April 05, 2007

The Generation Gap

A former student pointed me to an article from Education Week: Outside Interests:
"Now, nearly all schools have Internet access, and students comb the world via cyberspace with simple search commands. But experts say it is the rare classroom that turns blogs, MP3 players, podcasting, video games, or cellphones into learning tools.

By falling behind the technology curve, they argue, schools risk alienating students and miss prime opportunities to teach them how to analyze and understand their increasingly complex world.

“Education is bifurcating into school and after-school,” says Marc Prensky, a New York City-based educator and consultant who coined the term “digital native” to capture the technological fluency of today’s young people. “School represents the past. After-school is where they are training themselves for the future. The danger is that as school becomes less and less relevant, it becomes more and more of a prison.”
We've heard it all before. The kids are well ahead of the teachers in terms of technology savoir faire. That's been true since some time in the 80s, I think, at least in affluent areas, and the gap is widening. School culture is dominated by teachers in their 40s and older who were born too soon to have the same level of comfort with computers.

I'm hopeful, though. The student teachers I see this year all came to the table with email addresses, digital cameras and a trail of Powerpoint slides behind them, all of which wasn't true just three or four years ago. The technologies they're already using aren't worlds apart from those their student use, and by the end of our course they've had experience making digital movies and creating instructional web pages. A good place to begin their careers.

They'll need more tech support on the job, though, and in California at least that hasn't been as well funded as it should be. Without that, they'll be giant steps behind the kids they teach in just a few years.

My adopted state is near the bottom on indicators like "number of students per internet-connected computer". We're down there with Utah and Mississippi. At least the weather's nice.


March 30, 2007

Teaching about the Holocaust @ SDSU

We had over forty teachers here today for Teaching about the Holocaust, a daylong workshop sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

The morning was taken up with two presentations videoconfenced from the museum and the afternoon was all about making your own lessons about the Holocaust. Bonnie Sussman, a teacher and USHMM Fellow from Oakland, went over some design principles developed by the museum. Dan McDowell and I guided the participants through the process of using QuestGarden to create WebQuests on the topic. I used the new (still a little buggy) capability of QuestGarden to load up their accounts with nine existing WebQuests ready to be tweaked. Dan wrote Remembering the Victims of the Holocaust, a great lesson that incorporates Jumpcut, an online video editor. And I contributed Voices Rescued from the Holocaust, a lesson inspired by Tamara, a former student who blogged about having her students create found poems from survivor testimonies.

All in all a very good day.

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November 19, 2006

A Morning in Second Life

Yesterday was the wrap-up of my 1-unit class called 3-D Multiplayer Environments for Learning. We had just 10 in the class, and our collective task was to explore Second Life as a platform and culture and to tease out the possible (mostly still unrealized) educational purposes it could be put to.

Over the last year, Cathy Arreguin and Peggy Ward, my two graduate assistants, have overseen the creation of the Virtual EDTEC SDSU building in Second Life and yesterday we gave it a workout. The scene above is our lecture hall, with students gathering to watch each others' presentations. That's me, Bernardo Trudeau, in the front row, looking more or less like a skinny version of myself.

The sense of being present with the others in the room was very cool. The conversation certainly wasn't deep, but still engaging. I've learned some things about improving the experience and I'm going to start building this into my other classes for special events. This is clearly a direction that some distance learning is headed towards and what we have now is just a very primitive version of what's yet to come.

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February 11, 2006

Ripples in the Pond

One of the great and scary things about teaching is that you never know exactly what will happen when people actually use what you teach them. I'm delighted to see that Jerry Foust, a teacher enrolled in our masters program, has gotten himself into the news. Music teacher adds podcasting to curriculum says the headline. Kudos to youdos, Jerry!


March 24, 2005

The Bermuda Triangle and Me

Talk about unintended consequences! Nine years ago I was teaching EDTEC 596, the course where the first WebQuest had emerged a year earlier. The class worked in interdisciplinary teams to create a WebQuest as their culminating project. One group had its heart set on doing a unit on the Bermuda Triangle, and by the end of May The Bermuda Triangle WebQuest had emerged. I had agreed to let them do this because I thought the topic provided a perfect opportunity to give high school kids a better BS detector. Unfortunately, the student teachers were less skeptical than I, and they treated the Bermuda Triangle as an authentic mystery.

Since there's a link to my name right at the top of the page, I have since been considered an expert on this topic. About once a month, middle and high school kids writing reports on the Bermuda Triangle send me earnest emails asking me to share my copious wisdom on the topic. Instead of reinforcing their "I Want to Believe" take on it, though, I always direct them to The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved by Larry Kusche. It's a great story in which Kusche, a librarian, actually does his homework and tracks back all the alleged airplane disappearances and other events to primary source documents. He shows that it's just a myth, easily explained by natural forces, inaccurate reporting, and exaggeration. Of course, it's in the self-interest of all those other Bermuda Triangle authors to keep the mystery alive, but Kusche's book is the only one worth reading.

After I point them to the book, none of my young penpals ever write back. It's not what they want to hear.

But my reputation as a Bermudatriangulationologist continues, and yesterday I got an email that tells me I'm now in the big leagues within that domain:


Hello Sir or Madam

My name is A%$@ F!*{. My attempt is to share with you my findings on the relationship among Bermuda Triangle mystery, UFO, and Jesus Christ. I have obtained your email from your website or other website with similar interest. I thought my research will be of a great interest to you.

I have been researching for over 22 years. I have written over 3000 pages on the subject of Bermuda Triangle’s mystery. In my findings combined with a divine experience, I found that there is a link between Bermuda Triangle and UFO. Recently I have a revelation from Jesus Christ to share my findings with anybody who is willing to listen or read my writing.

According to my findings, there is a great aspect that combines those three entities: Bermuda Triangle, UFO and Jesus Christ. If you are interested in reading more about the subject, this will not only pleases me, but I will be more than happy to send you additional materials. I would like to send you initially an introduction about myself and an outline for my experience. If you are willing to receive it, please reply to my email.

My intention is not to force my email on you, rather I would like to share my research with you if you want to receive it. Please take care and God bless you.

Imagine. 3000 pages. 22 years. Clearly if I'm to keep up with this field, I have a lot more reading to do.


March 19, 2005

BlogEvangelizing Again

No excuse for not blogging now. I'm teaching another Saturday seminar on blogging and I've got a new class of inductees typing up a storm here on campus today. Should be a fun Saturday (though I'm hungry for lunch already!)


March 01, 2005

The Longest Day

This is one for the record books. I got up at 5am in Phoenix to put the final touches on my keynote. Hoofed over to the convention center at 7:30, gave my presentation at 9:00. It went well, I think. The audience really didn't want to be there, as it was a required meeting for those who received the last round (ever?) of PT3 grants, so it was like trying to get a laugh at traffic school. A number of people who wanted copies of the slides... always a good sign.

Then back to the hotel and airport for a 1pm flight to San Diego. Taught my 4pm class (which was gratifying because I got them over a technical hump and now they're ready to make a million web pages.) Then June picked me up and got me back to the airport for an 8:15 flight. And now, comatosely tired but blogging with my last faint breath, I'm back in Phoenix, ready to enjoy the rest of the conference. More tales of interesting sessions to follow.


November 21, 2004

GPS In & Out of the Classroom

The last of my three 1-unit classes this semester finished up yesterday. It was the smallest class I've ever taught, but fun to prepare and carry out. EDTEC Saturday Seminar: GPS In & Out of the Classroom won't be offered again for another year at least, but I learned a lot putting it together.

We covered geocaching, travel bugs, and the use of software like Keyhole, Terrbrowser and MacGPS Pro along with websites and services like Geocoder and the Degree Confluence Project. We left the campus and found three geocaches and created one of our own to be hidden on campus next week. Good exercise for body and mind.


September 25, 2004

One Class Done

Originally uploaded by bdodge.
The first of our new 1-credit Saturday classes is over. Motivating Student Writing with Weblogs went pretty well for a first run, I think. Everyone created their own blog and designed a lesson that integrated blogging in some way. We had an iChat videoconference with Anne Davis in Georgia this morning that got us off to a great start.

Along the way, everyone got set up with accounts on Blogger, BlogLines, Furl and Flickr as well. So many free tools out there for anyone to use!

And tonight, I'm off to New Zealand. Busy day!


September 22, 2004

The Perfect Drug

I'm not sure what's ailing me, but I've been knocked out by low energy lately. So much so that on Tuesday I closed my office door and actually fell asleep on the floor for awhile. I dragged myself down the hall for my 4pm class, my pre-service-mostly-English-teachers class, and walked them through the process of creating their first web page. A few minutes into the class, I felt wide awake. I don't think anyone outside my head would have noticed, but I fell completely into the rhythm of teaching, all gears connecting, energy flowing exactly where it was needed. I was high on it. Endorphins washed away my fatigue. One of the students wanted to set up his own domain for some charitable work he's doing, so I stayed after class and walked him through the GoDaddy pages and by 7pm he had his own piece of internet real estate.

There's something about teaching. We're not in it for the money, so it must be this other thing that keeps us at it.


August 06, 2004

Wiki as Collaborative Game Design Tool

Here's an example to think about. Paranoia, a role playing game, was recently updated with the help of a load of its fans who contributed ideas and content by means of a wiki. This makes me wonder if some creative product (game, story, poem) could be collaboratively written in a K-12 environment using the same technique. Hmm.


May 17, 2004

They're Grading my Courses in India

Yup. I hate grading student work, even though most of what I squeezed out of students this semester looks quite good. Hate it.

So I followed a link that came in with the spam and found my way to College Prof OutSourcerors, a small firm in Bangalore. There they have rooms full of highly educated evaluators who are assigning grades in my three classes for about $4/hour. Since all work is turned in to me electronically and there are rubrics for each assignment, all I had to do was to FTP the student files and give OutSourcerors the course URLs. For $100 per course, I'm getting to watch Stargate SG-1 instead of deciding whether that WebQuest gets a 91 or a 92. Why didn't I do this years ago?

Well, I wish. But in wistfully looking for such a place (instead of actually grading) I came upon this article about White-collar Poetry Jobs Moving Overseas. Could happen.


January 28, 2004

Shouting in the Campus Parking Structure

No doubt you've seen that commercial where the guy mortifies his wife in St. Mark's Square in Venice by shouting out "I... LOVE... THIS... WOMAN!"

Well that's how I feel at the end of the day these days, only it's "I... LOVE... THIS... JOB!" that I want to shout. I love my wife, too, and that damn commercial reminds me that it's high time I replaced her lost wedding ring. But I'm going through a stretch where everything about teaching feels right and good and well worth doing.

I haven't actually shouted that out loud yet, but in my mind's eye I see the startled pigeons scatter in panic into the skies over College Avenue.


January 20, 2004

Birth of 28 New Bloggers

It's that time of semester again. Tonight I introduced blogging to my class of pre-service English and foreign language teachers. Their new blogs, mostly without content yet, are here.

Last year I just got them set up with their blogs and didn't push it much harder than that. It wasn't a graded part of the course. By the end of the semester, only 4 or 5 of them were still actively blogging. This time, I'm giving credit for the activity and being more specific about what I'm expecting. We'll see how it goes and whether it sticks past the semester's end. I'm looking forward to seeing what they write!


January 13, 2004

Obligatory Post

Well, not wanting to break my 2004 streak of posting something every day, I'm here to report that my first two classes have met and went well. My class for English teachers started tonight. I showed them a video poem made by one of last semester's students as well as some of their blogs (Hi Tamara!) and they got very psyched. I really like catching them so early in their careers and turning them on to what's possible. Tomorrow my third class debuts, and that is going to be a special challenge. More info to follow.