Apart from wasting (no! it’s not wasting; but it does eat up time) on these quirky little groups, I do believe that a little ingenuity in conjunction with these groups will lead to some interesting classroom projects.
I’ve been involved in a discussion lately about different types of reading. Most people have agreed that reading a novel is very different to reading a website or anything else online. Some people think that deep thinking and understanding are becoming extinct since reading online has distracted a large part of the population. People are concerned that online reading is superficial, and that commenting revolves around less than challenging subject matter.
Well, today I discovered a very interesting project which combines serious literature with the trappings of online interaction. It’s called The Golden Notebook project.
Doris Lessing’s The golden notebook was digitised by HarperCollins. The book was allowed to be reproduced in digital form in its entirety without any cost.
Here is some information from the website:
What is this?
It’s an experiment in close-reading in which seven women are reading the book and conducting a conversation in the margins. The project went live on Monday 10 November 2008.
Why are you doing it?
It’s part of a long-term effort to encourage and enable a culture of collaborative learning.
What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.
How come only the seven women can comment in the margins? Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many. [Note: the forums are open to everyone and we do hope that readers beyond the initial seven will join the fray there both as regards the text and the process. We really want to know what you think works and what doesn’t.
The seven women authors are profiled on the homepage. Towards the bottom of the page you can see recent comments, pages with the most comments, and recent discussions.
A reading schedule is included
We’ve developed a reading schedule; so for the next six weeks, you can follow along with the readers and discuss the same passages that they’re dissecting.
The blog, a collaborative one amongst the women, is fascinating. Here’s part of a post on reading by Nona Willis Aronowitz
For me, what is inspiring and magnificent about reading is the sense of communion with one single other human mind. No other artform, I think, is so direct, so unmediated, so simple. There’s no need for lighting, makeup artists, camera operators or directors. There’s no studio or network calling the shots. No orchestra or actors have to interpret the work. I don’t even have to be in the presence of the artist’s personal handiwork. A scattering of printed characters on a page or a screen and I am in the presence of another person’s creation.
Here’s a short section from Naomi Alderman’s post
A recent story in The NY Times asked if stories have a future. If we’re blogging, texting, doing rapid response communicating, who cares about the narrative, tortoise slow and painfully digressive? Naomi’s comment that she needs to come up for air now and then from TGN to overcome the characters’ depressive tendencies makes me wonder WHY DO WE READ? What do we get from books; what are we getting from Lessing? I have just moved from NY to Portland, Oregon with 140 book boxes, the collected treasures of a life spent in books. In each box I am finding approximately one book per 30 worth saving. Looking at them all with fresh west coast eyes, I’m not sure what these books have given me. I can tell you what they’ve taken away: an ability to live a good life OUTSIDE of books.
I’m thinking about the possibilities of a pared down project for students. How would this look?
In leaving a comment in a discussion about the balancing act between actual life and online life, I quoted Lauren O’Grady in her blogpost “Hyperconnection!! Arggh this changes everything.. for me anyway” where she talks about a time when a friend made her realise how much her hyperconnectedness was affecting her relationships with family and friends. She also talks about Ariel Meadow Stallings whose addiction to the internet you can read about in her blog. After going to a workshop about finding balance between technology and soul, Ariel decided to unplug one night a week for a year – and then blogged about it (as one does). Her blog includes a video of her 52 nights unplugged on the Today Show. Kind of ironic. Like compensating for internet abstinence by embedding the experience online. Online therapy, if you will.
I have to admit that, since plugging in, my life has also been undeniably affected. I go to bed later, am less fastidious about housework, rarely bake, read less fiction, and never answer the phone! And I’ve started to develop some disturbing habits; I find myself scuttling furtively from blog to Twitter to Facebook to gmail to internet, and so on. And at the end of the day (well, yes, it’s already the next day by then) I find it almost impossible to disconnect cleanly, at least not without a final few rounds of furtive scuttling. Now I ask you – should I be looking at therapy?
I could justify my dependence on being online by saying that there is so much online that is interesting and important for my professional and personal development, but then I would only be saying a half-truth. Not everything I read online is absolutely essential; there are too many tempting forks in the road, and not so much forks as capillaries branching out like fractals. That’s why the question of balance is, for me, an important one while I still have my husband with me, and while I can still get out of the chair. I know I have to do something about it, but I don’t know what. And if anyone says moderation, let me say that I know that I should only eat chocolate in moderation, but how??
Stephen Downes, in his Seven habits of highly connected people, suggests that we should stop wasting time in order to make way for meaningful online time. Surprisingly, he includes in his definition of time-wasting such things as reading and telephone conversations. I had to re-read the paragraph about ‘connection’ a few times to make sure he wasn’t being facetious. I don’t think he was. We should be careful with our definition of what is a waste of time. There are always unproductive periods or times that could be labelled as time-wasting. But these times are hardly insidious. They might be essential for germinating ideas. Creative people – artists, musicians and writers – are not being productive all the time. We all have our ‘down time’, and I’m certain that this is some sort of ‘pause’ mechanism which gives us the break we all need. A reflecting time, a processing time, a human time….
Is the picture of teachers in this video fact or fiction?
Let’s have a look at some of ideas here.
Firstly, teachers today work in a world that is fast-paced and rapidly changing.
Do we realise this fully?
Teachers today work together to facilitate, innovate, coordinate, participate, investigate, advocate and illuminate.
How are you doing so far?
Teachers today may have limited autonomy, opportunities and resources…
Is that true? Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
… but their possibilities are unlimited; they are leading, shaping, finding new approaches, new technologies and discoveries.
Teachers today instil curiosity, extend possibilities, make connections, engage students, excite learners to solve problems of the new generation.
What are the problems of the new generation?
Teachers today overcome obstacles, embrace change, redefine education, are fluent in technological tools, are aware of global concerns.
This is a huge job and an amazing responsibility.
Teachers today are challenging students …
to find solutions;
to find their voices;
to change the world.
I’m interested to find out how teachers react to the messages in this video.
To quote a teacher recently:
‘Where does the academic fit into this?’
Isn’t it time we opened up our vision of what our role as teachers today is?
While you’re at it, have a look at Digital World: Kids today
One of the things that made me pause for thought during the PLP Kickoff yesterday, was when Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach told us to participate in the NING environment just for ourselves for the time being.
I was talking to someone recently and we were discussing how blogging and participating in Web 2.0 applications is such a joy for educators because it’s feeding us. Teaching can be exhausting. Teachers are giving non-stop but not always replenishing their own supplies. The best part about learning through connected networks, Twitter, NINGs,etc. is that you get so much out of what others put out there. It’s the interconnectivity (long word for connection, I think) that is so good for you. And so much choice, you don’t know where to start. If you don’t refuel, you eventually stop.
We need to be selfish, that is, to feed ourselves as well as our students. To take time to read, think, discuss and wait before giving out. That’s not as selfish as it sounds. Fact is, when we’re bursting with ideas from meaningful interaction with others, people around us can’t fail to see this. Modelling Web 2.0 functioning is like sending sparks out.
In the About section of his blog, Box of Tricks, Jose Picardo explains the role of technology in student learning:
Technology has been demonstrated to be a powerful motivator, helping to increase confidence and thereby encourage learning. Technology catalyses pupils’ interest, helping to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning and achieving.
Knowing how to make the most of the available technology is an essential skill for teachers to acquire in an age where pupils’ learning expectations are changing radically. Technology ensures that education remains relevant in our students’ increasingly digital lives.
Box of Tricks is full of great ideas for language teachers. Apart from ‘Animate your homework’ some of the many ideas include:
Another great blog for language teachers is Nik Peachy’s Learning technology teacher development blog. Just have a look at his topics in the right-hand navigation. You’ll find exactly what you need for enjoyable and engaging language learning lessons, whether it’s a 5 minute fix or a new application you can add to your repertoire.
If you’re a language teacher and you think that you can’t use much technology in your lessons, think again!
Google Maps and Google Earth have astounded us all with new possibilities in viewing the world, connecting our photos and stories to real locations. But, as the Read Write Web has pointed out, many of the top-down images have been unclear so far. All this is about to change as Google connects with GeoEye-1 to produce high-resolution images. Wired Science has posted the first Google/GeoEye image. Compare the new image to the one without GeoEye-1’s superior resolution.
Here’s some information on GeoEye-1:
GeoEye-1 is equipped with the most sophisticated technology ever used in a commercial satellite system. It offers unprecedented spatial resolution by simultaneously acquiring 0.41-meter panchromatic and 1.65-meter multispectral imagery. The detail and geospatial accuracy of GeoEye-1 imagery further expands applications for satellite imagery in every commercial and government market sector. To learn more about GeoEye’s collection and delivery capabilities, please visit our launch site.
Google is GeoEye-1’s second major partner after the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a U.S. government agency that analyzes imagery in support of national security. The NGA will be retrieving GeoEye-1’s imagery at the maximum resolution of 43 centimetres, but government restrictions will limit Google’s images to a 50 centimetre resolution. Thanks to an exclusive partnership, Google will be the only online mapping site using GeoEye-1’s satellite photos.
As far as education goes, we’ve come a long, long way from the boring geography lessons, trying to connect the pale, coloured maps in our textbooks with real locations, mustering up enthusiasm for places we could only appreciate in fertile imaginations.
I’m happy to take advantage of Google Maps’ and Google Earth’s new and improved visual mapping – as long as they don’t come any closer to me.
I found ‘A picture’s worth’ on the Learning technology teacher development blog. it’s a wonderful collective version of people’s stories behind their own photos – even more interesting as a kaleidoscopic collection. Starting as a personal project, ‘A picture’s worth’ has developed into a pictorial record of varied experiences and reflections. Submissions of photos and text between 300 and 1000 words are moderated, and copyright for photos and essay remains with the author.
Some authors will include website links, and a map showing where the photo adds to the authenticity of the story. I like this idea for the classroom. Rather than write the usual story about a personal photo, students can showcase to a peer audience, and the shared stories could trigger ideas. It’s always interesting to see what subject matter is chosen and for what reason. Here’s an example of someone who loves photographing little forgotten theatres. Some of these stories are more intimate than others. Here’s an intimate, emotional one about a family coping with a dying grandmother. Here’s a confronting, brave one about abuse called ‘Bruised twice’.
The picture inserted in this post is of my church in Brunswick, Melbourne, on Merri Creek, although it could well be in Russia. This church building houses many stories, from its inception which remained a dream for many decades, including the efforts of many people, some of whom never saw the completed project, to the present day. And it will be connected to many different families and individuals in years to come.
The picture below is the inside of the church looking up at the cupol.
Art Education 2.0 is a global community of art educators exploring uses of new technology.
Art Education 2.0 is for art educators at all levels who are interested in using digital technologies to enhance and transform art teaching and learning experiences. The aim of Art Education 2.0 is to explore ways of using technology to promote effective art education practices, encourage cultural exchanges and joint creative work, and support artistic projects, curricular activities, and professional development opportunities deemed important by our members.
When you sign up, you can avail yourself of all the usual socialnetworking options, for example, you can invite friends, upload photos or videos, or start a discussion. At a glance from the homepage you can see current projects, forum discussions and recent blog posts. The format is well organised and easy to read, eg. the post ‘Sir Ken Robinson & creative thinking’ , a post about Ken Robinson’s well-known TED talk, ‘Are schools killing creativity?’, is followed by several clearly displayed comments. I suppose, what I’m trying to say, is that it’s all there, and it’s easy and enjoyable to browse. A late night for me recently while I explored the blogroll – always dangerous to jump into hyperlinks, branching out evermore into oblivion.
New Web 2.0 resources in the right-hand navigation offer such delicacies as Andrew Douch’s video on the benefits of podcasting; Vizu, an interactive poll that can be added to a website or blog; 12 seconds, where you can record and share short videos about what you’re doing or where you are, etc.
Digital art is popular with students, and teachers can get support for this by joining ‘Digital design’ . ‘Teaching animation’ supports teachers in a discussion of ideas, strategies, and tools for teaching animation.
I’ll definitely be telling my art faculty about this supportive art community. Makes me want to be an art educator!
The Independent featured an article with this poignant question – can intelligent literature survive in the digital age? As the article says, ‘Is the paper-and-ink book heading the way of the papyrus scroll?’ This is indeed a question worth devoting more than a couple of minutes to.
The crucial question is – whether all our online reading – the fragmented, stylistically-challenged emails and microblogging – has taken its toll on our attention span? Nicholas Carr of ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ fame has added to the debate by claiming that the internet is responsible for his downward spiral in longterm concentration: ‘Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.’
Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, claims he used to be a voracious reader, but has now stopped reading books altogether. Is the internet to blame? Other people quoted in this article admit that they are now unable to concentrate on more than a couple of paragraphs at a time, and that they skim read, rather than read and think deeply.
A recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London’ claims the following:
‘It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.’ Still, the article does maintain that we are reading more now than when television was the preferred (only?) medium. Personally, I find it difficult not to skip around when links abound and I’m torn between too many tantalising directions.
Carr supports this behaviour with the following observation:
‘When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.’
But is this fear of change typical of the fear each generation experiences?
‘In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.’ That may be so, but in today’s ‘information age’, it would be foolish to try to carry all the knowledge we read inside our heads, especially when access is so easy.
If the internet and Google are wired for quick knowledge-access, then surely, we realise that we don’t just read for knowledge. We read fiction, for example, as we regard art, to enter into a transformed, deeper(?) reality; to savour language and perceptions; to gain insight into the human condition; to gain moral, social and philosophical truths; to experience many things besides.
Are we losing/have we lost something in our move to 21st century literacies? Is it a matter of a lost language or genetic traces that will never be repaired? Even avid readers will necessarily read less traditional, hard-copy literature, if only because they are also keeping up with blogs, wikis and RSS feeds? Are we becoming ‘pancake people’, as the playwright, Richard Foreman, suggests?
Now, according to The Independent, many serious writers complain that challenging fiction doesn’t appeal – “difficult” novels don’t sell. To sell now, ‘books evidently need to be big on plot and incident, short on interior monologue.’ What are the consequences for teachers and librarians, trying to encourage young people to read? Are we trying to keep grandma alive? And besides, if we admit it, our own reading patterns are changing to some extent. And yet, websites that give exposure to books can only increase readership. Just think about all the literature you might be tempted to read after reading somebody’s passionate review or after searching Google Book Search.
If only you had the time or could get off the internet!