30 June 2012

Curation Re-visited

Curation - a term which in the past was destined for museums and has now gone digital. Curator, the digital collector of digital gems and delights. Like flowers strewn across the cyberworld, a curator picks each stem up, regards its shape and colour before embedding it in his/her collection of digital references. 

Over the past year I have seen an explosion of curation tools and platforms be offered to the public. Among what is offered to educators, and which I have referred to already, is eduClipper, soon to be open to all.

But it is not only educators who have found digital curation of interest and use. Whether you work in a specific field, have a particular interest, there are curation sites for virtually everyone and everything. Yet, is this such a recent phenomenon?

As Tony Gurr points out, curation is not a recent activity. Individuals such as Stephen Downes and Maria Popova have been collating and sharing resources for years - not to mention the many bloggers both from the field of education and others.

Before I add my curation suggestions for today, consider the following:

Rather than indulge in further reasons why curation is relevant to digital literacies today, let's have a look at some recent curation platforms.

Mural.ly is simple to use and one follows the regular procedure - sign up, confirm through email account then log in.

Other curation tools are really up to the user - what do you wish to do with your curation? How do you wish to collate, to share, to display? What works best for you?






Szymanski (2012) points out how curation can be motivating for today's learners:

  • Motivations behind curation are positivePeople collect artifacts that they associate with positive experiences. You rarely find curation of negativity, or sharing of items that are associated with poor experiences. Related, the top motivators across all age groups for sharing content about products and services online are, in order of significance: to share a good experience, to help consumer pick out good product and to encourage company improvement. This is the warm glow around curation that I adore.
  • Millennials share content focused on “self.” Millennials’ (16-24yo) secondary motivator behind sharing content is focused on self. Specifically, “Like to share my opinion.” As generations get older, secondary motivation shifts to a bigger picture though, to helping consumers. Finally, the next generation’s (45-54yo) secondary motivation shifts again, to that of company improvement. This isn’t too surprising, especially as Millennials have garnered a reputation for being an entitled (and dare I say vain?) generation. Add to that the fact that many have grown up recognizing technology as a platform for both utility and self-expression or promotion.
  • Fostering expertise is among lowest motivations. ”To be an expert” is cited among the lowest motivations for all age groups, suggesting that when individuals share content they understand they’re not the “expert.”  Dare I say that this lends credence to the notion that there is still some respect given to original content? That, in order to be recognized as an “expert,” unique content and thoughts must be present. Still, I found this data point surprising. I predict that curated content will increasingly be more accepted as “original” content over time, as long as it contains some unique insight or alteration.
Although I don't particularly adhere to the notion of "expert", preferring to perceive someone as a "specialist" in a specific field, curation is relevant for both teachers and learners in different ways. For example, students can curate images, videos, articles on a topic they are studying then share with others in the class; they can also research/investigate more on a given theme, and through curation be able to share what they find in a visual manner. Teachers can curate a theme or topic and present the materials to their class, or ask the class to continue building up the curation. As in all cases, any task/activity will depend on the context and level of learners. Nevertheless, I have found it to be motivating with learners. 

How would you use curation with your learners?

What other curation sites would you suggest?

Curation (song parody) from Joyce Valenza on Vimeo.

Reference and further suggestions:

Content Curation: Truths, Threats, Motivations and Opportunities

Curation: A Core Competency for Learning Professionals

The 21st Century Curator 

Collecting Pearls

Digital Waves - Curating the Web 

Curating Tribes

Note: I would like to thank Baiba Svenca for having pointed out Mural.ly to me. 

28 June 2012

SSS and M for Summer

Summer. Light. Gold trickling down my skin, into my pores, sweeping my mind. 

Summer is also a time to review the past academic year, to look forward to new classrooms, names and faces. And let one not be totally naive - new classrooms are an enticement, a  seduction and also a challenge. For any communication, any collaboration has to be two way: an educator needs to stimulate minds, capture attention and instigate motivation; learners too need to give in return. A learner's smile, a learner's achievement, a learner's success is all it takes. Seduction is always a two way affair, even in education.  (lest there be any misunderstanding, please note that when I mention "seduction in classrooms", I obviously refer to intellectual engagement, and empathy on part of the teacher and learner towards each other, which includes respect and a state of well-being in the class group). 

Summer suggestions today come in a group of three Ss and one M. 

ScrapNook is free to download and you can create fun collages and cards to embed in your blogs, networks or portfolios. Summer has wonderful light to take photographs and collating them in a digital scrapbook to share is a great idea for quieter summer days. 

Although this blog often suggestions tools and platforms which can 
 be adapted to either language classrooms or any other subject, I'd like to mention Scitable, which is a fantastic resource for the sciences. You can look for articles, share resources, connect with peers and even create your own classroom for science to share with students. 

Shmoop is yet another site which is interesting for both learners and teachers. It offers an array of topics and activities which can be easily incorporated into lessons or set for self-study tasks. 

Lastly, with regular mentions of mind maps (see here ,  here  and here ), it is no surprise to include one more mind mapping tool. MindMaple is downloadable and fun to work with. 

And so my summer suggestions come to an end today.  To all, thank you for your time for visiting and leaving your reflections, feedback and thoughts. 

May all  have a Happy Summer!

And for those who remember historic summer events.....

27 June 2012

Seeking Sense Thru Words and Reading Games

In my chaotic crops of memories, books have always been present, have always surrounded me. As a child I dwelled on the images, on the worlds of  magic; later I savored the words as images and smells took hold of me.  From explorers and adventurers to philosophers, words opened my world, my worlds forever expanding. 

A common complaint I hear today is how youngsters don't read. Reading may often be cultural - in some cultures it is the oral story telling which holds most meaning to a community; yet it is through reading and mastering the skill of reading that one succeeds in formal education. 

While growing up I struggled through different languages and as almost all my students, I too preferred to read in my own mother tongue. All those unknown words!!!! How dull it was to read and depend on a dictionary instead of following plots and characters!

Words. Meaning. Making sense. 

Today, with the richness of choice and mobility, one can play with words and read through different devices, making vocabulary and reading fun activities for those who are more reluctant to read instead of playing video games. Here are some suggestions of word games and reading:

Summer is a wonderful time to learn calmly and at one's leisure. For teachers too, it is a time to relax, perhaps indulge in professional development or self-learning.

For educators who may want to explore new tools and platforms, here are some suggestions, including one which, still in Beta, will be released to the public this coming Autumn.

And for those who love classics, why not a classic with a contemporary twist?


Further Suggestion:

The Canterbury Tales Remixed

Wanted: Apps Apps Apps!

Summer shimmers shines, slipping one into shady shallows which later metamorphose into memories of moments. Snapshots of summer. Time translated into images. Every image a crop of time, an attempt to achieve order through chaos.

Having recently experienced a tech meltdown, having lost endless data, many of my own  crops of time vanished into nothingness. Out of lack, I turned to my iPad, browsing apps and images.

These are some of my favourite Apps for editing images: 

Lumie which plays with light forms 

Textify it - a fun app which adds letters and other features to images

Percolator - from bubbles and clouds to stars and black & white, effects are always interesting

Photo Wonder - especially fun for young girls as they morph themselves and add decorative designs to their images

Word Foto  - as the name suggests, you can add words to your images as you edit them in different sizes and formats

What are your favourite apps for editing images?

If you would like to discover more editing apps, you may discover some here

15 June 2012

What If... ?

As a learner, I was often told "you can't do that".

As an educator, I was often told "you can't do that; students are not prepared; students cannot do that".

As myself? I do. I can.

My students? They can. They do. 

Success may be relative; learning is not. One cannot teach without conviction and passion. One cannot learn without the need of conviction, without the sense of open boundaries to knowledge and know-how. Without the gift of success. 

I was a learner and educator before the internet became accessible to all. Having recently lost nearly all my digital data, (Digital Breakdowns, Digital Transitions) , I was forced to wonder into what it would be to teach today without the internet and all the creative digital literacies which I so engage in and share with my students. What would life be like today without social media - a world so flimsy, so transitive, yet ingrained in today's daily motions. 

While driving back and forth, my urgency of loss led me to other issues - issues which currently affect education. 

The first question regards learners. What right do teachers have to call themselves educators if they hold back today's learners from the digital hemisphere, denying them the opportunity to become fluent in digital literacies and developing their digital identity? 

What exactly are educational managers who deny  their educational staff the opportunity to attend local conferences when there are no classes to teach, disregard professional development carried out online, and routinely dismiss any and all digital participation and creation?

Having trained top management in the business field, having also been in leadership and coordinating positions in education, I fail to understand the above. I fail to understand "you can't". 

There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can't.

What you've got to do is turn around and say

"Watch me!"

How about you? Can or can't?

World without Internet
Via: OnlineEducation.net

Digital Breakdowns, Digital Transitions

And so the day came. 

That day which anyone today dreads. A day that is supposed not to happen. 

Not when I had already planned days to organize files, folders, updates and most importantly of all, back-ups and shifts into clouds.  Just a few days away to calmly, methodically, re-organize my digital world. 

My laptop decided to breakdown. At the worst possible point in time. A time when I am writing, involved in an ethnographic project, when I am tutoring online, when I am blogging, when when when...

There are few words to describe the 48 hours I went through. Driving on roads through the sands, frantically wondering what had been possibly saved, backed-up, what was lost, how I could recover my data - documents, images, music and so very much more. 

I was naked. 

Digitally naked. Digitally lost in a non-connected wilderness. The overwhelming sense of loss, digital bareness, digital emptiness was relatively softened by my iPad and iPhone - grateful for those glimpses of connection but far from my needs and .... my data. Hours, days, weeks, months of work. 

My world evaporated. 

My digital self no longer existed. 

And so began my inquiry. 

Who was I, to recommend to others what I so blatantly had not done myself? 

What was I, if so affected by digital loss?

And where was the magic button to make everything OK?

It is with utter humbleness that I publicly share this loss, this gross mistake, this lapse. It is with total humility that I ask possible readers to ensure that they regularly back-up their data and work, for that day does come. At the worst possible time.  If as educators, one strives to raise awareness of digital citizenship, digital safety, backing up data regularly, our words need to become our actions. 

My words need to become my actions as I now struggle to patch up my loss. 

48 hours of digital breakdowns, digital transitions to mend. 

Digital identity to reflect on, digital work to catch up with. 

Ahead of me lies a summer of transitions - from the comfort of classrooms to research in foreign, unknown roads, from digital breakdowns to digital creations. 

All in transition. 

10 June 2012

Education and Gamification

Words, images, sound. All teach me, all sway me into new worlds, where each syllable creates new shades of meaning. Images breathe through my skin, calling me into dimensions where all is possible.  I tread into these worlds with delight, playing with colours, shapes and sounds. A lucid, ludic,  world where I play with discoveries, unafraid of novelty. 

But has this to do with education?

Despite constraints such as lack of tech hardware, institutional firewalls, lack of teacher training and sometimes, even lack of managerial vision, undoubtedly today's educational scenario is a blend of digital learning and more traditional approaches in the classroom. As with all changes, adapting and implementation of change vary according to each context. 

Nevertheless, educators who refuse incorporating a digital ecosystem in their practices, are facing a losing battle. Learners today will check their mobiles. Learners today will play digital games. Learners will switch off if not suitably challenged and involved in their learning. 

It is not so much that students expect or want to take responsibility for their learning process, but given the opportunity, they will. And they will perform better, be more involved if an environment which is real (i.e. digital) is provided for them.  

From involving learners with M-learning to gaming, there are myriads of options that educators have today. 

Educators' challenge is to cross the threshold of their fear of the uncertain and what is new; learners' challenge is to be aware how their digital world, which they are immersed in outside the school walls,  can also be of value for education. 

Throughout this blog I have referred to games - games for learning vocabulary, games for digital safety and many more. Today, I'd like to highlight 3 games which may be worth bringing into the classroom. 

World Without Oil - a serious outlook on a world dependent on oil. Includes videos and notes for teachers. 

Find The Future  - Is the first game in which winning means writing a book together; a collection of 100 ways to make history and change the future, inspired by 100 of the most intriguing works of the past.  Although the initial writing has already been completed, gamers can still log in, and who knows? Perhaps you could begin a similar initiative at your institution!

StoryBricks - this is a storytelling online RPG, offering a toolset that allows participants to tell stories in a RPG and share them with friends. 

Despite all the rivers of digital ink that is spent on discussing creativity in education, the fact is that not all teachers are necessarily creative - which does not imply that they are not good teachers. Being a good teacher also requires patience, dedication and a love of learning. Some will be more creative than others. However, learning why and how to integrate different approaches of digital learning into classrooms is increasingly essential. Consider the following extract from the Pew Research Centre:

  1. Social networks are just one of the primary drivers for gamification
  2. 53% of these stakeholders agreed that “…the use of game mechanics, feedback loops, and rewards to spur interaction and boost engagement, loyalty, fun, and/or learning will continue to gain ground between now and 2020.” 
  3. Additionally 53% of the respondents agreed with the statement that  “By 2020, there will have been significant advances in the adoption and use of gamification.”
  4. While it has some drawbacks, gamification offers advantages in encouraging behaviors and generating measureable feedback
  5. “…neuroscientists are discovering more and more about the ways in which humans react to such interactive design elements. They say such elements can cause feel-good chemical reactions, alter human responses to stimuli—increasing reaction times, for instance—and in certain situations can improve learning, participation, and motivation.”
  6. “…reward and status elements are embedded in implicit and explicit forms in people’s interactions in their engagement in online communities. Game elements and competition are interspersed throughout the platforms that have made social networks like Facebook and Twitter popular.”
  7. Game-style engagement can bring an element of enjoyment to otherwise dull or challenging tasks, thus it will become a vital aspect of training, personal health, business, and education.

There is a difference between being creative as an educator and not being afraid to learn, to take risks and to adapt to change.  If education is to make an sense to today's youth, their world of digital devices, their world of interests and habits, needs to have a place in the classroom.

How else can you entice learners today?

Publishing Learners' Writing

Light summer dresses beckon behind the door as the sun finds its path through slanted shades. Memories of green, playgrounds and crystal clear seas entice my mind. 

However, being an educator, summer is a time when I catch up on professional training, academic studies and research. It is also a time which allows me to look into learning tools with more leisure, playing with assumptions of what may most interest students in coming semesters.

With the regular bandwagon terminology regarding E-learning, learning, ways of learning is often on my mind. Social Learning? But learning has always been a social activity. One only needs to watch young children play and interact. Learning, like communication, does not happen in a vacuum. The challenge today is for educators to guide learners through a digital environment which allows them to communicate and develop skills which will be useful for them.

Whether through games and gaming, virtual worlds or tools which challenge one's creativity and organisational skills, there is something for everyone.

One motivational approach is to have learners publish their own work, whether class work, a project or a topic they are interested in and may share with others. Among the many tools available, What would you like to create? is simple for young learners to use while Social Gimme  allows older learners to create their own web page.

Writing is a challenge for most learners, regardless of age or whether studying a second language. The Hero's Journey  provides learner the opportunity to practice writing patterns which develop their writing skills.

With interactive prompts, students are guided to answer questions which will help reinforce how descriptive writing flows with adjectives and adverbs.

Students may also choose themselves to be the hero, and which of your learners does not want to become a hero just for a day?

Summer journeys, writing journeys, learning journeys. All bring joy and the very necessary sense of accomplishment to individuals. In my journey of reflections for next academic year, I  hope my learners will be able to proudly say:

What do you want your learners to say?