Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Modern art?

I love it when people use existing technologies in new ways. We've all seen how apps can make items on tablet screens tilt and orient themselves spacially, but this is a really clever next step. Of course, I'm not sure I'd want one of these paintings on my wall - every time someone walked past the darn thing they'd tilt it, and then leave the painting AND it's contents lolling drunkenly askew. Hell for those of us who like things just 'so'.

Still Life from Scott Garner on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Illustrating learning

I have been looking for different ways to present information in online learning packages. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of long paragraphs of text, but alternatives such as animations and avatars are simply out of my budget.

I have just started playing with online comic design tool, Pixton. It has taken me an hour or two to figure out the basics, but it seems to be a really user-friendly piece of software, and the gallery of comics created by users certainly shows that there is a wide range of options. And at $6/month, I can't complain about the cost!

 Neither art nor entertainment, but it adds variety to a learning package!

Interactive back seat windows

How things have changed. Like the author of this article, when I was young [she said, in a quavering voice] the best the back seat window had to offer was a screen for drawing in the fog created by my breath.

What doesn't seem to be covered by any of the proposed technologies, is how to manage the consequent smeary finger marks on the glass, which, in my family, usually precipitated roars of annoyance from the front seat!


SOPA has certainly polarised people, and it has been interesting to follow the global reaction to it. The day of internet blackouts and other protests certainly seems to have changed the minds of decision makers in the US. Whilst I'm relieved that the Bill won't be passed, if this infographic is to be believed, the speed with which members of the US Congress flip-flopped makes me cynical. I'm sure their change of heart has more to do with elections than conscience.

There is a part of me that admires the 65 supporters who continue to support the Bill despite the weight of opinion swinging to the other side. Are they the only members who actually have convictions, or are they simply those whose financial support comes from the entertainment industry, I wonder.

Image: SOPA-opera count via Whale-oil-beef-hooked

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The flipped classroom

There has been considerable debate in the blogosphere recently about the pros and cons of the 'flipped' classroom. Working in a blended degree programme that leans more and more to the online as it progresses over the three years, I have (probably rather unthinkingly) always been in favour of flipping. It makes so much sense. Why waste time downloading concrete facts and content in the classroom if you can 'preheat' your students by providing them with this information online, before they come to class. Theoretically, when students then appear in your classroom, you can spend your time troubleshooting and engaged in critical thinking tasks based on the stuff they've already downloaded into their brains via your online content. There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest the efficacy of the approach - lots of teachers post about improved pass rates and increased engagement, and the popularity of the Khan Academy must be coming from somewhere. (Although it is worth noting that slightly more rigorous research into flipping the classroom with Khan academy shows that the difference in grades, post-flip, is not very large.)

Those opposed to flipping the classroom frequently cite the unfairness of it; the fact that it increases the digital divide by favouring the students who have online access at home, and who have the home circumstances that favour study and online learning. Obviously many students don't have these luxuries, and in a flipped classroom, they are going to be left behind very quickly.

But is this a valid argument against the flipped classroom? If I were still teaching in schools, and I had students in my class who did not have access to the internet at home, I would be acting unfairly and incompetently if I designed my classes to be based on flipped learning. On the other hand, if I had a class full of 'wired' students (and let's face it, there are very few high school students who don't have a Facebook account) why wouldn't I flip, even if it does increase the gap between the haves and the have nots?