Saturday, January 4, 2014
Like any parent,I enjoy my kid’s engaging with an educational app assuming that it is useful and that it helps my kid comprehend a new concept. Although I see great benefits in the child’s engagement with an educational app, I have a conviction that the app alone won’t help the child understand concepts or prevent the child from developing “misconceptions”. The child needs a more competent person to guide and explain concepts guarding the child from incorporating misconceptions by observing nuances in the child’s behavior during his play that the app won’t recognize. Of course, if the educational app is well designed based on pedagogical models that work, the app would incorporate a tutor and/or tutee. that would take into account all misconceptions that children might develop. However, if one looks at all the educational apps, only few are designed and developed based on proven pedagogical models.
First, to explain my point, let me tell you about on instance with my child that prompted a parent’s attention to rectify a possible misconception. We have proudly downloaded a Math application for kids that we thought it was “WOW” because of the graphic, the human-screen interactivity, and the feedback for the kid’s responses. This particular app helps the child in counting to 10 using his fingers. The child would typically press and hold a finger or more and the app will display visually and auditory the number of fingers held on screen.
At first our child scarcely knew how to use the application and what it did. Eventually, after a few tries, he gave up. Later that night however, when he felt he was alone, he picked up his iPad and started playing with the Math app. First, he watched an embedded video demo on how to use the app and after 4 views he started to get the idea behind it. Then, delighted that he figured it out, he started pressing and holding his fingers enjoying the audio and visual display on the number of fingers that are in contact with the screen. I was delighted at first, observing him from behind. I however, observed, as he went along with his play, that he pressed his thumb to get a “1” feedback then he took his thumb off and pressed and held his index finger expecting a no. “2” but got a “1” feedback instead. Then, he pressed his middle finger, expecting a “3” feedback but again got a “1” instead. He was ambivalent on how if he pressed two his thumb he would get a “1” and then, with the thumb pressed on the screen, he would use his index too and would get a “2”, but won’t get a “2” if the index is pressed alone. He started looking at his index finger as if it were a no. “2” alone and at his middle finger as if it were no. “3” alone.
I had to intervene at this point to explain to him the concept and how to think about numbers and fingers. Only then he understood the relationship between numbers and counting on fingers.
These subtleties can never be detected by apps, at least those that are not designed based on learning theories, and the child needs a more knowledgeable “person” to help the child to reach his “zone of proximal development”. Parents should also go beyond the “WOW” factor of the app and explore whether it does help their child understand a concept. Most importantly parents should be present with their child noting observable learning or mislearning and rectify errors in a timely manner.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
It’s been more than 8 years since I started using technology in the classroom. Ever since then technology has drastically and rapidly evolved concurrently with how I used it to support student learning. However, there was a pattern I have noticed in our students which is that they are technology comfy but not technology savvy. Throughout my years as a teacher and then senior teacher, edtech specialist and teacher trainer I have noticed that not only teachers lack the necessary knowledge base into incorporating technology into their content and pedagogy (TPACK deficit), students too are not aware and not well prepared to use technology to support their learning.
Across all student ages, nationalities, and academic abilities there are but a few students who use technology in support for their own learning. This is chiefly due to lack of integration between ICT subject and other subjects, lack of understanding on part of the teacher on the importance of technology to help students solve problems, communicate, and collaborate, and students’ lack of motivation to use it in their learning process unless prompted.
I recall once teaching a Grade 12 class a course in conducting research. I was helping them with tutorials on how to use automated referencing system, Zotero or Mendeley, whilst writing their study report. They asked me a lot of questions that I was startled by because I assumed that they should know about, like : How do we insert page numbers into Microsoft Word? or How do we double space lines? , How do we do graphs in Excel?
A Grade 11 class I was teaching in Literature had to produce a poster as part of their assignment. They did not actually know that Microsoft Publisher existed or that it came as part of Microsoft Office package that they have installed on their computers.
The idea is that students are not aware that these tools exist and have never explored nor used them to solve problems. The other issue is that teachers have never asked them to use tools to help them with their assignments. However, once everything is in place, tutorial videos are given and guidelines of accepted practice are set , students rapidly start developing sense of urgency and the need to figure out how to work with the tool. This is a great thing ; however, it has a steep learning curve because instead of focusing on completing the task, students are preoccupied with figuring out how to use the features.
The solution? A system’s approach of integrating technology in education. There should be a real plan into adopting particular tools into teaching and learning. Such an integration should happen horizontally and vertically to ensure students of all ages and across all disciplines have equitable access to and opportunity in using technology in their learning process.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
I’ve been asked lately by some teachers to share with them a list of platforms that offer MOOCs. It is great to see that teachers are gaining interest and realizing that learning is a lifelong process that, with the help of technology, can happened anytime, anywhere. Some of the MOOCs I list below are offered by outstanding universities around the globe, other ,however, are not well known, but are worth the look.
- Coursera is the top MOOC platform offering hundreds of courses from top universities in the world. Courses encompass everything you can think of. However, teachers and educators might be interested in these courses. A typical course would include : short video lectures, discussion forums, weekly assignments and deadlines, and a final test. The courses vary in duration and requirements depending on the course type and the university offering it. Some courses that I have undertaken were outstanding, others however were a not so worth the effort and time, and I had to drop out because of the boring online lectures.
- Edx is another MOOC platform offered by Harvard, MIT and University of California Berkley, among others. Courses are worth taking as they are offered by Ivy league universities. However, the courses are limited in scope, mainly focusing on computer science, electronics, and sciences.
- Novoed MOOC platform is offered by Stanford university. The courses are great. I have taken two courses myself “Designing a New learning Environment” and “ A Crash Course on Creativity”. The course on Designing a new Learning Environment was outstanding as it followed a PBL approach and we had to assemble a team for the final project assignment. Novoed however is mainly geared towards Entrepreneurship and technology courses.
- Canvas.net is another MOOC platform with courses offered by great universities. I have taken a course “Learning Analytics” offered by George Siemens, the professor who offered the first MOOC in the world. His approach was a connectivist approach, dispersing knowledge among many social media platforms.
- Udemy is an other interesting MOOC platform ;however, many of its courses have a low fee. The courses are offered by either university professors or professionals.
- Future Learn is UK’s earnest endeavor in entering MOOCs domain dominated by US terrain.
- Openlearn is offered by Open University
- Alison Courses is yet another not well known MOOC.Initiated in Ireland, this MOOC platform offers many online courses for free mainly for soft skills. All courses are for free, but if you wish to take out the ads you need to pay a small fee. There is also a group management account if you are intending to give courses to your employees or students so that you are able to manage their accounts and track their progress.
- DS106 Do you love digital storytelling? Do you want to know how to use it in real life and in the classroom? Then this unconventional MOOC might be worth the look.
Digital Storytelling (also affectionately known as ds106) is an open, online course that happens at various times throughout the year at the University of Mary Washington… but you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. This course is free to anyone who wants to take it, and the only requirements are a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Some three years ago I posted a Bloom’s updated digital taxonomy interactive wheel. It gained a lot of traction among the blogosphere back then, but then it was lost in cyberspace due to many glitches on the website. In this post, I am republishing the interactive wheel of Bloom’s digital taxonomy with the overarching knowledge domains. I am also adding another interactive Bloom’s triangle.
Note that the two interactive instances are in flash, and so will not work on mobile phones. I will do my best to republish them in html5. But until then here they are ! Click on the images below to view them.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
One of the best features of Google Docs is that teachers can comment on students’ essays by highlighting the selected text and giving textual commentary. Students can in turn comment back on their teacher’s comment, making it a great formative feedback for essay writing. It does not only kill the red ink annotations, which are a real annoyance to students, but also targets the intended selection to comment on in an organized manner.
However, if teachers want to take formative feedback to new levels of personalized feedback, a voice feedback would be a great solution.
This is what Kaizena actually does, and more. Kaizena is a voice commentary online application that integrates fully with Google Drive to maintain the smooth workflow. You don’t even have to go to Kaizena website to install it. It works much like the Google Docs commentary but instead of textual commentary in the highlighted essay section, you include a voice commentary. Kaizena also supports text commentary and highlighting options, but its stellar feature is voice commentary.
To open the students’ Google Document using Kaizena for the first time you need to associate your Google Drive documents to open with Kaizena App.
From within the Google Drive, click on Create and then click on “Connect More Apps”. You will get a pop up window with many apps to choose from. Search for “Kaizena” and then install.
To open your students’ documents via Kaizena, right click on any student’s document and then choose “ Open with” and then choose “Kaizena”. This will open the student’s Document in Kaizena. From there it is very easy to insert voice comments.
However, make sure that you ask your students to also connect Kaizena App to their Google Drive and to open their documents similar to the way you did.
What do you think of voice comments? Do you think it adds a personalized dimension of essay feedback? What are the effects on students’ noticing using sound instead of text. I haven’t found much conclusive studies on this, but they suggest that students tend to notice their errors more and are more inclined to revise their essays. I believe it is perhaps related to the psychological closeness that it creates between the teacher and his students.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
You’ve seen them everywhere, in malls, supermarket, on Pepsi cans and pizza cartons. QR codes hold double information more than a barcode. Therefore, they can hold a text, web link, contact address etc. In the past two years, educators have been finding interesting ways in integrate QR codes in their teaching practice. For example, have a look at the 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to Support learning. Using QR codes stimulates students’ interests in ways you could never imagine possible. It gets them moving around the classroom and in school premises with exploration and anticipation in their minds.
When used with mobile dictionaries, QR codes can help students effectively learn and recycle vocabulary words . My reflection on one of my lessons using QR codes and mobile dictionaries is that they resulted in more vocabulary retention, motivation, and autonomy.
The lesson was a revision of vocabulary clusters (lexical sets) the students have acquired the previous academic year. One of the aims of the lesson was to recycle the students’ vocabulary before the sit for SAT.
You can download the lesson package to help you design your vocabulary lesson using QR codes and mobile dictionaries. (Click “file” then “download” to download the zip file)
Below is a slideshow of my students scanning QR code in the hallway, writing down the vocabulary, using mobile dictionaries to define the words, and then clustering them (dividing them into lexical sets).
What do you think of mobile learning using QR codes and mobile dictionaries so far? Do they hold promising potentials for student learning?
Friday, March 2, 2012
Today I had the privilege to attend a so-called workshop on Teacher Anger Management. The presenter holds a PhD in educational psychology and has been conducting workshops and training sessions for many years. What made the workshop unusually tedious and droning was how the presenter used PowerPoint as a tool to replace him. I mean, here is a PhD holder in educational psychology and an experienced teacher trainer, yet he does not have any clue on effective presentation, regardless of the presence of a visual aid such as the PowerPoint. He clearly didn’t have a clue on the basics of multimedia theories and practices. If he had ever read anything in terms of working memory and long term memory and the effect of the verbal and visual channels on the attendees’ minds, he would’ve definitely revamped his presentation and restructured his workshop. At the end of the workshop, teachers said that they learned one important thing from the workshop: Not to use this type of PowerPoint presentation with their students (At least they learned something !!)
There I was with dozens of other teachers reading aloud words packed and squeezed on all slides of the PowerPoint to all participants because the trainer wanted it to be an “interactive lecture” where the participants interacted [with the content, trainer, themselves? Not sure really!]. I lost interest from the first 10 minutes of the four-hour workshop, and continued this way the whole time!!!
So what do we have here? A presenter/trainer uses a PowerPoint to replace him (He could’ve just emailed us the PowerPoint and saved us a lot of anger). Bad PowerPoint presentations are found everywhere, in the classrooms, lecture rooms, business section, etc., and the audience/participants have to endure “Death by PowerPoint”.
In the 21century, literacy and communication are not the ability to read and communicate through words only. The ability to use the combination of verbal and visual modes effectively to engage your listeners is a have-to-have skill in this digital-visual age.
Thankfully, there are many multimedia theories that we can refer to help us on integrating audio and visual components.
Many professional presenters engage their audience by using PowerPoint as a visual aid, not more. This means that PowerPoint should be mainly images and metaphors with only keywords of the presenter’s points. In fact, most professional presenters use storyboarding to guide their presentations (But this is another story, for another post perhaps) . Below are two great Slideshows on how to avoid bad PowerPoint presentations. Please note that some of texts on the slides are intentionally added because these are stand-alone slideshows (that is, there is no presenter).
Death by PowerPoint by Alexei Kaptere
This outstanding slideshow depicts bad PowerPoint presentations and how to fight dying by PowerPoint.
Dodging Bullet Points
This slideshow also presents what is meant by a bad PowerPoint presentation and how to avoid using bullets that would shoot and kill your audience due to boredom.
Here Are Some Links to Improve Your PowerPoint Presentation
- Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points Blog is a great source of information (see links to books below).
- Nancy Duarte's blog has some great advices and tips on great presentations.
- Garr Reynolds's Blog Presentation Zen on professional presentations has some outstanding content on how to reinvent presentations.
Want to Read Some Great Books on PowerPoint Presentation and Design?
- Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points will
Unlock the amazing story buried in your presentation—and forget boring, bullet-point-riddled slides forever! Guided by communications expert Cliff Atkinson, you’ll walk you through an innovative, three-step methodology for increasing the impact of your presentation. Discover how to combine classic storytelling techniques with the power of visual media to create a rich, engaging experience with your audience. Fully updated for PowerPoint 2010, and featuring compelling presentation examples from classroom to boardroom, this book will help transform your presentations—and your business impact!
- Nancy Durate’s book Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations is another great book that you should read if you are keen on revamping your presentations.
No matter where you are on the organizational ladder, the odds are high that you've delivered a high-stakes presentation to your peers, your boss, your customers, or the general public. Presentation software is one of the few tools that requires professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void.
Presentation designer and internationally acclaimed communications expert Garr Reynolds, creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net — presentationzen.com — shares his experience in a provocative mix of illumination, inspiration, education, and guidance that will change the way you think about making presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote. Presentation Zen challenges the conventional wisdom of making "slide presentations" in today’s world and encourages you to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of your presentations. Garr shares lessons and perspectives that draw upon practical advice from the fields of communication and business. Combining solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity, this book will help you along the path to simpler, more effective presentations.
All the links and books above use cognitive theory of multimedia learning and findings of cognitive science and neuroscience research in guiding the writings and how-tos. In later posts I will share with you, in details, some multimedia theories and how these can be put into practice to produce stunning presentations that capture the audiences’ minds and hearts through the careful design and mix of the verbal and the visual.
Implications for Teacher-led Classroom Presentation
Many ideas can be extrapolated from the above discussion and links. I would like to leave this part for you to comment on. What do you think are the implications for teacher-led classroom presentation would be? How can teachers redesign their PowerPoint presentations to engage their students and gain their interest instead of boring them to death?
Thursday, March 1, 2012
The internet abound with videos for educators, some contextual and benefit educators in particular situations at a particular time (e.g. tools tutorials) while others are timeless by focusing on what really matters in education.
Below are 10 videos that every educator should watch and reflect on his teaching context.
Changing Education Paradigms: Sir Ken Robinson (an adapted animation)
In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools' dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.
2. Five Ways to Listen Better: Julian Treasure
In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, "We are losing our listening." In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening -- to other people and the world around you.
3. The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us : Dan Pink
This lively RSAnimate, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.
4. Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding ( Three Parts)
"Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding" is a 19-minute award-winning short-film about teaching at university and higher-level educational institutions.
It is based on the "Constructive Alignment" theory developed by Prof. John Biggs.
The film delivers a foundation for understanding what a teacher needs to do in order to make sure all types of students actually learn what the teacher intends.
5. Arthur Benjamin’s Formula for Changing Math Education
Someone always asks the math teacher, "Am I going to use calculus in real life?" And for most of us, says Arthur Benjamin, the answer is no. He offers a bold proposal on how to make math education relevant in the digital age.
6. What Adults Can Learn from Kids : Adora Svitak
Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs "childish" thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids' big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups' willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.
7. Gaming to Re-engage Boys in learning: Ali Carr-Chilman
Ali Carr-Chellman pinpoints three reasons boys are tuning out of school in droves, and lays out her bold plan to re-engage them: bringing their culture into the classroom, with new rules that let boys be boys, and video games that teach as well as entertain.
8. Teaching Kids Real Math with Computers: Conrad Wolfram
From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity's most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach -- calculation by hand -- isn't just tedious, it's mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.
9. Schools Kill Creativity: Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
10. Bring on the Learning Revolution: Ken Robinson
In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.