27 October 2008

Universal Tools for Global Learning

essentially the PowerPoint from my presentation at the PacRim Conference at Illinois State University yesterday...

Ubiquitous Systems, Global Education, Universal Design

I begin with what I view as the essential purposes of these new technologies:
Technologies which Disrupt…
Understandings of what “school” means.
Concepts of Ability and Disability. Not not Disability - Inability.
Systems of “Authority.” Boundaries and Borders.
Definitions of Nations and Cultures.
Roles of teachers and students.

and what those tools might do:
Universal Tools for Education
Universal ICT Tools
Shifting Control.
Enabling different paths.
Enabling different “winners.”
Expanding the universe of educational “winners.”

These tools are selected because they are:
Community-Based – Community Cognition grown from the largest, most diverse possible “community.”
Support Fluid Roles – for all participants.
Create Unfinished Artifacts – continually under development, never viewed as “finished.”
and are developed via a system of Common Property, Individual Merit – shared knowledge, new definitions of status and intellectual authority.

"They ‘occupy a hybrid, user-and-producer position which can be described usefully as that of a produser’ which can be seen to be characterised by the following: Community-Based – produsage proceeds from the assumption that the community as a whole, if sufficiently large and varied, can contribute more than a closed team of producers, however qualified they may be. Fluid Roles – produsers participate as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges; this changes as the produsage project proceeds. Unfinished Artefacts – content artefacts in produsage projects are continually under development, and therefore always unfinished; their development follows evolutionary, iterative, palimpsestic paths. Common Property, Individual Merit – contributors permit (non-commercial) community use, adaptation, and further development of their intellectual property, and are rewarded by the status capital they gain through this process. (Bruns, 2007, p. 4)" Kress, G & Pachler, N. Thinking about the ‘m’ in m-learning (2007)

These are:
Free Technologies – Using commercially based services for our own needs.
Ubiquitous Technologies – using multi-purpose commercial and/or open source systems that are already widely in use.
Collaborative Technologies – systems which allow non-hierarchical “student” relationships.
Multi-Modal Technologies – which allow for multiple representations.
Lifespan Technologies – learning technological paradigms that will support learning and communication outside of “school.”

and they operate in specific ways:
An open definition of literacy and “reading” and “writing” – “web 2.0” means students should be allowed access via whatever system works best for themselves.
Flexible Communication – multi-modal structures that allow varying participants to participate various ways.
Options – Synchronous/Asynchronous – systems which allow communication across time zones and cultures.

"In the emergent literacy view, aspects of language — both oral and written — develop concurrently rather than sequentially (Goodman, 1986). According to this view, literacy learning does not happen only in formal classroom settings, but also in informal settings, in both oral and written modes, and in collaboration and interaction with others. " Ryokai, K, Vaucelle C, and Cassell, J. Virtual peers as partners in storytelling and literacy learning

"Alternatively, novel computational paradigms, such as pervasive and ubiquitous computing, may create new possibilities for interactivity, enabling designers and technologists to create novel hybrid artefacts and environments, which combine digital and physical properties in novel ways. Consequently, this may allow new forms of learning to emerge." Hall, T and Bannon, L. Designing ubiquitous computing to enhance children's learning in museums

Google Docs
Google Calendar
Firefox plus Add-Ons
Social Networks

Cool Additions
VoiceThread (non-synchronous multi-modal conversations)
Webspiration (online visual organizer)
Ghotit (the best spellcheck system)

On-Line Text-To-Speech

Phone Speech-To-Text

Phone Text-To-Speech

Phone Text Conversion (Mobile Phone Camera)

Simple, Free Windows Text-To-Speech

Free Microsoft Office Text-To-Speech

Microsoft Reader (still a powerful, free tool)
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/pc.asp (laptop/desktop PC)
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/tablet.asp (tablet PC, with "write notes in the margins!")
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/developers/downloads/tts.asp (Text-To-Speech)
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/developers/downloads/rmr.asp (RMR, creates one-click conversions from Microsoft Word)
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/dictionaries.asp (Dictionaries)

Books for your Mobile

Audio Software for Book Creation

CLiCk-Speak for Firefox (of course)

Mobile Web Site Builders

Mobile Web Educational Tools
PollEverywhere (throw those clickers away and get true interactivity)

There is, of course, much, much, much more to say, but I only had 20 minutes.

- Ira Socol

15 October 2008

Stop Sign

What if kids could simply say, "leave me alone, I'm having a bad time (or day)"? Would that reduce the crazy classroom pressures that make things worse for so many of our kids?

Last night in the class I teach my co-teacher, Barb Meier, was leading a session in "Low-Tech AT." She brought a million things to class, from slips of colored paper to a forty-pound bag of sand, and challenged these teachers-to-be to consider all the ways they might use these tools. One group of students, holding up a strip of red paper, suggested that a student having a bad day might put it in front of them, to signal "do not disturb."

How wonderful.

I often suggest to students that there are times when they need to escape. As human animals we all have our "fight or flight" reflex. And when pressures build in the classroom, or enter the classroom with a student who has struggled with the world on the way in to school (or at home, or in the cafeteria, et al.), a kid who feels trapped is a kid who will "fight" - one way or the other.

So, I try to tell students, "escape if you have to." "Don't make a scene, just quietly slip out the door, take a walk, get a drink, relax for a bit. Get yourself under control, then come back."

And if the school goes along, this works really well. With some students I've been able to do things like designating a tree - observable from the school office. If you need to, the rule is, go to the tree - as long as you're at the tree, no one will bother you. At other times it has been a corner in the school library, or the top of the bleachers in the gym - wherever, safe, observable, out of the way.

But most schools won't go along with this. They trap students and literally back them into a corner. This not only ends up in upset, completely distracted students, it disrupts the class, and it fails to teach students a basic life skill.

So, if your school will not allow actual student escape, let's try this "stop sign" - this "do not disturb" sign. Create a simple, student controlled signal that lets students back away when they need to. No being called on, no being asked to read, no involvement in the moment's class activities.

I'm not suggesting that you allow students to do this every hour of every day without intervening, that wouldn't be responsible, and it wouldn't be human, but I am suggesting that giving students this option might help take a huge bit of pressure off, allowing students a great deal more comfort.

Because only comfortable students really engage, really learn. Uncomfortable students are using half their brain dealing with the discomfort.

- Ira Socol