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Laptops and GCast November 15, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Hardware, Online Tools.
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olpc   We had a fun class yesterday. One of the students, Alison, did a great presentation on the One Laptop Per Child initiative and I got to share with the class how to create a podcast using GCast and your cell phone. We actually managed to produce a 60 second podcast using just my cell phone. We recorded the piece at the beginning of the class and then listened to it, fully resolved and playable, at the end of the class.

Meanwhile, in the next room, a team from Apple was running a workshop on podcasting using tools such as GarageBand. Such software certainly has its place, especially when you’re creating enhanced podcasts that include photographs spread throughout the podcast, but there are other alternatives and GCast is certainly one of them that cannot be ignored. When I was in Toronto I saw several photographs of students creating podcasts in their classes and right in front of the teams were cell phones being used as microphones.

So the theme in both presentations was that technology can lower boundaries and impediments to learning. Students who someday will have access to tiny laptops in remote and rural nations will now have the opportunity to join others around the world in a truly global conversation. And students with very limited access to technology can have, with something as straightforward as a telephone connection, the opportunity to add their voices and insights to the same global conversation.


Musical Highways November 15, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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highway   Well, you beat me to it again, Shizuo Shinoda. There is a stretch of road near Kolb and Speedway in Tucson, Arizona, that plays a little tune as your tires roll over strips and gouges in the asphalt. The tune, not really so much in tune of more something akin to a piece of atonal experimental music, had a great deal of potential. I always thought that if I had my own stretch of highway to play with it could create some sort of symphonic piece the cars could play as they drove over it.

It turns out now that researchers in Japan have built a simple Japanese melody into a piece of highway in Hokkaido. This time next year, mark my words, there will be competitions for the creation of musical highway pieces. It could become an entirely new and accepted genre. I wonder what secrets messages would emerge if you drove over them backwards.

Oh, wait, instead of highbrow musical numbers, it is almost a dead certainty that the first formal tunes in North America will likely be jingles for snack foods. Sigh.

The Bad Guys November 13, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in General Comment, Information, Online Tools.
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IT Director    In discussions with colleagues at yesterday’s conference, there appears to be a “bad guy” emerging in educational technology. This person is the IT Director for the district, the one who follows state or district requirements and block access to sites. Particularly frustrating to many teachers is the fact that many Web 2.0 applications are being blocked. The blocked site causing the most frustration is Youtube.

Teachers find they must work to get their IT Directors to understand what they need in the classroom and to get them onboard with their vision. Somehow I doubt that. Teachers would be better off re-examining the sites they think they need and figure out why they have been blocked. It doesn’t take much conversation with them for them to understand the rationale for blocking, but still they complain.

One poor IT Director raised her hand in a session and admitted she was “one of the bad guys.” She and her colleagues in arms are the wrong people to pummel, however. Teachers should be contacting the Web 2.0 application provider and offering suggestions or lobbying for changes.

Teachers should also could consider moving to something that serves their needs but is safe and unblocked. There are so many options and tools out there. http://Go2Web20.net offers scores of them. I wonder how many are blocked.

MACUL Fall Conference Notes November 12, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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twice   I am in Macomb, Michigan, today at the Fall Conference for MACUL .

(Session 1) The first presentation was about videoconferencing. The presenter, Janine Lim,  made references to TWICE, an excellent site for helping teachers to get additional information about videoconferencing projects. You can create an account for yourself and find out how to get your students involved with videoconference projects around the state and around the world.

For my pre-service students it would be a real plus in a future job interview if they knew something about this valuable project resource. I will certainly be including references to it in next semester’s class.

(Session 2) A presentation by Jany Pryzyk from MI-LIFE where we engaged in both Twitter (http://twitter.com) and Protopages. Here is the page I made in this session, http://www.protopage.com/mcveypage. We engaged in a discussion about Digital Native eLife. There is so much going on to engage them. They buy, they sell, they communicate, they interact, they figure things out and learn along the way.

Our schools have some serious competition and it isn’t from other schools. It is coming from all the After School activities in which our students are engaged. What will Digital Natives need? Excellent communication skills, an e-mail address that has no expletives, an understanding of how to learn, and they need to know how to validate information they receive.

Fighting the Trend November 5, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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nacol   My friend from University of Illinois at Edwardsville is frustrated that so many of her students are vehemently anti-technology. They are in training to be teachers and such a reaction shocks me. One student, she quotes, said, “Why should we do our write ups in a blog? I didn’t sign up for a technology class.”

I am sputtering and speechless. Almost speechless. Here is something to consider. 
According to NACOL, the North American Council for Online Learning, tweens are the group most interested in taking online courses. What are you future teachers going to do, beat that enthusiasm for online courses out of them somehow?

Michigan, by the way, has a 20 hour requirement that students take an online experience before they gratuate from high school.

Then there is this article from the New York Times, relating the fact that many instructors today are teaching in online environments. One out of five college students have taken an online class. And that number is growing.

Why do they fight it so?