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.)