Learning through a narrative

I just finished reading “The Future of Education – re-imagining our schools from the ground up” by Kieran Egan. It describes the idea of “Imaginative Education” (IE) and gives an example of a timeline in which this superior form of education could be the norm by 2050. I’m unsure of my opinion about most of IE and will spend a lot more time looking into it before I draw firm conclusion.

The one thing that really struck me about IE was the concentration on narratives. In the book students are given an arbitrary topic when they start school (for example “leaves” or “wind”) and work on a portfolio around that subject for their entire school school career). They are then guided by portfolio mentors to apply everything they learn to this topic. So for instance, when learning about metaphors, they are asked to find metaphors in literature involving leaves. When learning about area, they can find the best way to estimate the area of different kinds of leaves. This way of teaching serves the duel purpose of not only making students an expert in their topic, but also
gives them something tangible to relate their learning in all areas to. It forces them to develop a habit of applying the things they learn.

Now, I haven’t figured out how I feel about the idea of an “arbitrary” topic (I think students should at least have some influence in the choice of their topics). However, at a university level students like myself should have the power to choose their own topic and follow it through. I chose my topic of improving education (both in method and in distribution) a long time ago but can see many points in my education where I have failed to relate my learning back to that. For instance), why was I bored stiff in my databases class when I could have been finding ways to relate it to my passion? Boring as SQL may be, it can be seen as a powerful upgrade to parts of human language due to its exceptional clarity. The questions I should have been asking myself could have been as follows:

Should everyone learn how database queries work simply in order for them to understand the pure logic that it creates?

Is this type of logic necessary?

Does that kind of thinking make innovation more or less likely to happen?

So many questions could be formed from something as boring as SQL queries. I know that the ones above are very surface level, but that is precisely because I was not thinking deeply about this while they were being taught databases in depth. I have this feeling that I would have been able to draw many deep and meaningful connections.

From now on I intend to try my damnedest to relate everything I learn in school to my central topic and in order to test how powerful this way of thinking can be.

Educational Technology, the Users’s Perspective

Last week I spoke at ETUG 2010. My talk was entitled “Educational Technology, the Users’s Perspective”. In the talk I made a case for user-centered design and then explained the perspective of over 96% of the users of educational technology. Below is the video of my presentation (only starts about 1:50 into the video) and read on for a short summary.


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New Theme: twenty-hand

I’ve been unhappy with my theme for the page few months and not had the time to change it. I’ve finally got around to doing so and at the same time have played around with some WordPress 3.0 goodness. Here are some of the features:

  1. It’s a child theme of the new WordPress theme twentyTen.
  2. It’s much cleaner than my old theme.
  3. It uses the new wp_nav_menu system. The 7 menus that I add are the 7 menu items at the top.

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WordPress Pro Tip: Getting a per-post Feed in WordPress

For some reason this information is really hard to find through Google. Often in my work at OLT we are trying to reuse remix and redistribute a bunch static content from WordPress sites around our campus. In order to do so we need to find feeds for those sites that are just for one post or page, instead of the updating stream. Here is how to get them:

Simply append /?feed=rss&p=111 to the end of your URL. The 111 in the example should be the ID of the post that you want the feed for.

Multi-touch Collaborative Diagramming

This term I took Computer Science 444 – “Advanced Methods for Human-Computer Interaction”. The main outcome of the course was to go through the process of designing a user interface and evaluating it using formal experiments, producing a paper at the end.

I had the pleasure of working with 4 absolutely fantastic team-mates, Piam Kiarostami, Gabe Silk, alexandru Totolici, and Jre Sarenac. Each of us intuitively picked a role and we worked like a well-oiled machine.

The project we worked on was a collaborative, tabletop,  multi-touch diagramming tool that we dubbed “collabee”. We compared our interface to the more traditional ways of diagramming collaboratively (whiteboard and computer) then analysed our results. Below are the reports that we wrote, as well as a video on the project that we produced (it’s only 4 minutes and be sure to stick around for the surprise ending).

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School is just a game… let’s make it a better game.

The idea here is that games and school have more in common than does school and life. So perhaps, instead of finding ways of engaging students by turning to real life, we should be turning to game design.

How is school like a game?

Both School and Video games are highly repetitive environments where you overcome deliberate obstacles in order to reach a goal. In both cases, you pay money in order to perform work. I’m going to use one of my favorite games of all time, Diablo 2 as an example in some direct comparisons.

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Personal Learning Network Presentations


My prize for best returning presentation

Over the last 6 months I have given two presentations on the ideas of Personal Learning Environments/Networks. The first one was in late August for UBC Jump Start,  a 2 week orientation program for students that I attended in my first year at UBC and that provided me with great friends and learning experiences. The second presentation was give at the 2010 UBC Student Leadership Conference, a conference that I have been heavily involved with over the past few years and this year was co-chaired by two good friends of mine, June Lam and Robert Winson. I had some technical difficulties with the first presentation, but the second one went really well, I even won the “best returning presenter” award for it.

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Dropping out is sometimes the right thing to do.

In my last post I wrote about CCK09, the online course on connectivism and connected learning that I was taking part in. Since then I have dropped out of that course to focus on something very different to connected learning… myself.

Why:

Ironically, the catalyst for this change of heart was my blog post on CCK09.Jeff Fong left a comment on that post pointing me to Scott Young’s post on studying. Reading that post (and subsequent posts) sparked something in my mind. It was the created a connection between several recent things that I had learned and not connected before. I decided to do something that was new and exciting for myself, figuring that the concepts and connections in CCK will still be there in a year.   Read More »

Connectivism and Connected Knowledge – The first post

This year I am participating in the Connectivism and Connected Knowledge (CCK09) course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. I was considering taking it for credit, but ran out of time and energy to jump through the hoops needed to make that happen. So instead I am doing it for fun, learning for the sake of learning, because it is a topic that really interests me (I will have to put some of the principles from my very first blog post into practice).

So what is Connectivism anyway? After reading and watching much of the first week’s content here is my interpretation: Read More »

dev.wpmued is live! Calling all WordPress in education developers to contribute.

At OpenEd09 I was part of a very necessary conversation. We were talking about different ways in which our respective universities use WordPress MU. The consensus was that in order for us to be truly successful we need to be sharing much more. Sharing our frameworks, sharing our plugins and sharing our hacks. Boone Gorges frames the conversation nicely here and talks about what is needed from developers. Enej and others responded by reviving the OLT Dev blog. However, Matthew Gold rightly said this:

But we need to build more lasting channels of communication soon, lest we miss some important connections

So here is my attempt to provide those connections:

WPMU For Education blog

The basic idea is an aggregation blog for “WPMU for education” developers. Jim Groom provided a blog from his WPMUEd domain so that a new channel, dev.wpmued could be created. I used the Add Link Widget with FeedWordPress to turn this blog into an aggregation of content from developers who are working on developing WPMU in education using the method that Jim and I came up with. I seeded it with a few of my often read WordPress MU in education blogs (myself, Jim, D’Arcy, Boone, OLT and CUNY Dev). Read More »