no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

... must roll.

interesting idea from the nytimes (from edna feed). im not sure if i would not be slightly creeped out at the idea of a silent school bus, but maybe thats just me being old-fashioned. i mean, no one talks on trains anymore anyways. arguably, the kids are missing out on socialising time on a regular bus run, but again, this doesn't really take into account how long these bus rides are, how disruptive the kids can get, or if that kind of socialising is even valuable in the first place. i guess its the same point again - evidence that this is Good (and not just an assumption that silent computer time is always a good thing).

had another school visit today, out southwest. very, very different experience from our inner-city school last week. will report when my head doesn't feel so cotton-woolly.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

on a scandal.

hello again. ive been doing some research (finally!) into the first real assessment that we have been set (more on why i call it 'real' later). it is an evaluation of pedagogical challenges to the digital education revolution in case study format. i have realised i really hate the word 'revolution' - you just know that the government spent money on consulting agencies just to come up with the term. but thats a side issue.

on my adventures through online journal-land i was confused by the polarity of the debate around digital technologies. now - i'm not saying that i have read everything on the subject, or am otherwise qualified to make a meta-study judgement, but this is just my first impression after a couple of days looking up sources and backtracing other references. there are folks like warschauer who seem to be putting out heaps of info, and quite good studies, on the benefits of everything clicky-clicky. even his article on equity (review of res. in edu., 2010 34(1)) ends on a high point for digital technologies. the general impression is that while there are massive differences in access to computers (he calls these 'gaps') it is imperative that We look at equalising the field by looking closely at how to get Good machines out to Everyone.

but then i found this guy (through one of his books 'oversold and underused'). he has one post in particular i found interesting - about the often unrecognised continuum of classroom tech 'skeptics' to 'utopians'. it occurs to me that the discussion back on That Post of mine did divide people into these categories. cuban mentions that someone who criticised the holy IWB's received hate mail and was strongly encouraged to apologise. this is insanity - the thing is a machine, and a very expensive machine at that. why is it that i now feel wary of even anonymously blogging my doubts about all this new tech? cuban and co are permitted to get away with it because they are so very eloquent, but it amazes me how much of the time on that blog is spent in justifying themselves, repeating that they like tech, are computer-proficient, don't dream of outlawing technology altogether.

now i'm not saying that i agree with what he's saying. for starters i haven't even finished reading one of his books. i'm just saying that it is nice to be aware that someone is vociferously taking a line that challenges a lot of the other things i have been reading, without a general assumption that he has no idea what he is talking about (which is how a lot of the anti-computer folks in the editorial section of the paper sound).

press gang is back on 7two. last week i caught the episode 'deadline' - the one where the newsroom receives a computer connected to the internet. it was cutting edge at the time and watching now, you can still sense the excitement. but even moffat, even back in the 80's, knew that that was not a story. the focus of the episode was in how the computer enabled a tetraplegic to send his stories in from home. its interesting that lynda refused to print his articles if he did not rock up at the newsroom in person for the meetings. cuban says that it is the physical communication of a classroom that is most important - it is what the students do not get outside of school. a place where they can discuss things in an academic way in person. there's that scene in serenity, where river is at a school where the tables are digitally enabled. the classroom still looked the same as they do now. they still talked to each other. i hope we don't lose that idea in amongst all this clicking.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...taking no passengers.

had our first observation day yesterday. i was sent to a primary public school, and it was a pretty good way to get into the flow of things. we helped with class activities and generally felt more comfortable with the whole environment. the kids were very curious and accepting - i forget that kids have less inhibitions than grownups. its very refreshing. finally saw one of the fabled IWBs, and hilariously it was on the fritz. the kids thought it was very funny - the class had a nice open vibe, so there was plenty of laughing and chattering during the lulls in activities. the pen-thing on the IWB wasn't working, which was pretty annoying for the language teacher actually. the principal mentioned that she had spent so much time trying to get away from the blackboard that now she was re-afraid of IWB's making teaching just passive looking-at-a-screen again. i think that was part of my original worry - interaction on a discussion board has never seemed the same to me as actually disagreeing with people and managing a group dynamic. i hope that more of the one does not mean less experience with the other.

i found myself paying more attention to the teaching methods and styles, trying to tease out what the teachers were trying to achieve, and comparing it to what i know the kids were getting out of the experience. primary school is very different to highschool, or even to the tutoring centre where i work. i don't think (and this is not necessarily a bad thing, just a syptom of their age and development) that the kids really comprehend such a thing as a syllabus, and while they obviously want to learn, they might not have that facility for long-term ideas of curricula. while the teachers made reference to Why activities were being done (especially the 'fun' ones) the students were so easily distracted it was easy to windup off topic.

a paper we were set this week by Knobel and Lankshear bothered me because of its assertions that kids were completely able to blog and participate in several online activities while paying attention in class. they say that mulititasking is now an important tool in professional life, and critique those teachers who ban being on the computer during focussed classes, but i every instinct i have says this can't be right. i remember reading all through high school english during class - but this was because the teacher was dead boring and i had already finished the work. i can see why laptop activities might be good as an extra task after classwork has been completed, but being on facebook and reading gossip while people are reading and discussing must surely be taxing to cognitive load. yes, multitasking is a skill, but you have to be proficient in every single thing before attempting to do them all at once. why do young people need to constantly be bombarded by external stimuli? and why do the authors of this paper think this is unquestionably a Good Thing? why do they think that web 2.0 has created a new kind of Person, one that is unable to sit and entertain themselves in their own mind, unaided, for more than 2 minutes?

compulsory education has made everyone believe that a standard education is a god-given right. and sure, in a society like ours it has basically become this. but i think a lot of people have forgotten it is also a privilege and a responsibility. some of my older relatives could not finish school because they had to support their families - i think a lot of migrants understand that this thing, this opportunity, is precious. but how do we tell this to young people, who think that IWBs and new laptops are now their entitled Right?

to the other end of the spectrum, in the mteach program, our syllabus documents are scattered over several sites: a moodle, webCT and the faculty SUMO. i'll agree its annoying, but i can see that our teachers are trying to expose us to the different platforms for experience. but its week 3 now and someone in class still mentioned that they didn't know what a sumo was or where/how to find it. i looked around and everyone looked awkward and/or worried. also - why is the How now more important that the What in learning? just cos wikipedia knows everything does not mean that you don't have to know something.

i wanted to say some nice things about alice in wonderland - it is one of my favourite books of alltime, and i am partial to a tim burton movie. i even have a soft spot for his mars!attacks, and while i did like the film (i have yet to see a single film in 3D - mostly cos i'm a tightarse), i think the critics were right about it not quite living up to the hype. at least johnny depp looked awake (which is more than he did in public enemies). and it was pretty. the only part i really hated was the dancing. other than that, it was probably just too long and long-winded. perhaps burton fell in love with too many of his scenes and couldn't get rid of them. the cat! the mouse! bonham-carter! the bandersnatch! (very frumious indeed)

being on the computer a lot more for uni has coincided with me getting some quite severe headaches. i think i need to start doing that 30minute-5 minute break thing more religiously. either that or get my eyes checked again, which i've been avoiding cos my lenses cost so much it hurts.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

now for something...

i also wanted to shout out to the education n social work revue society went to the agm today was really gee-d up about getting involved. i had to cut back on some volunteering stuff for uni (compulsory lectures, what?) but now i feel like since its related to the course... if youre from the soc and reading this please don't get scared. im not anywhere near as brash in real life. actually im quite the opposite =).

also, about grammar and irony. yes, i know its a blog, ha ha. i apologise wholeheartedly for the typing but unfortunately i don't see it changing in the near future - bad habits and an indoctrination in po-mo. i started off free-associating and i still think a little faster than i properly type. my creative stuff, including essay plans, start out on paper for that reason. i hate my blog writing style but i find it fascinating to follow my own thought processes a year after i write. i have a bunch of unformed thoughts about netiquette and the 'rules' of communication but ive realised i need to think a whole lot more before just blabbing on about things now.

to ben jones: sorry about the post. things are always a little different when you think you have no audience. and thanks for the responses. yes, i spent a good half hour wishing i had never started writing about the mteach on the web, and wishing that i hadn't been the one to have a blog and spout rubbish first. i know i'll never be that unthinkingly horrible again. you will allow me to have my doubts about the laptops, but all of your suggestions have been taken under advisement =).

thanks for the encouragement, and the disparaging remarks. i want to say it was all entertaining but some of it was like hot pokers in my eye. however, it was all very enlightening. what i picked up on most was the disappointment. there was a sentiment of 'not again' and i hate that the education system has gotten to that place. come back every little while over the next few years and with any luck you'll see the changes. we start from a dark place but through guidance and experience... you know the rest.

now ill probably end up reading on the train again, sigh..



my hearts going at a hundred beats a minute. i think my hands are shaking. after 5-odd years of occasionally typing along on this thing with nary a comment or any other sign that the anyone at all was out there, imagine my horror when i opened up blogger a few minutes ago and saw 18 extremely detailed responses to my rambling. i can only suppose that it was tagging the damn thing with 'mteach' and 'der' that changed anything, cos the content is pretty much the same as ever - me rambling along when i felt i needed to get something off my chest. although now, it seems i'm rambling about something that Matters.

to begin, i think i should apologise for the way that i must have come off in the previous post. as i said, im still thinking this all through and the idea of myself as an actual teacher i don't think has quite registered with me. this blog is not a place of particularly evaluated opinion - it has always been my reasonably immediate response to the things that i see and hear. i really don't want anyone who comes across this blog (thats the first time i've ever seriously contemplated such a phenomenon) to think that ive closed my mind off to completely recanting from any of the opinions that i spout in all sincerity and in the heat of the moment. i've always looked at this blog as a sort of diary, and not really as a communicative tool - i have had other blogs for that, and i think much more about the things i put up on facebook (to be seen by everyone i know) than things i blabber on anonymously about here. it stuns me that i did seem to 'touch a nerve' and got so many interesting responses to what ive written, with no thought that anyone might read it. what i possibly should have said from the beginning was what i wanted out of this blog. i want it to be a record of the changes in me and my ideas, and for that to work i need to be completely honest with myself. possibly, the proper place for this kind of reflection was some kind of personal diary. on very secure and very private paper. with invisible ink, lol. but yes, i have this resource and even if i still don't really understand it, everyone's responses are shaping my ideas probably a whole lot more than sitting in a lecture, doodling in my notebook.

what didn't come across in the now-infamous last post is that i do Want to change. i Want to get my hands on an IWB and muck around on it. watching youtube clips of them is not the same thing at all. i don't think you really understand how disturbed i am that i have never ever seen one of these 'integral tools of the future' before. i Want to make a website that can help kids learn Shakespeare. while i was typing my 'dullard' and definitely 'wingish' entry yesterday there was a couple of bits of paper beside me with the flow diagram for exactly that hypothetical resource. i spent two hours last night checking out those wraps (thanks mr jones) and realising that i don't know how to use the apostrophe properly. i know there is Stuff out there and that it is Good. ive written past entries espousing web 2.0 and meta-meanings and the use of hypertext. but at the same time i feel so woefully behind that it is scaring the pants off me. wingish, stupid opiniated shock jocks (i should know cos i hate them too) are usually the way they are because they are insecure and terribly frightened of change. i'll be as honest as i was yesterday with all my negativity. im terrified of the idea of me leading a class on IT. how do i show impressionable minds things on their netbooks when ive only had a laptop for 3 years and the most ive ever needed to do is use word and play minesweeper? when i was last in school (5 years ago now), we all dreaded going to the computer labs because it meant sitting 5-to-a-computer (often kneeling on the floor) and wasting time. i remember doing a history assignment in 2003 with a textbook that still said there were 2 germanys - and this was a pretty well-off public school. of course its better now - we make tools to make things easier for ourselves, but right know i am still personally more comfortable in fisher library than i am on jstor. they say we have to draw on our experiences to teach. i hyperventilate because i don't have the right experiences. i am so scared that all this focus on learning how to use apps for shiny presentation is going to erode substance and the idea of just sitting and thinking. i've experienced this in high school and i am hoping that i won't have to mark people down when their ppt is less awesome than someone else because that someone else has used some schwanky expensive video software half their life. i know some kids in school with laptops now, and what they are doing right now isn't really filling me with glee.

now i'm finding myself all self-conscious about what i type, and i really don't want to be. all the talk that we've received from various lecturers about reflection and process and the 'becoming' a teacher has led me to hypothesise that this kind of journal - with all my horrible and horribly wrong thoughts - might be of some interest if not value to me much later on. just writing this entry has made me come to terms with my specific fears for the future. i know they are not going to just throw us out there, but thats how it feels from this side of the course (a perspective thing im sure).

now - the thing i wanted to say when i powered up the laptop tonight was this. at the moment it seems to me that delaying secondary curriculum lessons in the program is not the best way to do things - or at least i don't understand why, and no-one has explained it to me. i am really antsy to learn What i am going to be teaching and not just How. yes, i've looked at the curricula (now after 2 posts i have a reputation to unbuild), but its not the same. the primary people i've talked to seem to have their heads around things a little better than i (obviously... ha). maybe its just me, but how am i sposed to create an ICT resource relating specifically to a curricular lesson plan when we haven't really addressed the nitty-gritty of what is in my curriculum? and i wait, fearfully anticipating getting shot down again.
also, just watched v. i had some things to say about it but now everything else just seems so trivial. i remember when i used this blog for transcribing tripod lyrics. does this mean im growing up?

o - and thankyou everyone for responding. after getting over the emotional catharsis it seems i was due to have, im actually really excited that ive got people interested. as i said a couple of posts ago - these are exciting times in the industry and its exhilarating to think im already getting in amongst it.
to the parents reading this and being frightened (completely understandable). i decided to become a teacher a few months ago. i am sure its what i want to do. the aim is to go rural and really help somewhere. no student is a tabula rasa. i realise i have unlearning to do before i can be of any help to anybody. i tutor and i volunteer at a museum with the kids program and have had a fairly good response. i guess we're addressing some of the hazards of web2.0 right here kids - the safety of avatars. more on that later i guess. got readings to do.


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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

i stood at the crumbling edge

funny lecture today. some government-type propaganda people came in to tell us about the digital education revolution - the only notes i took down where a bunch of acronyms that no longer make sense to me. and of course, while they were telling us all about how "Technology" was the way of the future and nothing would ever be done without it, the dvd player refused to work properly. this kind of technical difficulty, combined with the cynicism of the experienced teachers who are instructing us can only lead to a particularly jaded outlook for the whole cohort. the way the DET folks are talking sounds like no one will ever use a pen and paper again. ever. while it is blatantly obvious that heaps of schools are still labouring under ancient tech systems. the reason that none of us trust "Technology" is because it stuffs up and often seems superfluous. on the DET site, there are a bunch of laptop 'wraps' - programs (i mean 'tools') specifically designed for the netbooks that are allegedly being rolled out as we speak. i found one a few hours ago, claiming to be an interactive short story. it was just a glorified picture book on the net rather than on paper.

im still thinking this through, but so far i haven't seen anything done on the laptop that could not have been figured out without the silly 'glorified typewriters'. now, i agree that this particular epithet completely ignores the heaps of software that come installed on the netbook - onenote and the adobe suite stand out particularly - but the fact that no one is willing to spend any money on getting teachers acclimatised to the new changes makes them practically redundant. yes, kids can now talk to people on the great barrier reef, but they could have done that with a single IWB.

and then theres the troubleshooting. we are expected to use all this tech for Good, and they are attempting to teach us how to use the myriad 'tools' - but the fact is we haven't grown up mucking around on them. i have never seen, let alone used onenote, i don't know much about photoshop, audacity, IWBs, freemind, or creative commons. sure, they might be able to teach me, in one and a half years, the basics of all this software, but besides the fact that most of it will be obsolete by then, what about fixing problems? what happens when someone's system crashes, the IWB freezes, somebody BOD's? why do you think noone ever thought it a good idea to give all school-age kids a mobile phone?

final gripe for today (i promise). "Technology". i had a huge problem with the propaganda lady today and how she kept saying it like it was some glorious path to light. i have never seen an IWB in sydney uni at all. honestly, i have no real idea of what it is. one of my tutoring kids - a 6-yr old - would not believe me when i told him that a zebra was a real animal the other day. i kind-of don't believe in the reality of the IWB. i could point one out in a picture and tell you it's magical properties, but the same thing holds for me and dragons. actually, i probably know more about dragons. "Technology" is not a place we are going. it is not something that is invading our lives. it is not even a single entity that can do anything on its own. it is a bunch of tools that we have created. we can use them - or we can not. i realise that it is now mandated in the curriculum, and yes, if necessary i am sure i will be able to teach some kids how to use academically-related tools. they can talk to people on the other side of the globe - but they could do that with pen-pals. they can look at the NSW house of reps on a laptop wrap - or they could go there, sit in the chairs and smell the upholstery. 'technology' is a way of organising things, or a material product (wiki). it is nothing without someone steering it and feeding something into it. that is where all this money should have gone. when the netbooks are obsolete (read: in 2 years) someone, somewhere is going to realise that instead of flushing our taxes down the proverbial, we could have begun a process of teaching critical thinking around communication systems (technologies). that requires regular exposure to one computer and more focus on thinking, instead of continually producing gigabytes of stuff that simply shows which kids know how to use photoshop the best, and that will hang around on school servers until it looks silly.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

... but it's not because of the sandstone.

watched a great little doco last night. i say little, because although it went for about 45 minutes without ads on the abc, it actually documented 2 and a bit years of someone's life. it was called 'take a seat' and its a pretty epic tale of a dude cycling from the top of the americas to the bottom on a tandem bike, with the aim of doing the damn thing for the first time ever, and also of meeting assorted strangers and convincing them to help him cycle along. it was amazing to watch 2 years progression of this guy who starts off 25 years old. by the end of it his hair went down past his shoulders and he was as skinny as a marathon cyclist, but you could just tell that he had changed on the inside too. he seemed calmer and less edgy about being alone for long stretches. i wish that he had cut the film longer (there was no one there recording with him - it was all handheld or prepared by him and his new mates with the camera on the ground and stuff) there is so much more that i would have been willing to sit there and watch.

first tutorials in mteach today. or maybe theyre called 'seminars', i dont know. jargon and stuff is half the battle in tertiary education i think. i remember sitting with wikipedia and my intro statistics book open in 1st year psych while reading research papers and trying to get my head around them. sperring mentioned that there is an argument at the moment for developmental psych to be taught to all education students instead of the current case-study program that sydney uses. this interests me, what with my psych background. i remember hating hating hating developmental lectures, but the content in tutes was always pretty fascinating (i mean, aside from the endless gratuitous baby videos). everyone was a child at some point, so its relevant, and the strategies for teaching are always caught up by your theoretical frameworks - how you personally believe the mind works. the reading for ICT funnily enough addresses these theoretical issues and analysis of the justification and explanatory models for ICT design feeds straight into the heart of the matter. with all this emphasis on evidence-based learning, i can't help but think that it is necessary to at least include a basic dev. psych overview to the course.

i got home to the heart-warming but slightly distressing-in-its-potentialities sight of 89 unread items in my rss box. im glad i added some picture-y things. after all that stuff on learning through different modalities, it was the pics of the 'blue marble' and the glassesless 3DTV that made me realise that stories in pictures should never be mocked or underestimated. apparently, i need to think of ways to bring ICT into my teaching areas and i think pictures and internet access are a big part of it.

overhead biosoc discussing club activities outside holme today in the quiet. that gave a warm fuzzy feeling. also, scones.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

i too, shall pass.

apparently, the mteach at usyd is ungraded. that is to say, you never get a mark out of 100 - you just get a pass/fail. not, of course, that a 'pass' is like an arts 'pass'. its not 51% = too much effort. the workload hasnt quite begun yet but they are already making nervous with the threat of multiple reflection statements and the dreaded self-directed learning. oh my.

so i thought, why not re-start the blog to document me going through this whole process of 2 years of becoming something completely other to what i was before. i mean, i'm sposed to continue writing everyday, and although i find it easier to write creatively with pencil and paper, i am also sposed to work on my "ICT" skills. that is information and communication technologies, newbs. so yes, i boldly make a vow to the silent emptiness of the electronic superhighway to write on this thing at least once a week - to blab on about whatever meta-entertainment news i stumble upon in life (also newly known as google reader), and to reflect (ohgoditsstarted) on this process.

its got me thinking, i dont know why i feel uncomfortable being creative while typing. you see, when i type in this tiny little window they provide you on blogger, i never stop. i mean, i go backwards, but i try not to overly edit. i find that it is better for me, on looking back, to see the unadulterated expulsions of my brain as it tried to sift through the various things that happened to me. my mind works a lot faster than my articulatory brain does, let alone my non-secretarial-standard fingers on this keyboard. i've heard it said that some people find writing cathartic. occasionally that happens to me. eg, after ive watched a particularly moving piece on the telly. but most of the time, it doesn't leave me. thoughts linger. concepts fade only to re-materialise again. connections between modularities in my life begin to make themselves. i don't really have to put a lot of effort into this kind of free-association kind of thought. once or twice ive come up with a gem that i deign to put on a piece of post-it, there for anyone traipsing through my room to find. more often i find it impossible to sleep at night for the cacophony of crap circling around in my headspace.

our lecturers told us to collect news items about the education revolution that is apparently taking place in the country. i can feel the excitement. you just have to open the paper, or listen to mothers in suits on the train. something is coming. its a bit trippy, that the entire system that i took so for granted while coming through myself as a high-schooler is being switched around. kids learn about the asia-pacific region before year 7. they learn the articles and functions of grammar (which amuses me because the only time i learnt more than that a verb was a doing-word was during latin classes). the things that i think i fear most about being a teacher are probably ICT and the cult of personality. i hate the idea of telling every kid that theyre great, but that was how my generation was raised in class. i hope i can unlearn what i have absorbed.

i finally decided to take the plunge and let rss into my life. ive signed up to about 7 feeds. some are just fun things that ive been reading once a week for the last 2 years or so, you know, mostly comics. but ive decided to try this thing called 'growing up' and patch myself into government media releases, reuters and arts sites. its scary, knowing that if i don't check my mail for a day things will begin to clog up. i need to increase my efficiency, just like the robot that the usyd site told me i was when i tried to sign up.

ive had to beg off some of my volunteering commitments (i told myself this was to give me more time to focus on learning), but then i turned right around and signed up for some other stuff. i had a lot of fun last year, when i experimented with 'just say yes', and so i want to keep it (not completely indiscriminately). seeing the world shake and the days get shorter, people dying All The Time, and reruns of the day after tomorrow, makes me realise how terrifyingly fragile everything is. not to take things for granted. fills me with a moderate urge to make something with my life that is not playing with fake money on the sharemarket (or as i call it, 'imaginary land'), or pushing papers around while sitting on ergonomic chairs. i want to celebrate rube goldberg toys while realising that it is going to mars and teaching manners that will change the world - not finding out if reese and ryan are back together. we need to celebrate what makes us human without indulging in self-glorification. it doesnt yet make sense. but one day i think it will.

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