Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Digital Portfolio + Project

The links on this post will take you to the various components of my project and digital portfolio.

A. The Final Project
( description of my curriculum tool.)
a) The theory that underlies my project.
b) My planning journey.

B. Digital Portfolio
(1) My three "best example" posts:
1. First: Remediating my practices.
2. Second: Changes in objects associated with digitization.
3. Third: Convergence in Media Culture and Education
The "philosophy" write-up (Pestalozzi)

(2) A write-up of the group project. (Team RKPG)
(3) FYI, a pdf download of this blog's contents.

C. Self-Evaluation
My personal growth.

My Planning Journey: Virtual Library Tour.

Choosing a project.

My first contact with students is in grade 8, during their library orientation. I enjoy showing them around the facility, but I’ve noticed that students who arrive late to the school never seem to know where everything is. Since the orientation is delivered orally by the teacher-librarian (me), students who are absent have no other way of getting this information. I decided that the best “curriculum tool” would be a virtual tour of the School Library Resource Centre that students could go back to at any time. Because we have been focusing on multiple affordances, I wanted to inform the students visually, textually and with sound.

How I created “the tour”.

My plan was to create a graphic map of the library facility and place a number of “hot spots” on the map. Each clickable spot would open an image, text or audio file that would “speak” to the students. I also wanted to create a QTVR movie that would let students get a 380° view of the library.

I arrived early in the morning with my digital camera. I took pictures from every conceivable angle, and some close-ups of student artwork as well. Thinking about my QTVR, I stood in the middle of the room and took a number of pictures as I turned in a circle. (I learned later that it is important to use a tripod – I didn’t – and take 12 equally spaced pictures – which I did by fluke – otherwise, the final product won’t look right.)

Once I had all my pictures, I downloaded them to my laptop and began creating. Stitching together the 12 pictures for the 360° view was a bit of a challenge initially. I downloaded a number of free and demo packages designed to create the panorama I needed to make the QTVR. No luck. After a couple of hours of fiddling, I found a reference on a photographer’s forum to software that comes with the Canon digital camera I own. I checked the CD, and “lo and behold”, the program did the trick. I did have to redo it a couple of times because the final product was too big and took too long to load and view. Three exports later, I had my finished VR movie.

Next, I had to work on my map. I had initially hand-drawn a sketch, with some labels and numbers to indicate hotspots. My first thought was that this might lend a fun, funky feel to the map. Wrong. It looked very amateurish. So I asked my library technician if she could find an architect’s drawing of the library from our renovations a few years ago. She scanned it in and emailed it to me. Perfect. Using Photoshop, I cleaned up the image, and then added a few details. Some study carrel graphics, computer pics, and circled “i” icons were added to liven up the final product.

The next step was to set the hotspots on the graphic map. I remember presenting this a few years ago when I taught Electronic Communications 11, in an HTML unit I had developed. I ended up checking out the Maricopa html tutorial which reminded me of the principles. Once I knew what the tags looked like, I had to hunt and peck to line up the coordinates for the clickable areas with the icons on the graphic map. (Think “Battleship”.)

I linked the QTVR tour to the center “i” icon. The other points, I linked to a close up picture of each spot in the library. In order to provide some variety, I also inserted audio files on a couple of the pages.

A challenge

I did run into a challenge that I was not able to overcome. I wanted to use “green screen” technology to place a video of myself in an exotic locale. I bought some fluorescent green posterboard to create a “green screen” backdrop. I videotaped myself speaking, and selected an appropriate backdrop jpeg to insert. All I needed was to merge the two sources. This required downloading a third party plugin for iMovie. (I could have used Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere CS3, but they were both prohibitively expensive.) I tried a number of plugins and was able to get the effect to work with a still picture, but merging a video with a remote background pic stumped me: the clip was visible, but would not play over the background. I saved it as a still picture and added some audio for interest and linked it to my graphic map. (I still plan to tackle this problem at a later date.)

The final step was to hide some “Easter eggs” (hidden links) on the library map. I wanted students to stumble across some concealed hotspots and feel a little thrill of discovery. I had planned to add a number of them, but the current version only has four, just to show what could be done.

Final words

I think the overall concept is a good one. Students who miss the library orientation can get a sense of what is there, students who arrive late to the school can have a virtual tour, and Grade 7 teachers can even use the site to reduce some of the “pre-high school” anxiety. I plan to add some additional talking head links, and if I can get it to work, use the “green screen” technique to liven up the show!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Attentional Economy and "Facepoints"

Castell and Jensen's article on attention ("Paying attention to attention") reminded me of a great set of novels I purchased recently for my library. Scott Westerfeld has written this engaging series about youth in a dystopian world. The 4th book in the series, Extras, takes place at a time where attention and fame are the currency. "Facepoints" are what you earn, and you get them by having a popular web presence, doing outrageous things or being seen in the popular spots. Getting attention and keeping it are the most important requirements for succeeding in this new world. You can see the seeds that have already been planted in Facebook, Youtube and countless other social networking sites. We may be seeing the advent of the "attentional economy" that Castell and Jensen speak of.

There's an excerpt on the Simon and Schuster site that gives you a feel for the book: "face rank", reputation economy, attention.

And, in a spirit of re-mediation, here's a clip of Scott talking about his novel.
(Click on the Windows Media Video link)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 10: Convergence in Media, Culture and Education

Gaming and the Classroom: a convergence of purpose.

Games provide a rich context for players. Cinematics outline the main elements of the story, and then the player is fed important information as it becomes necessary, or s/he discovers information when it is applicable. Either way, players are working with data they can use. Because they are moving through the game at their own speed, the pacing of their learning is individualized. This contrasts with the way knowledge is delivered in the classroom. Even a teacher who attempts to run individualized programs, for the most part, ends up asking students to work in chunks, and then tread water until the rest of the class catches up.

There is also an important element of control that is present in gaming. Players can chose the order of tasks, the route to follow and in some cases the goals of the avatar. Combined with the ability to "redo" in an unlimited fashion, motivation is very high. This is what James Gee calls the "embodied story", meaning the player is engaged wholly in the experience. (Gee 2003) Unfortunately, the classroom experience can often be "disembodied" for many students: by this I mean "disengaged" from the content. Concepts need to be learned because they are part of the curriculum, not because they have any other personal value for the student.

Intentionally, or not, game designers have become very good at determining what makes for engaging play. And coincidentally, these conditions also make for good learning. As Gee maintains "probe, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink" are key for good games, and are no less essential for authentic learning. (Gee 2003) In an interview about gaming, Gee goes on to say
"[a]s a result, I argue that games are good learning machines. They have a lot of good principles built into their designs to get somebody to learn them and learn them well. Those principles are actually ones that research in cognitive science has shown works, not just in games but also in other forms of learning too, but there not much in evidence in schools." (See full article here.)

I'm not sure if what we need are games to cover curriculum, but perhaps more attention to the runaway success of gaming can help teachers design lessons and environments that engage the learner. For example, Resource-Based (or Problem-Based) Learning seeks to create projects that mimic a real-world situation so that student work is anchored in an authentic experience.

Another key factor is what Gee calls "a commitment to an extended engagement
" with the game. Something must engage the player/student and motivate him/her to persist. As Gee points out, a game may take upwards of 50 hours to master, the same time required to take a half year course. Many players will invest many more hours for the pleasure of the game.

However, it is important to note that games are not the magic solution. As Shaffer et al point out, (2004) these immersive environments have issues with violence and misogyny. And there is the stereotypical isolated teen playing in the basement at all hours. But as many researchers are indicating, there is an important convergence that needs to happen between the best of what video games can offer and effective teaching practices in the classroom.


Gee, J. P. (2003). Situated meaning and learning (PDF)

Learning by Design: Good Video Games as Learning Machines (PDF)

Shaffer, David Williamson, et al (2004). Video Games and the Future of Learning(PDF)

Other Web Resources:

Games + Learning + Society

Summit on educational Games

Some interesting Google Books

Situated Language and Learning (Google Books)

Why Video Games are Good for your soul. (Google Books)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wikis, Podcasts, Sketchcasts and Diigo

Critical evaluation of Technology

(Gordon): I see 4 kinds of use for these technologies:

a) teacher use when preparing the lesson (gathering info)
b) teacher use while teaching the class
c) student use to collect info/study/prepare for class
d) student use to present learning to teacher or class.
(Some of these Web 2.0 tools will be suitable for all 4 uses, some might only be good for 1 or 2.)

Wiki (Used for: a, b, c, d)

Gordon: This is probably the most versatile of the 4 tools we looked at. It allows the teacher to create a space for collecting resources. Once a "page" has been built, the teacher can share this with students and other teachers. The flexible nature of the set-up allows teachers to lock down a page, or open it up to student editing. Students can also use the wiki tool, either to collect info for a project, collaborate with others or to share the results of research with the class.

Pam: I can see myself using wikis for my students as a discussion forum where different forms of multimedia are incorporated for the various learners

Ken: I currently use wikis at work to organize all of the training materials for students - Captivate and PowerPoint, as well as links to other online resources. The downside of the wiki is the reliability of what might get posted there. The requirement for moderation - but this is minor.

Al: Love the collaborative aspect that allows a group to do work and the individual to be accountable bth to the group and the teacher and - individual contribution is verifiable through the "history" tab.

Poornima: I have a wiki on WetPaint set up for a bunch of technical communicators to collaborate on trends/best practices, etc.

Mohammed: I will use Wikispaces to let my students coollaboratavely create their own textbook chapters and course content, same stuff they will be examined on at the ed of the course

Alicia: I think in my case (since i teach little 6 and 7 yr olds usually) this would be more appropriate for my peers maybe as a staff development tool

SketchCast (Used for: b, d)

Gordon: Both teachers and students can use this tool to present a topic to a class. It also has great potential to create mini-tutorials. Teachers have the ability to create simple "how to's" and place them on a website or wiki for consultation whenever needed.

Ken: I might use sketchcast to draw a network diagram while I explain a certain network concept. The downside is that it has to be done all in one go. In a later version, I would add the ability to stop and start, as well as being able to upload an image and sketch on top of the image - now that would be very useful. I think I might check out more of the other sketchcasts that are posted there because they are really funny! I loved the example we viewed in class. Just hilarious.

Kiran: The one reason I may not use sketchcast is that it seems to require a bit of talent in producing something "good".

Poornima: I could use a sketchcast to explain a system procedure by showing rather than telling.

Pam: I will definitely create tutorials/ review sessions using sketchcast. Now that I have a better idea of how to use this, I can't wait to try it and see how my students respond. Eventually, I would want my students to create their own sketchcasts to help other students...hmmm maybe this can even be utilized as an assessment piece or bonus?

Al: Love the creative possibilities here. I fear that I'd be wilting in ironspike's creative shadow. Like any skill, with practice, this technology might allow me to imrpove my communication skills and clarify my thinking

Marzieh: It's a good easy tool to model my ideas whenever thay come to my mind, particularly at work and busy times.

Mohammed: I do not see any role in face to face but excellent role in distance education, I can use it when I reply to a student.

PodCast (Used for: b, d)

Gordon: Teachers could certainly place excerpts of presentations on-line. Full lectures/explanations would also be useful. This means that if a student misses a given lesson, s/he could catch up via the podcast. Podcasts could also contain extension material. For students, this would be an interesting was to demonstrate learning.

Kiran: I am thinking of creating an audio letter (instead of email) for my friends who are going to school somewhere else. This way, its more personal.

Poornima: I could embed audio podcasts into software applications at the field level instead of traditional help systems outside of the software like a user manual or online help system.

Ken: I might use podcasts to set up instructions that network administrators can follow while they work at a server. The downside is the lack of visuals, but this would be really useful in situations where you want to walk people through a procedure, and they need their hands free to work.


Diigo (Used for: a, b, c, d)

Gordon: In much the same way as the wiki allows teachers and students to aggregate information, Diigo is a great way to bookmark and annotate useful sites. Teachers can keep a "crumb trail" of sites they are using to resource their lessons, and can even share this with their students. Students can do the same thing, creating a virtual endnotes document to show their learning journey to the teacher or the class.

Kiran: I am planning on using Diigo to annotate websites that pertain to the trip I'm planning on taking. This way, my friends can track the attractions I want to visit.

Ken: I would definitely use Diigo to annotate technical documents and indicate howthe various points relate to a given lesson. The downside to Diigo is that everyone has to have an account, and that the bubbles don't stay where you put them.

Al: This would be a reat way to peek into the minds of my students. How are they "consuming" the text Hw do I know? The next step here would be to develop assessment tools to go with it

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The WorldWide Telescope: A new way of seeing

We've been talking about the amazing potential of technology to provide us with new ways of teaching and new ways of learning. One of the criticisms of the tech craze is that the teacher may often end up doing the same-old, same-old with fancy new tools.

And then, I stumble across something like this:

The WorldWide Telescope, a project by Microsoft labs, gives us the universe, served up in all its stellar glory. I think once you watch the video clip, you will be impressed. This could change the way we approach the teaching of astronomy. I see this an example of the kinds of new resources we've been talking about. Take a look. You'll be amazed.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Theory Underlying my Project

Production TASK: Without resorting to jargon (e.g. empowerment, critical thinking, multiple intelligences, reflective practitioner, flow, literacy, etc.) what is an educational theory of technology? And what educational theory of technology underlies your project?

In general terms, an educational theory of technology is one that explains how technologies can assist learning, and why one might choose one technology over another. It looks for the concrete value of a particular technology rather than hyping the giddy excitement felt with glitzy newness. (See "Toolishness is Foolishness". It seeks to clarify the value of a given tech innovation in an intructional context.

When designing my project, I was looking for something that has direct application to my work in the school library resource center (SLRC). While I often use to technology to assist students as they work in the library (i.e. using the OPAC to find books, teaching good Google searches, using a website to collate useful subject-specific links, using computer and digital projector to teach, demonstrate and model) there is one element of the library experience that is devoid of technology: the September Grade 8 Library Orientation. This session is filled with many important facts about the SLRC facilities. But because I run this session in person, if a student is absent or comes to the school late in the year, there is no way for him/her to access the information that I presented in the Fall.

My solution is to create an interactive graphic map of my library. Embedded in this map will be video, audio and text elements that explain to students how they can access the range of resources that are available. A link on the library homepage will take the inquiring student to the map where they can explore (virtually) the features of the SLRC.

I spent some time hunting around for succinct descriptions of the various learning theories that best apply to my project. One site (click here) had very usable definitions, three of which I have quoted below.

Distributed Cognition

The Theory of Distributed Cognition is closely related to Social Constructivism in the argument it makes that cognition is not within the individual but rather it is distributed over other people and tools. The use of telecommunications technologies in education has to rely highly on distributed cognition. Major researchers in the field are Pea, Salomon, Perkins, Cole, G. Hutchins, and Norman.

Dual-Coding Theory

The Dual Coding Theory which serves most to learning via multimedia focuses on the processing of information. It argues that information is processed through two distinct channels - visual and auditory, each indivudual channel is limited in the amount of information it can process at a time, and humans learn actively by integrating mental representations. A major implication of the research based on this theory is that learning occurs best when the information in the two channels are closely related and match, enabling interaction between the two. Two important researchers are Paivio and Mayer.

Situated Cognition

Situated Cognition argues that learning is "situated", that is, learning is associated to high degree to the activity, context and culture in which it occurs. According to the four major theorists, Lave, Brown, Collins, and Duguid, this is not the case with most classroom activities. Novice learners learn through a process of "legitimate peripheral participation" within a "community of practice". This theory also promotes the use of Anchored Instruction.

"Distributed Cognition" refers to the role that my interactive graphic map will play in teaching students where different resources can be found in the library. The "Dual Coding" theory is present in the pairing of audio and video links on the map itself. And the "Situated Cognition" model explains why it is important to convey the information in a format that contextually represents the physical layout of the School Library Resource Center.

Tools to help me:

  • CS3 will help me create a panorama of my library.
  • I plan to use iSight with iMovie to capture some "talking head" clips. (Perhaps with a background slipped in.) Or perhaps QuickTimePro.
  • I might be able to use CubicConverter to create some 360 VR movs
  • Garageband could allow me to develop "fun" audio elements.
  • There is software for converting 2D to 3D.

Adults on-line more than Teens?

I must admit I was surprised when I read the story in today's Sun that reports on an Ipsos-Reid poll that found that while teens spend an average of 13 hour a week on-line, adults spend 19 hours. Not a huge difference, but it raises that point that either teens are not as plugged in as we thought, or adults are more cyber-aware than the stereotypes make us think. It was also interesting to compare the kinds of activities each group engages in: teens socialize, listen to music and play games. That's it!

I guess the lesson is that I need to be more thoughtful about how I stereotype age groups and users. This has some implications for the whole on-line, distributed learning movement as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Self-Evaluation

One of the tensions that exists in the world of teacher-librarianship is the relationship between print and digital sources. Purists want nothing to do with on-line, virtual, digital avenues, and prefer to speak about the primacy of print. Mavericks want to push beyond the printed page and create an environment where information rules, regardless of its provenance. Cybrarians look to the future, and traditionalists hold tightly to the past. As we move into this brave new "post-print" world, where social networking and Web 2.0 are redefining what will soon be the new educational landscape, teacher-librarians have to jostle to find their place in the parade.

This course has been a great source of ideas for me. It has tugged at the boundaries and pushed me to sharpen my thinking and my philosophies. The level of discourse both in the class and on the blog challenged me to respond in kind.

Our discussions around the notions of mediation, hypermediation and remediation led me to the virtual tour project for my own library. As I explained in my project overview, I wanted to create a resource that students could access to find out more about the library. Using the library web page as a starting point, I wanted to explore the physical space, with a map (a mediated expression of space in its own right) on which I would superimpose images (spinners, computers, study carrels) and (i) information icons. These images link the viewer to text, pictures, audio and video that orient the student to the different areas in the library. This was fun to plan and create, and after my presentation, I can see even more ways to expand it: each set of shelves could be a link to a closeup with text explaining the Dewey section featured; a click on the catalog computer icon could call up the On-Line Public Catalog and allow students to browse the collection; clicking on the new books display could bring up a link from LibraryThing and feature the newest additions; selecting the newspaper area could pull up a set of RSS newsfeeds. There are many, many enticing possibilities.

This course has been an exciting smorgasbord of viewpoints and ideas. Every class discussion opened up new suggestions, and the blog posts were far-ranging and filled with new technologies and resources. I looked forward to the class, the articles, the blogs and in particular the discussions. And I was impressed with the practical applications each of the class members showed us in our final session together. This group has become, in a very real way, a community of learners, exploring this new landscape together. It was a pleasure to be part of the adventure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another interesting Gender difference...

I was reading through the article [PDF] for the Day 7 class and wondered if things have changed since its publication. And I also wondered why my personal experience doesn't jive with the notion that men are better than women when it comes to technology. My daughter is quite proficient (email, MSN, Powerpoint, iMovie, iDVD, photoshop, etc.) and my wife is taking TLITE. When I observe students in my school, the girls are every bit as interested in being on the computer as the guys. (Although, I must add that the boys indulge in more "geek-speak" regarding games and such.)

My questions prompted me to go looking for additional articles on this topic. Maybe if I found some more recent examples, my questions would be answered.

It occurred to me that much of the data I've seen seems to come from self-reporting. (i.e. Students report how often they think they log on, what they believe their level of proficiency is and how comfortable they feel with the technology.)

In my browsing, I came across an article in the Seattle Times (click here) that has an interesting insight. Northwestern University sociologist Eszter Hargittai reports that when surveying groups of students, she found that the men tended to overestimate their abilities, while the women tended to underestimate theirs. Hargittai concludes that it may not be the technical know-how that is different, just each gender's perception of ability. When it comes to what students are actually able to do, their skills were comparable.

Very interesting.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One Page Reflection - Team RKPG Seminar

Technology supplants Curriculum

The theme for Day 6 was “Technology supplants Curriculum”, and the seminar was presented by Gordon, Rachel, Pam and Kiran. During the first meeting of the group, it was decided that an effort would be made to include multimedia and provide an opportunity for classmates to create an artifact using multimedia in our presentation.

For the next few weeks, we spent our time viewing YouTube clips, TedTalks, Podcasts, and online journals. We were searching for a piece that would expand the class’s current view of how technology could be used in the classroom, as well as inspire the imagination of fellow classmates to rethink how/if technology could supplant curriculum in their own lives. Then we would email what we’d find for the other members to view and comment on.

During our last group meeting, we choose Richard Baraniuk’s August 2006 “talk” entitled, “Goodbye Textbooks; Hello, open-source learning”. The group felt that the potential of replacing a classroom staple (i.e. the textbook) with an online customizable modular resource had important implications for how technology might supplant curriculum.

One reason we choose this video was because it builds upon previous classes. First, the video is about remediation of a textbook into a digital “super textbook“. (Baraniuk talks about the ways the experience will facilitate hypermediacy and immediacy.) Second, he mentions the issue of “imperialistic education” imposed on developing countries, which was also touched on by de Castell and Luke’s article and Gabriela Alonso Yanez’s presentation. The type of open-source learning modules Baraniuk refers to can be customized to the local context. This allows individual countries/teachers to “create, rip, mix, and burn” context-specific content.

We decided that we would ask the class to view the clip and react to the following three questions: 1) What do you agree with? 2) What do you disagree with? and 3) What surprises you? We also provided a graphic organizer for those who wanted some way of structuring their responses. Once the class has had a chance to share their responses, we planned to ask them to reflect further by proposing some focus questions (here are examples of some of the questions we generated):

  1. Richard Baraniuk shows us an image of LPs that have been replaced by CDs. For all intents and purposes LPs are no longer used. What other resources have been replaced so completely? (Or are on the verge of being replaced?)
  2. Create, Rip, Mix and Burn. Baraniuk claims this new paradigm is true with music, and should be true for text as well. Is it? Should it be?

In response to an objective outlined in our first group meeting, we also decided to create an intellectual production piece task involving multimedia. The class was asked to watch a Youtube slide show entitled “Did you know?” and then create their own 10 slide document to answer the question: “What do I know now?” The reason we choose this clip was we felt that it worked well with our topic. As well, it would be a good launching point for our classmates to start thinking about their own practices through the lens of our topic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Loss of the Meta-Narrative

Lyotard has some powerful things to say about the loss of meta-narrative in our post-modern world. He feels that we have lost this unifying "story" that provides the center to any society or culture.

I chose to illustrate this using a collage of doors: some very old, some classical, some very modern. This multiplicity of openings represents the fragmentation of story and the multiple "mini-narratives" that we are in the process of creating for ourselves. We have fragmented our lives into "A thousand localized roles," illustrated by the many doors. There is no one way in or out!

(See here for a good summary of Lyotard's original article. [PDF download.] )

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Changes in Objects associated with Digitization

Intellectual Production: Day 5

Colin Lankshear's article on Digital Epistemologies was a long read. But I did see a direct connection to my own work experience. As an instructor for a course in Teacher-Librarianship, one of the issues that I deal with all the time is the changing nature of the teacher-librarian's environment and responsibilities.

Many veteran TLs can remember the days of card catalogs and print encyclopedias. Looking up a book meant using the "title" cards or the "author" cards or the "subject" cards. Adding a book to the collection meant creating 3 sets of cards per book. Adding a subject heading was not a simple matter. Books were signed out with date due cards and if the TL wanted to know if a book was "in" or "out", it was a many step process. With the advent of the "electronic card catalog", librarians began to feel the change that digitization would bring. Being a TL is really about information, not books. Being able to access information about the books, any time, any place, and being able to search key subject headings instantaneously revolutionized the job.

Print encyclopedias were the "definitive source" of information. Encyclopedias were expensive to buy, expensive to replace and did not circulate, but they were an essential tool! Students were not allowed to borrow these valuable resources, so information had to be copied laboriously into notebooks to be massaged later into research papers. Today, print is giving way to digital. Many publications are now available on-line for free. (eg Canadian Encyclopedia) or via public library sites where all students need is a library card number. These resources are updated frequently, always available and easy to consult. We are moving quickly from "atoms" to "bits":

In the physical world of atoms, it is customary to think in terms of finiteness and, as a consequence, in terms of concepts like scarcity, control, monopoly, zero-sum games and so on. When information is contained as atoms (e.g., in a book), for one person to have borrowed the library copy means another person cannot access it. This 'reality' and 'logic' impacts on our thought and behavior in all sorts of ways: from the importance of knowing to put books on reserve, to knowing the fastest way to the library after class to get the book before someone else does. When information is contained as bits, all sorts of alternatives arise. These include not having to know the fastest way to the library, how to navigate the Deweyan catalogue system and so on. (Lankshear 2002)

And the changes keep on coming. Playaways, eTexts, audiobooks, the Kindle, on-line databases, Askaway, etc., etc. Some librarians are worried, very worried. Much like the rein maker and the blacksmith at the dawn of the car age, TLs with a narrow vision of the profession see the apocalypse behind each new announcement.

However, for teacher-librarians who have a clear understanding of their role, the digital future is very bright. We will always have books (just as newspapers, radio and TV co-exist). They might be virtual, digital or actual, but they still need to be organized, assessed, recommended, explained, previewed, discussed, reviewed and acquired. As I point out to my Librarianship students, the TL job is about information, and pointing our clientèle in the right direction. It is about narrowing a search and knowing what resources are available. It is about being able to select from a world wide library shelf of materials. Being digital allows librarians to finally do the kinds of things they were trained for!

Friday, February 1, 2008


Intellectual Production (Day 4)

Gavin and Gordon's "take" on Pestalozzi and his work.
(Double click on this image -->
to view details.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Print and Oral Tradition

Intellectual Production Task:

In our “Day 3” class we spent a good deal of time discussing the two articles for this week. ( Havelock and Illich/Sanders) Both authors contrast the role of print in a literate society with the role of oral expression in a pre-literate culture. In his article “The Instruction of Preliterate Cultures” (taken from Language, Authority and Criticism) Havelock speaks about the power of the printed text. There is a sense that the written word exercises a form of tyranny; it becomes “a court of appeal” and “a source of reference”. (p.224 - see snippet above, right) My reactions are twofold: a) in what ways do word choice affect our way of understanding the world (This may not be a function of print vs. the spoken word, but rather a function of culture and language, and how both represent reality.) and b) given our new digital environment, is the printed word now as “permanent” as Havelock implies?

I’d like to begin with the first point: how does word choice dictate reality? How does our vocabulary, the particular words we use, shape our perception of the world? It is true that the rules of syntax constrain how we understand things. The placement and choice of words or the grammar of a language may even prevent us from thinking about certain ideas. Ken raised this point when he gave the example of the Navaho language that does not use time markers. Perhaps this language is the best way to express concepts in quantum physics in a way that English cannot. Ken also gave an example of how we use certain spatial modifiers (ie “ahead” and “behind”) to refer to future and past. What if we were to use “above” and “below” to refer to these? Or as this article references, flipping the past and future the other way. How would this change the way we think about and value the past? (To use another example, the Burmese have no past tense, and use the present tense to talk about long ago events. How does this change their sense of time and history?)

While Havelock maintains that syntax and grammar in printed language freezes history and fixes our understanding to the page, I think that this is a function of languages in general, not simply a result of writing things down. Havelock’s distinction between oral and print language seems somewhat artificial. There is also a sense in Havelock’s article that oral traditions are somehow to be valued more highly than printed text. While oral traditions may allow for a dynamic refashioning of story and history, that may not be desirable in the long run; there are downsides. When we rely solely on memories, the death of an elder is as catastrophic to culture as the burning down of the library at Alexandria.

What about the permanence of print? Havelock seemed to be saying that once a version of events was committed to print, it was fixed forever. In Havelock’s time, once the printed word was produced, it was not easily subject to change. However, in the new digital word, publishing happens “in wax”, not “in stone”. We can make changes at the last minute, or even AFTER the last minute. Blogger, WordPress, Lulu on-line printing, on-demand printing: each of these media forms allows for a “final” version to be edited and re-edited. In a very real way, Wikipedia is the poster child for this new way of publishing. (Textbooks may be a new frontier: read this post on my blog.)


As an aside, the Havelock article and my subsequent ruminations, reminded me of a book I read recently about disappearing languages. The book is called "Spoken Here" ; the link will let you view the first few pages on the Amazon site. Very interesting read! Also, I stumbled across this blog post on the same topic.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On-line Generation?

In the context of our discussions about technology, and youth as technology users par excellence:

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men on the Internet? "Frontline" knows and, in an overblown sociology lesson, lets parents in on the potential predators, bullies and voyeurs keeping company with young Web surfers."

I came across this link to a show that PBS is running this week. It is about the dangers of being on-line in today's world. It seems to me that it is a little "overhyped"...we've heard it all before. ("Watch out parents, there are bad guys out there!") Even the promo video clip on the PBS site is pretty ominous.

I wonder when we will get beyond the blame and look at the benefits? (I guess every technology has had its detractors: those who think the apocalypse is nigh!)

For a more balanced post, click here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Logos...the Word

Since we were talking in class about "Logos", its meaning as "the Word", and the religious overtones that this term sometimes carries, I was interested to read this article on the various versions of "the Word" (ie the Bible) that are now available. What made this article particularly intriguing was the element of remediation in the story. At what point does a Bible (ie "DVD Bibles [that] include reenactments, maps, pictures and other visual el­ements") still stay a Bible? Some denominations refuse to recognize translations other than the King James version. I wonder what they would think of multimedia scripture?

Technology Supplants Curriculum?

My group (Kiran, Rachel, Pam and I) will be presenting the topic for Day 6: “Technology Supplants Curriculum”

There are 2 readings for the class: (Media Education and the End of the Critical Consumer. ) and (What happens to literacies old and new when they’re turned into policy. PDF)

Our job is to provide one other reading and present this topic to the class. I’m interested in the topic of new literacies and what is being required of students (Are we really preparing them for a new world, or an old one that will be gone when they arrive. What kinds of things will we need to include? (Tumblebooks? Podcasts? Audio books?) Stay tuned for more on this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Remediating my practices

Intellectual production task:
Jan 17th, 2008

Task 1: Write (briefly) on a particular tool/technology that is remediating your practices in the classroom and which characterizes "school knowledge" in your own curriculum area. What changes can you identify in your curriculum area and what corresponding technology/s do you see as having played a role in those changes?

As a teacher-librarian, the question of technology as “blessing or curse” has been hotly debated. Some TLs see the advent of Google, On-line databases and the oft-accessed Wikipedia as the end of civilization as we know it. To paraphrase; “the lights are going out in libraries all over the world.” While the situation is not nearly as dire as some librarians seem to think, it is true that we may need to re-purpose our job description.

What does it mean to be a TL in this “Brave New World”? My job exists, in part, to help students and teachers access reliable information sources, and to educate them to be more discriminating information users. It doesn’t matter whether the information resides in printed form or on a web page somewhere. Almanacs, encyclopedias, atlases, non-fiction, serials, vertical files: these used to be the “stuff” of our job. Now, we are moving more and more to on-line databases, electronic encyclopedias, blogs, newsgroups, RSS, and data mashups. But whatever the form or medium, the underlying need is the same: “Where can I find out more about...?”

This brings up a number areas of particular concern to teachers and TLs: a) finding reliable e-sources, b) dealing with plagiarism and c) facts vs knowledge.

A) Finding reliable e-sources
In many cases, the new e-sources are simply a remediation of print. An example of “remediation” in the area of library work is the increasing use of on-line encyclopedias. The print encyclopedia used to be the “nec plus ultra” of authoritative information search. In particular, the Encyclopedia Britannica held the top position, however, any encyclopedia was considered a good reference. In my library, I have multiple copies of the Canadian Encyclopedia (TCE). This was always considered a good resource for Socials students researching questions about Canadian history and personalities. I used to purchase updates from year to year, but in 2000, the print version was no longer available. Fortunately, the entire text is now available on-line. In addition, the e-version also has images, video and audio resources hyperlinked into the articles. While some students are happy to consult the print version, most would rather use the electronic source. The biggest conceptual hurdle for student to get over is one of attribution. Students have a tendency to accept sites as valid sources regardless of the provenance. In many ways, TCE has no way of distinguishing itself from the many other URLs kids may consult (ie Wikipedia). At one time, a teacher librarian could point to a print encyclopedia, which came clothed in impressive binding and gold edging. Now, more time needs to be spent teaching students how to decide if a web page is reliable, accurate, authoritative and unbiased.

B) Dealing with plagiarism
How does this new reality affect the incidence and substance of plagiarism? Digital resources lend themselves to wholesale “copy-pasting” (fno article). Teachers and teacher-librarians need to rethink what kind of assignments and projects they are asking of their students. (For more on this see here.) (And some more of my thinking on this.)

C) Facts vs knowledge.
When any student with a laptop, iPhone, wireless Palm or cell phone can Google or Wikipedia any topic, memorizing facts seems like a pointless exercise for most students. Instructors have had to become more sophisticated in structuring assessment and evaluation in this new climate. Media-savvy teachers are focusing more on synthesis, taking a position and making a judgment as summative tasks.


Task 2: What is re-mediation? Why/how is it important? McLuhan on "mediation" -rear view mirror- we can only understand a particular medium when we have moved passed it and are looking back at it.

Re-mediation is the process of taking content from one media and re-presenting it via another. A story may be re-presented in print (novel) or a radio play, or a TV show, or a film, or even a website. Each time, the new media form puts its stamp on the product.

McLuhan believed that each new medium has its roots in the preceding technology that spawned or inspired it. ( “McLuhan warned against looking too long into what he termed the ‘rear-view mirror.’ Its linguistic reflections are everywhere. The telephone was first called the talking telegraph, the automobile the horseless carriage, the radio the wireless.” 1 ) New technologies might spring from older forms, but they bring with them their own effects and capacities, many that were not imagined in the initial conception. For example, a cell phone is quickly becoming a more complex and multifaceted tool than its predecessor, the simple telephone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

R(e)mediation and r(e)literacy

All this reading about "Remediation" has started me thinking about how many examples of clever, enriching cross-cultural and cross-media references I come across in everyday life . I would almost say that this is the element that makes so much of what I read and watch enjoyable. Whether it is an overt example (like the many versions and references to "A Christmas Carol") or something more subtle (The STNG episode where the alien race communicates entirely via metaphor and historic cultural references), the impulse to remediate (as B&G would use the term) is a powerful one.

The best way to make sense of this pattern of remediation is for all of us to push to become r(e)literate in the same way. We need to look for the deeper ideas and meanings that permeate all the mediated stories we tell each other. The Simpsons, Futurama, Othello, Arrested Development, The Ring Cycle, etc are all filled with important echoes of previous iterations: some trivial, some profound.

Some more on Mediation and Remediation

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I'm spending some time this weekend going over my notes from the first class of EDUC890.

We viewed a great photo taken to illustrate the "cutting edge" of new teaching techniques, but which only illustrated the folly of doing what Larry Cuban refers to as "bolt on technology." The student desks, the row on row arrangement, the teacher-driven model all seemed to reinforce the "old" way of doing, not the new. (See a previous post on this.)
(Why is it that so much of what is supposed to be cutting edge ends up being just the “same old - same old”? ...reminds me of the dotcom days when everything was being put on the internet...even toasters!)

I think we may be conditioned as teachers to want to do things in the way we are used to, and access technology in the way we always have. Here's an example: In my school, the library is responsible for storing and distributing AV equipment and materials. Just this week, a teacher sent a Grade 8 student to the library to sign out a digital camera because she wanted to take some pictures of a project the kids were working on. Since our only camera was already "out", I suggested to the student that maybe someone in the class might already have a camera the teacher could use. The student replied "Sure, ...why don't I use my cell phone camera...and then I can just bluetooth the pictures to her!" (It's the whole "Digital Native" thing.)

This reminds me of the situation in my Library Computer Lab. I desperately need new machines because the ones we have now can't run newer browsers. I've been lobbying for more money for this. But it occurred to me recently that I am using "New wine, old skins" thinking. Why do we need a lab at all? Why not just ask the kids to bring in their laptops....

Jodi spoke about kids' innate digital sense, and compared the backpack of yesterday with the backpack of today:....gameboy, DS, cell phone, palm, DVD player, iPod. My daughter is 16 years old, and I can certainly identify with the example Jodi gave. (In fact, I think my daughter has the same purse!)
Jodi went on to define some of the terms we will be using:

Techne, or techné, (literally: craftsmanship) is often translated as craft. It is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective.

The English suffix -ology or -logy derived from the Greek suffix -(-logia), "to speak."

And "Curriculum": definition: course…race course...the track we follow

We then spent some time with the Kieran Egan article: Letting Our Presuppositions Think For Us. Egan maintains that our discussions and disputes about what is the "right" way to teach are tied up inextricably in the presuppositions we make about human nature and the role of education. We spent some time "unpacking" these presuppositions. This made for some very interesting discussion.

Presupposition 1
Good or Bad: What do we believe about human nature in general and children in particular? If children are good (Good= learning, likes to learn. ), then we should have as little structure as possible. But if they are bad (Bad=must be led to learn), then we want as much structure as possible. (I remember hearing an interview with Laurier Lapierre who maintained that children were like flowers that should be simply planted and left to grow naturally, and they would learn what they need to, on their own. Hmmm...)

Presupposition 2
Is Culture – from within / or from without?
Do we believe that students need to be shown cultural artifacts and learn from them? Is there a "canon" of novels, paintings, people and events that everyone should know? Jodi brought up the point that there is a value component to acculturation; it is not value neutral.
I liked Egan's reference to Michael Oakeshott's characterization of education (and by extension, educating about culture) as an "extended conversation" …
(BTW, I found an interesting article that extends this idea. The author, John Bennet states that "To become human, we must claim, appropriate, and then dwell in the rich heritage of our culture and civilization -- a world of meanings, not of things." He goes on to explore the idea of education as conversation. )

Presupposition 3
Consciousness – past/ present/future
Do we teach from the perspective that the past matters and the present is irrelevant? Or that the present is king and the past only has meaning inasmuch as it explains the present?
Jodi asked the question, is it possible to create a curriculum based solely on preparing students for the future? This is tricky to Ken pointed out, our concept of the future is both too limited and too ambitious: our computers are more powerful than Star Trek would have us expect, yet we still don't have warp drive! Where's my jetpack?

Presupposition 4
Do we favour Experience (Body), Logic and Thinking (Mind) or Mystery and Wonder (Soul)
This made me think of the balkanization of the curriculum, especially in high school. We tend to stay within our narrow territories and teach only our specialty. Occasionally schools will attempt to integrate subjects and experiences (Math-Science, or Humanities) but timetable and organizational constraints force us revert to the "tried and true" ways.

Presupposition 5
I want to produce students "just like me." I guess this is what we all want...societies as well as individuals. And this is why we may fight so firmly for our own vision of education to prevail. This led me to take a look at the BC Ministry of Ed website to find the attributes of a BC Graduate. (For the document, go here.)

We also talked about how experience shapes media…and media shapes experience.
(And there is a constant re-imagining of older forms of technology. For example, radio still exists in much the same form as it did years ago, but today we also have satellite radio, as well as website tie-ins, blogs for feedback, and podcasts to timeshift your listening. There's even "internet radio" which technically isn't radio at all!)

At the end of the class, Jodi encouraged us to explore the terms: mediation, hypermediation, and remediation as a way to enter the course content!