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Celebrities and tech… March 16, 2009

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I just finished reading Kim’s post on Oprah Connects and found it interesting how celebrities seem to flock to the connected world to market themselves and their ideas, causes, shows, music, etc.

Just after reading this I was surfing CBC and came across a link to celebrities who are tech-phobic. In reading some of them like, Paul McCartney and Larry King I was surprised with some of their answers, though I understand Paul’s response to him using an ATM…I just cannot imagine running into Paul McCartney at an ATM.

Here is the article about Celebs Who Do Without [Tech] and here it is in a slideshow format.

Social technologies vs. safety March 10, 2009

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I was recently reading some excerpts from Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson. In the past few weeks many of you might remember that I have been struggling with using social web tools in the classroom to increase communication between students/parents and myself. At virtually every angle I seem to be blocked by policies and overactive web filters. A quote from this site spoke to me and sums up my feelings well:

Specific genres of social media may come and go, but these underlying properties are here to stay. We won’t turn the clock back on these. Social network sites may end up being a fad from the first decade of the 21st century, but new forms of technology will continue to leverage social network as we go forward. If we get away from thinking about the specific technologies and focus on the properties and dynamics, we can see how change is unfolding before our eyes. One of the key challenges is learning how to adapt to an environment in which these properties and dynamics play a key role. This is a systems problem. We are all implicated in it – as developers and policy makers, as parents and friends, as individuals and as citizens. Social media is here to stay. Now we just have to evolve with it.

I know there is much debate regarding these policies and whether they are useful or not. I do see both sides of the argument. I understand that we are asked to integrate technologies within the classroom and that there are underlying concerns for students safety. As the quote reads to me these technologies, in whatever form they take, are here to stay. Is the question of blocking potentially harmful web sites, info, materials, social networks, etc. the solution? How can schools promote the use of technology to increase communication and then block them? Is the solution, as the quote states to me, the job of parents, friends, students, and educators to evolve with the technologies and educate students to use it effectively?

Reflection on my blog and how we communicate… March 9, 2009

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As I was updating my classroom blog it struck me that it may be to much. In an age and society where less is more is it too wordy? I still think it is a great idea to keep the lines of communication open between educator, student and parent. But can I make it more efficient?

I still am not grasping well the idea of Twitter and its uses right now. I have said in past posts it has helped me to locate some resources/stories that I have felt useful, but the form of communication is lost to me. However, between Twitter and texting (via cell phone) I am beginning to see the benefits of less is more. Perhaps keeping it simple would relate to students better. For parents I thought should I incorporate a list of assignments, tests, exams and their due dates? Is scrolling through daily updates worthwhile?

I have talked with two parents, for sure, that use my blog and they love it (whew). Just today a parent called and asked me [concerned] that the assignment posted on my blog on Friday was due today, and that her son was not there due to the cold weather. Was he going to lose marks? I assured her not. She thanked me and I quickly asked her if she routinely used my blog. She said she does and that it gives her the ability to ask her son the “right questions” to get a response from him. Before he would give her a short answer not very telling, but now she can and does ask questions that he has to answer.

After this I felt fantastic. It’s working! But how can I make it clearer? Twitter and texting has taught me a new brief language to get the point across. So exploring the blog options revealed a couple of ideas of what to do, but I thought I would try Google Docs. Lo and behold a calendar option. I tried many variations, but these did not fit within the blog well. I kept on trying and voila there it was my solution. It’s short and simple, to the point, lists upcoming events, assignments, tests, etc. I have put it near the top so that as people view the page it should be one of the first things seen. Because it is not huge, I hope dial-up users won’t find it slow to load. I guess time will tell, but I think in an age of communication that values brief shorts snippets of info, that my “update calendar” will be useful.

Update to the blog

Update to the blog

Podcast… March 8, 2009

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So with many of you exploring audio options I thought I would give this a try as well. I made the podcast as easy as can be…well in five steps following Jim’s instructions on his blog.

Well unfortunately it is way easy on Blogger, but with WordPress I could not figure it out. I went online and found many ways to do it, but they were not clear and involved me downloading more programs to then insert code in WordPress for a player through extraction from WinZip and WinSCP and then much more. HUH? I was easily lost.

Instead I am just going to insert it in a old blog to try it out…an old Blogger account.

Battle of technologies… March 6, 2009

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I saw this video a couple of months ago and thought it might be appropriate to bring up in class regarding technology. It really is interesting to see how communication has changed roughly over 170 years. Is new technology better? Watch this and see.

What have I learned? March 4, 2009

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Alec asked near the end of class last night, what have we learned from our experience within 831. In reflecting on this last night and this morning two things have become more clear to me as how this class has impacted upon myself.

Firstly is the idea of excitement and potential. More comfort level with technology has seemed to increase exponentially. I find myself asking questions, can I do this? How can this be done? Can I use technology to better this? I am not as frustrated with technology on a whole. When things go wrong I solve them in a rational manner, thinking things through. With this chip off of my shoulder, I am actively seeking out ways to improve and connect to students, parents, colleagues, friends, and family through technology. Just this morning I thought why couldn’t I use a Blog + Google Docs (the form option) to create a survey to gather info on the upcoming Regional 8: Drama Fest. With posting the menu online and having students/directors/chaperones fill it out, in a nice spreadsheet form I will have everything I need to prepare, in exact numbers, what is needed. No more counting by hand. I would not have thought of this prior to this course, and it is exciting to figure this out.

The second way this course has changed me is in my idea of sharing. I have always shared before, and will always continue to do so. This course however has convinced me to reach out and interact with more people through sharing/talking/asking. I am excited to share these ideas I have running around in my head. Jim [Snodgrass] and I have been talking tech like mad, sharing ideas and thoughts about how to use technology creatively. Just the other day I was telling him about the PowerPoint option of WordPress and he was telling me the ease of Podcasting. We seem to spark one another to try and develop our ideas, maybe even pushing one another into new areas, perhaps trying to out do one another [much like our golf games]. But to share with a colleague in person or online has been an awesome experience. Ironically it has placed me as one of the “tech experts” on staff. That is a scary thought!

Another thought on sharing comes to mind. As I have been working on my final paper I found a resource that sounded much like my project. I was excited and scoured the Internet for it with no luck. It has been discontinued and even the publisher has no e-copies of it for sale or to share. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment. However I thought with academic sharing why no contact the author. I fired them off an email and two days later the author emailed me a copy back of the paper. Wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but it showed to me that the spirit of sharing was alive. I had this doubt in back of my mind that they would offer the paper to me, perhaps the pessimist in me coming out. I emailed them back thanking them profusely. Would I have done this prior to this class? Probably not.

So this class has opened my mind to new ideas/thoughts, it has created a thinker open to new ideas and challenges, and one willing to share. How can one not be impressed with a class that does this?

Video “I teach, therefore you learn…or do you?” March 1, 2009

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I came across this cool video by Jose Picardo entitled “I teach, therefore you learn…or do you?” I think it really captures the dilemma of education. The first is that education is stagnant when it comes to how today’s students communicate. I think he is correct that even though times have changed the same basics still exist (socialization, friendship, entertainment, etc.) but in a new form. In writing my Masters paper today I realized that I teach how I was taught and that there is where the disconnect is between us. With technology becoming much more prevalent, I have forced myself [I think successfully] to learn new technologies to communicate with my students. I get teased from more mature teachers over my texting and computer use. The students at first teased me but have since begun to make use of my new technological literacy. I have begun to listen to my students, not simply hear them but listen. The second issue that is the problem is the comfort of not changing. Many times I find myself getting trapped by the comfort of doing things the same way as it is easier. This may be best for me, but not for the students. In one hand I do not get left behind, on the other hand I may. Take a look at this video, it is well worthwhile.

Ambient… February 26, 2009

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Last nights class with Stephen Downes was one of the best so far for me in our course. To me Stephen seemed to be pulling all our previous talks (connectivism, sharing, learning, etc.) into one. This cleared much up for me in a positive way. He seemed to lose me in the later part of the discussion with the terminology and technical talk, but there was one concept that really drew me in. That was ambient learning.

The idea of ambient learning where we can learn everywhere at any time I think is the true mark of what education may strive to be. To often we think of education in a formal sense, where walls in a classroom or institution surround us. Much of the early years of our life is learning, not in formalized sense but in an experiential way. As a child we experience our learning though our actions and inactions. We learn manner life lessons this way.

Many teachers are striving toward this. I know I am. Students and some teachers are tired of the “stagnant” environment that we are placed in. Is that conducive to learning? Under the fluorescent lights, tiny windows, rows and desks? Perhaps for some students. I know in my fall action research project I have found myself best learning under this experiential manner and many of my students seemed to blossom during this experiential phase.

An off the cuff remark made last year to our community coordinator led to the planning and currently attempted building of an outdoor classroom. This classroom is not tradional with walls but an open-air concept with gardens, trees, shrubs, etc. With studies saying that fresh air and exposure to sun increasing the benefits of education it seemed like a logical exploration. The students will learn as much if not more in planning, constructing and maintaining the facility than in a traditional classroom.

As a father of two boys I see ambient learning about everywhere at any time using life as the learning backdrop. It is a daily occurrence using life to teach my 5 and 2.5-year-old lessons that will stick with them. Isn’t that the goal of an educator? Do our lessons about the Structure of Royal Government in New France, Ultra Vires in Law 30, or the Brain is Psych 20 stick with them? Maybe, but probably more than likely not. Perhaps if we look at the stagnancy in today’s education system and reshape it, perhaps it could work better.

Frustration… February 25, 2009

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With technology one assumes some frustrations occur at some points. Many a times I have gone to set up the digital projector and it was missing cords, websites down, and the Internet not working. The biggest frustration over the past couple of years has been the school’s Internet filters. I realize that in this day and age there is a need to be cautious and protective over the youth that come to our schools, but where does it end? Each day [it seems] there is more and more blocked. All it takes is one keyword to block a site and to have it removed seems to take it forever.

Case in point today was my Classroom Blog. I was creating a new Journal Entry on the change last month with Minimum Age Employment being reduced from 16 to 15 in certain sectors. I have found doing it on my blog [instead of paper] I am getting much more thought and feedback from students as I am talking their language. Likewise for my Work Exploration students doing their blogs online, they are doing well but found themselves blocked. However as I outlined previously in another blog, one of the challenges with moving journals online is that not all students have access to computers at home. So I am relying on school to have this access for some (whether it be at lunch, breaks, spares, before or after school). It took some lobbying by Jim (an administrator that uses blogs) and myself to have these unblocked but it happened.

Well lo and behold today the sites were blocked again. Augh!!!! I work for a school division that wants us to be more active in using technology to increase/assist student learning. However these roadblocks continue to happen. With our teacher accounts we are not as filtered so I often don’t know this is happening. I realize that in today’s society that at times we must be vigilant in what happens or could happen on computers, but can’t there be a happy medium. We can’t be told to adopt and use greater technology and then have access to it blocked. This has been getting worse and worse each year. Doing a Canadian identity assignment last year with my Alt. Ed. class I found a website on moose was blocked. This just wants to make me through my hands up and quit.

Privacy… February 23, 2009

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My professor recently posted a video talking about our digital dossier/footprint and the amount of information out there about each and everyone of us. I realize that in this digital age, as it expands, more and more of who we are and what we are doing is being documented. It was really a scary thought. I had flashbacks to George Orwell’s “1984” and Mulder from “The X-Files” [the truth [of us] is out there.].

Simple daily tasks that we do without much thought leaves these footprints behind. Daily activities such as: logging on a computer at home/school, surfing the Internet, using debit/credit cards, or phoning people from home or a cell phone. It’s scary to think of what trail we leave behind and what people might do with that information.

This reflection caused me to think about two incidents that happened to me when I was younger. Firstly was joining “Dooly’s” a pool hall chain. When I applied for membership I was told, very harshly, that I needed to give them my SIN number. I flatly refused and told the bartender that it was illegal for him to ask that of me. I told him I would give him 24 hours to check with a lawyer about the legalities of it, but that he could not with hold membership in that hall due to me not providing him with a SIN number. At this point it was all about proving him wrong, due to his demeanor. I went back the next night and he very sheepishly apologized for his mistake and promptly signed me up. Would anything have been wrongly done with my SIN number, probably not, but who knows.

The second incident was in filing taxes one year. I for get to get something off of my previous tax form, from the year before, and went down to my local tax office for a copy of said form. I walked in, waited, was called and received a copy of my tax form. I began to walk away when it hit me, I was never asked for a piece of id. I turned around and asked the gentleman if he needed anything else. He looked at me confused and said no. I asked him if it was normal policy to ask for id when handing out personal information. He said nothing. I called over a supervisor and registered my concerns.

We have the ability to control what we put out there. I still refuse to give personal info out over a cordless phone. I have a shredder, cross-cut, for my documents/mailings at home. I limit what I post on social networks. But I know I cannot bury or hide everything. What about people like the above situations? Do they value my concern about my info as well? Look at banks, stores, governments, that have over the past few years had to deal with public info about peoples’ lives just sitting around in dumpsters, trash, missing hard drives, etc. Am I paranoid about this? Is this a huge concern? Is this just how our “new” lives and society are going to be?