Author Archive

Social Augmented Reality Wiki

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Jared Bendis asked “What {do] you ‘feel’ the game changing technologies [will be] that affect students from a teaching and learning perspective? … just your gut on what you think is the next killer item or concept for them?”
If context, culture, and maps of learning experiences were to become explicit, it would change the game of education:
Laying out as much as possible for students to see the past, present, and future possibilities.
  • Technologies that support accumulation and sharing of collective memory.
  • Technologies that facilitate exposure to previous work in the discipline, and its relatives.
  • Technologies that support clear access to learning “what you need to get up to speed”
  • Systematic access to communities of practice: real life meaningful work, in sites occupied by people prepared to involve students, showing them paths toward the pro levels of the practice
Social augmented reality wiki, user selectable by course, by discipline, by people etc
For example: I go to a community-based research site (IRL or online). I dial up my Social Augmented Reality Wiki. I see that the previous seven students who did projects at that site posted comments, maps, videos, locations, tips, and their presentations. I see their pictures, and hear and read what they and the community partners and the professor and the community-based research liaison staff person all had to say about it. They tour me around and introduce me to people and places that were important to their project.
What’s game-changing: the learning is not about repeating the same work the previous students did. It’s about building on it. Growing from the accomplishments and learning from the mistakes and successes of those who came before.
There is no replacement for the process of learning about a project site nor for developing relationships with the relevant people. But to make this process a repetitive drain on the resource people (“Just like I already told the last seven students…”) isn’t a good use of time. When I unplug my Social Augmented Reality Wiki, I can now ask the people I’m working with, “OK, what are we going to build on from here?”
Categories: Pieces

21st Century Skills? Food and water for our tribes.

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

(Responding to George Siemens’ post on

Essential and challenging topic, George. I’m glad you’re engaging with it.
I agree that we should not interpret “21st Century” skills as simply “new” skills. Reflecting your mention of “contextual right answers,” the question could be phrased as “what are the skills appropriate to the 21st century context?” So what is the 21st century context?
I’m going to invite you along a bit of a stroll here, if you’re willing. The 21st Century context is increasingly social and biological, and not necessarily in pleasant ways. I’d suggest that in the short term, we can expect skills to reflect more tribal (roughly = “community”) tendencies, with focus on biological health and on localized and networked mutualism. We will be pressed to work more on fostering interdependencies. We will need to manage our interdependencies with ecosystem carrying capacities, local energy and resources, privately-shared, physical, low-technology systems, along with food, environmental, health, social, and educational needs. Although we are lulled by the primal pleasure from the foraging and gathering we simulate on the internet, we will increasingly need to trade locally, and therefore need to learn how to make contributions to the physical and social well-being of our tribal groups. (tribe = your interdependents). So, 21st century skills are going to be more material, biological, low-tech, and human-scale. One area of increasing interest, of course, is food: Growing food, food sharing, preservation and preparation, knowledge of food systems, food sources, food qualities. Not entirely surprising. Just surprisingly urgent.
But what about high-tech 21st century skills? I’ll suggest that we will increasingly need the skills to read our technological and biological environments, in order to access biological productivity (sustainable resources) and in order to avoid contaminants in unofficially-traded food and water. Citizenship will inhere in the struggle to supply our tribes while avoiding violent conflict. Education will need to support the essential balance between scientific competence and social worth, at the scale of the individual and tribal group, and at the intertribal level in conflicts over resources. It’s where we (humans) are weakest now.
Social science education needs to matter more to the real world (See Bent Flyvbjerg, now at Oxford) to reflect a defensible ethical position. Science education needs to be increasingly grounded in community priorities, as reflected in the increasingly popular Community Service Learning and Community-based Research approaches. The skills here are those that help answer the question: “What will we have tomorrow?” and “How do we share?” Compared with any new approach to education, Siemens’ connectivism, combined with Communities of Practice offers a great deal toward the kinds of literacies that will be required to teach and learn in the increasingly physical 21st century.

Categories: Patterns

Should we be trying to digitize teaching and learning? Is it even possible?

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I watched this video “Let’s digitize, not memorize”, from a middle school. promoted by TEDxUBC,

Ten years ago I would not have been able to put my critique into words. Now I can: “Most teaching and learning cannot and should not be digitized.”

Here’s what I thought after seeing this video:

Nicely done in terms of production. Here’s a critical comment, though: It’s also an excellent anti-example, reflecting a prevailing and ill-considered emphasis on style over substance. Neither in students’ learning nor in professional / academic communication is “digitize it, don’t memorize it” a pedagogically-proven approach. Sounds great. Catchy, But If we fail to foster development of a range of cognitive skills, including memorization, and focus instead on making so-called old-school curriculum more appealing to young people by providing “academic” “reasons” for using digital tools, then we risk diverting learners’ energies by having them focus on media tools.

In one group I studied, participants reported that the technology “put the brakes on learning” (Reid, 2010). It is possible, but nowhere near easy, to use digital tools well. When teachers present students with well-structured experiences in which the use of digital tools is embedded in a supported and intensive multimodal engagement with the subject matter, teachers and students alike have to engage the subject matter deeply and perhaps even get involved in communities of practice before producing digital products. In other words, memorize it before, when, and after you digitize it. Otherwise the result can be anti-climactic at best, and more often a waste of time masked by a brief excitement.

What do you think? Can digitizing be primary? Here’s an interesting related discussion from the 21st Century Collaborative

Categories: Pieces

Five minutes to focus

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Now and then I want to get some professional writing or editing done, starting right away. But it can be hard to focus, especially if there is little in the way of discovery, exploration, or fun in the task. Some practical writing doesn’t have the same appeal as researching or trying to sort out a specific question.

Howe Sound from Copper Cove photo Morgan Reid

Editing for format, for example. Yawn/ack. What else could I do instead? Of course, once I’m on it, it gets interesting and satisfying, but getting around to it can be a very creative dance with the millions of more appealing things to do. So, how to focus, and start a boring task? “Five minutes to focus,” that’s how. I’ll write more about this over time, but for now, my point is this: taking five minutes to meditate is effective and refreshing. And I do mean “meditate.” Just let everything slide past on the river of time. Works almost every time.

If you want to try it, or you do it yourself, let us know what works for you.

Here’s a good article from Psyblog about attention.

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