Friday, December 21, 2012

Golden Eagle Assignment

You may have seen news footage about the video showing the golden eagle snatching a baby from a park in Montreal. If you haven't, I am embedding it here. Here's what I am interested in: the assignment.

According to the BBC:
A Canadian animation college has revealed its students created a video which appeared to show a Golden Eagle snatching a baby.It was made by students of Montreal's Centre NAD, as part of their work towards a degree in 3D Animation and Digital Design.The video received millions of hits on YouTube and rapidly spread across social networks, with many people believing it to be real.

I saw an interview with the two filmmakers behind it. It came from an assignment their professor gave them to make a popular video using special effects and post it on You Tube. To get an "A," students had to get 100,000 hits in their number of the viewers.

These students went on to YouTube to see what kinds of videos tended to get the most hits. They found that videos about animals and/or children were the most popular. They decided to make a video that would incorporate both popular subjects. These guys far surpassed the 100,000 viewer goal with (at the time of this posting), more than 23 million viewers.

Besides the fact that the video covered popular subject areas, the video also went viral because so many people wanted to analyze it to determine if it was real. These two student filmmakers said they got incredible feedback on their work and learned more about animation from the experience than they would have in a contained assignment with the limited feedback of classroom peers and thier teacher. 

This assignment offers an example of how powerful education can be when its shared with a global audience. The trick in education is making more "golden eagle" assignments.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Power of Information

I love this TED Talk for many specific applications it suggests for education. For one, I love the graphic of dots representing people tweeting information online. Journalists can use the information to determine the most influential online voices. It's a compelling image of the distribution of information.

I am also interested in what Nolan's work as a journalist tracking facts online suggests about engaging students in determining authentic information. Consider too what it offers as a caution to students publishing video and images online. Take a look.

Innovative Problem Solving in Annotations

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Google search option for "Patents." I had never seen it before and was curious about what it would show me. It seems to offer a way to search patents by keywords. Google rotates which patents appear at the top--surely follows some logic of numbers of folks looking or something.

Anyway, one of the patents near the top of the page was US 20120218305 A1, "Systems and Methods for Manipulating User Annotations in Electronic Books," by Scott Dougall. Dougall's "electronic book system" attempts to get closer to the organic experience of annotating and studying texts by adding some interesting capabilities that I would have liked to have in my experiment with electronic text in my English class.

One of Dougall's claims for his invention is that it will allow an improved experience with notations and study tools. This claim is key in moving forward with electronic texts. Among his claims about his reader, he says it will allow teachers to embed supplementary information to shape the reading experience. A teacher could, for example, offer study guide questions at a designated place in the text. Another interesting aspect of his reader is its ability to recognize gestures on a screen.

Dougall says, "the reader is futher configured to facilitate collaboration" by allowing a student's drawing of a "question mark on the page to open a question to a moderator." Students can also collaborate by scribbling another student's initials on a page to open a chat that is "keyed to the currently displayed portion of the textbook."

These developments suggest inventors are paying attention to making readers better than simply electronic texts. I imagine Dougall is in a wave of exploration of how we understand the learning process and one's engagement as a reader. Hopefully schools and textbook developers are watching these trends closely, at least I hope they are.

See more about his invention in Dougall's written work about his invention by clicking here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Interactive Textbooks

I am interested in this and have lots of questions about it. I'm linking Apple's video here because it got my attention for more than its Apple-esque slickness. I think we need to be thinking about what all of this means in our classrooms.

Apple Education ibooks.

What is Experiential Learning?

I recently learned about a used bike drive being held locally, and today I decided to bring my two kids and two of their old bikes to donate. The organization, Suncoast Community Bikes, accepts donations of bicycles which they then refurbish and distribute to locally "disadvantaged children and adults." I had the pleasure of meeting the college student, Ryan Feller, a sophomore at New College here in Sarasota, who began the organization.

The students who work with him have workshop space where they invite local volunteers to give bike repair instruction and guidance. They have an assortment of bikes in their possession which they distribute to mostly homeless people through an agency for the homeless in Bradenton.

I had to ask why he got involved and what he was majoring in. He is working on a degree in social justice. His work with the bikes had given him context to engage meaningfully with local agencies and individuals in need of assistance. His bike passion, essentially, rolled him right into his own internship and the buds of his own non-profit.

In his words, "this healthy, affordable form of transportation provides reliable access to jobs, school and social services, opens new opportunities and empowers people to improve their lives."

This is experiential. This is 21st century. This is how you engage people in meaningful learning. What a great model. This guy's going places, and not just on his bicycle.

Check out the article from the local "Patch" about his work too!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Intro to Personal Learning Networks

What is a PLN and how do I start one? I love this intro to the concept by John Spencer.
Things he mentions that are worth noting and exploring:

NING--network of educators interested in sharing information
Twitter--I have heard many at conferences say this is their #1 source for professional development!
Social Bookmarking sites Diigo and Delicious. These allow you to share sets of bookmarked favorites with other like-minded individuals.
Blog--Blogger and Posterous are two that are pretty easy to navigate. Edublogs is another great one that specializes in educational applications.
Teacherlingo--website for sharing information, selling lessons, linking to other blogs
ISTE: the big national organization that tracks, gathers, documents, promotes technology-related learning and research

Shift...Hanging on and and Looking Around

I've been reading Will Richardson's book on Personal Learning Networks while simultaneously looking, reading, listening, and talking about changes in motion in education. It seems like for years we have been hearing that big change is coming. At first it looking like change meant kids digging into the internet changing access to information, making us begin to ask questions like how do make sure kids are finding good information? How do we help them cite that information? How do we control what they are exposed to and when?

Increasing the shift is looking much more significant than that. Perhaps it's like a bit of global warming in pedagogy. We knew the temperature was changing, but now it appears our projections were woeful underestimations of what change would actually mean. Unlike global warming, however, advances in educational technology don't have to mean massive elimination of livable spaces and loss of flora and fauna. No, I think this shift means new things begin to grow and that maybe we look at the zebras and elephants on the veldt as still beautiful creatures, but ones that we are beginning to have a different relationship with. For more on this, check out Richardson's short TED book, "Why School."

Of personal interest for me at this moment is looking at how textbooks are changing and at the spread of online learning via networks of institutions and individuals who have begun to explore and embrace shared learning. Last fall, 2011, I worked with Joanne Barrett, a technology leader at my school, to design a learning unit that relied entirely on an electronic text of Frankenstein. I concluded at that moment, in that context, that etexts that were simply moving standard texts to electronic formats were deeply unsatisfying and counter productive to the role of teaching literature which requires an intense engagement, a consistent game of catch as Mortimer Adler might say, between text and reader.

Link to the full text of the article I wrote about the experience for the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy in March of 2012. 

Yesterday, I brought in an electronic text of Othello produced by Sourcebooks to see how the addition of video clips of theatrical productions and touchable text notes of pull down definitions might impact my students' experience. I will continue to track that as we move through the last three acts of the play in January of next year, 2013.

I want to note a couple of resources here that have been mentioned in Richardson's book on Personal Learning Networks. One is Flat World Knowledge, a site that allow writers of textbooks to distribute their work online. They seem to invite teachers to make edits to the texts to customize them. Interesting. While these are certainly cheaper than hard copy texts, they are not free.  The other is MIT's Open-CourseWare, a site where materials used in courses taught at MIT are available freely online.

So, I leave it at that. I am diving into new iterations of electronic texts and poking around to see what's being published and distributed online for free. Would love to hear of other people's experiences with any of these mentioned sites.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Compelling Kids into Questions

As usual, Thanksgiving in Evanston, my hometown, was filled with several nights of feasting, telling stories, and exchanging the latest tricks and ideas about technology in our various professional and personal realms--from my dad's work with the Euro team of publishers working on editing and layout of his translation of Vesalius to my cousin Jesse's creative endeavors in video making with production companies in New York. My dad's wife, Tina, has worked as an executive for an educational publishing firm for many years. Her son works for Google in Zurich. All in all, it's a pretty interesting mix of people and ideas and lots of opinions.

My son and daughter look forward each year to the gathering and especially to their time with Jesse. Every year, Tina has a secret box of tricks filled with games and treats that she portions out at opportune moments in the weekend. This year, she had a "Makey-Makey." Jesse and the kids spent a solid couple of hours tinkering with it.

Really, this thing has so much to offer as an example of what 21st Century learning is all about. The best product from the two hours of play was a long list of science, math, art, and programming questions that emerged organically from their experience. The video says it all.

Check out the video from the makers of Makey Makey too. What a cool tool!

What does a Paradigm Shift Look Like?

I took these questions from EdCampIowa, a program dedicated to exploring the big questions facing education right now. I have heard so many of them posed in discussions around our campus, that I thought I should post them here.

1. What is the future of learning? And what implications does it have for how we do teaching and schooling?
2. What if we didn't have class periods?
3. How can we help kids think more deeply?
4. Are high school diplomas and university degrees still necessary for credentialing?
5. What percentage of teachers' work will be replaced by learning software, online classes, virtual tutors, and/or robots?
6. How can schools better empower students' agency and voice?
7. What are some great learning technologies for students in math (or P.E. or science or ...)?
8. If we could rebuild from scratch how we do school, what might it look like?
9. What kinds of state-level educational policies do we need?
10. How can we keep from feeling overwhelmed all of the time?
11. What if we didn't ignore that most of the time students are bored?
12. How can we take better advantage of our new digital learning spaces to improve professional development?
13. What if students were in charge of school discipline?
14. How can we better learn from other educators and schools?
15. Do students still need to memorize anything?
16. What might school look like if students were in charge of teaching at least 20% of the time?
17. What is getting in the way of us changing faster?
18. How can preschool and elementary students use digital tools in powerful ways?
19. What are better ways to involve our parents and community with our students?
20. Do we really need grades?
21. What would school look like if we didn't have administrators?
22. How is the Common Core different from what we're doing now?
23. What if students got to choose what they worked on?
24. Are tablets or Chromebooks viable 1:1 devices?
25. How can we better facilitate school-university partnerships?
26. What might be some ways that our students could REALLY contribute to their community?
27. Is problem-based learning all it's touted to be?
28. What has to go in order to make competency-based student progression work?
29. In a multimedia world, what is the future of reading?