Postsecondary Literacy: Context and Content Matter

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 1:45 pm on Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theoretical research models and best practices approaches exist in all education domains to assist teachers in their endeavors to better prepare students for college and life beyond school.  As such, while there are a plethora of frameworks, models, and theories to consult, one area of research I would like to see more emphasized and more explored qualitatively is in the area of postsecondary content literacy. A quote by John Naisbitt, a prominent American writer, captures this ideological dilemma best saying, “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”  When I think of the developmental students sitting in my classroom today, many of them have a lot of information available to them at their fingertips, but they lack the knowledge to truly understand or analyze content that will help them properly decode information in useful and contextualized ways.

In an article recently published in the Journal of Developmental Education, Paulsen & Armstrong (2010) contend, “the development of a unifying, comprehensive theoretical grounding for the field would provide such a cohesive framework and would tie together important aspects of postsecondary literacy education”(p.6), which they expand upon by stating emphasis needs to be placed upon coherence in theory, terminology, and teacher preparation.  Using this article as a springboard, I would agree that specific studies conducted in these relevant areas would shed more light upon postsecondary literacy issues, as well as provide a format for tackling college readiness concerns.  This, of course, is not to say that research has not been done in this area, but many current scholars of literacy today would agree that more should be done, as evidenced by Chung’s (2005) remark that there exists a “lack of an overreaching, authentic, common theoretical framework that developmental educators can and want to call their own”(p.4).

Literacy, as an umbrella issue at all levels of educational reform, informs all pedagogical and andragogical approaches, so teachers who recognize the significance of contextualized experiences also recognize the moral imperative that teaching content is teaching literacy.  This is especially true in postsecondary environments, so when students transfer from high school to college, perhaps the issue to consider is not whether they are statistically “underprepared,” but rather are they disproportionally “misprepared”(Paulsen & Armstrong, 2010)?  Moreover, should college professors be legitimately concerned with who is responsible for the mispreparedness, or should they be concerned about their own pedagogical processes and techniques as a means to make sure they are combating the problem and not adding to it?  The answer, of course, is both.  However, very little research has been done to really understand the transitional literacy learner in postsecondary institutions, and if it does exist, much of the data is inconclusive, so how does one even begin to tackle such an omnipresent issue?

One solution is deciding upon and following a coherent framework that all content level teachers can utilize, not just developmental departments or instructors.  For example, if every college instructor at Waubonsee Community College embedded Wineburg’s (1998) three processes of corroboration, sourcing, and contextualization into his or her classroom, would that make a measureable difference in improving the literacy skills of transitioning students?  I would argue probably so, but data would have to inform and support such a hypothesis, and clearly staff, teachers, and administrators would have to buy-in to the process in order for the intervention to be truly effective.  Realistically it is a place to start, but idealistically it is harder to convince large groups of people, teachers and students alike, to think differently if very few of them recognize the importance of self-motivation or see themselves integrally connected to their academic and social environments.  So, here exists a leadership challenge as well.

Something to consider also is that while embedding literacy strategies into content classrooms helps to improve students’ overall literacy skills, by themselves they are not effective without a predominant theory or context to link them to.  One report that I think is useful for all college teachers to read is the “Final Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy.”  This report compares how traditional secondary schools and exemplary secondary schools think about and treat issues with regards to school culture, student information, differentiation, content literacy, and professional development to name a few.  One distinction of note, in my opinion, is in the content literacy section where the authors list two qualities that differentiate a normal high school from an exemplary high school: 1.) Literacy is embedded in classroom instruction and is considered a normal part of instruction, and 2.) Students are not aware that they are receiving literacy instruction (Table 1, pps. 4-5).  How cool would it be if traditional community colleges adopted the same philosophy, and then created a data warehouse to track how students were performing in these relevant areas?  For a community college like Waubonsee, a learning-centered college in particular, this type of research would be invaluable in terms of holistically supporting all transitional students.  Not only would instructors be triaging all levels of student learning, but also they would be ensuring that the next transition level from community college to university would be much smoother academically as well as socially.

I have to agree with Paulsen and Armstrong (2010) that classrooms built around “sociocultural and situated cognitive perspectives that view literacies as complex, dynamic social practices embedded in specific purposes” are the right way to tackle the literacy problem that exists in postsecondary institutions today.  With the advent of technology, as well, “the single textbook paradigm is gradually being overshadowed by an intertextual environment”(Hodges, Simpson & Stahl, 2012, p.25) and more importantly digital literacy is going to become the norm in college classrooms rather than the exception.  Pathway programs or developmental classrooms are where these issues are typically and currently addressed, but in order for educational institutions to become even more effective in helping address the college readiness gap, a teaching shift toward a common theory, a common research-based foundation, and a common assessment process is desperately warranted.

References

Carnegie Corporation of New, Y. (2011). Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success. Final Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy. Carnegie Corporation Of New York.

Hodges, R., Simpson, M. L., & Stahl, N. A. (Eds.). (2012). Teaching study strategies in developmental education: Readings on theory, research, and best practice. Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin’s.

Naisbitt, J. (2012). John naisbitt quotes. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_naisbitt.html

Paulson, E. J., & Armstrong, S. L. (2010). Postsecondary Literacy: Coherence in Theory, Terminology, and Teacher Preparation. Journal Of Developmental Education33(3), 4-6.

Only Time Will Tell: How Will Emergent Technology Impact Learning?

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 10:45 pm on Thursday, October 25, 2012

Emerging technologies are everywhere, and as such, Ribble’s (2010) nine themes for navigating the world of digital citizenship are going to eventually become the norm rather than the exception for students engaged in learning through the use of technology.  In addition, Richardson’s (2012) statement about “developing students who can flourish in the networked personal learning spaces that they will inhabit the rest of their lives”(p.149) clearly shows the impact this technology has on learning at every level. Having considered these ideas in context to what I do specifically in my teaching career, and having reviewed the emerging technology blogs of my Walden colleagues, I have chosen to focus on two technological tools related to digital literacy: the Apple Ipad and Google Digital Literacy Tour.

Alex posted a blog about the evolving use of Ipads and Kindles in the classroom.  I own both, and while I consider myself to be a fairly savvy user, I have strangely yet to use these in a more academic setting or environment.  As it stands right now, I am more of a social user, but I can definitely see the value that these technologies can bring to a classroom, especially so in a classroom such as mine where I am dealing with students learning basic reading and writing skills.  Once more, the idea that “learners must be taught to learn anything, anytime, anywhere,” is also important to consider for my level of learners because unless students are motivated, they will choose to drop out of college before they have even really given it a chance.  So, one way I can see myself using Ipads or Kindles in my classroom is related to the portfolios I require students to complete at the end of the course.  If I can get a grant that allows my students to use them for creating digital portfolios (or e-portfolios), I’d be able to teach writing as well as grammar concepts.  Also, having my own Ipad is good because I can use it as a presentation tool, which I do on occasion, but because my technology access is limited in certain rooms around campus, I don’t have the large-scale ability to use them regularly for lectures or flipping the classroom scenarios.

On a completely different level, Ella’s blog about Google Digital Literacy Tour was actually very helpful to me, and I wish I would have had someone point out this resource to me much sooner when I was a high school teacher, because it would have helped immensely in teaching students how to research online and analyze various forms of digital text.  The more advanced and interactive online text becomes, the more difficulty I see ahead for students to properly understand citing sources or tracing original ideas back to their beginnings.  Just having the internet available 24/7 has changed how people research, including myself, and even I do not understand how it all works. That said, I could see this being useful in my contextualized courses because many students have to use different formatting platforms, not to mention subject-matter might also vary, so knowing what rules apply for what environments on the internet makes perfect sense.  It’s almost like this tool would work well in a unit on study skills or successful strategies for college.  Either way, professional development for me in this arena is unavoidable.

As I mentioned in a previous discussion, digital literacy is central to understanding the role students will play (or more so avoid) in their individual quests for knowledge.  In many cases, I think it will mean becoming life-long learners.  For me particularly so, and for my teaching colleagues, this is likely to be the case also.  Richardson (2010) appropriately states, “the explosion of information and online technologies demands a more complex definition of what it means to be literate”(p. 148), and I am inclined to agree with him.  However, I do wonder what this is going to specifically look like for literate readers of the future, particularly post-secondary adult learners coming into the college arena already at a disadvantage with basic reading and writing skills. I guess only time will tell…

References

Ribble, M. (n.d.). Nine elements: Nine themes of digital citizenship. Retrieved May 30, 2012, from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

 

“Does What Happens in Vegas Stay on Facebook?” – Internet Ethics and Netiquette

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 7:31 pm on Saturday, October 20, 2012

Participating in the online world means having to follow completely different rules than traditional etiquette would decree.  Respectful behavior should be the norm for any user, but even knowing what that is under particular circumstances isn’t always clear.  In the early days of the internet, what I fondly refer to as “my BBS years,” I was introduced to the basics about netiquette and online behavior.  For example, you never, ever, ever typed “salt water” in online chats, USED CAPS EXCLUSIVELY IN TYPED CONVERSATIONS UNLESS YOU WANTED PEOPLE TO THINK YOU WERE YELLING AT THEM, nor did you flame users with repeated phrases or derogatory statements unless you wanted to get kicked off the server.

Twenty years or so later, these rules still apply.  Regular technology users, or internet geeks more specifically, are usually the ones to enforce these policies outside of the education or college arena, as Roblyer & Doering (2010) confirm, “Netiquette usually is enforced by fellow users who are quick to point out infractions of netiquette rules.”  Some rules are more enforced than others, but overall most users can find their way around netiquette by asking specific questions of members or moderators on websites.  This is perhaps most notable on social websites like Facebook or MySpace.  And while netiquette is always first and foremost an important element of digital literacy expectations, digital ethics is always a concern as well.

Two websites that seem to focus well on issues concerning netiquette and digital ethics are: http://www.networketiquette.net and http://digitalethics.org/.

The Network Etiquette website (www.networketiquette.net) is a fabulous resource for anyone to explore and utilize.  On the left side of the page is a comprehensive list of links to rules and online environments from social networking sites to operating systems to mobile devices.  Once a link is chosen, a rule page with suggestions will pop up on left side of the screen, so it is easy to transition between multiple platforms.  In addition, the website has menus on the top that address other areas such as business and education.  Of particular note is the one called “Safety,” which is ideal for parents or educators who want to make sure their children know the right protocols for using specific devices.

In reference to digital ethics, Loyola University hosts the second website on the list: The Center for Digital Ethics and Policy (www.digitalethics.org), which features reviews, essays, resources and events related to digital communication.  For example, in the resources section are numerous links to best practices and global initiatives.  In addition, there are many essays on topics such as copyright issues, faking photos, and online versus real life communities.  This site is a must see for any college student who is taking a course in ethics or considering a degree in politics or law.

                                                                        References

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Netiquette: Rules of behavior on the Internet. Retrieved fromhttp://www.education.com/reference/article/netiquette-rules-behavior-internet/

 

 

“Involve Me and I Learn” – Mixing The Traditional Classroom and Distance Education

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 12:53 pm on Saturday, October 13, 2012

What does it mean to be a learner of the twenty-first century?  Are we any different as learners today than we were hundreds or even thousands of years ago when we first decided it was important to take on challenging, mental experiences?  Ben Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  When I look at Franklin’s perspective on learning, the two key words that stand out the most for me are “involve me.”  Learners who are involved tend to be learners who are usually intrinsically motivated and personally engaged.  So, how does a teacher go about “involving” learners in a lesson, curriculum, or course of right action?  Inside of the traditional classroom, there are many approaches, but what about outside of the classroom?  How do we get our students to engage in learning when we are not there to necessarily guide the process?  Perhaps the answer lies in the form of distance learning.

Distance learning is nothing new.  It has been around for quite awhile, but with the advent of the Internet and World Wide Web, it has become more accessible and more flexible than ever before.  For academic institutions, pre and post secondary level, “Basic education is the very foundation upon which a nation’s future rests”(Lai et al., 2011, p.1).  The ability to extend education out to the masses, much like the printing press did in the early fifteenth century, is absolutely integral to reaching and creating a globally educated populace of capable learners.  Distance learning, by its very nature is certainly a more cost effective, flexible, and manageable way to educate people.  In addition, it acts as a bridge to traditional knowledge platforms because it helps to connect them to additional resources they might need in order to make informed, accurate, and sound decisions on a day-to-day basis.

With this idea in mind, it is my contention that teachers who are looking to diversify curricula should consider incorporating forms of distance learning into part of their traditional classrooms. Starting points for creating a basic mixed platform of teaching and distance learning using the World Wide Web would be to explore the two free online platforms of Aplia (www.aplia.com) and Claroline (www.claroline.net).

Aplia’s motto is simply stated as “engage, prepare, educate.”  Their mission centers entirely on the concept of student engagement.  Because student motivation and engagement are related, it is pertinent to consider the point that “motivation is not a one-dimensional trait, but is complex, multi-faceted, and influenced by both person and context”(Hartnett, St. George, & Dron, 2011, p.31).  As such, Aplia’s platform offers many demos and interactive exercises in a variety of class subjects ranging from Accounting to Statistics to Philosophy.  Since I teach developmental education courses, I was immediately drawn to the “College Success” and “Developmental English” course modules.  One of the units in the “College Success” module is based on principles taken from John Branford’s How People Learn text, which delineates the connection between challenges, reactions, insights and actions.  When I took one of the interactive exercises, for example, on whether or not a particular student was motivated to make the right decision about a college plan of study, the program reviewed my answers, game me critical feedback, and asked me to commit on other chooses of action that could be taken in a different context.  This example, while related to college success specifically, could be a useful exercise for students when it comes to decision-making in real-world contexts.  The student, himself or herself, could choose a particular scenario or subject to focus on, which would allow for more potential to learn and more potential to build intrinsic motivation.

Along the same lines, Claroline is also noteworthy of consideration for a distance learning platform, as its motto is “your own private campus.”  Although Claroline is not as fully developed as some other platforms, what makes it intriguing to me is that it has a global feel to it.  It can be translated into multiple languages, for one, and it has the same capabilities as most WebCT or Blackboard classes have, but it is free.  Teachers can create courses that include chat components, wikis, published documents, etc.  Several high schools are using it as supplementary instruction points of access, which again makes sense in terms of putting information out there to be shared and learned from but in a more creative and innovative way.  Because it is an open site, content copyright might become an issue for some, but the fact that over 100 hundred countries participate and collaborate via the platform makes it somewhat more appealing in terms of using globalization and citizenship as avenues of learning.

As Lai et al. (2011) contend in their conference essay, “content that is developed once can be revisited at many places, many times” (p.1).  This is, perhaps, the most important benefit of distance education.  Not all learners are going to retain knowledge in quite the same way, and because learning is oftentimes a very personal pursuit, catering it to a mixed environment of traditional and non- traditional approaches will allow for a more diverse and stimulating learning environment.

References

Franklin, B. (n.d.). Quotes about learning. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/learning

Hartnett, M., St. George, A., & Dron, J. (2011). Examining Motivation in Online Distance Learning Environments: Complex, Multifaceted, and Situation-Dependent. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning,12(6), 20-38.

Lai, J., Ziskind, E., Zheng, F., Shau, Y., Zhang, C., Zhang, N., Garg, N., & Sobti, S., Wang, R. & Krishnamurthy, A. (2004, June). Distance learning technologies for basic education in disadvantaged areas. The 8th global chinese conference on computers in education.

 

Navigating the Geek Universe: How Gaming Can Impact Education In Constructive and Creative Ways

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 8:19 pm on Thursday, October 4, 2012

As a fairly proud and somewhat conscientious gaming geek, I am no stranger to recognizing the educational qualities and uses of games, simulations, or virtual realities in the twenty-first classroom.  Most of my students are shocked to learn that I have created my own chatty but quirky female assassin in Second Life, died a gloriously fiery death as a level 68 barbarian in Diablo, and built an almost impenetrable but heavily towered Roman city in Age of Empires.  And while I have enjoyed the entertainment value of these individual, time-invested technological journeys, I have also learned skills that are valuable in the real world as well:  creative problem solving, social interaction successes and failures, and the age old lesson of picking myself back up after I have fallen on my face miserably (sometimes more often than I care to remember).

Gaming, in any context, can be quite the educational adventure.  Teachers should never ignore the possibilities that incorporating games in the classroom can offer, and as such, they should readily keep in mind Klopfer et al.’s (2009) advice to “leverage the power of these emerging technologies for instructional gain”(p.3). Whether it be in a classroom of kindergarteners or a classroom of lawyers, games are great motivational tools for all students of all ages, and with the large majority of web-based sites easily accessible on the internet, they are also a great “starting point for teachers to gain student attention, reinforce lesson concepts, or provide focus for a classroom discussion”(Sardone & Devlin-Scherer, 2010, p.11).

For this week’s review of gaming technologies, I have decided to focus on a web-based educational game called “Take the Senses Challenge” and a virtual 3D world adventure quest called “LogiCity.” Located on the www.sharpbrains.com website, “Take the Senses Challenge” is a thinking test/game that measures an individual’s visual, auditory, and perception levels.  With a twenty-question format, users are asked to make similar lines match up, estimate sizes of objects in relation to one another, and compare qualities that seem similar but are actually different.  When I took the test the first time, I got a total of 10/20 correct, and I noticed that I fell victim to a lot of the sensory tricks that the site explains happens when students put too much trust in their senses.  The second time I took the test, I scored a 15/20, which was considerably better, but I still have room for improvement.  What I find intriguing about this game is that it would be perfect for me to use as a teaching tool in my description unit for my English 50 and 70 classes.  Students are asked to incorporate descriptive elements into their own writing, and part of this process has to do with understanding perception.  I think they would be very entertained by their scores in a game like this, not to mention it would create some interesting classroom discussions.

For my later unit on cause and effect, the www.logicity.com virtual 3D game would also be a great tool for teaching cause and effect relationships.  One of the articles in the textbook talks about environmental issues, and this game specifically looks at what it takes to reduce one’s carbon footprint in the world.  Individuals perform different experiments as a means of manipulating their impact on the environment, and families can also play to see how their collective contributions change to dynamic of the system.  There is also a feature which allows users to travel to the future to see what their actions create, which I think is a valuable lesson for teaching long term planning and appropriate response, not just focusing on short term change.  This can be manifest not only in a social studies classroom, but also in any classroom that stresses a commitment to leading social change.

With these educational technologies in mind, gaming can be easily brought into the classroom as a means of “demonstrating how they impact the way we think, learn, and interact”(Klopfer et al., 2009, p.1) with one another.  Creative thinkers and educators will find these products very useful for individual learners as well as group facilitation once they get past their own fears and reservations about the games’ educational merits.

References

Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., Groff, J., & Haas, J. (2009). The instructional power of digital games, social networking simulations, and how teachers can leverage them. Retrieved from www.educationalarcade.org

Sardone, N., & Devlin-Scherer, R. (2010). Digital games in english classrooms. Teaching English With Technology10(1), 35-50. Retrieved from http://www.iatefl.org.pl/call/callnl.htm

Empowerment Through The Use of Mobile Technologies in Global Education

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 10:49 pm on Thursday, September 27, 2012

     With the advent of mobile technologies, and more recently emergent capabilities, learning by doing has become more fashionable and more relevant than ever before.  Academic settings, higher education facilities in particular, are jumping at the chance to include these technologies in their recruitment, engagement, and retention of invested students.  Many would agree that mobile technologies enhance learning experiences more than they hinder them; in addition, they provide individuals with experiences that extend beyond the classroom, reach into larger global communities, and as Cavallo (2011) describes, engage people into forms of “citizen science.” In short, mobile technology has a realized potential that should not be ignored by teachers but, instead, further explored.

     According to Armantas, Holt & Rice (2005), “the average student now spends less time on campus and is increasingly involved in paid employment in addition to study commitments”(p.28).  Taking this into consideration, focusing efforts to integrate mobile technology into higher education curricula and pedagogy makes a lot of sense.  Zambrano & Seward (2010) confirm that smart phones, ipads, and tablets act as “catalytic tools for enhancing and broadening development programming if deployed strategically”(p.9).  So, the potential to enhance knowledge acquisition, content development, and skill transference through portability not only adds value to the educational experience, it also empowers learners to think creatively and innovatively.

     Two ways this can easily be accomplished in any academic environment, or in my case an English classroom, is through the interactive use of smart phones and ipads.  Beginning with smart phones, classroom lectures can be recorded and accessed via online file sharing sites such as Dropbox or video access points like You Tube. This form of flipping the classroom will free up time for instructors or facilitators to work more specifically with individual skill building, while at the same time it also enables students to manage their own learning styles and information gathering abilities.  A second option for incorporating smart phones into an educational setting is to build in an online grade book component.  If students have 24/7 access to grades, attendance, and classroom assignments, for example, then they are more likely to be cognizant and proactive when it comes to addressing individual strengths and weaknesses related to course objectives.  Since most “mobile phones require only basic literacy” (Zambrano & Seward, 2010, p.9), and since most people use their smart phones for more than one purpose, having this information available to students in a timely and organized way is useful and beneficial to the larger college community too because “increased ownership leads to economic growth”(Zambrano & Seward, 2010, p.8).  M-governance, in this case, reaches beyond classroom walls, and learning is extended in ways that could not be accomplished in earlier decades.

In addition to smart phones, teachers who are up-to-date on the newest applications for tablets and ipads will be happy to learn that portability has “proved useful for paperless grading and markups of student assignments,” (Marmarelli & Ringle, 2011, p.1) as well as shown to be practical in science or art classes where there may be a lot of movement between tasks.  Although I have not utilized my personal ipad in any of my current English courses, I can see a few specialized areas that would benefit developmental learners when it comes to utilizing mobile apps.  For teaching better note taking skills, students can use the SoundNote app, which has a built in sound recording feature.  On the other side, teachers can use an app called Essay Grader to aid them in the process of grading essays, as well as help them assess larger writing concepts using checklists and feedback options.  In terms of practical use in the classroom, ipads have no physical barriers like traditional desktop computers do.  Problems with transfer of files, software availability, and touch screen inaccuracies do exist however.  Despite these drawbacks, Marmarelli and Ringle’s (2010) findings confirm that most professors who participated in the Reed College Ipad Study were fairly satisfied using the technology, which lends further credence to instituting more ipad studies and initiatives as the technology evolves.

For some of the reasons presented in this brief blog entry, and for many more that have yet to be mentioned, “mobile technologies cannot be ignored as part of the learning mix”(Armantas, Holt & Rice, 2005, p.27).  If we are going to build a global community of learners, then we need to build a global community of communicators.  Using the classroom environment is a simple and effective place to start.

References

Armantas, C., Holt, D., & Rice, M. (2005). Balancing the possibilities for mobile technologies in higher education. Manuscript submitted for publication, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/brisbane05/blogs/proceedings/04_Armatas.pdf

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012c). Mobile learning. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Marmarelli, T., & Ringle, M. (2011). The reed college ipad study: Summary of faculty evaluation reports. Informally published manuscript, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, Retrieved from http://www.reed.edu/cis/about/ipad_pilot/Faculty_iPad_Reports_April2011.pdf

Zambrano, R., & Seward, R. K. United Nations Development Programme, (2010). Mobile technologies and empowerment: Enhancing human development through participation and innovation. Retrieved from website: http://www.undpegov.org/mgov-primer.html

 

 

 

Social Networking and Education: Something to Consider

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 6:03 pm on Friday, September 21, 2012

Nowadays, it seems as though defining one’s self as “somebody” in this world means having to know “everybody,” or at the very least 300+ friends on Facebook. Put in more general terms, the social networking revolution is here, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.  Words like “tweet,” “pin,” and “poke” are regular staples of most people’s day-to-day interactions, and once more, students “communicate among themselves in ways that school systems do not formally recognize but that the workplace is moving to embrace”(Casey & Evans, 2011, p. 2).

For many teachers and students, navigating the personal world of social networking sites has become fairly commonplace and even expected; however, finding useful and beneficial ways of incorporating them into academic environments can be somewhat more challenging and more time-consuming if one has little experience with the technology or the resources associated with it.

Richardson (2010) further explains the immense impact of social networking on global education when he writes, “all roads now point to a Web where little is done in isolation and all things are collaborative and social in nature”(p. 85).  This form of “connectivism,” as referred to by Siemens (2011), is the point where knowledge is constructed through a network of relationships and/or interchanges between peers and mentors.  So, to some degree, social networking sites and platforms make great learning repositories, where people are “connected by ideas and passions, constantly shifting and changing as new connections are found and older ones are reconsidered”(Richardson, 2010, p. 85).

Taking all of this into consideration as a teacher of adult developmental students, two social networking platforms that I think are interesting and I would like to try to incorporate more into my English curricula are Posterous (www.posterous.com) and Ning (www.ning.com).  Posterous is an online website similar to Facebook and Myspace, but it has more of a visual component to it, which is exactly what the root word “poster” implies.  For beginning writers, a website such as this that visually combines written elements (blogs, for example) with video elements (You Tube segments) gives students who are non- traditional learners an alternative and creative approach to interactive essay composition.  A site such as this would also be useful in terms of working on a collaborative research project.  Many times I require students to submit pictures or stories with their essays, so having a central place to organize all of these elements and then put them into an electronic portfolio at the end of the experience works quite well.  Ning is another similar website for this same purpose.  It has all of the same components as Posterous, but it also has compatibility with other social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and it can be used with mobile technology as well.  The fact that is also has a data and statistics feature might be useful for many instructors, and I could see myself incorporating these aspects too when I am addressing grammar issues across classes or compiling research-based assessments on specific patterns of development from semester to semester.

As many educational theorists have pointed out over the past few decades, using technology to motivate and engage students beyond the traditional classroom setting helps to create and sustain memorable learning experiences for children and adult learners respectively.  Social networking sites that are incorporated into “designing learning activities that take account of emergence and connections” (Casey & Evans, 2011, p. 21) are more likely to be successful in terms of keeping retention skills high than those designed without them. In effect, using social networking platforms, websites, or programs as academic tools should only enhance the capability of interaction, not hinder students’ creative expression or articulation.

References

Casey, G., & Evans, T. (2011). Designing for Learning: Online Social Networks as a Classroom Environment. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning12(7), 1-26.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, (2)1. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

 

Emerging Technologies: Educational Platforms

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 8:45 pm on Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the twenty-first century classroom, academic learning isn’t just about using technology for technology’s sake.  For some forward-thinking individuals, it is about creating real-world applications and engaging multimedia lessons that stimulate and enhance students’ creative and critical thinking skills among and across disciplines. Thornburg (2008), in his explanation of how technology impact learning,  further explains that these types of educational tools “facilitate the learning process” by focusing on content that matters, which hopefully leads to a learner’s further understanding and eventual exploration of relevant knowledge beyond the boundaries of what a typical classroom has to offer.  Whether it is flipping a lesson through the use of streamed video, utilizing podcasts as a means of enhancing lectures, or blogging about current events in an online journal, the potential to enhance adult education through the use of technology is endless.

Two types of educational web-based tools that could be helpful for teachers who are looking to facilitate these sorts of online learning experiences for their students should check out Merlot (www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm) and Glogster (edu.glogster.com).

Merlot, which stands for Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Teaching Online, is an online website that offers its members access to a variety of useful information sources.  For example, there are specific discipline communities where teachers can find related lessons, tutorials, materials, and interactive groups of educators all at the touch of a button.  What I found particularly intriguing is that they also have specific links to professional societies and virtual speakers.  I hadn’t really considered the concept of virtual speakers until I started to explore this topic a bit more, so I think any educator would find a website like this extremely beneficial when looking to find ways to enhance curricula or program designs.

An additional website that is very popular for K-12 teachers is the Glogster website. I have used Glogster before when I taught literature courses in high school that involved utilizing a visual website to create online book reports.  What I didn’t realize, however, is that the website includes add-ons that could be accessed to create online portfolios and personal/social chat communities.  Of course, these come at a premium, but when I used the free version, I was still impressed with how easy it was to navigate. Not only is it fun, but it also offers students a platform for creating unique assignments that not only reflect an individual’s personal style but also showcase his or her technological interests and strengths.

While these are just two possibilities for online learning opportunities, it is also important to remember that education that includes the innovative use of technology is a global initiative.  In two separate studies done in Turkish classrooms, researchers found that the benefits far outweighed the negatives when it came to integration of technology into the curriculum and its relevance to an informed school policy and “deliberate and careful consideration of curricular objectives, teaching methods, and knowledge”(Göktürk^Sağlamet & Sert, 2012, p. 12).  In addition, Eristi & Dindar (2012) conclude that “education systems play an important role in the development of countries,” (p. 30) so competition on a global level is going to become even more of a factor in competitive job markets of the future.

Also, as a quick aside, educational technologies additionally offer teachers the chance to provide immediate, adequate, and relevant feedback to their students in ways that traditional approaches just cannot match.  Heppelstone et al. (2011) contend that “feedback in its present form does not work”(p.122), and because more and more students are entering the college arena with lower skills, feedback is another area that is going to become even more important in terms of building skills and ensuring knowledge is retained beyond high school.  For this reason, amongst many others, teachers who incorporate technology platforms are providing an engaging avenue for these types of lessons rather than a dead end or stop gap that leads to higher attrition in core subjects.

At the end of the day, technology does matter.  It is what we do with it that makes the difference.

References

Erişti, S., Kurt, A., & Dindar, M. (2012). Teachers’ Views about Effective Use of Technology in Classrooms. Turkish Online Journal Of Qualitative Inquiry, 3(2), 30-41.

Göktürk^Sağlam, A., & Sert, S. (2012). Perceptions of In-Service Teachers Regarding Technology Integrated English Language Teaching. Turkish Online Journal Of Qualitative Inquiry, 3(3), 1-14.

Hepplestone, S., Holden, G., Irwin, B., Parkin, H. J., & Thorpe, L. (2011). Using Technology to Encourage Student Engagement with Feedback: A Literature Review. Research In Learning Technology, 19(2), 117-127.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008b). The impact of technology on learning. Baltimore, MD: Author.

 

 

In the beginning…

Filed under: Emerging Technologies — mlindquist71 at 12:48 am on Saturday, September 8, 2012

What I feel like sometimes…

Welcome to my Ed Blog!  This is just a welcome message to anyone who happens to follow me on this blog site.  While I have nothing profound to say at this very moment, I am hoping that in the near future you will see much more exciting entries from me.

Until then, happy reading, folks!  :)