Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mmmm.... Reflections...

I have definitely become a blogging convert over the course of the semester. My attitudes and reservations towards the use of e-learning resources within the classroom have altered and I now feel competent to embed technological elements into my teaching. I think that embedding technology can be an effective time saver, when it is incorporated with a structured pedagogy and this will effectively provide students with new avenues for exploration and interesting learning opportunities.

Engaging with technology is nothing like joining an exclusive club, who speak an 'secret' language, instead it can be used to anyone, anywhere! I think that it is important that we attempt everything and embark on a journey with the attitude that nothing is impossible, almost! We need to learn collaboratively with our students and experiment together to discover HOW technology works because learning is an active, constructive process for us as well as for our students.

I enjoyed writing my blog and found myself engaged in this assignment because I had the opportunity to develop practical skills and to be creative in the process. In my first week, it took me a long time to learn HOW to post a blog, without all of the excessive spacing between paragraphs. I also remember battling with a youtube video, which decided to embed itself into the middle of my paragraph and would not budge. But, I made it! We all made it! SUCCESS!!

Writing a blog requires a very different process to writing an essay. I discovered that blog writing is a much more personal process and I found that my writing style changed from entry to entry, while I was trying to discover the most effective way to express myself. I believe that the key to blog writing it to be honest and express my opinions and to not be afraid of taking chances.

I believe that the shared experience of peer discussions was one of the most beneficial educational experiences and the most constructive. I found it fascinating that we all have different contextual backgrounds and experiences and yet we can all come together and engage in technological discussions. In regards to e-learning, the key is to learn through doing, which is essentially what we are asking our students to do.

In the future, I am interested in creating and maintaining a blog. I believe that it opens students up to new avenues for communication and it provides students with an opportunity to speak in a public forum. I would like to use blogs or wikis in a classroom setting and I would encourage students to be open to engage in technology.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

To learn or to m-learn... that is the question

The future appears to be in m-learning. I realised today, that I was not using my iphone to its full potential! My iphone is a much greater procrastination tool than I gave it credit for. This is honestly a little bit dangerous in the final weeks of semester, as I am always on the look out for new and exciting distractions. I think that the use of mobile technology is an interesting educational resource and provides  students with new ways of learning and experiencing the world. However, we do encounter the issue of privacy and when we are engaging with these technologies, we need to be aware that we are on public display and this has potential security ramifications.

I feel that the benefits of m-learning far out weighs the costs and students are encouraged to be actively involved in the learning process. Students are encouraged to seek out new information and to follow up information at their own pace. M-learning technologies encourage students to construct their own learning.

The Matrix anyone?

I have had minimal previous experience with virtual worlds, I once attempted to enter the world of The Sims but was instantly put off by the idea of having to build 'fake' houses, towns and communities, when the 'real' world existed outside of the computer screen. When engaging with virtual worlds, there needs to be boundaries. A virtual world is not the 'real' world, although 'real' money can change hands, which I find a little bit concerning. Virtual worlds appear to be like a massive international game, where users engage in 'real' world interactions, using an avatar. In a virtual world, users can dream up what they want to look like, what they do and how they act. I feel as though users risk losing themselves in their virtual world as a form of escapism from the 'real' world.

However, I can see some educational benefits for experimenting with virtual worlds. I really like the idea that students can explore an ancient world in a visual and practical way, which has the potential to provide students with a genuine experience of life in an ancient era. It also provides the more visual learners with an opportunity to engage with educational material in a way which is suited to their learning style. M-learning tools and visual worlds are educationally beneficial but should be accompanied by a strong pedagogical framework.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Information Overload!




How much information is too much? Are we in information overload?

We are constantly bombarded with Facebook and Twitter posts, each containing essential information which we must absorb here and now! We are surrounded by so much information that we don't know how to deal with and the vast majority of this information is irrelevant to us. Users are affected by a sort of "infomania," which is a doubled edged sword. Users are stuck in a constant cycle of never ending information and are also affected by the alluring desire to stay up to date with all of this information. This cycle can be extremely overwhelming for users and may reach the point where the information becomes uncontrollable.

But, do we really want to control it?

We like to be surrounded by a vast array of information. We choose to be overstimulated by associating with too many sources and paying minimal attention to each. Essentially, we are the cause of our information overload. We have the continuous desire to be in the know and to be constantly interacting with the people around us. We need to be selective with the information which we interact with. There is no need to be trapped by technology!

Information Strategies:

a) Folksonomies: A collaborative way to categorise information on a particular topic or area, so that users are able to easily access a database of resources.
b) RSS Feeds: A hosting system where information on a particular topic can be gathered, such as a news feed. 
c) Network filtering: A way of connecting a range of networking sites onto one site.

Time-saver or time controller?

Information strategies can be an integral component in controlling the massive surge of information, which is all around us. They can be an important time saver and also a good starting point for research into a particular area. They filter out "unwanted" information, so that we are provided only with information which will be useful to us. This element is also a limitation, we may miss out on information because an outside source has decided that it is irrelevant to us. A solution to this limitation, is to use these strategies as a starting point and then explore information further through other sources.

In a Classroom:

Information strategies can be very useful in the classroom. They allow teachers to structure and filter information which is appropriate for the students to access and utilise. I would definitely utilise folksonomies in the classroom, to provide a set of resources for the students, this a way to ensure that I know what materials students are accessing and that they are safe and reliable. RSS feeds are also a useful in the classroom, the teacher may embed a news feed for "The West" on a class' website or wiki and students will have access to the latest news from the site. If teachers engage with these resources, they will have control over what students are accessing. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Are we accountable for our 'online' actions?

Social Networks, not a time waster... crazy!

Surprisingly, I have never considered that spending time on social network sites, such as Facebook, may actually be beneficial for my future. I always considered Facebook more of a time wasting procrastination tool, rather than a valuable career networking tool. The internet is a 'public' space, where 'privacy' is non-existant. Establishing a 'public' profile of the internet, is essentially placing yourself and your communication network into the 'public' sphere. However, internet users often seem unaware that interaction on internet sites (even with 'privacy' settings) is a very 'public' process. Interacting with Facebook (even on the highest 'privacy' settings), involves placing your posts, images and personal details into the hands of Facebook. Once the information is placed online, its permanent... forever!!

So, should this stop us from interacting with social networking sites? 

Of course not! Social networking sites can be fun and they serve as a way of connecting people from all around the world in one space. They make organising simpler and 'friendships' and 'acquaintances' easier to maintain. However, I do believe that we need to have an awareness of the nature of the internet and users should be cautious when accessing websites. Users should be aware of who they are 'friends' with online and to ensure that they are comfortable with the information they are posting becoming 'public' knowledge. Internet users should be aware and consider the vast beliefs and contexts of their potential audiences.

'Spying' on employees or potential employees... reasonable or voyeuristic?

Should 'private' information which is stored on social networking sites be accessed and judged by future employees? Is the 'private' information which users place on social networking sites truly 'private?' The answer is NO, any information which is placed on social networking sites ceases to be 'private' and instead becomes 'public' information. So, by this definition, is is reasonable that employers utilise any information that is found online. Although I initially found this idea difficult to grasp, it is a reality that 'private' information does not exist online.

What is our responsibility as teachers?

I think that it is important that, as teachers, we are prominent in online activities. At the same time, I feel as though we have a responsibility to be role models for the students and to model professional behaviour online, through social networking sites, blogs and video/photo sharing sites. Teacher should maintain a positive online persona (with the appropriate privacy settings attached) and should always be aware that we are role models both in and out of school.

What should we teach our children?

The most important aspect that we should teach children is an awareness of the nature of the internet. Students need to be aware that the internet is a 'public' space and that they need to obey a code of conduct when engaging online. It is important that students learn self-regulation skills, so that they are both aware and accountable for the information that they access and post online. Students should receive early instruction in internet awareness and protocol.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Are we critically literate enough?

Critical Literacy is "the ability to read texts in an active, reflective manner in order to understand power, inequality and injustice in human relationships." (Coffey, 2011)

I found this definition of critical literacy valuable as it explains that students must be active and evaluate all information that they encounter. This definition also suggests that students are vulnerable and easy targets for manipulation, when biased information is presented to them. This concept is increasingly relevant when students are dealing with technology and possible threats from predators.

Critical Literacy skills have always been important in schools, as students need to be actively aware of what they are accessing, where it originated from and any biases that underpin it. The development of critical literacy skills is even more integral now with continual advancements in technology. Information providers have changed from the once 'reliable' big companies (such as Msn and Fox), to individual users, who are reporting on everyday events, inevitably incorporating their own biases. This can be very confusing for students and they need to learn skills to differentiate between what is 'reliable' and 'unreliable' information.

How about search engines? Can they be trusted to retrieve the most up to date and credible information?
Simply put, no. Search engines, such as google and yahoo function with an algorithm, which determines which information will be of most relevance to the user, based upon past searches and the popularity of particular websites. Students need to develop critical literacy skills, so that they are able to critically evaluate information, based upon their origins and examine possible biases existing in the texts. Students need to be educated on how to be critical aware of the information they are accessing via search engines.

So how about us, are we critically literate enough? Do we know enough about evaluating the information we are presented with in order to make informed decisions and judgements? I think that most people have received an email from a Prince in Africa, explaining how we must help him because he is stuck in a difficult situation. The story continues on and we are asked to send him our bank details and when he has escaped his situation, he will then send us a financial reward. Those kind of emails are the obvious examples. What if it was a friend who was asking for money? How can we be absolutely critical and clear in this situation? If those thoughts are occurring in my head, they would almost certainly occur to a child, who is more likely to be trusting of others. I think that it is important that we become more critically literate and in turn educate students to also be critically literate.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Aluminium Foil Mind Deflector Beanie... You know you want one!

Aluminium Foil Mind Deflector Beanie (AFMD) is probably something that everyone should get ahold of right now... you know, before the aliens attack! 

What is an AFMD?

  • Form of head ware constructed from aluminium foil (or aluminum - for American readers)
  • Protects users from Electronic Psychotronic Mind Control Carriers
  • Cheap and Unobtrusive
  • Blocks the brain from unwanted brain scans and mind control forces
  • Incredibly fashionable
  • Anti-AFMD research which is (of course) unreliable
  • Beware of 'fake' eBay AFMDs - they may be pre-programmed for mind control
  • Try not to become confused with the American and the British spelling of aluminium, yes they are different and no the american spelling is not correct.
So, what are you waiting for... go get one now! And join the fight against mind control!

How would you use this resource in the classroom?