Monday, January 24, 2011

Safe Social Classroom Sites

Your students are at home, Facebooking and Youtubing away, participating in online behaviour that is socially, emotionally, and for the most part, appropriately engaging.

You would like to capture that intrinsic motivation and need for autonomy (Drive; Daniel Pink, 2010) in ways that connect with your students’ interests and create opportunities for rigour,and deeper thinking.

How do you compete with the lure of an external multi-media environment, where your students, and you! can upload quick, emotion-laden commercials to mainstream television (e.g. those cute DisneyWorld vacation ads where the kids don’t know they are going till the last minute)? Pretty compelling!

Soon we'll be tweeting the cast of Glee, live! Except for Sue Sylvester, you know she doesn't go in for that kind of thing.

There are an increasing number of blogs, animation editors, comic generators and websites that are offering controlled educational spaces for teachers and classes. So far we have discussed and Bitstrips for Schools which offer user-friendly teacher/class set-up and development. Both sites offer opportunities for writing for purpose, reflective thought and appropriate feedback. Two sites in an endless stream of possibilities; it’s a good idea to find one with which you feel comfortable, and get some fluency with it. Lesson ideas tend to flow the more familiar one gets with a particular media.

A different online environment which emulates Facebook, is which  allows the teacher to set up classes, post assignments on a calendar, provide feedback and comments, send alerts and notes, and create polls. Teachers can interact with students, and with other teachers in the same school, district and beyond. Privacy controls are extensive and teachers can control communication between students, if that is desirable. You can choose to be notified when assignments are submitted, or students post comments. There is a shared library for uploading files, videos and links. Maybe it’s not quite getting published on TV, but students could upload their own videos to Edmodo and share their thoughts on the creation process. Gr. 5 Oral Communication 2.3, 2.4, 2.7

Click on the image below. When you arrive at the site, click on the “What is Edmodo?” sticky for a link to an explanatory video.


Heady stuff this Connectivism CCK11 !

Who knew I was going to revisit Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and subsets thereof? So knew that undergrad Economics degree wasn't going to pay off!

But funny things happen when you are intrinsically motivated to learn. You keep dialoguing, keep making meaning, keep reflecting on that meaning, and keep moving up that scaffolded ladder. I thought those behaviours embodied Constructivism, and that lovely ZPD.

However, I agree with George Siemen's comment in Jan 21st's  seminar that there are many branches of constructivism and as such, as a theory, it becomes somewhat less accessible, both in entirety and as counterpoint to other education learning theories. If I had to pick one, Social Constructivism seems about right, but in light of today's brain and cognitive research, can we dismiss Cognitivism outright? I have seen students with major cognitive overload as they are bombarded with incoming facts and hierarchical supports, with no time to reflect, internalize and make connections to prior knowledge.

Connectivism intrigues me. After all, I am an active online learner, connecting with many people through Twitter, blogs and Facebook to further my craft. But I seem to have a "tilt" factor built in, when I have to draw back, recharge and reflect. I thought perhaps this was a cognitive overload of information, and I think to some degree that is true. But this article is telling:

The social network: How some brains come hardwired for friendship

So it is with great interest that I say hello to George and Stephen, and my fellow learners. I look forward to listening, reflecting, expressing opinion, asking questions and furthering my understandings,

Oh yeah, best take away by far from the first week....Stephen's explanation of "What is knowledge". To paraphrase, "Knowledge is that what you cannot unknow. Once you've found Waldo, you will never be able to unfind him".

So true.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

RAFT Reading Response

Image courtesy of
Digital tools are a great fit with multiple learning style responses to text! Working within the RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) framework, deep understandings of the Big Ideas can be developed and communicated using a variety of forms.

Reading (Gr.5) 1. Read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning;

For example, after reading and discussing the short story “Fox”, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, students were asked to critically analyze, and justify an explanation for character motivation, choosing from a selection of formats, such as comic strip generation with Bitstrips For Schools or Comic Life, podcasts or newscasts with Aviary Myna, or digital timelines and stories with Dipity or Photo Story 3. Further mashups were suggested by the students, through collaborative discussion, about importing or creating their own graphics into existing applications or combining print and digital images.

The over-arching thread was how easily the students understood that by using digital media, they could choose a response that fit their learning style, excited their passion and gave an outlet for the online pursuits that they were already engaging in outside of school. When I asked the students who had created an online password, all hands flew up, and a spirited conversation about privacy and security ensued. Another teachable moment presented itself when a student asked how he could access his account at school AND at home, and why it was that no one could tamper with his avatar. Insightful, thoughtful questions; these students are yearning for frank and knowledgeable signposts to help them navigate their digital world.

Using a familiar reading response tool, students are able to reach deep understandings of text, construct meaning, think critically about choice and purpose of response, and connect to their active online lives. Now that’s a RAFT worth building!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Digital Images

Here's what I published today in our OCDSB Technology Times

Are you, and your students, looking for ways to integrate all those great holiday pictures into narratives, timelines and digital stories? Are you wondering how to capture some of the energy and motivations that some of your students may have experienced upon receiving new family entertainment consoles, digital cameras or smart phones?

Why not incorporate digital images into Bitstrips for Schools or Comic Life. Students who have taken pictures over the holidays can upload them to Flickr or transfer them to a memory stick, and import into these school-accessible applications. Students who don’t have images can use the school digital camera to take pictures around the school to be used as backgrounds or props. Teachers can create image folders on the shared media drive for all students. Keep file sizes small, 150MB is the limit!
Students can create a “silent movie” in Bitstrips, using avatars, imported digital backgrounds and no dialogue. Working in groups, students can progressively insert dialogue, inferring meaning from previous panels and predicting progressions. Or teachers can prepare several comic strip “starters” using an interesting background image, and have groups create a narrative in the next panels. Bitstrips now features a Flickr search, as well as search for images stored in your account. If you upload to your Flickr account, students can navigate to that folder.