Final post – Synopsis

Nowadays, teachers are expected to teach students who are ‘digital natives’. The conversation has shifted from ‘should we use ICT in schools?’ to ‘how might ICT be used most effectively?’. This mind shift has caused education departments across the globe to consider the implications for teaching practice. Some of these implications include understanding how students learn in the digital era and how these skills relate to constructivism and connectivism. It is also about understanding how teachers can use models such as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (“TPACK”) and Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (“SAMR”) to reflect upon their teaching practice when they embed ICT, and whether or not they are designing learning programs that engage critical thinking and activate students’ zones of proximal development. These are sizeable implications that require teachers to not only embed ICT into their programs, but to also assist students in understanding the opportunities and threats that the Internet, or ICT tools, present to them. In this way, a teacher’s role is to help students navigate, to some extent, this digital world and to be reflective and critical of what it has to offer.

It is important to embed ICT into the curriculum because technological skills are required for the advancement in education, work and for the overall participation in today’s interconnected world. In the western world, most students have continuous access to the Internet and the digital world; therefore it has contributed significantly to the rewiring of brains and affects how students learn. Nowadays, students regularly read, view, create and publish online multimodal texts and these can and should be used as tools to engage students in knowledge and understanding of different curriculum areas in schools. However, ‘traditional’ learning theories should not be forgotten in this context, and it is important to remember that part of the constructivist theory calls for learning to be scaffolded by ‘more knowledgeable others’. Indeed, this role would normally belong to the teacher and parents; however the more modern learning theory of ‘connectivism’ purports that students reinforce topics and concepts presented in class by accessing online material that contextualises information in a way the student can understand. Therefore, it would seem that the ‘more knowledgeable others’ has expanded to include not only a student’s teacher and parents, but also any online publisher. This indicates that schools and teachers need to find ways to teach students explicitly about how to evaluate online sources. This will guide how they participate as a citizen – as they will learn how to consume reliable texts and critique or discard dubious ones.

ICT can be used to connect students and to expose them to ‘more knowledgeable others’, which are aspects of the connectivist and constructivist theories respectively. Teachers can achieve this by using learning strategies such as collaborative learning when they embed ICT into their programs. For example, a blog or Facebook page where students can comment and contribute ideas in a ‘public’ space (that, is with their fellow classmates, or a wider audience if appropriate) would allow other students to consider the views of their peers. Students could practice critiquing each other in a respectful way in this public space, which might lead some students to see ideas from different perspectives and to potentially change their stance. In this scenario, the teacher would be the chief editor of the page and could police comments, pose questions and provide regular feedback to individuals and to the group, thus acting as ‘the more knowledgeable other’. This approach would also allow the teacher to construct a safe learning environment and mitigate any personal risk to everybody involved by ensuring that inappropriate content isn’t published or any personal details made public. It would also act as an opportunity to model safe and ethical online conduct, by respecting others in the online space. Such a blog or Facebook page used for collaboration is an example of using an ICT tool for a proper purpose: to enhance the learning experience.

Teachers must always seek to use ICT in their learning programs for a proper purpose. Teachers can reflect upon and critique their digital pedagogies by using the TPACK tool and the SAMR model. These tools and models will demonstrate whether ICT is being used to support and enhance learning, or whether it is being used ‘for the sake of it’. For example, the SAMR model assists teachers to reflect upon whether an ICT tool is truly transformative in nature by redefining a particular task or project. For instance, Google Earth can redefine activities in a Geography class, as students would be able to take snapshots and zoom in and out of different landforms to analyse their features, which could potentially increase a student’s understanding of the concept through advanced imaging technology, allowing the student to visit and analyse places they cannot go. This was simply not possible prior to the introduction of Google Earth. On the other hand, a teacher may create a task such as a webquest; however the same information could just as easily be accessed through visiting the library and reading books. In this instance, the webquest would be a simple substitution for a library ‘book quest’, thus adding no value to student learning. TPACK and the SAMR model interconnect in this way, as both require a teacher to reflect upon the true purpose of using an ICT tool and whether or not ICT is being used to access and process subject matter in a way that will enhance a student’s understanding.

References

Atherton, J, S,. (2011) Learning and Teaching; Constructivism in learning [On-line: UK] retrieved 23 April 2015 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/constructivism.htm

Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2007) Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age. Routledge, NY.

Brenda Mergel’s article “Instructional Design & Learning Theory”(optional reading).
http://www.ttf.edu.au/what-is-tpack/what-is-tpack.html

Re-conceptualizing “Scaffolding” and the Zone of Proximal Development in the Context of Symmetrical Collaborative Learning.

The Age: How digital culture is rewiring ou brains. http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/how-digital-culture-is-rewiring-our-brains-20120806-23q5p.html (newspaper article)

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Week 6 – Google Earth!

Google Earth is a modern browser developed by (surprise!) Google. In fact, we could call Google Earth a “geobrowser” that accesses aerial imagery, ocean bathymetry, and other geographic data recorded by a number of satellites orbiting our planet. I am not a Sales Representative from Google, but the reason I really enjoy using these tools is because images are not only displayed on birds-eye view mode, but also as a three-dimensional globe.

Geobrowsers have been around for some time (see NASA’s World Wind, ESRI’s ArcGIS Explorer, GeoFusions’s GeoPlayer, and EarthBrowser by Lunar Software), but their data and images have remained restricted to military and intelligence use, meaning that the average citizen would have to either pay or have access granted after a security clearance process. On the other hand, Google Earth is free, which explains why Google Earth became so popular over the past 10 years. Like most tools discussed during our blogging endeavour, Google Earth also has a number of advantages and disadvantages.

Table. 1. Advantages and disadvantages of Google Earth.

Untitled

Ok, I believe that the benefits were clearly explained here, so now here is the question, how can we use Google Earth inside the classroom?. It is time for yet another case study.

Case study        



We all know that field trips can be memorable experiences to students and teachers, but they can also be very expensive. I see Google Earth as a very useful tool to take students to places most people realistically will never have the chance to visit, such as the Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria (Fig. 2).

Lets use a Science class for example, where Google Earth could be used to teach students a number of important concept such as location using a compass, local landforms (i.e. dunes), and, most importantly, a cross section of the crater itself displaying the relief created by the meteorite impact (Fig. 3). Students can zoom in and out, take snapshots and try to make sense of different landforms in that area, which makes Google Earth an exceptional tool to create a new kind of experience that was once reserved to a hand full of people; students are now explorers! In this way, the task is redefined as per the SAMR model – it simply wasn’t possible to do this before.

Impact crater
Fig. 2. The Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria. Source: Google Earth.

Impact crater2
Fig. 3. Cross section of Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria. Source: Google Earth.

Final considerations

Google Earth is a great tool to teach students how complex and dynamic our planet is. It can be used in an unimaginable number of ways to enhance student’s learning experience inside and outside the classroom. For teachers, great number of resources and websites have become available over the past decade, making the introduction to Google Earth much easier since Google even releases some lesson plans on their website! (Fig. 4).

Lesson plansFig. 4. Lesson plans at Google Earth’s website. Source: Google Earth.

Sites such as Google Earth for Science Education are also useful to assist the teacher in creating the right ICT lesson not only for science classes, but maths, physics, chemistry and, most recently, history studies.


References:

Summerhayes, Catherine,. 2015. Google earth, outreach and activism.

Stocker, Laura ; Burke, Gary ; Kennedy, Deborah ; Wood, David, (2012). Sustainability and climate adaptation: Using Google Earth to engage stakeholders Ecological Economics, 2012, Vol.80, pp.15-24 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

Scheffers, A. (2012). The Coastlines of the World with Google Earth Understanding our Environment. Springer Netherlands 2012.

Week 5 – PowerPoint vs Glogster vs Prezi

This week’s reflection asks us to reflect in one of three powerful tools that have been in use in business and classrooms for some time, namely Microsoft PowerPoint, Glogster and Prezi. I decided to reflect on Glogster because I am not familiar with it.


Glogster

Glogster is a relatively new tool developed by a group of developers in the Czech Republic. This tool is officially, Glogster is described by its creators as a “Glogster is a cloud-based platform for digital storytelling and interactive learning”, and this description is very significant, as it seems that Glogster was created with the specific aim of enhancing educational experience and thus engagement (Fig. 1).

Glogster Front PageFig.1. Glogster works by adding a number of different media to a single page. Source: Gloster.edu

It is worth discussing one of the main purposes of using a Glogster inside the classroom and illustrating the point with an example. Although a Glogster can appear as a ‘poster’, with headings and subheadings that guide the reader, it is more difficult to make this tool present a ‘linear’ sequence of information or storytelling. Its nature and design lend it to be ‘bitsy’, with the reader able to jump from one section to the other with ease, engaging with different types of audio-visual text. A teacher can use this design to his/her advantage in the classroom. For example, in an English class studying persuasive texts and issues: the teacher could select a current issue and splash a Glogster page with different news reports, facts, figures, opinions, newspaper headings, quotes from politicians and so on. Students could be asked to somehow categorise the information that is presented to them for the purpose of understanding the issue and constructing their own meaning. Therefore, it can be a good thing that a Glogster is ‘bitsy’, as students would be required to engage in higher order thinking skills to decode the information and categorise it according to pros/cons and different persuasive devices.

Likewise, at the beginning of a lesson or unit of work, students could be asked to access a Glogster that provided a variety of information about the topic to provide context. Students could be asked to predict something about the topic/concept/issue presented or to provide an initial opinion that could be used by the teacher to gauge students’ prior knowledge. This is highly valuable to teachers as they can plan the rest of the unit based on what the students already know, thus focusing on their zones of proximal development.

Further, the Glogster lends itself to student-centred activity. It is engaging because of its interactivity and requires each student to be an active participant in the class whilst the teacher facilitates. This differs from a traditional PowerPoint presentation, for example, whereby the teacher is presenting content and/or concepts explicitly. This is appropriate in some circumstances, but Glogsters are particularly useful for active learning.

However, depending on a teacher’s purpose for a lesson or unit, this very handy element of a Glogster may not be so appropriate. For example, at times it is necessary in the classroom for a teacher to explain or demonstrate a concept or skill explicitly, such as essay writing. It would be easier for students to receive this information or explicit teaching in a linear step-by-step process, in which a PowerPoint presentation may be more appropriate.

The above ideas and examples focus on how the teacher can create and use Glogster (or not) for the students’ consumption. But what about students creating their own Glogsters? When would that be a good idea? Again, it depends on the purpose. If, for example, a student was creating a Glogster as part of their final assessment, the teacher needs to reflect on the skills that they are wanting the student to demonstrate using the Glogster. This will inform whether this ICT tool is appropriate or not.

It would seem appropriate for students to utilise this tool for a final assessment if they needed to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a complex issue. The Glogster would allow them to describe different pieces of the ‘puzzle’ in a variety of audio-visual ways. But perhaps more importantly, the Glogster, through its comments system, is a way for students to assess each other – or ‘peer assess’. This would be an opportunity to teach students about how to ‘comment’ appropriately in a public space. For example, students can be taught the ‘sandwich’ method of providing feedback (positive comment, constructive comment, positive comment). Students should also be taught explicitly about the reliability of sources from the Internet, especially if they are embedding third party sources.

Like other tools discussed here, Glogster has a number of advantages and disadvantages listed on Table 1.

Advantages                                                       Disadvantages
1. Easy to use, fun and engaging (subjective). 1. Does require a good internet connection.
2. Ability to share (web 2.0), allows for collaboration and differentiation. 2. Filtering in the school may produce some issues with finding content.
3. Can be work on for homework, and it is a great distance-learning tool. 3. It may be too easy to use, so fast that it may create a ‘drag and drop’ mentality.
4. Can be adapted to any subject curriculum area. 4. Requires online content attached to a Glogster page to be online 24×7.
5. Teacher can control the learning space. 5. Glogster can be a messy wall of content from different sources, some reliable information and some not.

In summary, a Glogster can be a very easy and intuitive tool to work with such as demonstrated on the video below. This tool provides many opportunities for the teacher to scaffold a process for how to critique multimodal texts, which allows students to navigate their world and will determine how they participate in it.


References

Dona, E., Stover, S., Broughton, N, (2014). MODERN LANGUAGES AND DISTANCE EDUCATION: Thirteen Days in the Cloud. The Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, Iss 3, Pp 155-170 (2014).

Vogel, D, R., Dickson, G, and Lehman, J. (1986). Persuasion and the Role of Visual Presentation Support: The UM/3M Study, 1986.

Wake, Donna ; Whittingham, Jeff, (2013). Teacher Candidates’ Perceptions of Technology Supported Literacy Practices. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), 2013, Vol.13(3), p.175-206.

Week 4 – Engaging with Podcasts, images and video

This week I embarked on a quest to create my own iMovie presentation (Fig. 1). The presentation is about myself – my hobbies, personality and interests inside and outside the classroom. I envisage using this resource with a year 7 class who are commencing their transition from primary school to high school. Ideally, this presentation would be used as an ‘ice-breaker’ during Term 1, week 1, day 1, lesson 1 (or thereabouts). Transitioning students may feel overwhelmed and even frightened by the prospect of having to accustom to a variety of different teachers for different subjects. Indeed, at some schools, year 7 students may undertake approximately 8 subjects – all with different teachers. This is quite a difference from the traditional primary school setting.

The purpose of my iMovie presentation is to let the students know a little bit about myself, to understand that I am approachable and to commence a conversation about my expectations of the students inside my classroom in a non-confrontational manner. In doing so, a sense of collegiality and cooperation can be established between teacher and students. Indeed, it is certainly helpful for teenagers to view their teachers as ‘real people’, with interests, families, feelings and hobbies. The teacher’s presentation adopts a mode that is familiar to many teenagers – sending the inferred message that they are understood and their interests will also be valued in the class. This creates a positive, safe environment for students and supports overall student well-being and connectedness.

iMovie
Fig.1. The main screen on iMove. Source: Apple.com

Aims

My multimodal presentation would act as a model for students, as they would be expected to create their own iMovie presentation about themselves. This would allow students the opportunity to get-to-know each other in a creative way that culminates in an official presentation.

The multimodal aspect of the task would allow students to integrate images, music, sound effects, colours and movement into their presentation, allowing them to communicate more effectively about themselves and to send inferred messages about themselves to their peers. The potential for each presenter to affect the mood of their audience is heightened because of the way they are able to present, which potentially makes use of the five semiotic systems. This makes the task more meaningful and engaging. It also redefines the task of a standard oral presentation or poster, which are traditional methods of introducing students to each other. Traditional oral presentations use the speaker’s speech and gestures to communicate with the audience.

In an iMoviemaker, students can include footage of real-life events, photographs, sound effects, music and text to stimulate the audience’s senses – allowing the audience to enter into the presenter’s world, creating a deeper understanding about that person. Therefore, the task is redefined because a traditional oral presentation (or poster) cannot achieve this – it provides a limited stimulation of the senses and its success relies heavily upon the public speaking skills of the presenter. I am not suggesting that public speaking skills aren’t an important asset for students to have; however the purpose of this task is for students to get to know each other during an important transitional phase (moving from primary school to secondary school – many students will not know each other at all!), therefore a Moviemaker presentation is better than an oral presentation in this instance because of its multimodality and inclusive nature (it is arguably less confrontational to press ‘play’ than it is to conduct public speaking).  The pressing of the play button could also occur in small groups, lowering the ‘spotlight’ factor. Opportunities for discussion and questions should be factored into any lesson, as this builds upon the presentations.

The Video

iMovie and SWOT Analysis

I could continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the iMovie tool in long paragraphs. Instead please see the SWOT analysis of this tool below. Please keep in mind that this SWOT analysis is about Moviemaker in general, not for the purpose I described above in my example.

STRENGTHS

·       Allows students to create multimodal texts and engage the 5 semiotic systems

·       A variety of semiotic systems are stimulated, making the tool more engaging for the creator and the audience.

·       Allows students to communicate in more creative ways

·       Digital storytelling benefits students with preferences for visual and auditory learning.

·       Students can edit their work until it is ‘right’.

WEAKNESSES

·       The tool’s purpose is to create an audio-visual presentation – therefore this tool should not be relied upon for students to present public speaking.   The tool detracts from many of the skills necessary to achieve success in that area as the producer does not have to ‘face’ a live audience and use skills specific to public speaking (ie no editing available).

·       The tool can be ‘fiddly’ and time consuming to finish a polished presentation.

·       A school might need to provide additional equipment so that students can record their voices, or record a scene (eg using a camera and or microphone).   Sometimes lack of funding would make this impossible

·       Students need access to a computer to be able to complete their presentation – it is difficult when students only have access to computers at school.

OPPORTUNITIES

·       Depending on how students used the tool, they could impact their audience in a more meaningful or effective way. This could mean persuading an audience to agree with a stance, or to create a certain mood or feeling within the audience

·       Embed information/ ideas from a variety of sources. For example, a response/opinion from an overseas expert be included inside a presentation.

·       Students can publish their work on the Internet for others to see (global audience)

·       Discussion can be stimulated as a result of viewing a presentation

·       Students who are competent using the tool could assist students who aren’t yet competent.

THREATS

·       Depending on a teacher’s pedagogical approach, students might present their views using this tool and then fail to engage in discussions/debates that require students to engage in active listening and respond appropriately in ‘real time’.

·       Students may become overly preoccupied with the special effects that the program has to offer and fail to ensure that the content and ideas they are delivering are quality.

·       Some students may be very confident with the tool and others might not have any experience, meaning that a deadline extensions may need to be granted.   This could disrupt the flow of the class.

·       If students publish their work on the Internet, it may not be safe for students to have a ‘global’ audience.

Finally, I will provide some suggestions for how iMovie and other multimedia tools can be used in the classroom and how this relates to the SAMR model. Please see the table below:

SAMR MODEL WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN THE CLASSROOM HOW IT LINKS WITH THE SAMR LEVEL
Redefinition

(Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable)

A Moviemaker presentation is used as a platform for students to introduce themselves to their new class (eg new Year 7s). Students can include real footage of their lives, photographs and other images that represent something about them. Audio can be added for narration, and music can be included to affect the mood of the audience. 10 years ago this way of introducing oneself to their peers was inconceivable. Powerpoint presentation could have been used OR traditional oral presentations. Students have the ability to engage all the semiotic systems through this multimodal tool. Students also have the ability to publish their presentation for later viewing for their classmates or for a global audience.
Modification

(Technology allows for significant task redesign)

The Apple ‘Show Me’ application could be used in a science classroom by asking students to draw and verbally explain, simultaneously, the direction of the earth’s rotation of the Sun. This is considered modification because although a student could exhibit their knowledge by answering standard questions and drawing diagrams, it does not allow a student to do this simultaneously – it captures students’ thinking or ‘working out’ as they go.   This is a significant redesign because it allows a teacher to perhaps more easily identify where a student’s ‘stumbling block’ may be present I their understanding of a difficult concept.
Augmentation

(Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement)

An Animoto video could be used in a science class to show the steps of a chemical reaction in real life as part of an analogy. This would be done by sequencing images into a linear process to depict the particular chemical reaction in real life. This is considered augmentation because a student could still obtain images and sequence them on a piece of paper by physically cutting and pasting. Animoto allows students the opportunity to use a fast editing system, which may save time if students had to do the task the ‘traditional’ way.
Substitution

(Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change)

A MovieMaker presentation is used to present students with context in relation to an issue or topic. It embeds videos, images and text relevant to the issue/topic. The MovieMaker presentation replaces separate images, videos and text that the teacher would use instead to provide context to the issue or topic. It is used as an ‘informative’ tool only.

Week 3 – Reflection on Digital technologies 1

Technology is something that is natural to this author, since becoming “computer literate” was part of my personal development and work while I lived in Brazil. Therefore, becoming used to new trends and technologies was not an option, but a necessity to remain employable and, to certain extent, ahead of the herd.

I have had experience with websites, blogs and most recently some app development. Websites were always present in my academic and working life, I remember the “dot.com boom” in the mid 90s, when sites such as Yahoo, AOL and many others were like a must go place to get your information (also called content), check your webmail (every modern person had to have an email) and use the web chat. So in a sense a website is more like a formal place, where businesses and companies can sell products (remember websites started as .com). It is still used for selling, advertising whilst denoting an agenda (i.e. to sell tropical gold-fish!). It is also a way to communicate what a company thinks about something to a large audience. The appearance of blogs in the late 90s meant that now every person could be a content-creator, and consequently you could write a blog about gold-fish, guns, football and pretty much anything you want. Today, blogs still represent “your personal space”, where you are the single author and people that are interested in your ideas can comment and share their ideas, and you can even reject their comments if they don’t align with your ideas. A blog is personal, you post when you can or when you feel like posting, and it is a way to say what you think about something to a potentially large audience.

internet
Fig. 1.
Learning to surf the internet. Source: https://codexsplatter.files.wordpress.com

More recently, we have seen the establishment of apps and wikis. My first experience with a wiki was, lets say, not impressive at all, and, in the end, that came down to the way this author processes information. As a visual learner, Wikis look and feel extremely messy to this author and one cannot avoid asking, “who is controlling this wiki thing in the end?”. I still visit them on a weekly basis, and they work for me when I need to get information that is not usually commercial, such as how to configure my Linux Server or download the newest version of Android on my mobile phone. As a collective space, where many (hundreds sometimes) of authors can collaborate towards creating, managing and expanding a project, a Wiki is extremely useful and dynamic. However, there is always that feeling that you do things at your own risk when you get information from a Wiki, since new authors (who are they?) are added to the project all the time, some of those authors may or may not collaborate to the project, which tells us that a successful wiki presents many challenges.

On the other hand, my personal experience, although individually important, should be left aside for this week’s reflection, since the questions that need to be answered are directly related to how teachers, students, and even parents, can become involved during the implementation of an ICT tool inside classrooms or for learning. How can we effectively, as educators, expand students’ horizons with something that is familiar to them (connectivity), whilst promoting different learning theories in the background?. How do I convince my Principal that my blog should be used during my classes?.

Case study 

The implementation of ICT tools in schools today is a challenge for a number of reasons including cost, liability, privacy issues and, most importantly, how efficient an ICT tool is to engage and improve students’ learning environments. It is also important to mention here that discussing the implementation of ICT tools is meaningless unless the school is open to such technologies and have the structure to support and maintain good internet access, fast computers and so on. Therefore, it becomes clear that schools might organise themselves as a business today, employing analytical tools to access what is the effective ICT tool to be used in a school. In this case study we will use a SWOT analysis, which is a simple analytical tool that aims to assist working out the internal and external factors affecting the implementation of an idea, product or strategy. This analysis works on building on strengths (S), minimising weakness (W), seizing opportunities (O), and counteracting threats (T). This case study uses the SWOT analysis to investigate the feasibility of implementing a Blog (ICT tool) in a Year 9 Geography class whilst promoting the principles of the SAMR Model in school in the Victorian countryside.

SWOT analysis results

It is remarkably simple to find online SWOT analysis software on the web. This case study used a tool called I-Swot (www.i-swot.com) to create the analysis for this case study (Fig. 2) in minutes. The image produced by the SWOT analysis speaks for itself, it seems clear that the implementation of a Blog for a Year 9 Geography class could be a very effective way to enhance student’s learning with a simple, yet powerful, ICT tool.

Although not perfect, since this SWOT analysis is based on the assumption that most important topics were actually covered during the analysis, this visual representation works not only to understand the magnitude of the project, but also to “sell” the idea that this ICT tool, in this case a blog, is the way to go. One important aspect that must be stated is that, although powerful, the SWOT analysis might not be implemented in this class because of a single potential threat (i.e. school policy). It is therefore the teacher’s job to “sell” the ICT solutions as best as he/she can, since the benefits of implementing a blog (in this case study) are obvious, and become even more evident when the opportunities that this blog presents correlate with some of the SAMR Model (Week 2 Post) principles (Fig. 2, Opportunities).


Swot3
Fig. 2.
SWOT analysis for this case study.

Conclusion: why a blog?

Blogs can be useful for a number of reasons; some already covered in this work. One of the most popular pedagogical reasons why blogs are used as a tool in the classroom is for the purpose of collaborative learning. For example, blogs allow students the opportunity to express their views and to take into consideration the views of others. In doing so, some students may be exposed to ideas they hadn’t considered themselves, thus prompting them to reevaluate their positions. In this instance, the collaborative tool has served its purpose – to engage students in critical thinking using a technique not possible prior to the online revolution. Traditionally, students would have been limited to sharing their views in groups or whole class situations for a limited time during class, most often without receiving their peers’ responses in a formal written document that they could refer back to. Blogs allow students to consider their positions, publish accordingly and have the opportunity to revisit the information when it is time for them to create their summative assessments. This could enhance learning outcomes because, hopefully, students’ summative assessments would include responses that are ‘richer’, more considered and based on a number of different factors – all a result of the collaboration they experienced with their peers.

Of course, a teacher must take into consideration the downside to using this technology. There is a danger that low literacy students may feel ‘exposed’ during the collaboration process. Blogs to do allow students to ‘cover up’ their work when teachers and fellow students pass by, so a good teacher needs to preempt these challenges. It is important that these students receive the help they need to feel they can contribute effectively. This also brings to light the issue of moderation. This can be quite time consuming on the part of the teacher, especially if the blog issue or topic is controversial, meaning that all contributions would need to be vetted appropriately. This ‘difficulty’, is not unique to blogs, it can happen in the day to day traditional classroom during class discussions. However, in that instance, the issue would be dealt with then and there, whereas the 24/7 nature of a blog can be quite cumbersome and time consuming. The question here is whether or not the extra time is feasible for the teacher to contribute so that learning outcomes can be improved (hopefully!).

References

Blood, R. (2002). “Weblog Ethics”, The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 2002. 114-121 http://www.rebeccablood.net/handbook/excerpts/weblog_ethics.html

Blood, R. (2000) “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” September 7, 2000. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html

Rebecca Blood, “Rebecca’s Pocket: Ten Tips for A Better Weblog,”. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/ten_tips.html

Charles Lowe, Purdue University, and Terra Williams, Arizona State University, “Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom,” Into The Blogosphere http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/moving_to_the_public_pf.html

Rebecca Mead, “You’ve Got Blog,” The New Yorker, Vol 76, Issue 34, p 102, November 13, 2000.

Blogging 101 – An introduction to reading and writing a weblog: Blogs – anatomy, Blogs – why read, why write. http://unc.edu/~zuiker/blogging101/readwrite.html

Kress, G,. (2005) Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge and learning, Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 5-22.

Meredith Badger, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Visual Blogs Into the Blogosphere, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/visual_blogs_pf.html

Week 2 – A reflection on the De Bono hats Wiki activity

The digital era is upon us and it is very safe to say that our generation is the one walking on the wall that divides the analog and digital eras. The more we walk this wall, the smaller the analog world becomes behind us.  Sometimes, we are affected by nostalgia and end up buying an old vinyl or that old camera that looks good in your lounge; it no longer works, but nostalgia prevents us to leave it behind for the moment.

For most us, technology has changed our lives forever. We do banking faster, find information (good and bad) within seconds and make the most of social media, where everyone is an expert at something. Today mobile phones and other devices are everywhere, and not having one or two of them makes you a weirdo. How dare you not be on Facebook?, what’s wrong with you?.  This “requirement” to have an online identity and presence puts pressure on our shoulders because now we not only have to deal with the physical world (work, study and do what people do during their lives), but also deal with what this author calls the “online dramas” that the connected life brings us everyday. Ok, we talked about the pressures faced by the grown ups here, but what about the people that grew up in a digital world and that see interconnectivity as the norm?.

This week’s discussion is somewhat a very provocative and intuitive, task called “De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats”. It is the opinion of this author that one of the many keys to promote thinking is to provoke the subject/student to a new, and sometimes different, perspective or path; this activity has simply done that in a very efficient way. Briefly, the de Bono process broke down our thinking process into six components, which provided the respondents with a variety of approaches within thinking and problem solving. In summary, it seems reasonable to expect that the respondents would see the issue of mobile phones inside a classroom from a variety of angles. This activity could be used for a number of sensitive subjects, and it is vital that people answering the questions are true to their beliefs and open minded enough to respect people’s answers. I couldn’t help but to ask myself after I finished the activity, “what would kids between 12 and 18 years of age answer during this activity?”.

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Fig.1. The Six Thinking Hats method developed by Edward de Bono. Source: The Mcquaid Group.

Case study

I realised that issues such as mobile phones inside classrooms will always spark controversy, since people have very personal answers for this issue. That is significant in itself, since my position as an educator requires me to follow and enforce a number of rules, but also to understand how such rules might look weird, useless, and a pain to students. It is the view of the one who writes to you that mobile phones have a place inside a classroom as long as they are used for designed lessons. For example, they should be reserved for times where they provide an opportunity for students to engage in ‘modification’ and ‘transformational’ activities that enhance higher order thinking in the classroom.

We could use mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, to engage students within a Connectivistic framework (using my right to use artistic freedom with this term). For example, a teacher could create a downloadable app (Fig. 2) where students could check their grades, assignment due dates, weekly agenda and so forth (Blue Hat), in an exercise that would empower the students whilst also giving the individuals involved the chance to manage their time and expectations, and realise their weaknesses and obstacles they face in the case they realise they are struggling with algebra for example (Black Hat). The possibilities are endless in this case study, since this same teacher could also create a reward system embedded in this app, where students are awarded “virtual coins” when tasks and homework are graded or finished. This case study demonstrates how connectivism and behaviourism could be successfully used with ICT to enhance students’ engagement, whilst encouraging to think about time management, big picture, focus, agenda, summary (Blue Hat), and risk, weaknesses, consequences, obstacles and potential issues (Black Hat).

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Fig. 2. ClassDojo By Class Twist Inc. Source: iTunes Store.

Final considerations

These devices should not necessarily replace ‘traditional’ tools for the sake of ‘substitution’, perhaps for the purpose of superficially labelling ourselves as ‘progressive’ because we can pepper some ICT throughout our courses.  The key question here is ‘how can ICT be used as a ‘tool’ in the classroom to enhance and transform teaching and learning?’.  Depending on the purpose, mobile phones may do this.  Sometimes.

It looks rather unrealistic to make the use of mobile devices generally acceptable given that some students will gravitate towards anything but their work. Finally, like the different answers given by different respondents, the best approach to avoid conflict with such a topic is to view the situation from a variety of angles, because the issue is not the mobile device, the issue is the individual and how the individual uses it inside or outside the class.

Week 2 – A reflexion on Bloom’s Taxonomy and SAMR Model

Great to be posting on Week 2, even greater to know that I will post twice this week, so lets go!

This is a simple reflection on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the SAMR Model. The first is a very important concept used worldwide and developed by a group of researchers in 1956. The concept was named after Benjamim Bloom, which was the leader of the mentioned group of researchers (Bloom et al., 1956). The latter was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, which argues that this model “supports and enables teachers to design, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that utilize technology” (Churches, 2011).

Bloom’s taxonomy (Fig. 1) is a valuable tool that can assist teachers to create intellectually challenging literacy tasks and units of work. This can be done by using the taxonomy as a scaffold, or guide, in the design process of lessons and units. The SAMR model (Fig. 2) emulates a Bloom’s classification somewhat, as there are deemed ‘lower’ or more simple ways of using ICT in pedagogy, and then there are ‘higher’ ways of using ICT to enhance pedagogy, the latter of which should enhance students’ opportunities to engage in higher order thinking.

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Fig.1. Bloom’s wheel, according to the Bloom’s verbs and matching assessment types. The verbs are intended to be feasible and measurable. Source: K. Aainsqatsi

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Fig. 2. The SAMR Model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.
However, the levels between Blooms and SAMR have a major difference: the lower levels of SAMR (substitution and augmentation) are arguably unnecessary for educational purposes. For example, why ask students to conduct a ‘web quest’ when they could conduct a ‘book quest’ in the library? The outcome would possibly be the same, if not better, if students relied on the resources in the library to conduct their investigations. A webquest would simply augment the amount of information students had access to, which could also be a good thing (or not!), especially if they are equipped with the tools to decipher reliable sources of information on the web. Now, if the purpose of the lesson was for students to practice the skill of deciphering reliability (say in a History class), then one could argue that this webquest activity could be classified as a modification activity, only relevant and achievable because of ICT.

The point is, that sometimes students may be asked to use ICT for ICT’s sake. Teachers need to reflect on the purpose of using a particular ICT tool. It is not necessary to use the ‘lower’ level of the SAMR model to improve student outcomes because you would simply be asking students to do the same thing, or more of the same thing, using a different mode of delivery. It is desirable for teachers to use ICT in relation to the higher levels of SAMR. In this way, the use of ICT would be purposeful and enhance higher order thinking skills, which is what we should be aiming for. The lower levels of SAMR are not necessary to achieve this goal (in most circumstances, I would assume).

In comparison, the lower levels of Blooms could act as a vital part of scaffolding knowledge and understanding that leads to higher order thinking. Although Bloom’s is not necessarily used as a linear process, the lower levels would still foster foundations that could be built upon to enhance higher order thinking.

The classification of cognitive processes into ‘levels’ can help the teacher to reflect on the purpose of a unit of work. A simple question to ask oneself is ‘what should the students be able to do or create as part of the final assessment?’. If, for example, the final assessment does not require the students to analyse, synthesise, evaluate or create anything, then it could be argued that the unit of work has design flaws because it only requires students to use simple cognitive processes to answer basic questions.

Of course, the more basic cognitive processes outlined in the first 3-4 levels of Bloom’s are necessary to provide context, knowledge and understanding about topics and concepts. However, this should always be followed by a requirement for students to engage in higher-order thinking processes, such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Otherwise, students may not be challenged inside classrooms or progress from one zone of proximal development to another. Although, this is also dependent upon a teacher’s ability to pinpoint each student’s ‘zone’ (through data, formative assessments etc), which is a different topic to Bloom’s. The point is that Bloom’s can be used as a tool by teachers to help students progress once their ‘zones’ have been identified – using higher-order thinking strategies as the ‘bridge’. Likewise, SAMR’s higher levels can also act as a ‘bridge’, using ICT as the infrastructure.

References:

Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Churches, A. 2011. Published by Hawker Brownlow Education.

Images

Fig. 1. K. Aainsqatsi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D.

Fig. 2. Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

Week 1 – A reflection on the evolution of learning theories  

Studies that endeavor to quantify the efficacy and benefits of different learning theories may seem a modern occurrence; nevertheless, the subject has been discussed since antiquity (Bauman, 1998). The ancient Greeks speculated how knowledge could be acquired and transmitted, an exercise that has had profound consequences to the development of Science, Philosophy and assisted humans understand the universe they live in (Bauman, 1998; Siegel, 2009).

A good example for the search for answers comes from what is called “Plato’s problem”, where Plato posed the question, “how can a person learn new concepts if he cannot question that which he does not know of?”. Plato answers himself saying that, “a person never truly gains new knowledge, but rather the process of learning is more accurately a process of remembering knowledge that he once held in past lives” (Lightfoot, 2005). This spiritual vision of learning meant that knowledge is passive, and an individual cannot learn or acquire new knowledge unless the person’s soul had already obtained that knowledge in a past life. More recently, John Locke tackled the issue differently saying that, “people are born as blank states, or tabula rasa”, meaning that an individual will learn by experience (Anstey, 2011)

The explosion of knowledge and wealth brought by the Industrial and Scientific Revolution was responsible for the development of a vast number of different approaches and, equivocally called, new “theories”. In fact, it is important to see such theories as hypothesis since it would be naïve to imagine that a single theory could be employed for the education of all humankind. Instead, it is clear that the 21st Century classroom requires educators to see such theories as different ingredients that can, or cannot, be used to produce the best possible outcome to students. Today, the more widely accepted methodologies include: Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and more recently, Connectivism, and it seem that schools use, knowingly or not, a combination of all or most of these educational theories to achieve their educational goals.

For example, mainstream schools rely on a set of values and rules to guide student behaviour. Often, this includes consequences such as detentions, suspensions and expulsions for students who do not conform. Such rules and regulations within schools would seem to correspond with ‘behaviourism’. In addition, we also know that teachers are required to collect data (tests, NAPLAN, OnDemand) in relation to student performance. One purpose of collecting this data is to pinpoint (arguably) students’ zones of proximal development in relation to particular learning outcomes, which can then be used to inform future pedagogy to take students to their next level. This approach in relation to using data would seem to be based on ‘cognitivism’.

Furthermore, teachers are encouraged to determine students’ prior knowledge of particular skills, topics, and issues prior to commencing a lesson or a unit of work. This is so teachers build upon students’ foundational knowledge instead of teaching those things they already know. This strategy assumes that a student’s previous experiences, of which may not directly relate to the topic at hand, can influence how they learn a new topic or skill. This demonstrates that teachers nowadays are engaging in constructivist theory (to some extent) to guide how they teach.

Therefore, it seems clear that schools in Australia already base many of their practices on a number of these educational theories. Hence, the question perhaps isn’t which educational theory is superior, or even which combination and levels of educational theories will maximise students’ experiences at school. Rather, it is important to manage our expectations since education is an ever-evolving entity, which has been the subject of much discussion since Plato’s times, and has the potential to be studied and discussed in the coming centuries.

References

Anstey, P. 2011. John Locke and Natural Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bauman, R. W. 1998. Aristotle’s Logic of Education. New York: Peter Lang.

Lightfoot, D. (2005). Plato’s Problem, UG, and the language organ. In: James McGilvray (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky. pp. 42-59. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Companions Online <http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CCOL0521780136.003&gt; [Accessed 11 March 2015].

Siegel, H. 2009. Introduction: Philosophy of Education and Philosophy, in: H. Siegel. (ed.) 2009.The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3–8.

Too, Y. L. 2001.Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity. Leiden: Brill. 2001. Introduction: Writing the History of Ancient Education, in: Too (ed.) 2001: 1–22.

Introducing Paulo Silva

Hi there, thank you for visiting my Blog!

I come from Brazil and now I live in Ballarat, Victoria. This blog was created as a requirement for my Graduate Diploma of Learning and Teaching, a course I am undertaking at Central Queensland University. I have a major in Geology, and just completed my Honours Project in Wetland Management, Hydrology and Paleoecology at Federation University Australia, where I also work as an Assistant Lecturer/Tutor.

This blog will record a new adventure and I hope we can learn something together.

Cheers

Paulo