Thursday, August 20, 2009

E-learning Reflection Synopsis

This course has radically changed my behaviour and ideas as I have explored educational technology. The amount of new knowledge I have been forced to consume has been a huge challenge but with each task there has been a new skill and a change in the way I operate as a “digital immigrant”. The speed with which I am gathering and assimilating information is disconcerting but also empowering.

Ideas such as the “half-life of knowledge” Gonzalez (2004) are confronting and a new realisation that has to be experienced to produce change. The software and skills required for today’s tasks may be obsolete in a couple of years. As the understanding of using Blackboard has morphed into Moodle, so typing may disappear as voice recognition takes off.

I feel I am different as the “basic architecture of the brain is modified by learning” Lynch & Nichols et al (2007). To find myself at a computer with multiple windows open, parsing off information on several topics at one time and with three types of media seeking my attention is unsettling for someone whose first blog stated he was “sceptical about new ideas or models”. Though not quite thespontaneous formation of well organized structures, patterns, or behaviours, from random initial conditions.” as self-organisation is defined by Luis Mateus Rocha (1998). I have nonetheless evolved in my skills, thinking and study habits when compiling information from the web

It is very difficult to identify which technologies I would use to enhance student learning and how I would use them as each technology could be of service due to the diversity of learners and the breadth of curriculum.

Young (P-3) learners would benefit from simple audio applications such as Podcasts for modelled reading in groups or even tailored to individual levels from ESL to advanced. Image technologies such as Comic Life would aid in exploring literacy genres, presenting a recount of holidays using photos for example. These are standard practices but could be enhanced and more individualised with the improved technology. Being an early childhood educator I valued Antoinette’s suggestion for using Voki to let students express themselves in creative ways. Their own voice reading poetry through a horse’s head would be very engaging I am sure. Also her thoughts on using music especially the endless examples of royalty free music for its simple and repetitious beat to teach rhythm and percussion had not occurred to me.

Years 3 and 4 would benefit from, and be engaged by, the Webquest format in a Voicethread to explore rainforests and critical literacy. I liked Andrew’s idea of using Voice thread to include family members in reflections and then donating the presentation to the family.

Years 5, 6 and 7 would benefit from the wiki and blog format as the skill levels of learners increased in not only accessing but creating their own spaces. Groups setting up their own projects on a science or SOSE topic could work collaboratively and make their own choices on the technologies they employ.

I took on board Jim’s example of using Slideshare for cooking demonstrations and can see the applications in a Special Education unit of being able to have images detailing the steps on a laptop which the student could use as a self check in following the steps at the press of a button.

It is hard to get away from the typical scenario of using video (YouTube, Teachertube) only as a lesson “hook” which it does extremely well, I have never seen any cohort not focus exclusively when the lights go down and the sound comes on for at least two minutes. Amanda’s suggestion that it be shown to groups adds a scheduling and reward element sounds interesting.

The use of blogs and RSS feeds as an assessment tool was highlighted by Bethanie. Effective feedback and reporting should be timely (imagine nightly) and “involve parents and peers”. In fact all the “Principles for reporting” set out by Brady and Kennedy (2005) can be achieved more effectively using online tools.

A unit of work I have been focussing on during this course is Australian democracy in the SOSE stream for a Yr 7 cohort. The this course in conjunction with the traditional learning journey I have seen employed has awakened me to the potential of a blended unit of work that I am sure will be a richer experience for future learners. SOSE is especially aligned with e-learning as stated by Gilbert (2004)” SOSE is; action-orientated, inquiry based cooperative... It involves students constructing their own learning.. SOSE pedagogy involves students in making personal connections”.

The ability to access the Parliament Education Office interactive website, the websites of important and local politicians, observe Youtube clips of current debates and have a wiki where students can cooperate and share their own understandings and research would be a much richer experience than the posters and photocopied sheets of the traditional unit. Students whose public speaking skills are uncomfortable could find a new voice in creating an avatar of a fictional politician to make a speech on an issue. Designing a Powerpoint including graphic organisers for assessment purposes could be posted to a site for all stakeholders to appreciate. Blended with in class activities and experiences, the outcomes would be rewarding for all involved.

Brady, L. & Kennedy, K. (2005) Celebrating Student Achievement: Assessment and Reporting Australia: Pearson Education

Gilbert, R.,(2004)Studying Society and Environment, A Guide for Teachers South Melbourne:Thomson

Gonzalez, C. (2004) The Role of Blended learning in the World of Technology. Retrieved August 18 2009 from

Lynch D., Knight B.A.& Smith, R. (2007). Learning Management: Transitioning teachers for national and international change: Pearson Education Australia. p 28.

Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from


As the learning manager accumulates more resources and network groups it will be increasingly difficult to manage all that data in a form that is a delivery technology as well as a file storage and student centred learning tool. I get the impression that Mahara fits all these criteria in one web based site. Anything that lets you organise the vast amounts of information you seek out, and are feed, in an easily accessible and efficient form must be part of a modern learning manager’s toolkit.

I must admit I found the log in process confusing partly because this software is not free and online payment is something I usually avoid because it is arduous and there are security concerns. Once inside it was not immediately apparent what I should do or how to do it. A lot of colleagues have also expressed the same view.

“Chaos is the new reality for knowledge workers” states Seimans (2004) so succinctly. Seimans’ collection of thinkers ( Calder, Glieck and Rocha) on the subject of chaos and self-organisation definitely strike a chord in recent experiences in this course however it is a futures orientated field and the future is only just beginning.

Interactive whiteboards (Smartboards)

The school I am currently posted to has one smartboard and I have observed the teacher using it and discussed with him his experiences.

The board itself looks like a normal but fattened moveable whiteboard but it has some extra buttons and jacks. That is where the similarities end as it is turned on it is now the familiar screen of a computer. All the programs and applications found on your average computer are accessible and ready to use. The image is projected from a data projector but it is not just an image as the surface is touch sensitive so that your hand is either a cursor or can scribe directly to the document. You can drag, highlight and callout items as need be. Students can get up and control the image as easily as the teacher (height permitting) which denotes the interactiveness and engagement the board embodies.

The potential of the board to enhance learning is undeniable but the same rules apply to any tool in that it relies on the craftsman to reach that potential and also the tasks to which it is applied. For the purposes of data display the board is limited to only the small number of sites approved by the Department of Education and the speed and capacity of the local server. Teachers need appropriate training to be able to use this technology and students need a framework for appropriate use instilled in the classroom culture.

Restrictions aside, I can see the desirable attribute of having instant data at your fingertips when in a class discussion on a topic but being able to follow related but unplanned for tangents in students thinking and inquiry. Modelling the thinking processes in “explicit teaching” Wilkinson (1995) used for early learning literacy development would be applicable to an investigation where vocabulary definitions, image representations and even sounds could quickly and easily be drawn down.

Comber, B., Cormack, P. & Wilkinson, L. (1995) "Explicit teaching " in Cornerstones:

Modules 6 & 7, DECS, 20-38.

Who listens to the radio?

Podcasting is the latest technology in the age old media of the radio broadcast. Digital technology means that now you can select what you want to listen to and when. It also means that anyone can broadcast through the net, not just radio stations. Personal listening devices like ipods (ipod + broadcast = podcast) have become ubiquitous so content flourishes like pats in a paddock. As Youtube has done for T.V viewing, podcasting has made audio files accessible for a range of purposes, education being high on the list.

Diverse learners benefit as podcasting is easily accessible and a cost effective way for “delivering research content or lessons to students who need remedial or extended support. While auditory learners particularly benefit” Krieder-Eash (2006)

Modelled reading for lower grades could be delivered to a select group with ear phones attached to an ipod. This type of delivery has been around for many years but with digital technology the content at once becomes local and then much more international as the subject matter can be distributed to make it authentic. As stated by the West Australian Department of Education and Training “Creating a podcast allows students to share learning experiences. It provides them with a world-wide audience that makes learning meaningful and assessment authentic.

Revolution 9- royalty free music

Music in the classroom is quite rare unless it is a music class. However with more and more multimedia being used it is a natural and progressive step to hear ambient music in a class to settle and focus students. PowerPoint or Slideshare presentations often have accompanying music so to create a sound track to your presentation you need royalty free music to avoid copyright issues. At incompetech you can find easy to download music files in a range of genres.

There is some rejection of royalty free music and copyright laws as the music is has “no connection whatsoever to the wider world of parents, grandparents, the community and the culture. The songs are disconnected, expressively flat, remarkably forgettable. They cannot be shared with parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles.” Underhill (2005).

There is some artistic flair required to match images and audio hence the importance of the soundtrack composer to a lot of movies. Music can create an atmosphere whether it is relaxed and quiet or energised and fast paced. Visual presentations that you see nowadays have inspirational soundtracks to go with important sounding messages. It takes some skill in creating or finding the right message for your class topic. I can see a class making a PowerPoint presentation and adding some background music to demonstrate critical literacy understanding, “How does that make the viewer feel?” How do you know there is danger coming?”.

Underhill, J. (2005) A Music Teacher Describes How Copyright Hinders Music Education Retrieved August 20 2009 from

Static vs. Dynamic websites

Websites were the main reason to get involved with the World Wide Web many years ago. If you wanted to promote your business or find out any information you tried to find the right website. If you were a techno-wizard and could create such an entity you built it and they would come, with little more to do than the occasional update. With the advent of powerful search engines, blogs, aggregators and YouTube there are and increasing number of media and software innovations that need to be incorporated to make a website dynamic. Constant change is needed to present an explosion in user-friendly devices.

A description of the nature and the problems of dynamic websites is ”most large websites are tree-structured, which though not perfect, offers a simple mechanism to organize considerable amounts of information. These information spaces tend to be large, and are hardly ever completely navigated by a single user. Rather, users tend to navigate over a reduced subset of web pages, which are related to their interests.” Lyardet (1998)

These progressions in technology can be reflected in the learning level of the students. P-3 students use photo story to demonstrate a range of outcomes but Years 4-7 might use PowerPoint, Slideshare and Voicethread to make increasingly sophisticated presentations. A student’s viewing; utilisation and construction of a website might also start with the simplistic versions then moving into more complex construction.

In the following YouTube video “Beginners! Create a website here” Lisa takes you through the simplest steps to creating a static website. What I like about this video is the fact is it is face to camera whereas most other professionals show nothing but software screen. Lisa also mentions getting a domain name which I have not heard about from many other presentations. Lisa then moves through all the steps for a static website. I could use this as a stimulus to for critical analysis of her presentation style as opposed to another presenter in an English public speaking unit.

Lyardet, F. & Rossi, G. (1998) Patterns for Dynamic Websites LIFIA, Fac. De Ciencias Exactas, UNLP, Argentina Retrieved August 20 2009 from

Simulations and animations

Animations and simulations seem to be the next big thing as far as e-learning is concerned. As Prensky (2001) so aptly states “ Today’s generation..... have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.” These technologies are totally new to most people over 30 tears old but to most students it is all they know.
Rapid advancements are being made in gaming technology with the industry estimated to be worth billions of dollars worldwide. Exploring virtual worlds is a past time undertaken by tens of millions of people worldwide.
Creating something like this is beyond the reach of learning managers so it is a stand alone tool with its own themes and outcomes as a product but the recognition of the value in this type of learning will keep educators student centred when thinking about learning design. This trend is identified by Siemans (2004) when he states "Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
See the accompanying Youtube “Immersive learning: it’s game on!”

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon (Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001) MCB University Press

Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved August 13 2009