Flowing Data is a great blog with some startling examples of data visualisation – visualising data to understand it better (note that some of the content on the blog might not be appropriate for students). For starters, here’s a bunch of ways you can visualise your email inbox. Some of these images are truly beautiful.
Data mashups – custom applications where combinations of data from different sources like Flickr photo tags or real estate sales are ‘mashed up’ into a single tool – are predicted as a top education trend in the next two to five years by the 2008 Horizon Report.
Here’s artichoke’s take on a classroom application of Google Maps, which follows the path of water from rainfall to tap. Each point on the map can include explanatory texts and images. I’m sure there’s a ton of ways that students could use Google Maps to explore spatial relationships overlaid with demographic, environmental, economic or social data.
Visualisations reveal the story behind the data. Powerful visualisations are more than pretty pictures and can convince and persuade. This TED talk by Hans Rosling has changed the way I think about economic development and poverty:
In the aftermath of ULearn08, Derek Wenmoth’s posted a thoughtful piece on his blog about Twitter, the behaviour of crowds and the affordances of technologies.
We often talk about tools as being instrumental – a means to an end. We should be focused on the teaching and learning and not the tools.
That’s true, but technologies aren’t neutral. The work of Robert Moses, an urban planner in New York city in the mid 20th century, is sometimes used to demonstrate this.
Amongst other things, Moses built highways – curving, landscaped roads intended to be pleasures to drive along and ‘lungs for the city’ connecting the populace to the beaches and parks situated at the ends of those highways.
However, his critics claimed that Moses was designing for a particular strata of New York residents. He constructed overpasses that were made purposely too low for buses to clear, providing easy car access for wealthier, white people, while preventing the poor and minorities (largely dependent on public transport) from accessing those beaches and parks.
There’s a growing body of work demonstrating how e-portfolios can add value to personalised and reflective models of learning in the classroom.
Just released last month, the JISC report Effective Practice with e-Portfolios collates findings and case studies to provide guidance on implementing e-portfolio-based learning (see in particular the ‘six steps’ on pages 38 and 39).
In the same month, the ShoutBox project at Futurelab released their project report, leaving me wondering about the connection between informal learning and e-portfolios.
ShoutBox provided opportunities for young people to capture their informal learning, provoking thought and reflection and acting as a showcase for those thoughts and ideas:
The kinds of knowledge and the modes of learning exemplified in out-of-school informal learning are very relevant to learning how to become a modern kind of worker … the formal education system needs to find ways to intersect with this kind of learning as a valid curriculum aim. (Sefton-Green 2004) (p2 ShoutBox)
In the last two years, I’ve been fortunate to be a judge for the TVNZ NetGuide Schools Web Challenge. It’s one of my favourite things. This year, students entered more than a thousand web sites as part of the challenge. Check out the winners.
There’s some sophisticated work here – technically and conceptually – with interactivity, design and information combined in creative ways to engage and teach us about the students’ chosen topic. If this is how they’d like to teach us, what does it mean for how we teach them?
The image with this post is from Fur and Feathers by Room 18 at Otumoetai Primary School (primary class winner). Congratulations to all the winners and their teachers!
I’ve been wondering what to say about the economic meltdown in the US – now effecting our shores too. Recession will impact education in that it affects our young people and their families, and it will of course affect the IT sector as well.
Nat Torkington at O’Reilly Radar points out that recession has been good for innovation in technology in the past:
During boom times, companies direct development and occupy great talent with at best evolutionary improvements over the state of the art. Companies are great chasers of new things, but aren’t great at making new things. A recession means technologists cease to be paid vast amounts to duplicate the work of others. The Great Tech Bust of Ought Two gave us 37Signals, Flickr, and del.icio.us and there’s a strong argument to be made that many companies spent the next six years chasing what they created.
A walk around the trade stands revealed a wide selection of administration software, hardware and educational resources (a surprising number in print). Some pretty cool devices too: data loggers, weather stations, digital microscopes, music mixers, sound recorders.
My pick is the Flip Ultra video camera. This nifty device – around the size of a good pile of business cards – is robust, simple and very, very usable. It has a big button for ‘on’, another for ‘record’, the software’s already loaded, and you don’t need a cable to plug it into your computer. It takes an hour of footage at 640 x 480 pixels and runs on two AA batteries. Thanks to the convenience of this camera, teachers and students will be able to take video the moment the occasion arises.
Howard says the pick of the apps is the Sun Ray, which uses a smartcard to let you take your desktop with you. And a quick poll of the e-fellows says the trends are: collaboration * mini laptops * going mobile * google.
The conference is over, and I’m back at the beach in Titahi Bay. I’ve talked myself insensible and listened to the point of filling my brain. Congratulations to CORE Education on delivering a superb ULearn08 and also to the 1800 participants for making this a lively, rich and exhausting event.
A highlight for me was observing skilled presenters at work, facilitating with a light, practised and well prepared hand to engage teachers in quality conversations. It’s up to us – the participants – to make the most of these occasions, and I’ve been stunned by the insights and new knowledge that have come out of these conversations. Respect!
Another highlight was participating in the unconference this morning and listening to teachers posing questions about and sharing stories of practice. This event was perfectly timed – an informal, reflective session for tying together loose threads from the previous days and exploring some new ideas.
An ‘aha’ moment of the ULearn08 conference occurred during a great session led by Jenny Charteris from University of Waikato School Support Services. We were discussing the key competencies, and those at my table concluded:
The key competencies are a bridge between the mechanistic use of ICT and achieving deep learning through ICT; between the traditional classroom and the classroom as a healthy learning community (see my previous post on classroom-to-community transformation).
I guess I’m thinking that it’s possible to use ICT without necessarily expanding students’ learning capacity – we’ve probably all seen superficial learning result from superficial use of potentially stunning technologies. A pedagogy organised around the key competencies might instead result in learners that are successful at realising the benefits and managing the limitations of technology, and at making considered, constructive and critical contributions to the social networks and learning communities in which they participate.
Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s upbeat keynote was about the transformation of classroom to community. They talked about a ‘tectonic shift’ that’s underway as more and more people take up social networks to organise, communicate and collaborate.
They argued that we need to help learners to create, grow and navigate their own personal learning networks; to do this, we need to rethink our roles as educators, classrooms and schools.
By their definition, a healthy classroom is a healthy community. A critical characteristic of a healthy community is that it seeks improvement – it evolves, it develops shared norms, and it becomes a vehicle of systemic change. It’s also self-managing and self-governing; it meets and supports its member’s needs; members are innovators and co-creators.
We’re here, and it’s great! Come along to the Ministry of Education stand just along from the registration desk. There’s a bunch of us to talk to – Helen on digital content, Howard on the digital technologies guidelines, Neil on ICT PD, Paul on online learning environments, Douglas on infrastructure, Lynne on assistive technologies, Sonja on ECE, and me on software and multiliteracies. Roll up, roll up!
I’m loving the conference backchannel, and I’m finally getting twitter. It’s a teaser. You put something out there – a glimpse of a thought – to see if there’s interest. I’m hoping some of these conference tweets turn into full conversations. Even in 140 characters I’m getting a sense of what the tweeters like, what questions they have, and the downright disagreements. How cool is that.