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

Animations and simulations

Video on static websites

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"You're the voice, try and understand it!"

Voicethread is a type of online software that allows people view a multimedia display and participate with commentary or image manipulation. The example you can see above is ed.voicethread a site devoted specifically to using Voicethread technology for educational purposes. There are many other applications of the technology such as in social networking and in business conferencing.

I found the technology a little confronting at first as I was not sure how I personally would use it and there are many ways to do the same task.

The educational possibilities however are very useful as it seems to be a template for a virtual classroom. A cohort from across the globe could participate in a discussion or critical analysis of stimulus material. The knowledge gained could then be applied in designing their own presentation for submission and peer review during assessment. The example being of slideshare presentation of artwork (maybe produced on a theme) created by the learner and submitted. Feedback would be given using the enunciated rules of netiquette.

Engagement theory as espoused by Shneiderman (1988) is well suited to this type of technology as the Relate-Create-Donate model would be exemplified by the cooperative nature of the technology and it would only take the subject matter to be appropriate to the cohort and have some altruistic goal embedded to fit the model completely.

Shneiderman, B. (1988), Relate-Create-Donate: An educational philosophy for the cyber-generation. Computers & Education, in press.

Wikis and Wikipedia

The word “wiki” derives from a type of bus/ taxi used in Hawaii where anyone can get on or off at any time, the direction of the vehicle can change at anytime depending on who gets on, and where that matches up with whoever is already on board, or so the story goes.

Wiki now refers to an online website that people can construct and contribute to with material they bring to the site. Sharing and communicating a common theme as a project base or for purely recreational pursuits. The wiki can provide the controlled environment of a learning manager’s construct, but still allows the students to interact and research without students being given free internet access and allowed to wander off aimlessly in the vastness of the net. The issues surrounding appropriate oversight of student learning prevent free access to the web but if the wiki is accessible from anywhere the student is free to continue studies at home with parental responsibility for oversight. Wikis are a way of providing the student with all declarative knowledge needed for the task and students can through inquiry and networking or cohort interaction gather the procedural knowledge required to achieve authentic understanding. All students can benefit from a technologies that “encourages independent learning and individual preferences for process, layout, style and format” Blackmore et al (2003).

Please view my wiki E-Learning and See-Cue-You give me some feedback.

Wikipedia has become as ubiquitous as Google, YouTube and twitter. There was much debate when it first became widely known because of accuracy issues, but as an indication, it is pointed out in the tutorial notes studies have found little difference with older established academic sources. Not that these issues should be dismissed, universities still do not allow Wikipedia academic referencing and rightly so. However, as a first point of reference when confronted with a topic of which you have little understanding, I find this site immensely useful. It gives a wide, up to date and easy to understand perspective on any topic. It even has critical analysis of its own submissions so you get opposing opinions which are unheard of in traditional encyclopaedias.

As stated above Wikipedia should be stressed as a starting point which opens up the idea of critical literacy for students to explore. Not trusting presented information as absolute truth is a key plank of all learning in this digital era. Searching and questioning (or analysing and evaluating) are ranked highly in Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills.

I will continue to use Wikipedia as a general reference guide and will look forward to investigating subjects with my students through the medium. As a student centred technology I would think it a highly desirable outcome for my students to be able to say they were contributors to Wikipedia.

Blackmore, J., Hardcastle, L., Bamblett, E., & Owens, J.(2003) Effective Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Enhance Learning for Disadvantaged School Students.Melbourne: Deakin University Press. Executive summary vi

“Publish and be damned!”

Blogs are another free internet based software that can be used for educational purposes as well as personal utilities to say whatever the author might want to publish. Popular sites to set up your own, such as this on Blogger or Edublogs have increased in popularity as individuals, groups or organisations feel the need to have a voice in the digital era. You can add a number of plug-ins that will provide, video, images, sound and links.

I found this experience both liberating and daunting in that in gaining the notoriety of having a web presence, that responsibility can rest with you for many years to come and be at the mercy of the famous quote by Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington above.

This technology will provide both a vehicle for teaching delivery and student-centred learning as older students can create their own blogs and present their learning for assessment (as is the case here).

"Blogging is excellent training for the practice of 'not knowing’ ”David Kline observes.

Kline, D.,& Burstein, D. (2005) Blog!: How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture, L.L.C. : Squibnocket Partners,

P.S. As a last comment I got into considerable trouble and anguish over adjusting the layout to this blog. Please excuse the haphazard nature. Templates and layout were one thing but I know more about HTML now than I ever wanted to!

What's a VoiceThread anyway?

"What is a WebQuest?"

"WebQuest," as defined by Tom March, circa 2003

"A WebQuest is a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of a central, open-ended question, development of individual expertise and participation in a final group process that attempts to transform newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding. The best WebQuests do this in a way that inspires students to see richer thematic relationships, facilitate a contribution to the real world of learning and reflect on their own metacognitive processes."

This is a tool for learning design and is a launch pad for student inquiry in an engaging way.

The basic component of the system is the central destination that the student/s access to the unit of work. It would comprise a description of the task ahead and present a line or lines of enquiry the students can follow. Take a look at the following example:

This example starts off with a paragraph to set the scene with basic reference sites as well as linking to current events adding to the currency of the subject. Next is a description of the task and a list of the outcomes that will be achieved. Background follows and there are links that provide learners with options that they can choose from to achieve the stated outcomes. This system provides a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students” March (2003). It can be observed that this example also follows the criteria set by Tom March that it must be “Rich, Real and Relevant”.

I would like to design webquests for my students as I think they allow students to go at their own pace and achieve levels of sophistication according to their ability. As an example a current unit is the Australian Parliamentary System which provides many avenues to explore such as voting, the Judiciary, political parties, history, buildings, both houses and politicians. The information or research that is undertaken could be individual or in groups and a choice of topics is easy to offer. Scaffolding of the learning experience is integral to this system as is continuous formative assessment bracketed between stages.

March, T (2002) What WebQuests Are (Really). Retrieved August 15 2009, from

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The world is a really small place (I have it on my computer!)

One of the most fascinating developments in technology is the advent of Google Earth.

This software and the resources behind it make it possible to practically fly your spaceship to anywhere on the planet. A mapping system that gives aerial photography of any place on the earth, plus the skyward view of that destination or a view of the canyons of the oceans, is a real feat of genius. Type in your home address and watch the “fly by” application zoom from outer space to hover above your house and in Metropolitan areas even land in the street. There are a number of other applications that deliver information on practically anything an atlas can supply.

I have previously kept myself from real exploration of this software as I knew I would lose myself in the possibilities of curiosity. I responded with wonder and awe as Marzano (1997) identifies as exactly the “Habit of Mind” learners need to form productive mental habits. It would be easy for me to model this habit to my students when delivering a unit of work based on SOSE or Mathematics. Mapping and geography would be engaging when using this technology to measure distances between various locations the students know. Estimation and prediction are two obvious areas where this would be a compelling tool. In fact I would posit that this technology has far wider implications as stated by Brown (2002)“The new literacy, beyond text and image, is one of information navigation. The real literacy of tomorrow entails the ability to be your own personal reference librarian-to know how to navigate through confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable doing so. "Navigation" may well be the main form of literacy for the 21st century. Spatial awareness is a key factor in brain development and orientation an important skill whether it is physical or the projected dimension of systems like cyberspace, another example is the organising of information through graphic organisers).

Brown, J.S. (2002) Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn. Retrieved August 17 2009 from

Marzano R, J. (1997). Dimensions of Learning: Teacher's Manual (2nd Ed.). Colorado: McRel.

Image manipulation

Accessing on-line resources gives the learning manager scope to not only customise the learning experiences but provides unlimited material with which learners can express themselves. Flickr provides those resources in the form of an image bank (photos) and storage and distribution capabilities. Unlike Google Images where it is possible to download copy written material, Flickr provides public use images. Students can search the banks for suitable images for their presentations or as ideas for their own material. It is both a teaching delivery technology and a student centred one.

In comparing Flickr to a site like Google Images (GI) it would seem that GI is quicker and easier to access. There seem to be more professional photos on Flickr so it might be better for a more specialised search but the sheer volume on GI means quicker searches. It would seem teacher research would be better suited to GI and student searches could be better regulated on Flickr.

Another point about Flickr is how American centric the material is, I searched for “Australian Politics” and there were no matches so only generic searches can be made on this site.

A teaching experience would be to download photos from these image banks then let students manipulate those images using Picnik, Fodey or other software to create new images. This would demonstrate the capacity to form connections between sources of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, (as) is required to learn in our knowledge economy.” as stated by Siemens (2004).

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

Oodles of Moodle

Moodle is one of many web based learning management systems (one list I saw had 182 products) but it is an open source platform meaning that it allows some customisation of the software by the instructional designer. Moodle has secure password entry as well as public areas for information and promotion. It incorporates links, forums, databases, search and assessment opportunities as well as a host of other resources with comprehensive authoring tools. It can also host a large variety of plug-ins such as video and other applications. Moodle allows collaborative and blended learning where on-line material is available in conjunction with face to face curriculum delivery.

I found the technology easy to access and use with clear delineation of fields and instructions. The opportunity to work collaboratively with my cohort helped my learning and let me communicate with many more people than an average lecture which is surprising due to the value placed on group work in most courses.

A large institution such as a university needs a tool that that can handle large amounts of users and data. I wonder if this technology is affordable for small schools but as a resource this would be very useful for staff and students alike. If I was a the instructional designer of a large institution and could purchase an expensive I would make sure I considered the three main components of learning environments propounded by Mishra & Koehler (2006) ”content, pedagogy and technology”. It is easy to be swept up in the technology at the expense of the other two.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record

The Host with the Most!

The biggest problem with unlimited data is data management and along with organising systems like Google Reader and Mahara there is a free data storage software called Mediafire that lets you upload and download unlimited data. Others can share with your permission and it is simple and easy to use.

As well as the personal use of storing important files for safety the educational benefits stretch to it being the repository for a school or class project and save or protect resource material. I would collect all the relevant resources for whatever unit I was working on and would have access from anywhere in the future regardless of venue or forgetting my laptop. Students could also access for a unit of work where the learning manager could collate the resources. In line with the Engagement Theory principles Kearsley & Shneiderman (1998) of Relate-Create-Donate a cohort could set up a resource for a local organisation such as an retirement home or sporting club such as a photo library adding a history or fact file for a SOSE unit.

One problem with this free software is that if you do not use the account for more than sixty days it will expire so school holidays will have to be managed and file maintenance continued. A paid option will give unlimited access. I found 10 other file host all with varying conditions and uses so as per usual you must choose for your situation. Try Rapidshare or MagicVortex.

Shneiderman, B. (1988), Relate-Create-Donate: An educational philosophy for the cyber-generation. Computers & Education, in press.

“Get the Message?”

Fodey is a website where you can generate variations on different images and introduce text in an entertaining range of text types. It is also a launch pad to a plethora of similar sites so that you can play with a message or image to insert in a digital portfolio or use in a hard copy presentation. As you can see by the example, the potential to engage learners in creating text in interesting and purposeful contexts is useful. Creating a newspaper article allows for the genres to be explored in an authentic way. I could extend my learner’s writing skills by getting them to compose and publish a faux newspaper article reporting on an election result or other parliament focussed event for their SOSE assessment. I can see early learners having fun with creating simple messages and exploring Luke & Freebody's (1995) four resource model as a text user or text analyst described by Anstey & Bull (2004) constructing an image as an advertiser or anti-advertisment (see example above).

The idea defined by Buell (undated) that “In cognitive theories, knowledge is viewed as symbolic mental constructs in the learner's mind, and the learning process is the means by which these symbolic representations are committed to memory.” is exemplified bythe use this technology as the learner will create their own symbols and therefore learning will be enhanced.

Anstey, M., & Bull,G. (2004) The Literacy Labyrinth: Australia Pearson Education p293

Buell, C. (undated). Cognitivism. Retrieved August 14, 2009 from

Freebody, P., Luke A. (1995) Cornerstones: Module 4 frameworks for critical analysis of teaching. Adelaide: DECS

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Get to the (power) point!

Powerpoint presentations (PPP’s) have been the “stock in trade” mode of presentation for quite some time now as they (when done well) inform, stimulate and highlight in a professional format. They can provide a multimedia platform in an accessible form like a book in that the viewer can take in the content at their leisure even able to flip back and forwards. We have seen this university program use PPP’s extensively as both a teaching delivery tool (by lecturers) and also as an assessment tool as they provide the opportunity for the students to construct their own meaning. PPP’s are the perfect example of the second definition of multiliteracy in that they are “the new communication technologies (which) are producing increasingly multimodal types of text. Written-linguistic forms of communication combine with visual, audio, gestural and spatial create new patterns of literacy, much broader than language alone.” Winch et al (2007)
The website Slideshare is an online site that allows opportunities to store, view and share a wide variety of PPP subjects. As usual the titles are seemingly endless and spark the imagination. An example I would like you to view is a marketing tool but the ideas it puts forward can easily be applied to the education sector (I think).
I had some difficulty uploading my own PPP to the site but hopefully you can see the results of a quick PPP that I put together for a Yr 7 SOSE cohort I am currently confusing.
For your consideration,

Winch, G., Johnston, R.R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., Holliday, M. (2007) Literacy.
South Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why online testing?

When studying digital portfolios recently I understood that only examples of creative pieces could be included. I had not contemplated that other forms of assessment could be included other than scans of written assessment which would be time consuming and of poor quality.

However online test sites have been established that make make it easy for learning managers to get students engaging with a format of assessment that is becoming becoming increasingly prevalent.

I had the task of formulating a SOSE lesson for a Yr 7 cohort and needed a different way of engaging students. Rather than marching down to the resource room and getting in the queue of teachers waiting at the photocopier at 8.30am and using a whole tree to provide a paper test, I was able to have a clear and paperless assessment ready the night before. This format also gives me the flexibility of letting the learners do the test at their own pace and time of choosing rather than set every student to attempt the test at the same time. I also found that it encouraged the Habit of Mind (Marzano 1999) of thinking and communicating with clarity and precision as it automatically gives feedback on the student's answers (if that is the test author's preference).

This could be a good thing but alternatively being in a digital format there is less room for individual interpretation as only the narrow view of a correct answer is permitted. Is it detrimental to the learner or the assessment criteria if an error in using upper or lower case causes a much lower score? With a written test there is much more scope to assess the learner's thinking process or intent and allow for minor errors.

Another limit I can foresee is that there is only four types of questions allowed by this format however that is only this site, another site might offer the versatility to include diagrams, et cetera depending on the subject.

Overall I found this site another useful tool in the toolbox of the learning manager.

If you would like to try my general knowledge quiz on the Australian Electoral System please visit

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The God of Technology

avatar, n. 1.Hindu Myth. The descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god 2. A supreme manifestation; embodiment. [Skt avatara descent]
The Macquarie Dictionary (1981) revised edition Macquarie Library
1. Hinduism the manifestation of a deity, notably Vishnu, in human, superhuman, or animal form
2. a movable image that represents a person in a virtual reality environment or in cyberspace
Collins Discovery Encyclopaedia, (2005) 1st edition HarperCollins Publishers

These definitions reflect the ethereal quality of the faces that are becoming more frequent on our computer screens. The software that can be used for a number of applications allows a human (or other) face to add some humanity to the somewhat alien technology of bytes, numbers and text of the webpage. Written instructions will make way for a replicant personality or an artificial mask to a human’s voice. I see this as a natural progression in the evolution of the robot and the individualised personality of artificial intelligence.
The question is however “What are the implications for education?” Siemens’ “Principles of Connectivism” (2005) alludes to this when he states “Learning may reside in non-human appliances.” Are we seeing the beginning of the end of human teachers? As technology becomes more advanced, will Flex courses be guided by an avatar that can translate curricular requirement tasks to voice activated question and answer assessment?
Of course the possibilities are limitless in the long term but what of the near future? My immediate need as a student would be for a friendly and consoling face to quieten my fears when cyber stress and rage overtake me in my lonely office. I can see primary age students enjoying the creative and fun aspects of using the Voki or Sitepal software as I have. The implications for meeting Department of Education outcomes would lend themselves to English literacy assessment and Special Education applications. Students who were anxious about their looks or speech could find another voice. Comparisons could be made about how students feel about messages from an avatar as opposed to a real person, would they respond differently. Critical literacy issues abound.

George Siemens