Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Top 100 elearning tools

Jane Hart’s collation of top elearning tools from over 150 contributors is now available as a pdf file via this site. The analysis makes for some interesting reading, in particular, that educators are using Web 2.0 tools more widely than their corporate counterparts. Also , that most of the contributors used most of the tools for their own productivity rather than for ‘teaching’. Jane Hart’s list has been useful to us here at CPIT as it provides a one stop shop for tutors just starting on using ICT in a more creative way in their teaching. Descriptions of the sites are succinct and provide enough information to allow for future exploration to see if the tools will fit well into the learning context for each tutor’s content area and student profiles.

A trawl through the list reveal a couple that I have not come across. Of interest to check out were Voicethread and Jing. Voicethread allows photos / text files to be uploaded and then commented upon via audio. Photos from flickr, powerpoint slides and word / excel and pdf files can all be uploaded. Audio files can be posted via mobile phones or through the use of text or webcam. All of the media can then be shared and comments can be left by viewers. I registered and had a quick look around. The interface is very user friendly. I would assume that displaying on a mobile phone would be difficult and at present, only phones in the USA are able to contribute voice files. However, the whole concept is very useful for digital story telling, moving it forward from just a collection of photos to providing the opportunity to bring in personalised stories with audio & video feedback and commenting.

Jing is a screen capture tool. It allows the user to take snapshots of their desktop and make a video of what they have done. This is then sharable with other users. Being in beta, it is free for the time being & requires the download of the jing software tool on to your computer. It’s a useful tool to help record procedures for using other pieces of software plus perhaps to also record presentations as well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TEC fund application - unsuccessful

Thom Cochrane from Unitec, Nick Ford & myself, put in an application late last year to the TEC for funding via the ‘encouraging & supporting innovation’ fund. The overall proposal was to use evidence based research studies to build guidelines for the implementation of mlearning with vocational / tertiary students. With the funding, we were going to extend on our present projects with apprentice bakers to include apprentice chefs, possibly also builders or plumbers. Thom’s work was with Unitec students studying design and music. The emphasis would be in using mobile phones to allow students to collect evidence of their learning and to make use of Web 2.0 tools to archive, collate and eventually showcase their work. Mlearning meshed with social networking sites will lead to greater interaction between learners, tutors, employers and the learners’ social circle (including their friends and family). Ease of access often leads to better motivation and engagement in learning for students who take up vocational based training.

Unfortunately, our application was turned down. The feedback provided said that it was “because the rationale for the intervention was not strong and it lacked evidence". I emailed the good people at esi support to find out what the above meant & to glean some learning from the experience, so that our next application would be more concrete and contain more evidence. There is another round of applications to be considered in May, so we will put in a revised application to see if we are able to meet the criteria required.

It’s been over a fortnight since I emailed esi support & I have not, as yet, received a reply from them. So Nick & I will work through our existing application and update to reflect requirements provided in the one sentence feedback. Thom, as always a pragmatist, has suggested that perhaps the evaluators did not understand the implications of the concepts proposed in our application. Therefore, we will need to supply a more detailed description (using examples of work that we have already completed) to provide a sense of the potential that our mlearning project has towards contributing towards a better understanding of how to make use of mobile (both hard and software) technology.

Much of our work stems from our daily interaction with young people and their use of technology in their daily lives. From textually org blog comes two blogs this week about how technology has changed the way in which young people socialise and inter-relate.
One is Rich Ling’s book, New tech, new ties: how mobile communication is reshaping social cohesion. The book looks at how the mobile phone affects the two kinds of interactions via mobile communication and face to face. Ling finds that the use of various social rituals the mobile phone strengthens social ties with friends and family but sometimes at the expense of interaction with those who are actually physically present.

The other is an article from the economist magazine on homo mobilist which reports on research at MIT by Shelley Turkle on how the use of ‘mobile tools’ leads to ‘the emergence of a new kind of person’.

These very recent studies provide a strong reason for me to continue my mlearning research and to be persistent about applying for funding to provide adequate resources for studying the sociological aspects that my mlearning research is continually revealing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cloud Trade

Checked out Cloud trade - anytime, anywhere digital sharing mentioned by John Biggs on Mobile crunch. Cloud trade allows media in the form of music, photos and videos along with word and pdf files to be shared between mobile phone users. In using Cloud trade, you accumulate points that can then be redeemed via the advertisers who market their products on Cloud trade.

To use Cloud trade, an application has to be downloaded on to the phone (instructions seem to be clear on what to do). You need to register and away you go. Alas, only available in the USA as only supports USA telecom providers. Also, most of the phones are the more high end / smart phones. But does work with Windows mobile 6.0 (including Treo 750), Blackberry plus also Nokia and Samsung phones.

Good concept and a view into things to come (drool), unfortunately might be sometime before Kiwis have access plus when it arrives will be expensive to use.

Critical thinking: what is it and how to assess it, a case for eportfolios

Late last week, attended a workshop convened by our staff development team and facilitated by Jan Kent.

I needed to work my through the various definitions of critical thinking and to update my knowledge on the role of critical thinking in applied vocational education. I had read Stephen Brookfield’s book on critical thinking as part of my M Ed studies and have dipped back into the book whenever I have found the need to clarify my understanding of how critical thinking applies to my own learning and research.

Jan used work by Stephen Brookfield and also the work of Jenny Moon to work through a definition of critical thinking and in particular provided examples of how critical thinking could be broken up into levels and types. Examples from Jenny Moon’s handout include a focus on Baxter Magolda’s (1992) epistemological development which identified four domains or stages. These are absolute knowing, transitional knowing, independent knowing and contextual knowing.

The group worked through several exercises to try to sort student comments and student work into the various stages of epistemological development. We also had a good discussion leading on from these exercises as to how to best assess ‘critical thinking’. There was agreement on the importance of sharing our understandings of critical thinking within our own teaching teams. There was also a need to ensure that students are then prepared for the level of critical thinking required from their programme of study.

From the point of view of my mlearning pilot, an eportfolio contains many aspects of critical thinking related to the collation of the portfolio. However the depth of critical thinking required is not unachievable by the majority of the apprentices who are constructing their eportfolios. I have provided guidelines on what is expected so the next step is to evaluate what we now have in the collections and to find out how I can nudge apprentices on to the next level. Which is to view their collection as evidence of their growing skill and knowledge as they become bakers and to then present their evidence in a way that shows their learning trajectory.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On happiness & the role of education

Artichoke’s latest post featured the NZ Herald report of a 17 year old Takapuna high student suicide, brought on by bullying at school and a discussion on the role of schools in shaping children’s attitudes to happiness.

I read the post just as I bid farewell to my 20 year old travelling back to university in Wellington. She had returned to Christchurch the week before to attend the memorial service of an ex-school mate & university peer who had taken her life just before Easter. Youth suicide rates in NZ are nothing to boast about. Compared to other OECD countries, NZ has the highest suicide rate for young men (15 to 24 years) and second highest rate among young women. This in a small country, blessed with an enviable lifestyle, purportedly egalitarian society, high literacy rates and low unemployment. WHY!

My daughter & I had a good chat about the consequences of her friend’s suicide and strategies she could use to help her and her wider group of Wellington friends deal with the loss. My daughter was sensible and maintained great equilibrium throughout. At a late stage in our mother and daughter chat, my son joined in (a rare event in itself!) and chipped in with advice from his pharmacist friend. The advice was along the lines of how every individual had highs and lows as part of the natural order of how our bodies worked. Prescription drugs that control depression sometimes make the cycles of emotional highs and lows more intense. Therefore, it was more worthwhile to talk about things when one was feeling bad rather than to pop a pill and hope things become better. We all resolved to keep in touch much more and to vent when required so that frustrations with work, study or friendships did not become bottled up. All in, the chat brought us all closer together and will be something I will remember as a parent.

The bulk of Artichoke’s post was on happiness and the role of schooling in helping young people grasp the concept of happiness. The post ended with the several questions including “the role of technology in helping students define happiness “ & “what happened to belonging”.

To the first question, I would add “ the role, in particular, of mobile phone technology” as this is the ICT tool that most young people in the 15 – 24 age range use. What use can mobile phones be towards helping young people seek help sooner for their angst? How can mobile phones keep tabs on young people (who are at risk of committing suicide) without becoming invasive? Can mobile phones be used in a sensitive and positive way to help young people through their bad patches by offering on-call ‘buddies’ like the ones that are now offered on land line phones and through voice via Youthline.

With the second question on “belonging”, the role of mentors for young people, especially for young men is extremely important. One of the things I found in my research on young people becoming bakers was how young people have an affinity to being lead / mentored to by other older men. This could be in the form of the bakery manager / owner, the bakery supervisor or in many cases, the senior apprentice. These ‘older’ role models show young men who are entering the workforce, the way to become men (for better or worse). So learning about happiness needs to be a societal force, something along the lines of Bhutan’s “happiness index”? & schools can at best, assist in the process.