42: Professional Training Wheels

This week, we had Donald Girouard and Shannon Horne present to our #I4Ed class at BU. Both individuals are the respective consultants for the Instructional Design, and Implementation of Web-based Courses (Manitoba Education Distance Learning).

Their presentation informed the class of courses available online, that could be used in three different ways: Distance Education, Classroom-based, or as a Teacher Resource. The recent iteration of the site our class was introduced to is easy to navigate, and has accessible, approved, course-related, outcome-based content. Apparently, alternate versions were available in other incarnations for the last 10 years or so. I was thrilled to be introduced to this intuitive version.

I’m not sure if anybody else in class realized the importance of this as a resource (mostly because I’m not telepathic). However, I do, based on my experience: I was hired 7 years ago to teach a course that I specialized in. After that first year, I was shuffled over to teach other courses. Not an ideal situation, but conflicted thoughts were easily resolved by acknowledging that a good teacher is student-centered, not subject-centered. That being said, I was not an expert in the content of the subject area I was to teach. To complicate matters, finding resources proved difficult: interpreting past teacher notes (kind of like walking in used shoes without laces), inheriting textbooks that were already nostalgic, and trying to determine outcomes for the course—all in the beginning years of a career. The stress was unbelievable, and the hours spent acquiring knowledge was incomprehensible.

Word of caution: When signing up for the Blackboard access, hit the submit button only once, or else you’ll run the risk of receiving multiple acknowledgements (in a day or so) in your e-mail.


Next year, I hope to teach ELA as a course of choice in a secondary school. I also know that the ELA curriculum is under review. For now, as a teacher about to teach a new subject and knowing that there is a resource such as this available, I can’t help but feel secure about accessing established content. Once the base is established then I can continue to grow as an ELA teacher and eventually pick and choose relevant content to achieve outcomes.


41: User Interfaces and Other Observations

Today in #I4Ed class, one Mr. John Evans, a Web Technologies Consultant with Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning, informed the class of many different online resources for educators. I found his presentation to be highly knowledgable and informative. In fact, you’ll notice my links to the left now include links to my About.me page, and my Pearltrees.com account.

Some things about today’s lesson:

1) I’m still uncomfortable having my real name published online for various reasons.
2) Scoop.it would be a lot more revered (by my wallet) if it didn’t charge for full functionality. Yes, I read how to get “free” upgrades, and I only have one hour for prep in the school day.
3) Who designed the cumbersome interface for Diigo.com?

Evans did state that the value of the sites presented today were based on the recommendations of other educators. I do not dispute this statement for one bit. I believe Evans when he states that there is plenty of value in the Diigo.com site. However, if I can’t find what I’m looking for with a couple of quick, fumbled clicks around a site, then I’m gonna make like a pair of jeans and fade. Yes, there is a plethora of online sites to help build Personal Learning Environments, yet it is up to the individual nature of educators, to decide which sites may or may not work to their needs.

Teacher’s are in a profession that can recognize, foster, and appraise human abilities according to Bloom’s; complex stuff, categorized. So why can’t a site in 2015 be built according to a few simple interface guidelines?

Circular Cause and Consequence

Wikipedia defines technological determinism as “a reductionist theory that presumes that a society’s technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values.” The article “Digital Habitus”, by Steve Wheelers, defines cultural capital as “the human assets each of us owns, including our intellect, personal navigation of society and its artifacts, our cultural awareness (….) the accretion of all that has been learnt through immersion within a specific culture”.

These two concepts presented themselves via my University studies this year. My interpretation simplifies the statements as: one concept states that technology influences a culture, and the other concept states that culture determines it own values through experience. If my interpretation is correct, then I believe them to be both right. To assume so, means that one has to consider technological determinism in the digital age. The concept has been argued, defined, and produced variations of, since the 1880’s (relatively the same time as another form of communication was invented—the telephone—give or take a decade). Synchronicity, I suppose, as now in good ol’ contemporary 2015 (give or take another decade), social media is changing society by continuing to offer new modes of communication (Facebook in 2004, and Then twitter in 2006, etc.).

Communication and community both originate from the latin term “commūnicāre”, which means to share. In most cultures, sharing is a valued aspect that continually grows, and is specific to need. Therefore, if a culture values efficiency of communication, than the culture will also value technology that enables communication.

Both part of a loop, one existing because of the other.


Cancel Culpability

You are guilty.

Well, if you’re a Canadian teacher, and display audiovisual items in class, you’re probably guilty. Here’s why:

Consider copyrights and audiovisual works. Now contemplate sites such as Netflix and iTunes. Any site that requires a password, represents a “digital lock”. If this “digital lock” is opened, then it constitutes a violation of service, and if teachers can be faulted for violation, then divisions can be issued a bill for public presentation fees. This fact was presented in one of my university classes, by our guest speaker, John Finch, from Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning. John Finch is very pragmatic about explaining copyright, and also stresses professionalism and diligence in teachers’ use of social media.

So, I interpreted the proper legal discourse as thus: if a teacher finds a video on YouTube with educational value, and adds it to their personal Youtube playlist, they can not log-in at school to access the video for display.

However, the teacher should open Youtube, not access their channel, then search for the material, in order to access and play for class use.

We’re not done yet. If the material is copyright protected, then according to the 3rd Edition of “Copyright Matters!”, by Wanda Noel and Jordan Snel, items posted to Youtube are audiovisual, and therefore only 10 per cent should be shown.

Now you know.

40: Teachers as Designers

Started second semester today, of my B.Ed studies. A full 6-course workload. I would say “That’s a busy semester”, but I’m going to more accurately say, “It still doesn’t match the teaching workload”. So far, I’m enjoying the information presented, and some of it will be actually used to help fine-tune my thesis efforts.

Like this site that is progressive in it’s attempts to promote engagement with students, with claims that “teachers should see themselves as designers of work and leaders of students in the conduct of that work more than as instructors and primary sources of information for students”.

True to that, my friends, true to that.