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

Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

October 19th, 2010

I am building a new web site. It is taking a while but I wish to make publishing and updates as easy as possible. I also wish to make it as mobile friendly as I can. I have been tinkering for a while. It will be all PHP if I can help it. It has taken shape and form and this blog [ :p ] will form part of that new site in due course. This is a mind map of how I conceptualise this site. Not all the nodes are shown.

One of the pages in the new site is now called called “connections”. In the mind map above it is called PLN. Let me elaborate. You may have thoughts you would like to share.

Connections. What is meant by connections? In this instance it refers to other people. Some of whom I know and others that I do not know.

Connections is also a reference to the articles and news items that I read on reasonably regular basis. Perhaps every second day or so I consult my feed reader and scan through the articles written by teachers, journalists and others. I have subscribed to their web sites, whether it be a blog, online newspaper or technology news site.

These articles are a source of news and information. The articles keep me up to date with my interests in teaching, technology and history. I also learn what my friends have been up to of late. The articles keep me connected. I am not working in isolation.

At one stage, during the development of my new web site that particular page was entitled Personal Learning Network. The menu item was “PLN“. You can see that one the mind map illustrated above. However I felt a little uneasy with that title. A Personal Learning Network is not an entity per se. Too ephemeral and malleable to be defined. These things are so tenuous. I am not one for religious adherence to theories, concepts, cliches and the like.

Whenever I see an exclamation mark in a tweet or blog post my lizard brain kicks in and I exercise caution these days. Exclamation marks at the conclusion of a tweet or blog post title initiates my flight or fight response thus discharging my not so sympathetic nervous system in this case.

As Graham Wegner wrote, the terminology Personal Learning Network has been bandied about a lot. Acronyms also annoy me however I cannot escape them. They are everywhere. I tend to agree with the thoughts shared by Alan Levine.

Initially this new page I am in the process of creating was called Blogroll. Puke. That was shortlived. I have never liked the term ‘blog’. The term blog sounds quite awful to me, personally. It rhymes with bog. It sounds like a bog with a bad lisp. It sounds like something you might do after suffering from a gastrointestinal infection for a couple of days.

Blogroll is also a weird term. I know a roll can be a list of people but the term “roll” also features in a number of derogatory or critical phrases in various languages, particularly when linked with the word “egg”. So, blogroll has not particularly appealed to me but I have used it in the past. It sounds like toilet roll as well. Blogroll, bogroll, toilet roll. Cheap sounding terminology to yours truly. So, blogroll had to go as well. Perhaps I am just an elitist wanker.

I now avoid using the word blog when I write about or speak of tools such as WordPress or Posterous. I always emphasise the fact that one can make rich and functional web sites with those browser based tools. Blog is not always a popular term in some circles and as a result I refer to the construction of a web site with the addition of a dynamic news component. This sounds more appealing and, dare I say it, professional. Blog simply sounds downmarket to me. That is my perception. My problem. I am presently happy to have that problem and does not cause me to lose sleep.

I am not happy with the term “connections” either but it is the best of a bad bunch. I am not easily pleased, am I? Actually I am.  This new page called “connections” is designed to act as a launch pad to the lists of the various blogs ( ^_^ ), news sites and web sites that I have subscribed to during the past six or so years. I will embed the links to the various subscribed sites courtesy of Google Reader and its linkroll feature. Categorising the various subscriptions was a semantic nightmare for me as well.

So, for the time being the new page that lists the sites that I subscribe to will be entitled “Connections”. Have you any better suggestions?

In the meantime I have cobbled together a thoughtful array of links to a number of relevant articles, images and even a voicethread:

Educators write, draw and speak about PLN, PLEs and PLENKS…

  • Alan Levine: LNS and OERS and TLAS make me want to…
  • Stephen Downes: Personal Learning Networks: The Beginning
  • Sue Waters: Build Up Your Personal Learning Networks
  • Lucy Gray: Developing Personal Learning Networks
  • Jenny Wood: How to get a grip on your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
  • Alec Couros: The Connected Teacher
  • Alec Couros: What Does The Network Mean To You? [VoiceThread]
  • Jeff Utecht: Connecting People or Connecting Content
  • Jeff Utecht: RSS is about content, Twitter is about people
  • Dave Cormier: Disaggregate power not people
  • George Siemens: Complex knowledge and personal learning environments
  • Judy O’Connell: Personal Learning Networks are a must!
  • Wes Fryer: Build Your PLN
  • Graham Wegner: PLN = Perplexing Linguistic Notion
  • PLEXN: Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Project
  • Alan Levine: Those PLENKing diagrams
  • Mobile technologies in the classroom…
    July 5th, 2010

    Mobile technologies in the classroom. Well, that is a bit of a misnomer. Mobile technologies should take one out of the classroom of course. I am conducting a presentation on this topic

    This year the school at which I teach took delivery of about 120 iPod Touches. They are maintained in these secure cases not unlike a camera bag within foam that was cut to hold 20 of the devices. Teachers can collect the case and then distribute the iPods to the students. They can access the Internet wirelessly. I have observed students using literacy apps. The students sit on stairs, the floor, at desks, anywhere. Inside. Outside. Walls have no meaning. After all, the students are portable.

    The school has also obtained two iPads and I have been working with two of our disabled students. Each student has found the iPad to be a worthwhile tool. It is still early days. They have worked with WritePad and Brushes and found the tools accessible. WritePad incorporates hand writing recognition software which I find is quite useful. The iPad is proving to be a remarkable device.

    Personally I think the school should sell all the iPod Touches to the students and purchase iPads with the proceeds.

    There is much to consider when deploying mobile technologies in teaching and learning. All of the usual suspects apply of course: curriculum integration, suitability, accessibility, staff training, privacy, cost. Then there are the pedagogical considerations… constructivist, situated, collaborative, informal and so on. Read this and this for more ideas.

    I have been building a mindmap with some of the ideas that have crossed my mind. I began this mindmap on the MRT between Tiong Bahru and Boon Lay here in Singapore. I used Mindnode on the iPhone. After lunch on Sunday. It was quite easy actually. I emailed to myself and completed it on the Mac. Have a look. I should make it shareable so others can add and subtract. Let me look into that. What do you think?

    Mobile Technologies MindMap

    This is a work in progress. If you wish to explore more on this topic you may like to consult the excellent references linked to below.

    Educause ~ Mobile and Handheld Computing
    Educause ~ Cloud Computing
    Educause ~ Mobile Learning
    New Media Consortium ~ Horizon Reports: 2009 and 2010
    Futurelab ~ Mobile technologies and learning
    Educause ~ Seven Things You Should Know About…

    Cloud Computing
    Mobile Apps for Learning
    QR Codes
    Multi-touch Interfaces
    Augmented Reality

    Pompeii and Herculaneum Netvibes Site
    March 27th, 2010

    This afternoon I set up a Netvibes site embedded with a range of RSS feeds, links, media and photographic galleries all dedicated to the archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I feel that teachers of the core unit in the NSW HSC Ancient History course, Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum, will find the feeds and media useful.

    There are a number of different feeds drawn from Flickr [RSS Feed], Google News [RSS Feed] and Google Blog Search [RSS Feed]. As well I embedded RSS feeds for a couple of Twitter lists focused on Pompeii and archaeology. I used Twitter Lists 2 RSS to create the RSS feeds for the Netvibes page. I think some of the highlights include a link to the brilliant AD79 Destruction and Re-discovery site created by Peter Clements and a set of guided Google Street View tours of Pompeii. As well I have linked to the excellent Blogging Pompeii site authored by archaeologists in Pompeii and the surrounding area as well as their Twitter feed.

    PS. Kevin Lim over at theory.isthereasson has written an informative post on the advantages of Netvibes. I would no longer recommend Pageflakes as a visual RSS feed aggregator. The advertising is rather painful and in your face.

    Apple iTunes app store disappoints
    March 7th, 2010

    The Apple iTunes Store disappoints. In particular the app store. As many are aware the quality of many of the apps leaves a lot to be desired. For a company that prides itself on design and the application of sound human computer interface design principles one wonders how some of the apps pass the approval test in the first place.

    Click on image to view larger image.

    Yet, the thing that gets my gripe today is the current crop of top free apps. As of today the top free app in the Australian iTunes Store is Knife Dancing. I will not provide a link to their site. Given the frequent occurrence of knife related crime in our country, including our schools, I find the approval of this app disturbing. It is rated 9+ for violence in the app store. It is suitable for users over the age of 9. That is reassuring (sarcasm).

    Sitting at #9 is a sex positions app. Sitting at #7 is a Lie Detector Test for “sexy fun dating”. Sitting at #4 is an Imbecile Test. Further along at #16 is another sex positions app. This is all so pathetic. Lowest common denominator entertainment/infotainment. Call it what you will. Is the general public that ignorant or stupid? What hope can one have for the human race?

    Given that students are increasingly being issued with or receiving iPod Touches and iPhones for educational use is this what society really wants them to see when they initially explore the app store?

    I feel that the proliferation of girlie apps, fart apps and the like in the iTunes app store is rather puerile. Lift your game Apple.

    Of course education and sensible parenting has a role to play here. The Internet and now the app store on iTunes are like a “newsagency” store that sells all types of publications, newspapers and magazines. Once in the store we head for the stands with the magazines and publications that interest us and steer clear of those that either do not interest us or perhaps even offend. A similar approach can be applied to the Internet and app store. Ignore the content that is of no use to you. This is learnt through the application of practical common sense and wisdom.

    I hope Apple gains some common sense and looks harder at the quality and the integrity of the apps that are approved for release.

    Neat Safari browser tip
    February 28th, 2010

    Every now and then you are working on your computer. You type this and that. You right click here. Your right click there. Anyway, whilst composing my previous post regarding aerial archaeology I discovered a neat little Safari browser trick quite by accident.

    I control clicked on the title bar of the Safari browser and it listed the parent directories for the currently viewed web page. This can be useful when thoroughly exploring sites and saves one from deleting sub-directories one by one in the browser address bar. I tried the same trick using Firefox yet the same result was not achieved.