Archive for the ‘*Connect’ Category

I love Google Books!

I’ve been pretty tied up with my two Masters subjects this semester and on reflection one would have been more than enough! However, the end is in sight and I’ve learned a greaat deal along the way – mostly about myself (as seems to be the case) as well as having lots of support in many forms, online and physically speaking.

Google Books

One such help has been access to Google Books. What a fabulous service! I’ve always dipped into Google Books on occassions and then have used either my institute’s library or online databases to grab the actual book or journal article if available. However, as I’ve been studying my Masters by distance (supplemented with online resources and interactions), I’ve had less than ideal access to key texts in many cases. Google books has come to my rescue! I have built up a library of books I’ve been reading over the last few months and have added labels/tags for quick searching when I’ve needed to return to a book or theme, such as ‘critical pedagogy’. The extension tools also look worthwhile; adding your booklist or library to your blog or sharing via an RSS feed, or even posting a review if you feel the urge.

In addition to Google Books, I’ve also been keeping a collection of sites, videos and articles via my delicious account. Here’s an example for my subject, Education for Social Change. Both services have been invaluable not only in collecting information, but in organising and collating information in meaningful ways, through tagging, adding notes (often I include an abstract from the site or article) and combining tags to drill down into the information I’ve collected over time. I use keyword tags together with time/date type of tags to help narrow down information (very helpful as I’ve managed to stretch my Masters out over 3 years!).

Erich Fromm (Wikipedia)
My next and final essay is for the subject, Education for Social Change. I’d like to explore the idea that the rise of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and other sites has inadvertantly served to further embed us as ‘automaton conformists’ (Erich Fromm). I could look at Chomsky and the role of mass media, as sites like these are often owned by large corporations in many cases, but I’m more curious to explore Fromm’s notion of ‘fear of freedom’ and a phrase my lecturer, Rick, mentioned on a recent discussion thread, that is, ‘group think’. It also calls for a rethink in education about digital literacy and developing the digital citizen for a connected future.

This is close to my heart, with regards to my work, where we often promote social networking tools like blogs and wikis to ‘open up’ a teacher’s approach to teaching, but often we see there is limited uptake, especially by students, and various colleagues around the country seem to be seeing similar results – there are not many exceptions to the rule, highlighting the challenges in seeing Web2.0 as a ‘freeing’ view of the Web, for the people and by the people, and as a legitimate learning medium.

More soon…

Christopher D. Sessums :: Beginner's Mind Blogging

Sessums pulls out this little gem which I can see immediately applying to our teachers too!

Here’s a video that sets the stage nicely–a set of fresh eyes, ears, and minds, sharing their reflections on blogging and their “business:”

Or visit:

Back in 2005, I blogged about the brain of the blogger, posted by the Eide Neurolearning Blog. I’m sure I blogged about my own blog processes too, in fact it was back in 2004 that I did a threepart posting about my blogging process (in my early days of fascination with this medium)! Heh, this is one of the reasons I blog, in fact, to keep track of my own thinking and writing 🙂

I’ve done this recently in preparing for an essay in my Masters course – I found it useful to be able to dedicate some writing and thinking time to drawing out various parts without the sense that I had to work on the ‘whole’. In all I found myself writing freely and with opinion that was not constrained by the structure of an essay, nor by the conventions of a Masters-style essay.

So, blogging for me, is a way in which I can exercise my brain and process my thinking – and I enjoy the writing process too. The content and the process are both emergent.

OK, back to the the brain of the blogger post then. The 5 points the Eides cover include:

  1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.
  2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.
  3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.
  4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.
  5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.

We’re three years on (and given the half-life of knowledge and information these days that’s about 6 internet years isn’t it?), how do these points hold up? I particularly like the 5th point which suggests the intersection between reflection and social interaction; it is a wonderous tension that can cripple some and spur others on!

So, why do YOU blog? Or, as Christopher himself asks, what makes it your ‘business’ to blog?

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Social media in plain english

Commoncraft come through with the goods again! Ever been stuck for ways to describe the Social Web or Web 2.0? Here’s a way that does it so you don’t have to.

Social media in plain english

On another note, I’ve been working on bringing together action research and networked learning in developing a research proposal. This video also demonstrates the affordances of media rich approaches to research don’t you think? Like this project really…

Digital Ethnography

Where's Wally? The crowded picture

Most of us have heard of ‘Where’s Wally‘ right? I used to love the ‘great picture hunts’ and the after-school cartoon!

Where's Wally - Entertainment Rights

image: Entertainment Rights

Well, ‘where’s Marg’ applies equally well, as I haven’t blogged since end of April! 🙂 Time just evaporates doesn’t it??

There are many reasons for this which altogether looks and feels like a ‘where’s Wally’ crowded picture! I’ve been active elsewhere that has left me with little time to blog – I’ve only just this week caught up on my blog feeds from other blogs!

I’m co-preparing an action research, action learning conference through ALARA (of which I’m a member), in partnership with CIT’s Centre for Education Excellence, as well as (slowly) working through my masters units, some thoughts of which I’ve posted on my ALARA blog in recent times. I’ve also kept some conversation going regarding the conference via my ALARA blog too. More information regarding the conference will be forthcoming shortly, but if you’re keen to attend, keep September 11th and 12th free in your diaries!

Of course, those of you who have been following my other news now know that the birth of my first bub is imminent! Some pics are here (although some are hidden due to ‘belly-cam’ shyness on my part!)… not long to go now, and as a consequence, you can imagine I’ve been preparing for leave at work, which is in itself a major process (certainly a major ‘unhooking’ process for me particularly)!

The ‘nesting’ syndrome has also hit, and we’ve been renovating as well – we certainly made the most of the long weekend! We’re recording our progress here.

Back to work then, and we’ve been supporting the submissions and successful recipients of the E-learning Innovations funding available this year through the Framework and have 7 projects based at CIT as a result. With us looking down the barrel of the second half of 2008 already, these projects will be our main focus along with supplementary PD activities and the like to ensure the projects are successfully completed by early December!

I’m developing a post on the notion of ‘calm learning’, based on my recent experiences of a wonderful weekend-long workshop on calmbirth, in Bowral NSW. This triggered much in me (for obvious reasons outlined above) and I saw some interesting connections between birthing, conscious parenting and engagement with learning. Stay tuned on that!

Thank you to those who have wished me luck and showed your support for the impending birth and I hope to introduce you to the latest addition sometime around the end of July!! 🙂

Who builds the bricks in the first place?

I have been stewing over e-portfolios and PLEs lately, particularly as we head into the new year and avenues by which to further traverse the (e)learning meta-scape!

I came across this recently:

A PLE is composed of a set of customized applications on the client side. Some of them will operate in a standalone way, while others will exchange information with server side applications. Thus, if a PLE becomes essential for the daily work of a user, the data flow between client and server side applications will allow the automatic feed of the social networks to which the users belongs to.

PLE bricks for social network construction « Personal Learning Environments

This short post on the PLE blog got me thinking about Donald Norman’s book Emotional Design (2004), particularly his closing remarks about design. It’s a dilemma many designers – educational, architectural, mechanical, etc contend with – that is, if we design it will they come? The quote above from the post doesn’t say ‘PLE’ to me, more it says ‘here are tools to generate your PLE’. Same goes for discussions around ‘e’portfolios – portfolios are methods, processes, learning approaches, outcomes, etc – adding an ‘e’ only says this is a electronically supported portfolio, another tool or space for me to generate some learning/living/reflection – or whatever frames the portfolio approach in a pedagogical sense (meaning that we are all pedagogues).

Donald Norman (2004),

We are all designers. We manipulate the environment, the better to serve our needs. We select what items to own, which to have around us. We build, buy, arrange, and restructure: all this is a form of design (p.224, my emphasis).

And further on,

We are all designers – and have to be. Professional designers can make things that are attractive and that work well. They can create beautiful products that we fall in love with at first sight. They can create products that fulfill our needs, that are easy to understand, easy to use, and that work just the way we want them to. …. But they cannot make something personal, make something we bond to. Nobody can do that for us: we must do it for ourselves (p.225, my emphasis).

And finally, this,

We are all designers – because we must be. We live our lives, encounter success and failure, joy and sadness. We structure our own worlds to support ourselves throughout life. Some occasions, people, places, and things come to have special meanings, special emotional feelings. These are our bonds, to ourselves, to our past, and to the future. When something gives pleasure, when it becomes a part of our lives, and when the way we interact with it helps define our place in society and in the world, then we have love. Design is part of this equation, but personal interaction is the key (p.227, my emphasis).

It’s not that we should give up and throw away design, or PLEs, or (e)portfolios; more that we can pass on the design decisions to others – which to me is what educational design should be about – learning the ropes, grappling with the concept, checking the landscape, reviewing and entering into the commentary, adding to the ‘research’, sharing the learning, and, ultimately, our lives.

PLEs are just this – US. We learn. We test that learning. We refine. We share with others. They share back, and with more others… it’s not the application, or the content, or the method even – it’s the interactions and the relationships that form and uniform as we learn, unlearn and relearn. Much like life really!

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