Don’t panic: Ask the gamers for help

Warning: This post contains important information about COVID-19 and online schools. Some teachers might find this distressing and choose to waste a few more days trying to get Adobe Connect to work. However, if you want a fast and easy online space up in less time it will take to read this rubbish … welcome to the server.

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All this fuss about closing bricks and mortar schools is distressing. It’s also a timely reminder of how the billions (yes billions) which has flowed into the pockets of “EdTech” which is a long, drawn out crash site of experiments and failures.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of how poorly prepared western schools are for working at arms length, let alone ‘online’ in a meaningful way.

Today, I was informed my students need to be 1.5m apart.  – This is of course impossible. The message was telegraphed and then ignored due to pragmatics. Kids carried on in exactly the same way – because the paraphernalia of school was unchanged.

Schools are not ready of ‘online’ in the sense that few are able to meet students at the intersection of youth communications and actual usage. This results in dull conversations as to whether Google Classrooms “will do” or “can I just email it in”. A direct result of Audrey’s shit show of edtech.

95% of teachers are perhaps familiar with, or using, Ista, Email and FB with their friends and family, re-sharing photos of dogs or inspirational quotes.

95% of kids are online in Discord because they know it’s a productive way to save time and improve your chances of success and enjoyment.

Yep, Discord: That means every kid in you class can (or knows someone who can) use it right now.

They can also show you. You don’t need to panic or waste more time and money on “edtech” just because you’re a special snowflake teacher who only uses ‘teacher’ apps.

Just get your kids to create a server and relax. It took mine less than a minute and they are all over it.

Apple and Google don’t really care about game content.

This week, a mobile video game has received a lot of media attention. The game has now been removed from Apple and Google’s online stores after a social media based campaign  highlighted the outrageous material, which deliberately named and represented in game characters ‘aboriginal’ and required the player, at some point in the game, to ‘kill’ them. You can read about this, and what Google and Apple did here.

This is a failure of governance. Apple and Google are under no obligation to ‘review’ any game against the Australian Classification board associated with film, television, consoles and computer games. Secondly, the material content in this game plays out in numerous other mediums such as film and television quite differently. Numerous TV drama’s have shown people from different cultural and social groups beaten and killed for entertainment. For the cowboy to save the day, there have to be ‘bad guys’ to shoot and we watch the hero put down ‘bad guys’ from first person angles constantly.

The outrage against this game is of itself part of the interactive entertainment discourse in which interactive entertainment has been represented as MORE dangerous than other media.

Social media – and the public sphere is now in a constant state of outrage. Most people in Australia have watched a TV show and seen a movie where anti-social behavior is amplified to a point where they find it repugnant and vile. Of course TV and film have avenues of complaint, but will push the moral and social boundaries in pursuit of their art. For example, the BBC seem to relish drama which boarders on the horrific and sick, shot in moody half-tones, where animals and humans are tortured and abused. Robson Green is an actor who appears time an again in this ultra-violent dramas – but no one’s running a petition to ban Robson Green or have him reform his thinking. Apple and Google similarly claim they are ‘actors’ and not the producers.

At no point am I suggesting that this game has any merit at all. But this outrage should be applied to ALL games which Apple and Google publish, circumventing scrutiny and responsibly with what I’ll call the “Robson Green clause”.

While I think the correct decision was to remove this game (which is not a BAN in the sense that it has broken any law) the issue remains that media violence in other media is pervasive and remains the biggest concern of parents when it comes to allowing children to watch TV or see movies. In fact parents are far less worried about video games than film or TV – a point the media often gloss over in pursuit of an easy panic-piece.

The evening news offers thin warnings before launching into highly graphic images in order to ignite particular fears and responses, just a TV drama casts the audience as passive observers or all manner of horrific acts — as part of leisure time ‘fun’.

Last week I watched a panel presenter on  entertainment show #theprojecttv ask a woman (who filmed her now deceased baby, coughing with whooping cough). In the live cross, he asked the woman – what it was like to watch her baby in that condition?  — clearly inferring, – watching your baby die?. The director had already cut to the woman to capture her emotional response. Why did he ask this and not some other question at this time? Because it’s high drama to see the poor woman’s eyes well up when re-visiting a traumatic and devastating moment. This is entertainment, with a superimposed #theprojecttv hashtag silently asking for responses – but for what useful purpose?

I found it at best ignorant and at worse – violent. The premise of the bit-piece was that a “woman released a video of her baby with whooping cough to raise awareness” – the Robson Green clause again.

To me, the biggest question here is why Google and Apple are not subject media regulation in their ‘apps’? After all, they want to be part of society and cannot simply expect to profit from it without being held accountable – like the rest of us.

Apple and Google avoid it, because ‘video games’ are simply ‘software’ and stand outside legislation. Banning the game is simply a response to both companies expending social capital in the backlash — and so seek to reduce it and of course, avoid any comment. In fact, neither company report statistics on ‘game sales’ at all. They don’t have to, so while you read about the market-size of video games — these figures don’t include anything more than a guess or a a tidbit of data dropped by some marketing guy.

The CTIA – The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, collaborated with the ESRB to largely apply ESRB’s rating system to mobile devices. It was launched in 2011, with Apple and Google being notable abstentions from subscribing companies.

The question now becomes: why are these media giants avoiding their corporate responsibility towards mobile games – at the whole of market level – and what can the public sphere do to make them provide transparent vetting of games?

Don’t be fooled, this is not an oversight. Both companies make (but are not reporting) a lot of money from mobile games. Both companies have created their own ‘rating’ guide and refuse to participate in any third-party regulatory body. Therefore, the content of any game (which children and adults can access) goes though no useful ‘vetting’ as the ‘spokesman’ puts it. — And I’m talking here about the MATERIAL — whereas there are clearly some games which promote alarming behavior in players – such as habitual use, paid leveling and in-game purchase regimes.

It would be great to see ‘journalists’ try and put this debate to these corporations — and not to take the easy story about material content, which no doubt they picked up on from the re-share rate on Facebook and Twitter.

The mobile game market is a huge problem and needs far more scrutiny than it’s getting.

 

 

 

Hear all, see all, say nowt.

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Having convinced the world that the e-society is real, and that giving electronic goods, adapt at electronically emptying your bank account is all in the the name of “modern life”.

The SMH has reported yet again the problem with in-app predatory behaviour. This time a 3 year old feeding a virtual horse mummy’s bank account. So, let’s form a possé and get the bad guys here.

What I worry about here is not the design thinking behinds app – but the thinking inside education where there is clearly mass endorsement of brands which carry this software.Is this leadership or something else.

To me, the nexus of education/media/technology/profit is an increasingly abusive relationship, simply another form ‘media violence’. This violence is cohesive, emotional and financial. It prays on false dictomies, idioms and lack of parent education towards digital literacy and popular culture. On occasion, these big brands inflict deeply hurtful feelings and unleash financial terror on parents – but damn, the iPad is great for maths. It’s knowing someone who only sometimes smacks his girlfriend in the face and steals her money. We know it, but we are happy to endorse it – because we are – as writers have pointed out for a decade – the comfortably numb generation. Yet the media love gadgets – and use media-personalities to obfuscate the potential effects on society, particularly those whom are least able to afford it, or have least power to prevent it.

I wrote a post about being a sucker in 2010, having been looted by Apple via  game called Zombie Farm. Yes, I was a total SUCKER. But since then, the situation has got worse, as popular culture accepts in-app content is a way of “life”.

While you can find out how to try and stop in-app scumbag predators, the SMH piece is stark reminder that many adults lack the education required to deal with things being routinely issued to children. Apple might not have returned the call, however the standard excuse is that they simply provide a service, it’s the developer who actually provides the app. Please read out 300,000 word terms.

But let’s be fair, Apple came up with the idea, but Google, Facebook soon joined in.

Apple takes a 30 percent cut of every app sold for $0.99 and more on the App Store. Actually, that’s the going rate for any app store, including Android and the other stores that support Android apps.

In addition, Apple and Google make 30 percent for every in-app purchase. So, any additional services or features that you charge for in your app are also charged at 30 percent. Most developers took this extra fee in stride because they are making so much money from it.

Virtual horse food in Apple’s world is  a consumable, and there’s no requirement of developers to provide a ‘restore’ function to return any money or ‘virtual item’ if it’s used or deleted. You can get the app back, but not the things you bought (and your horse ate) – are Gonski.

These things are almost mandatory business strategy. They hold the player hostage by denying them success, unless they pay for it. They use ‘virtual’ things such as food, water, magic potions. Buy or die being the bottom line. For parents, there’s no way of knowing what the horse ate or when – what am I saying, there is no horse! Parents also been socially stupid to even admit that they let their kid do this. Basically, you are pressing a button which transfers money to the developer, and Apple and Google take 30% each time.

It’s not like DLC in games where you get a new texture pack, map and so on. This stuff vanishes in seconds. It’s not game-design it’s predatory – but Apple and Google make the rules, and there are plenty fo scumbags (besides Activision) churning out games for the sole purpose of mainlining your bank account via your children. And it’s all perfectly legal.

At what point did educators (mostly teachers) get sucked into this disgusting and un-ethical practice. Easy, iPads are amazing, they are learning tools …. they change everything … Google Apps are awesome, here’s a badge to prove it – look your teacher is a Google Teacher and an Apple Distinguished Educator, Trust us, we would never do harm.

Hide in the weasel words of the terms and conditions or drink from the technological determinism of the ‘revolution’ all you like. School leaders have systematically invited this kind of predatory behavior into the lives of children by endorsing it.

The developers (server) is allowed to track those purchases. The greater commercial value is found when there are millions of people providing market intelligence data on servers which Apple doesn’t have to concern itself with at all.

I find it utterly ridiculous that educational leaders have the hide to stand in front of powerpoints and encourage teachers to endorse commercial profit over ethics and equity. Parents partly believe a three year old should “play” to learn because of this on-going subscription to the Edulandian dream-time, where is so exciting to go to a tech-conference and then to furnish every household with a device capable of emptying bank accounts.

Apple allows publishers to charge any amount for these purchases as long as it get’s 30%. Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange recently said of this

“Progress” is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated.”

Like the sign says on the door – this is my opinion – that educational plays a vital role in the steps society takes. At a time where vast amounts of the ‘technology’ landscape (away from Google and Apple) are giving away money or setting up anti-consumer culture services such as AirB&B, Tool Libraries and so forth … schools currently are the very heart of Apple and Google’s relentless drive to make money – and have successfully co-opted the people who influence children the most outside of their parents.

I question the sanity of this – to be a great teacher, is to open children’s minds to the world via technology, to prepare them for future jobs which haven’t been invented. Are you on drugs? Especially those clowns who keep saying “get a PLN” – as in 8 out of 10 cat owners said their cat preferred Whiskas. Those drones don’t even teach, yet they endorse products which – like it or not, impact the home in ways no one seems to want to talk about at edulandian conferences.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings.

Right now, your kids iPhone will chew data as they watch YouTube. Of course this could have a safety catch. A kid can buy all sorts of ringtones, wallpapers and other crap just as easily. Yet, a smartphone is a must, a school with 1:1 laptops is the pinnacle of ‘leading’.

But this is, of course not going to get better – this is part of the generational psychosis that allows us to ‘hope’ for everything and ‘deny’ personal involvement when things go bad. It’s the mob-rules mentality – and I seriously wonder what place commercial profit has in education – apart from ensuring the rich get richer and buy better stuff.

There is rising under employment of teachers well able to teach to the standards needed without narrow ‘products’ being either allowed or banned via the firewall and preferences of leaders. The ‘no significant difference’ problem cannot be masked by highlighting the odd ‘great’ story and calling in a journalist.

This rubbish only becomes real if we start to believe the ‘metrics’ have any relevance to the human experience. For example, this piece about a failed marketing strategy.

“As a showing of how badly the campaign has backfired on the brand, AussieMite’s Facebook page currently has 320 likes, while the Goodbye AussieMite page has grown to over 1000 likes since May 30, 2013.”

 

What next – when a course get’s too hard we can in-app the marks. We can blame our three year old for allowing a brand to loot our bank account, or accuse a video game of sending subliminal messages to addict kids … oh wait … yes we can – and it’s all “totes awesome”.

Thanks to Nic Halley for posting about this … I for one don’t endorse the whole-sale brainwashing of families in this way. In education, I hope (cause hope is also “totes awesome”) that there is a rational attempt to deal with the problem soon. Less focus on ‘cyber-fear’ – I mean ‘cyber-safety‘ and a far more imaginative curriculum that starts at pre-school, teaching families about the the dangers of using technology as a sucker. I expect the ABC will call me tomorrow and I’ll make a doco about this …

I checked the proposed national curriculum – and drew a blank. I checked the ISTE website – blank. Guess this will be one of those topics we don’t talk about too then.

 

Dropbox vs Drive

Is Dropbox a falling star? The benefit of it was simple, it was FREE and much harder to lose than a flashdrive. It also allowed selective sharing. The downside is that it took effort to share things and was stingy with it’s storage as per the freemium business model. I for one found it’s endless resource hogging on my Mac Air a pain as it endlessly gobbled down bandwith. The secondary issue being the pathetic upload data rates in Australia …

Now Google Drive seems somewhat more useful these days. Finally they’ve got over their hate of folders. We can now dump tons of stuff in there … and connect it to our workflows. In fact, what I’ve noticed among the cool kids, is a shift to use Drive (and nested docs) in preference to Dropbox. It’s perhaps due to one thing – the ability to inherit permissions and thus make sharing both collaborative and closed documents with a knowledge network easier than ever – for those of us who are interested in using technology to drive a process, not simply read email or photograph our lunch.

Google Plus vs Alannah Myles

Remember in the 1990s, when you wanted to sell a car? To put  the ad in the paper, you had to  wait for thier photographer (or stick with paying per word). Then you sat about for the weekend in case the phone rang while playing Sonic (also 20 years old). Your ad vanished by the following week and you’d go around again.

Now you can do all of it from your iPhone for a fraction of the effort and cost, to a much bigger audience. ICT has become for more than voice, text and images. Today it enables processes that once frustrated us. However for many kids in schools – they have no idea why each day is a 1992 simulator – they don’t remember it, it’s just suits teachers and administrators. In fact, when you really think about it, school is the worlds most elaborate dark ride – a perfect simulation of a world that no longer exists outside the themepark.

The latest, evolution attempt — Google Plus –represents something more than another way to connect (or avoid it). Those who have successfully crafted the art of building productive, meaningful and voluntary networks in the last five years on Twitter (first generation) are likely to see great value in Google Plus (second generation). Which is bad news for those who ignored it.

Twitter, the water-hole of digital-educators has never been an optimal solution for an educational discourse, suffering the fundamental problem that as a public proceedural discourse driven by persuasive rhetoric.

There’s no doubt Twitter enabled many teachers to connect,  share ideas and resources in ways that were not possible before. However, Twitter has not appeared attractive to all teachers, not least due to the amount of time, effort and literacies needed to decode the activities between the multiple interests of people using it. In short, for many it’s too fast, too vague and far too public and has a very low level of adoption as a primary educational source professional practice. As little as 1% of teachers use it in this way, and yet will own an iPhone or use social-media for their personal life.

Filtering Edu-PR and Edu-Spin (EduBaconism) from substance (as Judy O’Connell called it) is a skill to be learned, and it takes years not hours to craft. Twitter is too public to be an effective process network for most educators. The newcomers don’t see the depth and the experienced use spaces outside of Twitter to get ‘the work done’ like Diigo, Ning and Google’s other Apps.

Google Plus will be attractive to experienced network builders – seeking to extend social-connectivity to those who would never have used Twitter. However, most organisations don’t have network builders, they have workers.

I don’t see the classroom changing unless the simulation does. But outside of it, there will be a great deal of change.

Google Plus presents a watershed. It allows what was once publically created, to be more privately executed. What has already started to happen is Twitter connected networked-types to move their process networks to the layer that Google Plus is creating. They are already exploring the applications and inter-interoperability that comes with it.

If your network is about productive substance (not just PR and big-noting your consultancy), then Google Plus will allow it to get even more done, even faster. This will mean that Twitter will be used increasingly purely as an aquisition tool – to promote events (that are organised via a sub-layer), to pursuade people to join sets that will largely work below the public time line. I suspect the ‘good oil’ will now appear in more private discussions.

New arrivals can’t easily access second generation Google Plus, and Twitter will give them the impression it’s 2005 still – as those that scrape it for ‘business’ tend to orbit topics and rhetoric that they have learned are effective ways to make money of what I’ve heard called ‘low-hanging fruit’.

The smart-kids can now lead their communities into a new space that doesn’t have to be observed, criticised or leeched – but can still hit the public timeline when it suits them.

So we wave farewell to Captain Obvious,  those who have networks are now building below the waterline – and you are not invited. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Google intends, but if you are interested in ‘just’ building communities and getting work done – Google Plus will be far more appealing.

Of course what is really interesting, is not the social discourse features (Twitter vs Facebook), but the fact that Google has invested heavily in Gaming and though this new social networking is set to build and deploy them. It knows that the planet likes to play. To me, Google Plus could very easily be used to create ‘serious games’ for education … but of course as soon as Google push games to their new service, the hamster-brains will no doubt ban it.

The possibilities, once again will be entirely determined by those who run the 1992 simulator. Most likely, Google Plus will be banned from the classroom. After all in 1990, they swooned over Alannah Myles, and today Black Velvet is till the new album, so keep calm and carry on.

How to make QR Codes with Google

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QR codes or Quick Response Codes are not quite new, but are increasingly visible in our daily lives.  They are quite simple to create, with many online services allowing you to make them, for example Kaywa QR Code Maker.  For those who have to know the details, here’s a more in depth look at QR Codes. I’m not a tutorial blog, so I guess you’ll figure out the step by steps – if I at least give you some starter points. What I’m really interested in here is that Google can already make QR codes.

There are lots you can do with QR codes – and I recommend a look at iCandy, which will give you lots of ideas – and ways to share your little black and wahite boxes via social networks as well as print them out. For desktop and laptop users (Windows, Linux, Mac) and for  iPhone users: i-nigma or QuickMark for Android users.

Now, I imagine naysayers and skeptics will say … “yeah but no one has a camera”, among the raft of other reasons in opposition to using them. I’m offering no response to solving that one – so I’d stick with using it yourself and just leaving the things around, see if they notice.

Think about how giving primary kids. Make some Kindy-rings. Make 10 QR codes, laminated as swing-tags. All they have to do is show them to the webcam and Ding! you’re little ones are visiting websites you want. No faffing about with them typing in a web address. Even better, they can then do a bunch of things without the teacher hovering.

This is a primitive view of what is possible – with a little creative design, you can do all sorts of games and activities with QR codes I imagine.

Did you know Google will make them for you? All you have to do is visit http://goo.gl – their URL shortner.

Add a link to your own blog (or other website) – and Ding! you’ve made a short URL. Oh, you wanted a QR code. Well, simply press details and bingo, it creates a QR code that you can save – or if you’re so hopelessly smitten with Word, just drag and drop. Here’s a link for you to try out just to show you how easy it is. Now wait a second – this get’s better – because goo.gl uses metrics – so you can see how many people are visiting (using your QR) code. So now you can see if they are going where you want – and more interestingly perhaps – when and where from.

Why kids need to write their own lyrics

Do we need tools that auto-pilot spelling etc., find things for you after a tap a few predictive letters?

Is the world ready to not make any more Dylans? I get the point of the advert – but serr105sly … when did writing your own narrative require correction. On the other hand, the video below might mean nothing to those who know who Dylan is.

5 Ways to create spectacular classrooms

I am a firm believer that asking teachers to do more with technology is the wrong approach to renewal, unless you are removing old habits, old methods and genuinely improving outcomes. In sessions I run for teachers, I believe that it’s more effective to change the culture and narrow the participation gap between autonomous and co-operative learning. By establishing a few simple norms – for spectacular results – especially in 1:1 technology situations. To achieve this, I’m proposing 3 tools, and  dropping some old approaches to get a performance gain.

1. Use reflective, self-reporting activities

The internet is a complex and diverse environment – simplify it for students. Use technologies that accurately reflect classroom activity and narrow the gap between what you want them to do and what they actually do – and save a heap of wasted or off task time. Diigo is the tool for this. Use it to model resources for students (lists); ask them to justify their own explorations (bookmark); and reflect on group learning (forums). Diigo is not a bookmarking tool! – It’s a learning management system and should be central to online learning.

2. Students must believe their choices and opinions matter

Probing questions in online spaces, allow teachers to discover student opinions; use a weekly question in your Diigo forum to ask them a probing question that allows them to express their feelings. Encourage participation by engaging in socio-centric conversation with students in the online space – as an aside from the rigor of the syllabus routine.

3. This week matters, because there’s another one following it.

Use TodaysMeet to create a simple question and answer page that expires after a week. Let them know that information is not persistent; but needs application to become knowledge. Encourage them to take turns in using it for passing notes and asking questions. Allow them to answer them and then at the end of the week, ask them to write a weekly journal entry – by asking a driving/probing question. Students are often poor a daily journal writing (you just get recounts) – make each week a process of leveling up to a Friday summit question. Base your assessments on summit questions.

4. Make authentic connections

Bring external voices to your classroom via technology, even if it as simple as using Google Chat, or finding a voice from YouTube. Locate an authentic dimension to problems. One great way to do this is to find your schools entry on Wikipedia – and make it better!

5. Build Vocabulary Bank

Each week a student is asked to find one word that relates to the week learning. Make one page in PBWorks, and ask them to add to it – alphabetically.

•    They have to give the meaning and how it relates to the discipline.

•    They should locate a web-reference of this being applied

These two actions provide continuous formative assessment of their ability to learn, comprehend and apply – digitally and conventionally.

What does this do for learning and engagement?

These 5 things, as a norm, repeated over a semester, promote socio-disciplinary learning. For the teacher it represents a very small change to promote the read write process in their learning and welcome students with a positive approach to learning with technology. Students will begin to select when and how best to use these spaces and  replace some of the tiresome activities of writing in Word, printing it out, collecting it or transferring it to flash memory or via email. Rather than think about ‘new’ ways, this appraoch blends existing, successful practices that allow technology to augment learning, keep students on task, be accountable, and interested in working online – though teacher facilitation and communication in those spaces. Doing this over and over, insisting and persisting; will create that norm – and may take several weeks to embed in student behaviour. Don’t fall into the trap that many another technology might work better – after all for the last decade, students have used little more than office automation and Google Search. Give them and yourself time to adjust and to be confident.

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The founding question

How is information organised on the internet? This seems a fair question to ask anyone using it for learning and teaching.

I imagine the answers will include ‘on websites‘,’on computers‘,’using webpages‘,’web addresses’ or perhaps ‘URLs‘. But the word we are really interested in is the one upon which 21st Century Learning hinges – organised. If I was to ask how a book organises information, a music cd or even a library – chances are the response will be narrower and more accurate. Learning and teaching is based on boundaries, discipline, frameworks and reproductive learning. We are working in attainment based assessment.

In all seriousness, if a mechanic was unable to explain how a diagnostic tool worked, then the chances of them finding or solving a problem would be slim. They might have some cognitive knowledge of the tool, but unable to maximise on benefits – or explain them to others. Application of knowledge to solve problems is more important that the cognitive understanding of the ‘tools’. Yet we focus on tools all to often.

In another approach, ask someone to ‘draw’ an organisational diagram to answer the question. The vast majority of people will draw a heiracy, and start with a box, most probably called ‘home’. They will then add nodes that demonstrate a parent-child taxonomy. It’s a fun activity in staff meetings or in class – to evaluate just how accurate their understanding is. We are so used to ‘searching’ that it often the most ‘hit’ page on a website.

We are at a watershed and need to do some self-diagnosis. As a group (class, school, organisation) do we understand how to organise digital information? Do we know where to look for it? Are we creating taxonomies that make sense? let alone creating effective scaffolds upon which students can attain knowledge? If we are creating resources which we hope other people will find … understanding how to organise information seems to be a better strategy that relying on Google’s algorithmic ability to discover it.

Before talking about shifts in education, metaphoric tools,  ‘learning’ theory, models etc, we need to understand how information is organised in the digital world. We know that ‘files’ are put in folders, stored on flash drives and hard drives. We use keywords to look for things on other computers or networks – and are likely to be offered millions of possible places to find it. We seem to accept these odds and complaints that ‘the internet is full of rubbish’.

The ‘beginning’ of relearning about ICTs is to ensure we know how to organise ‘our’ information so it can be found and shared. We need to embed baseline digital taxonomies and make sure staff and students attain this knowledge at the outset. Modelling this – though example (developing frameworks, collaboratively aggregating information etc.) from the ground up – will allow everyone to share in it’s creation and understanding. As students move from one learning situation to another, they are using a common understanding, as the curriculum is has a foundation based on understanding not exploration.

If staff and students are unclear about the answer, then this is the place to start.

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Animal Farm 2.0 – Reading and Talking in Google Docs

In my previous post, I talked about the balance and opportunity between instructional learning and inquiry (or project based learning).

My last project with Lucy Gresser in Project Based Learning at my school.

I was a real attempt at combining the two methods of learning. If you’ve not read the other posts on Animal Farm, then here’s the gist of part one of the project.

The students were charged with reading the novel in a week, in preparation for a second week of learning about creative writing. At the end of the second week, they work collaboratively to write a 7000-8000 word novel in groups of 6 in a day using Google Docs and Blurb’s Booksmart application.

These 9th grade students did not know what the second week project woud be about, whilst reading Animal Farm – but they knew it was connected somehow.

Lucy is an amazing teacher, and I’d put my kids in her charge without hesitation. She demonstrates what I think are the critical characteristics of a 21C teacher – and engages and enthuses students and uses technology fluidly to connect with students.

Part of the task, for students to select an online group – in which they would talk to a character in the book – who asks them questions – Each day, the character asks a few questions on each chapter as the student progresses – using Google Docs. The ‘teacher’ is blind to know who the teacher is online – though they do know their classroom teacher – so in effect many students online teacher was not their face to face one.

We wanted to create a feeling of a third space, in which students would undertake conversational learning. They would debate the classroom discussion online, and answer questions that we not set ahead of time. Whatever topics the students raised, the teacher expanded upon – we didn’t want the teacher to be the ‘expert’ in the conversation – so took the approach of using the various characters of the book as the students online conversational tutor.

This is a link to a PDF file of the Google Doc ‘learning’ conversation that took place over the week. The teacher comments are in green, the student’s are in black. I would really like comments on what you see going on here – in contrast to ‘instructional’ learning only.

Feedback on the approach and what you see in the document is much appreciated. How has the student reacted to online conversations, is it effective learning, do you see him grow in his understanding of the text and wider issues? How?

Thanks!