Posts tagged: Technology Integration

Wii little Nike

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By , September 4, 2009 1:43 pm

One of the things that I hope to be able to do this year, after surgery a year ago and Bug arriving in February was to be able to run a half marathon and to get back to my “wedding weight”. I’m just shy of both goals today. With a little luck with the weather, I’ll run a 21.2km course on Monday (I’d rather be running that distance in Disneyland this weekend) and hopefully within a few weeks I’ll have the last few pounds gone. Along the way, I’ve been using a couple of tools to help track things. The first is the “body test” in WiiFit and the second (after graduating from Twitter and GMaps Pedometer) is Nike+. After almost four months of training, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would never allow WiiFit to be allowed near anyone who is even remotely conscious of their personal metrics. Why?

Unlike Nike+, where you set your own goals and achieve them without any continuous feedback (though I haven’t tried any of the coaching programs yet), WiiFit’s annoying board is a bubbly know-it-all avatar that will think that anything that deviates from textbook normal is bad. If it doesn’t see you everyday, it chides you for not being committed. If you show up everyday, it encourages you to take it easy. If you train at odd times, it ponders your sleeping habits and if your weight spikes for reasons that you truly can’t figure (or that are outside of the meager list that it provides), it suggests that you have just smushed a cute little animal. WiiFit doesn’t really want you to be a better you, it wants you to fit into a textbook version of you. Granted, you can ignore all the body testing and just play the games, but then one is leaving half the functionality at the door (so it would work in the higher ed context where profs only use half the text anyway). It would be really nice if there was a way that you could tell it that you are actually doing other workouts as well. Maybe that would help mitigate some of the issues, but I’m not all that sure about that. Why? Because WiiFit believes that it has all the answers, which when you are working towards a personal fitness goal doesn’t seem to make very much sense. The Nike+ system has few answers and those that it has don’t seem to be obtrusive to the casual user. I’ve yet to see anything other than trophies for meeting goals and winning challenges and a couple of system messages for passing mile markers.

If Nike is smart, they will partner up with Nintendo and create a Nike+ channel that will integrate the Nike+ site with the balance board so the Nike system is able to not only tell you how many calories you are burning, but if that actually changes how much you weigh – so you could set a goal to burn 10000 calories in a month and see if that actually results in the changes that you want. I don’t know if Nintendo would want to do this with their WiiFit, but I can certainly see EA getting into it with their EA Sports Active – think about the money there for both sides.

Flu proofing your course

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By , August 24, 2009 3:35 pm

This afternoon I was tasked with coming up with a Faculty plan for dealing with the impending threat of flu. After much searching, I came up with the follow chunk of codified common sense:

Planning Ahead

  1. Consider using eClass to store your course materials (or Moodle if you are teaching in Computing Science), use online resources instead of physical reserve books from the library
  2. Consider bi-weekly or monthly learning objectives for your course to help guide others should you be unable to present part of your course
  3. Consider exams/assignments that can be handed in electronically and/or backup dates for exams/assignments
  4. Ensure all students are aware of their University email account at it will be the official means of communication should there be a disruption to the course
  5. Ensure a complete syllabus is available in an electronic form through eClass or Moodle. The syllabus should include a guide as to the topics to be covered and their order. This could be used by a colleague to help move your class through material should you fall ill.

If the instructor is ill

  1. Contact your departmental HR and advise them of your condition,
  2. Suggest an individual who you would prefer to help cover your course material. If no backup instructors can be found  within the department, contact Faculty of Science HR to try to find a backup individual.
  3. Advise where you were in your course.

If the students are ill

  1. Adjust or remove deadlines for assignments/labs/exams.
  2. Consider allowing students to submit materials online via email/eClass
  3. If students feel uncomfortable attending class in person, contact Faculty Support for help setting up discussions, podcasts or virtual classrooms.

Of course, just as I get this put together, I decide to do one more search and I pull up Duke’s CIT plans. Very similar, so I’m happy I was on the right track.

Young teachers, no technology… ’cause that isn’t content.

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By , August 4, 2009 3:34 pm

Over lunch today, two of my friends who are both young teachers (one in Edmonton and one in Calgary) and I met for lunch. The conversation came around to teaching different courses and both said that they wouldn’t take their kids into the computer labs, or even teach using the computers until well into the year/term.  Why? Well for a number of reasons, the first ones being that the kids don’t need to be taught keyboarding, they don’t really need to learn about how to use the “computer” in general. What they need is to learn how to deal with the information that they get from the computer. They need to learn how to print legibly and not rely entirely on spell check for everything. They don’t need time in front of the screen,  too many teachers think that because the kids are staring at the screen that they are doing something productive. That, as many of us know, isn’t the case. These teachers also don’t make these online/computer related assignments that rigorous as they believe that it is hard for the kids… or more likely that they would not have ability to assess what their students create.

So it seems that the obstacle to technology integration isn’t necessarily an age thing, it could also be that so many others have done it wrong and overlooked other basics that those teachers who would/could integrate would rather spend their time getting the basics done right.

Portugal’s Technology Integration

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By , June 24, 2009 11:58 am

Huffington Post is not usually a place where I would normally look for a edtech story, but somehow I came across this one by Don Tapscott. Tapscott points out that Portugal was suffering in 2005 until the government decided to make sure that students had access to the ‘net. The kicker to the success of this story is that Portugal actually invested into teacher training, curriculum change, and most importantly a culture change. Portuguese schools moved from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side. So many instructors/schools claim to do this, but unless it is system wide, it is somewhat problematic as students might get this great experience one year/term/course and then next class/term/year, they are stuck in the old mode again.

… [on a tour of schools in Lisbon]…  They were collaborating. They were working at their own pace. They barely noticed the technology, the much-vaunted laptop. It was like air to them. But it changed the relationship they had with their teacher. Instead of fidgeting in their chairs while the teacher lectures and scrawls some notes on the blackboard, they were the explorers, the discoverers, and the teacher was their helpful guide.

Technology did its job by not being the focus of the interactions. All too often, instructors and admins are wanting to make sure the technology is front and center, showcased and shoe-horned into everything because of the cost of the hardware. Thankfully this should start to change as the hardware is getting cheaper all the time. It is too bad that it is the dollar that is making these decisions for schools, and not the ideal of changing learning. To change education, things have to act differently, not necessarily look different.

If it ain’t personal, it isn’t professional

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By , May 20, 2009 9:09 am

If you don’t use tech, per se, in your daily life, at all levels, and you’re not comfortable with it, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to be as speedy (to embrace) technology,” noted Dr. ToddRothenhaus, senior vice president and chief information officer of Caritas Christi Health Care, the second-largest provider in Massachusetts. “If you’re not a touch typist…or if you never use a mouse or are accustomed to using a PC as part of your daily activity, then there’s going to be an enormous barrier ( C|Net).

This is something that I keep telling the powers that be when it comes to trying to get faculty to adopt technologies in their classrooms. It is not that I’m trying to get instructors to use clickers at home to poll their family about what to eat for supper or if they agree on what time they should go to bed. I try to get them to use similar technologies to what they would use in the classroom, and as they get comfortable with one technology and fund success, they are more likely to find and use another and once they feel that they have sufficient mastery of a technology in their personal space, they are more likely to extend that to the professional or occupational realm. At the university, I differentiate professional and occupational because of professors that we have all either had or will have in the future. Those profs that live only for their research and view teaching as the “requirement” or “hoop” that needs to be jumped.

It is likely those profs/instructors who are going to be the last to adopt technology into their teaching because the teaching isn’t seen as being important. I seem to find that sessionals who are teaching because they love it (nee not for the paycheck) are the ones who are more likely to be using technology or those who are willing or asking to get help to use some manner of technology in their teaching.

It is nice to see that others are thinking the same thing when it comes to technology adoption.

Oh nice… your family has a Grandfather Computer

By , April 20, 2009 10:56 am

Reading this NYT article, it certainly seems that the day will be shortly upon us when one might expect to hear that, desktop PCs, at least in the home will be antiques that a few know how to build and a few more know how to setup. The rest of us will see them as connections to another era. But is this really going to happen? Well I can see the day coming in homes – where there is one static machine handling mass storage, networking and other utility like functions, while netbooks connect into it and the ‘net to get resources, dock to larger displays to edit photos and video and generally do everything that the “desktop” used to do. I can also see it happening in the office, where dumb clients will connect to Terminal Servers, saving space and support time. But what about the classroom?

This is the one place that I don’t hold up much hope. Schools have invested in large spaces to become labs, these spaces could host thin clients, but then they would bear little resemblance to what students see at home, even though it might be what they will one day see in the office. Schools are unlikely to hand out even the cheapest ‘netbook for fears of loss or some other computer related missive (perhaps as much an accounting issue as an admin/policy one), so kids are stuck again with old technology that is neither here nor there.

Granted, this is very pessimistic and there are many teachers and instructors out there who are already making use of laptops, netbooks and handsets, but the majority are not. Between lack of time, interest and training, it will take quite a bit to get teachers to adopt technology en mass.

But … and hold on to your hats for this one… maybe the Smart Board or some similar touch/pen input technology that is a computer but not a computer is what is needed (considering what a doubter I am of current smartboard technology, this is quite the admission for me). If a touch display can take the place of the classroom computer, allowing students and teachers to interact physically with the content that is stored locally or in the cloud, schools may just have a chance. It would be great if teachers, used to using a black/white board could “migrate” to using this touchboard to write out notes by hand, or to display notes that are already prepared without having to use a special pen. It would be even better if the teacher could then send this information out to the students by dragging and dropping, with the materials landing on some personal device.

If something like that could happen, then the classroom has a chance, otherwise, it will end up as the museaum bar none for the grandfather computer.

Photo and Audio merge in the cloud

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By , March 31, 2009 8:19 am

Aviary, a cool online image editor/creator has picked up DigiMix. These, together with Jaycut or Jumpcut (now owned by Yahoo!), it seems that there is no longer a need for schools to invest in these basic editors.

TLRP – TEL – Education 2.0

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By , March 26, 2009 9:56 am

Teaching and Learning Research Programme – Technology Enhanced Learning is a group out of the UK that has put out an article that looks at the uses of technology, specifically web2.0 in education to arrive at Education 2.0.

Some of the points that this report brings to the forefront are:

  • it is never only a matter of “using a new tool” it is also using it in a new spirit
  • this new spirit has been fueled by greater bandwidth, mobility and ubiquity of connections
  • web2.0 facilitates the needs of the playful, the expressive, the reflective and the exploratory individual
  • web2.0 facilitates learning on collaboration, publication, literacies and inquiry
  • education2.0 meets web2.0 most directly through the co-creation of knowledge and the ways that traditional education has been shown to be systematically been unable to meet the needs/demands of the new wired society
  • the traditional education system fears that traditional skills and literacies are going to be lost if web2.0 is over emphasized in addition to a lack of traditional respect as web2.0 tends to favour mob rule
  • virtual worlds and social networking are areas that instructors may wish to explore, as long as they are able to discard the usual power structures within the classroom and rethink assessment

I don’t think this is new to anyone who has been looking into technology in the classroom for a year or more, but it is a very nice way to present some of the pros and cons to admins who might not be so keen to “buy in. This would also be a great resource for a PD day to revolve around.

Maybe this is why they don’t get it

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By , February 20, 2009 11:07 am

I caught this off RWW (There is a fee for the report, so I’m copying from the post) – a potential explanation of what one of the reasons might be for the gap between older, established instructors and their young “whipper snapper” students, at least when it comes to social media (and I would think other types of Web2.0-type stuff):

The one thing that Boomers are less likely to do in the online world is actually create content – outside of updating their online profiles and leaving blog comments, that is. Boomers are still not involved heavily in writing blog articles or creating videos and posting them online. In 2008, 16% Younger Boomers were involved in content creation (up from 12% in 2007) and 15% of Older Boomers did so (up from 8%). Although both groups saw an increase, it’s still the least popular activity.

…The group isn’t as active online as younger generations are, but their participation levels are now moderate and increasing.

The best bets for getting Boomers interested in your content is to create blogs or videos that relate to the life or work-style of Boomers, Forrester suggests. And if you’re looking for feedback and contributions from the Boomers themselves – like comments or criticisms – make that process dead simple. Don’t introduce overly complex sign up forms or processes. Instead, encourage low-effort contributions such as star ratings.

It seems that it might not be the “busy” instructor that doesn’t want to participate that slows the adoption of new types of media into th e classroom, it seems that it really might be a generational thing.

But to be fair, I would think that this is an overly simplistic look at the problem and the reasons for early-boomer and “proper boomer” instructors not being involved is that they might have no reason to yet – if it is social media that we are trying to get them involved in, it is not going to go anywhere until they have some social elements that matter to them. Only then will they be able to bring those tools into their classroom.

But it does show that slowly, things are changing, but I wonder if they are going to change fast enough.

Classrooms, territory and personal electronics

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By , February 12, 2009 11:15 am

This morning, I came across a rather interesting post from Doug Clark on the anatomy of a classroom. In the post he talked about personal space and technology, among many other interesting observations about why the box that is the “modern” classroom is seemingly failing ever more. The first point is about personal space:

Classrooms are often cramped, pushing young people into uncomfortably close contact with each other … boxing them into tight spaces creates well know territorial problems. This is an area well studied in psychology. Hall described the ‘emotionally charged bubble of space which surrounds each individual’ and research by Felipe and Sommer (1966) showed extreme discomfort among people who have their personal space invaded. Fifty years of research have shown that this matters in terms of psychological discomfort. Classrooms break almost every rule in the book on territoriality. On top of this, to move from class to class means that the learner has no defined territory, and cannot mark and defend their personal territory. The learner is set adrift. These territorial spaces, such as one’s bedroom or favourite chair, are a feature of one’s identity. Classrooms deny almost every aspect of this basic human need.

And then there is technology:

Technology fits uneasily into a classroom. We’ve seen technology get smaller, faster, smarter, easier to use, wireless, connected and cheaper. It’s personal and portable, not fixed to any one location. All of this is at odds with the very idea of the classroom. Technology provides, by definition, personalised learning. … Contrast this with the rather quaint and useless Multi-user table top classroom computers being mooted at present. If you design technology to fit classrooms you get these ugly, expensive classroom-driven aberrations. Technology frees learning from the tyranny of time and location, to screw it down inside classrooms is to abolish those freedoms and advantages.

Classroom geography demands a dominant wall, with a whiteboard. There is no evidence for their efficacy, other than anecdote. Indeed, Professor Frank Coffield claims that ‘the two major studies in the UK show no significant effect on learning’. Tech-savvy children feel frustrated when they see the teacher struggle with simple tasks as they are used to being in control of their online environments. It’s odd for them to simply watch online material on a large screen under someone else’s control. The blackboard was invented in 1870 and we are in danger of keeping it alive well by its sell-by date. It promotes a ‘chalk and talk’ approach to teaching which is at odds with the psychology of learning.

If technology is to be used sensibly in learning it must be embedded in the learning process, not fixed to the walls and tables in classrooms. Consumer demand for small, smart, cheap, wireless devices seems insatiable. This tells us something.

Putting these two points together in my head, this seems to be, perhaps at the crux of many technology integration issues. Between classrooms stealing the personal space of our students away and administration/instructors denying students the one personalized space that they are able to otherwise have with them all the time, seems to be a predestined recipe for disaster.
The problem is, of course, many people have done amazing things within the system as it sits now, but the question is, how much longer will the current style of classroom be able to survive? My guess is not much longer, something is going to break. The boxed classroom was a product of the Industrial Revolution, when it was thought (perhaps) that all knowledge could be identified, codified and imbued into a keen student. Today we know that knowledge society has today is struggling to fit into what containers we have. So if it can’t fit into a single container, how can we expect it to fit into one student?
Perhaps what we need to think about, if we want to keep the boxed classroom, is moving students away from “what to learn” to “how to learn”. Looking at technology as a hammer, as opposed to a bucket might be the first step in this process. Students are more than capable of manipulating the hammers that they have, and are looking for new ways to use them all the time, so why don’t we let them keep and use their hammers and in so doing, maintain a small amount of personal space while working with the reach of a teacher. Teachers need to feel that rather than tools of distraction and usurpation, phones, pods and the like are just tools, and when used responsibly, can make life easier for everyone. To do this however, the teacher will have to learn alongside the student as they explore.
This is of course the ideal, and likely not to happen any time soon in the classrooms of the world, but one can hope. Afterall, this is how things work in the very first classroom that we find ourselves in. Infants don’t sit and take notes about how to walk, parents can’t merely tell toddlers how to use tools without having the tool (or some replica) present. Parents seem to do best by their children, when they explore and learn along with them and as they are able, try to pass on more information. Parents don’t feel threated teaching in this fashion, why should teachers?

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