Friday, May 27, 2011

My Final Thoughts

Wow! This is my final blog for our Teaching and Learning with New Technologies module.  Overall, I have found my first blogging journey to be extremely beneficial. Here are the main advantages that I have found from blogging:
  •  Above all, I have probably done more background reading for each week than I would have done on a normal basis (unless I have an assignment due...) and as a result, understand the themes and tools discussed in class in greater depth.
  • An online personal journal has allowed me to present, edit and file my reflections in a more orderly manner than I would a handwritten journal.
  • All my blogs contain hypertexting/ videos etc which have resulted in a greater capacity to learn and link new and useful resources. 
  • Allowed me to reflect on my personal style of learning and writing.
  • I have gotten to know my coursemates better, particularly those who are less vocal in class by reading their blogs and comments each week. I tend to keep my opinions to myself during whole class discussions and blogging has encouraged me to voice my opinions and share them with others. 
  • Collaborative learning: reading other blogs has not only helped me check that my understanding of key themes and tools are on track, but also, encouraged more critical thinking and further expanded my knowledge and understanding. 
  • Unlike traditional essays which rely heavily on the source of information, blogs encourage personal reflecting and a level of freedom to choose areas of interest that I want to read about. This I found very motivating.
I feel a major drawback of blogging is it is extremely time consuming, especially when other assignment due dates are looming. Moreover, it takes time and patience to read through other blogs,  comments and then think of my own comment to make. For some people, I know blogging is a passion, but for me, I found blogging pretty hard work. Initially, I found it quite a daunting prospect having to write my ideas and share it with others. It took several blogs for me to feel comfortable and establish my own public online voice as I wasn't sure how I should present myself. However, after some practice, doing lots of background reading, reading others blogs, receiving positive feedback and commenting on other blogs, it started feeling less awkward and I stopped worrying about how I would come across. Blogging has pushed me to be more proactive in sharing my ideas with others. When compiling each blog, I preferred doing quite abit of background reading. This involved reading journals, articles and other blogs online, not just those from this course to get a wider picture before I started drawing my own conclusions. I've enjoyed using hyperlinks (they are great!) and embedding resources which I found online. Had it not been for this blogging experience, I would probably never have come across most of the themes and tools we have covered.  I just hope that after this experience I will be able to keep up to date on the latest digital developments. This module has left me excited about integrating all these teaching and learning tools into my own future classrooms as it will be an extremely useful asset that will not only assist my students, but I can share with future collegues.

Web Meets World / M-learning & Virtual Worlds

Web Meets World: 

Web 1.0: the original, information orientated web (VLES and discussion boards)
Web 2.0: socially orientated web (blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts, social networking etc).

Web 3.0: is  the currently evolving web and is widely referred to as the semantic or 'intelligent' web because it is increasingly able to find precise and personalised responses to searches. Others see web 3.0 as a geospatial web where location is used to index information and some see future internet being like a virtual world navigated by avatars. Unlike web 1.0 and web 2.0, where electronic devices and services were kept separate, web 3.0 increasingly will interconnect everyone and everything without the need for human interaction on a 24/7 basis. In other words, the future digital world will be a 'web meets world,' where the world wide web is intersected with the real world providing an augmented reality- information from the web projected into reality. Such tremendous innovation can potentially bring about better health, safety and lifestyle advantages thus allowing you to make better choices throughout life. In the future, fridges will be intelligent enough to know when you've run out of milk and order the specific brand and size that you prefer and cars will be able to drive themselves and alert you to dangers ahead.

The following slide show, summarises  web 1.0, web 2.0 and outlines the future of web 3.0 as well as some of its tools.
The Evolution of Web 3.0
Role of web 3.0 in education: 

Web 1.0 was more suitable for Behaviourist principles (online material, quizzes, feeback etc.) and web 2.0 offered a more constructivist approach with e-learning. Web 3.0 personalises the educational experience for learners and hence follows a more cognitive approach to teaching and learning as learners can decide what is important to learn and learn through techniques and strategies they feel comfortable with (alongside, behaviourist and constructivist approaches). This makes web 3.0 particularly useful for differentiated teaching and learning approaches as students will be able to choose how they learn which can prove to be more effective. However, utilising web 3.0 methods means that learners need a high level of self motivation. If a student has no motivation to learn, it can be a huge challenge for teachers. Also, instructional goals are collaboratively developed and activities are interactive, group and project oriented, and experiential. This means that more class time will be devoted to activities and discussions, which are generally harder to control and to plan for time. With more interactive training, it is also more difficult to involve large groups. When using the cognitive approach to learning, it is better to train smaller groups so that each individual has a chance to participate in the interactivity that is so important to cognitive learning (Ford, 2009).

Problems with web 3.0:
  • Invasion of Privacy: The push for greater communication, information and innovation in order to transform the way we live and work is a tremendous cause for concern. Web 3.0 will be extremely beneficial for advertising and businesses, however, I feel that Google and Facebook already know far too much about me. I keep getting adverts for 'things to do in Perth' appearing on my Facebook. Web 3.0 tools allows anyone with access to the internet to find out personal information about you or me. Web 3.0 means that laws regarding personal privacy and data access need to be readdressed.  
  • Greater reliance on technology= greater global warming. 
  • What if everything breaks down? The whole point of Web 3.0 is to make information accessible to people and computers at any time from any location. Cloud computing means that if one computer or server breaks it doesn't mean that the entire system goes down, it only means that a small piece of it doesn't work, which is not harmful to the system as a whole. Users would still be able to access information and change it (Armburst et al., 2009).

'M-learning' or 'mobile learning' is the new paradigm in education propelled by the new wave of development based on mobile devices. Communication and interaction are a critical process in learning (Upadhyay, n.d.). Mobile technologies do not change the activity that the web is used for, however, it can bring fundamental changes to education by allowing easier access.

Why m-learning is relevant in future education:
  • Freedom, power and choice: m-learning offers a whole new level of personalised learning which is self paced, downloadable and allows learning activities to take place virtually anywhere.
  • Organised productivity: management systems make it easy to access key information and saves time.
  • Unlimited storage space: files are increasingly being stored and modified online hence, school work is accessible anytime online (Upadhyay, n.d.). 
  • Most students have access to mobile devices (mobile phones etc) and experience using them:  most mobile phones have basic functions such as online access, camera etc. There is no reason why teachers should not take advantage of this fact and incorporate mobile technology into their teaching (Terrell, 2011).
  • Promotes independent learners: learning is in the hands of the learner. 
  • Reflection, interaction and hand on learning experiences : tools encourage reflection and interaction with others like Yodio (audio commentaries for photos) or You Tell You (Photostories).  Students can collect evidence of learning through interaction with their environments, take pictures and save searches with applications like Evernote
  • Free and useful applications: Many applications are free for recording, producing multimedia records and moblogging.
  • Less training required for teachers: interactive whiteboards (IWB) are not only stationary learning devices, teachers need to know how to use them and locate appropriate programs, etc (Terrell, 2011). 
  • Augmented reality: Facilitates interaction with surroundings, for instance, information from web can be projected into reality through the use of mobile devices. This is especially useful  for educational field trips. M-learning tools enables mobile browsing of the world and develops global students. Students can visit museums or ancient worlds in the virtual world (Second Life ) or visit real historical sites and see images of the past projected onto their mobile device screen. In other words, "augmented reality is appealing because it aligns with situated learning. Students find connections between their lives and their education through the addition of a contextual layer" (The Horizon Report, 2011, cited in Teaching & Learning with New Technology: Quotes and Notes). 
I found a blog and video by a lady called Shelly Terrell, a Top 10 Language Teaching Blog winner who works mainly with English language learners around the world. Terrell argues against a ban of mobile phones in classrooms and that schools such invest more money on mobile technology rather than IWBS. She argues that mobile learning means students are less burdened with heavy books, are easy to use as students are already familiar with the technology and allows students a more hands on approach to learning. For instance, students can go outside with no books, only their mobile phones, and learn about topics such as seasons through photos, videos and audio recordings of their ideas etc. Moreover, Terrell argues that schools in third world countries or those unable to invest in smartboards, should consider utilising mobile devices to enhance their students' learning experiences and opportunities for more collaborative learning.
Her video is pretty long but an interesting and convincing watch :
    Problems with m-learning:
    • Dependence on equipment: there is always a danger of over relying on technology, for instance, what if the device runs out of power? also, mobile devices are quickly outdated and may not be compatible with newer applications. Overall, there should be a balance between technology and traditional learning styles using pencil and paper. Life and learning should not come to a stand still simply because the technology does not work.
    • Privacy and surveillance. 

    Virtual Worlds: 

    Virtual worlds such as Sloodle,  represent a powerful new media for instruction and education that are engaging, stimulating spaces where students can meet online for normal class activities, including lectures, discussions, case studies, projects, papers, exams, and labs. Classes are a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activity. It allows users to be able to carry out tasks that could be difficult in the real world due to constraints and restrictions, such as cost, scheduling or location. A virtual world class differs from a traditional course management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle, due to the three-dimensional (3D) graphical setting, the use of avatars to represent the class participants, and the sense of presence that puts the learner within the scene.


    I found learning about the future of digital technology to be fascinating. I remember watching the movie Back to the Future in the 80s/90s and getting excited over the prospect of flying cars, hover boards and jackets that could dry themselves. I am not a techno expert but I definitely appreciate the convenience that technology brings. The future is Web 3.0 and m-learning. Mobile technology creates more possibilities than you can image and we have just reached the top of the iceberg when it comes to mobile innovation. However, there are definitely downsides to all this technology. I am concerned about an over reliance on technology and the major issues of a lack of privacy that comes with Web 3.0. 

      Friday, May 20, 2011

      Information Overload/ Folksonomies & RSS

      The following video is one that I stumbled upon which covers the progression of information technology. I definitely had an information overload moment. It is mind blowing how much things have progressed! The video is probably slightly out of date as uses MySpace as an example rather than Facebook.

      Information Overload:
      Information (and communication) overload, is a concept often associated with the rise of the digital age, however, as far back as the sixteenth century, people have been complaining about being bombarded with more information that they could possibly ever process. Conversely, the structure of how information flows today has radically transformed. The traditional sources of broadcasting information such as TV, radio,  newspaper meant that information was easily transferred through a limited number of media outlets. However, with the rise of the internet, most notably Web 2.0,  everyone is able to create and broadcast their own information to the rest of the world almost instantly through, blogs, podcasts, social networking sites etc.

      The following quote summarises the issue of information overload today:
      'We have become far more proficient in generating information than we are in managing it, and we have also built technology that easily allows us to create new information without human intervention' (Houghton- Jan, 2008, para. 8). 
      At times, I do feel overwhelmed with the amount of information ( and communication) I am constantly receiving through Facebook, Skype, Email, texts etc. The issue of information overload is a major challenge for both educators and students. Indeed, teachers are increasingly recognising that technology is an integral part of students lives and that they need to integrate it into their teaching if they are to engage their students.  However, in non learning contexts, such technology is widely regarded by educators as distractions and time wasters for students. There is a growing number of cases in classrooms where teachers have had to confiscate students' mobile phones, which to many students is the equivalent to loosing a limb. More troubling however is that, evidence suggests that not only do young students naturally have more trouble than adults knowing how to set their priorities straight, information overload poses a real danger for their young developing brains. A long term consequence of receiving a constant stream of stimuli and frequently switching tasks is students who are less able to remain focused and learn (Houghton-Jan, 2008).

      The main problem is that, students want instant gratification and modern technology caters to this need.  Any information they want to access can be easily found online and there is nothing stopping them. Personally, Google has made researching and completing assignments far easier. What potentially took me days to research in libraries, takes far less effort searching for and all the information I require is available online. For instance, if i'm looking for a particular statistic or academic quote to back a statement i've made, I simply type in the keywords and its there! However, I feel that  has made me lazier. I tend to spend time thinking and assessing things in great detail because the internet does it for me. To an extend, it could be argued that despite Web 2.0s tremendous advantages, it does teach people not to evaluate as much (Carr, 2008).

      Therefore, as teachers, we need to teach our young students how to deal with the challenges of information ( and communication) overload.
      Here are some strategies:

      1. Learn to organise information:
      - Students need to find a way to sift through all the information they receive and store a selection of valuable data in an organised manner. Folksonomy is a tool for screening information and presenting it on one page through hyperlinks. Social bookmarking services such as delicious are quickly becoming the way of the future. I tried the site 'delicious' and I found it incredibly useful. For years I have been bookmarking sites on my laptop and it is increasingly becoming difficult to keep it all organised. Delicious, allows me to access bookmarked files from other computers using tags which makes perfect sense to me.
      -  Create separate filing categories for personal and work/school. Students should learn that leisurely activities should not interfere with their schooling.

      2. Filtering information received
      - Switch off major distractions such as mobile phones, social networking sites when concentrating on important issues or projects.
      - Communicate etiquette and self control: as a class, discuss when they think it is polite not to use communication technology such as texting in the class or learning to simply ignore their phones when necessary.
      - Canceling some unimportant incoming sources of information. Discuss with students whether they need all the information inputs they are currently using and to keep only those which enrich their personal lives and school work (Houghton-Jan, 2008).

      3. RSS feed readers 
      - RSS feed readers are another way of filtering information. The traditional method of searching for information have changed. Nowadays, by setting up an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, from your favourite websites, you automatically receive updates whenever those sites are updated. However, as these sites are frequently updated, there is a problem with an overwhelming influx of information. To overcome this, RSS feed readers or online aggregators such as google reader, help control what information is received and how you use it (Rowse, 2010). RSS readers help students alleviate the problem of information overload by bringing the information to them rather than manually having to sift through all the information themselves.

      In addition, teachers should look out for  waning signs that their students are struggling with balancing such distraction. These may include: students coming to school looking exhausted and beady eyed from staring at computer screens for too long, students' lack of attention in class or a decline in their academic grades.

      Both Folksonomies and RSS feeds are useful educational tools largely because they both work on the basis of collaborative learning by allowing students to look into other views and perspectives:

      Use of folksonomies in education: 
      - Hyperlinks can be presented as tags of word clouds. Teacher tag clouds help students handle the problem of finding valuable and appropriate websites.
      - Students can work together and gradually build the number of bookmarked sources of information. This is useful for students needing to share resources and complete group projects.
      - Libraries are increasingly combining traditional taxonomic classification system with folksonomy user generated tag clouds.

      Use of RSS in eduation: 
      - Teachers can set up RSS feeds on educational topics.
      - Students can create a collaborate group or class feed on topics they are learning about.

      Overall, I believe another significant way of helping students with information overload is constantly reinforcing the importance of moderation. Students need to learn the concept of self discipline and appreciate the value of applying themselves and steadily working towards a goal rather than relying on instant gratification.

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Information Literacy

      So far we've looked at two aspects of literacy in the digital era- 'language based' literacies (print literacy, texting literacy and hypertext literacy) and 'multiliteracies' (media literacy, podcasts etc.) For our third and final installment on literacy in the digital era, we investigated the topic of 'information literacy.'

      Information Literacy:
      In the digital era "online materials shouldn't be approached as if they were print materials" (Pegrum, 2009, p.37). Hence, students must be made aware that not everything that read online is accurate or true. It is the role of teachers to assist  their students 'information literacy' or 'critical literacy' skills. This involves teaching students to evaluate a source of information based on:
      • Origins
      • Author 
      • History 
      • Accuracy
      • Objectivity
      • Completeness 
      • Currency
      • Relevance of digital documents
      • As well as, triangulate (compare and cross reference them with at least 2/3 other documents) to verify its accuracy (Pegrum, 2009).
      (However, students will not understand the concept of 'objectivity' or 'completeness' if they lack a baseline knowledge).
      Information literacy skills can be summarised into 3 main skills:
      • asking key questions
      • having a baseline of knowledge
      • triangulating

      When and how should we teach students information/ critical literacy? 
      As mentioned in my previous blog on multiliteracies, I feel that students should be taught the foundation skills of critical thinking from as early as possible. Hence, young students should learn to ask questions such as 'how' and 'why' an author has constructed a text to influence the reader. A useful powerpoint presentation I found covers how to teach critical literacy skills to early primary students. It also includes an example of using a venn diagram and an alternative story of the three little pigs.

      Retrieved from:

      The site where I got the powerpoint from provides some great ideas for developing primary students critical literacy skills in the classroom which include: teaching the 3R's (review, reflect and react) for reading and activities where the concept of 'voice' is expressed- Critical literacy in the classroom

      Bogus websites:
      During history lessons in secondary school, we were taught the skills to critically analyse a text/image/ video etc from a text book or school video, based on the author, purpose of the text and even its historical and cultural context. However, times have changed and most students now do their own independent research online. Therefore, a superb way of engaging students in middle-upper and help develop critical evaluation skills is through investigating various websites on the internet. The Department of Education Bogus Websites link has a list of some sites which can be used in class. I am sure, many students will believe that the evidence presented on these sites are true as the sites are well presented and have plenty of information available.

      To conclude, due to the rapidly increasing array of materials available online, students need to be taught how evaluate the usefulness and reliability of a source. Helping students develop critical literacy skills should not only involve explicitly teaching such skills (according to students' age and abilities) but also, should be treated as an ongoing progress throughout their schooling. Even somewhat small things such as, on a daily basis, teachers should present a neutral viewpoint on an issue/topic to avoid students developing biases. 

      Saturday, May 14, 2011

      Digital Safety and Social Networking

      Digital Safety:
      The ACMA lecture was extremely insightful into the dangers of the cyber world and highlighted the responsibility of both teachers and parents to protect and educate our youth about the sinister side of the internet. A rapidly increasing number of students are preferring to spend time online rather than watching TV at home and 90% of grades 5-6 are addicted to social networking sites such as Facebook (ACMA lecture, 2011). The greatest dangers are lurking in interactive channels like chat rooms, instant messaging and social networking sites. 

      There are 3 main areas of risk for internet users. These are:

      1) Cyberbullying:
      "Cyberbullying occurs when the internet, email or mobile phones are used to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behaviour to harm someone" (ACMA lecture, 2011). Those involved can experience social, psychological and academic difficulties. There is an increased number of cyber bullying which has resulted in tragedy.

      2) Cyberpredation:
      The web provides children with the freedom to make friends, play games and research homework with the click of a button, however, makes them open to potential to online predators and scam artists.

      3) Exposure to inappropriate material:
      Of course what is considered inappropriate depends on the child, the family and the community, but these generally include sites which are sexual in nature, contains violent or hateful material, or which advocates the use of weapons or harmful substances.

      The ACMA advises 4 main strategies to help students become 'cybercitizens,' thus ensuring that they have the knowledge and skills to operate effectively in the online world. These include:

      * Positive online behaviour: 
      Such as, developing positive and appropriate relationships and avoiding or dealing with unwanted contact.
      * Digital media literacy:
      Learning appropriate communication such as skills for positive communication (appropriate use of emoticons).
      * Peer and personal safety
      Avoiding the disclosure of personal information.

      Websites such as provides students with guidance on major risks associated with the digital age.

      In addition, strategies that teachers and parents could utilise include- ensuring computers are in a public area so students can be monitored and blocking inappropriate websites.

      Teachers should not only educate their students on the dangers of the internet but work towards establishing a close relationship with their students, this is particularly important when tackling the problem of cyberbullying. As they get older, students are increasingly reluctant to share their thoughts with adults. Teachers need to be able to read the signs such as changes in student behaviour and mood. Moreover, teachers need to make sure their students feel comfortable sharing worries and problems.

      Social Networking Sites: 

      I (along with millions of other people of all ages around the world) am a major Facebook addict and was interested to learn how these sites which I use for leisure could be used in a formal learning context. There are a variety of social networking sites available for free online such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Skype. However,  all the sites share similar technical features (Lockyer & Patterson, 2008) These include:
      • Users can share information through their profile 
      • Connect with other users of the sites who might be on their contacts list or friends
      • Upload, tag and share multimedia content they have created
      • Link others to a variety of web accessible content they have created
      • Initiate or join groups based on common interests and pursuits. 
      Due to the nature of social networking sites, they facilitate informal learning through the sharing of ideas, providing feedback and engagement of critical thinking (Lockyer & Patterson, 2008).  Moreover, social sharing networks help students develop, collective self esteem and fulfills their need to belong (Gangadharbatla, 2008). This I feel is the major appeal of using social networking sites in education- they feel informal, without the burden/strain associated with formal learning environments and make students generally feel good about themselves (by helping students feel they belong  developing collaborative self-esteem). Hence, before educators think about blocking students access to social networking sites, they should consider harnessing the technology of these extremely popular tools to engage students of all ages ( online users has extended to early primary students with such programs as Club Penguin  and Moshi Monsters ).

      An interesting article entitled, Social Networking Goes To School, and Networking Belongs in School provided some ideas on using social networking sites in schools. For instance, schools established their own pages which kept updates on areas such as sports events and academic achievements. This was an effective means of creating a strong sense of school community amongst students. Also, projects used social networking programs such as Skype and Ning so students can reach and learn from peers in countries across the globe.

      To conclude, I believe that teachers should not only educate their students on digital safety but integrate social networking tools into their teaching. Unfortunately, I feel that there is this general stigma associated with social networking in education that I now feel is undeserving. Schools often filter students access to these sites for obvious reasons (and in most cases, quite rightly so). However, when you look at the tools social networking sites provide in an educational context and recognise their appeal with students, it seems illogical not to use them in teaching.

      Blogger down!

      I tried working on a new blog entry last night but was unable to because the server was down! What?! Sure I expect programs such as UWA's Webct to not work, I've grown accustom to it, but a huge international service such as not working for a day was a shocker! I guess its easy to take the reliability of such free services for granted and proves, you can't always rely on the internet!

      Thursday, April 21, 2011

      Language and Literacy

      Summary of Web 2.0 Tools: 
      So far, we have covered three common web 2.0 tools. Here is a summary of what I've learned and which context each tool is best suited for in education:
      • Blogs are ideal for individual tasks which require self reflection such as journals/diaries.
      • Wikis and discussion boards are intended for collaborative work.
      • Wikis are created to be informative and provide documents open to editing and modifying by all. Wikis are useful for communicating and organising information between groups of people. Good for: brainstorming and projects.
      • Discussion boards are created to provide group support, where users can share ideas and offer a variety of answers. 

      Digital literacy:
      Kress (2010) states that the traditional concept of literacy (reading and writing) has radically evolved to suit new forms of media. For instance, texts are increasingly multimodal (appear with images) and ipads, are replacing paper books. Atchison (2010) argues that, "dramatic changes in educational technology demand reassessment of related pedagogy."

      E-books and Hypertext:
      To be specific a 'hypertext' is a text displayed on an electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse click or keypress sequence. Hypertext is non-linear meaning that users navigate through layers of related text from one section to the next move from one section of text quickly and easily. Hypertext provides students with a level of control over their learning by offering multiple paths on inquiry. Moreover, instead of flicking through chapters in a book, hypertext is a great way for students to make connections and create deeper meaning quickly because of the visual associative nature of hypertext. However, some worry that a digital textbooks with interactive elements may actually inhibit a student's ability to concentrate on the reading material.

      So, are electronic textbooks set to take over? Just as ipods have replaced walkmans and discmans, I believe that traditional textbooks will eventually be replaced by electronic textbooks with hyperlinks and highlighting vocabulary that links to Wikipedia and other informative sites.

      There are a wide number of advantages to adopting the use of e-books in schools:
      • Generally cheaper. Beneficial for financially disadvantaged students.
      • Easily updated online. 
      • Greener- helps save the planet!
      • No worry of running out of copies and delays in delivery. 
      • Multiple textbooks can be transported in one device.
      • Easy to use.
      • Its second nature. Most students are more used to staring at a screen and navigating a web page than reading a book.
      • Caters to different types of learners.
      • Benefits visually impaired students. For instance, screens can be enlarged.
       As well as plenty of disadvantages of e-books in schools:
      • What if the battery on reading device runs out?
      • Tactile loss. It's not the same as flicking through the pages of a paper book.
      • Can be harder to navigate.
      • Ebooks can have expiration dates and might not be able to update because technology is outdated. 
      • Danger of screen glare and eye strain.
      • Reading devices are more expensive than paper books and need to be updated.
      • Kindergarden/early primary children using e-books?
      Overall, the prospect of paper books, particularly wonderful picture books, becoming obsolete saddens me.  However, we cannot expect young children to learn the same way we did growing up and we cannot halt the advancement of technology. Therefore, as with all new technologies, I feel that as teachers we should embrace new technology and integrate them into our teaching in order to enhance student learning.