Sunday, January 21, 2007

Second Life for the First Time

I have finally succombed. I have started to explore Second Life. The Women of Web 2.0 offered a tour, which for me was a great way to start. I'm still just getting the hang of walking around, but I don't mind being seen as gauche. I can hide behind the anonymity of my avatar.

Our guide skyped the participants so we had the advantage of voice interaction as well as the Second Life interface. I was impressed by the Space Museum. There is certainly a lot to explore there, with many links to Internet sites to elaborate on what you are seeing. I would not be ready to take students there as, when I looked at the list of most popular places (even when I did not click "include places in Mature regions" I found arms testing and gambling. Not my speed. On a further visit (while listening to a webcast done by Steve Hargadon of EdTech Live (who is an excellent interviewer) with Sarah Robbins, I learned about more educational areas in Second Life. I can now teleport directly to the library and other educational venues. More exploring to be done. The interview is worth hearing. Sarah talks about how she tries to create an environment for her students that is different from what there would be in a face-to-face class. Otherwise there is no point to using the virtual space. She commented that some students were more comfortable, especially initially, with the virtual space. More students contributed to the discussion. Her class met face-to-face once a week and in Second Life once a week.

I know there is a lot to be said about virtual environments. I would like to see a safer virtual environment if students are going to use it. From what I understand there is a youth only section, but that bars adults. We need to have a safe place where teachers and students can interact. I know that students would find this very engaging. I'll reserve judgement until I have explored more.

Going with the Flow

I am finally taking more time to read some blogs despite the fact that many work deadlines are looming. Today Bud Hunt quoted a comment by Bruce Schauble. I'll quote it here:
"....the best classes, for me, always seem to be the ones that go sailing off in some direction I hadn't anticipated. I used to worry about having to pull the kids "back on track." In recent years I'm more interested in trying to explore with them where the new track is leading. Truth to tell, a great deal of my lesson "planning" is actually done after the fact, trying as you say, to figure out, given today's surprises, what would be a good thing to do next.

And all of that connects to the objection that I think we both share to curriculum design driven by standardized testing. There's no room there for side tracks, we've got to get to page 48 by Thursday.

The artfulness of teaching is about knowing when and how to respond on the fly to things you hadn't anticipated. And if you don't provide room for those things to happen, if you don't give the students room to make them happen, education devolves into something mechanical and soul-deadening."

This is the way I have always tred to teach - to leave room for side trips and sometimes that side-trip is better than the planned trip. I am involved in developing an online course. That is a concern for me - how to build in room for side trips. I would hate to be "teacher-proofing" the experience and thus soul-deadening the students. This was a good reminder.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

You Tube and the Arts

I have been exploring youtube after reading an article from The New York Times about youtube and culture and started exploring for myself. I came across and astonishing number of videos of interest to me in a short search. In dance I was able to watch short clips of Nureyev, Alvin Ailey's company and others. I watched short clips of Glen Gould playing Bach and talking about Bach. These could be very interesting to show in arts classes. Here's an example.

It is easy to include the video in a blog, so you don't have to send students to youtube.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

The latest blog meme going around is "five things people don't know about you" . I've been tagged. When you get "tagged" you are supposed to write 5 things about yourself that others may not know about.

So for Pam Shoemaker who tagged me.

1) I taught dance many years ago.

2) I love orchids. I buy them when they are cheap and marvel at the way they reflower under my benign neglect.

3) I'm a mac-aholic. I work to support my habit. My first computer was a Franklin Ace (an Apple II compatible).

4) I'm intrigued by the far north and want to go there some time. I would love to see the Northern Lights in a variety of colours.

5) I have a turtle collection. My many years of working with children and Logo in its many incarnations is what started the collection. Once children know you have 2 turtles, they are eager to add.
I've always loved Ogden Nash's poem. My explorations with children using the turtle were certainly fertile.
The Turtle
by Ogden Nash

The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
Tag - you're it! Jill Hammond Janice Stearns Lucy Gray Steve Hargadon Ian Jukes

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Resolution

I guess it's that time of year when thoughts of self-reform surface. I took a hiatus from blogging as other aspects of my life became more time-consuming. And I still work to find a balance. While I think blogging is important, I also need to keep time for music, exercise and people in the real world. But I know I need to take the time to think - so 2007 resolution is to take more time to reflect.

I listened to a podcast interview done by Steve Hargadon with Will Richardson and while it didn't say anything new, it did remind me how important it is to take the time for reading and writing. I do recommend listening to the interview.

I also read some of the responses.
Steve commented on others who talked about star bloggers
Certainly, for someone like me who does not have a "large" readership,
most of the motivation for blogging is the ability to think and learn
and network. Is it different than posting to a list? For me, yes,
because my blog becomes a personal repository of my journey. In the
same way that a young person likes to bring a friend over to see their
room, the posters they have on their wall, and the music they listen
to (ergo, the appeal of MySpace, I believe), my blog is a way for
someone to come and see what I am thinking about and working on, in a
way that used to be reserved only for those who were prominent enough
to be published by traditional media.
I liked this for several reasons. I give workshops to teachers about blogs and am often asked "Why blogs? - why not just a listserve or forum as a place for a conversation? I think Steve pointed out one important reason - a personal space, a place to watch your thinking develop, a place to invite others in to view your thoughts and musings. A part of me likes to think of it as a private space, that others may see, but if they don't, that's fine. It's a place for a conversation with myself as much as a place for a conversation with others.

So - to avoid being thought of as odd - and talking to myself in the street, I hope this year to talk to myself virtually, try to make sense of where my thinking seems to be going and if others drop in, that's OK. If not, that's OK too.

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