Free Social Teaching and Learning Network focused solely on education

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is an interesting site, along the lines of VoiceThread, TrailMeme and the like. Described as a combination of Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube, this site could be used to post student projects about their understanding of a topic (after, of course, presenting to the class in a more traditional manner)

Free Social Teaching and Learning Network focused solely on education.

I should add that I found this while trolling around the internets, so I don’t remember who originally provided the link to this article. Thanks, though, whoever you are!


What use are catchphrases?

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

This morning I read this post by Jerrid Kruse of Teaching as a Dynamic Activity. Having myself used “21st Century Skills” as a tag in yesterday’s post, yet very much agreeing that the phrase is eye-roll-worthy, I thought I’d put in my two cents about the subject, and explain why I use the term despite my qualms.

Along with “Web 2.0” (did you see me shudder?), 21st Century Skills is a ubiquitous phrase.  The two expressions are not exactly the same–the ideas encompassed by Web 2.0 describe a set of tools, are by definition rather new, and to my knowledge had never been known by any other name, while 21st Century Skills describe a skill set or educational goals, and have in some form or another been around for a long time by various names– but I feel that they are similar enough to serve as two examples of the same phenomenon: labeling.

I had been an avid user of social media before attending library school, but had never heard of Web 2.0.  It took me quite a while to realize what it was that people were talking about. When I did, I didn’t understand the point of putting a label it. All the label seemed to achieve was to act as fodder for pointless blog posts and articles in Library Journal; mind you, not specific or useful information, but just vague allusions to how Web 2.0 would be useful.

In much the same way, I had never heard the term 21st Century Skills before coming to my current position. In discussing the aims of these skills, multiple faculty members pointed out that these “new skills” were no different from what they were already doing, and teaching their pre-service teachers to do. What they amounted to was simply good teaching.

One has to wonder about the usefulness labels at all.  Telling someone that I am a vegetarian often does not accomplish much.  The meaning has been diluted, so that many people have no idea of it’s actual meaning (don’t even get me started on “flexetarians”).

However, the fact remains that buzzwords exist, and that people often feel they understand the meaning behind them. For me, they are shorthand. I use them instead of a more lengthy explanation or definition. When you say “Web 2.0,” most librarians follow your meaning.  Similarly, teachers have a particular idea of what 21st Century Skills encompasses.  Granted, much like “vegetarian,” some may have no idea of the actual meaning of these phrases, or miss the point altogether.  But this is a risk I’m willing to take to use such shorthand in certain situations.

I use my 21st Century Skills tag with mentions of new technology, since really, otherwise, I’d be using it for every single post about teaching ideas, methodology, or other such subjects. My use of the term indicates ideas or or uses of new technologies that will aid the enduring goals of creativity, collaboration, etc.  It may be misguided, but it’s my attempt at proposing the “concrete strategies” that will “promote the goal,” as Kruse puts it.


Transliteracy definition

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I finally had time to read this post by Sense and Reference.  I very much like his explanation of transliteracy, and it meshes with several other posts I have read on the subject (mostly at Libraries and Transliteracy, some of which were also written by Wilkinson of Sense and Reference).*  Here’s an excerpt, when he describes what transliteracy is, as opposed to literacy, translation or transliteration:

“Within the English language, digital media have introduced a range of new domains with new linguistic competencies required for comprehension. The neat part is that, in many cases, these new syntactical techniques are conceptually tied to other domains. When reading or writing in different media, our reading brains make these connections behind the scenes.4 These connections come to the surface when we try to teach a new language or skill. This is why we make analogies between different formats: hyperlinks are like footnotes, hashtags are like words in the index, Wikipedia is like an encyclopedia, JSTOR is like a file-cabinet, etc. When we can comprehend information in multiple domains we exhibit multiple literacies. When we can step back and compare different linguistic domains, we engage in a second-order literacy: a literacy about literacies. This, I contend, is the meat of transliteracy. It isn’t about learning how to use a particular digital tool. It isn’t about social media. It isn’t about new media, augmented reality, immersive story-telling, or any of that jazz. Transliteracy is about our ability to understand when and how we move across an ever-expanding realm of linguistic domains.” (emphasis mine)

The only thing that I might add to this definition is that transliteracy increases understanding within individual literacies through the connections it creates.

*The writing process is truly amazing.  I began this post with a small qualm about Wilkinson’s definition of transliteracy, but the more I wrote, the more I had to think about the concept, and the more I understood his argument.

Blogging in a physics class

January 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here is an interesting article shared on Twitter by @notinmy. It explains how a professor used blogging in both a large physics class and a smaller honors student course.

I think this is a great example of how to use technology in a course.  Alternative assignments could have asked the students to bring the article to class, but as pointed out, asking the students to blog produced better writing, and I’m sure more thoughtful preparation, precisely because the result will be public. Again, this is not so much changing the way the class is presented, but how the student experiences the course/subject matter.

See also: this post about how blogging is ridiculously easy.  Also shared by @notinmy.

An Open Video Message To Steve Leinwand And Jerry Becker

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

dy/dan » Blog Archive » An Open Video Message To Steve Leinwand And Jerry Becker.

More evidence as to why Dan Meyer is my hero.

Behold! A way to provide multiple links with one, teeny, tiny URL. No printing, mailing, or even emailing necessary.

As a side note, it absolutely amazes me that people still provide handouts, at least in such quantity as the second example he shows us here. I am further astonished that this presenter would then offer to snail mail copies on request, rather than just emailing the digital file he started with. Really?

Are we assuming too much?

November 17, 2010 § 2 Comments

Blogger Stephen Abram posted a video today about the changes in education.

While I whole-heartedly agree that educators need to change their tactics in order to reach and engage students, I would caution anyone who thinks that just by joining Facebook or Twitter, you will have instant success with the young ‘uns.

I would caution them for a few reasons. First, just because students have smart phones, and they check Facebook all the time, doesn’t mean they will think to use their smart phones for educational purposes, or welcome friending a teacher or professor. Some would even caution the teacher from this sort of social interaction.

Fascinating as it may be that they spend 12 hours a day with media (and only 25% of that watching television), simply making yourself or your information available through these media outlets will not engage the majority of students.

Students use lots of technology, but have no idea how it works, or the real power of it. Perhaps my experience is not typical, but from what I’ve learned from other librarians and educators, it’s not too far off the mark. I’ve talked with quite a few 18 -22 year olds that text pretty much constantly, and check Facebook religiously, but yet cannot navigate a Google results page satisfactorily. Some have still not heard of Twitter, or if they do, they have no idea why they should be interested in it. Many do not like blogs because “it’s just someone’s opinion,” completely ignoring the professional development opportunities the blogosphere presents.

So, my take on this whole idea is YES! Use technology, use social media! But make sure that you are educating your “media savvy” (note the use of air-quotes here) on the power of these technologies and connections. Otherwise, you will be ignored.

Learning Telecollaboratively – Learning Telecollaboratively

November 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

My Diigo group is on a roll today. Here’s another wiki full of explanations, links and ideas.

Learning Telecollaboratively – Learning Telecollaboratively.

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