Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mother Nature Trumps Technology

The big news of the past week was the grounding of close to one hundred thousand flights to and from Europe due to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. This has stranded many thousands of people and cost the airlines over a billion dollars. While some say the reaction to ground all the flights was overboard, the entire episode just makes one think. Despite all the advances in technology of all sorts,we still can not compete with "mother nature". This episode shows how prediction of these events is still not accurate and that our amazing aircraft can't compete with the ash and other particles produced in the eruption. Click here to see some fantastic photos of the eruption and devastating effects.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Week #14: Final Class - The "Last" Post?

Well, I am going to split this post into 2 parts, the first will be about the last class presentations, the second part will be reflecting back over the course, the blogging process and the future.

Stay tuned! (I HAD to start his before Gary got home!)
... Ok, back again!

Part I

Our last class went out on a high note with great presentations, they covered a wide range, yet were tied together. Thanks to all – and especially to Denis for a thought provoking and mind expanding course!

Cuban’s ideas, presented nicely by Julye (great summary of an entire book!), must be read in light of the time it was written, however, many of the observations remain valid. Putting technology into schools is expensive and, even now, results of its use are uneven. I think that the number of examples of appropriate, engaging uses of technology integration into the classroom is growing, but there is work to do. I do not agree with all of Cuban’s writing, however, one major lesson is that we can’t just dump equipment into schools and expect it to change things. It must be done with a purpose and implementation supported by professional development – and not just (as Denis points out) on the ‘skills’, but in pedagogy and purpose. By the way, Larry Cuban has a blog that is often interesting to read.

In keeping with examining issues in a critical way, a few weeks back, Denis mentioned the book You are not a gadget, I just flipped through it at Chapters, it looks interesting. It also seems to say the opposite of Clay Shirky in Here comes everybody, which I have skimmed and plan to read before my next course starts in May. I think I will buy it and read both. Denis has pushed us to consider all sides of issues, which I am sure we try to have kids in our classes do as well, it will be interesting to read both books and compare the ideas. It makes one wonder, with so many at (seemingly) polar opposites, who is right? I guess time will tell, but I think somewhere in the middle is often reality.

A few comments about the presentations:

I found Roman’s approach to teaching his Computer Science courses refreshing and exciting. I can imagine that the students are engaged and excited about learning!

Julye gave an interesting view of cell phones in schools. I am sure this will be a direction in the future given the power of these devices and their ubiquitous-ness. It will be a learning curve, just like computers were/are and this will take time to grab hold, but I see that it can be a powerful tool. It was interesting, though, it seemed like the texting answers was just doing the same old multiple choice in a new way… the big question is, how can it change teaching for the better?

James look at his top ten (well he didn’t get to all ten) was interesting, some ideas to try! It sounds like you will give your teachers some valuable ideas, James. Your presentation itself gave me some ideas for an assignment for my own students, too!

Roland’s look at some of the dark corners of Internet use in his “Uplifting” presentation reminded us that with good, there is bad – or at least cautions. An area we need to keep in mind.

Ben’s comparison of pencil and computer was fascinating – and some neat history too! In this vein, and in light of Denis’ love of the historical view of technology, I present the following video that looks at the history of computing (my brother sent me this one!). The soundtrack is great, too, as it increases speed...

Part II

Looking back on the blog:

I have posted an entry for every week (sorry to all, but some were rather long, sometimes brief is good!). Even had an extra post or two. I tried to comment on each blog every week, mostly with success - sometimes the conversations really took off and there were multiple responses. This exchange made the blogs come alive and become a true learning experience. It allowed us to investigate themes and concepts in more depth and play with their meanings and consequences. It allowed us to extend the discussions in class and produced offshoots of new ideas. The ability to incorporate other media elements adds to the power of blogging, and is one of the great benefits of the Internet. Finally, it allowed reflection and metacognition as we entered into the blogging process and related the ideas to our everyday experiences. This exercise was living proof of positive ways of using the Internet and of how learning is social, in the sense of Vygotsky’s work, involving ‘play’, language and interaction.

In looking back, the course itself dealt with the history of ideas and technology, with philosophy and critical thought. The themes of 1) technology being much more than skills but of culture as well, 2) that technology has caused ‘revolutionary’ change throughout history, 3) technology as public service (including Grierson’s conception of the documentary to promote democratic ideals and 4) the idea that technology can take on a great educational role or a trivial one resonates with my conception as well. I wonder what Edward Murrow  (speech segment on YouTube) would think of television and the Internet today? I see so much of value – documentaries, science programs, history programs, news and ideas shared across the world, information at our fingertips – but also much we should be ashamed of: some of the so-called news  - both on TV and the Internet, entertainment of questionable value, hate, misinformation and trivia. I think we has educators need to keep the themes in mind and try to help our students (at whatever age) filter through what technology has to offer, to see the dark side and the light (a little Star Wars reference) and learn to use the technology in an ethical appropriate way.

Well, this is it for the course, thanks Denis and all my fellow students, it was great to get to know you, you are a talented bunch – loved the snacks and the interaction.

Will this be my last post? Hmmmm, I don’t think so, I have, for the most part, enjoyed the experience – writing and responding and discussing. I now have two blogs running (one for another course on the social nature of learning – here if interested!).  I also have started having my students blog, so I guess I should set the example? Can’t say I will continue both, but I do think I will make occasional posts as I continue in my ‘new’ career and join the group of “edubloggers” in sharing, discussing and growing! See you in the ‘blogosphere’ (always wanted to say that)!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Week #13 (no class) Kids Not Getting Enough Sleep?

No class this week, but this article from the BBC came to my attention via Twitter and is rather interesting.

It talks about a study that shows kids are not getting the required sleep because they are watching TV, playing video games or using their cell phones. The results include tiredness, lack of concentration and behaviour problems. This takes me back to Lana's presentation of the Kaiser Report and the role of parents. It seems to me that not only kids, but parents need some educating as well. Technology might be a factor, but a little parenting might help the situation. The article goes on to talk about the effect on teens as well, too bad it ends with this quote:

"These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardised tests."

A much better and valid reason than this could have been made - I wish we could get off this standardised testing nonsense as a way to gauge achievement! :-( (see my previous post for video of Sir Ken Robinson on this topic!)

On a happy note: I came across this site earlier this week, and given the historical theme in the class,  found it to be very interesting. It even has a page on the Timex-Sinclair computer I brought to class earlier this term - not to mention the Commodore Pet and Trash 80! :The Obsolete Technology Website!