Friday, March 26, 2010

A critical eye

How does the expansive range of ideas and techniques, in every discipline, affect our ability to teach?

In my experience in teaching video, there was more than one instance where student's found ways to do things that differed from the way I was teaching them. I had to be able to evaluate these viewpoints for the students, and often admit that these were better than what I had been using. Though humbling and somewhat discouraging at first, it's helped me let go of my attachment to being right, and ultimately know more and become better.

This, to me, is at the heart of the change in education that technology is affecting. This constant influx of differing opinion and techniques also increases the value of critical thinking skills, as one must be vigilant in their willingness to look deeply at a wider and wider range of ideas, and that's a very good thing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Re-photo sharing

If I can manage to pull my wool socks out of this interminable pile, we will take our annual ski trip to SnowBowl in Flagstaff tomorrow, me and my boys. Our gear is spread across the living room floor, and I imagine the flakes flying, peaks rising up in the distance, colors emblazoning the white winter slopes - in short, a picture perfect experience.
Problem is, I don't want to bring my camera. An early 7MP digital, it's huge by today's standards, and the thought of being any more encumbered while trying to remember how to ski again gives me pause. I have a great set of photos from our last trip...what if I just change the date on those?
I know, this is one of those weird mental leaps dark-futurist types warn about: substituting our real life for a proxy, like having a robot write papers (or blogs) for you, or photoshoping your self-portraits. So can one set of ski photos be the stand-in for all the times we skied, and I send out a message saying, "Had a great time at the mountain this week, here are some shots of us there last year"?
The practise of re-gifting is well-known, its convenience in a busily encumbered world an accepted norm. Can re-sharing of our packaged, codified online experiences be far off?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


If you're not social in real life, will social life on the internet be much different? I am always asking: what's the difference? I find much of what happens on the web to be exactly the same as in real life.

I often rethink what I say; on the web, what I write can take a long time to get out, and we can write paragraphs, pages, novels - then retract and never send any of it (I promise not to do that with this post).

An important part of the web spaces we create needs to be safety, an issue that comes up in almost everyone's "cons" of technology. How we create that safe space on the web is not that much different that in a room full of people: we need a set of rules to play by, a mediator if not an absolute authority, and something to aspire to. Perhaps peer pressure can be the most powerful force for good in this arena: pressure that suppresses negative impulses and rewards the positive growth of individuals and groups.

But I don't know how to facilitate this. I honestly don't. I do my best in my family and my workplace and I have done great but I have yet to codify the process except in generalities which sound really fluffy. I think I can do (it), but I really have no idea how.

Should I really post this?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Teaching Philosophy: to Care or Not to Care?

My philosophy of teaching is undefined, evolving, turning in on itself, and I have limited teaching experiences to draw upon. From these, I believe caring about students is a strength I possess and something that matters for students, a conclusion drawn from course evaluations and talking to students. I believe when students feel that a teacher cares about how they are doing in class, this tends to affect them for the better in terms of engagement.

artwork by ric stultz
Then again, maybe I care too much, since despite how much I might care, the outcomes seem to be all over the place; likewise, there is a point where caring crosses the personal lines between student and teacher and can be a detriment. I could apply this philosophy as I do a cliche I like to live by: everything in moderation, including how much you care about students. But do care. I have heard it from many people, "well, they (teacher, parent, proprietor, coach) don't care, so why should I?".  Modeling behavior bears out, and if you don't seem to care then it follows that followers will slacken their effort on all fronts.

How a student does, what they learn, has everything to do with their engagement with the course - i.e: how much they care. When they're engaged, they talk about it, think about it, read about it, and perhaps, they do well in it.

Now, how do you express "caring", and caring just enough, but not too much? You tell me.

Image used by permission of Ric Stultz

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reading Aloud

Online learning is going to require us to read, that much is certain. Or not? Could we hear it read to us, aloud? If we were in a classroom together, words would only be spoken, save for the powerpoint slide or two. A great lecture is better delivered to the ears than read from white paper, isn't it? Online, we seem confined to the visually digested word.

There are tools that read screen text. While designed for the visually impaired, the thought of being read to sounds preferable to squinting into the glowing rectangle some more. I enjoy podcast shows and find the most fascinating things out there to listen to. I started listening to Byzantine History lecture podcasts so exciting, my 12 year old enjoys them. Listening is a very easy way to absorb the material for me, which I suppose makes me over on the auditory learner part of the pie.

We'll make podcasts in this course in a few weeks, and hear how our blogs sound.

When I imagine the incredible realm of things technology is now possible of, having an interpretation software built right into the browser doesn't seem that wild. And it would be nice to have the option.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gaming Institute

The University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies sounds like the place to be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Big Place

Social networks have places for the public and personal aspects of each member of the group, still able to share that space. It would be interesting to base this course solely in a Ning. Everyone's Ning with the Ning. I'm not sure it would hold it all. Whether it's in one place call Ning or Bling or Blackboard, it's all linked together pretty much the same way.

We can't get a grasp on "Where" the web really is, can we? No matter how we try to reign it into an identifiable place, a center, brand, CMS, hub, eMall - there's always someplace just outside that offers some new kind of miraculous idea or service. Facebook is a big success in this area. You can stay wihin their space and get YouTube videos and FamilyAction photos in a comfortable, chatty environment. It's very good at integrating a wide array of media like a kind of a mini-blog, chat, disscussion forum combo. And yet it's still so limited.

. . .