Mutation – Evidence of Learning

nat048

(mutation: the mechanism upon which natural selection acts, providing the advantageous new traits that survive and multiply in offspring or disadvantageous traits that die out with weaker organisms)

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Mutation process

I chose these particular artefacts to reflect on for specific reasons. First, these were created around topics that are of particular interest to me.  Second, they were chosen because they all have one thing in common, which is that they are all in some way, controversial. In order for evolutionary change to take place, external forces must be strong enough so that mutation will occur. Similarly, controversial issues have a tendency to generate passion, argument and movement – controversy is generally a catalyst for major change. Last,  I organized my artifacts in this way to ‘promote further change and growth’. This page is dedicated to ETEC 590; discussion of these topics has been enabled on the main page of this blog.

ETEC 500 Can ICT help teachers? (paper) *Review-ready

ETEC 510 Rethinking humanities education (wiki) *Review-ready

ETEC 511 Environmental cost of ICT in education (paper) *Review-ready

ETEC 512 When technology takes precedence over learning (concept map) *Review-ready

ETEC 520 Civil servant for a day (paper)

ETEC 522 Learning communities: reflecting on the implications (CMS – Drupal)

ETEC 531 Where does SMS fit in? (digital unit) *Review-ready

ETEC 532 Shift happens in Social Studies: Should instructional design apply across disciplines?  (paper) *Review-ready

ETEC 533 Framing issues (paper)

ETEC 500 – Research Methodology in Education

Can ICT help teachers?

In their 1998 article Computers make kids smarter – Right?, Cuban & Kirkpatrick resume some of the most prevalent issues in research. They critique existing research concerning the benefits of using technology for enhancing student achievement because they argue that, for each study which shows benefits, another can be found to show exactly the opposite. Moreover, Cuban & Kirkpatrick question the validity of any such studies on the grounds that they are laden with bias, lack specificity, are based on data collected over a relatively short period of time and therefore do not account for the ‘novelty’ element in learner behavior. This makes sense to me, and further supports my theory that learning is most impacted by best practice and pedagogical standards.

Aside from having learned a great deal concerning the intricacies of research in education, this experience left me with new outlook on the topic – Namely, that some areas in education seem to be almost completely  ignored in research. As time went by, it became clear to me that while the correlation between technology and learning have been researched extensively, and continue to be, little has been done in the way of how technology impacts teaching. Moreover, I was hard pressed to find any study that examined how ICT could help teachers as opposed to increasing their workload. When searching the EBSCO databases to write the above research proposal, for example, I could only find 1 study which aimed at finding out how integrating ICT could reduce teachers workloads ( Pathfinder Project ), and none that examined how ICT is impacting teachers. Nevertheless, while researching reference material for this paper, I did find ample documentation that supports that teacher’s workload is increasingly becoming unmanageable and that this is having a ripple effect in education systems around the globe.

N.B.: While the above artefact aimed at researching the impact of ICT on teachers’ workload, it did not take into account all the issues as outlined by Cuban & Kilpatrick because of time constraints. Rethinking research methodology so to irradiate these issues will require both time and collaboration.

Works cited

Cuban, Larry, Kirkpatrick, Heather. (1998). Computers make kids smarter – Right? Technos, 7(2). pp. 28-31.

Gunter, H., Rayner, S., Thomas, H., Fielding, A., Butt, G., & Lance, A. (2005). Teachers, time and work: findings from the Evaluation of the Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Project. School Leadership & Management, 25(5), 441-454. Retrieved July 3, 2009, doi:10.1080/13634230500340781

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ETEC 510 – Design of Technology Supported Learning Environments

Reflecting on wiki affordances: Do we need to shift our thinking in humanities education?

etec510_design_wikiIn ETEC 510 we experimented with wiki construction – ETEC 510 Design Wiki was created in collaboration with all students who took this course over the years. Having had the opportunity for the first time to experiment with wiki affordances led me to the following deductions about wikis and humanities education.

Link to ETEC 510 Design Wiki

Land et al. (2002) contend that based on constructivist principles, comparing, discussing, and disputing information make up the core of knowledge construction. Caverly & Ward (2008) explain that wikis afford learners the opportunities essential to knowledge construction because they “allow a group to collaboratively construct a document online by subscribing and then editing multimedia using simple text editors”. Moreover, they suggest that through perception and idea sharing, learners are able to derive an agreed upon truth and understanding. Working with wikis situates learners at the center of the vastest database available today: the World Wide Web. The Web in turn affords learners ‘access to information and materials that were previously unavailable [and] that can allow students to evaluate and substantiate differing points of view on a particular topic (Heafner & Friedman, 2008). This particular assignment allowed me to experience first-hand the true riches of working with a wiki…

Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to use wikis to their full potential in education, especially in the senior years, because learning is content driven. Wikis are a great way to meet many of the K-12 information technology curriculum goals – one thing that they do not afford however, is a focus on particular content. Wikis are designed to allow an indefinite number of authors to create and manipulate unforeseeable content. Of course they can be used in other ways, but that’s what they were designed to do: harness the wisdom of the crowd.

Content is critical in some disciplines, especially in the sciences, but how is content relevant in a field of study such as history, a discipline which rests on perception and construct? The most invaluable skills that can be acquired by studying history / society are those which facilitate the manipulation, reorganization and critical review of data. Nevertheless, educators teaching these humanities’ courses are still enslaved by the necessity to teach to the exam.

When pedagogy relies solely on textbooks, learners loose the opportunity to process information because editors and writers have already done the work for them. Thus, to foster a constructivist approach to learning, students should be given as many opportunities to process and construct their own knowledge (Land et al., 2002). Maybe then, it’s time we should rethink pedagogies and assessment in the humanities? After all, not all disciplines need to be content driven, right? Rethinking how humanities’ courses are taught and how students are assessed could open the doors to fostering individuality and skills that are more relevant in today’s society.

Works Cited:

Caverly, D., & Ward, A. (2008). Techtalk: Wikis and collaborative knowledge construction. Journal of Developmental Education, 32(2), 36-37.

Heafner, T., & Friedman, A. (2008). Wikis and Constructivism in Secondary Social Studies: Fostering a Deeper Understanding. Computers in the Schools, 25(3-4), 288-302.

Land, M., Redmon, R., Hartzler, S., Burger, M., Bailey, B. & Coe, M. (2002). A Vygotskian Viewpoint: Technology and Constructivism. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.). Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2002, Chesapeake, VA: AACE, 1288-1289.

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ETEC 511 – Foundations of Educational Technology

The Environmental Cost of ICT in Education: Has anyone even thought about it?

One of the unit topics in ‘Foundations of Educational Technology’ was ‘The ecology of educational technology’. While the metaphor was insightful, helping us to see technology as a striving species in the education system and contributing factors which allow it to either assimilate or not, what most concerned me was how this new-aged species was impacting our biological ecology literally. After reviewing some of the literature on the topic, I almost began to see technology as a significant danger to the existence of all species. It struck me as odd that we would not consider ET’s environmental impact on the planet.

Even though I consider myself to be fairly aware with respect to the environmental crisis, I had never stopped to think of how ICT was impacting and will continue to impact the environment. This may have something to do with the fact that the media seems to keep our attention focused on the oil & gas companies and the automobile industry; in fact, I can’t think of any news broadcast that suggested technology was also a main contributor to this crisis. Meanwhile, education systems are some of the heaviest users and promoters of ICT.

Multi-nationals are beginning to engage in greener practices (as part of their newly found corporate consciousness), but it would appear that this has been completely overlooked in education. Of all the technology plans I analyzed over the course of this program, not one made a mention of environmental responsibility.  Without a doubt, education professionals are in an excellent position to exert pressures on ICT giants to develop greener, renewable and upgradable technologies for the education context, but as it was the case for me, many educators have not stopped to think about the environmental cost of ICT in education.

This  paper then, was to serve as an eye-opener to all involved in education such that the environmental question might one day become a standard for inquiry in overall technology deployment. But in reality, it opened only my eyes for I’m not sure that any one except my instructors will ever read it. Nevertheless, the state of consciousness it created in me will undoubtedly impact my practice and my relationship with colleagues and administrators as integrate it into everyday discussion both in the staffroom and the classroom. As education systems become a part of the capitalist machine, “a framework that gives permission to exploit and dominate nature”, it will become increasingly important to advocate for the preservation of our own ecology (Merchant, 2002).

*This paper was inspired by an article posted in our discussion forum, Behold the server farm.

Works cited

Marchant, Carolyn & Schoch, Russell. (2002). A conversation with Carolyn Merchant. California Monthly, 112 (6).

Mehta, S.N. (2006). Behold the server farm. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/26/magazines/fortune/futureoftech_serverfarm.fortune/index.htm

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ETEC 512 – Applications of Learning Theories to Instruction

cmap_cornerWhen technology takes precedence over learning: the importance of individual preference

Cmap – What do we know about how people learn?

The MET program requires students to use, navigate through, integrate, and evaluate new media technologies for communicating, publishing, and creating a number of digital artefacts. This is central to the capstone experience for this program since it is only through hands-on experience that one can truly appreciate the affordances of web tools and gain expertise. It has been my experience, however, that dictating to students which tool to use to meet a particular goal can have an adverse effect on learning. This is because students come into the program with a unique skill set which is known only to them. Consequently, a one-size-fits-all approach may result in a great deal of time being wasted by students trying to climb a steep learning curve, therefore placing the technology at the center of the learning experience as opposed to the topic at hand.

The artifact above was created as part of the ETEC 512 course requirement. For this assignment students were asked to map out the various theories of learning as they were examined throughout the course so to understand how each was related or overlapped, as well as to demonstrate learning. All students were to use the same software: CmapTools. CmapTools is a cool piece of software that allows multiple users to collaborate on a map from a distance, and affords one-step web publishing, which is great for sharing your work especially in the case of online or blended education. It also provides users with a wide spectrum of design elements and tools, all the necessary stuff to turn a concept map into a work of art.

Although I considered myself to be tech savvy, I found this software to be extremely cumbersome, especially given the fact that the assignment required the map to be constantly altered as new knowledge was made available throughout the course. In all, the map was to be re-constructed 5 or 6 times based on peer / instructor feedback. Many of my colleagues shared the same frustrations, that is, having to spend so much time on the software itself and therefore neglecting other aspects of the course: reading and research. As much as I understood the educational value of concept mapping, I vowed never to have anything to do with digital concept maps, ever again. In the end, what resulted from all the hours spent on my Cmap were some 30 color-coordinated boxes that might have taken me a few minutes to jot down on a piece of paper. In hind sight, it is clear that in order to be able to engage in mapping the various theories and sharing them in a virtual environment, some kind of technology was needed. At the time the course was designed, CmapTools must have seemed like a reasonable choice for it afforded the required graphics and publishing capabilities. But I later wondered how my experience (and that of many others in the same course) might have been different if I had been given the freedom to choose a tool more suited to my skill level.

A few weeks passed, and as I contemplated having to use a mind map to illustrate the structure of my eportfolio, I found myself making eye contact with the CmapTools icon sitting on my desktop. After opening it and fiddling with it for some 20 minutes, I agreed that there had to be an easier way to do this so I began to look for another tool that might help me achieve the same goal without the grief. After a few Google searches, I came across Bubbl.us 2.0. It took just a few clicks to create the object I needed and made me realize how much easier editing was with this particular tool.

Lesson learned: While it may be necessary at times to dictate which technology students will use to achieve a particular goal (an LMS for example), giving students the freedom to choose a prefered tool might just prevent technology from taking precedence over learning. For other assignments, I was given ‘carte blanche’, and I recall looking for, and using, whatever technology afforded the path of least resistance precisely because the course content / objectives remained intuitively at the top of my priorities. What’s more, who better suited to match my skill set to a particular tool but me? Stephen Petrina contends that technologies are complex instruments of learning. He states that technologies ‘augments, enhances, extends or magnifies our senses’. He also asserts that technologies are literally a part of us. The relationship between the ‘cyborg’ and his creations then, can be exemplified in a more simple analogy: the artist and his tool. Only the artist knows what tool is required to obtain a particular result because each artist’s perception of the finished product is unique, and so are his / her skills.

In my opinion, and based on personal and other cohort members’ forum discussions, personal preference should be at the heart of any framework or model of media selection, however, personal preference and individual skill sets are seldom addressed in such frameworks. A perfect example of this is Bates & Poole’s (2003)  ‘A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology’. Although Bates & Poole acknowledge at the onset that ‘it is impossible for any single teacher to stay abreat of new developments in technology’, the basis for their framework does not reflect this crucial truth to technology selection. On the one hand, letting students choose a tool they are comfortable with will optimize the quality of the finished product (learning), and will serve to educate educators as to what’s new in technology since today, the Web offers a myriad of free tools, new ones being developed at warped speed. And the only ones who are truly active in exploring the new real estate called the Internet are the ‘digital natives’ themselves.

Works Cited

Bates, T.  & Poole, G. (2003). A Framework for Selecting Technology. In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Petrina, Stephen. (in press). Curriculum and instruction for technology teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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ETEC 531 – Curriculum Issues in Cultural and New Media Studies

Where does SMS fit in?

SMS_sicial_impactIn ETEC 531 we examined the social and human implications of technological advances. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of this program because as educators we have the power to introduce technologies (or not) that will alter how our students operate; we also have the power to stimulate reflection in our students so that they will develop a critical sense toward new technologies.

In his essay “The Question Concerning Technology”, Heidegger states that “there [is] nothing technological about technology. He contends that technological determinism poses a great danger to our way of life and our ability to think (Murphy & Potts, 2003, p. 164). While technology should by definition signify the rational process by which challenges encountered in human activity are remedied, it is rare that those who embed technology into human activity engage in the rational process of analyzing its consequences (the environmental impact of the automobile for example). Integrating technology in the classroom is not enough – students have to understand how technology impacts them and the world around them.

In this group project, we created a digital unit that would get grade 12 students thinking about the impact of technology on society. We brainstormed about some of the issues that were of particular relevance in our professional context and divided the tasks among the 5 of us according to the various unit topics we had come up with. I worked on the SMS language unit.

SMS language is rapidly gaining popularity (Carrington, 2004), especially within secondary school youths for whom texting has become the main form of communication with peers, and many educators see this as a contributing factor in the decline of literacy skills. Integrating SMS into the curriculum not only helps students understand the value of explicit communication and the impact of technology on literacy, it also makes learning relevant for students as it brings their world into the classroom. Because literacy is a huge issue in education today, that is, secondary level students struggle with comprehension and writing competency, my focus was on having students show off their SMS language skills while exploring the ways it is impacting communication and language.

Works Cited:

Carrington, V. (2004). Texts and literacies of the Shi Jinrui. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(2), 215-228. Retrieved July 3, 2009, doi:10.1080/0142569042000205109

Murphie, A., Potts, J. (2003). Culture & Technology.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Link to UBC Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy Moodle

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ETEC 532 – Technology in the Arts and Humanities Classroom

Shift Happens in Social Studies: Should instructional design apply across disciplines?

This paper is based on the premise that a constructivist approach is best suited for the study of society and its history. This is because subjects like history and social studies are inherently based on constructivist principles. That is, they are in themselves constructs subject to cultural norms, personal experience, and other biases. Being able to gather primary sources, evaluate them, categorize them, and form a position based on what is known, is what history and social studies are all about. The discussion also offers a new way to present social studies curriculum to students so to maximize learning, retention, and the development of indispensable skills required in the information age. SSCIE (Social Studies Constructivist Instructional Environments) would consist in a web-based system of archives linked directly to the ministry of education’ learning outcomes which would allow students to work toward meeting the requirements for each through their own choice of artefacts.  Each, choosing from a wide variety of media, and producing evidence of their learning through the construction of a wiki which would then become the basis for summative assessment. I strongly believe that if this model should ever become a reality, it would revolutionize these subjects, support both learning and teaching,  as well as generate a whole new set of attitudes towards history and social studies.

While I was working on this assignment, something came to me: should instructional design apply across disciplines? Typically, when there is some kind of big conceptual breakthrough  in education, it is implemented across the board: multiple intelligences, collaborative learning, online education. Further, I thought about a French 10 course I had developed for online delivery, and recalled how I felt throughout that online education was not well suited to language learning because  immersion, as well as non-verbal language, are an essential requirement for fluency.

I believe that the reason for this seemingly homogeneous attitude toward instructional design is that decision-makers are often quick to implement innovation without considering the most important and central component of any subject: the prescribed learning outcomes. So while this instructional design might revolutionize social studies, it would not work in a language course, for example. The sooner we realize that each discipline / subject requires its own theoretical framework, the better off we and our students will be.

Works Cited

Maxwell, Wendy. (n.d.) Research to Support the Implementation of ‘Histoires en action!’. Retrieved August 2, 2009, from http://www.aimlanguagelearning.com/docs/research.htm

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ETEC 533 – Technology in the Math and Science Classroom


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