Sunday, 9 November 2014

Transforming Talk in the 21st Century

Does this have to Facebook? No. Does it have to be asynchronous and social?Yes.

Many skills are touted as '21st century' in nature, but the reality is that many, if not most of all them, are little more than refinements of abilities that have always been intrinsic to humanity than reflective of any particular era in history.

That said, there is at least one skill which strikes me an unique, maybe not unique to the 21st Century as it has been in existence since at least the late 90s, but it is unique, it is digital, and it is easily one of the most powerful, transformational applications of digital technology I have encountered, what is it? It's the ability for groups of people to interact, and interthink, online, or to frame this in the words of the title of a thesis that is a little more academic:

The Construction of Shared Knowledge through Asynchronous Dialogue

The above title is taken from a 362 page thesis written by a doctoral student called Rebecca Ferguson (Ferguson, 2009) that I have recently finished reading, and that is the inspiration for this post. This is not a post about the actual pedagogical practice of using this medium for learning, that is the subject of another post here. This post focuses on the big picture, the WHY, why this medium is not only unique but actually essential, critical, pivotal, and in my experience, one of the most genuinely transformative applications of ICT that I have ever encountered. 

All quotations that follow, unless specifically cited otherwise are taken from Ferguson's thesis (ibid). The original thesis is available online, here, all other works cited can be referenced from Ferguson's thesis.

What follows is a summary of the thesis, curated through the lens of the way this looks in a TELE (technology enhanced learning environment), like those that reflect UWCSEA since at least 2010.

Critical to this entire context is the uniqueness of this medium, it is essentially unlike any form of human communication that has ever preceded it, in that "asynchronous exchanges are enriched by the use of textual affordances that are not available in speech." (p4) These online asynchronous environments are ubiquitous, mainly thanks to the unprecedented rise in society of social networks, (and to a large extent email, another asynchronous social medium, albeit not as instant) that are in their very essence 'fora', online communities where text based dialogue, often enriched by image and video are commonplace, and yet, despite it's profound presence in society as a whole, it is very rarely leveraged as tool to enhance learning, even within TELEs.

This post is in many ways a plea to change that; because I believe that in the classrooms of the 21st century, asynchronous dialogue should be the norm, in every subject, every day, just like it is in the social lives of arguably most students and teachers.

A fascinating exchange between Grade 5 students - look at the learning!

--- Page 18 ---

In the first five years of this century, the number of Internet users in the UK almost doubled, rising to 37.8 million in 2005 (CIA, 2001, 2006). For the first time, the majority of the population was able to interact, and to learn together, in virtual settings (Dutton, di Gennaro, & Millwood Hargrave, 2005). As a result, some learners and teachers who have spent years developing the skills necessary to communicate, work and build knowledge together in face-to-face settings face the challenge of adapting those skills for use in an asynchronous, textual environment.

What is asynchronous dialogue?

'Asynchronous dialogue' describes the ways in which online learners construct knowledge together in both the short and the long term without [necessarily] being co-present at the same time or in the same place."

--- Page 21 ---

Asynchronous dialogue is defined here as a sustained discussion, involving two or more people whose contributions are not expected to be produced in temporal proximity, in which language is one of the elements used to convey meaning.

--- Page 23 ---

Users of asynchronous forms of dialogue such as email and online fora make use of various structures and patterns, referred to here as discursive devices, within their communication in order to increase both coherence and comprehension.

--- Page 32 ---

Learning is fundamentally social in nature, even when individuals are separated by time and space

--- Page 35 ---

Vygotsky regarded language as the most powerful of these mediating tools and as the primary tool for thinking

--- Page 42 ---

Different media bring different resources to, and also impose constraints. Relevant factors include copresence (the ability to see the same things), cotemporality (the ability to access messages as soon as they are sent), simultaneity (whether participants can communicate at the same time or must take turns) and sequentiality (the possibility of turns being accessed out of sequence) (Baker, et al., 1999).
In an educational context, an important form of language is dialogue: a sustained discussion, carried out through speech or online, in which language is used to convey meaning. Participants in an effective dialogue are both contributors and active listeners (Moore, 1993). Through dialogue, they share knowledge and jointly construct understandings of shared experience that support learning (Crook, 1994)

--- Page 43 ---

One of the earliest recorded forms of educational dialogue is the dialectic employed by Socrates (470-399 BCE) and therefore described as ‘the Socratic method'. This was originally an open-ended dialogue, which was gradually formalised, eventually being codified by Hegel (1770-1831) as a form of logic that proceeds from thesis to antithesis and thence, eventually, to synthesis. In educational settings, dialectic is employed when people need to combine their knowledge by sharing, comparing and combining contrasting views ...

--- Page 44 ---

In schools, dialogic has been used to emphasise collaborative group work and the uptake of children's ideas, to encourage pupils to recreate accounts in their own words and to emphasise a collective, reciprocal and cumulative approach to learning (Skidmore, 2006).

Less IRF, more IDRF

Less Initiation, Response and Follow-up (IRF) [Also IRE, Initiation, Response, Evaluation] exchanges and more Initiation – Dialogue – Response – Feedback (IDRF) (Wegerif & Mercer, 1996) does not focus on the teacher's input but incorporates dialogue between students, allowing learners a more active role and supporting them in working together. (p45)

--- Page 46 ---

[asynchronous discussions help] students to participate in collaborative and critical argumentation, rather than being too embarrassed to criticise others or to state their opinions directly. Other studies drew attention to students overcoming emotional barriers such as shyness, discomfort or a lack of confidence (Ravenscroft, 2007).

--- Page 47 ---

These forms of communication may be synchronous or non-synchronous, or they may offer both possibilities; they may be text-based, audio-based or graphics-based; they may be used for group communication, for two-way discussion or for personal reflection

--- Page 48 ---

Until recently, it was rarely necessary to distinguish between physical and virtual settings and so the dictionary definitions of many English words take a physical setting for granted. The words ‘talk' and ‘dialogue', with their assumptions of synchronicity and co-presence, both make an uneasy transition to an online setting. [...] there are major differences between oral and written modes of expression

--- Page 52 ---

It is an important tool that teachers and learners employ in a variety of ways: to build social relationships, to mediate collaboration, to construct online learning environments, to supplement face-to-face interaction and to support distance learners who are working individually.

Asynchronous dialogue: distinct from writing and speech

Asynchronous dialogue should be considered as a new form of communication, rather than as a variant form of speech or writing.

--- Page 54 ---

Asynchronous dialogue, being a new language tool, has the potential to produce far-reaching changes. It is a complex blend of inner, oral and written speech, and Mercer's view (2000) is that its combination of characteristics of speech and writing makes it a welcome and valuable addition to the toolbox of language. Although it has some characteristics of both talk and writing, its chronology and its use of layout and typography mean that it has emergent properties that belong to neither. These emergent properties are not the same as those of synchronous online dialogue, which is characterised by immediacy and fast responses (O'Connor & Madge, 2001).

Five techniques

--- Page 58 ---

Build the future on the foundations of the past by eliciting knowledge from learners, responding to what learners say and describing significant aspects of shared experience:

• Literal recap: Recounting past events.

• Reconstructive recap: Aligning accounts of the past with current pedagogic concerns.

• Elicitation: Prompting the recall of relevant information.

• Repetition: Repeating responses in an evaluative fashion

• Reformulation: Presenting responses in a clearer form.

• Exhortation: Asking others to recall relevant past experiences.

Affordances of asynchronous dialogue

--- Page 63 ---

Asynchronous dialogue is distinct from other forms of communication not only because of its textual nature but also because of its unique chronology.

--- Page 69 ---

Researchers studying online learning have identified a variety of relevant affordances of asynchronous dialogue. These can be broadly classified in three groups: affordances of the technology, affordances of the medium and affordances of the dialogue.

--- Page 70 ---

Asynchronous dialogue appears to provides the classic components of cooperation and collaboration – discussion, dialogue and community – without the traditional constraints of time and place.

Martini affordances' of the technology – any time, any place, anywhere

--- Page 71 ---

Learners and educators may use a variety of technologies to encounter each other face to face or online

[Unlike face to face dialogue, online there is always a transcript of the dialogue] that can be consulted, edited and reworked

The dialogue can contain hyperlinks to other resources and dialogue, and may also have documents, pictures, sound files or videos attached to it.

Other affordances of the medium include the ability to link messages through threading

The time commitment is minimal as all of these forums use conventions that are common across online working spaces [ubiquitous in social media].

Students' asynchronous dialogue

--- Page 72 ---

Analysis of students' asynchronous dialogue (Blanchette, 2001) demonstrated that having time to consult sources and check references meant they were able to provide each other with very accurate information. Blanchette also observed that the learners in her study were more likely to ask questions, ask for clarification and seek feedback than those studied in a face-to-face environment.

When learners have time to deliberate, their responses are more likely to be focused and purposeful

--- Page 74 ---

Cooperation versus collaboration

Co-operation is a goal-centred activity (Panitz, 1996) in which different things are done by different actors in order to achieve their goal (Van Oers & Hännikäinen, 2001). It involves splitting work, solving sub-tasks individually and then assembling the partial results to produce a final output. Because the majority of the work is done individually, this way of working makes limited use of the affordances of asynchronous dialogue.

Collaboration, on the other hand, involves partners carrying out work together (Dillenbourg, 1999). It is a co-ordinated activity, the result of a continued attempt to construct and maintain a shared conception of a problem (Lipponen, 2002); an interaction in which participants are focused on co-ordinating shared meaning (Crook, 1999). It requires more than the effective division of labour that constitutes cooperative work. Participants must negotiate mutually shared or common knowledge in order to work together to solve a problem or perform a task together (Littleton & Häkkinen, 1999).

If learners are to make effective use of these affordances to support the co-construction of knowledge, they need appropriate skills and resources to engage effectively in online educational dialogue but may lack these if they have limited experience of online learning (Kreijns, et al., 2003). The importance of learning how to interact should not be underestimated.

Sticking to the point 

--- Page 83 ---

In face-to-face situations, learners modify their talk over time in relation to their context and their understanding of what they are doing. Because they use speech, which is ‘not simply perishable but essentially evanescent' (Ong, 1982, p32) they face the double challenge of pursuing a line of thought systematically and then preserving their understanding of what has been achieved. They employ discursive devices to overcome these challenges, shaping transient speech into shared knowledge (Mercer, 2000).

Discursive: of speech or writing, Tending to digress from the main point; rambling.

In an asynchronous setting, learners do not need to employ these devices [chit chat] to help them to remember what they have said or done, because they have access to the complete text of their past dialogue in the transcript automatically generated by the software (Kaye, 1989).

--- Page 85 ---

Argumentation, for example, can be described as ‘a reasoned debate between people, an extended conversation focusing on a specific theme which aims to establish “the truth” about some contentious issue' (Mercer, 2000, p96) and is thus task focused. Collaborative reasoning, which includes challenges, evidence and evaluation, is specifically a taught approach (Anderson, Chinn, Waggoner, & Nguyen, 1998). ‘Effective discourse' is also teacher led, being dependent on the educator to create a situation in which participants can ‘advance beliefs, challenge, defend, explain, assess evidence and judge arguments (Mezirow, 1997, p10). Accountable talk is similar, including elements such as listening, clarification, extension and elaboration (Michaels, et al., 2008; Resnick & Helquist, 1999)

Kinds of talk... 

--- Page 86 ---

Disputational, cumulative and exploratory talk in the classroom have the advantage that they not only deal with the productive interaction that helps the group to extend its understanding and to achieve its goals, but they also deal with the unproductive interaction that makes a group less likely to achieve its goals

These social modes of thinking are therefore referred to as cumulative, disputational and exploratory dialogue, rather than talk, because their characteristic elements can be observed both online and offline.

--- Page 87 ---

Disputation should not be confused with argumentation, in which conflicting views are presented, sometimes forcefully, but the intention is to reach a resolution

Cumulative dialogue is much more constructive. In cumulative exchanges control is shared. Speakers build on each other's contributions, adding their own information and constructing a body of shared knowledge and understanding, but they do not challenge or criticise each other's views.

--- Page 88 ---

Exploratory dialogue is the type considered most educationally desirable by teachers (Wegerif, 2008b). Learners who engage in exploratory dialogue constantly negotiate control, engaging with each other's ideas both critically and constructively

Exploratory talk, by incorporating both conflicting perspectives and the open sharing of ideas, represents the more visible pursuit of rational consensus through conversations. It is a speech situation in which everyone is free to express their views and in which the most reasonable views gain acceptance.

--- Page 89 ---

They are working to develop ‘a new understanding that everyone involved agrees is superior to their own previous understanding.

Conflict between learners is not necessarily unproductive because the challenges and counter-challenges of socio-cognitive conflict are important for the development of knowledge. Exploratory dialogue is likely to involve the confrontation of different approaches in socio-cognitive conflict. Such conflict may result in different views being coordinated to form a new approach, more complex and better adapted to solving the problem (Doise, 1985). In such cases, conflict and difference between individuals are brought into productive play to support learning

Improvable objects [Ongoingatives]

--- Page 93 ---

The improvable object is an analytical construct that was developed to help explain how learners are able to develop ideas over time. It is associated with the use of ‘progressive discourse'

Progressive discourse is associated with the sustained development of improvable objects over time (Wells, 1999). They also need to be able to identify, augment and maintain common ground as their work progresses (Baker, et al., 1999) and improvable objects offer a way of achieving this.

Resources available to groups can be characterised as improvable objects if they meet certain criteria (Wells, 1999). They must be knowledge artefacts that participants work collaboratively to improve because they involve a problem that requires discussion. They must act as a focus for the application of information and experience by the group. Unlike many assessed assignments, an improvable object must provide a means to an end, rather than being an end in itself. Finally, an improvable object must be both the inspiration and the focus for progressive discourse.

The key elements of improvable objects – a problem that provides as a means to an end, inspires progressive discourse and acts as a focus for the application of experience and information – can therefore all be assembled in asynchronous settings to support the shared construction of knowledge.

Improvable objects are dynamic representations of a changing situation.

Improvable objects are more akin to the rough drafts that Vygotsky (1987b) described as a powerful means of reflecting on work. Not only do they support the development of understanding by groups of learners, but they are also developed as part of that progress. They are a means of sharing and building ideas over time; sites not only for the display and comparison of different understandings but also for their manipulation and development.

Learning is fundamentally social in nature, and that knowledge is not a static entity, but is co-constructed by learners with the help of meaning-making tools.

--- Page 242 ---

Postings that are taken up, quoted and re-quoted, commented on and reposted come particularly close to being improvable objects.

--- Page 267 ---

The text-based nature of dialogue supports collation of work and also the direct and detailed comparison of different understandings.

--- Page 300 ---

An important role of the tutor is therefore as a discourse guide (Littleton & Whitelock, 2004) who, by modelling skills and behaviours, can help students to develop appropriate ways of talking, writing and thinking in an asynchronous group environment. Wertsch speculates that the skills called for by online environments will ‘have a major impact on how we define success, intelligence, and other aspects of human functioning in the years ahead' (Wertsch, 2003, p903). If such skills are not identified, modelled, or explicitly taught, learners will find it difficult to make effective use of them.

--- Page 304 ---

Improvable objects allow learners to regain an important element of online study: time independence. Online learning is commonly assumed to allow students freedom to choose when they work.

--- Page 317 ---

Asynchronous dialogue can be far more detailed and complex than face-to-face talk, that to groups of learners offers affordances that are not available in face-to-face situations. [...] 

... prompting groups of learners to share knowledge, challenge ideas, justify opinions, evaluate evidence and consider options in a reasoned and equitable way. 

... increasing understanding of the skills and meaning-making tools that support the shared construction of knowledge.

Advice from a Teacher 

One of our Grade 5 teachers, Hugh Pollard, is a bit of an expert at this, he has kindly offered this advice:

"I have learned one or two things since the sites were established which is that the student interactions are miles better, if I come in early with a response/conversation extender for each child. After that, the thread develops mostly in a sensible and interesting way. If I even wait a day, then I've missed the chance to make the conversation deeper or more critical or more concept related, and the subsequent student comments can be a bit random. Also, you'll notice I try and push for a response back by asking questions, otherwise I'm unsure if they've even bothered to read me. 
There's one week when these things live and flourish and then they die off, naturally."

Ferguson, Rebecca (2009). The Construction of Shared Knowledge through Asynchronous Dialogue. PhD thesis, The Open University.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Technology, IT & ICT vs Digital Literacy

It's a constant frustration for me, the way the terms 'technology' 'IT' and "ICT' are all used interchangeably as if they all mean the same thing—they don't.

Why does it matter? That's what this post is all about.

This is IT - A focus on the function of the machine 

This is ICT - A focus on using the machine 

I'm a DLC, a 'Digital Literacy Coach', I'm not an IT (Information Technology) Teacher, I'm not even an ICT  (Information Communication Technology) teacher, but this post is not about what I do, I've written about that here. No, this post is about why distinguishing between these is essential if we are serious about integrating digital technologies effectively and meaningfully into educational contexts.

Let's just clear this up at the outset, here's the difference:

Information Technology (IT) is a focus on the machines, the hardware, and the code that enables these machines to be controlled effectively, this the computing, the Computer Science, the electronic engineering, the coding, without which nothing that we call ICT or Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) would be possible.* 

Information Communication Technology (ICT) is a focus on the use of these machines to communicate with each other, communicating with ordinary people who are not skilled in IT, people like you and me. ICT refers to technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications. It is similar to Information Technology (IT), but focuses primarily on the kinds of communication technologies powerfully exemplified by the SAMMS framework. Communications mediums that provide situated, unprecedented access to tools that are multimodal, mutable and socially networked.

Digital literacy—Where do you want to go today?
I find a car analogy helpful in explaining this:

IT is a focus on the machine, the automobile— designing them, making them, fixing them, maintaining them.

ICT is learning how to drive the car, the driving instructor is the ICT teacher, and while this is a part of the role of someone like me, a 'Digital Literacy Coach' that's not at the heart of it. Why? Because it's still focused on the act of driving the car as an end in and of itself, what DLCs and all educators should be more interested in is, great, now you can drive - where do you want to go? On a vacation? To work? To school, college? The possibilities are endless, and with all/most of them, the technology is merely a (transformative) means to an end.

IT: Automotive engineering
ICT: Driving instruction/education
Digital Literacy: ROAD TRIP!

Technology Terminology

It is clear from the literature that many terms abound within this arena of learning, from the ubiquitous but ambiguous ‘technology’ to ‘21st Century Learning’ – used in a way where the term is assumed to bring with it an ‘obvious’ digital context, ie, the use of computers.

The term ‘technology’ is a particularly broad and ill-defined one (Ohler, 1999). Currently it is most often used as shortening of the full term, ’digital technologies’ ‘computer technologies’ or ‘ICT’, although of course it can mean, in theory, any application of human knowledge to solve practical problems. My Apple dictionary defines it simply as,

“the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes.” 


The word technology itself derives from the word 'techno', meaning "art, craft, skill," later "technical, technology," from Latinized form of Greek tekhno-, combining form of tekhne "art, skill, craft in work; method, system, an art, a system or method of making or doing," (etymonline)

As such it includes not only mechanical artefacts, but also procedures and practices. Even when technology is interpreted as only mechanical objects, the range of objects is almost inexhaustible: from simple things such as an overhead projector, to a pencil, and consequentially, to more complex systems such as the computer and of course, the Internet.

Even when we further narrow our definition of 'technology' down to the computer, we are should still be thinking about these in terms of 'art, craft, skill, making, doing', even then the list of things teachers need to know and do, using these technologies is still a challenging one. So it transpires that the issue of technology as a barrier is not new. Far from it, clearly, teachers have wrestled with technologies since time out of mind, although the ‘wrestling’ was generally more of that involving the need to sharpen pencils, or replace the ink in a pen – a dichotomy Mishra and Koehler (2006) approach by separating them into two distinct, but obviously related categories; namely, ‘standard’ technologies, “such as books, chalk and blackboard”, and more ‘advanced’ technologies, “such as the Internet and digital video (p1027)”. So the problem then is more one of the rate of change than the actual use of technologies in teaching. As Mishra et al explain:

“… the rapid rate of evolution of these new digital technologies prevents them from becoming ‘transparent’ any time soon. Teachers will have to do more than simply learn to use currently available tools; they also will have to learn new techniques and skills as current technologies become obsolete (ibid, p 1023).”

A point endorsed by Cuban (2001) noting out that teachers’ definition of ‘technology’ is very selective, as since the 19th century, chalk and blackboard, pens, pencils, and textbooks have proven themselves over and over again to be reliable and useful classroom technologies.

“Teachers added other innovations such as the overhead projector, the ditto machine (later the copying machine), and film projector (later the VCR) because they too proved reliable and useful. But most teachers continue to see the computer as an add-on rather than as a technology integral to their classroom content and instruction. (p163; my emphasis).

But, and it's a big but. 

It is that ‘But’ that is at the heart of many barriers to integration.

‘Digital’ literacies and ‘multiliteracies’

The concept of digital literacies is fascinating both in its definition and its application. The term captures an arena of rapidly developing practices, as humans interact with technologies in new ways and for innovative purposes. The exponentially expanding ‘digital world’ of the latter part of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century are creating new opportunities for people to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. 

By exploring new interests, tinkering, and ‘messing around’ with these new kinds of media, we acquire various forms of technical and media literacy. Through trial and error, we add new media skills to our repertoire, (Ito et al, 2008). Within my own context, the term ‘Digital Literacy’ has been adopted as a replacement for what used to be referred to as ‘IT’. The assumption being that it fulfils the previous terms, and somehow implies something greater, more meaningful. The reality is all that has happened in most cases is the term has been misappropriated as meaning the same thing, which it does not. When Paul Gilster (1997) coined this term it is highly doubtful that he never intended for this term to be used in this way, what he was doing was introducing a term that very powerfully distinguished between the defining of a ‘thing’ to the more important business of using it. 

Move the conversation on from the mechanics and on into the potential of it to make meaning.

“The concept of literacy goes beyond simply being able to read; it has always meant the ability to read with meaning, and to understand. It is the fundamental act of cognition. Digital literacy likewise extends the boundaries of definition.” (p2)

Of course since then others have attempted their own definitions, “digital literacy means knowing how technology and media affect the ways in which we go about finding things out, communicating with one another, and gaining knowledge and understanding” (Hague and Williamson, 2009) or “Digital Literacies are an enabling skill allowing for a broader range of learning interactions, using a greater range of tools, which then offers the possibility of a wider range of traceable meanings to be made in society.” (Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme). 

What they invariably have in common is a shift in focus from the machines (IT) to their potential as tools for making meaning (Digital Literacy).


Literacy’ is a powerful concept to centre this focus. The widespread struggle among educators, parents, researchers and policy makers to conceptualise what it is (young) people “know” or need to know when using digital technologies, and by extension, the Internet, is usefully resolved by conceptualising this knowledge in terms of literacy. Unfortunately this also broadens the argument into a debate over the nature of literacy, which in turn leads us to a deeper question, which literacies are encompassed by this term? Livingstone (2008) alone includes print literacy, audiovisual and media literacies, information literacy, advertising literacy, cyberliteracy, games literacy, critical literacy, and many more. So it is that these ‘multiliteracies’ (Gillen & Barton, 2010) generally refer to the multitude of forms of literacy made possible by the phenomenal pace of IT development. 

Digital Literacies

The term "digital literacies" itself is relatively new within the field of literacy studies. Its definition remains open, but human judgment, or criticality, is assumed in most understandings of digital literacies and at the centre of the concept of ‘multiliteracies’.

Howard Rheingold (2012) has argued that we must actively cultivate skills such as mindfulness and “crap detection” that are central to these new realities of the digital and networked world, or more commonly referred to as ‘critical thinking’. In an online world awash with knowledge/opinion with the border often blurred between the two – critical thinking is essential, the ability to literally critique content, to extricate one from the other, knowledge/opinion, fact/fiction/feeling. 

What is clear is that these ‘digital’ literacies are in a deep and profound sense new literacies, not merely the traditional concept of literacy – reading and writing – carried on in new media. (Kress, 2010)

Accompanying the plurality of these digital literacies, we find a range of terms used by different researchers when extricating one from from another, including but not limited to; internet literacies, digital literacies, new media literacies, multiliteracies, information literacy, ICT literacies, and computer literacies. Coiro, et al (2008) notes that all these terms “are used to refer to phenomena we would see as falling broadly under a new literacies umbrella” (p10).

These literacies need a unifying context, such as the notion of the learner in the 21st Century and digital literacies: Rheingold describes digital literacies in terms of, 'civil engagement in the Digital Age', what he calls ‘21st century literacies’ (Rheingold 2009), as requiring “attention, participation, cooperation, critical consumption, and network awareness.” Rheingold and Ito et al (2008; 2013) see this kind of learning as situated within the participatory online culture of 21st Century.

We find ourselves with a powerfully unifying focus, so let's stop talking about technology and talk about literacy—whether that is linguistic, numeric, or digital, these are now the modes by which we learn everything else, it is, all of it, in the service of making and refining meaning.

* Interesting to note that as of September 2013, the term "ICT" in the UK National Curriculum, where it originated, has been replaced by the broader term "computing", I would imagine this is in order to mitigate the current confusion, and emphasise its computer science 'coding' credentials, as opposed to its capacity for communication. 

Top Trumps Maths - G4

4RWr have been studying Place Value in Maths lessons in recent weeks. To change the focus whilst still consolidating the work the teacher, in collaboration with the DLC, created a lesson involving the use of Top Trumps cards and spreadsheets.

Finding authentic ways to integrate the use of technology is an important focus within the college and using spreadsheets within a Maths lesson makes perfect sense.

[...] the use of spreadsheets would enable students to play a more active role in their own learning process and would encourage creativity and autonomy. Especially when working with underachieving students, the models can be adapted to fit their particular interests.
“K-12 Teachers' Use of a Spreadsheet for Mathematical Modeling and Problem Solving," Sharon Dugdale 1994

Rachel Wright, class teacher, sets the context of the lesson.
‘In Maths Grade 4 has been studying the place value system and looking at the position of digits in a number to determine its value. In the standard system, called base ten, each place represents ten times the value of the place to its right. We started to investigate what happens to numbers when we multiply them by 10, 100, 1000, 10, 000 and even 100, 000.’

The class began with a shared spreadsheet using Google Sheets where students were able to collaborate to create a collection of data. This data came from Top Trumps cards that were given to each student. Rachel gave consideration to which Top Trumps cards to use to ensure that the numbers were appropriate to the needs of the individual students. Each student chose one category on their card e.g. price, diameter, strength, weight and put it into a Google spreadsheet. This enabled the students to organise the data using the filters in the spreadsheet, which helped them to think about what questions to ask each other linked to Place Value. For example, which category is 26 x 1000? By organising the data it was easier to find and think of good questions to test their Maths partner.

The children then added columns and started started to investigate what happens to numbers when they were multiplied by 10, 100, 1000 and 10, 000.

Rachel is planning on asking the students to return to this spreadsheet during their upcoming unit on Multiplication and Division. “Next time we will go a step further with the Google spreadsheet and learn the formula to help multiply and also divide by 10, 100 etc rather than working to out in our heads. This way they can start working with really big numbers.”

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The 3rd Barrier of Tech Integration

There are barriers to effective integration, that's probably not a surprise.

The amount of barriers described varies, but probably the most useful summary that made was by Ertmer back in 1999, who helpfully simplified these kinds of barriers by categorising them into two types:

1st order barriers

External (first-order) barriers to technology integration are described as being extrinsic to teachers and include, “lack of access to computers and software, insufficient time to plan instruction, and inadequate technical and administrative support” (Ibid).

2nd order barriers

In contrast, internal, (second-order) barriers are intrinsic to teachers and teaching, and include, “beliefs about teaching, beliefs about computers, established classroom practices, and unwillingness to change” (Ibid.)

It is generally acknowledged that first-order barriers can be significant obstacles to achieving technology integration, yet the relative strength of second-order barriers may reduce or magnify their effects (Ertmer et al., 1999, Miller & Olson, 1994). Since different barriers are likely to appear at different points in the integration process, teachers will need effective strategies for dealing with both kinds of barriers – but perhaps most critically it is the barrier of belief that is most important. As Ertmer wrote subsequently (2005), “If educators are to achieve fundamental, or second- order changes in classroom teaching practices, we need to examine teachers themselves and the beliefs they hold about teaching, learning, and technology.”

Marcinkiewicz (1993) noted, “Full integration of computers into the educational system is a distant goal unless there is reconciliation between teachers and computers.” (p234). Cuban’s observation (1997) supports this: “It’s not a problem of resources, but a struggle over core values”.

So, here we are, in our 5th year of our iLearn, the TEL (technology enhanced learning) revolution that began at UWCSEA in 2010/11, and I'm wondering, how far have we come?

I'd say a long way, in fact I'd go so far as to say that the process has been kind of linear, it's been a process of working through the barriers:

First overcoming first-order challenges associated with learning how to use the actual hardware and software, distribution of devices, sharing, managing, distributing et cetera.

Then, the most significant challenge of building belief moving from, OK, now I know how to use it, but am I convinced that I really need to? And how often? Who with? Why?

I say 'kind of linear' because, clearly, achieving technology integration is a multifaceted challenge that entails more than simply acquiring and distributing computers. Although different types of barriers require different types of strategies to overcome (Ertmer, 1999) we should not try to eliminate one barrier before addressing another, like Scrimshaw (2004), any barrier can be addressed by more than one strategy, and some strategies are likely to effectively address more than one barrier.

But I'd say in our 5th year, we have largely overcome these two barriers, so, job done? No. You see there are critical, third order (and hopefully final) barriers.

Really? Yes.

3rd order barriers

Tsai & Chai (2012) describe a third type of barrier, a lack of problem solving capacity when using digital technologies, they describe these powerfully in terms of ‘design thinking’ where the ability to “re-organise or create learning materials and activities” and adapt these accordingly (ibid, p1058) is seen as necessary to overcome a ‘third-order’ barrier of a lack of ‘design thinking’.  

Design is my background, and I immediately see its relevance in this context. Any designer of any worth knows that the tools are merely a means to an end, they are tools for solving problems in unique ways. If you'll permit me to remix Wikipedia's definition of design thinking a little:

"Teachers who use digital tools seamlessly to accomplish goals and enhance learning environments, by using digital tools as a set of primitive components, to satisfy curricular requirements, subject to constraints. They have a strategic approach with digital tools that allow them (and their students) to achieve unique expectations. These tools frame their specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental, safety and economic constraints, in achieving learning objectives."

In other words, the affordances, the transformative qualities of digital tools become a natural aspect of their practice, losing their initial opacity, and becoming transparent/invisible as tools for meaning making, as transparent as the tools that preceded them, tools like pens, and paper, and protractors. 

Design thinking breakthrough

Teachers who have overcome the 3rd barrier effortlessly accommodate digital tools as and when needed, who use the elements that make these tools unique, elements I describe using the acronym 'SAMMS'. Elements like the situated nature of digital technology, the ability to leverage access to processing power and information, the mutability, and multi-modality of these tools, and the power of working with them within social networks, networks as small as that of the classroom, to that of a grade, a school, a region, or even the globe—the world wide web. All of this, as regularly and as seamlessly and as naturally as breathing.

In this context the creative repurposing of tools to transform learning is ubiquitous, viewed through the lens of frameworks like RAT and SAMR, replacement is rare, amplification is common, and transformation is so common, it is often taken for granted, that is when it is invisible, assumed, the new 'normal'.

Design thinking

'Design thinking' results in practitioners who regularly synthesise the current state of technological knowledge, incorporating new findings, and delineating new dilemmas. A high degree of technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) is foundational to this final stage—a profound understanding of how teaching and learning can change, when digital technologies are used effectively. This knowledge of the ‘pedagogical affordances and constraints’ of a range of technological tools as they relate to various disciplines with “developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies (ibid)”, is precisely what gives the 'designers of learning experiences' a capacity to succeed where others have failed.

Sandholtz et al (1997) foreshadowed this decades ago, when describing 'levels of integration', from entry to adoption, adaptation, to appropriation, where the teacher is fully confident in the use of computers and integrates the technology regularly into daily routines. But the highest level, the level where 'design thinking' is required is the level of invention, where teachers, "experiment with new ways of networking students and colleagues and use project-based instruction and interdisciplinary approaches." (p53).

We need to creating a culture of "design thinking" where teachers not only use technology but become creative at repurposing it to better cope with the unique requirements of their various curricular areas. This is the 'RAT challenge'—finding ways for teachers to regularly, naturally, habitually use digital technologies to create learning experiences that would be inconceivable with traditional technologies. 


Cuban L (1997). High-tech schools and low- tech teaching. Education Week on the Web. Online. Retrieved 10 February, 2004, from 

Ertmer P A (1999). Addressing first-and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development.

Ertmer P A (2005). Teacher Pedagogical Beliefs: The Final Frontier in Our Quest for Technology Integration? ETRandD, Vol. 53, No. 4, 2005, pp. 25–39 ISSN 1042–1629.

Koehler M J and Mishra P (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Marcinkiewicz H R (1993). Computers and teachers: Factors influencing computer use in the classroom. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26, 220–237.

Miller L & Olson J (1994). Putting the computer in its place: A study of teaching with technology. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 26(2), 121-141.

Sandholtz J, Ringstaff C, & Dwyer D (1997). Teaching with technology. Creating Student Centered Classrooms.

Scrimshaw P (2004). Enabling teachers to make successful use of ICT. Becta. Retrieved 6 March, 2006 from   

Tsai C & Chai C S (2012). The “third”-order barrier for technology integration instruction: Implications for teacher education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(6), 1057-1060.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Five Filters of Failure & a Scale of Scepticism

It's not the unrelenting torrent of information that I find troubling, after all, how many books are out there, never mind films and TV shows? How many articles, journals, newspapers, magazines? How many hard copies are holed up in folders, files, cabinets, archives and dusty basements all over the planet? Many I am sure, and yet no one ever complains about this sheer weight of data, I've never heard anyone complain,

"Dude, I just don't want read another book, there are just way too many out there, like, y'know? Like, if I read one a week for the rest of my life, I still wouldn't come even close, y'know?"

And yet, so often I hear this pointless observation made about the web, so yeah there's a lot of data, that's nothing new, the 'information revolution' proceeded the 'digital revolution' by at least a half a century—World Wide Web 1989, Libraries have been around for a lot longer... But even in 1945 library expansion was calculated to double in capacity every 16 years*, if sufficient space were made available... so there's been a lot of data for a long time; all we need to do is learn to deal with it. Literally.

So, the fire hydrant image below, while clever, I relate to more on the level of tech tool overload. Seriously, every gathering of tech types I ever attend is dominated by tech tool talk, new Web 2.0 tools, new gadgets, widgets, scripts, plugins, apps, features, software suite, usually accompanied by a lot of references to them being AWESOME.

Larry Cuban uses a list to help articulate this tension in his seminal publication 'Oversold and Underused' (2001) which reads as follows:
  • Is the machine or software program simple enough for me to learn quickly?
  • Is it versatile, that is, can it be used in more than one situation?
  • Will the program motivate my students?
  • Does the program contain skills that are connected to what I am expected to teach?
  • Are the machine and software reliable?
  • If the system breaks down, is there someone else who will fix it?
  • Will the amount of time I have to invest in learning to use the system yield a comparable return in student learning? (p170)

Cuban L (2001). Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled up on the most magnificent scepticism dial, or what I prefer to call... the Scale of Scepticism.

In order for me to assimilate a new digital tool to the point of actually recommending it to teachers to use with students, it has to have passed through my own series of stages, along the lines of:

Stage 1 – utter scepticism (yeah, whatever)
Stage 2 – cool reticence (arms folded)
Stage 3 – emerging realisation that, actually, this might be worth a closer look (sitting up)
Stage 4 – mild interest, even emerging (muted) enthusiasm (leaning forward)
Stage 5 – semi-excitement (standing up)
Stage 6 – fervoured, obsessive exploration (squeezing through to the front)
Stage 7 – passionate commitment and desire to talk to everyone about it, to the marked irritation of, well, everyone (evangelistic zeal)

The only problem is I needed something more succinct, more ... manageable, I could feel the threads of my sanity slipping, and I needed something simpler to accompany my next foray into techdom.

And thus emerged ... 5 Filters of Failure, now these were mainly conceived in the context of iOS devices, due to their increasing presence in my school, these have somewhat preoccupied my mind of late, but I do believe these 5 filters can be applied more generally:
  1. Do this require me to do the same thing more than 5 times? Like tedious account creation for each student? Do kids have to sign in/create an account to use it?
  2. Is it transformational? Yeah, it's cool, but does it radically change what I can do? Is it too similar to something I already use?
  3. Does it have pedigree? Reputation. How long has it been around? Is it tried and tested? Is it likely to be here in 4 weeks? 4 months? 4 years?
  4. Is it well designed, simple to use? Can kids use this independently? Can Teachers work it out on their own? Is it intuitive?
  5. Can the content be exported/shared easily? Can the App save to camera roll? Export to a universal format? Does it require web access to function, so if WiFi is sketchy the activity fails?

Dealing with the Deluge
This set of filters is essential in the management a phenomenal proliferation of digital tools. On, literally, a daily basis, more tools with funky and not so funky names emerge into a market place already filled to overflowing with a veritable cornucopia of competitors. If you're fortunate, your school hopefully already has a dedicated tech integrator to stand between the teacher and the tsunami wave of digital applications, utilities and all sorts of 'Apps' boasting their pixelated promises to 'save you time' etc.

And if you don't? Then by all means ignore these 'wonders of the web' until you do. Yes, sometimes lurking in the sludge of similarity (and revolutionary? not really...) is the odd golden nugget of greatness, but it's not going to terribly affect your teaching to miss out on those. If that is not an option for you, then arm yourself with these filters and, like the prospector who wades through the mediocre, seeking to route out all except the most worthy, you can then bring the odd truly terrific tool triumphantly back to your team. Not that they will be as excited about as you will be. Yet.

Now it doesn't have to fail all 5 filters to fail, but the more filters it fails, the less interest I have in taking it seriously, I can honestly say that all of the tools I rely on currently all pass at least 4 of the 5 filters. Will these filters change? Absolutely, I'm constantly reconsidering/tweaking/adjusting them—like the cornucopia of competing tools they are designed to filter they need to be flexible; after all there were four filters of failure only a year ago.

  1. Setup requirements
  2. Similarity
  3. Reputation/pedigree
  4. Simplicity
  5. Ease of Export 

These are my filters
There may be many like them, but these are mine.
The question is... What are yours?

 *Rider (1944). The Scholar and the Future of the Research Library. New York City: Hadham Press.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Keeping Pace with Technological Change - Futile, or Fundamental?

For many teachers that I encounter in the day-to-day of teaching digital technology/tool integration, the answer to this question, is something like—


Why? Because they hear of, or read things like this:
"Technological Knowledge (TK) Technological knowledge is always in a state of flux—more so than content and pedagogical knowledge. This makes defining and acquiring it notoriously difficult. Keeping up to date with technological developments can easily be-come overwhelming to time-starved teachers. This also means that any definition of technology knowledge is in danger of becoming outdated by the time this text has been published." (p 398)

Judith Harris, Punya Mishra, and Matthew Koehler (2009). Teachers' Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Learning  Activity Types: Curriculum-based Technology  Integration Reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 393 Copyright © 2009, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)


"...the rapid rate of technological change ensures any knowledge gained about specific technologies or software programs would quite quickly become out of date" (p 151).

Mishra P, Koehler M J and Kereluik K (2009). ‘The song remains the same: looking back to the future of educational technology’, TechTrends, Vol. 53, No. 5, pp.48−53.

These kinds of quotes highlight an issue that has been bugging me for a while, the gist of it goes... "What? Learn ICT skills? What's the point? It all changes so fast, by the time we learn how to use one application it will be obsolete. So, why bother? which usually translates as ... "Let the kids do it, but ME? Me, I'm sticking with tools that I know from the 19th Century."

If theres's one thing I've learned about digital tools/technologies since I first started using them in earnest in the late 1980s, it's this:

... in truth, it's the beginning of nothing.
And nothing has changed
Everything has changed.
David Bowie - Sunday
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

So digital technologies develop at a pace of change that is impossible to manage/keep up with?

Really? How?

How much has the way we USE digital technology really changed though? Speed, capacity, availability, yes, but use, not so much... Anyway, the same could be said of planes, trains, automobiles - more capacity, greater speed, more availability than ever. Changing capacity is not the same as changing capability.

If we reflect back to the ‘dawn’ of TEL in school in the 1990s, there were five overarching domains of computer use:

Text | Image | Audio | Video | Data
Text, image, audio, video, data. A sixth, ‘control’ was a core element of the ‘IT curriculum’ back then, but proved more difficult to integrate successfully. Ironically, two decades later, based on the recent alarmist rhetoric around a dearth of ‘coding skills’ it would seem control is back, albeit with a slight name change.

So, back in the 1990s when I first started teaching with computers there were 5 domains* of computer use, and here we are 2 decades later, and what do we find? The domains remain the same, the skills have evolved, but not much, and the conventions and tools? Identical, to the point of being nonsensical to this generation... A floppy disc icon to save? Really? An hour glass for wait time in Windows?

The truth is change in Tech happens more slowly than you might think, sure there are people out there attempting to, for example, rethink the design of the ubiquitous save icon, but these conventions have over two decades of embedded use, people like you, people like me, and even the generations who never used floppy disks know what the save icon means, despite its incongruity—so to say change is relentless, in this context, is nothing but  misleading. 

CDs and DVDs are now almost obsolete, arguably with the recent advances in voice recognition, keyboarding could be next, but they're not dead yet, they are still hanging on... When digital tools change, they change gradually, incrementally, and obsolescence, while inevitable, happens sloooowwwllly.

Even 'professional' applications like PhotoShop evolve very gradually, with key conventions remaining virtually identical:

Nevermind the day to day icons we use for navigation...

Granted, computers are getting smaller, while their capacities grow larger, along with their processor speeds, drives are smaller [physical size], yet bigger [capacity] and faster than they've ever been, but all these changes do is make what we've always done EASIER, not OBSOLETE.

Big Difference

Change in terms of ICT skills are far from relentless, in fact, if anything, they are relentlessly, frustratingly, languorous... The domains are the same, and the core skills are virtually unchanged after 2 decades of relentless computer use, design and development.  Think about it for a minute—mouse skills? Keyboarding? Even overarching conventions like drag and drop, desktops, drop down menus, clicking on icons to give commands... Here's some skills from a document that was used by a school I worked at in the year 2000, see anything that is obsolete? Not much.

'IT Works' (Folens, 2000) 

And that's about the only out dated reference I found in the entire scope and sequence, other than a reference to CDs and Laserdiscs, that was about it...  So are the core ICT skills that are a prerequisite for success in the 21st Century changing too quickly to bother to learn, or teach? No. But there HAS been change, oh yes,  I'd argue the biggest change is:

Ease of Use

It's never been easier to use ICTs, or to learn them. Time was, to edit video, you'd need a specialised machine, dedicated hardware and software, designed for professionals, with a learner curve steeper than Mount Everest. With advances in internet speed and connectivity from dial up to BroadBand,  a lot more can be done online than before. But they are the same things! Thumb sticks have replaced floppy discs, but they are still 'drives' that are inserted, read and written, and ejected, and ... lost.

Not. Any. More.

With the advent of 'Web 2.0' all four of the five domains can now be practised right in a web browser, no software installation needed, and they are (by and large) free. Video is a little tougher to edit 'in the cloud' but it's coming, YouTube already provide basic editing tools, and services like are pushing back the boundaries of web based idea editing every day.

Instructions vs Conventions

The problem here is is not with the tools, it is with the teaching—teachers who focus more on instructions, or specific software, than overarching conventions and procedures. Don't teach kids how to use 'Word' teach them how to word process. Don't teach them how to use 'Safari' teach them how to browse. Again this is nothing new, we wouldn't think of teaching 'Harry Potter' as teaching 'reading' we might use a text like Harry Potter to observe overarching conventions and concepts—it's the same for ICTs.

Classic icon conventions—any change here is purely aesthetic.

Focus on conventions not instructions 

Catch up vs change

The fact is that many, maybe even most teachers pretty much ignored the tech revolution that gradually unfolded since the 90's, it hasn't actually changed much in those intervening couple of decades, but the fact remains that 20 years of cumulated skill is a lot of catching up to do. THAT is the problem, not the rate of change, the considerable amount of catch up required. Catch up and change are not the same thing.

So let's stop whining about the futility of learning ICT skills and get on with it, they've stuck around since their inception, I dare say they'll be around for a little longer. The question is not WHY learn ICT skills but HOW? A subject I have written about here.

Mode vs Medium

I am not saying that digital tools do not present a unique challenge, when compared to their traditional counterparts, say... a pencil or pen and paper etc. Regardless of change, the sheer AMOUNT of digital tools is overwhelming, and increasing at exponential rates every day, to an extent that completely and utterly dwarfs the range of options and tools that would have been available to a teacher even 10 years ago. But, and this is worth repeating, I would still contend that regardless of their proliferation, the vast majority of the 'revolutionary' tools on offer stay well within the comfort zone of the 5 domains I have outlined above (6 if you include control/coding). Sure they might dress the context up a little more effectively, or introduce a clever mechanic, say ... touching instead of clicking, but the fact remains that while the mode may have changed, the medium has not. The same transferable conventions, the same iconography, the same procedures remain, regardless of the form factor of the device, the speed of the processor, the storage capacity, or indeed the sheer availability of these machines in recent years.

Dealing with the Deluge

So, the time invested in mastering or at least embracing core ICT skills and conventions are as relevant as ever in the face of this onslaught of pixelated promises. What is also important is to have an effective filter to manage the phenomenal proliferation of digital tools—on, literally, a daily basis, more tools with funky and not so funky names emerge into a market place already filled to overflowing with a veritable cornucopia of competitors. If you're fortunate, your school hopefully already has a dedicated tech integrator to stand between the teacher and the tsunami wave of digital applications, utilities and all sorts of 'Apps' boasting their pixelated promises to 'save you time' etc.

And if you don't? Then by all means ignore these 'wonders of the web' until you do. Yes, sometimes lurking in the sludge of similarity (and revolutionary? not really...) is the odd golden nugget of greatness, but it's not going to terribly affect your teaching to miss out on those. If that is not an option for you, then arm yourself with some effective filters and, like the prospector who wades through the mediocre, seeking to route out all except the most worthy, you can then bring the odd truly terrific tool triumphantly back to your team. Not that they will be as excited about as you will be. Yet.

* If anything at least one domain that has been and gone is back and currently experiencing a renaissance - computer coding, anyone?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Easily Rename/resize Loads of Files

As we are increasingly relying on Google Drive storage for storing our files, we are also increasingly reliant on search rather than digging through folders to find our files.

For search to work, you need smarter file names, unfortunately, most of the time, especially with images, we get a load of files called something really unhelpful like IMG456789.jpg not exactly the most searchable of names.

With a geeky Application on your Mac called Automator you can set up a workflow to rename a load of files with a few clicks, and if you really dig it, you can even use a similar process to use Automator to set up other workflows, like I have another one for scaling images to a set size.

Don't be put off by its geekiness, you set this up once and use it forever!

Here's a short video tutorial I made to show how this works:

Here is the set up as written instructions, so hopefully I have all the 'learning styles' covered.

  1. Open Automator and create a new workflow file (press Command-N or choose New from the File menu). Then choose Service from the window of available workflow types (this option will look like a gear).
  2. Adjust Service inputs - so be sure to choose "files or folders" from the first drop-down menu at the top of the workflow, and then choose Finder from the second menu. 
  3. Drag the Rename Finder Items option from the action library (to the left of the window, under the Files & Folders category) to the workflow window. When you do this, Automator will issue a warning that this action will alter existing files, and provide you with an option to add an action to first copy the files instead of altering them. At this point click Don't Add.
  4. I would tweak it here and choose 'Make Sequential' from the drop down menu.
  5. Under options click 'Show his action when the workflow runs" so you have the choice to decide what and how you wish to rename the files.
  6. Save - name it something like 'Rename Files'
  7. Now whenever you go to the Finder, you can select a group of files or folders, and then right-click them and select your workflow from the Services submenu of the contextual menu.

Batch Resize Images

The same technique works for images, just use the 'Photos > Scale Images' workflow:

Click to enlarge
Or you can Google and install the R-Name App.

Yosemite Update

The good folks at Apple have heard my cry, and added this feature automatically with an right/side click - about time!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Stop Motion - G5 EXPO

Stop Motion - G5 EXPO

Inspired by various TEDtalks, a group of students in Grade 5 wanted to create their own animated talk to share their thoughts with 'G5 Expo of Learning' visitors.

They planned out their talk and decided on the visuals they would need before starting the project. Some students chose to draw on whiteboards while others used LEGO to tell their story.
We discussed the importance of finding a suitable space to work in, paying attention to lighting and shadows as well as comfort and safety. Using the area outside Margaret Chhoa’s classroom allowed all the students to fit in and work without disturbing each other. We began by setting up the Justands over the work area and got all of the equipment within arms reach.
We explored how the iMotion HD app worked and decided whether to use the manual or time-lapse capture option. Another interesting option is to use the microphone to listen for a clap or a sound from the user to take a picture. This, along with the time-lapse option, takes away the opportunity for movement of the iPad or for it to lose focus on the image below.

When the stop motion movies were complete the children exported them from the iPad via email. Once back on their laptops they imported the stop motion into iMovie to add finishing touches; an introduction slide, a voiceover and an end slide. The voiceovers really gave another dimension to the movie and they required the children to think carefully about how what they were saying supported the visuals on screen.

Many visitors to the G5 Expo of Learning were impressed by these videos and the children who produced them were proud of their work. From a teacher's point of view the children used a variety of skills and developed new ones through this project.

Enjoy the finished movies.