Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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.

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