Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Positive image, positive action, positive result

The Affirmative Basis of Organizing
Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life

Traveling back from Adelaide, my wife read a paragraph and then we had a chat about it. The nearly five hour trip passed quickly, for a change, as we digested these two chapters.

Basically the messages are that
  1. if you have a positive picture for the future this will lead to positive action by yourself and others and the results will be good. The good thing about this article is that it points to research that supports this idea.
  2. the picture that others have of/for you will influence the outcomes and visa versa. People will tend to rise to meet the expectations implied in the picture you have of them.
  3. look for the good in all situations and people and focus on these
  4. it pays to be optimistic
  5. the problem solving approach to organisational improvement sends out negative deficit images that might be better directed to appreciative inquiry
Appreciative inquiry
The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn't. The approach acknowledges the contribution of individuals, in order to increase trust and organizational alignment.(source: Wikipedia)
ie. appreciative is focussed on what works, problem solving is fixing stuff.

So much of these papers resonated for me, despite their difficult academic language mumbo jumbo style. I did however especially connect with the following

the simple logic underlying almost every formal performance-appraisal system. Stripped to essentials, the theoretical underpinnings run something like this: "If you want to evaluate performance (P), then you must evaluate the individual employee (E); in other words, 'P = E'." Armed with this theory, many managers have entered the performance-appraisal meeting shaking with the thought of having to pass godlike judgment on some employee. Similarly, the employee arrives at the meeting with an arsenal of defenses, designed to protect his or her hard-won self-esteem. Little genuine communication occurs during the meeting and virtually no problem-solving takes place. The paperwork is mechanically completed, then filed away in the personnel office until the next year. So powerful is this subtle P = E equation that any alternative goes virtually unnoticed, for example the Lewinian theory that behavior (performance) is a function of the person and the environment (in this case the organizational situation, the "OS" in which the employee works). Following this Lewinian line, the theory underlying performance appraisal would now have to be expanded to read P = E ´ OS. That is, P ¹ E. To adequately assess performance there must be an assessment of the individual in relation to the organizational setting in which he or she works and vice-versa. What would happen to the performance-appraisal process if this more complete theory were used as a basis for re-designing appraisal systems in organizations throughout the corporate world? Isn't it possible that such a theory could help shift the attribution process away from the person-blame to systems analysis?
This reminded me of the my earlier post that referenced the idea that the way that we attribute success or failure impacts on our ability to do well. In that post it stressed the importance of attributing causes to things that we have some control over. In the P=E formula above, the employee and the supervisor are perhaps thinking that they do not have control over the environment. Their images do not include this and so they are unable to influence it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thumb tribes

A student walked into class today and out of the blue said "Check out my thumb mucsles Mr Ruwoldt, from playing Xbox. I've been playing Xbox for 12 hours straight." This was interesting as I remember reading about how thumbs are being used differently some time ago. We took a photo.

Thumb tribes
The young generation that utilizes the keitai functions of phone, e-mail and Internet frequently as part of daily life.

The name stems from the quick motion of a thumb pushing buttons on a cell phone.

I think it all started when people began to play games only with their thumbs (Nintendo and so on).

Thumbs take over for text generation

"Discovering that the younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way and are instinctively using thumbs where the rest of us are using our index fingers is particularly interesting."

In her research, Dr Plant noticed that while those less used to mobile phones used one or several fingers to access the keyboard, younger people used both thumbs ambidextrously, barely looking at the keys as they made rapid entries.
For the record, the lad in question uses his index finger to press the door bell.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Online presentation tool - spresent

spresent is a web application that allows me to create a presentation and then use that in various ways including embedding in Moodle resources, Wikispaces, blog posts, ...
This is a good tool to include in my 'Experience Lots' course

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Thursday, September 13, 2007


How to Write Remarkably Creative Content
While this post is focussed on writing, creativity is creativity in whatever field and the concepts are transferable. The following quotes connected for me

Inspiration from other sources is what creativity is all about. It seems that many people believe creativity involves pulling a completely brand new idea out of thin air. In truth, creativity is an adaptive process that consists of looking at the same existing thing everyone else is and thinking about it differently.
A uni lecturer left feedback on one of my assignments many years ago that went something like "few of us are able to say truly original things" and then went on to say that i had done this and it was a very good piece of work. This has always tickled me. It was a psychology assignment of some sort and as I was also studying biology. I was able to see some connections between the subject areas and use them in that assignment. I would not see this as original but it was creative.
Look in unlikely places for connections and angles that can enhance your content. If only one aspect of another subject area meets your needs, roll like Michelangelo and get rid of the parts that don’t belong.
Couple this thinking with some of the thoughts of Mark Shuttleworth in his talk for SFD. He made it clear that he looked at the areas of the world that were changing for opportunities and for opportunities to make a difference. These are places where new connections are being made - ie creativity.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lindy McKeon Masterclass

Lindy McKeown Masterclass - 12/9/2007
Lindy provided a two hour presentation that has got me re-thinking the potential for 3D worlds in education. This comes at a time where I feel I have my head around Web2.0 and comfortably use bits and pieces as i need in my work.

She suggests that I need to learn how to operate in a 3D world like Second Life so that when the time comes to use this technology in class I am comfortable with it.

I gained two immediate and useful ideas that could be fun, educationally relevant and achievable.

  1. Google sketchup plugin for Google Earth - I went to the 3D Warehouse where people have contributed Sketchup Drawings for use with Google Earth and there are quite a lot of Adelaide but non for Mount Gambier. Making a contributing drawings of buildings in our town, historical buildings, facilities and so forth would be a great venture for students to undertake. (Side Note - I noticed that I also had blue dots all over the place in Google Earth that I could click on to see pictures taken at that location. Again what a cool thing to be doing.)
  2. Lindy pointed to a demo of Photosynth on TED talks. The video lasts for 7 minutes and it is a must see. The scenario could be in the near future - I take my photos and upload them to the likes of Flickr. They are now available for everyone to see but also for machines to include my photo with the others taken of the same thing, from different angles and so on. This amalgamation allows a much richer view of the object where my photo provided my starting point to this view. How cool. Creating a photo gallery of our town would be another great student team project.

The AliveX3D open source project is worth keeping an eye on.
The main objective of AliveX3D is to apply the open source and Web 2.0 ethos to future e-Learning applications. Through the use of the rich internet application, the AliveX3D Scene Editor, both students and academics will be able to collaborate on the creation of 3D environments which will be interoperable with other applications complying with the X3D standard.

Finally a quote from Albert Einstein that she started with
"If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research would it?". I've got some researching to do.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

How to maintain creativity

I've not long posted "How to rejuvenate IT Studies" where the key seems to be to focus on creativity.

Then by magic is this post Staying Motivated and is all about developing and maintaining creativity. The site is for website developers but what is being said is transferable to other creative endeavours.
Whether your chosen medium is pictures or language, food or formulas, everyone has the capacity to be creative in their work. But we can often lose our motivation to create, making it difficult to stay focused and excited on a project. So how does one keep their creative well from drying up?
The post is divided into two sections.
  1. Getting started with creativity
  2. Maintaining creativity
This could be useful for those coaching jobs in class where you are trying to keep things moving as well as maintaining my own health in this area. I think I need a cheat sheet on the wall for this.

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Take charge of your learning with Web 2.0

Terrance Online is this post points to a great 20 minute video from Stephen Downes about making use of Web 2.0 tools to take charge of your own learning.

Who it is pitched at is a bit confusing. It is pitched at teachers in some areas and then at students in others.

A couple of quick things that stick for me
  1. Don't try to remember stuff. Focus on having quality information flows. IF you have these quality sources then you are likely to be hit with similiar concepts and information in a variety of ways and from a variety of angles that you end up retaining the important things anyway
  2. Filter ruthlessly. A lot of stuff coming through in my subscriptions to email lists and RSS feeds gets a quick glance. Sometimes it doesn't even get a glance except for the subject line. Sometimes, down the track I discover that there is a sort of thread happening, a buzz. I can use the search facilities to go back to these posts that I skimmed and get the detail if I choose.
  3. Shun traditional classes. Just in time learning is the go. How do I resolve this for myself as a teacher? In my last post I pointed to a Community Studies syllabus and how this helped create a useful learning environment where a traditional syllabus statement in Information Technology did not. It still appears to be a traditional class. With schools the way that they are it is difficult to conceive how I might be able to go much further than this.

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How to rejuvenate IT Studies

IT Studies or in some quarters, Computing Studies. Mark Guzdial has recently conributed two posts to his views about "Software Engineering and the Cause of the CS Enrollment Crisis"
  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
Mark's posts are to do with tertiary level education.

Part 1
Mark's diagnosis
It seems to me that the cause of the student's disdain for "programming" and for the decline in CS enrollment lies there. As civil engineers need armies of construction workers to build their designs, and as mechanical engineers use armies of factory workers to produce their designs, so do software engineers use armies of programmers or coders, people who are explicitly not software engineers, to produce their designs. Few students go to college to become construction or factory workers. Why should it be surprising, then, that few Western students want to go to college to be the Information Age equivalent workers?
Boring and mundane - lack of creativity.
Computer scientists do not need to write good, clean code. Science is about critical and creative thinking
No fun
Our students want to be creative, not mundane. Many want to push hardware to do things that no one has ever thought about. Many want to explore new forms of expression. That is what computer science is about. That is not necessarily what software engineers need.

Part 2

Realizing one's designs is motivating.

He argues that we take care with the language that we use to teach programming. Use C based languages is a no go. Translating this to secondary school. Programming needs to be fun and encourage creativity.

I run a course called 'Negotiated Computing'. Students come to this class wanting to learn something about computers. For many that's as detailed as it gets but for others they want to learn HTML, Javascript, PHP, ..........

Students negotiate their learning contract and away we go.

The interesting thing is that I have a range of 'traditional' tutorials for these sorts of things and they are not particularly popular except for lesson 1. For example, in lesson 1 of PHP, students get a login to the LiveLAMP server, find out about the ftp settings and that's about the last I see of them in that course.

They are downloading code that others have made, uploading it to the server and trying to get it to work. This is particularly challenging for me as there is inevitably things that don't work and so we are looking at line 45 wondering why? It is hard because I am looked on as the expert and I should know the answer. I guess I get to model how I solve problems, offer an hypothesis and try out some solutions. Sometimes we win quickly, sometimes it takes longer and at other times we don't win at all and have to move on. We end up with chat, picture galleries and all sorts of things. They love to then get others to use the thing that they have got to work and then we see some modifications being made.

I guess I did the same thing 25-30 years ago. I used books with code, copied these and tried to get them to work. It took some time before I felt OK about trying to create something original.

This approach does not fit in with the formal senior secondary Information Technology syllabus. It does fit very nicely with Community Studies.

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Danah Boyd - implications for Online IT Student community

The audio of the Danah Boyd presentation for the Education.au series of seminars is broken into 3 parts each of about 20 minutes in length.

She provided
  1. a great insight into the history of online social networking, starting with usenet. So this social networking technology has been evolving and morphing since 1980.
  2. an understanding of social norms so that we can relate this concepts to the online spaces
  3. information about the three main components that make up a social networking space - a profile, friends (a public display of our connections) and comments.
In the past youth were free to hang out with each other in all sorts of physical places that is not happening these days. Parents fear that their kids will be kidnapped, assaulted and so on. Online social networking provides kids with the place to hang out and socialise. She sates that there are four main differences between the old hanging out in physical places and the new online social spaces.
  1. Persistence - what you say sticks around. It is my view that once something is said it can not be unsaid. What you say has always been persistent but the online persistence is in a more physical sense.
  2. Search ability - information about you is search able by anyone from anywhere
  3. Replicability - what you say in one online space (eg chat) can easily be replicated into other spaces
  4. Invisible Audiences - what you say can be seen by people you have no idea about and used in ways that you have no control of
She is saying that youth are learning to deal with a public life that only mega stars had to deal with in the past, only in a scaled way. What happens in these online spaces impacts on what happens at school.

It was interesting that the way that adults are dealing with this is different in the Western world vs Asia. The key seems to be the consequence of what she calls 'Age Segregation'. In the western world we encourage people of similar ages to hang out. It is generally seen that there is no real reason why a young person would hang out with an older person and visa versa. This has implications for online social networking whereas in Asia people of all ages are welcome and part of a persons network and this is seen as acceptable and correct.

In Asia social networking is being embraced and in the western world it is being banned.

This phenomena could have implications for the thinking around making an online IT student community. In this idea I have suggested that it would be good to have senior secondary, post secondary, industry, teachers, lecturers, etc all involved in the community. The social norms built around age segregation will certainly create issues for successful implementation of this concept.

Danah suggests that it would be better for us to embrace online social networking and open up the conversations that promote the growth of ethical and moral learning.

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