Tag Archives: connect

Summer Inspiration: Connectivism

I came across this video a couple of months ago and haven’t stopped thinking about it or recommending it to people.  It makes a very compelling case for using Web 2.0 technologies to allow students to construct their own knowledge.  This would change the role of the teacher from keeper of knowledge to facillitator of learning.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how these ideas could apply to my grammar classes.  I often teach advanced grammar to ESL students with a wide range of abilities (our students are placed into levels based on aggregate scores, not into each class).  In general, I present new material and then vary their homework activities based on their ability.  But what if there were a better way?

The materials I typically present in class could be put online (with my voiceover explanations, animations to illustrate key points, etc.) and students could watch the presentations at home.  The could then come to class prepared, ask whatever questions they had, and then we could do the “howework activities” in class.  Wouldn’t I, as a teacher, be more helpful to them while they were trying to use what they had learned?

My presentation could become a part of what they used to study a particular grammatical structure.  They could supplement this with other online resources they find (and are probably already using) and share them with the class via online courseware.  So, some students could learn from  stories that include highly contextualized examples of the structure while others could examine charts and tables if that was their preference.  It’s easy to see how this process would enable students to learn in ways that matched their learning styles.

Will it work?  I’ve tried elements of this approach and one of the biggest hurdles seems to be the reaction from students that the teacher isn’t “teaching.”  If we can get past this issue, we might really be able to run with it.

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Interface with the Future

I’ve been thinking about interfaces for a while. Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) probably got be thinking in this direction, and the recent announcement of the motion sensing Project Natal for the Xbox has finally pushed me to write about them.

Note the fine print: actual features and function may vary.

As computers have evolved, so have the interfaces we use to interact with them.  To give you an idea of my own personal timeline, I have no experience programming on punchcards, but I do remember the pre-GUI days.  The mouse has become ubiquitous, but what comes next?  Here are some possible answers:

Interactive Whiteboards: These are pretty heavily documented on this blog and elsewhere.  Here, the user can interact with the display, making the mouse and, to an extent, the keyboard unnecessary.

Slap widgets: Physical tools to be used with IWBs and the like, further blurring the line between the physical and the virtual.  (Watch the video!)

Siftables: An interesting miniaturization of an IWB-type interface with the added bonus that each mini screen can interact with the others.  If each Siftable had a letter or a word, how could they be used to teach English?

MIT’s Sixth Sense: This video went viral a few months ago, but keeps popping up.  Why can’t your computer interface with the physical world?  It soon may.

Wii & Natal: Nintendo has enjoyed blockbuster sales of it’s Wii gaming system which features motion-sensitive controllers.  Now, Microsoft has unveiled the same thing with Natal, but no controllers are needed.

Do it yourself interfaces: In addition to making your own IWB using a Wiimote, other examples include the Beatbearing, in which ball-bearings are used to sequence electronic drum beats, a modified Nintendo Powerglove, which upgrades late 1980s virtual reality technology, and a giant Katamari ball controller, which is a controller designed and built specifically for the game Katamari, in which players roll a ball through an environment which attracts more stuff (litter, park benches, people, their pets, etc.).  The makers of each of these interfaces have posted detailed plans and instructions online so that you can build and modify your own.

Move over visual learners, kinesthetic learners are about to have their day.  And why not?  Why should  simply watch something when we can interact with it in more natural ways?  The next generation of computer interfaces promises to expand our idea of how we relate to computers.

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