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Browsing youtube

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m messing around on youtube.  Here are some gems I’ve stumbled cross.

First up, what might an honest and upfront conversation with a particular type of student look like?  Oh dear, oh dear!  Go on, admit it, you smiled, just a little bit…..

Second up: there are a number of these type of videos blowing about on youtube and to say they annoy me is putting it mildly.  No, I don’t have a problem with the message.  There is a lot of truth in the message.  I have a problem with how it’s put across. Isn’t it ironic that the kids are using hand-written cards to get across the message that they want to use more technology?  And why are they so glum?  Cheer up, for crying out loud, and go read a book.

Actually the video reminded me of a comment I read recently (apologies, I cannot remember the site) from a first year undergraduate complaining that they don’t do anything interesting in IT class  Instead they spend the time doing the ECDL syllabus. While I commiserated with the student’s position, the student needs to know that syllabi are not always decided by the teachers who deliver it, quality control procedures typically mean that a syllabus cannot be deviated from much, what one student considers boring is highly stimulating to another, and finally, ECDL is a good foundation in IT. A problem is that ECDL might not been studied by all students in their prior learning while others proudly show off their certificates.  This causes particular problems for a teacher – what do you do when the majority of a class have already done all the material while it’s brand new for a sizable minority – without causing feelings of inferiority / superiority, without operating double standards, etc?

Third on the list: I quite like the ideas in this one, even if the whole thing is meant to be a parody.  The iPaper is an interesting idea in and of itself.

Fourth is another futuristic one.  This one takes a pot shot at the nonotechnology movement. How small can things really get?  Have we reached the practical  limits on size?   Or, the more likely scenario, are there applications out there for tinytech that we are still exploring – those applications are just not the ones we already have?

And, finally, a century of educational technology chronicled in one youtube video. The early part of the 20th century had the radio, gramaphone, and the silent / talkies movies but not all educators used them.  Then along came WW2 and things really sped up technologically but to what extent did the tools make it into the classroom?  By the time the 1970s calculators were the cool learning toy of the day.  Yet, as I recall, it was to be many years later before students were allowed use them in exams. Scroll on further and you have youtube and Facebook and a whole lot more social media, and many educators don’t use those either.

The lesson: new media, its applications and levels of usage are relative to the time. Technology has never really had a fundamental effect on or caused a radical overhaul of how school/college based learning and teaching takes place.  It’s still predominantly desks and chairs and a teacher delivering.  New technology comes along and supplements or complements what’s already there. As tools (Sony walkman, anyone?) go out fashion they are replaced by others (Apple ipod, anyone?).

The words educational reform have been heard for years and years.  Technology has been changing and evolving for decades.  Yet there hasn’t been any fundamental change in how teaching and learning takes place. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

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what do students choose to do when…..

……. in class but not engaged in formal learning?

An interesting side effect of the cold weather is that students stay in during their class breaks instead of heading outside for a cig or a coffee. In a double class today with a break in the middle I decided to have a peek at what students got up to. Here’s a summary –

  • Read football reports online – 1 student
  • Watch football movie clips on youtube – 1 student
  • Watch movie trailers on youtube – 1 student
  • Search wikipedia – 3 students, all in different languages, none of them english
  • Catch up on e-mail – 3 students
  • Catch up on Bebo – 3 students
  • Catch up on Facebook – 1 student
  • Play computer games – 2 students (on the same internet game, and sitting right beside each other)
  • Text on their phones – 1 student
  • Talk to each other – 3 students

Having spent an hour doing computer-based work, the vast majority of students volunteer to stay on that computer even though they dont have to. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Whichever, it shows how integrated undergrads are with technology.

What do I learn when I ask about their preferred breaktime habits –

Bebo and Facebook at most popular on Mondays. The same clubs and pubs are attended but everyones experience of a night out is different. So reading about each others reflections on said night out on Bebo or Facebook is a way of catching up with friends that can’t actually happen on the night out itself. How about that? Going out is only as interesting as what is said the next day about same night out. Social situations and environments are extended beyond the boundary of the night out.  Loosely jointed records are there for all to see. Students get to evaluate the social event from multiple perspectives, form opinions and feelings about people and scenarios, and then act on them in a way not possible without social networking sites.

youtube clips are short enough to be watched quickly and so avoid the need to commit to something in-depth that may not be interesting. Web design gurus tell us that it only takes a couple of seconds to decide whether we like a website or not. Is it the same with other aspects of the web – our attentions span is so low, we cant become engaged with anything online for any extended period of time. It’s digital fast food. We want our web content dished up in a bit-sized chunks that we can sample and decide yes / no very quickly

Wikipedia is a source of information that is considered trustworthy and reliable. While we would rather students read scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, they prefer wikipedia. IS this such a bad thing? Wikipedia isn’t any more factually incorrect than Encyclopedia Britannica, its got a significant amount of inter-linkages, it alters the reader when pages are incomplete or need more work, it has a “by the people for the people” feel to it, its got enough members who care to keep the riff-raff vandals from sabotaging it.

Computer games are a means of having a laugh while spending quality time with mates. Classmates bonding has a positive effect on a class. And if new skills and abilities are picked up in the process of the bonding (the students were playing a co-operative game that required them to work together to solve a problem) then why arent we as educators embracing computer games more? Perhaps its becasue gaming technology doesnt map onto formally prescribed curricula so easily, or its a large scale effort that we simply do not have the time for?

Here’s the really interesting part – there was as much learning going on during the break as in the classtime. Yet the break time content doesn’t get any credit