I just returned from the ASTE 2013 Conference in Anchorage and thought I might share a few things that I took away. First, one of the keynote speakers, Cara Heitz showcased her k12 classroom that was based on using blogs and wikis. She stressed that teachers today need to design their own professional development to fit their needs. I believe that she is right. We have to actively stress to stay relevant and find the tools that help us to be more efficient and effective learners and teachers.
Steven Moss gave us some great lessons learned from research. One thing that he stressed was that there is NO research to support the claim that our “digital native” students, brought up with technology, learn differently from older people. NONE. He says that the brains of this ‘net’ generation have not suddenly developed new neurological pathways, or morphed. They are not innately better at technology or multi-tasking! They may have better attitudes and enjoy change more than older people/students, but don’t believe the hype that their brains are remapping to better use technology. He also gave us these three pearls:
- Information-understanding-knowledge are not synonymous. We must figure out ways to have our students use the information and turn it into knowledge
- There is NO proven relationship between increased time on task and learning – in other words, don’t mistake engagement with learning.
- The Everest Fallacy – don’t just use technology “because it’s there”
While we’re on the subject of technologies that are “there” – I learned about some pretty cool apps and programs that I am not currently using, but may try. Something I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t really incorporate something into your personal learning environment without trying it out, without giving it a trial period before you accept or reject it. And, rarely do I add more than one thing at a time. Well, here are some interesting places that you might enjoy checking out:
Curation tools like: Learnist, Pinterest, Storify, and ScoopIt! can really be fun to put together resources, annotations, tell a story, collect bookmarks. Like twitter or facebook, these are social in nature – people can link to your collections, comment, can follow you or you follow them, etc. Some of these can easily be embedded into your Blackboard class too. Might be excellent tools to have students explore and create projects with. Check them out and give them a try and please let us know what you think by commenting or sharing a link to something that you create.
Mindmeister has been around for awhile and is a great mindmapping tool to aggregate information and links. Now there is a new fun tool called Pearltrees which does a very similar job of mapping, but with images – very visual. Might be great for many learners.
More cool stuff for classrooms was found in the session on cartooning. If you enjoy cartoons or comics, there are some amazing free software that allows you to morph characters, move arms, legs, change clothing, hair styles, etc. and create some pretty interesting and professional looking cartoons. Some even allow you to upload your own photos and images as backgrounds or characters. Pretty cool stuff! check out these in particular: Pixton, ComicLife.
And, iPad users – if you were wondering if you could do Photoshop quality stuff on an iPad with your finger or with a stylus – the answer is overwhelmingly YES!!! And, though I’m no artist, it is really fun. You’ll need to download free or almost free apps. Here are a few that I played with and I’m hooked! SketchBook (Express works for free, but you’ll want the pro, it’s THAT good!), Snapseed, and John Schauer recommended that we all purchase iPhoto for the iPad. It is different from the program that comes with your iPad.
Lastly, hats off to our colleagues (Lee, Virgil and Chip) in Juneau who showcased their MOOC. You might want to go and explore. They are doing some really interesting and exciting things with this online course. You can check it out at http://www.diffimooc.com/.
Links to many of the UAF presentations can be found at ASTE Sig Disrupting the Institution.
Again, we’d love to hear from you if you are using any of these programs in your personal world or teaching environment.