Technology in Education

April 07, 2006

Final Post Reflections: EDIT 535

Once you have the Blog URL and group members added send Dwayne a brief email with your Blog topic and URL and your members list. Your final Blog posting must sum up the impact, benefit ( or lack of benefit) blogging has in your discipline and area of specialty You must include a link to your Blog your Portfolio and reflect on how this communication tool effects your discipline and area and area of specialty.

NOTE: This reflection takes quotes from Schiano, D.J. Nardi, B.A. Gumbrecht, M. & Swartz, L. "Blogging by the Rest of Us." CHI 2004 Late Breaking Results Paper. (Vienna: 2004) p.1143-1146.

Well, this was my first blogging experience, and I found that it can be a very effective way to express oneself to the world. Cyberspace is best characterized by a wall of anonymity that always shields the true identities of its users from everyone else. This anonymous identity that people assume while using the Internet often allows them to become more frank and forward with their evaluations of the world and the events that change it. However, this feature can be counterproductive as the Internet (and by extension: blogs) is a medium that seems to routinely produce incidents of immature name-calling and bickering, as opposed to constructive and meaningful debate. Just look at how some blog entries had a tremendous impact on January’s federal election. Despite this unfortunate effect, many people out there can still observe proper Netiquette procedures, and continue to be frank, open, and even brutally honest without allowing themselves to degenerate into bitter personal attacks on other people. For my own blogging experience, I found that I brought two different approaches when participating in these new online “journals.” I used a political-themed blog on one hand to demonstrate just how blogs can be used not only for a multitude of voices to be heard far and wide, but also how new ideas can be spread around the globe, and how they can be used to allow democracy to flourish in the modern age. In that particular context, I found that my personal convictions can sometimes stretch Netiquette rules when I make my arguments. However, because I did not have the benefit of full cyber-anonymity, (in order for the instructor to be able to determine my identity for marking purposes) I know that I must be careful and think about what I say, because it can always come back to haunt people sometimes. Despite all of that, I was still able to speak as openly as possible about those topics that interest me, and I do realize that blatant rudeness adds nothing to the collective academic consciousness. Therefore, I have found that blogs can be sort of a double-edged sword, on one hand they allow for the frank and open exchange of one’s ideas, beliefs, and values in a public forum, but on the other hand it also holds the potential to quickly disintegrate into chaos, where people don’t use logic or reason to express their views, but rather emotion and spite.

I also created a second Technology in Education blog to emphasize another important use for this novel Internet tool. Not only can blogs just be used to store personal musings or record-keeping, but they can encourage discussion and debate, and also be used to objectively spread knowledge and understanding as well. The Technology in Education blog allowed me to present ideas and information objectively, and by being able to convey that useful and important information to professional colleagues, it was done without letting personal feelings or biases cloud the message that I was conveying. Hence, I approached the two different blogs almost as two completely different people; one blog brings out my fierce and deeply held beliefs that are moulded to my personality and unlikely to change very easily. That Socio-political blog was almost like a podium rather than a conference room, and I find it unlikely that the use of that blog would allow me to remain objective towards someone else’s point of view (or for that matter, allow anyone else to objectively evaluate my point of view). On the other hand, the Technology in Education blog was designed to distance itself from personal opinions and reactions, instead it was able to present information and resources to others in a way that encourages people to keep an open mind about what they are reading. In the end, the two blogs brought forth two very different experiences, and really emphasized the versatility that blogs can have for educators. Blogging has plenty of potential for teaching and learning, in part because it presents a unique and easy way to present information, musings, and records to the world over the Internet, also because it provides an effective way for one to chronicle the impact that they personally have on the world around them. Through the encouragement that blogs are equally capable of disseminating both fact and opinion, teachers can use blogs to transmit not only your basic low-taxonomy knowledge, but they can also use the blogging process to instill the ability for students to get exposed to those higher-level analysis and evaluations of that knowledge by looking at how it affects them personally in the world around them.

Teachers of the Humanities and Social Sciences can easily make use of these growing and popular blogs, and integrate them into their professional work. Studies have reported that blogging is not just “interactive,” but that it is also “apparent that the vast majority of blogs are written by ordinary people with much smaller audiences in mind.” [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004; 1143] There are personal blogs, topical blogs, individual-centred blogs, and community-oriented blogs. Another major phenomenon that was reported about blogging is that it also seems to be replacing the old “dear diary” form of personal-written journals, as “many blogs seem to function in the age-old tradition of diaries and personal record keeping. While the blogger is aware that his or her journal is on the Internet, the primary audience seems to be oneself, and perhaps a very few occasional readers.” [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004; 1145] This shows that blogs are becoming significant through developing personal meaning to some people, as well as allowing public involvement. Blogs could very well become like E-mail accounts, where everyone seems to have one that provides their own little place on the Web to store their pictures, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and as some bloggers put it, a place to store a “verification” of one’s life. [Schiano, Nardi, Gumbrecht, and Swartz; 2004] As such, blogs are likely to become much more prevalent as time goes on, and if teachers can stay ahead of the curve, they can easily access another piece of simple, yet effective technology to make use of in the classroom, and enhance their professional development. Blogs are still a relatively new phenomenon, and we’re not sure yet just how far they are going to extend into our lives, but they have the potential to become very significant, and not just for teachers, but for everyone.

April 04, 2006

Links for Technology Integration with the Social Studies!!!

Once again, I have found some more useful links for Social Studies teaching. I will try to get more Science and Math related content over the next little while so this blog can help more than just Humanities teachers, although that is my specialty...

http://www.civilization.ca - Official website for the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum. It contains a lot of articles, interactive games, etc. The most interesting part is that it has exhibits and features that cover all kinds of topics, even some more of the unusual ones that you don't necessarily cover in school.

http://www.hfmgv.org/education/smartfun/colonial/intro/intro.html - A neat little site that looks at the lives of a typical family from history, offers great perspective that a textbook cannot match.

http://www.desertusa.com/qtvr/du_qtvr.html - A great site for teaching geography units, it features panoramic views of desert topography around America.

http://www.thecoo.edu/~apeter/sostinternet_scavenhunt.htm - A web-based assignment/activity that links to a lot of other useful websites out there. This will keep the kids busy, informed, and it will allow them to become familiar with some of the great web resources available to them in their studies.

http://www.boondocksnet.com/gallery/political_cartoons.html - An excellent archive of political cartoons from history that can be used for those analysis-type questions on unit tests. It is always very important to develop political-cartoon-literacy in your students.

http://canada.gc.ca/acanada/acPubLevel3.jsp?font=0&lang=eng&categoryId=85 - Well, our taxes have to go to something useful. Here is a web-based resource just for high school students straight from the Government of Canada itself. It includes information and quizzes for practice. Definitely worth checking out!

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ - A collection of links to online maps out there, excellent for interactive geography lessons. Why just pull down those boring old wall maps when you can show students an active detailed map that changes (location, theme, emphasis) with just a click of the mouse? Time to get with the times, eh?

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/mapping/mappingcanada/default.html - Interactive historical maps of Canada. A must-have for any Canadian history teacher.

http://www.cangeo.ca/mapping/default.asp - Canadian Geographic's section on how to interpret/understand maps. Even includes a program that allows students to create their own maps. Budding cartographers take notice!

Once again, don't hesitate to make use of these resources, the world of Social Studies scholarship has gotten much bigger and better with the advent of the Internet. I'll start looking towards putting up more Science and Math related sites now, because this blog is getting a little too uneven. If there are any Math/Science teachers out there who are proficient at including technology into their routines and are aware of great Web resources, please contact me! Either I can help to put it up, or better yet you are welcome to join me on this blog and offer the Science perspective to my Humanities one! Until next time folks...