Thursday, 3 December 2009

Multitasking costs and benefits

Continuing on the theme of multitasking and its costs and benefits.
Patricia Greenfield spoke on the theme of New media, Multitasking, Learning and Education, at the Learning and the Brain conference.
She quoted the CNN example where in addition to the news presenter, there is the "crawl". This is the area at the bottom of the screen where information scrolls or crawls by. Bergen et al (2005) reported how this distraction caused less of the information, provided by either presenter or crawl, to be taken in.
Greenfield listed the cognitive costs of multitasking:
  • can cause symptoms of situationally based ADD (declining productivity, disorganisation)
  • decreases reflection or metacognition (shifts neural activity to areas that deal with more habitual processing)
  • impaired working memory
  • hearing media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli
Some social/emotional costs:
  • can cause social.emotional symptoms of situationally based ADD (anger, snappishness, anxiety)
  • decreases family interactions
  • creates generational boundaries
  • undermines family rituals and shared communication
  • magnifies apparent importance of peer group whilst decreasing the influence of the family
She also asks what medium can counteract the cognitive cost of multitasking and she states READING. Essentially reading produces reflection and enhances critical thinking.
Her conclusions? The new media can enhance cognitive skills, performance on higher level cognitive tasks always show a decrement relative to performance under single task conditions, it can cause irritability and anxiety and enhances children's peer relationships whilst diminishing that of the family.
These points cannot be ignored.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Mindmap for websites

Bookmarking is a problem. Where do you do it? Do you stick to ONE system? If so, for how long?
I have tried the obvious - the star on the left of the url box on Google Chrome; bookmarking on Google Bookmarks; the social bookmarking sites and diigo.
An alternative is a site where you know you will find the link that you are after.
(But where do I bookmark it?)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Old metaphors and new tricks

I wrote in February about the concept of Digital Pioneer - a Digital Immigrant perhaps, who grows up with the technology and embraces it - the Tech Adopter.
Prensky's Digital Native/Immigrant distinction seems dated (well, it was from 2001). This was brought home to me participating in Marilee Sprenger's presentation on "The Digital Brain in the Classroom: bridging the digital divide to improve learning", at the Learning & the Brain conference in Boston. She used the Native/Immigrant metaphor and was questioned about it by one of the audience. He pointed out that yesterday's immigrants are today's natives, and that we have done this always - that is, through each different technological cycle, whatever the technology.
Metaphors and models are useful but have a sell-by date.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, especially when that dog is part of the community learning experience.
Part 2: but here is something interesting. Gary Small's research (i-Brain: surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind) shows how computer naive brains can light up, in the same areas as computer savvy brains, after training (reading a passage - both had similar activation areas in the brain; searching on Google, naives had same reading pattern, savvies had additional areas lit up in the left front of the brain [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] which controls ability to make decisions, integrate complex information, sensations and thoughts as well as working memory [p16, 17]).
When the net naives where taught to use Google search and practised a little, their brains lit up like the net savvies. So research shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Learning & the Brain Conference - Boston

The theme of the Learning & the Brain Society's conference was "Modern Brains: enhancing memory and performance in this distracting digital age". It was fascinating and I will try to share thoughts through this blog.
The logistics - well organised and catered for the huge number of participants. It did not have a virtual side which might have helped participants to participate since it was too huge to find like-minded or team-minded (different fields, research, education, theorists) people for discussion. One strong message from the conference was about the myth of multitasking, producing breadth but no depth. I think that the rather conventional nature of the conference did produce the same, breadth but you really had to work to discuss the depth.
Multitasking. Torkel Klingberg's presentation on "Working Memory - the overflowing brain" demonstrated that you pay for not performing at 100% on a tasks when multitasking. There is a capacity restraint. In dual-tasking studies, he showed that you could work at 100% on one or the other, but not on both. What is happening in multitasking is that attention is shifting rapidly from one task to the other and, importantly, some areas of the brain are required to be used for BOTH areas, providing a capacity restraint.
So there are bottlenecks.
The strong emphasis on evolutionary biology in brain function gave a good explanation to why the brain might work as it does. With no increase in brain volume in the past 40,000 years how do we cope with new things with our hunter-gatherer brains? Neuroplasticity - the ability of our brains to adapt, to learn.
But both ACTIVITY and PASSIVITY have an effect on the brain - neurons grow but they also die (use it or lose it comes to mind).
Our brains are made to learn.
What implications does this have to the use of laptops in classrooms? (or indeed in meetings?!)
If student is note-taking as teacher talks, two tasks but perhaps one can learn to type without requiring anything but an automatic skill. But add to that surreptitiously Facebooking (one further task) and also keeping an eye on the teacher coming around the class (another task with strong emotional consequences and hence taking up brain resources), then multitasking with learning costs is surely to be the outcome.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Learning Intentions - it's all in the words you use.

We had a great discussion on Learning Intentions (or Learning Objectives) - a discussion which distracted us from the main point of the meeting but which turned out to be really productive.
It started when we looked at Doug Belshaw's post on Learning Objectives. His point was that writing LOs is vital to both knowing what you are going to teach and for the student to know what s/he is going to learn.
His initial LO example was "To know who the Romans were".
His improved one was "To list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century". Okay, better in some ways, we thought round the table, but how dull. As a student it might tell me what is required but it would not motivate me. I almost felt that the original would motivate me more.
Doug gave developed it further by showing how the LO could be made "SMART". 
We discussed this and posted a comment - Doug promised a follow-up post on trigger-verbs.
Subsequently he has published a list of action verbs which are linked to Bloom's Taxonomy - and which should make for better, more productive and informative Learning Intentions, useful to both student and teacher. 
A question I had related to the link between the level in Bloom's Taxonomy and the grade given for KS3 and GCSE - surely not as simple as that?
Part 2:
Thinking about grading (reporting, evaluating - could the term that you use determine what your perspective on this is?) and levels in the National Curriculum. Each do different things. The grade for a reporting period is a summary of both expected content coverage and how it was learned or at least what the result of assessment on various pieces of work has been - some rubric based, other not. The NC level says what you can do, taken from a big list of things. Not how well, or under what circumstances. 
So they do different things. This sometimes leads to two very different approaches to reporting a grade or level.
One view would have you start a two year course, say an IGCSE course, at the lowest grade. As you build up your knowledge and skills, so the grade improves. Then at the end of the course, it is possible to get the highest grades. This is definitely the NC levels approach but I have seen some promoting this as the way to work with A to G type grading too.
And the other view is that you grade to show how a student is doing, in terms of expected content coverage as well application, etc.
In the end it depends upon the cultural context and the expectation that stakeholders have.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Alternatives to interactive whiteboards

Was really impressed by Jonny Lee's presentation on TED when I first saw it. He hacked a Wii remote to produce various things including an adaptation of an ordinary whiteboard into an interactive surface for an electronic whiteboard (details from his website).
So when JR produced his own at school and gave me a demo, I was really interested in seeing how it would work (and impressed about how he had put this together - he assures me that it was not a long process). 
This photo shows the remote dangling below the ceiling-mounted projector. It connects blue-toothly to the computer and the infra-red detector detects the special pen - here is a schematic diagram from Jonny Lee's site:

It worked really well. As long as the presenter's body did not shield the remote from receiving the infra-red signal, then it seemed as responsive as a "normal" electronic whiteboard.
JR reckons that it would cost sub $100 including the software. Seems a very good alternative.
I wonder whether its positioning can be improved? Short-throw digital projectors are the vogue so I wonder if the remote could also be placed much "shorter-throw".
We are also going to experiment with the Mimio bar - this also retro-fits on a normal whiteboard. BUT, having seen this adaptation, why is it that the Mimio system and similar others are SO EXPENSIVE? Surely they do not need to be - common manufacturers!

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Trying out Google Wave (thank you David for the invite).
Since I have only 3 friends on GWave, waves are at a minimum but we are working it out.
This YouTube video from Google explains some features:

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Web browsers explained - by Google

Well done, Google!
They are explaining what web browsers are, in a new YouTube clip. The necessity for this, they claim, is that many users would click on the e of Internet Explorer (IE) as the only way to access the Internet. For many years IE was packaged with the Microsoft Windows computer that was purchased - ensuring that this myth was perpetuated.
Now that cloud computing is viable, it's the web browser that is more important than the operating system that you use. So, good that we should be re-educated about this.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Too heavy on Java?

Have been using some programmes which use Java heavily. Google Chrome is one, Prezi is another. And these programmes seem to hang up.
Prezi is a great presentation tool. I found that it freed me up from the PowerPoint bullet list and the temptation to put YOUR script on the PP slide. Here is an example from the IB Theory of Knowledge course in Mathematics as an area of knowledge.
But it is Java heavy. When I used the downloadable version for faster editing, the system resources used were at a max. In fact it hung up after about 20 minutes use. It also hung up Chrome.
The September 2009 issue of Linux Journal has a very interesting article giving an insiders view of producing Chrome - both browser and OS. James Gray interviews Evan Martin and Mads Ager about how these were produced. Interestingly, Google started the work by producing another Java Engine (V8 - named after an engine, not the drink, answers Mads).
V8 runs on Windows, Linux and Mac, is written mostly in C++, and was written by Lars Bak and Kasper Lund (in a farmhouse in Denmark).
So obviously rapid running of Java script needs a really good engine.
I wonder if I am experiencing multiple programmes calling upon one Java engine, and fouling up some parameters, or something? Could I be experiencing what we used to experience in earlier Windows days, when we had to restart the computer to put all back as it was? Can anyone who knows the technology enlighten me?

Saturday, 1 August 2009

There are other Operating Systems to consider.

The announcement that Google will launch the new Chrome operating system in 2010 set me looking at current alternatives to the big two companies' systems - that is Microsoft Windows XP (73% market share) and Vista (18%), and Apple's OS X (4.5% market share).
There is Linux, of course. I have been using Ubuntu as my main desktop OS for several months now and like its speed and simplicity. It is quick to boot up, the layout is clear and, coupled with a Nvidia video card, provides really good graphics.
There is a plethora of other distributions of Linux (including RedHat, Fedora, openSUSE, Sabayon, Mandriva, etc). But there are a couple of other not so well known gems.
I tried Linux Mint 7, booting it from the disc provided free with Linux Format magazine. Very quick, very green, delightful. Since my Sony Vaio does not take kindly to partitions and dual booting, running off the disc was the only alternative for me - but it worked well, including hitching up to another WiFi system when Windows refused to do so.
The advent of netbooks has meant that these light laptops need light OSs. Reading Doug Belshaw's analysis of the ideal OS for netbooks made me want to try gOS ("good OS").
Here he is describing its features:

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Lighter than light - the Google Chrome Operating System

Have been using Google Chrome for many months now, and really enjoy its simplicity and speed.
Since GApps has become my word processing and spreadsheet software, I have rarely resorted to Word or Excel. So - the web-based transition has occurred seamlessly.
However, switching on my computer means waiting for a Goliath to wake up. It takes a long time and readies a hugely powerful machine unnecesarily.
So Google's announcement for a Google Chrome OS is really exciting! We will have to wait (later in 2010), but it will be open source. It will be light, fast and made for surfing. This surely is the way to go.
I have been tempted by a netbook but now think it is worth waiting for the new OS.
Update: Operating Systems can exist at the macro and local levels. This 2004 post by Rich Skrenta predicted a huge GooOS which everyone will use. The Google Chrome OS will exist at the local level but I found it interesting to follow this five year old prediction.
Also, Google Chrome OS is not the only OS - must not forget Android OS.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Interactive Whiteboards - where are we with these?

An Interactive Whiteboard has such potential. A huge projected computer screen, in effect, with the ability to "click" on the whiteboard.
I have seen really good learning and teaching carried out with these. And I have seen these, unused and abandoned.
A study called "New Technologies and Educational Leadership: Missioners, Tentatives and Luddites: leadership challenges for school and classroom posed by the introduction of interactive whiteboards into schools in the United Kingdom" (2001) carried out by Derek Glover and David Miller, both from the Department of Education, University of Keele, Staffordshire, U.K, was interesting to read because it painted a very mixed picture on take-up of this expensive resource.
They concluded that many teachers saw it as small-scale change with "little compulsion for its adoption or use and with perceived limited impact on teaching methodology."
Increased adoption depended on what they called missioners and the conversion of tentative heads to believers.
There is such potential here. And problems to solve.
The projection is a problem - hot, often with the teacher causing a shadow on the screen with the older conventional throw projectors, and very poor image in any normally lit room (particularly in the tropics).
Resources are improving. This is important because the production of visually satisfying resoures is time-consuming.
And it is easier to do what one has always done.
I still think that large flat panel screens with interactive surfaces are better, even though I have yet to see this being used effectively in the classroom.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Textbook publishers should get their comeuppance.

In his latest and well written post, Steve Taffee summarises his series of posts on the publisher/textbook situation.
As he puts it, "the textbook system is broken. There are too few publishers and those that exist are behaving badly:

  • textbooks cost too much.
  • teachers are often forced into adopting costly new versions with little additional benefit over the previous version.
  • the physical weight of textbooks is contributing to back problems among the students who must schlep them from class to class.
  • textbooks consume huge amount of natural resources in their production. Disposal of textbooks is not as easy as one may think."
Additionally, he writes that many textbooks are produced to be "teacher proof" - that is, whatever the quality of teacher, the student can revert to the textbook to learn. This "can constraint teacher creativity, discourage the exploration of the “teachable moment,” and serve as a nagging back-seat driver that second-guesses the judgment of the teacher as to what it or is not important. The textbook is what one is supposed to “cover” in a given course, and if you don’t make it all the way through, you have somehow failed yourself and your class. Who’s in charge here? You, or your textbook?"
This has been a long-held view about US teachers - they teach to a textbook and seldom stray from it. But if that is all that is available, there is very little room to manouver. UK teachers will often work from several textbooks so as to obtain the learning resource to match the syllabus or curriculum. So having to buy several textbooks for a particular course, perhaps to dip into now and again, is even worse.
Could textbook content be object orientated? You select the bits that you want? Just like Digital Learning Objects....
And why are textbooks so expensive? Why have they not been far more imaginative about how they can deliver the content required?
The textbook publishers are going to get their comeuppance. Just like the music publishing industry. They have fleeced education long enough and it is time to go open source on this.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

One to one laptop programmes - what does research say?

Looking at what research can tell us about 1to1 laptop programmes.
An extensive study was done in June 2005, sponsored by Apple, called
Research: What It Says About 1 to 1 Learning.
Their main findings were:
• Effecting change in teaching practice depends on professional development and changing some teachers’ beliefs about the role of technology and students’ capabilities.
• Available research-based evidence is
generally positive, especially with respect to laptop programs’ effects on technology use, technology proficiency, and writing skills.
• Overall, however, there is limited research-based evidence from rigorously designed experimental or quasi-experimental studies of laptop programs’ effectiveness.
• More quasi-experimental and experimental research is needed that examines both outcomes and implementation if further major investments in 1 to 1 initiatives are to be warranted by the research base.
generally positive, but more research needs to be done.

Saul Rockman (Rockman et al from "Getting Results with Laptops" dated October 2004) produced this list of key points from studies in Indiana and other places:

Learning environments are transformed. Collaborative project work promoted.

Assessment techniques change. More authentic assessment techniques.

Teachers look to a variety of sources for training. Professional development now tailored to teachers' individual content area and pedagogical needs.

Mastery is no longer solely the province of technology gurus.

Students are highly engaged. "Like teachers, students also show improved technology skills and sophistication. But this, too, varies, with some students taking to certain specialized applications such as movie making, and others using the tools as a functional, almost transparent element in their schoolwork. In Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, teachers report, anecdotally, that students have greater engagement in their assigned work, fewer behavioral referrals, and higher attendance—positive trends that other research has substantiated. In their study of the Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, Maine, for instance, the Mitchell Institute found daily student attendance improved from 91 percent to over 98 percent since the laptop program began last year. And significantly, 48 percent of parents reported their children are more motivated now that they work with laptops."

Productivity increases. Students develop better organizational skills.

Attitudes toward writing improve.

Where is the RECENT research?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Drop Box - truely awesome.

Had to check the Awesome tick box. On Drop Box . It really is the place to keep your stuff in the cloud.
Drop Box is a folder on your computer. Drag anything into it (or save into it) and off it goes into the cloud. But it remains on your computer. And, if you install Drop Box on your second computer/laptop, it updates it there too.
So you have up-to-date copies of your documents where you need them.
It is really "awesome" to watch when you have your laptop next to your desktop - drag a document into your Drop Box on your laptop, seconds later you can see it in your Drop Box on your desktop. Oh, did I tell you that I run XP on my laptop but Ubuntu on the desktop? It doesn't matter!
Truely awesome.
Please get it following this link and I will get a bit more storage space.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Could Google Wave be a Collaborative Personal Learning Environment?

Taking an on-line course at the moment which uses an un-personisable Course Management System (CMS - Blackboard). I am sure it is well configurable from the university end, but all users experience the same interface.
In an earlier post I considered the CMS as being at the opposite end of a Personal Learning Environment - the latter being well personisable and configurable.
Could Google Wave be a PLE? More, could it be a Collaborative PLE?
A CPLE such as this would allow the selection of the learning group as a Wave, perhaps by the learning facilitator (tutor, convenor, etc). The Wave would then serve as the learning environment.
It would allow the usual asynchronous communication providing for extended reflection, thought and response, the source of documents and assignments, and course calendars, etc. But it will also allow synchronous communication, without any wait time - almost instant responses appearing on your platform as another participant types, no more "Joe is typing..." waits.
Additionally, it looks as if you can have sub-Waves. And also confidential conversations which need not include others (tutor discussions with individuals over late assignments, perhaps...).
Developers, please consider the role that GWave could have as a CPLE!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Google Wave - Buena Onda

Google Wave seems to get closer to synchronous communication, yet provides the advantages that asynchronous communication can have (record of conversations, able to work at different times, rich set of collaborative information/data/games/photos/videos/etc available).
Lars Rasmussen describes the three layers that Google Wave has - the product, the platform, and the protocol:
  • the product is an HTML 5 app and built on the Google Web Toolkit, functioning as a rich text editor and with desktop drag and drop features;
  • it is a platform with open APIs - allowing Waves to be built into other products and for other products to be brought into a Wave;
  • the protocol is the format for storing and sharing - with "live concurrency control" allowing edits to be reflected instantly across users and interfaces.
So, as they say in Spanish, Google Wave is "buena onda".....

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Walkabout becomes the new Google Wave - a communication and collaboration platform

Google have announced (at the Google Developer Conference I/O) a new communication and collaboration platform.
Developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen, originators of Google Maps, it is at the developer stage and is promised later this year.
Lars describes a Wave "equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more".
Several aspects are interesting. The code will be made available so it will be open source (as is Android and Google Chrome). Google is inviting developers to work with them so as to ensure very wide and rich applicability. It has taken two years to get to this point. It was worked on in Sydney, hence its working name "Walkabout".
But what will it do?
Lars again:
"Here's how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use "playback" to rewind the wave and see how it evolved."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Could this be the answer?

Could the latest netbook from Dell be the answer?
We are considering whether to replace desktops with laptops in the Primary School. But there are some advantages in having desktops and some definite disadvantages to laptops.
Dell have announced their new educational netbook - the Latitude 2100.

Here are the features listed with the definite disadvantages of using laptops in this school setting:
Easily damaged - the 2100 has a rubberised casing.
Easily "lost" - the 2100 has a Lock Spot.
Difficult to keep charged/cables everywhere - the 2100 slots into a cart where it is charged but also network updated.
Keyboard difficult - the 2100 can be had with a touch screen.
Difficult to monitor what the student is doing - the 2100 has an activity light on the back of the screen, so that the teacher can see if there is network or internet activity (clever...).
Here is the announcement from Endgadget (thanks Fernando for the link).

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Not the Information Age but the Learning Age.

Stephen Heppell has posted this new video regarding the way schools ought to be going - the path to learning in the future.
Two quotes: "... to produce ingenious, collaborative, gregarious, creative people..." and "... people that are passionate about what they do never stop learning...". Good quotations to bear in mind.

Re-reading Brown and Duguid's "The Social Life of Information" brings to mind the difference between knowledge and information.
Knowledge entails a knower,it appears to be harder to detach than information and requires MUCH MORE BY WAY OF ASSIMILATION (p119 and p120). They go on to say that "circulating human knowledge ... is not simply a matter of search and retrieval" and "learning is the acquisition of knowledge" (all good Theory of Knowledge stuff!).
So, I agree with Stephen Heppell's comment that we are not in the Information Age but the Learning Age (Acquisition of Knowledge Age? Not snappy enough). There are connections here with Marc Prensky's Digital Wisdom...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

CMSs/VLEs and PLEs - are they opposite ends of the same thing?

Was reading Kathryn Greenhill's "Librarians Matter" post on "Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)- what works for librarians" - and a thought struck me.
A PLE is at the individual's learning end, usually working in Web 2.0, to bring knowledge to him/her. Perhaps using many tools/systems. Have a look at Kathryn's presentation to understand the variety. But do you see the point? A PLE is under the control of the user and s/he selects several tools/systems to bring the knowledge to him/her.
A Course Management System (CMS- Blackboard, Angel, Sakai [Sakai calls their system a Collaboration and Learning Environment], Moodle, etc) is at the other end. Produced by the university or school, controlled by them. But then used as one of the PLEs by the user.
PLEs - flexible, user-controlled, messy.
CMS - inflexible, out of user-control, very compartmentalised.
What needs to change?
Could a fairly complete VLE/CMS be produced into a PLE, perhaps as gadgets/widgets? So that on one "tab" of the PLE the set of tools needed for a particular course could be called up? So that the discussion forum appears there, as well as the course outline, the links to reading, etc?

(Am using CMS and VLE together since, although slightly different, CMS can have a different meaning - as in website design)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Blackboard takes over Angel - the battle for delivering the learning.

Inside Higher Ed reports that Blackboard  is taking over Angel . These are two major platforms for the delivery of online learning at university (and school) level.
Blackboard does not get good press. Angel did. Some universities were/are changing from Blackboard to Angel - hence great grumblings.
California State University at Long Beach were reported to be dismayed by the news - they were adopting Angel after deciding to drop Blackboard. I found it interesting that Moodle was in second place as their choice of course management platform.
There is another open-source alternative to Moodle - Sakai . Will be looking into that....

It's not 12th grade! (Bandwidth again....)

We are looking closely at where our 4 Mbps are going.
Since 12th grade are heavy laptop users, we did wonder what amount of our bandwidth would be freed up when they went off to do their IB exams.
Answer: none. In fact it is worse than before.
Two colleagues had to give up on their booked (and paid for) webinar yesterday since it was impossible to follow it.
Here is the usage chart - the first distribution being yesterday, Wednesday.

Conclusions? We need more bits per second!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Could Googleplex give us ideas for the Classroom of the Future?

What would the "campus space" of schools look like in the future? Could we learn anything from the way Google has designed its campus?
Have a look at this 200 second tour of the Googleplex...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Predicting the Future - Howard Gardner

Since we are soon having a workshop on developing our ICT Vision, I want to get my head straight about what some eminent writers are saying about the future.
Howard Gardner, of multiple intelligences fame, has written "5 Minds for the Future". 
This is a far more cerebral approach to thinking about the future and in some ways, less business orientated than others. Gardner uses the word "minds" in a specific way - and not directly connected with any of the multiple intelligences (one of his "minds" may need the application of several of the multiple intelligences).
As he puts it: "the word mind reminds us that actions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all products of our brain. If we want to nurture these capacities or change these perspectives, we will be trafficking in the operation of the mind." (pXV).
The 5 minds can be summarised as follows (this is from pp 18 and 19 and is put very briefly - reading the book is a must to get the complete idea):
DISCIPLINED MIND: individuals without one or more disciplines will not be able to succeed at any demanding workplace and will be restricted to menial tasks.
SYNTHESIZING MIND: individuals without synthesizing capabilities will be overwhelmed by information and unable to make judicious decisions about personal or professional matters.
CREATING MIND: individuals without creating capacities will be replaced by computers and will drive away those who do have the creative spark.
RESPECTFUL MIND: individuals without respect will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace and the commons.
ETHICAL MIND: individuals without ethics will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet.
The conclusions chapter contains a good synopsis (pp 154 to 158).
There are at least two major points arising from this - one is that disciplines would remain as the natural division in schools (note, not subjects) and that synthesis is a skill to be cultivated. 
This would require school students to master history, mathematics, science, and "other key subjects". Gardner rightly points out that students would need to be able to select crucial information from the vast amount available and then synthesise this into ways that make sense for themselves as well as to other.
Other aspects include the importance of creating (posing new questions, producing unexpected but appropriate school products and projects), as well as the need to develop respectful (working effectively with peers, teachers - whatever their background/viewpoint) and ethical minds (striving towards good work and citizenship).
A transcript in note form of Gardner's talk at the Rotman Lifelong Learning Conference, Toronto, June 1, 2007.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bandwidth - continued...

In January I wrote about predicting bandwidth (When is it ever enough - how many of these little megabits do we need? ). The State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) was predicting 10 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff, in a technologically rich environment, over the next 2 or 3 years.
Does this work pro-rata? That is, 1 Mbps per 100 students/staff?
Look at this graph of our one day average over the past year. You can see when we upgraded from a 2 Mbps connection to a 4 Mbps one. 
Now, as the bandwidth provided increased, we made full use of that bandwidth. When we look at our daily use, we see very many times in the school day when we get full use of the maximum bandwidth (and thus have a poor internet experience as things slow down). But, we have a 4 Mbps connection with a maximum of 350 users at one time. So, crudely, a 3.5 Mbps connection should suffice. Yet it does not.
A group that makes a great use of the bandwidth is our current 12th grade. We are going to monitor our bandwidth use over the next few days since they have finished classes - what impact will it have?
An interesting aside: disagreement over what will happen in the future - one view is that bandwidth capacity will continue to grow exponentially (HD coming in, etc) and the other that it will flatten out (better rendering, on-computer devices to reduce need for full transmision).
What do you think?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Predicting the future - for the foolhardy...

I need to write a few lines on a position statement for the course I am doing. Well, here goes.

“Today's children/pupils are going to be young adults in a different world. What major changes do you expect to see in 5-10 years?”

Global changes - more concern over the environment, over-population and the interdependence of countries and people. Recovery from the financial crisis would have taken place and the lessons that should have been learned will have been forgotten. The global market will have recovered and the World will be even flatter than before. Collaboration and communication tools will be ubiquitous, small, portable and everyday.

Schools will be still be concerned with learning and teaching, still regarding most learning as a collaborative activity where students construct their own learning, but with many opportunities for on-line learning which will individualise the curriculum to some extent. The pressure to maintain our knowledge and understanding of the world through Industrial Age compartmentalisation will have eased and we shall see the breakdown of discreet subject areas and a more global conceptual approach to learning.

Companies which rely on command and control structures will be superseded by those with light units and flatter structures with expertise shared commercially across company boundaries. Daniel Pink's Abundance, Asia and Automation will seem out of date in a world concerned with the non-abundance of food and the flattening beyond just-Asia, but the interconnected-ness of business and services provided from anywhere in the world will reach levels not imagined. The "High concept, High touch" approach will be produced not just in the developed world, but anywhere. The developing world will be challenging the former developed one on all fronts.

What do you think? What will be the major changes in 5 - 10 years time?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Digital Pioneers - (tech adopter) Digital Immigrants bite back

Marc Prensky's terms digital immigrant and native were useful back in 2001 or so. They have become somewhat dated and there has been a backlash from those digital immigrants who have grown up and adopted each new digital medium/technology - the digital pioneers.
Most commentators put it this way (and I substitute my personal experience in place of theirs):
"I first encountered mainframe computers back in 1977 using a DEC mainframe - to start it you pressed a series of buttons to tell it to read a small length of punched tape; this tape taught it to read the fast paper tape reader; many yards of punched tape later and the computer was ready for use - no CRT screens, everything printed on teleprinter on paper, programming in BASIC.
Then came the Sinclair computers - my favourite was the ZX Spectrum, storage - cassette tape. After that various PCs including the BBC Computer. Macs around the mid 90s with my first internet usage and e-mails. Website production and all the Web 1.0 stuff in the early years of this century leading to the more recent Web 2.0 stuff. Digital Immigrant? Hardly, we grew up through all the technology!"
Kathy Schrock puts this very nicely in this video from Vimeo :

Digital Pioneer: The Movie from Kathy Schrock on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Taking Digital Wisdom apart.

Having participated in the Innovate webcast and listended to Marc Prensky, I am making more sense of the Digital Wisdom concept. One slide in the presentation summarised it nicely for me: Digital Wisdom is about accepting (digital/technical) enhancements and using these appropriately.
I also found it helpful to take apart the meaning of "Wisdom". 
Wikipedia defines it as: 
"Wisdom is knowledgeunderstandingexperience, discretion, and intuitive understanding, along with a capacity to apply these qualities well towards finding solutions to problems. It is the judicious and purposeful application of knowledge that is valued in society. To some extent the terms wisdom and intelligence have similar and overlapping meanings."
I believe that wisdom is acquired over time. There may be exceptions to this but it is a learning process where lessons learnt are converted to expert responses. And as with many experts, they may have a "tacit" understanding - ie they cannot necessarily explain how they have "done it". 
The digital part seems obvious, but it does consist of a huge range of possible technologies and tools. Prensky makes an illuminating distinction between digital tools as nouns or as verbs
Tools as nouns: Powerpoint, e-mail, Wikipedia, Flash, IM, Google (changes rapidly)
Tools as verbs: Presenting, communicating, learning (stays the same)
Thus H. Sapiens Digital's required tools (the verbs), Prensky says,  would be "the best way to network, to communicate, to present, to calculate, to learn, to think."
But, since digital tools do not automatically lead to digital wisdom, we need to partner together brains with enhancements so as to work together effectively.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Digital Learning Objects (DLOs): aids to learning.

I remember making a sort of bagatelle to illustrate the Binomial Distribution. It consisted of an array of nails on a plywood backing board, and the use of different numbers of marbles. Marbles were dropped down one-by-one and, if all went well, a nice experimental binomial distribution was obtained. Well, most of the time.

This was in the days before computers, of course, but was the educational technology of the time. Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) are the modern equivalent.

A digital learning object is "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning......Additionally, learning objects are generally understood to be digital entities deliverable over the Internet, meaning that any number of people can access and use them simultaneously (as opposed to traditional instructional media, such as an overhead or video tape, which can only exist in one place at a time). Moreover, those who incorporate learning objects can collaborate on and benefit immediately from new versions." (Wiley, 2000)

It is interesting that the word "object" comes from programmers: that is, the idea of object programming where units are programmed to be re-used again in different parts of the programme. Thus theses objects are small instructional components, put together by the learning designer (teacher).

But - where are all these DLOs?

Hidden behind passwords it seems to me. An hour spent looking for these on the internet produces several big repositories of DLOs. MELOT seems to be the one that is most accessible. It seems big in Australia and New Zealand, Universities and other higher level institutions.

Where is the open source DLO repository? The creative commons DLO repository? Surely it can't all be monetized....

Wiley, DA 2000. Connecting Learning Objects to Instructional Design Theory: A definition, a metafor, and a taxonomy. The Edumetrics Institute. (accessed 19 February 2009).

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Terms: Digital Immigrants/Natives, Digitally Entrenched and now Digital Wisdon

Terms can be useful since a term allows a new concept to be labelled.
Marc Prensky coined the terms "digital immigrant" and "digital native" in 2001. They were useful terms to highlight the possible differences that could occur between those that were learning the technology in adulthood and those that were learning this as they grew up. It implied, however, that digital immigrants would continue to speak with an accent (and be less digitally able) unless they took serious steps to learn the new digital language.
There seemed to be an implication that such people would never lose their accents.
As useful as it was then, the terms were not as good for describing the situation now.

I used the term "digitally entrenched" (although subsequently qualified this) in an earlier post.:
But there is another layer to this.
Probably occurring more often in the immigrant than the native, there is a "
just enough knowledge and no more" approach as well. There are those who have become entrenched in some Word, some spreadsheets, an on-board mail client, Skype and the ever present powerpoint, and that is it. There is not the wish to move further than this.
"Good enough for what I want to do", they might say.
How common is the entrenched digital user? What might move them on to consider other digital computer and collaborative tools?

The digitally entrenched concept may allow us to describe a situation in education.

Marc Prensky has published a new paper (H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom ). Here he uses the term "digital wisdom" to describe the situation where use of technology will make us not just smarter but truly wiser:

"Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities. Because of technology, wisdom seekers in the future will benefit from unprecedented, instant access to ongoing worldwide discussions, all of recorded history, everything ever written, massive libraries of case studies and collected data, and highly realistic simulated experiences equivalent to years or even centuries of actual experience. How and how much they make use of these resources, how they filter through them to find what they need, and how technology aids them will certainly play an important role in determining the wisdom of their decisions and judgments. Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgment, problem-solving abilities, and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human."

Do these ideas go beyond those of the term "techno-literate or digital literacy"? I think so.
Literacy implies the use of tools for communication and there is a sufficiency about it - the idea that you become literate to some level.
Digital wisdom is somewhat upwards open ended, implying a whole range of technological skills and tools, so as to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity, as well as in the prudent use of technology to enhance capabilities.
I had to read the definition very carefully before understanding it. Prensky points out that digital technology enhances our cognitive power already - by storing for us a huge amount of information which we can access later. We have become reliant on this. 

Prensky explains digital wisdom  by listing the ways that our unenhanced wisdom lets us down:

"As unenhanced humans, we are limited in our perceptions and constrained by the processing power and functioning of the human brain. As a result, we tend to go astray in our thinking in ways that limit our wisdom; for example:
  • We make decisions based on only a portion of the available data.
  • We make assumptions, often inaccurate, about the thoughts or intentions of others.
  • We depend on educated guessing and verification (the traditional scientific method) to find new answers.
  • We are limited in our ability to predict the future and construct what-if scenarios.
  • We cannot deal well with complexity beyond a certain point.
  • We cannot see, hear, touch, feel, or smell beyond the range of our senses.
  • We find it difficult to hold multiple perspectives simultaneously.
  • We have difficulty separating emotional responses from rational conclusions.
  • We forget."
I quote Prensky's conclusion:
"Within the lifetimes of our children, more powerful digital mental enhancements—the embedded chips and brain manipulations of science fiction—will become a reality just as gene manipulation, long considered a far-off dream, is with us now. Just as we have begun to confront the ethical, moral, and scientific challenges presented by genetic medicine, we will have to confront the issue of digital wisdom sooner or later, and we will be better off doing it sooner. Many of these enhancements will bring ethical dilemmas, but the digitally wise will distinguish between true ethical issues (Is the enhancement safe? Is it available equally to all?) and mere preferences and prejudices.
Nobody suggests that people should stop using and improving their unaided minds, but I am opposed to those who claim the unenhanced mind and unaided thinking are somehow superior to the enhanced mind. To claim this is to deny all of human progress, from the advent of writing to the printing press to the Internet. Thinking and wisdom have become, in our age, a symbiosis of the human brain and its digital enhancements.
I do not think technology is wise in itself (although some day it may be) or that human thinking is no longer necessary or important. It is through the interaction of the human mind and digital technology that the digitally wise person is coming to be. I believe it is time for the emerging digitally wise among us, youth and adults alike, to embrace digital enhancement and to encourage others to do so. With our eyes wide open to enhancement's potential harm as well as its benefits, let us bring our colleagues, students, teachers, parents, and peers to the digital wisdom of the twenty-first century."

Note: This article was originally published in Innovate ( as: Prensky, M. 2009. H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate 5 (3). (accessed February 9, 2009). 
The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services atNova Southeastern University.