Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hour of Code in Vermont

Find your Inner Geek

Hour of Code is a worldwide event held during the week of December 8th - 13th to engage and excite young and old about computer science. Who would have thought that such a complex science could be accessible to all of us. Not only is it accessible, it is essential for today and tomorrow's students to know and understand how to think, problem solve and innovate as programmers. The thing is, what we refer to as "coding" or "programming" is no longer within the realm of only the top math students and so called geeks of the world. We all can find our inner geek and learn to code with tools that scaffold our understanding of computer programming.

This introductory video from the code.org website does a nice job at explaining this idea using one of the many free lessons and programs found on their site to help us get started. This example uses an introductory program called "Blockly" which is also mentioned on the Made with Code website

Google HangOut on Air Event

I'm excited to be part of the Vermont effort by helping with next week's Hour of Code Guest Speaker Series where a number of Google HangOuts on Air (HOA) will be offered throughout the week where you can watch and participate by asking questions of the HangOut panel. This is not only an opportunity be part of the Hour of Code in Vermont but also to see how Google HangOuts on Air works from a viewers perspective. Google HangOuts on Air is a great tool for offering live or recorded events where a panel of speakers (up to 15) can be in the video conversation sharing ideas, websites and other media while this video event is being streamed live on an Event page for viewers to watch and ask questions using the Q&A feature, or just posting to the event comment thread. To learn more about Google HangOuts on Air and how to create a HOA event watch this video by Google, How to Broadcast a Google HangOut on Air or ask for help from GEG Vermont members. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Moving out of the box

convivialtoolsopenlearning.pngIn a recent blog article by Audrey Watters (Convivial Tools in a Age of Surveillance which is a transcript of her talk at NYU ), and paper by Jon Mott and David Wiley (Open for Learning: The CMS and Open Learning Network), they each make the argument that educational technology is perpetuating traditional teacher centred model of school, wherethe tactical implementation of specific technologies ...often simply automate the past” and that ...it is primarily used as an administrative toolbox.
I agree with Watters who suggests that despite the volume of new educational technologies over the past decades, it has failed to transform learning as predicted by Seymour Papert and others many years ago...

"Despite Kay and Papert’s visions for self-directed exploration — powerful ideas and powerful machines and powerful networks — ed-tech hasn’t really changed much in schools. Instead, you might argue, it’s reinforcing more traditional powerful forces, powerful markets, powerful ideologies. Education technology is used to prop up traditional school practices, ostensibly to make them more efficient (whatever that means). Drill and kill. Flash cards. Just with push notifications and better graphics. Now in your pocket and not just on your desk."

Watters begins her speech by posing questions, questions that we all should be considering...

"Or at least, what I want to talk about today is how we can push back on the hype surrounding ed-tech disruption and revolution, how we can ask questions about whose revolution this might be — to what end, for whose benefit — and how we can, should, must begin to talk more seriously about education technologies that are not build upon control and surveillance. We must think about education technologies in informal learning settings, and not simply in institutional ones, We need to talk about ed-tech and social justice, and not kid ourselves for a minute that Silicon Valley is going to get us there."

Watters poses the question, “What would convivial ed-tech look like?” and provides us with some thoughtful possibilities...

  • Perhaps what we need to build are more compassionate spaces, so that education technology isn’t in the service of surveillance, standardization, assessment, control.
  • Perhaps we need more brave spaces. Or at least many educators need to be braver in open, public spaces -- not brave to promote their own "brands" but brave in standing with their students. Not "protecting them” from education technology or from the open Web but not leaving them alone, and not opening them to exploitation.

Mott and Wiley’s paper focuses specifically on the limitations of content management systems (CMS) (also referred to  as learning management systems (LMS)) and how they are still very much a teacher centric tool for delivering content and controlled learning spaces.

“the CMS continues to privilege the instructor as the locus of energy and action in the learning process. The CMS does not afford learners the opportunity to contribute to the learning process in significant ways or to self-organize around learning topics, conversations, or content. Finally, the CMS continues to artificially situate instruction and learning inside walled gardens that are disconnected from the rich and vibrant networks of learners and content in the wider world.

As an educational technology specialist, I use and have promoted the use of many educational technology tools including learning management systems (LMS). I am also a Google Education Trainer and strong advocate for using Google Apps for Education (GAE) as a learning ecosystem.  My current belief is that the GAE ecosystem comes closest to what Mott and Wiley refer to as an Open Learning Network, and maybe a little resemblance to what Watters refers to as “brave spaces...not leaving them alone, and not opening them to exploitation.” (though I have the feeling she would most likely cringe at this idea.)
I don’t believe the GAE learning ecosystem is the panacea for transformation, because it is how schools, educators and students envision its use that will make the difference. But, it does come closest to a free open learning network that is easy to use and where creativity, innovation and self- direction can be central to the learning experience, not simply working within the LMS box and responding to a set of teacher designed instructions and activities.
Mott and Wiley summarize by suggesting that one can use both an LMS and Open Learning Network to leverage the features of both systems. Where privacy and security for grading and SIS information is managed via the LMS and the active learning is done outside the box in an Open Learning Network.  I currently teach at a community college that uses a LMS platform. I have adjusted my teaching to keep the management functionality in the LMS box; grading, student private messaging, and weekly assignment blocks that link learning modules out to the Google Apps ecosystem. Where we use Google Apps such as; Google HangOuts, Communities, Blogger, Google Drive, YouTube, Chrome Web Apps, etc...for producing, publishing, creating, collaborating and sharing ideas. The hope is to build an engaging thoughtful community of learners where it’s not the instructor in the driver seat but a shared vision of where we are going and each student can get there in their own way. I am well aware that my instruction isn’t at the level of personalized learning that it could and should be, but I think the open learning platform that Google Apps offers is helping to shift my instruction where students have more control over what, when and how they learn using free and open digital technologies.

Do the free Google Apps for Education tools begin to offer the convivial tools Watters seeks, or the Open Learning Network Mott and Wiley believe should be in place for ourselves and our students?


References and Resources:
    • Perhaps what we need to build are more compassionate spaces, so that education technology isn’t in the service of surveillance, standardization, assessment, control.
    • Those of us who talk and write and teach ed-tech need to be pursuing those things, and not promoting consumption and furthering institutional and industrial control. In Illich’s words: "The crisis I have described confronts people with a choice between convivial tools and being crushed by machines."
    • The notion of students actively participating in the processes of capturing, creating, and sharing course content, conversations, and activities turns the centuries-old "sage on the stage" model on its head. However, the CMS paradigm actually works against such a transformation of the relationship between teachers and learners because it privileges the role of the instructor and technically restricts individual students from contributing and to shaping courses in any meaningful way. Sclater (2008) has argued that the term "learning management system" itself suggests "disempowerment—an attempt to manage and control the activities of the student by the university" (p. 2). The tendencies of the CMS are not, he argues, just "minor irritations," but rather forces that "may overtly or subtly align the institutional processes with the software rather than having the system serve the requirements of the institution" (Sclater, 2008, p. 3)


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Vermont Google Educator Group Kick Off

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining Lucie deLabruere and many other Vermont educators as we "Kicked Off" the new Google Educator Group Vermont (GEG Vermont). The focus of the session was a fun demo slam (sharing really) of Google Apps, Chrome Web Apps, and Add-ons.  Our kick off was just one of the many inspiring sessions and workshops at the Vita-Learn VermontFest 2014 technology conference where hundreds of educators came to share ideas, resources and empower each other to become digital age teachers and learners.

The following presentation contains several links, including the new GEG Vermont G+ Community and G+ Page, and the sign up sheet where presenters provided links to their demos/resources. Our goal is to make the Vermont Google Educator Group an active learning network where Vermont educators embrace the goals of the new Google Groups, which is to...
 Learn, Share, Inspire and Empower 
become part of this community, join GEG Vermont 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back to Blogging

No Excuses 

I've been very lax in keeping up with my blogging. I'm spending more of my energies elsewhere,  I have found that sharing ideas in Google Plus is quicker than blogging, with it's ease of posting text, links, images, and videos and commenting on other's posts. But most of what I do in G+, like in Twitter,  is consume, comment and regurgitate. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it has not been very creative or original. So, back to blogging for me whether or not other's read it.  I plan to get back to becoming a producer rather than just a consumer and to writing about my teaching, sharing my ideas, recommend digital tools for teaching and learning, as well as create new media that communicates my ideas. It goes well with what we are doing in my online course this semester.

New Literacies

This is Week #3 for my online course,  CCV Multimedia Apps & Tools students are exploring what it means to be literate in our world today, what some call the New Literacies.  I've created a diagram which I think represents some of the key new literacies that students and teachers should be addressing. I'm impressed by the discussions my students are having as they watch videos and read articles about these literacies, including Doug Belshaw's TED Video: The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.

Producers vs Consumers

As I mentioned earlier becoming a producer not just a consumer of information/media is a goal of mine, and something I have my students do each week. In Week #4 Visual Literacy, we will be creating an image that communicates an idea or strong emotional feeling. I've shared with them some tools that they might use to find copyright free images (or they can invoke the Fair Use doctrine if they can provide evidence) and some free web based photo editing tools which they can use to remix/edit their photos such as the Chrome Web Apps,  pixlr or picmonkey. I also have created some examples and tutorials for them to see how I have used the photo editors but emphasis that I'm not necessarily a professional designer, and my media isn't perfect and I look for suggestions from them as they would from each other. The example here is not a final version but it demonstrates how to remix two photos using the layers function in Pixlr.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thousands of Getty Photos Free to Use

One of the first things we explore in our Multimedia Apps & Tools course is Copyright and Fair Use. It's one of the most complicated concepts to understand particularly finding out;  if, when and how we can use other's work.  Today I read in the BBC News that...
Getty Images, the world's largest photo agency, has made vast swathes of its library free to use, in an effort to combat piracy.
You can go to their website Getty Images and use any image as long as you use the embed code.

More articles...

Bloomberg Business Week

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Creating a Visual Message

Visual Literacy

This week in our Multimedia Apps and Tools class we are focusing on Communication, and "Visually Literacy." After reading about Visual Literacy in Garr Reynolds blog PresentationZen, and watching videos by George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, students will create their own visual message. Considering Martin Scorsese’s statement that we...
“need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed through a visual form. We have to begin to teach younger people how to use this very powerful tool...because we know the image can be so strong, not only for good use, but for bad use.

Digital Literacy Tools

Students will either use their own photographs/images or find one from the many copyright free websites available to them (https://www.diigo.com/list/emccarthy/Photos/16th57ti9) to create a simple visual message. While I don't pretend to be an expert, I do think it's important to participate in the learning activities in my class and share my work. So, here is my visual message...I hope it begins to convey an emotional message about the Great Irish Famine. I would work on the text and it's layout...I think there are too many words and the little images in the top right don't seem to work as I had intended. Any suggestions are welcome to make this a better visual message.

I use my own photograph from Ireland and edited it with a free Chrome App called Pixlr Photo Editor.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Going Back in Time

As a child from the 50’s/60’s, I often remember the educational movies we were shown in school. The classic male voice, so serious with melodramatic background music, flicking and snapping across the film as it rolled through the reel. After the teacher got the projector threaded, lights went out and after 5 minutes I’d be asleep at my desk. Try showing clips from one of these movies from the Prelinger Collection on education to your students as ask them what they think, they might get a kick out of going back in time and seeing what it was like to be a student way back when.
Here is a good one that you might use as a kick off to 1:1 computing (proper care of the fountain pen) or a writing class when you talk about the many different digital tools available to communicate their ideas and messages... “TRACES DEVELOPMENT OF WRITING & TOOLS OF WRITING. SHOWS VARIOUS PARTS OF A FOUNTAIN PEN & DISCUSSES ITS PROPER CARE & USE.”  It makes me think about how writing has changed over time and what it mean to be literate in a digital world? What skills and dispositions do our students need in today? Are we still teaching reading and writing from the 19th century model?
Here is a copy of the same video on YouTube for quicker viewing...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Simple Photo Message

This is an example of a photograph with text added, it was created to convey a simple message. In our online class, we will be creating many different types of digital media as a way to communicate simple and complex ideas.