Diigo for Language Instruction

Read on for a way language learners and teachers can use Diigo in a way that can seriously jumpstart authentic language learning exchanges.

I recently taught a course to masters students in the GSTILE (Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation, and Language Education) TFL (Teaching Foreign Languages) program at Monterey Institute of International Studies. We did much, MUCH more than explore specific tools, but more on that later (and more on how incredibly powerful it is to co-design and teach with another teacher). One of the tools that I discovered as a language learner, and that I shared with my students, to great excitement, was using Diigo’s annotation features (specifically highlighting and sticky-note comments) in language learning and instruction. Continue reading

Measuring the Impact of Technology on Learning

Another post prompted by a query from a colleague at another school, who was looking for information on how to demonstrate the impact of technology on learning. Below are my thoughts

To measure the impact of anything, benchmarking of pre-defined metrics is critical. Here are two primary areas where I think technology impacts learning, and within which I recommend defining some measurable outcomes to track. Continue reading

Technology Idol Worship

A tech director colleague posted to a forum recently inviting feedback on whether or how he should re-institute a tech committee at one of his schools. Teachers there had requested it, but his trepidation is understandable, and here’s why: tech committees are part of the wrong paradigm. Focusing on technology is educational idol worship—it is confusing a physical form for the ideas and beauty and power—for the spirit—represented by that form.

I’ve coordinated or sat on tech committees of various ilks and intents, and they always feel like a failure because they are doomed to failure—by design (except for those focusing on how to improve access to technology, or those described below…).

If we need committees at all, then what we need are communication committees; or information committees; or literacy committees; or learning committees; or better yet, we need to just do real learning in the real world, and then any technology that can help you will become part of what you are doing, and people will be—communicating; and informating; and becoming literate in critical skills including all of those that technology can be involved in; and learning; and doing.

When the printing press was revolutionizing and democratizing education, the powers that be’ed were afraid not of books, but of what books represented—of knowledge and therefore power in the hands and minds of the people they had so long controlled. Those in control of books and literacy held power because they controlled access to information, and communication. And that is what we need to be focusing on—information and communication, and learning the tools while we do that.

Our students and our teachers need to focus on the powerful things that technology allows us to do; on the spirit contained therein, and not on the body, or conveyance, of that spirit.

I’m constantly endeavoring to mediate that struggle, to get people using the tools they need, but try to re-route the conversation path so that it gets there through the lens of learning, and not through the lens of technology. For instance, in a course I teach for masters candidates for foreign language teaching, which is ostensibly about technology, we approach the conversation not through tools but through the essential components of learning, how those components manifest in language learning, and then on supercharging learning experiences to intentionally and explicitly leverage those components, through technology and otherwise, as appropriate. We also talk about the critical skills and attitudes that come with a healthy and productive use of technology, and how those are the same attitudes and skills that all of our students in every discipline need to develop so they can leverage technology in their lives in intentional and productive ways. In other words, we talk about 21st century skills, and 21st century learning environments, and try not to talk about technology as a specific thing unless our reaching towards a goal would be helped by it. And then we practice, and iterate, and share.

Online Education is Not the Disruption

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tigergirl/1506928361/sizes/m/I recently returned from the first ever Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESES) conference in Southern California. Overall a pretty good conference, and on a topic that all schools need to be looking at seriously as they plan for the future. While I am interested in the topic of online education, and I think that it is important to stay abreast of the latest developments in all learning spaces and trends, what I was struck most with was my aversion to thinking about online education as the disruption that education needs to move to bring it to the next level of efficiency and efficacy. I’ve actually been meaning to write this blog post ever since reading Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson. The premise of the book, and indeed of the conference (Michael Horn keynoted) is that online education is the growing disruption that will — and needs to — alter the heart of our education systems. I disagree. Continue reading

eTextBook Review: MBS Direct Digital

This is a followup to my recent posts relating to digital textbooks, Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there? and EdTech Policy – Drinking the Kool-aid?

I recently attended a live demo  of MBS Direct’s Direct Digital solution, in which I and several colleagues (teachers and techies) got to Q&A a top developer on the current product and where it is headed. The verdict in a nutshell? Overall all pretty impressed, but watch out for those DRM agreements!
(View a recorded demo here: Blue “WEBINARS” button, then choose the third pre-recorded option – “Direct Digital: Your Content, Your Reader, Any Device”)

I dutifully report here what we discovered.

Continue reading

EdTech Policy – Drinking the Kool-aid?

Every student should have an iPad with textbooks in iBook form! Oh, really….?
(See more on iPads and eTexts in this blog in: Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there?

In Michael Hiltzik’s recent piece in the L.A. Times, Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms?, an important question is raised (the Times answers this question for us in the HTML page title of the Web version of the article: “Hyping classroom technology helps tech firms, not students”). I totally agree and disagree at the same time. Let me ‘splain.

I agree in that much of what tech firms are trying to sell to our schools is not going to help much (as it is designed to fit into the defunct mode of education we retain where school is walled off from the real world, in which the few “good” schools strive for relevant when we should be striving for real). Yes, much of what they are pushing is out of self-interest, and our major investment at this time should be to create well-designed learning with highly skilled and capable teachers (I prefer “learning coach”, but that is another post…).


…..Learning with technology is now as crucial as learning with books was when they first came on the scene: what we can do with technology is much more powerful that what we can do without it. Continue reading

Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there?

OK, so Apple launched its new authoring platform for iBooks which is supposed to revolutionize eTextBooks. I’m not sure the revolution is fully realized yet, but this would appear to move us in the right direction. We might be at or near step two of three in the near-term evolution of eTextBooks, which I see as:

  1. Textbooks transliterated for reading in eReaders. Basically, the benefit here is that students can stop carrying around those insanely heavy backpacks. Downsides include lack of ability to notate or highlight, or clumsy ways of doing these things.
  2. eTexts have rich media, ability to notate, some social/sharing component, and include a mechanism for backing up texts and associated meta-data.
  3. All of the above, but platform independent.

From the demo in link above, it looks like rich media and notating are fairly well developed, but I’m waiting to see what social components there are, if any, and how easily they back up meta-data. I’m also a bit turned off by Apple’s continued monopolism (see a discussion here about the controls on content development for the iBook).

MBS Direct has supposedly finally ironed out their web-based reader, and I will report back here after I have been able to test that (in the next couple of weeks).  My problem with web-based readers is that, although they are platform independent, they require an internet connection when you want to access content (barring an “offline” mode which they may have or might develop).

Please comment below with thoughts on where eTexts are heading, what you are using, what you would like to see…