So today’s episode is with Doug Symington (blogger since 2002), an educational designer/technologist in Victoria, BC who responded to my offer last week to add some audio to the post about conferencing with Skype. We chat about Skype as a classroom tool, why so many Canadians seem to be at the cutting edge of these technologies, the and why (or is it if) Tablet PCs are better than Smartboards. I’d meant to get this posted earlier, but it took Ourmedia an interminably long time to make the link appear. (Anyone have a better alternative at this point?) Look for more after the first of the year.
Via Dan Gillmor comes this site by Larry Magid titled Blogsafety.com with links to topics such as “Blogging Rules for Teens,” “Teens Guide to Safe Blogging,” “Advice and Resources for Parents,” and “Advice and Resources for Teachers.” I haven’t had time to go through the links in detail, but since Dan is a trusted node on my network, and Larry is one on his, I just thought I’d link to it since I hadn’t seen it crop up anywhere else. Check out the accompanying blog too…
I was reading weblogged and noticed an error at the top of your blog. The text on the title graphic has the word classroom spelled wrong. It reads “classsroom”. Just thought you’d want to know.
Oy. Been like that for months. Fixed now.
No wonder I didn’t win best individual blog… ;0)
I’m going off blog for a couple of weeks. I need a break, and I have many things to think about…my blogging future included. 2005 has been a great year. Here’s hoping 2006 will be even better. Best wishes for safe, healthy and happy holidays, and my sincere thanks for your continued interest and support.
I just want to send my heartfelt congratulations to Stephen Downes for being chosen the best individual edblogger in this year’s EdBlogger Awards. The service he provides to this community day in day out is not only remarkable, it’s inspiring. The quality of the content that he finds and his succinct way of providing context has helped me learn so very much, and it’s an honor to have been nominated next to him. Congratulations too to all of the other winners; it’s nice to see this community growing and evolving. 2006 should be a fantastic year!
Darren Kuroptawa has put together an extremely engaging in-service on teaching with blogs, RSS and the like that should serve as a model to all of us. It’s all about building a learning ecology in the classroom that supports the small pieces model, where students become self-directed learners using a variety of tools and techniques.
An ecology is an environment that fosters and supports the creation of communities … A learning ecology is an environment that is consistent with (not antagonistic to) how learners learn … The Instructor plays the role of gardener.
That is such a great metaphor, certainly one that fits what I think of when I look at the way Darren and Anne and Barbara and Clarence and Konrad and many others are employing these tools in our classrooms.
Darren’s workshop speaks to the unlearning that we have to do, because almost everything he asks of the participants challenges their preconceived notions of teaching and classroom structure.
I will be truly sad if academics don’t support the project, don’t contribute knowledge. I will be outraged if academics continue to talk about having Wikipedia eliminated as a tool for information dispersal. Sure, students shouldn’t be citing from Wikipedia instead of the primary texts they were supposed to have read. But Wikipedia is a stunning supplement to most texts and often provides pointers to other relevant material that one didn’t know existed. We should be teaching our students how to interpret the materials they get on the web, not banning them from it. We should be correcting inaccuracies that we find rather than protesting the system. We have the knowledge to be able to do this, but all too often, we’re acting like elitist children. In this way, i believe academics are more likely to lose credibility than Wikipedia.
As always, read the whole thing.
In case you didn’t see it, The Journal Nature compared 42 entries in Wikipedia to the same 42 entries in Britannica and found the each had four major mistakes, and that on average Britannica had three minor errors in each entry compared to four in Wikipedia. Now, from where I sit, despite the somewhat more awkward and less polished writing, the up to date-ness of Wikipedia is worth the chance of one additional minor error, especially since we’re supposed to be checking all this stuff ourselves anyway, right?
Very few educators are doing more with wikis in the classroom than Paul Allison. (I think I’ve said that before.) While it hasn’t all been smooth sailing of late (see this post about some recent issues that have cropped up), Paul’s work is worth watching carefully because it’s really showing us what the potential is in a very transparent, honest way.
Case in point: his recent post titled “High School Students (and Teachers) Write Collaboratively on a Wiki“. It’s a major deconstruction (with accompanying screencast!) on one wiki article on “Latino Pride” that was created and edited by his 9th grade students. Here’s the type of detail you get:
Before the article gets to were we find it today, there are a few more interesting changes.
4161: One day, Andrew, a student who had just finished a study of Puerto Rican Independence movements, added a single phrase to section 4.2.
4167: Toward the middle of April, Emily adds her feelings. She hates people who make differences matter.
4171: Emily adds a paragraph to the “Joking comes back to you” section that Anthony had started almost a month earlier.
4178: Chasterie also adds her message about unity, including text, and image, and a new heading.
Really good stuff for anyone who wants to get a handle on what this might look like.
And Paul’s been doing interesting things on his blog of late, including a recent “jogcast” that he recorded while running along the Hudson River. If you want a sense of all the really innovative things he’s doing, listen to Part 3 of his jogcast.
Now I’m not saying there is anything necessarily bad about the old (or should I say current) forms of writing conferences that teachers have with students. Having taught writing for 20 years, I know the positive effects of sitting down and speaking with a reader’s voice can have when reacting to student writing. (By the way, one really excellent book on this subject is Lad Tobin’s Writing Relationships : What Really Happens in the Composition Class.)
What I AM saying, however, is that now we have so many other ways to share feedback and create opportunities for readers to respond to writing. Ways that in some respects I think can be even more effective than the traditional method where we will always find it hard to escape our role as teachers and become real readers in our students’ eyes. Ways that with a little planning we could do safely. For instance:
The Distributed Conference—Have students post writing to a blog. Point other students, mentors, public types to it and ask them to post reflections/feedback either in comments or on their own blogs (assuming they have them.) (This is how I look at the writing “conferences” that occur about the ideas on my blog.)
The Audio Conference—Capture the voices of the teacher and student by recording it on the computer (or MP3 player). Advantage: It’s easier for the writer to return to the ideas expressed in the conference and reflect more effectively. Becomes part of the portfolio or archive.
The Screencast Conference—This time, capture the conference with Windows Media Encoder (free). Advantage: Writer can refer back to the discussion AND the markup and can subsequently reflect on the conference more effectively which can then become a part of the student’s writing portfolio. And, of course, the screencast is archivable, too.
The Skype Conference—Ask the writer to convene a Skype conference call with mentors, friends, other teachers, family members, or a mixture thereof…anyone outside of class. Have the writer read the piece (publishing) and then listen to the reactions of the listeners. (This could be more structured for the listeners in terms of the types of feedback they should be giving.) Record the conference, and have the writer reflect on the conversation. And, of course, it becomes a part of the portfolio.
The Skype Conference Take 2—Post the piece to the blog. Invite readers to volunteer for a Skype discussion. (It occurs to me that this would be a very cool thing to try with a blog post…hey wait a minute…)
HERE’S WHERE YOU GET TO PLAY ALONG… Ok, so I’m opening up a Skype conference call at 3 pm EST tomorrow (12/15) about this post to discuss these ideas which I will record and subsequently post as an addendum to this post. (Huh?) If you want to take part, my Skype name is willrich45. I’ll take the first three people to respond. Any takers???
So I’m not sure if this is another podcast, but I’m putting up an interview I did with John Hendron from Goochland, Va. a couple of nights ago. I did it to find out more about how he is implementing blogs at his school and to test out the Gizmo record feature a bit more. WARNING: This is not high quality audio, but hopefully it’s fairly interesting content.
Just as an aside, while I haven’t been a big drinker of the podcasting Kool-Aid in terms of listening to myself ramble on about the state of the education world, the journalist in me loves asking questions. So I’m toying with the idea of doing a series of Terry Gross type interviews with blogging educators, (especially if I can get the Skype record working…) Let me know what you think.
Could it be? A free add on to Skype that lets you record your conversations? It’s an early Christmas present. Only $19.95 to upgrade to the power version which allows you to record conference calls. Hmmm…
I just tried this with a friend and I am now officially one happy camper. I just haven’t been satisfied with the quality of Gizmo and have already removed it from my already cluttered hard drive. And I’ve been thinking about doing more interview type podcasting a la Tim Wilson.
UPDATE: I upgraded to the pro account and recorded a conference call and it’s AWESOME. It’s another step at making it even easier to use recorded conversations as a part of class curricula or to share with other audiences or to archive in your portfolio or… Very, very cool!