Use your back channel

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I read Mike Bogle’s post about Holistic Blogging today, where he talks about writing from the social, emotional and intellectual perspective. In it he says ” Exploring and cultivating network connections is a holistic activity that should encompass all three spheres“. In higher education, we seem so focused on references and evidence – getting the essay technically ‘right’ and balanced, that students often struggle with social and emotional perspectives in formal writing. I was then thinking about ‘the lecture’ and ‘the tutorial’ and wondered if some simple tools can provide that holistic link, and allow students to engage and reflect better and promote, as Mike says “potential growth of the network, and the activities that may be engaged in by or with peers”

Many lecturers choose to stand behind the lectern and talk to students, some will use a clicker for power point or overhead projector (I swear acetate has a half-life akin to toxic waste) or write on the board. A stint in high school, gives most young people that ‘dead pan’ look needed to be invisible, so looking at them is no real measure of engagement or understanding. Most are busy writing it down in case they need some day, and too absorbed in note-taking to respond with more than a smile as glance up from the jotter for a second. It is usually a small few that engage in open discussion and really hard to then take that limited discussion online to include students who are not actually in the lecture or tutorial. We archive lectures, and are a long way from ‘live’ broadcasting (mentally speaking, technically its a piece of cake).  There is often little opportunity for socially constructed meaning, though discussion though emotional, social and intellect in the lecture format.

Embrace your back channel, with simple tools.

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One way to be more ‘holistic’ is to say you are going to be! Don’t assume students will pick up on subltle suggestion. Be explicit. This can be achieved is to publicise that you want it ‘live’ participants – and that your presentation is not just a ‘lecture’ – which by it’s implication is not a two way interchange – but offers a ‘back channel’ of lively discussion. This not only works for lectures, but can be employed in the staff meetings, tutorials and workshops – no everyone will use it, but that is not reason not to give it a go, remember most people ‘spectate’ in social networks – but they are engaging with the content.

Todays Meeting  (http://todaysmeet.com/)

Embrace the back-channel. A quick, easy and really useful technology that anyone with proficiency in using car door handles can use. They say “Encourage the room to use the live stream to make comments, ask questions, and use that feedback to tailor your presentation, sharpen your points, and address audience needs.” This is light enough in data to operate via a mobile phone too.

TinyChat (http://www.tinychat.com)

Yes it’s a chat room, but as it generates a random URL and moderated by YOU it’s hardly an viable avenue for stalkers or identity thieves. The slick part of this fast application, is it’s ability to SAVE the chat. Yes, seem obvious, but not all include this.

Chatzy (http://www.chatzy.com/)

Popular with the ‘old school’, this again allows quick and easy communication. It also have ‘virtual’ rooms – where more ‘lock down’ invites/passwords can be employed to enter.

Youth Online have grown up on chat channels and will allow them to ‘talk’ about you – the back-channel – and allow you to talk back in real time. It is not distracting, but enriching – as now you have a two way interchange and connection. Most of those who don’t like the idea, really just prefer to dump content and run – this is engagement, and a skill well worth learning.

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Hulu to the future?

I haven’t done an ‘I wonder’ post for a while, but a few things I’ve read this week lead me to wonder about what creates change, not just in school – but in our beliefs.

Few people will not have heard of the ABC or Disney. But what about Hulu? What if I was to say that Hulu is a TV channel that ABC and Disney have decided is a brand that they cannot effectively compete with, so is negotiating to work with in the future. “Disney made a bet three years ago that the strength of its ABC and Disney brands would be enough to attract online viewers, and so it chose not to participate in Hulu during its launch”. Is there any alignment here with the position that education systems are taking?, are they holding out that they would continue to attract students due to their heritage, should there be some alternate. What is amazing with stories like this is the speed at which millions of people move to new spaces and how powerless traditional media channels are in preventing it. With so much content heading to the web, and even CBBC focusing on their online delivery as a primary activity, with TV secondary, ending long running shows – as “children no longer saw themselves as exclusively schoolchildren”.

Content on mobile phones and netbooks used to be on the lounge room television. Increasing lower costs access to wifi with pre-paid and 3G wifi will sweep away metropolitan broadband ADSL, as more people lower home-consumption in favour of greater mobile. Mobile learning, with high quality content will increase as organisations like the BBC focus their attention on it’s development and delivery.

How will this affect students? Now they won’t need ‘your’ network or ‘your connection’, and will be sharing net access though informal, add-hock networking, using 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. 3G dongles look just like USB drives, but do remarkably more. Once they wanted SMS credit, now they want’web credit’. I see dozens of high school students on my trip from the Central Coast using mobile internet on their phones. They are not just texting, but emailing and chatting in IRC with Skype, and this is a big motivator for teens to have ‘smart phones‘. In fact now you send a txt message to get the URL of internet content. We are seeing TV increasingly interested in ‘virtual worlds’ and ‘online games’. A solo experience or game, as an add on for traditional TV and film marketing, is no longer enough.Advertisers know that we are connecting to each other, more than their messages, and know that social media is where their customers are – online and mobile.

New pre-school entertainment comes with ‘virtual world’ connections.- as they are painfully aware how tomorrows media-consumer is motivated. Anything that was on TV is now on your mobile – and more than likely connected to a massive mutliplayer environment. Few teachers are even beginning to think abut how this is going to impact them in the next 5 years. Much of the operational instruction we used to provide – such as information literacy and ‘computer mastery’ is being taught by online avatars and popular culture websites.

source: news.com.au

source: news.com.au

Students in Grange Hill in the late 70s, experienced classrooms and process of learning that has changed little in over 30 years. Yet the students in them are increasingly there because of ‘tenue’, and not motivation. We have more strategic, surface learners that deep, life long learners.

What do we have to do to ensure that ‘schools’ are the best ‘channel’ for learning? It seems entirely possible that something could appear in education from an unconventional quarter. It is happening everywhere else, ask the Mouse, who has several ‘virtual magic kingdoms’. If encumbent, successful, organisations are being unseated from their traditional markets, will they education be seen as an opportunity? Will the slow change and lack of central government investment see schools being commercialised? Well maybe, it’s here already with McDonalds, free online software for schools. The media was fixated with facile ‘McSchool’ jokes, or if burgers would be advertised, once again showing how out of step they are with reality. Of course McDonalds software is FREE – it’s online, and online is predominently ‘free’. A paid model is not how it works anymore. We have Google ‘educators’ already, and Apple have been claiming ‘Apple Schools’ for years.

I wonder how near we really are to the Florida Virtual High School, If the AIS and Catholic Education Offices are talking to McDonalds, and therefore parents are accepting commerical, third party teaching input, then can parents and students opt to study Anchient History in a commerically funded Teen Second Life’ class. Does software have to be ‘linear’, given that some of the most innovative learning environements in Australia are ones in which, as Will Richardson observes “the kids are driving the learning, from the design of the school and the curriculum to the decision making around school policy and more”. Policy is therefore central to the debate. We have ‘outcomes’ prescribed by the Board of Studies, and assessments are guided by policy compliance and the HSC summative examination.

If a parent wants their child to do well, and there is an alternate offering – online, mobile or virtual – then the central issue is about ‘tenure’. Students are required to be at school. I’d like think they ‘attend learning’, through effective activities, guided by outcomes and assessment  (attendance, may be an outcome/assessment btw). This is not so futuristic. In China, thousands of students attend class via mobile phone as well as online webinar.

In an atomised way, the elements of negotiated learning, mobile learning and virtualised learning are there – together with an economic imperative for large organisations to re-position themselves and find new opportunities. It’s not going to happen tomorrow – but at the same time, I wonder if the ‘shifts’ for learning will actually come from the education sector leadership – or from more motivated commercial enterprise.

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Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING

blockedlearning

Just send an email!

blockedlearning@gmail.com
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at http://blockedlearning.posterous.com and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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