Summary of Blog Posts

 Blog Post One – First Published May 3, 2011 – Setting the context

Isaac Asimov stated in the early 1930’s……….

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

Apart from the obvious physical evolution of the human body, has the ability of the human mind to learn really changed? Perhaps what has evolved is our understanding of the learning process and the realization that the human capacity for critical and creative thinking is limitless. It is possible for all learners to experience success, but in order for learning to truly be accessible to all, educators must serve as facilitators of authentic learning experiences. We must orchestrate the generation of knowledge, as opposed to being the gatekeepers of knowledge. Information or knowledge for knowledge’s sake is not the indicator of learning; accessing, processing, and producing information is the demonstration of learning.

The development of Web 2.0 technologies and Web 3.0 affords educators with the tools to create differentiated and meaningful communication and collaboration opportunities for students, allowing them as Hargadon stated in his article, to become both consumers and producers of information. Education is dependent on the skill of educators to create social learning opportunities; to engage learners in activities reflecting real-life relevance; and to allow students to be active participants in the acquisition, application, and assessment of their learning. Educators of the future must utilize the potential of the web and future technological tools to accomplish this, exciting and activating a generation of digital natives, while modeling to them through their willingness to access such technology, flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to life-long, limitless learning.

Blog Post Two – First Published May 8, 2011 – Blogs

In what ways are Blogs consistent with Web 2.0 and 3.0 attributes and possibilities?

The use of Blogs in designing instructional opportunities creates a technological medium for learners to be both consumers and producers of knowledge, readers as well as writers. This has implications for adult and student learners. Apart from the obvious benefits in distance learning, there are incredible advantages to utilizing blogs as part of a blended instructional approach and as a forum for professional development. My school has created department blogs for the teacher community to post assignments, link resources, share assessment rubrics and pose questions. In addition, department policies, course outline templates, and resource inventory lists appear here. This has drastically reduced the number of binders and papers requiring continual updates freeing department leaders to target instruction and assessment as discussion points at meetings rather than utilizing such valuable gatherings for the purpose of paper dissemination! In addition, several teachers have created course Blogs allowing students to access resources, study guides, and calendars and providing a forum for parent communication. From an administrative perspective this allows teachers to be available “after hours” serving as an efficient communication medium while encouraging community for students collaborating on group activities outside of the classroom, as we evolve towards incorporating more virtual 3.0 capabilities, extending the halls of learning.

Blog Post Three – First Published May 12, 2011 – Qwiki

“Qwiki: Thumbs up or thumbs down?”  Why? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of this online tool so we can make better informed choices when we decide to use it.

Qwiki co-founder, Doug Imbruce, defines  his Quick Wiki as resource which turns “static information into a beautiful interactive experience” (Youtube video Qwiki Demo with Doug Imbruce).  His inspiration was to create a research tool which aggregated the key elements of all information searches – maps, pictures, texts, and links – into one multi-media presentation. At first glance, Imbruce certainly seems to be redefining the future of on-line research. Quick, slick and visually appealing, it is far more enjoyable to read, or should I say experience, than a Wikipedia search. However, in its public alpha stage, it is pretty clear it has much work to do before it can be deemed the online research tool of choice.

As Imbruce outlined in his presentations, Qwiki certainly attempts to be an information experience for its users. The audio narrative, the variety of images, timelines and scrolling text,  are congruent with the type of multi-media presentations our Net generation of learners expect. However, as mentioned by others, there still are many limitations. Although I appreciate Qwiki is in its infancy stage, I experienced similar frustrations expressed by others – annoying and quick voice reading with numerous mispronunciations, superficial research details, and lack of verifiable contributors.  My children (ages 7 and 10) served as my testers, and they quickly identified its flaws; furthermore, it is certainly not ready for more sophisticated researchers, high school and college students. However, I think once Qwiki catches up (similar to Wikipedia in its early stages when it proclaimed my small Saskatchewan hometown to be the gold mining capital of Canada – false!), it will surpass other Wikis as the source of choice due to its experiential style.  In particular, I see great potential as a resource for struggling readers, EAL students, and as an adaptations tool to scaffold learning – perhaps simplifying facts for readers and serving as a preliminary foundation of knowledge on which the student can build.

Blog Post Four – First Published May 20, 2011 – Xtranormal Group Post

Review the journal article  and reflect on the following questions: (1) What is the impact of videos on learning? and (2) What are the benefits and limitations of using videos for teaching?

In general, video can enhance learning by providing visual images of concepts which leads to greater understanding, internalization, and retention. Advantages include attractive and consistent presentation of material which motivates, intrigues, and engages learners with visuals and audio (a multi-media approach) and may also provide for students, experience with real world applications such as they would encounter in work place technology. This certainly, as the article suggests, supports the concepts of constructivist theory. As with traditional lecture style instruction, video presentations must contain an element of interactivity to be truly effective. Traditionally, videos cover broad information and topics in a linear presentation – this can lead to disengagement and disinterest. The journal article by Zhang, Zhou, Briggs and Nunamaker (2005) concludes that videos best supported e -learning when the learner was able to stop, rewind, and browse the video information. In otherwords, the learner could interact with the video by controlling the flow of information to address his/her specific learning needs. In traditional face to face instruction this is typically done manually by the instructor who gages student interest and makes adjustments accordingly. On-line instructional opportunities must allow the learner this interaction and control. This speaks to student directed learning and an inquiry approach.
Video use can be a great benefit to distance education in online course instruction, but also poses great potential for incorporation into traditional settings to created blended instructional approaches. Furthermore, video use can provide opportunities for instructional differentiation to address student diversity. Other advantages to web based videos are that they are more accessible and cost effective for students and teachers. Current limitations with e-video use in public education are technological issues such as bandwidth, currently controlled by the Ministry, prohibiting much of the video streaming being attempted in schools. Another limitation is student motivation. Studies like the one outlined in the article suggest that only students who are self-motivated and self-directed (the student who succeeds in any learning environment) are successful in on-line courses. How can others, less motivated be monitored and directed? Finally, as with all technology, there will inevitably be glitches. Who will trouble shoot when the technology fails? These are all considerations to the selection and incorporation of video resource materials and into teaching practices.

Blog Post Five – First Published May 28, 2011 – Prezi Presentations

One of the major drawbacks in regards to Qwikis was the difficulty in editing or adding to the information that was already there (or not!). So, using what you know now about Qwikis and Prezis, could you see ways in which you (or your students) could create your own Qwiki using Prezi? What would you suggest as a process?

I think the Prezi  is a fantastic way of creating an interactive search that could be student generated. Just as we took a basic thought web or concept map and created interactive links to multimedia web sources (text, stills, video, and audio); the Prezi presentation could be utilized by teachers and students as an exploration engine, instructional medium, or assessment tool. This could be done as introductions to units of learning (teacher directed), a way of creating learning activities (student and teacher), or as a form of assessment as the student creates the Prezi as a demonstration of the outcomes. Like a Qwiki, the Prezi can be a living document to which other students can add. Of course, the advantage is the immediate way this can be done (sharing editing privileges with the entire class).  If I revisit the Shakespeare concept map I made to introduce students to the life, times, works, and influence of William Shakespeare, I think the Prezi would have allowed better organization and emphasis – broad topics framed and zooming in on the details to improve understanding. Also, the embedded videos are more user friendly and visually appealing. By asking students to extend and add an idea, it would make the entire process more interactive and reciprocal for students and teacher!

Blog Post Six – First Published June 2, 2011 – Jing Screencasts

The problem with labeling anything “ultimate” is that you are immediately dismissing the possibility of anything better and admitting creative, and in this case, technological defeat. I believe in infinite possibilities, so is Jing the ultimate realization of Web 2.0? Absolutely, not. It is, however, a great tool which makes distance instruction far richer. Tutorials are a quick way for teachers to introduce new skills, and serve as reviews for key concepts. Students can use them to frame question or to demonstrate learning. In particular screen shots which can be pasted in emails and chats provide the accompanying visual which students and presenters often need to illustrate concepts.  As noted by others, there are other applications, most notably Camstudio and Snagit which even expand the capabilities of Jing. However, my experience with Jing is that it is easy to use, quick and effective for my purposes of providing “how to’s” taking the screen shot to a more interactive level. My husband, a senior math teacher, has used it to explain difficult math concepts. Often gone for several days with the basketball team, he has left links to Jing screencasts for the sub to show the class via the data projector.

Blog Post Seven – First Published June 12, 2011 – WebQuests and Instructional Design

Long before Wikis, Blogs and Twitter;  WebQuests were the buzzword surrounding  internet use in education. Somehow I missed out – joining the technology train long after the WebQuest was so “yesterday.” I was thrilled to discover in this module that WebQuests are in many ways the digital version of my resource based research group projects,  often used to introduce topics or culminate learnings,  going beyond the limitations of these paper heavy projects.  However, do WebQuests constitute authentic learning?

According to Diane Oblinger’s whitepaper “Authentic Learning for the 21st Century” available on EduCause, learning by doing is the best way to learn. Internet technologies are providing new ways to communicate, stimulate, visualize and create. WebQuests are a way of creating a virtual environment wherein learners can assume roles and responsibilities which replicate real life scenarios and allow them to learn while doing. Oblinger outlines this as one of the 10 key design elements which foster authentic  learning. The other 9 include: ill defined problems which contain tasks and subtasks; sustained investigation; multiple sources and perspectives; collaboration; reflection; interdisciplinary perspectives and finally, integrated assessment.  Well constructed WebQuests   contain all of these elements and remain perhaps the most relevant and important applications of authentic learning in virtual environments.


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