Monday, October 8, 2012

Distance learning, IPads & E Literacy

Distance learning.
My husband is separated from me and my daughter by 2,000 miles during my sabbatical here in Santa Fe. We are determined to continue our traditional family time despite the distances.  How can we engage in meaningful dialogues that lead to less loneliness, greater happiness and motivation to appreciate all that we can from life in a new environment?  Our experiment with distance learning began with our Ipad.  Facetime  allowed us to bring "Flatdaddy" to the dinner table and eat as a family.  We could watch the sunset or the quail scurry in the backyard or just brush our teeth together.  Flatdaddy enabled us to continue the nightly storytime while I used a few moments for other chores.  Eventually, reading to a flat screen wore off.  Technology and the virtual world is no replacement for the real person.  Our daughter was quick to point out that hugging Flatdaddy was not the same.   Reading chapter books lost its appeal as she could become easily distracted by her own environment and lose track of the meaning of the story.  Instead of giving up, we have learned to adapt and to try something new. Marc did fly out to visit for a week and this face to face time  allowed us to collaborate on a new plan. Reading is still important but we are picking shorter readings for bedtime. Joke books, short mysteries (American Girl series) while gaming is also giving us reason to dialogue.  With the Ipad in front of her and my Iphone in her hand, our daughter used the Draw Something app to send a picture of a word to her father. She watched him receive the drawing, afforded hints and could laugh at his attempt to decipher it. Then he would send one back.  She spent at least an hour in bed laughing, reading and writing to her father.  The interactions were engaging, unintentional but purposeful.  The same affect happens with Will Short's Sunday Puzzle.  We all listen to the puzzle podcast, shout out guesses, replay the podcast, and discuss puzzle solutions.  Draw Something is great and now Draw a stickman has a momentary appeal.

So what has this experiment taught me about education? E Literacy  has the potential to be an integral part of the education process.  It is a vehicle for discussion, inquiry and construction of great ideas.  It works best when it is combined with real face to face interaction.  If long periods of time pass between feedback with individuals, people become disengaged.   It is important to adapt and to not rely on one tool forever. Technology is supposed to spawn change which means that adults & children are part of that collective intelligence, sharing actions, reflection and negotiation. This is difficult for educators and parents used to control  and continuity. Our Constructivist experiment worked because instant response, interaction was an incentive for fostering habits of critical thinking, and articulate development of perspective. Our daughter became engaged within local and geographically dispersed communities whether intentional or not.   

Not all E Literacies can activate higher orders of thinking. Active, intuitive and visual Learning styles (Felder-Silverman) benefit the most.  Learning styles can change and preferences for a learning style can be stimulated when lessons offer change or self reliance as internet can offer. Experience with text in any form, audio, paper, on line can be quantified, resulting in greater fluency.  Media focus on the nation's illiteracy that has elevated the need to explore multiple pathways for delivering practices that will encourage individual educational development.  Student eagerness to utilize tools for learning is  integral to learning opportunities no longer confined to the walls of a particular classroom.  If possibilities in learning are truly endless, we need to score our students on possibility, not the end result or on one attempt on an assignment.  Home environments that foster experimentation and practice has greater impact on developmental growth than all the best teachers combined. But parents need to be partners of schools, they need to know what practices yield certain results.  That feedback becomes purposeful when students are given the power to use it for developing, editing, and collaborating on ideas. Each level of E-Literate engagement impact student development and progress.  Basic E-literate practices: reading websites, email, chat-rooms, and text messaging conversations  Compared to traditional literacy activities such as, reading newspapers, manuals, instructions, non-fiction, novels etc. still factor much lower (-.42 level of consistency with student scores and frequency of documented practice)  However, students who used e-literacies to engage in developing, editing and sharing ideas and were translating English through home language  scored consistently higher in testing results.   

What have I discovered to be useful in recent practice? 

A simple homemade toy, promoted through collaborative effort online, lead to.... The Imagination Foundation?  Caine's Arcade. 

And it is in line with an idea I hope to have high school students focus on in a world studies course:

Whether cardboard or real - gaming is "edutainment"  Posted on August 28, 2012 by Misook Kimura.

interactive reading websites for elementary education - 

my heroes                 fact,fragment,frenzy                  website links to elementary games

just add word and instant poetry      tons of resources for creating poems

poetry4kids                                scribblenaut

As an educator- I need to rely not only on founded traditions in education, peer reviewed journals but contemporary ideas promoted through social networks.  I recently began following the following blogs:

Vicki Davis                                The Tempered Radical                Edutopia

Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009).
A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools.
Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. Retrieved from Education Research Complete.

Guthrie, K. L., & McCracken, H. (2010). ReflectivePedagogy: Making Meaning in Experiential
Based Online Courses. Journal ofEducators Online, 7(2), 1-21. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Park, C. L., Crocker, C., Nussey, J., Springate, J.,& Hutchings, D. (2010). Evaluation of a Teaching Tool - Wiki - in Online  
            Graduate Education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21(3),313-321. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Savery, J. R., BE VOCAL: Characteristics of successfulonline instructors. (2010). Journal of Interactive
Online Learning, 9(3), 141-152. Retrieved from Education ResearchComplete.

Weaver, T. (2011April). Emerging Forms of Biocultural Expression, Lecture conducted at the Santa Fe
Institute. New Mexico.

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