Friday, January 12, 2007

Macworld '07 - On the right track

After spending an hour listening to Dr. Monica Beglau as part of the Macworld Educators Syposium, (It wasn't as bad as I made it out to be in my previous blog post.) it was time for Wesley Fryer to speak about blogging. This was actually one of the talks that had initially interested me in signing up for the Educators Symposium. I had followed some of Wesley's blog posts on the "Infinite Thinking Machine" and "Moving at the Speed of Creativity" blogs and had found them to be quite interesting. In fact most of the posts I had read closely mirrored my ideas about students and blogging. It was very interesting, and completely coincindental, that I had a blog post the previous week that Wesley had commented on. I wrote an e-mail back and mentioned that I would be at Macworld at the Educators Symposium. As part of one of Wesley's posts, he embedded a video with three testimonials from teachers who are blogging as part of their classroom assignments, I used this with the teachers in our Global Communications team last week as a start for our monthly meeting. The six minute video (Download here!) became the introduction of his talk at Macworld.

Wesley's talk about 'Safe Classroom Blogging' started very simply. 'Asking the Right Question.' He followed with a minimalist outline: 1) Vocabulary. 2)Tools. 3) Exemplars. I liked the style because it allowed for more of a free flow of information from the speaker and didn't overly complicate things by trying to keep up with the information on a PowerPoint slide. After the presentation, during the lunch time, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and chat with Wesley for a few minutes. He mentioned that he was emulating the style of Lawrence Lessig from Stanford. Among Lessig's contributions to the Internet society are chairing the 'Creative Commons' project and serving on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation. I think the talk was a great introduction for any teacher thinking about blogging with their class. You can download a podcast of the entire talk from Wesley's blog by clicking here. There is also a wiki that contains all of the materials from the presentation.

After lunch, there was a presentation from Bernie Dodge from San Diego State University. Bernie is widely known as the 'father of the web quest.' The talk that Dr. Dodge gave 'Engaging Brains with Games and Simulations' was good and started me thinking in many different areas regarding games and simulations and their use in education.

The most interesting thing I took from Dr. Dodge's presentation was the 'Power Learning Equation.' (Wesley Fryer posted his notes here.) The equation: P = ADE, translates to Learning Power = Attention x Depth x Efficiency. In this equation, Attention is the percentage of brain power that the individual is devoting to the task, in this case a game or simulation. Depth, relates to the amount of thinking that is required to complete the task or compete in the game / simulation. Efficiency relates to the amount of time that learners have to think about what you are trying to teach or having to think about the rules of the game / simulation.

The remainder of the talk went through several games / simulations that relate to this model, including the new virtual world / role playing game, Second Life. In Second Life, you can also create your own custom worlds and cities to use for different purposes. The one resource Dr. Dodge did introduce that I think all teachers would benefit from, would be 'Gliffy.' Gliffy is a free-open source mind mapping tool, like Inspiration. Here is the page Bernie set up with all of the links from the presentation. There is also a podcast that Wesley Fryer created of the presentation.

All of what we saw from both Wesley Fryer and Bernie Dodge really let see that we are heading in the right direction with what we are doing with the Technology Arts classes and the Global Communications course. As time moves forward, I think we will end up expanding the skill set of the Global Communications course and doing more collaboration with courses on our campus and around the globe.

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