Thursday, April 22, 2010

Designing for Inquiry and Technology Using Intelligence Online

One of the key technologies I use with student teachers to explore designs for learning is Intelligence Online [IO]. Each semester, I am impressed by the creativity, imagination and skill displayed by my student teachers as they prepare inquiry projects for their future students. 

Here is some student teacher reflection that demonstrates the depth and breadth of new knowledge constructed and shared over the Winter 2010 semester.

JK's The Big One: The IO Unit 
SZ's Teckno Noob Not So Noobish Anymore
Bamboo Sensei The Secret to Inquiry

This post will expand as I add more examples to it.
For now, I have to get the rest of my marking done!

Happy 40th Earth Day, I guess

I am all for the earth, and for what it is worth - and the planet IS amazing. In fact, I spent six hours reflecting on the beauty of our little corner of the earth as I drove through the Palliser Region yesterday. In plus 20 temperatures with a springy wind, I marvelled anew at the pussy willow sage green and gold rolling hills; the massive just-plowed endless fields ready for planting; the man-made irrigation systems, aqueduct and canals; the treelines, the scrub, the tumbleweeds; the marsh and ponds on which multicolored ducks and geese landed; the beautiful light cast by a rising sun, and then by a tie-died peach, orange and red setting one as I coasted home.

When my children asked, "Why do we celebrate Earth Day at School, Mom?", I resisted my skeptical response about rabid, eco-politico-socio-engineers and the profiteering green pirates....  (take a breath and read here for some Earth Day Predictions 1970 style) and the unethical scientists who fake data to skew political agendas.... (I love Rex Murphy's take on ClimateGate) and how "authentic living" is a new form of exclusionary language that denotes a new form of social status and economic privilege and snobbery (BTW, I am looking forward to reading Andrew Potter's new book).

Instead, .... cue robins singing and early tulips poking through the soil and spreading compost on my raspberry bed... , Ahh, yes. Eaaaarth Daaaay.  Well, kids....  At breakfast, I talked about our shared responsibility to care for the earth, the unlimited beauty of the planet, doing our part to recycle and reuse rather than throwing things into the landfill, why we have a yuck-bucket under the sink and compost green and brown waste, and limiting consumerist practices, etc and so on. They seemed satisfied; after all, this is all part of their normal experience. Good.

As to the role of schools in providing environmental education programming, the science-technology-society connections are very promising, if taught through inquiry, steeped in disciplinary knowledge and connections, and using a participatory and democratic approach.  I know that my children, along with many other Alberta children, and campus students and faculty, will participate in some fun and well intentioned games and activities today at school and learn a few new ways to be more responsible citizens of the planet. Good to great.

For the older kids, I suggest a little bit of reading and reflection today, accompanied by a great deal of time out in the fresh fresh air and undiluted sunshine. Here is a good article, "Earth Day Turns 40" by Ronald Bailey. Key idea: the US environment has fared well since the first Earth Day four decades ago - pollution levels have dropped while populations have increased since 1970. Since 1980, ambient concentrations of major regulated air pollutants have dropped by 54 percent, while U.S. population grew 34 percent, energy use increased 32 percent, automobile miles nearly doubled, and GDP rose by 126 percent. Looking good.

Here is another good article, "Earth Day Then and Now" that Ronald Bailey wrote 10 Years Ago when Earth Day was 30.  Key Lesson?  The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong. We are not all baaaaaad as the eco-handwringer-mea-culpas would have us believe. We are actually doing great. 

Enjoy reading and thinking and going outside on Earth Day.
Comments are spectacularly welcome.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Girlprof wants an Trifecta: iPod, iPhone, iPad

Apple's iPod and iTunes changed the music / entertainment industries and how we think about multimedia content, distribution and choice. Going another step further, Apple's iPhone has changed the communication and creation industries and how we create and accessed multimedia using mobile devices. And then, changing the game is Apple's iPad which is poised to impact several industries, from book publishing and retailing to news creation and sharing...

Two Year Old Plays with Apple iPad - Lee Wilson on iPad for Education
Reminiscent of a video I saw in graduate school of a 2 year old playing with a Macintosh, in this article Wilson links to a video of a little girl playing with an iPad.

I tell my research and teaching friends that I waaaaant an iPad. Now. I neeeeeeed an iPad to go with my iPod and iPhone! For research, of course! In educational technology, we like to check out what the latest tech is good for... (see my colleague Dr. Mark Brown's post on The Impact of mLearning). For teaching, of course! Especially to share news about how it is being used, by who and how it impacts learning (Seton Hill Gives Incoming Class a MacBook and an iPad). And mostly for fun (and so my kids will give back my iPhone and iPod).

A few good reads on the iPad, Apple and Mobile technology:

- The Power of Apple
- Real-world iPad annoyances: A timeline
- The iPad Has Inspired Me to Give Up My Toaster
- Last Week I Didn't Pick Up My Laptop Once; and I didn't miss it
- Why Apple Is Kicking Everyone's Ass
- Fanboi's Top 10 Free iPad Apps
- iPads on Campus
- High schools aim to have every pupil using a laptop: Pilot program points to death of textbooks
- UPDATE:  Consumer Reports review of iPad and Kindle

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Apples With Many Seeds: For the love of books and teaching

Our Faculty of Education is lucky to have a host of engaged teachers who engage learners who go on to share their developing and emerging teaching talents with children.

One of great teachers in our Faculty is Tammy Flanders, who toils away in our library and technology resource area. Tammy is a bibliophile - one of those interesting and inspired individuals who love books, love to acquire and organize books, love to read and love to teach others about how to love books and love reading. As a fellow techno-pedagogical bibliophile, I recognize the fire in Tammy's eyes as she tells a story about the latest book she is reading or walks you over to the shelf to see that the Faculty has the whole collection of Australian author John Marsden's Tomorrow Series, and did I know that there is a movie coming out this September based on the first book? (Yes, I am eagerly reading the first book about Ellie and her friends, and plan to sign the others out so back off!).

I encourage you to visit Tammy's Blog: Apples With Many Seeds, where you will find a great mix of book reviews and classroom ideas about how to engage learners with great books in interesting and innovative ways. Another great feature of Tammy's blog is her blog list of other bibliophiles (BTW, she appears to add links to this into the wee hours of the morning!).

UPDATE: Something is in the air today, because I just came across another neat book site: Jenny Sawyer's PickoftheWeek at PickoftheWeek is a short weekly vlog of a book hand-picked to appeal to today's teens. "Books with great stories, great characters, books that tackle big subjects. Books you just can't put down," says host Jenny, who has gained a reputation for making classic works of literature -- often required reading in classrooms -- accessible and exciting for today's readers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rex Murphy is right to criticize the "human rights" gong show in Canada

In today's National Post, Rex Murphy skewers the Canadian "human rights" industry for its incredible gong show: "Please Don't Call it Human Rights"

"Is Canada a serious country? Do we staff close to a dozen offices, provincial and federal, spend nearly $200-million dollars across the great expanse of the country, to explore the human rights implications of rude heckling in comedy clubs? Or, the human right to undress in the locker room of your choice? For this, did the great armies of the West storm the beaches of Normandy? For this, did Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky endure their endless nights of hell in the gulag?"

Good point, Rex.

In addition to Rex, my second favorite is Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail: "Have you heard the one about the stand-up comic and the lesbian? Actually, it's not that funny."