Sunday, August 28, 2011

Children and Tech Series - the penultimate post - final exam question

How much meaningful learning can one course have?

The breadth and depth of learning I’ve experienced in this course is kind of astonishing. I feel like I came into the course with an inkling of what the potential for learning using technology might mean, and I’m leaving with a tremendous host of skills and tools to use, not only in early learning contexts but in my own learning as well. This course hasn’t only given me practical tools and examples, but I’ve also been able to explore different ways of thinking and looking at both technology and learning.

Over the course of this class I watched myself loosen up a bit with technology in a way that I haven’t previously. Not only did I begin to game outside of class, but playing around with different media, programs and games in our labs really helped me to see the potential in different gaming environments and virtual worlds. Having been staunchly ambivalent about technology previous to this, I feel like I know have a much better sense of what makes good games, good online worlds, and good media environments. When I say good, I’m referring to virtual and online spaces where people, students and otherwise, can use technology to understand the task and themselves more clearly. This course has really helped me to unpack what kind of things are important to have in situations that foster authentic learning. Spaces where people become engaged with what they are doing and are able to make it their own are “good”. These “good” playful learning spaces are environments that people not only inhabit, customize to their own specifications, and take ownership of, but they also reinforce the transference of those characteristics and behaviours outside of that particular environment to other contexts and activities. Playing World of Goo, getting to know Flickr a bit better, and the truly transformative play that I experienced playing with Scratch – all that playing really helped me understand how to take ownership of virtual spaces, what made a game fun AND something that fostered questioning and learning, and how to think critically about technology and especially educational technology and evaluate it for fun AND learning potential.

Another really important thing I learned in this course is that it’s not as much what (although I will argue in a second that that is also important) but how technology is engaged with in a learning environment that makes the difference. In the first chapter of Jonassen, Howland, Marra & Crismond’s Meaningful Learning with Technology (2008) – ironically the last assigned reading in this course – the authors outline the basic requirements for meaningful learning. I deeply appreciate the clarity with which these characteristics are laid out for us. If the learning is intentional, active, constructive, cooperative and authentic, then it is meaningful (Jonassen et al., 2008). I really love this, because it incorporates some things that are dear to my heart – participation, child-directedness, engagement, reflection – elements that I feel are key to learning. I find myself now applying that criteria to other things, using that criteria to evaluate whether something is meaningful, whether it is technologically involved or not.

Reflecting on our readings and lab explorations helped advance my understanding regarding how the shapes of things influences how we learn. By shape, I’m referring to the expectations, hidden curricula, implied attitudes and assumptions that go into the environment and very architecture of the various games, online spaces, institutions and relationships that we engage with every day. Grimes’ Prezi presentation Playing By (and With) the Rules (2010) helped extend my thinking on commercial entities creating commercialized spaces to create commercialized children. Nolan and Bakan’s article Social technologies for young children: Cultural Play with (in press) about using the Web 2.0 user/producer phenomenon to engage children and educators back into the production of their own musical culture helped me think about how users can be incited to produce their own material by exploring the content of online environments and applications. Sharples, Davison, Thomas & Rudman’s excellent and thought-provoking Children as photographers: an analysis of children’s photographic behaviour and intentions at three age levels (2003) helped me think about how the limitations and affordances built into the structures of the tools we use influence our experience with those tools. To be honest, however, it was experimenting with Scratch that really got me going, though.

It seems to me that every element that went into the designing of both the Scratch program and the Scratch online community was thought through to bring about the most empowerment, the most community-building, the most collaboration, the most exploration and experimentation, and the most meaningful learning possible. From the intuitive construction aspect of the programming language, where creators can build programs using blocks of commands, to the sharing and downloading capabilities that the online community site affords, every aspect of Scratch reinforces the collaborative nature of it’s mix/remix approach to cultural production, learning and fun. The more I played with it, the more impressed I was with how democratic the whole thing was. I loved that I learned the basics by watching tutorials made by and with kids. I was entranced with how easy it was to incorporate new self-generated material into the already existing matrix. Most powerfully of all, the ability to download other peoples games to see how they put them together and apply that knowledge or those very codes to your own work, reminded me very viscerally of my own explorations as a child of two mechanics. My parents would hand me a broken object (I most remember an old fashioned wind-up brass alarm clock) hand me some tools, and I would take thinks apart to see how they worked. In the climate of advanced electronics we live in today here in North America, I find it fascinating that that kind of tinkering exploration has transferred in a way INTO the technology we can no longer take apart, without a lot of know-how. Scratch, and programs like it, create a bridge to take that physical tinkering into the virtual world. It was crucial for me to learn that that was possible, and how it was possible.

I could go on and on. The emphasis on meaningful learning in this course, and what that means, has seeped into many other aspects in my life. I think in new ways, about new things because of this course. I’m excited about blogging, and exploring blogging with young and preliterate children. I’m interested in how learning can make us more generous, and how technology and the shapes of things can promote generosity in people, and children in particular. I’m entranced by the idea of combining democracy and fun in play and learning, and overwhelmed by the potential for meaningful learning through technology. I feel like I’ve only really begun to learn, and that’s great. Thanks, Jason.

Words: 1140


Grimes, S. (2010) Playing By (and With) the Rules. Accessed at

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Marra, R., & Crismond, D. (2008) Meaningful Learning with Technology. New Jersey, Pearson Education, Inc.

Nolan, J. & Bakan, D. (In press). Social technologies for young children: Cultural Play with Accessed at

Sharples, M., Davison, L., Thomas, G. & Rudman, P. (2003) Children as photographers: an analysis of children’s photographic behaviour and intentions at three age levels. Sage Publications 2(3). Accessed at

Children and Tech Series - Post #12

community building through technology

In my previous career, I prided myself on my ability to help build community. As a community artist, working with students in schools, kids in afterschool programs, and community members of all ages in drop-in situations and other venues, I thought a lot about using different artistic tools and media as bridges to bring diverse people together. My background in this work has biased me towards a collaborative form of working and learning, towards a certain openess and tendency to share. All that experience has been incredibly valuable in early learning contexts and the other educational contexts that my new field of early childhood education has put me in. It has also deeply informed my engagement with interpersonal dynamics.

However, it wasn’t really until I started studying my new field that I began to use technology as a means really build community, to look at technology in a critical and thoughtful way and choose to use it as another community building tool. I began a blog called the people garden in my first year of ECE here at Ryerson, and that’s where things changed for me.

I had kept blogs before, but they had been primarily archival and documentary in nature – a holding place for my work as an artist. While I was building the people garden, I set out one day to see if there were any other blogs out in the blogosphere that were by and about men working in early learning contexts. I was lucky, and found two key blogs that began a process of what’s now become a global community building project for me. I found Look at My Happy Rainbow, the blog of a male teacher reflecting on his surviving and enjoying his first year as a kindergarten teacher. His stories were warm and funny and interesting, and made me very excited to be a guy working with kids. I also found Teacher Tom’s blog – and felt like I fell down a rabbit hole. Teacher Tom’s writing about his work in a lab school in Seattle was a revelatory find, and I wrote him and told him so.

He responded, and we kept a loose dialogue going on each others blogs and via personal email messages. The more I read, and as I developed as an educator, I realized that Tom had become a mentor – a cyber-mentor – to me, and has inspired me on a continuous basis to be the best educator I can be.

Through Tom’s blog, I have connected with other bloggers working in our discipline, all over the world. I now am connected, professionally and personally, to educators in Australia, the US and Canada, to a Canadian teaching in Belgium for a year, and a host of others. I have been able to weave a virtual community, not dependent on geography or space, but instead on interest and passion and inspiration.

The profoundly transformative potential for community building using technology happened, and is still happening, to me. Before it did, I never even considered it as a possibility, and I’m pretty grateful for it.

Children and Tech Series - Post #11

making meaningful music – return of the authentic voice and

Music, and culture, was something people created in their communities everyday. With the commodification of culture as consumer product, children are growing up learning that culture and music is something created by people for money and purchased by the rest of society., a project emerging from the Faculty of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University, has as one of it’s goals a working towards the reversal of this trend. By using the democratic mix/remix cultural tools of Web 2.0 (folk-production), the aim of is to help people, and in particular children, create their own music and culture again.

Nolan and Bakan’s (In Press) article Social technologies for young children: Cultural Play with outlines the reasons why Songchild is coming into existence, and it’s goals and aims as a cross-cultural multilingual tool for emancipatory democratic cultural folk-production. That last sentence is so dense – what I mean by it is that the article talks about how wants to be a virtual place where kids of all languages and backgrounds can make their own music and meaning, and play with the concepts of autonomy, production, culture and democracy.

The voice of children is notably lacking in our day to day society, both culturally speaking in a broad sense and in online Web 2.0 spaces. This has to do with the skill levels required to access extant cultural production interfaces and a real lack of online spaces that are unmediated by commercial intent, but mostly have to do with a prevalent societal attitude that discounts children’s voices as valid and important, that does not recognize children as people or citizens, and that relegates children’s voices to a limbo of immaturity and inexperience.

Another really important issue is addressed in the article as well – the fact that teachers are products of “the commercialization of experience and institutionalization of learning” (Nolan & Bakan, p.8), and have a hard time seeing outside of that paradigm to the importance beyond product, goal, achievement and purchase. Educators are given packaged curriculum and standardized testing, and the very cognitive shapes of the institutions of public education can make it extremely difficult for teachers to create change and emancipatory spaces in their classrooms. That is why the democratizing elements of the thoughtful use of technology are so important. And, likewise, the democratizing elements of making meaningful music.

The participatory nature of, the cultural production work it could foster, the leveling of the playing field of musical creation, and most especially the “haven for the authentic voice of childhood” (Nolan & Bakan, p.10) it could provide make it a wonderful example of the potential for virtual spaces to be excellent learning spaces for young children, where they can develop the skills to be engaged citizens reclaiming their voices.

Children and Tech Series - Post #10

feedback, assessment, authority, control and meaningful learning…oh, and a bit of Scratch

Chapter 10 and the Epilogue of Jonassen et al.’s Meaningful Learning with Technology articulates some interesting ideas about how technology, and using technology as a learning tool, can/will influence and change how learning happens.

I’ve posted before about my interest in reflective learning, and these readings really generated a lot more thinking. Since the midterm exam, I’ve been thinking about how digital technology and blogging could be used as a tool for reflection, documentation and communication in an early learning context. In my imagination, I see the ideas in Chapter 10 and in the Epilogue really fitting in with that thinking.

We know that standardized assessment doesn’t address the actual learning that students do, and that performance or authentic assessment which looks at the processes that students undertake over long periods of time gets far closer. Using technology – say something like a blog – as a portfolio, communication tool and archive in a classroom would be a great way to promote self-reflection, encourage autonomous learning and decision-making, provide a venue for constructive multidirectional feedback, and create an easy record for assessment use. Having it be a collaborative effort among all students and educators, who would choose to post examples of work, photos of classroom activities and other classroom artifacts together would further enhance the engagement and democratic elements of the technology as a learning tool.

In a constructivist/constructionist learning environment, where students are engaged in their own learning by getting involved in process that are meaningful to themselves, teachers have to give up some of the authority they traditionally hold. If the teacher no longer dictates what the students will learn, but holds a space open for students to create their own meaning, then the learning environment has become a very different place than what is usually seen in typical classrooms everyday. An educator engaging with learning in this way becomes “…not an arbiter of knowledge but rather a coach who helps students engage in a larger community of scholars.” (Jonassen et al., 2009, p.242) Technology, when worked with and engaged with critically and thoughtfully, can help carve out that kind of democratic space, create places for authentic feedback and assessment to occur, and build classrooms that are fun and interesting places where children learn.

To bring it back to Scratch – so interesting to contrast the ideas inherent in it with these ones. Scratch is so open source – the fact that you can download and upload so easily provides an amazing venue for feedback and peer-to-peer assessment. The Scratch community organized around the Scratch website where all that sharing is taking place engages in very democratic, anti-authoritarian process JUST BY PLAYING WITH SCRATCH. The very shape of the programming language and program itself lends itself to meaningful learning. That’s what’s really exciting about the convergence of all of this for me – the fact that the very shapes of things help us grow more into the kinds of learners, and people, that we want to be.

Children and Tech Series - Post #9

scratch, generousity and learning by taking things apart

Interesting things are brewing in my head as I play with Scratch. At first bewildering, the lego-like programming language of Scratch has become increasingly intuitive – which is crazy. Is this the way code-monkeys begin to think, once they’ve mastered more complicated programming languages. It feels like I’m just fitting pieces together to make a well tuned machine hum to life.

It’s pretty amazing how much is available in Scratch – and how generous the project is. Generousity is something that I’ve been thinking a bit about in terms of technology, and the ideas we’re visiting in this class. Technology, while being a consumer product and accessible only to those who can afford it, has the remarkable potential for built-in democracy and generousity. I think about the Facebook phenomenon of oversharing, and how we could reframe it as a human response mirroring the information overload provided by the Internet. Don’t we reflect our environments? The Scratch social networking site – where people upload the projects they’ve made with Scratch and publish the scripts that run it for everyone to see – is also an incredibly generous space. Learning by sifting through other peoples code is a really amazing way to figure out how to work the initially confusing array of things you can do with Scratchtasticness.

For me, it was a game called Egypt Pyramid, done by a kid somewhere and uploaded to the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Scratch site for all the world to see. I downloaded Egypt Pyramid, not because it was a similar game to what we wanted to build, but because there were a lot of script and I wanted to learn how it had been done. It was really amazing.

By looking at someone else’s work, shared through a generous understanding that we often learn by what could in one way be looked at as copying or stealing, and in another way be seen as standing on the shoulders of giants, I felt like I gained some seriously deep understanding of how to work with Scratch. The rules became intuitive, the movements fluid, and it was after taking apart Egypt Pyramid and another game called Lemonade Stand that I felt strong enough in my understanding to start building our own. It was a powerful feeling – and also an interesting take on collaboration, copying and learning by doing.

In the first Scratch game I made, I used images and sounds provided by the program to see what I could do based on what they had. I used what I learned from my colleagues – the designers of Egypt Pyramid and Lemonade Stand – but not their specific codes. It was easy to see how to do what I wanted, which wasn’t anything like what they offered up in their own programming, after taking their games apart to see how they worked. It felt like I was tinkering in the best sense of Gever Tulley and Teacher Tom.

That’s my idea of meaningful learning. Well, one of them.

Children and Tech Series - Post #8

flickr – communicating with images

Continuing my exploration with Flickr was a pretty interesting experience. I took some photos, and uploaded other photos of mine that I thought captured a little of what we were after – a child’s perspective and a child’s sense of why and how we capture images.
In reading Sharples article – I found it profoundly interesting that children were discovered to have completely different values around images, image making, and authentic photography. This quote from the article talks about how, like in drawing and writing “…children develop their own distinctive content and styles of representation that are not simply immature adult forms, but are signs of their abilities, interests, concerns and perspectives…” also in photography (Sharples, p2). Over and over again, it is clear that we short-change children’s understanding and like to believe that they are far less sophisticated and complex thinkers than they actually are.

I vaguely remembered reading on an ece blog about children taking photographs, and having a particular perspective. I was able to dig back and find it on Allie’s blog Bakers and Astronauts – After that blog post, she began to post kids photos regularly, and their visualizing was always really incredible. Examples – here, here, and here , and then Allie led me to this site – where a four year old (well, now she’s seven) named Adie is documenting herself with her Polaroid camera.

Really thought provoking stuff. How does documenting your experience change that experience? Having gone through times in my own life where I needed to document my work or experience because of archiving needs or artistic vision, I have thought a little bit about what looking through a lens at the world, or even just thinking about looking through a lens at the world, does for reflection/self-reflection/overthinking. I think I captured the whole spectrum there in that last bit! With photos, we can reflect images back at the world; reflect on our own vision, mind, thoughts; and we can get stuck in a place of too much reflection, where we are too critical and pick it all apart.

The apparent flexibility of digital media helps with all of this – upload, edit, change, archive, archive editability…the mutability of documentation, where we used to RECORD events for permanent perpetuity. I say apparent flexibility, because I’m unsure about that flexibility. I have a nagging suspicion that once you upload something to the Internet it’s there forever, whether you change it or not…archiving gone wild. The communicating/community building aspects, however, are really interesting. Flickr allowing you to connect with contacts to see their photos and ‘stories’ and ‘lives’ is an amazing feature.

I am so fascinated by the idea of using digital media to promote self-reflection in young children. And this leads me to my last thought for this post – a response to Jason’s suggested thinkings. How early is too early for children to interact with these kinds of technology? A googlesearch on the topic calls down an avalanche of conflicting opinions …don’t expose your kids to computers, get them in early, introduce them along with other tools of expression like pencils and paper and crayons…there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer. I myself feel like at least limiting screen time for at least the first two years might be a good idea…

Children and Tech Series - Post #7

design and visualizing with tech

From my work in art, I have a lot of experience communicating with images. It often felt like a form of telepathy – taking an image from your vision and directly transmitting them to someone else. It’s a whole other way of talking – without language getting in the way.

By incorporating digital technologies into the mix, technologies like digital cameras and the Internet, you get a whole new way of communicating quickly and simply across language and space. Chapters 8 and 9 in our text talk about design as a new literacy, as the literacy of the 21st century. To contextualize learning in a constructivist/constructionist framework means seeing learning as a design process. My own background as a designer biases me towards seeing that all around me, and my thinking is already skewed in that direction. It’s actually pretty exciting to think about.

In doing these readings I worked hard to try to keep the issues I mentioned above in mind. Why do we visualize? What are the tools traditionally used, and what are we using now? Our text has different examples of digital and online tools used to visualize object before they are built (programs like Pro/Desktop and SketchUp), create music with composition software (programs like Impromtu and Musical Sketch Pad), and new media design creating animated “microworlds” to learn programming and organizing skills (programs like Scratch). My own experience and bias, however, lead me to use pencil and paper, or even just the materials that I’m using themselves (cardboard, etc.) to create mock-ups or test objects – securing me more fully in my ‘digital immigrant’ status.
It’s just easier for me to use the tools or material that I’m familiar with and have years of experience using to visualize and create models with. So, while digital tech may make it easier to communicate my ideas across language and space, the tools that I prefer to use to work out those ideas aren’t digital. I have to go to other tools, like cameras or video, to take that next step, and to access the bridging effect that digital media can provide.

Which is a good lead in to my beginning attempts at Flickr exploration, and images on the Internet. It has become incredibly simple (and common) to use the Internet as a virtual storehouse of images and ideas. I can easily search something that I’d like to look at, can’t visualize, or don’t understand – and get a visual image (or a lot of them) to help me understand more. Flickr comes with a community aspect to it as well, which is really interesting, blending visualizing tech with sociable tech in a way that holds a lot of promise. Good thing we had two weeks to explore it!

Children and Tech Series - Post #6

google – part 1
Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Here is my first post on Google. I’m delighted that we’re exploring it for two weeks, and am really curious to see what comes up for people.

As a precursor to this post, I put up a video I found on Youtube about the potential for a Google conspiracy. I posted it for all the groups in the class, and am very curious to see the responses. Some folks have already responded, which is great. We’ll see what others think.

My own take on it, and with most conspiracy theories is this – if someone is going to take the time to track my every move on Google-related internet interfaces, and target me with advertising or map my genome, let them. I am not that interesting, or important, a person for it to be worth the effort to do so. I am a little surprised by the whole idea, actually. It makes me really wonder about how much privacy risk I am really under.

If someone targets me with advertising media, I am going to apply my critical-thinking superpowers to the situation and do what I normally do, which is ignore the ad anyways. If someone wants to map my genome – go for it. What for? And why would they?

To be honest – I regret posting the video the way I did – without any critical preamble saying “do you believe this?” or “take this with a grain of salt” or “for more fear mongering, watch this”. There is a danger on the internet, and it’s in taking everything we find there as truth and NOT applying our superpowers to them.

Back to Googleland – which I enjoy, regardless whether or not they are trying to map my genome to make a huge artificial intelligence or not (a whole other story – Singularity, anyone?). Having recently switched over to gmail so that I don’t have check 18 different emails at once (slight exaggeration), I have been exploring and been shown some of the truly amazing things Google has developed. After trying to figure out what PageRank was about for 45 minutes straight, and still not really getting it, I’ve decided to concentrate on the things I do get.

Google Docs are wonderful things, designed to allow for instantaneous knowledge sharing and creation. They are great collaborative tools to, as you can simultaneously work on one with a group of people (frustrating and/or inspiring – depending on how much of your work gets scrapped or changed i guess). Learning about Boolean searches and Google Scholar have been a real boon too, for school stuff. But the most exciting Google product so far that I’m using are the awesome email alerts.

I’m in placement at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, which is an advocacy group working to make child care actually supported by the government in Ontario. Part of my work there is to know what folks are saying about child care all over the province. Google offers this search thingy that will email you directly to your gmail account email alerts about specific search terms. So I signed up for one that searches “child care” and “ontario” and have gotten A LOT of great articles from all over the province about peoples thoughts, ideas, feelings and responses to the child care situation in Ontario – SO AMAZING.

If that helps Google map my genome – oh well.

Children and Tech Series - Post #5

Hacking and making your own safety
Monday, February 7th, 2011

The video Hacking Human featuring Michelle Levesque is really really great. And so is the Stranger Danger article. They intersect for me in thinking about the policing of thinking, and cultural policing in general. We all buy into the dominant culture to a certain extent and work within it’s restrictions to get that thing called life done, and so to a certain extent participate in a form of cultural policing – this is cool, that is not, this is popular now, I make my decisions based on these ideas that I heard about…it’s kind of the way that cultural cohesiveness is maintained.

However, what we don’t want is our tools policed in a non-transparent way. I really like the emphasis Levesque put on transparency in her lecture. If we are going to have institutions creating structures within which we construct our meaning (and we are, there just isn’t much of an escape from that) we need to make sure that those structures are built right, with as open and honest policy as possible. We need to know what is being blocked/censored/monitored for us, and we need to agree to it. Transparency is key.

Thinking about transparency on a larger scale makes, in terms of large cultural systems of value and information sharing and education and political ideologies etc etc etc gets me thinking about transparency on a more personal scale – parents and kids and families. I’m doing a lot of reading and thinking about safety for my Major Research Project, and so I see how all this stuff applies. The more we box things in for our kids, and for ourselves – the more restrictions we build into our systems – the less empowered we are to make our own decisions, or have conversations with our children, or do things and our thinking for ourselves.

Which then brings me to hacking culture, and forgive me for rambling all over the map with this one but the goal is to tie it all up together by the end – when we feel empowered to do things for ourselves, and learn the skills we need to know to be able to do what we want, we are participating in the broadly defined hacking culture that Levesque spoke about in her lecture, and that Nolan, Raines-Goldie and McBride (2011) talk about in their paper. When we have a conversation with our children about how to take care of themselves when navigating the Internet sea in their awesome little submarines (it’s back!), we aren’t only helping them to learn and empower themselves and encourage them to stand on their own two feet and live their own lives, but we are also deflating the ideas that skulk around in the shadows of culture that tell us that it’s just so unsafe out there.

The statistics are down. The climate has changed. Things are actually way more safe than even when I was a kid, not so long ago but longer than for a lot of my cohort participating in this blog. Yet, our cultural policing, and those shadowy fearful ideas are constantly whispering to us that there is danger everywhere, that our kids are at risk and incapable, and that we need to protect and be vigilant and relay on others to create our own safety.

When instead we should be working to make our own culture of safety, ourselves

Children and Tech Series - Post #4

WORLD . OF . GOO !!!…and can you speak-ah the lingo?
Monday, January 31st, 2011

Oh my goo-d. I can’t believe how much fun World of Goo has been.

I have to limit myself folks – seriously. I could play on and on and on…I have to admit that I had so much fun that I went on to purchase the rest of the game, so that I could take a look at what the rest of the world looked like.

That is a big component of games for me – exploring the world. I was talking to a novelist friend yesterday who was telling me about how writing a novel can be like holding something very large and alive, something with a lot of surface tension and viscosity and solidity, and I started thinking about games in the same way. The way the creators make a whole world, and then release it to the masses. And this is some of the important discourse happening around games right now (and probably always) – the made worlds’ confines as opposed the the open-source, co-created worlds’ diffuseness. The container of the made world allows for only certain things to happen – like not being able to scale certain terrain, steer certain things but not others, or interacting in prescriptive ways (hello drop down menu!). However, on the other side we have the intimidatingly openness of co-creative projects that sometimes seem like they have no limits, and things just get lost in the Twisting Nether. I don’t have any answers about this by the way, just observations and wondering.

But it leads me to think about communication, and communication through technology. The fears society has eloquently and excitingly (and hilariously, gorily) expressed in Terminator films and Technozombie cults of Borg may be a bit overwrought. I have faith in the body, in the hand, and I think we may be experiencing the rush of excitement that ALWAYS happens when something novel enters society. Technology may not be replacing face-to-face. It may only be changing it for a bit.

Communication in the 21st century looks like it’s going to be about literacy, and a broadening of that term (and of the term language) to encompass a lot more than we may be able to express right now. What if novels become multi-sensory collages of written text, holographic adventure, audio-video clips and visual material? What if letters shift from written to a mix of written, recorded, transmitted and visual snapshots or vid clips?Are we on the cusp of something giant and new, or are we expanding with the surface of the bubble of novelty til it pops?

There is no question that technology has changed communication – I can now skype with my parents in Nova Scotia every day, for free if I want to. However, I love what the text said about illiteracy in the 21st century – being not about not being able to read and write, but about learning, unlearning and relearning (Toffler, as cited in Jonassen, Howland, Marra & Crismond, 2008).

Children and Tech Series - Post #3

Continuing on with the posts (ages later) from my Children and Technology" Course. Want to get it all up before school starts!

Internet submarines and coherence in writing
Monday, January 24th, 2011

Chapters 2 and 4 of Meaningful Learning with Technology by Jonassen, Howland, Marra & Crismond (2008) focused on the issues of information literacy and production. Technology offers us many ways to amass and interact with information, and also to produce works that are hopefully informed, creative and relevant.

The Internet is a vast sea of information, and you really have to be intentional about how you navigate it’s waters. An image of some kind of exploratory vessel, like an amazing submarine kept coming to mind as I read through Chapter 2, which is basically about learning effective ways of exploring the Internet and how to use it as a learning tool. Key to this is the basic premise of having clear ideas of what you’re looking for, why you are looking for it, and how you’ll use it to create deeper understanding for yourself and others. This demands real critical thinking, a hot topic these days and for a very good reason. Critical thinking is a learned skill that we aren’t really helping children learn – and Chapter 2 highlights why critical thinking and engaged learning are critical issues that need to be supported starting as early as possible.

While the Internet can provide an amazing and interesting arena for critical thinking and engaged learning to happen, it takes some pretty involved and skillful scaffolding on the part of teachers and educators to make sure that learners develop the basic tools so that they can make their own submarines to help them navigate their way through the endless Internet soup. I wonder about what shapes this could take in early learning environments – with and without computers – and I’m excited to think more about this and hear what people have to say.

Chapter 4 is really about writing, and how technology can support developing good writing. I believe that it can, but again it’s something that necessarily requires skillful scaffolding on the part of the educator to help hone learners skills and get the rules of good writing down into practice. The ease with which online web publishing makes it for people to get their writing out there for an audience (myself included) doesn’t guarantee that good writing is a given. Quantity is not quality, and practice doesn’t make perfect – you could just be practicing bad writing over and over again.

The great thing about web publishing, and the chapter talks about this, is the ease with which writers can now share with peers. This is awesome, as it allows writers to work in a collaborative way not really experienced before in history. Writing has been predominantly seen as a solitary craft – but sharing your work on the web for intentional collaborative editing is an amazing opportunity to draw the author out of their silo and hopefully find a supportive community with which to develop their work. This relies on the quality of the interactions with peers, and is again something that needs skillful facilitation.

I need to research Poetry Forge more, cuz it kinda scares me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

oh wow!!!

2 kids and a nanny review every park in Manhattan - this is so wonderful - want to do it in Toronto!!!! yippee!

Check out NYC Park Hopper - so great!!

Plus - here comes school again - with the hope of slightly less sporadic blogging. Will finish the things I started.

soon again - nerd out!