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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Blogging Demo at OCCUE

The teachers here are watching me post this.

Podcast: Robert Craven, iPods, Podcasting, and Education

Robert Craven, iPods, Podcasting, and Education (Since I used Apple's tools to make this, it is an m4v format video.)

It turns out some podcasters / RSS readers only deal with the first enclosure as a podcast, so here is that file again for you folks. ;)

Robert Craven, iPods, Podcasting, and Education

I'm not capturing all of Robert's presentation on video, but I did bring my iSight so I could do a 'proof of concept' for my presentation the following hour.

I set my iSight on the table and captured some video of Robert speaking, referring to Thomas Freedman's the world is flat, and introducing iPod as a communication tool. Then, using the share menu in iMovie, I posted a quick and dirty video podcast to my iWeb site. But, since iWeb doesn't support comments, I am linking to the file here, so it can appear as an enclosure (and thus podcast) in this feed, and folks can comment.

Robert Craven, iPods, Podcasting, and Education (Since I used Apple's tools to make this, it is an m4v format video.)

Friday, January 27, 2006

OCDE Ed Tech Presents at OCCUE 01/28/06

OCDE Ed Tech Presents at OCCUE 01/28/06 (Via Educational Technology at OCDE.)

For those of you not in Orange County (who might not be interested in subscribing to the OCDE Ed Tech Feed), I thought I'd provide this pointer to our presentations on iPod + Podcasting, the Read/Write Web, and Video Games... all in education of course. I hope to post some audio (or even video) tomorrow after the day is done.

iPods, Cell Phones, Computers, email, and IM in a Sixth Grade Classroom

These stats come from an Orange County sixth grade teacher. Thanks to Mike Guerena and to the teacher's district technology leader for sharing the data. :)
Here is more than you wanted:

66% of my students have iPods (21 of 32)
1 iPod
2 iPod shuffle
9 iPod Mini
7 iPod nano
2 iPod video

Other things I surveyed:

38% have their own cell phone

100% have a computer in their house, 35% have one in their room

47% have their own email account

38% instant message almost every day, 60% i.m. at least once or twice a week
So, as Prensky has asked, how can we use the technology (and technology skills) that our students are bringing into our classrooms? As I've said before, I don't think restricting and policing are the answers.

I can't wait to see the comments on this. :)

On the power of IM, Priorities, ...and Sleep

No Bruner post tonight. I've spent time playing with new software (which I always enjoy and haven't been able to do nearly enough this past year). A former student (who's planning to become a teacher) also contacted my via IM, so we chatted a while. We'll be meeting for coffee next week... and, naturally, I'll be helping him with a recommendation.

For several years now I've appreciated the power of instant messages to help me communicate with my students (and former students). Now, at the OCDE, I find it helpful for my professional development students, too... other teachers and tech coordinators.

It is also the only reason I have stayed as close as I have to old friends from college, and even from high school. My closest friends for the past several years have been those I could chat with on a regular basis anytime I was online.

Naturally, my coworkers and I also get a lot of work done via IM, and sometimes... it's what keeps us sane in the office.

So this time I've spent tonight gets logged (in a spreadsheet... no joke... resolutions folks) as "nurture friendships" time. After spending the first week of the year as a hermit, setting goals, prioritizing them, and making plans to reach them... I've found this profoundly powerful in helping decide how to spend my time. Strangely, I feel I am no longer letting my phd research fill up huge spans of time to the detriment of my other priorities and relationships - and yet I feel I am probably accomplishing more when I do study.

Another thing this has helped me to do is to continue to move toward a more regular sleep pattern, which turns out to feel surprisingly healthy, even for a night owl. This week, though, I've been getting to bed a little later each night. So, tonight, I crack this off and turn in instead of doing the heavy lifting necessary to finish the Bruner post tonight.

I'm not even staying up late for iPSP. :)

So, as I save and post this, my IM status goes from "Walden University" to "...and Sleep."

More on Mars Edit.. and OmniOutliner

So, my use of Mars Edit is beginning to pay off in the way I compose for Educational Technology and Life. Last night, for an upcoming post on Bruner's The Culture of Education, I keyed in all of the quotes, applied blockquote tags with the pulldown HTML menu as I went, and then saved as a draft so I could come back when I had more time. (Not that I haven't saved drafts of posts and returned to them before, but somehow, having perspective titles sitting in my Drafts folder makes me feel I made progress despite not posting, and keeps me motivated to come back.)

I think Mars Edit also played a role in leading me to finally start using an outliner! (The fact that Mike Guerena recently ordered our team licenses for one helped too.) The experience is still very new to me (and I'm at the point where learning the tool detracts a bit from its usefulness), but I think this will really make a difference in the way I compose my coming KAMs and dissertation.

So I'm using OmniOutliner to compose my current KAM on principles of societal development. I am focusing on establishing the theoretical foundation for the use of video games and simulations as constructivist learning environments, based on the work of social constructivists such as Dewey, Vygosky, and Bruner. I hope to move forward to tie these ideas to the likes of Shaffer, Squire, and Steinkuehler. (I think I've more or less articulated this here before, but this does make it real and keep me on track.)

Now I'm actually wishing for outliner functionality in Mars Edit and am finally starting to understand what Dave Winer has meant when he's sung their praises as blogging tools.

More to come I'm sure...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Check out the EdTech @ OCDE Front Page

EdTech @ OCDE | Front Page

Check it out. We've got two way communication happening on the OCDE Ed Tech website. And you might notice in the left column we're now offering staff generated content... our FURL archives, and this blog. :)

The Blog as Dissertation Literature Review?

The Blog as Dissertation Literature Review?
Can a certain type of academic blogging be a more adequate form of literature review than the traditional chapter in a dissertation? In this post, I employ the rubric proposed by Boote et al. (2005) to determine whether blogging can be considered a form of literature review. I also make some suggestions for how blogging may be incorporated formally into the research and writing activities of some doctoral students, although it certainly might not be useful to others. I am not suggesting that this single post is my literature review; I am merely providing a map that outlines how my blogging during the past years constitutes a form of ongoing literature review. (Via i d e a n t.)
This is a topic I have a great deal of interest in, and of course I found it worth passing on here (as opposed to in my FURL archive). I noted that Constance Steinkuehler used her web space as a part of her formal dissertation. Though this wasn't exactly a blog, it got me thinking along the same lines as Ulises at ideant. I definitely need to spend more time with his detailed post, too.

I would love to hear any comments any of you may have on this topic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion

BandaiGames.com - Games - The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion

This is the RPG I settled on for my PSP. The opening sequences were far too linear, but now that I am clear of those the game is starting to show its depth. The graphics are sharp, but decidedly "old school".

As a fan of the old Final Fantasy games I am enjoying this as my first "interactive paperback," as I've been calling it.

It also has the distinct advantage of being something I can play in bed without bothering Eva... which makes it better than either playing WoW in the other room or actually reading in the bed! Also, provided I don't want to switch games (and don't drop the machine or anything), I can save anytime and then I can use the instant on (and off) feature to play in very short bursts. I hope to get in more gaming this way than I have been able to with WoW, which competes for time with work and research.

Unfortunately, for my research into games and social constructivism, it's not massively multiplayer. :)

Still, I hope to post more reflections on it (and WoW) in the future.

Jerome S. Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, and Educational Technology

Normally, Tuesday night at the Wagners' means watching arguably the best show on television. But, tonight Eva took her friend Nancy to a cooking class, so I had time for a long session of Walden, with time to spare for blogging...

On Saturday I completed my whirlwind tour of Bruner's Actual minds, Possible Worlds and this evening I finshed blasting through The Culture of Education, much of which I slowed down for and read at normal speed. I enjoyed it much more than I expected, but as his newest work (and most explicitly culture related) I was not so surprised to find it may be the most significant of those I've read. (I also got a good deal out of The Relevance of Education, which I spent some time with tonight as well.)

Naturally, I found several excerpts in each that related to Educational Technology, particularly the read/write web and video games.

The following excerpt from Actual Minds, Possible Worlds captures a concept that should be central to the restructuring (or reinvention) of our educational systems and to the role educational technologies play in the future systems.
If [the student] fails to develop any sense of what I shall call reflective intervention in the knowledge he encounters, the young person will be operating continually from the outside in - knowledge will control and guide him. If he succeeds in developing a sense of self that is premised on his ability to penetrate knowledge for his own uses, and if he can share and negotiate the result of his penetrations, then he becomes a member of the culture creating community. (p. 132)
And later:
The language of education is the language of culture creating, not of knowledge consuming or knowledge acquisition alone.
Consider the role of the read/write web (and blogging in particular) in facilitating such "reflective intervention" as students process what they read (or experience), articulate their responses to it, and share these responses with a community of readers. More importantly, consider just how possible it is for our students to become members of a culture creating community. They are almost certainly doing that online (regardless of what we offer in schools) at places like My Space, where I'm sure a good deal of incidental learning is taking place... but as I am often advocating in my trainings, why not harness these technologies for intentional learning in formal education?

Incidentally, it's exciting that even students who are not strong in their linguistic intelligence can now participate via audio and video podcasts... or by photocasting images they've captured or created. I hope that early adoptors will not try to fit all students into the mold of a writer as they explore the power of blogs and the read/write web. I suppose I've caught a mild case of the "blogs are not a panacea" bug lately... despite my own personal drive to continue blogging in the face of serious time constraints.

In terms of the use of video games and simulations in education... at worst, there is a danger that students left alone with a game or simulation might indeed fail to develop the "reflective intervention" Bruner describes; they might indeed be controlled by the stimuli they encounter, rather than "developing a sense of self that is premised on [the] ability to penetrate knowledge." Aldrich and others (with Prensky being, at least at his most... humorous... a notable exception) advocate strongly for the importance of a teacher to help facilitate and mediate a student's experience with a game or simulation. After all, as Bruner interprets Vygotsky's work to suggest,
"conceptual learning [is] a collaborative enterprise involving an adult who enters into dialogue with the child in a fashion that provides the child with hints and props that allow him to begin a new climb, guiding the child in next steps before the child is capable of appreciating their significance on his own. It is the "loan of consciousness" that gets the child through the zone of proximal development. (p. 132)
Naturally, at best (and I think this is what Prensky is getting at when he says things like we don't need teachers... or instructional designers), a game or simulation might actually be designed to provide some measure of this facilitation and mediation for the student-player.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No Comments in iWeb?

I only just now realized there isn't a comments feature in iWeb... maybe it's an option and I'm missing something. If not, then this is considerably less exciting than I thought.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Testing iWeb on the fly while podcasting at the OCDE

We just recorded a few segments for our next podcast (links to feed). Simultaneously we were recording video for an upcoming webcast on podcasting.

Meanwhile, I was testing Apple's new iLife '06 suite, including iWeb, a blogging and podcasting tool. I was honestly impressed and pleased with the ease of use! While paying attention to something else - podcasting with my colleagues - I was able to create a new blog, post text (w/images), photocast, podcast, and vlog (or video podcast)! All this took quite a bit less than an hour! So there is something to this, even if Apple is not exactly sticking to an industry standard RSS implementation.

You can see the results of my experiments on my new iWeb blog hosted on my personal .Mac account here.

Fwd: New book for parents and teachers interested in video games and education

Pathfinder Linden posted this to the "Educators interested in using
Second Life as a teaching platform" listserv yesterday.

Marc Prensky (who has previously written very interesting stuff about game-based learning) has a new book coming out in a couple months.

"Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning" : How Computer and Video Games Are Preparing Your Kids For 21st Century Success

You can preorder it here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1557788588/sr=1-1/qid=1137705519/104-2887458-1475912

Just thought I'd share.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Podcasting from the AUHSD in AB 75 Module 3

We were going to prepare a podcast of administrator comments, but something unusual happened... all of the participants were called out of the training for an emergency meeting for all principals and assistant principals! We still wanted to demonstrate the immediacy of podcasting when they return... so here's this.

Moblogging at the AUHSD in AB 75 Module 3

To kick off the "Hard Fun" presentation, Michael Guerena asked AUHSD administrators, "what is interactive learning?"

Jeanie and Ronn touched on several important ideas related to interactive learning...

It's student participation, not stand and deliver presentations.

When you're doing labs its impossible not to be interactive.

It's out of seat instruction.

It's crosscurricular instruction.

It's the home/school connection and interaction.

They will also see how moblogging can play a roll in interactive classroom discussion.

Feel free to comment on their thoughts. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jerome S. Bruner, Video Games, and the Read/Write Web

I just spent much of the evening blasting through Bruner's Toward a Theory of Instruction... before catching this week's episode of arguably the best show on television. :)

As I got a little ahead today (I even started Actual Minds, Possible Worlds), I now have the luxury of sharing some of my thoughts on Bruner. He was much more of a psychologist, anthropologist, and linguist than I thought. Nevertheless, or perhaps on account of these things (as he might argue), much of what he wrote in the 1960's seems prescient today.
It may well be the case that not only are we entering a period of technological maturity in which education will require constant redefinition, but that the period ahead may involve such a rapid rate of change in specific technology that narrow skills will become obsolete within a reasonably short time after their acquisition. (p. 32)
Surprisingly, he also describes the reaction this country has had to such change (think of the emphasis on math and science in his time - and the focus on standards in ours)... but he suggests something else entirely, something a lot more in keeping with my vision of Educational Technology and Life. :)
The first response of educational systems under such acceleration is to produce technicians and engineers and scientists as needed, but it is doubtful whether such a priority produces what is required to manage the enterprise. For no specific science or technology provides a metalanguage in terms of which to think about a society, its technology, its science, and the constant changes that these undergo with innovation... If this change is to be managed, it requires men with skills in sensing continuity and opportunity for continuity. (p. 33)
It might not surprise you to learn I am not at all moved by alarmist reactions to the outsourcing or off-shoring of our technical jobs. Never-mind that I think its a very ethnocentric response to globalization, but this country will be just fine without its technical and scientific jobs... if we can focus on the "metaskills for dealing with continuity in change" (p. 35). (Bruner suggests the study of social or behavioral sciences as opposed to history, p. 36, and I think these things - along with more creative pursuits - may serve us well).

I further suspect that games and simulations might be an ideal medium for teaching such skills. (In fact, I propose that they already are, but I don't have the time to support that argument here, it will have to wait for a more formal paper, or a later time.) With respect to pedagogy, Bruner advocates the use of "games that incorporate the formal properties of the phenomena for which the game is an analogue" (p. 92-93), saying that a game can be "an artificial but often powerful representation of reality" (p. 93). Consider how much more powerful these representations can be given the technology of modern video games and computer simulations. Bruner also suggests (as does Jim Gee - and others - forty years later) that
games go a long way toward getting children involved in understanding loanguage, social organization, and the rest; they also introduce, as we have already noted, the idea of a theory of these phenomena... they provide a superb means of getting children to participate actively in the process of learning - as players rather than spectators. (p. 95)
Later he also suggests that "play must be understood as practice in coping with the environment" (p. 118).

I suppose games and the read/write web are the two primary themes of this blog, and I saw an interesting relationship between Bruner's writing and the use of the read/write web in education today as well. When it comes to motives for learning, Bruner talked about reciprocity, or "a deep human need to respond to others and to operate jointly with them toward an objective" (p. 125). There is little doubt in my mind that technologies such as blogs, wikis, and RSS facilitate this in a way that was never possible before, both over greater distances and - in some ways - with greater intimacy. Bruner identified "the will to learn" (p. 127) as an intrinsic motive, too, and as we work to inculcate our students with this will, I can also identify it as that which keeps me blogging when I should be in bed. ;) "Promoting reflectiveness" (p. 152) was a goal of Bruner's (concept of a) successful school, and is also the goal of blogging in education, as is "the basic skill, supporting all others... reading critically" (p. 169).

Finally, I want to finish this post with what I imagine is an oft quoted passage from Toward a Theory of Instruction: "Knowing is a process, not a product" (p. 72). That seems to encapsulate much of what my colleagues and I are trying to get across to educators in Orange County and everywhere.

The Dewey fans seemed to come out of the woodwork a few weeks ago. I wonder if there is anyone following Bruner on technorati that might drop in for a comment. Any Bruner fans among the regular readers? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

As always, thanks for reading.


Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, Ma: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blogroll Updated

Bloglines | MarkDouglasWagner's Blogs

While installing software in the OCDE Training Lab (yes - on my day off), I've taken the opportunity to update my blogroll. Check it out if you're interested.

RSS Ideas For Educators

RSS Ideas For Educators:

Quentin D'Souza has put together a presenation called RSS Ideas For Educators. He's giving the presentation twice; at the Leading Learning 2006 Conference in February and again at the 2006 ECOO Conference (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) in May.

He used a wiki to draft the document and has now copied the whole thing into a pdf file that you can download (RSS Ideas for Educators 1.0). It's an incredible compilation of concrette applications of RSS technology in education. I was flattered that he included some of my work in the links he mentions.

If anyone has been asking you about RSS in education this will make a great companion volume to Will's guide. Drop Quentin a line and let him know what you think.

(Via A Difference.)

A Difference is a blog I can definitely recommend to educators and educational technologists, and this post relates directly to many of the "Read/Write Web for Educators" workshops we have put on at the OCDE and through our Custom Training Program. I also just subscribed to Teaching Hacks, where the original post and RSS guide appears.

NESTA Futurelab - About us - MORI poll press release

NESTA Futurelab - About us - MORI poll press release:

Poll investigating teachers' attitudes to mainstream computer games has revealed that 59% would consider using them in the classroom for educational purposes. The willingness of respondents to use computer games was reflected in the fact that almost one third have already used them in their classroom.

(Via Google News - Games Education.)

This is interesting data coming out of NESTA Futurelab. This may be explained at least in part by how many new teachers might be considered digital natives. At the very least it might represent the fact that the games generation is now filling teaching positions. I'd be interested in similar data for US teachers, or Orange County teachers at any rate... I suppose I could make that happen.

School Computing Home Page - School Computing

School Computing Home Page - School Computing

(Via wikispaces.org : edtech - all changes.)

This link to the School Computing wiki appeared in the feed for a test wiki (focused on Ed Tech) that I set up at wikispaces.org, a great RSS enabled free wiki system, which I often recommend to educators.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Thoughts on the Mars Edit Solution

Now that I see it, I am actually not sure how I feel about combining annotated referrals with my original content on Educational Technology and Life. It feels as if some things aught to just go away into a FURL archive. I've always been happy that this was a reliable source of actual original content, even if the posting was a bit sporadic. Perhaps I will use this feed only for elements I have a substantial response to.

However, if I am to follow the model set by Scripting News, which I really enjoy reading - both for the brief posts and the substantial ones, perhaps I should include my brief reactions to more referrals here after all. Perhaps I'll try it for a week. :)

Most importantly, what say you, readers? Anyone have an opinion to share?

Also, anyone have any suggestions for categories or tags in blogger? Or suggestions for importing MSN Spaces or FURL items into blogger? (Or alternatively, any suggestions for importing my blogger items into another tool altogether that could handle all of this?)

Thanks for reading. :)

How video games have become far more than play - USA Today

How video games have become far more than play - USA Today

USA Today
How video games have become far more than play
USA Today'-42 minutes ago
Heather Chaplin and Aaron Rubys Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution, looks at how the video game industry grew to be so massive.

(Via Google News - Science Fiction.)

I sat next to Heather Chaplin during the opening keynote of the Serious Games Summit in DC. This is an article about her book.

Reading Planet for Kids

Reading Planet for Kids

(Via Furl - The ewagner Archive.)

This is a site Eva FURLed... so it showed up in my feed reader, NetNewsWire. I clicked "Post to Weblog" and via Mars edit I was able to compose this annotation. This is one step shorter than opening the site in my browser to FURL it!

Very cool! This definitely solves my frequency of posting to the blog problem. The only FURL functionality I lose so far is categories. Maybe these custom tags can help... no that seems to be html. I'll keep playing...

EdTech @ OCDE | Front Page

EdTech @ OCDE | Front Page: "Please join Apple for a FREE technology seminar..."

If you're in Orange County, and a Mac user, consider attending this at the OCDE on Tuesday.
Note: This is also serving as a test of the Mars Edit bookmarklet for saving and annotating a site directly to blogger. Grr. Now what about categories?

Mars Edit is a solution?

So, based on my last post... and the fact that Eva is still working away on her Houghton Mifflin Technology Wiki right now, I thought it was time to check out Mars Edit again. I use and am very happy with NetNewsWire as my RSS Reader.

Mars Edit allows me to compose blog posts and then post them directly to this blog. It also comes with a bookmarklet that allows me to send a site straight into the editor for annotation. I'll test that next. Naturally, it also works with NetNewsWire, so that I can annotate and post anything in my feeds!

This is what I've been looking for! Amazing I didn't realize it earlier.

Now, how do I get trackbacks with blogger? ;)

Lev S. Vygotsky, The Read/Write Web, and Video Games in Education

As part of the research for my current KAM on principles of societal development (tentatively titled "Social Constructivist Theory and Digital Game-Based Learning ") I've spent the week reading Vygotsky. In keeping with my new highly prioritized and highly structured weekly schedule (a result of well thought out new years resolutions), I have really kept my head down in the books - thus the lack of posts before tonight. (Those serious "and Life" issues I keep alluding to have higher priority now, too!)

There is much I wish I could take the time to blog about Vygotsky, but I will limit this for now. However, today's reading turned up the following quote from The Essential Vygotsky, which I thought was particularly relevant here.
"The simplest example of the transition from direct to mediated functions may be the transition from involuntary remembering and remembering that is guided by the sign. Primitive man, having first made some kind of external sign in order to remember some event passed in this way into a new form of memory. He introduced external, artificial means with which he began to manage the process of his own remembering. Study shows that the whole path of historical development of man's behavior consists of a continuous perfecting of such means and of the development of new devices and forms of mastering his own mental operations." (p. 472)
It is not difficult to extrapolate these remarks made in reference to the written and printed word to include computers and the Internet. Most importantly, I think the read/write web, and blogs in particular, may represent the current pinnacle of this trend in societal development. Blogs can serve as as your back up brain, and services like FURL are designed to do just that. Nevermind that if I post/store/share my thoughts on this blog, I can benefit from the feedback and comments of other readers!

Too, Vygotsky places a good deal of emphasis on the cognitive development of an individual being largely due to an internalization of social constructs. In terms of my personal experience, I can feel blogging (and FURLing etc) changing the way I think in my own mind. I reflect more readily (and in small doses), with a focus on making a judgement or synthesizing a new thought. Too, I miss being able to share my thoughts in order to receive comments and feedback.

Incidentally, I have long been disappointed that my FULR archive and feed has been separate from this blog's feed... and just today it finally occurred to me that FURL does not support comments (except for a members only email comment system, it turns out). I tend to annotate the sites I FURL, and have been FURLing in a way that is much more like blogging lately. I'm considering abandoning FURL and bring that content here... both for the comments and for cohesion of my online presence. However I really appreciate the one click FURL button on my browser. Does anyone have an idea how I might combine this functionality with blogger? Or is it time for me to move to real blogging software with categories and a client interface? If so, does anyone have any suggestions, particularly systems that might be able to import my blogger and FURL material (and maybe even my old MSN material)?

Naturally, I also see video games (and simulations), particularly serious games or educational games, as a part of this progression toward mastering (or, rather, improving upon) our own mental operations. In addition, games and simulations can certainly be used to closely observe students in the way Vygotsky advocates, and then to offer students challenges placed squarely in their zone of proximal development in order that instruction might lead the way to greater cognitive development. (I was particularly struck by Vygotsky's notion that instructing to a student's strengths can have the opposite effect - it can encourage a student to remain at the current or previous developmental state! It follows that we should address their weaknesses, while remaining in their ZPD for that weakness, in order to help them grow and progress.)

Before I wrap up here, I do also want to mention that Vygotsky's take on the relationship between life and education is very like Dewey's and also makes me increasingly happier about the title of this blog. I also appreciate his philosophies on the role of the teacher, and the teacher as a creative force in society. :)

Finally, in addition to being sure to spend more hours on my research each week, I realized I needed to work more efficiently as well if I am to complete my dissertation this calendar year. (I hope to walk in January 2007, though administrative timelines may postpone this until July 2007). So, sadly, I have committed myself to avoiding the temptation to read anything cover to cover and to read anything not directly related to my current project. Surprisingly, this feels more like reading RSS feeds and doing research online!

In any case, here are the books I plowed through this week:

Dixon-Krauss, L. (1996). Vygotsky in the classroom: media literacy instruction and assessment. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers.

Rieber, R. W. & Robinson, D. K. (Eds.). (2004). The essential Vygotsky. New York: Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers.

Tryphon, A. & Voneche, J. (Eds). (1996). Piaget - Vygotsky. UK: Psychology Press.

Mooney, C. G. (2000). An introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget, & Vygotsky. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1997). Educational psychology. Boca Raton, Florida: St. Lucie Press.

Vygotsky, L. (1986) Thought and language. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Moblogging with gMail

Google's gMail service now has a mobile version optimized for handhelds. This is great news for me because I can now access my gmail on my blackberry nearly as well as I can access my OCDE mail (which, btw, is now, mercifully, Exchange based instead of Lotus Notes based).

Sitting here in the backyard in my bathing suit reading in the sun inspired me to finally try moblogging with gMail. Sorry to all those
in snow country... personally, I already miss what little winter we had in Orange County.

Yikes! Length is limited!


Thursday, January 05, 2006

...and Life: On being a soul searching hermit... with email, voicemail, IM, videogames, and RSS feeds.

You may have picked up on my offhand comments about dealing with some serious "and Life" issues these past two months. Well, unfortunately, that's still the case and is likely to be for some time. As with my work, my research, and many other parts of my life, I am just happy that I've kept this blog trickling along in the meantime. The content of what I'm dealing with really really doesn't belong on this blog (though I'm writing a lot about it... and I've considered an annonymous online outlet), but some bits of the process might be worth sharing.

While Eva is out of town, I'm spending this week being something of a hermit. I'm not returning emails or phone calls... and keeping my IM set to away. Still, that means I'm reading emails, listening to messages and, frankly, responding to brazen IMers... and it still feels like being a hermit... I suppose to a 21st century educational technologist, it is. I suppose I really need to get away into the woods. But perhaps that wouldn't help either.

But, soul searching is much more time consuming then I ever imagined! I'm also taking some time to really delve into new years resolutions, annual goals, and a concrete plan to follow through on them. Naturally, resolutions and soul searching really do go hand in hand... and resolutions (with concrete goals and plans) can be equally time consuming.

Meanwhile I am being sure to take time for some recharging type chores (organizing and cleaning mostly), and for entertainment, including actually playing World of Warcraft... and actually getting a PSP (and an RPG to play... it's something like an interactive paperback now).

Oh, and I've gotten back on my feet for the next phase of my research... I brought home a whole stack of Vygotsky and Bruner books from the UCI Library, ordered many more from Amazon, and added them to my stacks of Squire, Steinkuehler, and Shaffer articles.

Wouldn't you know it... I find myself making a To Do list for each day with undone items being fit into following days... just as if I were at work! I told Eva on the phone earlier that I think you could take away my job and I would still be busy all day everyday for the next year and barely notice the time go by!

At any rate, I found one particular resolution I've been working on worth sharing here. (Perhaps there will be more later). Resolution 8 (of the 10 I originally narrowed it down to) was this:

8. Blog Regularly.

Sub-points included posting at least once about my work, once about my research, and once about "and Life" per week. I'd still like to stick to this if possible, but when it came time to work out how many hours a week to allocate to each goal (you really do have to do this if you're both working and going to school full time), I still had too many goals and not enough hours.

So, I managed to cut it from 10 goals to 8, putting off some more things untill 2007 and finding an interesting solution for the old blogging resolution, which I think is relevant to helping educators (and others) sort out how blogs and RSS feeds can be worked into an already busy schedule.

Others have said it elsewhere, but the key is this... blogging and reading feeds must be integrated into the other pursuits you find important. So, I will read feeds as part of my job, part of my research, and part of my entertainment. And, I will blog this way, too. Work posts will come from things I write at work (with only a few minutes more overhead for posting them). Similarly research posts will come from what I am writing for school, and "and Life" posts from journals or other writing I do for life... or else come out of entertainment time. (Wow... I don't know if that sounds like a successful person or a crazy person!)

This has also helped me to clarify and focus on what I should be blogging. Additional posts on my Dewey readings will now wait until I actually start writing the next paper... in a few weeks time. (Sorry, Dave). There may be some Vygotsky and Bruner notes in my near future though, since library books necessitate some typing on my part - and because I think the annotation of my notes will be valuable when it comes time to write. (The books I own still get annotated in pen... and I'd still love a way out of this and into the digital world with my reading and annotations.)

I will really need to be more vigilant about identifying things I write at work that can also be used here.

As far as "and Life" goes, I like sharing posts like this one, which is still a hybrid of technology... and life. I'm not sure how I feel about truly "and Life" posts being here, so I've flirted with the idea of a separate ... and Life blog. I'm asking myself the same question everyone else is though... would anyone read it? Also, as I said earlier, I'm considering an anonymous outlet to fully differentiate it from my professional presence online - but there is also a part of me that feels part of the spirit of this whole thing is helping others to see the personal side of professional content providers and I am somewhat resistant to splintering my online identity.

As always, I'll appreciate any comments.There's a potential for some juicy ones here. And, thank you for reading.


Monday, January 02, 2006

John Dewey's Pedagogic Creed, Educational Technology, and Video Games

John Dewey's Pedagogic Creed, Educational Technology, and Video Games

Happy new year, all!

I dropped Eva and her girl friends off at the airport at 6am this morning and only 15 hours later, I'm back from my blog break. So, back to the John Dewey, Educational Technology, and Video Games...

I am not at all ready to tackle Democracy and Education or Experience and Education right out the gate, so I'll begin with the brief (but dense with quotable material) "My Pedagogic Creed", written by Dewey in 1897, 109 years ago. It still turns out to be a lengthy post. ;)

Dewey begins the first "Article" of his creed with an explanation of what education is. IHe believes that all education is social, even formal education, which can only organize of differentiate the social process. He also feels it is important to balance the psychological elements of education with these social elements. In this way his creed may represent both an early constructivist view (the psychological) and social constructivist view (the social) - the later being why I am studying him for the Knowledge Area Module (KAM) I am currently writing. Put another way, Dewey (as he writes later) believes that "education must begin with a psychological insight into the child's capacities, interests, and habits" and must translate these "into terms of their social equivalents - into terms of what they are capable of in the way of social service". This of course sits well with me as I become more committed to Walden's vision of effecting positive social change. (Dewey states the straightforward belief that "education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform"!)

I've often been struck these past few months but how relevant Dewey's writing sounds with respect to 21st Century education - and educational technology in general. This happened again at the end of "Article 1."
It is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions. To prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities; that his eye and ear and hand may be tools ready to command, that his judgment may be capable of grasping the conditions under which it has to work, and the executive forces be trained to act economically and efficiently.
This concept is related to the use of educational technology in two ways. First, the same can be said of teaching any specific technology - attempting to prepare students to use the precise technologies they will be required to master in their future is a foolish enterprise, but preparing them to understand and master technology is a worth while pursuit. Second, computers can now be used as what David H. Jonassen calls "Mind Tools" to facilitate the development of such meta-skills (as Dewey is describing) by today's students. Consider the role of computers in the 21st Century Skills I am so often referencing.

Dewey's creed resonated with me again when in "Article Two: What the School Is" he declared that the school is primarily a social institution (an extension of community life) and that education "is a process of living and not a preparation for future living." He goes on to suggest that "much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life." His writing continues to make me happier with the title I chose for this blog... and with my own educational philosophy. I am particularly fond of his take on the role of the teacher... and the purpose of an examination:
The teacher's place and work in the school is to be interpreted from this same basis. The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.
Examinations are of use only so far as they test the child's fitness for social life and reveal the place in which he can be of most service and where he can receive the most help.
As for subject matter, Dewey's writing supports my early attraction to project-based learning, and later to constructivist teaching and learning:
The true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child's own social activities.
As a former literature teacher it is a bit tough to see him say that literature "cannot be made the basis" of education, but I understood even when I was in the classroom that part of what I enjoyed about the job was the feeling that anything I knew contributed to my effectiveness as a teacher and might in one way or another help a student make progress, though not always in the subject (or standards) I was formally charged to teach.

Though he doesn't mean it as constructivist educators do now, I often find it significant when Dewey uses the word "constructive" - as he does in this quote:
I believe, therefore, in the so-called expressive or constructive activities as the centre of correlation.
This is followed closely by a point that may at first seem anachronistic, but which I found to be one of the most relevant of the paper:
I believe that this gives the standard for the place of cooking, sewing, manual training, etc., in the school.
This refers to what we might consider "vocational" education today, and today this would certainly include "technical" education of the sort offered by Introduction courses for productivity applications, programing, hardware troubleshooting and other classes of the sort that ROP programs often offer. Though he doesn't go into depth in this creed, he wrote elsewhere about how sewing can be the gateway to teaching all human knowledge... and the same could be said of computers... consider using Neal Stepheson's Cryptonomicon to teach the fundamentals of computing... some basics of venture capitalism, and a little history of World War Two. (Ok, maybe not with public school kids... but perhaps in college... still, I'll let the example stand.)

This bit requires more thought, particularly the second half of the sentence, but I thought I'd pass it on here for the time being:
I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing.
Having studied Piaget for my last KAM, I can now see Dewey as a clear predecessor when he states that "the question of method is ultimately reducible to the question of the order of development of the child's powers and interests." (Like Piaget, though with considerably less clinical data to support his assertions, Dewey then suggests several stages of development... these too seem to be a bit arbitrary and simplistic by modern constructivist standards. Dewey too believes that actions precede ideas and the symbols play an important part in a child's development.)

I saw precursors to Dewey's own thoughts on waste in education when he explained that in traditional schools...
The child is thrown into a passive, receptive or absorbing attitude. The conditions are such that he is not permitted to follow the law of his nature; the result is friction and waste.
And I loved this next sentiment!
Interests are the signs and symptoms of growing power. I believe that they represent dawning capacities. Accordingly the constant and careful observation of interests is of the utmost importance for the educator.
Personally, I know I have only become interested in new subjects or new skills as my own zone of proximal development included the necessary pre-requesites. It is exciting to see early evidence of something like Vygotsky's theories in Dewey's work as well.

When Dewey then suggests that "only through the continual and sympathetic observation of childhood's interests can the adult enter into the child's life and see what it is ready for, and upon what material it could work most readily and fruitfully," I immediately considered the importance of computers and video games in our students' social lives and ways in which serious games or games for change might be able to introduce adult society into a child's life.
"All reforms which rest simply upon the enactment of law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile."
Hallelujia, brother. I am often arguing for educational technology policies that rely on education of the students in order to work, as opposed to those that rely on policing by the teacher.

While most of Dewey's creed made me proud to do what I do (particularly the bit about "education thus conceived mark[ing] the most perfect and intimate union of science and art conceivable in human experience", which reminded me of the lyric of U2's Miracle Drug, "Of science and the human heart there is no limit"), there were never the less a few things that really made me jump at the end of "Article Five."

There was the bit about society recognizing its obligation to education and providing unimaginable "resources of time, attention , and money," not to mention "sufficient equipment", which just made me laugh.

Then there was the final belief... "the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God." This is a blog, so I think I can share my personal reaction, which was something like, "WTF?" On further reflection though, I realized I may not be comfortable with his language, but I suppose people can associate these beliefs and effects with whatever underlying meaning they choose - its no less positive a perspective. Also, this creed qualifies as an academic work; there are no works cited, and no data presented. (But, then, perhaps very little of Dewey's seminal work stands up to that kind of scrutiny.)

Thanks for reading on into a new year... I look forward to any comments you might share.