Friday, 28 October 2016

Podcasts - More fun than Nickelback

My husband thinks I am a bit loony for running while listening to podcasts.

"How is that fun?" he asks, while searching the radio for a Nickelback clip.

Nickelback. I kid you not.

Podcasts are interesting because you can pick your topic and listen to one or a series, with all the imagination you require to read a book. Except your hands are free to type, wash dishes, run, or change the radio station.

Podcasts are demonstrations of excellent writing and careful word and style choice -- no one is going to listen if you ramble on and on. Speaking of which ...

Here is a link to a post about educational podcasts -- 21 of them. I have used several of these (Ted, RadioLab, The Podcast History of Our World, Stuff You Should Know, History of the World in 100 Objects) and am excited to try some new ones.

Care to make your own podcast? Here's a starter kit >>

Good luck.

Editing 101 - eResources for Awesomeness

I had a teacher in university whose favourite phrase was, "Look it up."

Me: How do you spell "discombobulate"?
Teacher: Look it up.

Me: Is there such thing as editing certification?
Teacher: Look it up.

Me: If my Word processor misplaces my page break one more time, I am going to lose my marbles. How do I fix it?
Teacher: Look it up.

Infuriating and unhelpful as it seems in the moment, it is the best advice on earth. We learn by doing and having someone hand you the answer is a one-way ticket to always needing someone to hand you the answer.

This is why built-in grammar and spell checkers are kind of silly -- well it is one reason. Another reason is this:

Spell cheque is a waist of thyme.

Just sayin'.

Anyway, for total awesomeness in documents and publications, check out my favourite places to look up grammar, spelling, and citation rules. I love the quick, searchable indexes and the no-nonsense plain language.

Purdue Owl >> Citations, language use, parts of speech, writing tips you name it. A one-stop shop for topical direction, complete with examples.

Grammar Girl >> Grammar, spelling, word choice / use, and general rules of verbal fluency. She can be a bit wordy, but I appreciate the explanations and examples so I can be sure the knowledge will stick.

Canadian Press >> Favour or favor? Travelling or traveling? Cell phone or cellphone? If may not seems to matter, except it does for consistency, to meet institutional or professional guidelines, and for general correctness. Canadian Press style books are fantastic, but you have to pay for them. A subscription (your best bet because updates are in real time and language is changing all the time) is about $4/month.

If you want a reliable, unequivocal resource for Canadian citation, spelling, and grammar another option is a good ole' fashioned book -- dictionary, thesaurus, style guide, grammar guide. They can all help keep your writing and research in order. Need some suggestions?

Look it up.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

PD MOOCs -- Improve Yourself for Free

While looking for some interesting ways to learn more in an open learning environment, I came across this list of MOOCs for educators. Some of them are course-specific, but others are general ways to improve our talents and work on skills like garnering feedback and leveraging student thinking and "mistakes." Check them out >>

Web 2.0 on the Move

There is absolutely no doubt Web 2.0 transformed the educational system forever. Opening up the possibility for open, online communication and collaborative work means idea sharing, technique borrowing, and mind expanding that transcends geography, history, and culture. And beyond the technicality of the transformation, while we are gathering online to share and mingle, the bits of our cultures we leave behind are adding to the educational processes in different places and circumstances, and expanding globalization to the formation of educational material and principles.

Web-based working and learning tools are plenty, but here is a Top 5 list of my favourite Web 2.0 tools that make learning fun and creative. There are thousands of tools out there, but these are special because they support different styles and inclinations in learning. Mostly, I love these for their convenience and creativity, but in the larger picture I am thrilled by the way they bring people together for the express purpose of more interesting and engaged learning.

Google: Tried, tested and true, there is no better way to collaborate on a working project than the Google suite of tools that includes Docs, Sheets, and Presentations. These programs have assisted my work flow with remote colleagues by allowing us to plan projects, share ideas, implement emergency plans, and stay on top of budgets. The functionality is similar to any word processing program, meaning the learning curve is short and troubleshooting is intuitive.

Educaplay: Turn any lesson into games, riddles, puzzles, or other activities. Who doesn't love a great game? There are so many ways in education students are primed for failure -- this is site offers endless possibilities for success with fun, interactive, gamified ways to bring information to the table.

Inkelwriter: There is a reason storytelling exists in so many cultures the world over, and Inkelwriter lets you capitalize on the ubiquitous nature of teaching and learning in this way. Devise, organize, and structure stories in a focused way so tangents stay useful and your subject remains on track. Imagine the possibilities!

Magisto: Imagine a magical force grabbing the most important moments from your photos and video clips and compiling them into one focused, meaningful one-minute video. This is Magisto. Upload your material and the thing just takes over and finds the material that brings your point home.

Zunal: Don your cape and unsheathe thine sword--it is time for a webquest! Learners take a scavenger hunt-like tour of the Internet exploring a particular topic. Choose from prewritten quests or create your own, to make learning dynamic.

Once again, there are so many out there that are amazing--it is hard to narrow it down. The main thing to note is the availability of Web 2.0 tools and the way they remove limitations on how students and teachers interact, and on barriers to learning. Whether you believe the research on "learning styles" or other ways of categorizing learners, I think we can all agree certain activities appeal to certain people and these tools can help integrate learning among elements of our favourite activities.

Friday, 14 October 2016

You Know You're Old When Facebook is Essential

I was training a new web editor the other day who accidentally let it slip that Facebook is really just popular with old people now -- old meaning me (at 41) and young being her (18-ish). I laughed and begged her to tell me more, mainly because I am so interested in how the world changes so quickly, secondarily because I was curious about how "old" people are driving the young 'uns away, and out of vague curiosity, where the little punks are going.

Snapchat, she said, if they are indeed little punks who can't live without massacring their profile pictures with bunny ears, and Instagram if they are a more refined version of youth, enamored by tragically ironic landscape photography and bored to tears by thirty-somethings raving about their kids pooping or the fabulous Sunday meal that took 37 hours to prepare (sigh, no big deal).

Here's an article about the decline of whippersnappers on Facebook, but the hook Mark Zuckerberg will always have in us as 54% of social media users consider Facebook and Facebook alone, "essential." Well played, Zuckerberg. Well. Played.

Brew a cup of tea, turn up the heat, and lock the front door; you've got reading to do >>

Self-directed Learning : You are what you learn

I can't start any reasonable conversation about media-enhanced learning without beginning with a careful look at self-directed learning. Yes, we are all students in life's classroom, but in  more focused and deliberate sense, we can actually be whatever we choose, just by self-directed, self-taught, self-disciplined learning. Besides a wild world of high quality, free education, our own desire and drive to evolve and satiate a hunger for knowledge and accomplishment means there is no ceiling on where we can go with learning. Amazing, really.

I've been reading about MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the context of technology and what criteria universities are using (reputation? expertise? jazzy gimmicks? technology?) to garner attention, since the financial playing field is even when things are free, and I am excited to craft a post on this soon. But in the meantime, I want to show you this TedTalk compilation on MOOCs; more specifically, I want to point out the first talk of the seven.

Shimon Schocken says and does some pretty fantastic things in his 16-minute talk on "The self-organizing computer course," something he and a colleague devised out of pure curiosity. Here's what I love about Shimon Schocken:

1. He has us at, "He never went back to school ..." He starts his talk about complex computer technology (and by "technology" I don't mean Facebook and word processors; his students actually build the darn things) with a story about his grandfather--a school drop-out-turned-department-store-mogul, and with this simple tale, he has us. Truth be told I couldn't tell you any significant details about his course, but I can tell you a great deal about the value of self-directed learning, and the roles curiosity, tenacity, and maybe even a little lunacy play in one's success as a decent human being, and that is really the point.

2. He uses plain plain language, except when he doesn't. By gently weaving his historical tale in with details about the technology and its ability to empower people of all ages and skill levels, he commits himself to a certain consistency of plain language because if he deviates too much, he will leave us behind. So he keeps us close the whole time, throwing out just a bit of vernacular here and there (supplemented with helpful PowerPoint slides and even an iPad) just when he knows we can handle it. Brilliant.

3. He scorns grading for the fun it takes out of failure. Despite being a professor with no shortage of active grey matter, he stands up for individuality and creativity by denouncing the act of grading (our obsession with data) because it takes all the fun out of failure. "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm," he says, quoting Churchill, and the combination of his story, accomplishment, and open-mindedness about self-directed learning seals the deal.

Anyway, see for yourself. I guarantee, even if you aren't into his course, you will come away with something.

Enjoy >>

Friday, 7 October 2016

3240 - Change of Direction

For the next seven weeks, my education blog will take on a narrower focus, from general topics in adult education to pointed looks at things like social media, web 2.0 tools, and technology in education.

Let's be serious: the world is a fast-moving, dynamic, unpredictable place where Bob Dylan's "times they are a' changin'" is barely over before times have, indeed, changed again. Technology and connectivity, the globalism of social sharing -- these things are here to stay and while there is no doubt their faces will change as the world inevitably does, the ability to reach out without physically touching someone has become a staple in what we come to expect from the human experience and thus, it isn't going anywhere.

Stay tuned to read about and discuss the technology and tools that make this global landscape a tangible, ubiquitous, creative experience we can share and learn from.