Wiki wiki….

November 30, 2007

Dr Bonk is not really a task master but he just wanted us to write too many reflection papers. Now, I am all for reflection, but being faced by the daunting task of writing two reflection papers was not very comfortable for me. Too much reflection makes me question my ways too much sometimes, because reflection is never external to me. It is always about the new things I am supposed to learn with reference to me. (Side note: I am always supposed to do things, anything more than that scares me with the idea of too much time commitment)

So here’s  a part of my take on the Wiki entry… hopefully I can reflect deeper when I have to submit the formal reflection paper. To start with I have to say it makes me very proud of the fact that I am a part of a ‘book’! I have written a part of a book! That in itself makes the whole exercise worth. Extreme advantage number two, I get to be a part of a book which involved Dr Bonk….that’s like being a part of watching a match where Sachin Tendulkar made a century against Pakistan. (Sorry for the India specific analogy, but the comparison was too hard to resist)

Other more normal observations are that it was a very useful exercise. At some level it was an outlet for all that I was supposed to learn and retain this semester…. It would be safe to say that I have achieved it to some extent. It was a useful to see my thoughts, ideas and words formulating in front of me and being published on a ‘formal’ network site. I really did learn a lot through this exercise than I would otherwise learn by simply writing a paper of some kind. I am not big on academics, so it is very interesting for me to know that the mode of delivery of the assignment sometimes really makes a difference to my motivation. The idea of peer editing, the fact that everyone can access this particular piece which I have written, although made me uncomfortable initially, I think it’s a great exercise in accepting constructive community feedback to my ideas and writing. Apart from all the advantages already listed and discussed, I realized the features after I went through the whole exercize of writing the wiki entry. Getting peer feedback, as well as giving feedback on their entries is a cool aspect of Wikipedia. I also feel that the way in which Wikipedia has been structured,  giving feedback and receiving it is very easy and constructive.

I have made a lot of changes to my Wiki entry since I put it online last Sunday. Making a table was something which took me a very long time, thanks to Nunthinka I simply copy pasted her tag…..I will soon know how good (or bad) my entry was in terms of feedback and the grade!!

 

 

Second life- Exciting Escapism!

November 30, 2007

I sat through Intellagirl’s Second Life presentation twice. The first time was when she presented in Susan Herring’s class the week before the Thanksgiving break. It was a very informative session where she took us through how Second Life works and actually showed us the way she and Mark communicated in SL. I had some idea about the existence of SL since I started with Susan’s class… but I had never really witnessed it till that moment. I am not very big on new technology, new tools, basically anything new which means I have to upgrade my skills or knowledge by leaving my comfort zone, is too much of a trouble. SL for me was quiet interesting… all the cool characters, hair dos, hair color, the 3 D feeling… I could actually have a tiny waist and fit into really cool clothes in SL!!! 🙂

When Intellagirl came to Dr Bonk’s class for the presentation the second time around, I was frankly considering bunking it. I had already seen what she had to say about SL and I was running a slight a cold that day. But I am glad that I did sit through it.  After the handful of classes I have attended this semester I have come to realize that Dr Bonk’s classes are very exciting and predictable…sometimes I just look forward to his face color and the hat he will wear in the next class! Even the way Intellagirl took up the presentation in his class was so much more different than the previous class. The only thing she repeated was where she showed her class students and their big pumpkin like avataars (I don’t remember what they were called)… Her main purpose for using SL is purely for educational purposes. I think it is a very cool concept to actually teach a class in the SL environment. I have not experienced even a little bit to understand and comment on its sensibilities…. But the other possibilities which give a very escapist view to the SL phenomenon are probably more fascinating for me. Do not mean to offend anybody, but the idea of SL actually being accepted as a real life is hard enough to swallow. But I think it is a great outlet to explore your senses and try out new avatars, enjoy the things you may never have or are not capable of having ever. As has been shown it is a great source of income as well for some people…. SL opens up all kinds of social, economic, as well as emotional possibilities. It would be interesting to see the kind of psychological research being carried out probably on the kind of psychological effects second life has the lives people. It is very possible (if it hasn’t already happened) that people are able to control and lead two simultaneous fulfilling lives at the same time. It might not be strange to have a different set of families, career, and daily problems on SL, just like the fist life. The one thing which I am very curious is to know for how long does leading a successful, fulfilling, ‘different’ SECOND life satisfy people till they start missing it in their FIRST life.

A Mad Rush!

November 29, 2007

After lying idle, dormant, and almost ceasing to exist I am back to posting my two pennies worth on the Web 2.0 class. This page is going to witness a sudden activity over the next two or three days….. (I am assuming that’s how long it will take me to catch up all that I was supposed to have written till now)

So here’s to another ambitious dash to the end of the semester in the most innovative class I have taken till date!

What if…?!

October 8, 2007

What if you take way the technology? Does it still count as knowledge or does knowledge only mean technology now? Each and every ability is tied in with some kind of technology… take away the technology and do they still have knowledge? Or does it mean that we are going back in time…. Its all about simulation… if there is a simulated environment where they had no technology to their disposal… look for articles and books physically in libraries.. going to the banks, withdrawing money… this implies that we are not taking advantage of the technology. It is all about let them make sense of the web pages, blogs, online visuals etc.. does this count as tangible knowledge?? Is it a tangible life? It is obvious that we have immersed ourselves in this world so much that it is the world for us now…. I am not talking about the good old days I am just trying to explore the justification of saying kids today are knowledgeable on the basis of technology.

Just cos I am writing a blog about this right now on my laptop does it mean that I have got a handle on the subject under discussion. This might be a philosophical turn to my blogging but this is just something I have been thinking about for some time. Technology and subsequently its knowledge have still not been able to convince me that technology increases knowledge. I have doubts about the retention and recall about this kind of knowledge. On the flip side I am enjoying Dr Bonk’s class with the different kinds of blended activities we do as a part of our assignments and projects. I have the opportunity to be an actor this time around! J I am going to be Mitch Kapor!

Some of these thoughts are just top off my head and maybe don’t make as much practical sense…. Just musing over what all the fuss is about the learning and technology!

 

Darting with the technology

October 1, 2007

I went through the some of the series of chapters and articles in Educating the Net Generation and have put down some of my thoughts on it. They may seem a bit random and disconnected as they are mostly impressions formed in my own mind.

The two T’s in education- teacher and technology. One of the most important things I thought was where the students say that motivation without teachers would be non-existent… for me that was the crux of the maybe the biggest and in all probability the only difference between technology and teachers. Motivation for the learners is perhaps the biggest channeling for any kind of a teacher and in the new scenario with reference to media. The expectations are higher than before… students want it interactive, colorful, media rich… teachers are being pushed more and more to cater to their needs. Motivation may be better in return for all these things; teachers are trying to keep up with this sudden leap. In my mind this could potentially create a bit of a gap between the teachers who are able to deal with this change and adapt to it. And another set that struggle with this and are still trying to come to terms with it… this could have created a kind of chasm especially in the case of students who come from nations or communities who do not have enough resources to keep up with the technology or provide them with the current methods.

At some point the authors mention that this generation has probably not seen the rigors of the war or felt the corruption. This might be partly true especially for a country like America… in developing nations, corruption is the only way to survive and get any work done. Technology solving problems again means feeding somebody money to push it along faster. A new kind of war has emerged and is growing stronger called terrorism. Major cities all over the world… developing nations as well as super powers have been subject to this… just another miracle of the power of technology… helping the people to spread terrorism far and wide without physical presence but networking and the many communication options available.

But me being an Indian I am most thankful to the advent of technology, IT in particular, it has given our nation a huge financial boost putting us right in the middle of the world and have become a force to reckon with…. Small towns to cities have been developed as possible technology parks have sprung up everywhere, the middle class in India is enjoying the bright side of life better than ever before. For this I am glad for the information highway, the hyper media, everything that this boom has given to my country as well as me as a person.

Just a wayward thought, the current trend is multi-media, hyper learning, media rich learning… if at all I am anywhere around in this field will I be writing a blog on the advantages of focused uni media teaching, advantages of ILT, advantages of teaching children with the help of only one kind of media? Will the trend reverse 20 yrs down the line or will it be something completely different?

After skimming through some of the topics and reading some chapters in detail, it seems to me like there is a constructivist lifestyle going on right now and not just a constructivist way of learning… not a new revelation maybe but for someone who has always been subject to a very tradition way of learning and teaching, this is something that is very new to me. The methods of the teachers here, especially Dr Bonk’s are sometimes difficult for me, but at the same time I know that if I don’t succeed at those, I will feel like I have not ‘adapted’.

Another issue which seemed somewhat relevant to me was connecting the virtual with the real world… there might be a gap when there is a kind of a ‘knowledge’ transfer from one kind of media to another. The sensibilities of all sorts of media are so different that there is bound to be a kind of information loss during the transfer.

I liked the concept of learning spaces. It might be already happening but it would be kind of cool to be in the profession of actually designing these learning spaces, creatively. The way computer led modules are created actually create something like a ‘space’ which can weave in with all kinds of multimedia ways of learning. It might be something like the example given for Dartmouth College but it opens a horde of possibilities for a virtual learner as well as blended learning.

 

Hyper Literacy

September 24, 2007

“Most people will have technologies at their fingertips not only to communicate but to create, to manipulate, to design, to self-actualize. “

This statement is more in line with the continuation and confirmation of the feeling I have every time in Dr Bonk’s class. The myriad and amazing possibilities just blow me away… the possible ways of communicating… ‘networking’

One of the interesting points in the “Connecting the Dots” article lead me to wonder what they are trying to say here…. is it whether there is more stress on technological competency rather than on learning through technology…. The literacy issue raised here seems to be more about ‘relevant’ education and learning rather than the ‘necessary’ learning.  I think the point about focus more on technological awareness and skills clashes with the ideology of what kids should be learning at a young age. It could be because of the fact that some or most of the teachers are not competent enough to deal with the kind of technology they are expected to handle as a part of their curriculum. Because of this the technology becomes the focus instead of a subject. It should be used only as a platform to different kinds of learning styles and not the main focus in any subject or class. As the author rightly says this needs vision and help from professionals like Dr Bonk to create enough confidence in the teachers about technology as tools and not the end all of their teaching techniques. Of course there are a lot of other issues in this completely unrelated to learning or teaching which probably may fall under the ‘administrative’ category.

I like the term digital literacy. It really puts the point of the article in great perspective. Its like talking about etiquette to someone who has already become a board member in an important social business group. We have gone far beyond ourselves to keep up with the technology. But it needs a certain amount of sensitivity and understanding which is sorely lacking. It’s not just about understanding technology it’s about how it should be used for maximum efficiency and using it for our needs and value addition. To continue another point about the literacy, teaching professionals need to change their view about the computer mediated education… they need to look at it as a value addition in the learning process, just another means for the students to broaden their horizons… for this they themselves need to be confident and fearless, literally, to explore the virtual world. Instead of teaching the students, the educators need to be aware of the exciting possibilities.

A completely unrelated topic which came up in my mind was that the amount of technology used in learning nowadays has made it possible for all kinds of learners to take part in online forums, blogs etc to overcome the fear of public participation in a very different way. Still I don’t think this has been solved, it has made such kind of people a lot more introverted. They do not have to venture off their computer chairs to network with anybody, they can sit right there and express their opinions and views without the fear of being ridiculed or recognized as a part of their ‘virtual’ personality.  As has been my personal experience too much of a dose of the cyber world makes the thin line between reality and ‘virtuality’ fuzzier than ever before. (Sometimes I am lead to believe that I am a brilliant ‘online’ student whereas my ‘live’ personality ain’t that smart! The immersion, for me, in this case, is complete! J)

‘The medium is the message’. I think this has gone to the next level of being the medium is the most important message. Cyber world, the most important development in our world of networking, education, communication ability…. The hyperness of it all… it makes me wonder…. It is the need of the hour to flow with this new wave but is this one of those irreversible events which needs further scrutiny and caution on our part as users of this media? It’s the new concept that everyone is hooking on to, does this concept need more analysis considering some of its features which may just come back to us a few years down the line taking us to the other extreme of becoming ‘anti-virtual’?

 

Distance and Motivation!

September 17, 2007

There have been a lot of talks about motivation for learner. What is it that will keep them hooked to something that they may lose interest in. this article talks about the motivation for the teachers. That is a very interesting thing as I myself never wondered about it till today.

Should these teachers be different than the ones who are teaching live classes? Do teachers from other fields than education; need to be trained on the finer aspects of distance education and how a distance learner is different than a regular in class learner?

There has been a lot said and done on learner motivation. This is the first time that I have read something that deals with motivation and returns for distance teachers. It has been an interesting article to read and the question I have top off my head is whether the motivation for tradition classroom instructors is different than this.

On the basis of this article, I thought it would be interesting to find out what kind of technology are other faculty members at IU from other departments using as a part of their teaching. I had a short conversation about my Web 2.0 class with my roommate over the weekend. She was fascinated with the idea that I have to post a blog as a part of my assignment. She has no idea what podcasts were and said that they used very little integrative technology to learn. I found this very interesting and was wondering how much technology will be really used in other departments and schools which do not really deal with technology as a subject.

Moreover, after reading about the ION effort it struck me that instructors and teachers who take online classes need to be quite proficient at the technology they are using. According to the findings, the logistical time is increased in developing a distance class, which makes it all the more essential that the person taking the class is completely aware and confident of what he is doing.

To tie this in with the ION effort- goals of the ION initiative are precisely targeted at taking care of these issues. Offering a Master of Online Teacher certification is one of the best ways to acknowledge the increase of an instructor’s role from formal classroom teaching to being a pro at distance teaching. The findings show a great amount of increase in the confidence levels of the faculty after taking the certification. The overall statistics in the article prove that the initiative was pretty successful and made a difference for the instructors. I would like to throw up a few observations here…..what was the profile of the instructors who take this certification? Are they from a specific background where they constantly need to upgrade their technological skills? The advent of internet demands that now the whole world should change and get used to a more integrated approach to not just education but life in general. After sitting in Prof Bonk’s classes the realization of this integration and its strength has finally dawned upon me. Is it necessary for traditional classroom teachers to be good at distance teaching as well? Or can a specialized distance teacher play a better role, someone who has never been involved in traditional face to face teaching? Will such a teacher understand the finer points of distance students, the way they function, much better? It would be very interesting to look into something this, if there exists a teacher who has never been a part of the traditional way of teaching.

Although the findings have rated flexible schedule and wider audience as number two and three, I don’t think these can hold together in the longer run. There is something very tangible in face to face learning that is missing in a distance program as an instructor. The instructor has to rely on a lot of clear and concise communication with the help of technology to understand his students. Apart from being a logistical and financial headache, I am not sure how much distance learning can play a satisfying role in an instructors life.

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September 17, 2007

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September 17, 2007

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