Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts on Readings - Week 1

I thought Prensky's readings deserved a post of their own. This post will capture my feedback on the rest of the readings for my Digital Media in the Classroom course for Week 1.

Week 1

Lamb, Brian. "The Online Classroom is about to become a noisier place".
Slightly dated, but the gist is that audioblogging and podcasting will offer a new medium for educators to "transmit knowledge and foster communication". Agreed. This is already being done in a variety of ways. Teachers listen to podcasts like EdTechTalk to learn about new topics and strategies in the classroom. Students listen to podcasts that they subscribe to and download from iTunes. Teachers are encouraging students to record their own podcasts to build frameworks for creative writing, express interests in various topics and more. To hear some examples, watch my video on Social Networking in the Classroom.

Budin, Howard. “Self-Publishing on the Web and Democratic Education”, Chapter 16, Social Studies and the Press.
Unfortunately not available on the web for you to access, so I'll mention the highlights here. Basically Budin argues that the ability to self-publish on the Web offers a unique opportunity to teach students about democracy in another way; a way that goes beyond traditional lectures on government and citizenship. He speaks about Dewey's conception of a democratic education followed by a description of tools for self-publishing. These include things like blogs, discussion boards, cartoon creation sites, sites that solicit youth wriing, shared writing sites, wiki's and sites that allow for student work to be published. But why are students interested in self-publishing? The same reason I am and you probably are and many others are too.
a. Free expression (a highly democratic value) - "I can reach the world".
b. Self-discovery - Discover your own interests and learn to value your own point of view.
c. Anonymity - Express yourself honestly and forcefully, without being judged.
d. Blending of communication and expression - Provides instanteous feedback.
e. Participation - Ability to share and get involved.
I personally have experienced many of these since I've started self-publishing, especially free experience and self-discovery. Budin explains that educators will need to use these tools in certain ways to teach elements that are essential in a democratic education: communication, information gathering, decision making and diversity. What was most interesting to me were some of the ideas that Budin suggests for using these tools in the classroom. Obviously educating teachers on these tools is the first step. Beyond that he suggests enhancing in-classroom discussions with asynchronous online discussions outside the classroom, creating class blogs and websites and maintaining online personal journals, working on collaborative projects and goal-oriented real world involvement.

3 Rosen, Jay. “The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism
This article, like Budin's chapter, discusses how self-publishing is a democratic form of journalism. Specifically focusing on blogs, Rosen illuminates how journalism has changed with the advent of personal blogging. Both formal journalistic reporting and blogging record history in the "struggle against forgetting". One of the advantages he highlights is that amateurs and random citizens can "speak in the same public space" as professional journalists, CEOs and celebrities. At least for now. My question is: Why for now? Will that change? If Obama could change long standing rules and keep his Blackberry, why would a simple thing like shared blog spaces change? Weblogs give anyone and everyone who wants it a voice to be heard thoughout the world. I believe it can, and should, stay that way.

4 “Personal blogging and eduation".
I wasn't too impressed by this reading. It basically describes what a blog is, how personal blogs are differentiated from others and briefly highlights that blogs will be useful in the educational realm.

5 Alan November, “Teaching Zach to Think”.
A scary but relevant account of the dangers of assuming that everything you find on the Internet is true. This was a great reading to help educators to help their students learn to critically assess the sources of information they find online. There are three evaluation methods that we, as educators, need to teach students to use when referencing online material.
a. Purpose - What is the goal of the website? Make sure students not only know the purpose, but also know that it may not be immediately obvious.
b. Author - Is the author an authoritative source? Make sure students check Google or other search engines to evaluate the background of the author. What are they qualified to speak on? Do they have biases that cloud their judgement?
c. Meta-Web Information - Is the site valid? Where does it fall in the context of other sites? Make sure the students know how to tell if a website is really a personal home page. Also, make sure they research what others sites link to it. They can do this by entering link:url into the search string at AltaVista.
Lastly, encourage students to look "beyond the Internet for sources of authentic information" include 1st person accounts where possible.

Stay tuned for more reviews over the next few weeks.

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