located on one side.

I sometimes take the MRT to Choa Chu Kang and go for a walk around the town to capture some of that time duirng my visits to Singapore.