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

Archive for the ‘ Life ’ Category

What’s your story?
March 29th, 2009

A number of years ago I attended a workshop conducted by Kym Nadebaum in which he shared an approach to storytelling using a combination of stills, audio and video. The group utilised tools such as iMovie, Garageband, Audacity and others. It was most enjoyable.

I was quite familiar with the tools yet it was simply a great opportunity to meet up with other teachers from across Australia and New Zealand. Had a thoroughly good time. Kym Nadebaum is a great presenter and a dedicated educator.

I produced a short clip about my father Francis Xavier Larkin Snr, a former prisoner of war. I include it below. Download the clip.

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.

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.

Blogging, twitter and that audience
February 28th, 2009

Mark has written a post in which he evaluates Twitter and writes rather astutely about that audience that many bloggers and twitterers ponder upon, seek or desire. It is a good read, like all Mark’s blog posts. Mark is also great with video. Check this out. This one too. Anyway, I digress. Mark’s post about Twitter and his side note on the audience garnered a response from me and as I have done in the past I repeat those thoughts below.

Mark, a nice evaluation and thoroughly enjoyed reading the side note. Many of us have those thoughts, emotions, feelings regarding publishing on the net. It is only human.

The advice I have read and received is blog for yourself. Write for yourself. Simply blog about things you have done. The audience will come, whether you know it or not. It may be small or even large. That is not important.

Recently I have been focusing on that little group of bloggers and twitterers that comment on my blog and respond to my tweets. Do not worry about the ‘big knob’ bloggers out there. Who cares? Focus on that loyal group of followers or commentators. That is when it really kicks in.

I think you have the best Twitter avatar of them all. Is that you in the picture? Your avatar immediately grabs my attention and makes me take notice of what you have to say or share Mark. Blog on!

Cheers, John.