27 May 2013

How Do You Learn Learning?

Learning - that elusive moment when things make sense. 

Learning - that inclusive moment which allows one to become a member of a specific group. 

Learning - how does one learn today?

Despite the blinking bytes of wisdom I come across, that moment still escapes me, leaving me with the hindsight of having learnt something, rather than the precise moment of deep learning. However, it is not hindsight I wish to focus on today, rather learning for today - which is not that different to all the yesterdays, except in the ways which we can now learn. 

The choices of learning are public. 

The choices of learning are open. 

And like the shimmerings of a painting, one reflection of light may lead to another, another connection, another option of learning. 

These options are available for both learners and educators but it takes interest, time and above all, the passion for learning. 

Heick (2013) points out these characteristics which are so intrinsic to one's learning today:

1. Dialogic Response: Learning is a conversation–whether personal, local, and direct, or more general, global, and digitally-based

2. Community Interaction: Communities–including local physical communities, and digital, niche communities–nurture relationships and frame content

3. Abstraction & Creativity: Creativity isn’t just art and whimsy, but the overlap between the macro thinking and micro details to solve the challenges of daily living

4. Media Literacy: Digital media evolves constantly. This makes not simply “keeping up,” but grasping the nuance of platform critical

5. Play: This is the opposite of compliant response to teacher-centered environments. In play, learners freely experiment, show ambition, follow curiosity, and take risks to create, design, evolve, and connect in ways that are otherwise impossible under compulsion

6. Self-Directed Learning: Play is a big part of self-directed learning, but more broadly can include academic response, project-based learning, game-based learning, and other “school-like” learning forms while students hold themselves and one another accountable to their own criteria of quality

As one can see, these characteristics have always been part of learning, except that with today's option of digital learning, Media Literacies play a major part of the learning process. By Media Literacies, I would like to add that here, I include also the skills of networking, for working across borders in realtime is common practice in many fields. Media Literacies, Digital Literacies, Digital Citizenship  - all inter-connected and essential to learning today. 

Which leads me to wonder  how one's learning may meet what students' want today? 


Learning for futures unknown, for today's connected and mobile generations, learning for life. 

As my semester of digital rejection slowly heads towards its end, questions of learning how to learn still remain pertinent. 

How do you learn?

How do your students want to learn?

Further References:

Couros, G. , 2013, 10 Expectations from Students

26 May 2013

Presenting for End of Academic Year

With the academic slowly, but surely, heading towards its end in many places, learners will be sharing the same dread of final assessments and exams. One way of helping learners achieve that final leap to success, is giving them the opportunity of individual, pair or small group presentations. This builds their confidence both in doing research on a determined topic as well as fostering their public speaking skills - not to mention the necessary skills which go into team work and meeting deadlines. 

Two recent presentation tools I have come across are worth mentioning -  Bunkr and emaze.  Both present themselves as interesting alternatives to PowerPoint, as well as being free. 

And, as it is never enough to remind learners, bullets kill! Storyboarding a talk will engage learners and help them perform at a much higher level.

And as an ending for now, I'd like to highlight 57 Study, Learning and Revision Habits of A-Star Students  - a little nudging goes a long way!

How do you help nudge your learners that extra bit forward to success?

Further Suggestions




24 May 2013

Sunshine and Change of Perspectives

It's been a long semester for me. Or so it has felt like at times.

A question of perception, perhaps.

With this feeling of a never-ending-semester, last weekend 2 surprises to lighten up my days:  2 colleagues who I have the most respect for, awarded me the Sunshine Award for this blog. 

Carmen Arias and Pilar Pamblanco are bloggers, who equally share teaching tips, resources and a voice on Twitter as well as other social networks. Both are highly recommended to follow. 

Which brings me back to this post; all week I have questioned myself on the value and purpose of these awards, awards which go largely unnoticed by those who do not follow blogs and most certainly, unnoticed by the many institutions where these bloggers are participants. 

In both cases, a pity - for those who are missing out on the dialogue and stimulating exchanges which take place in the blogosphere. There are still those who consider that "serious, respected" academics don't need blogs or that blogging is a waste of time when instead, it is publishing in journals that matters. To those who still hold on to those beliefs, what is there to say? In my view, presenting at conferences, publishing in journals, collaborating and contributing to social media such as blogging, are all different, but equal activities and forms of an educator's role today. There are those who may not be able to attend international conferences - are they any less valuable educators than those who are more fortunate? There are educators who publish more in journals, are they are any more capable than those who blog?

I shall leave those questions open, for answers are framed by one's perceptions and points of references. 

Nevertheless, should anyone attempt persuading me that bloggers such as Carmen and Pilar (mentioned above), Tony Gurr, John Mak, Dave Cormier, Donald Clark , George Couros, Jackie Gerstein, among the many other bloggers who I read and value, are not worth reading, to those, I can only smile quietly, for it is certainly their professional loss. 

I am not saying that blogs are more "relevant" than publishing in academic journals; I am saying that blogging today is part of one's educational journey and experience - whether that journey being in the model BG or in today's online world. And more importantly, today educators have more choices to be heard, to share and learn with others around the world. For someone such as myself who began teaching without the benefits of being connected, it never fails to inspire gratitude in me to all who teach and share so much. 

Most posts in this blog are about platforms and tools for learning, which hopefully may bring about some creativity in the classroom.

Today, I would like to send out a THANK YOU to ALL Educational Bloggers - for your time, (and blogging does take up time!), for your courage to raise and share your voice, (there are times when yes, it does take courage to be out-spoken) and above all, your generosity to share insights, successes and failures (for education is not only about success and it is through failures that one learns for the future). 

And in way of an ending, I'd like to suggest a great resource for all educators - The Design Studio

As explained on the site, "The Design Studio is a developing toolkit which draws together a range of existing and emergent JISC resources which support technology-enhanced teaching and learning practice. The Design Studio will provide access to project outcomes and outputs from a range of Jisc programmes as they are developed through an open sharing and synthesis approach." Definitely a rich resource for all.

Perspectives. They change.

If not, how does one continue in Education, which is all about change and the future?

To all those who share, inspire and accompany me through the many changes in Education -

Thank you!

5 May 2013

Digital Explorations in the Month of May

Yesterday I could hardly believe that May had arrived.  Almost mid  2013 and there always is so much to do, so much to explore and learn!

Among other sites to explore, these are 3 which I really want to spend more time on. 

iTeachU is an Elearning Intstructor Training Online, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is a rich source of reference and learning for both educators who teach in classrooms F2F and online.  With teaching tips and focus on digital tools for learning, it's a rich reference for all.

Perhaps because Spring is a great time for de-cluttering one's life and closets, SideVibe is another site which I wish to spend more time using - really great for both learners and teachers. 
SideVibe seems to be a perfect Spring tool to use in classrooms and to help students use for themselves.

And what would Spring be without new digital delights? Permamarks is definitely going to make a difference to many who experienced the need to shift their work from one blogging platform to another.

Still in Beta, go ahead and request your invite!

Time and time again. My regular struggle to balance and manage my daily hours. There are moments when yes, I shrug and border giving up. Time will come and time will go. Most importantly is to do what keeps you happy during time. And being able to put time into perspective. Here Is This Year is a creative , interactive visual - let yourself be inspired (or comforted) with time.

Which  explorations do you have in mind for May 2013?

3 May 2013

Biographies and the Web Genie

As a language teacher, I sometimes have the opportunity to talk about culture in the classroom. Not the narrow meaning/s of culture/s, but the broader, richer concept of culture. I never fail to be fascinated with the initial points of references which students share and then watch their perceptions unfurl and grow, taking in the wider understandings of what culture may be. 

One characteristic, has to be the contribution of individuals towards the social environments and cultures they lived in. From poets to architects, from scientists to philosophers, these individuals contributed to the shaping of a particular culture, their influence often transcending borders and points in time. 

Bio True Story offers a wealth of biographies; for example, did you know that James Brown was born today in 1933? Did you know that 3rd May was also the day that Margaret Thatcher became the first female prime minister of the UK?

You can find a wealth of stories about people from the past as well as people whose names will be familiar today; there is also a Biography Quiz which learners can play individually or in pairs.

Best of all, is that language learners need to practice their verb tenses, especially  the past tenses. They may also focus on modal verbs and future tenses, if they are set an assignment about which famous person they would invite to their homes - possibilities are endless and may be tailored for many levels and contexts.

To wrap a lesson, students can then challenge each other with
Akinator, the web genie (also for iPad), or if there is a really courageous student, let them be the class genie!

Further references:

Biographies of Famous Explorers

Famous Scientists


Bring on the Clouds!

MOOCs have dominated headlines for months now; iPadology brings constant waves of clarification and App suggestions. And of course, the shutting down of Google's Reader has brought about another wave of possible alternatives (see Digital Tribes). 

My suggestions today focus on clouds and the options now available to store data. Dropbox is great but there are others as well. For those who have taken to using their iPads as mobile devices, using clouds is a simple way to access data - whether slideshows or other documents - on the go.

Cloud Storage:

OwnCloud Aero - Private File SyncDump TruckEntourageJolicloudSpaceMonkey

CloudMagic  , SurDocShadowDrive,

Cloud Sharing:


Further Reference:

Cloud Essentials: Understanding the Basics of Cloud Computing

Finding Detours to Roadblocks Using Dropbox

Flipboard hits 50M Readers 

How McAfee Cloud Identity Manager Benefits Higher Ed IT Professionals

Paper Age from WWWSounds on Vimeo.

Paper Age II from Ken Ottmann on Vimeo.

2 May 2013

Blogging Platforms Around the Block

With Posterous shutting down and whispers of Google perhaps shutting down Blogger, here are some other blogging platforms one can take into consideration. 

Ghost is a free blogging platform with open code, you can host it on your laptop or pubic server, and mobile friendly. Gatsby may appeal to those who are familiar with WordPress, with beautiful templates. Moveable Type is both a blogging platform and social network, while OverBlog may be used for blogging, sharing content from the web and more.

If you already blog, two sites which may interest you are Bloxp and BlogBooker.

You can use either as a back up or simply enjoy creating a book from your posts.

An interesting question making the rounds online is whether social media will take over blogging? 

Blogging is part of social media, so personally I don't really see that happening though it is possible that blogging may be slightly down in general. Days continues to have 24 hours and time demands are forever increasing. However, blogging with its re-mixing, re-hashing of media, is a skill/practice that won't be going away so soon.

Or so I hope, as there is a sea of blogs which I read, enjoy and learn from.


Blog on!

Further references:

6 Tips for Quality Student Blogging- Gary Johnston

12 Most Important Blogging Terms Definitions for Business

A Short Guide to Terms Commonly Used in Blogging by Richard Byrne

Advice for Potential Academic Bloggers - LSE

Blogger VS WordPress - A Complete Comparison

Student Blogging Guidelines