I enjoyed the questions that were posed in this video, especially “Do you ever censor yourself online”. This was in the comment section below the video:

“Interesting that none of them considered what others posted about them part of their identity. A simple search will reveal not only what you say online, but what others say about you in much more clarity than in the “in person” world.”

I wonder how many of us equate posts from others as contributing to our own digital identity. I certainly don’t, but I also am interested in who posts comments around videos, images, and tweets I put out and why some don’t.

This video also reminded me of a tweet from the summer. I asked twitter what people they follow. I was interested to see if individuals follow other like minded people, or if some people they follow have very opposing views and may challenge thought processes. Personally I don’t follow anyone that has drastically opposed views on topics from myself. I wonder I followed others that had differing views would change what I posted, or change how I viewed ideas.

My Digital Identity

I currently use the following spaces to interact online.

1. Twitter @oblongsquare

2. Instagram @oblongsquare

3. Facebook

4. Google: Communities and YouTube

5. Untappd (Beer Community)

6. Professional Blog

7. Vimeo

8. Website: http://oblongsqr.wix.com/main

My blog is used for completing assignments in my MEd program. I have not used it for any other purpose. I also use Google Communities for the same ends, with the exception of a community set up for my Biology 12 classroom. Twitter is primarily used to as a PLN tool. I am not extremely savvy in this regard, but I am endeavouring to become better. I also link my Instagram account to twitter and pictures and video I put up there is from both my professional and personal life. Vimeo and Youtube accounts are set up for uploading personal short films I make that I enter into local film festivals. Although I have not used these accounts much for school, I am brainstorming an idea to create an online learning environment that links outdoor education and curriculum (Adventure Learning). My website is a personal project. When my best friend passed away, I vowed to become better at photography and do more with that area as he was a huge influence on my love of that art form. Untappd is entirely personal and is a way to connect with craft beer enthusiasts and learn about new beers. My Facebook account is purely personal. I have friends who post interesting items I have used for research and reposted to Twitter, but I do not use it as a PLN.

During this semester in my MEd, I have been tasked with improving my PLN. My goal is to begin a better network of outdoor education people. I have lurked in the #enviroed chat, but need to do a better job at interacting with individuals who share the same passion for the outdoors as I do.

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Jenkins (2009) defines participatory culture as comprising a number of components

  1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  2. Strong support for creating and sharing creations.
  3. Informal mentorship from experienced participants
  4. Members believe that their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connections with each other.

During a presentation by Alec Couros to the UVic EDCI569, participatory culture was described as the connection between an increase in the number of online tools that can be accessed by individuals and the abundance of content that exists online. Web 2.0 (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.) demonstrates the vast amount of tools that we as individuals can use to communicate and the resulting volume of online content that stems from those tools (video, blogs, tweets, etc.) Jenkins (2009) proposed that “tools available to a culture matter, but what that culture chooses to do with those tools matters more.” This is a poignant quote, especially in the wake of recent events including terror groups using social media to efficiently disseminate political or religious rhetoric intended to influence others.

It has been said that with the advent of increased access to online social structures that people are connected, but becoming increasingly disconnected with each other. Dr. Jim Taylor in a blog post from 2010 writes that technology is becoming an escape from life, rather than immersion in it and you miss out on deeper connections with people and do not engage in anything of personal value. Ujjal Dosanjh was recently interviewed on CBC’s The Early Edition regarding the idea of multiculturalism in Canada. Although he was discussing the idea of immigrant populations and physical spaces, the concept in the quote below is very relevant with regards to the discussion of becoming disconnected. (http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/bcearlyedition_20150116_48181.mp3)

“If you are going to a particular church or temple…that’s not a ghetto. If you live your entire life amongst those people and the only connection you have to the society at large is the economy and you don’t take in the cultural value, because ultimately we left other countries to come to Canada because it has better values, not just more money, not just affluence, it’s the values that are more important than the affluence and those values are about freedom, about democracy, about being tolerant of others views, and living with others and communicating with others, integrating into the society…” Ujjal Dosanjh, 2015

In Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book A New Culture of Learning (2011), they make an argument that this new learning culture is comprised of two elements:

  1. Massive information networks that provide unlimited resources for learning on any subject
  2. Structured environments that allow for unlimited agency to build and experiment within the bounded domains.

Personal learning can be found in both elements, but it is with the second element that formalized education can find new growth and direction. While reading an article in Dwell magazine on the building of modern schools in New York, I began to think about the idea of experimentation and building within structured domains. Why do we call the buildings modern schools? I know this is in reference to the architectural design of structure, but if we are to build “modern” school(ing) it is important to look at what the domains of learning are. The new domains of learning are about digital literacy and global citizenship, but this needs to be presented to students not in a flood of unlimited resources with the teacher saying “Go”, but within a structured environment that allows students to interact in a meaningful way with others towards a common goal.

Although this discussion has focused on the digital citizen, it is important to recognize that the concept of participatory culture should be viewed both in the online world as well as the physical space we occupy. Participating in 3D life, movement and interaction with the physical world is as important a discussion as the idea of how to interact in a meaningful way online. We define ourselves ever increasingly by our digital identities, but it is now becoming just as important to look at how we define ourselves within our physical environment.

References:

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Mit Press.

Taylor, J. (2010). Does Technology Connection Mean Life Disconnection? [Blog post].

Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/does-technology- connectio_b_623065.html

Tobin, S. (Producer). (2015, January 16). Ujjal Dosanjh on award [Audio poscast].

Retrieved from http://podcast.cbc.ca

Weiss, A. (2015). Building Modern Schools in New York City.

Retrieved from http://www.dwell.com/we-recommend/article/building-modern-schools- new-york-city

For my current masters course at UVic (EDCI569) we have been provided the opportunity to undertake a personal learning project. I have chosen to learn more about beer and the beer making process. My final project will be to create a vlog entry that will demonstrate the process I went through. This project will have many phases.

1. Research Beer types and determine which beer I would like to brew. This is going to include both reading up on beer types and visiting craft breweries.

2. Read up on the brewing process to better understand what goes into brewing beer.

3. Brew the beer.

4. Bottle the beer.

5. Drink the beer.

I am really looking forward to understanding more about the process of brewing beer. I have been an avid consumer of craft beer for a number of years now, but know little about the process behind the creation of the beer. Let the learning begin!

Hendrickson and Doering (2013) deviated from the traditional expedition style of adventure learning (AL) by targeting a specific region of the country. In this case the state of Minnesota was used to create a local AL environment for students to participate. The nine core principles of AL were used, based on dowering and miller’s (2009) framework, and are as follows:

  1. A defined issue and place
  2. Authentic narratives
  3. Element of Adventure
  4. Curriculum grounded in inquiry
  5. Collaboration and interaction between learners, experts, teachers, and content
  6. Synched learning opportunities between AL content and the curriculum
  7. An online venue to deliver the content
  8. Multiple media that enhanced the curriculum
  9. Scaffolding for teachers and learners

The researchers deduced that this framework wold be conducive to community building. There were two research questions that the study wanted to answer:

  1. “In what way did the AL learning environment, content, and collaboration space actively engage students in the learning process and why?”
  2. “In what way did the AL learning environment, content, and collaboration space spur community building and why?”

Three schools participated in the study. A total of 110 grade 4, 13 grade 5, and 3 classroom teachers were involved. 53% of the participants were girls and 47% were boys. The average time spent on the AL project was between 30-45min per week with an range of participation between classes of 5-9 weeks. 3 classes in the study were designated as gifted. The majority of students had access to the internet at home (97% of the 117 students surveyed prior to the study) and no prior use of any of the study websites had been used by participating students.

Researchers used both initial design and implementation of the design based research  method, while choosing to omit the study, redesign and reimplementation components of this method. Data was collected in the form of 2 student surveys, 6 surveys of teachers, 17 discrete observation times and 6 student focus groups.

Results were grouped into either cognitive (task persistence and focus) or emotional (attitude towards people and tasks) categories.

Cognitive

The ability to share, interact and create something relevant to their lives as well as the variety of components online (photos, video) contributed to both task persistence and focus. Students in focus groups also expressed that the ability to choose tasks rather than have teacher dictated work improved focus. Researchers noted that the use of new technology (novelty factor) may have been a contributing factor for the initial student focus levels.

Emotional

84% of the post-study respondents expressed an interest in learning more about the content while 77% of the respondents said that they either learned more or had more fun with this project than others they had completed in school. 66% of the respondents said they learned more quickly with this format. Focus groups requested learning games from their teachers as a way of increasing excitement in other areas of school.

Hendrickson, J., & Doering, A. (2013) Adventure learning and learner engagement: frameworks for designers and educators. Journal of interactive learning research. 24(4), 397-424

Reflections and Thoughts

The majority of AL has used extreme excursions, such as the Go North! program (http://www.polarhusky.com), in which students interact with experts who are based in Alaska. There is synchronous and asynchronous components to the learning environment. In this current study, an online environment was built around people and place of the state of Minnesota. Students from this state were able to learn in both an online environment and in a classroom based situation the same way traditional AL would be. I see a number of benefits to the modified system the current researchers employed.

  1. Students interact with environments that are local. Although an excursion to an extreme environment may appeal to some initially, the connection to place will be longer lasting if that environment is a students local space.
  2. In the current study students are able to add content to the online space related to the area that they live. This allows participants to become experts of their local space. The ownership of the students learning and the engagement in the process will increase.
  3. Interaction: students are going to be able to interact with others and develop pride in both the place they live and the learning and teaching they are performing. Teacher student interactions should become bi-directional as students are able to choose their learning paths.

As a result of reading this study, I think it would be interesting to initiate a similar program in BC. As both a culturally and geographically diverse province it would be exciting to allow students in various parts of the province to interact and teach others about the spaces they live.

One of our cohort members (Keith) initiated a teacherless session with John Harris, an educator who has a rich history in engaging students in simulation activities. John began the session with a very important point: Taking students from consumers of simulations to creators of simulations and as a result displaying higher order thinking. He led us on a journey through some projects that he had students perform. All were very exciting, but here are three that I found to be of particular interest.

1. Lego Robotics Challenge – http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/learn-to-program

Lego provides you with free software that you can complete various missions for your robot to complete. It is an easy interface to understand and allows users to create simple or complex movements for the robots. A robot pack provides users with sensors (colour, touch, beacons) and motors along with various lego bricks to create pre-designed robots or using your imagination to create your own.

What is interesting about this is that you can simulate a real world problem and use the lego to program solutions into your robots. This allows students to experience the process of problem-based learning and integrates computer programming and robot design into the experience.

2. Flight Simulation Challenge

In this challenge, students were asked to create a plane from a pre-shaped styrofoam glider that would be capable of climbing to an altitude of 1km and maintain a level flight path. Students were provided a POV (point of view) HD camera, wireless transmission system, and various servos that the operator could use to navigate the plane using real time video. The important aspect of this simulation to me was the concept of linking the challenge to other areas of curriculum including math (hight of flight based on ground object size from video) and social studies (geography-mapping).

3. Minecraft Gold Rush SImulation

Students were presented with a scenario: create a working immersive setting in minecraft from research on the gold rush. Students created constraints within the game in order to simulate what happened in a town during that era. The constraints placed on the simulation were important for this reason: When students build in Minecraft with a purpose it results in a simulation experience, but when they deviate from the prescribed outcomes it just degrades into playing the game and the education outcomes are lost.

Reflections

This type of project-based experiential learning is very exciting. It allows students to interact with subject matter in a more meaningful way than typical classroom education has been. Simulations also allow for the expression of learning in a way that deviates from the teacher-centric model to a teacher or student supported model where individuals may become the expert in a given area. It also allows students the opportunity to own their own learning and demonstrate that learning to a general population group rather than a closed (school) environment, which has implications for accountability as well as student buy-in.

I have a few concerns with some of the simulation experiences John presented, but are primarily logistical in nature.

  1. This seems to be a cost-prohibitive program to run. With more research and understanding of the equipment I am sure it can done at a reasonable expense, but with shrinking funding at most public institutions I am hard pressed to see how a program like this will be established in such a fashion as presented in this session.
  2. It is an intimidating undertaking. The expertise to at least feel comfortable with some of the fundamental programs can be a challenge. I feel comfortable with technology, but still feel intimidated with the thought of beginning a program like this. You would need someone with the requisite knowledge to begin a program of this nature.

Summary

It is a very exciting prospect to engage students in simulations. I would like to see if it would be possible to implement on a very basic level as the problem-solving aspect of what was presented makes so much sense for student success. I would like to know more about the programming of restrictions within Minecraft in order to keep students on task as I have begun using Minecraft in class and experience issues with off-task behaviour (Simulation deteriorating into game behaviour).

During my current semester in my masters program our cohort has been using a google community to share work, upload screen captures of our weekly sessions, and communicate asynchronously around our shared learning. In using this platform for myself I began to see the merits for class. It would provide a space for students to review material presented in class and allow them to upload and share ideas and learning tools they have found. Google communities can be open (shared freely to anyone) or closed (shared only with those of the group). A discussion around the merits of open vs closed in class resulted in our biology 12 class preferring to have an open community to share the collective learning of our group with others. What follows here is a review of the initial startup and use of this space as a collaborative area to learn.

Initial Thoughts

When starting the group for my class I had visions that all students would actively use the space to contribute to the curation of learning resources for the class. It would be an area that students could go to if they were struggling on a concept and find extra resources to help them. Students could also ask questions of others, including myself, if they had found the day’s information confusing or difficult to understand.

Set-up and Beginnings

Google has made their community space very easy to use and creating the community was easy. All you require is a google+ account and you are set. Beyond the initial set-up of the site, attention to FOIPA details had to be worked out as well. A document modified from another school district outlining use of a website hosting data outside of BC (Canada) was created and returned by students that were going to use the site. A small bump in the road occurred during this stage as one student has not been granted access, but after a conversation with the parents a compromise has been worked out that will allow access through a moderated account by the parents.

I created categories that corresponded to the units of study and began to add video content to the site via YouTube links. This is all very easy to perform and takes little time to do. All that was left now was for students to begin adding to the community.

Reality Hits

No one is using it! I continued to go to the community daily to check in with the hopes that students were adding content or asking questions. Nothing showed up. I was sure this was going to be a useful tool for my class. To say I was disappointed would not be an understatement. I planned to ask the class why no one was using the community (well at least using it the way I had intended) when students began to ask if our presentations could be added there to review. I agreed and began to add slideshare presentations to the community. A few classes went by and I began to notice students were actually using these presentations in class to follow along on phones. They were still taking notes and drawing diagrams from the board, but were more effectively engaging in discussions in class because they did not feel as though they were going to “miss” anything during the presentation. Cool, an unexpected divergence from the initial reason I had set up the space.

Going Forward

I still hope to see more engagement on the site itself. Students are looking at the videos and using the resources I put on. One student explained that they had notifications turned on so they  would know if a new post had happened and found it useful to keep up to date. I hope that students begin to add their own materials so that the space can grow and be more useful in the future. I am debating whether or not to create a new community for every biology 12 class to see if other classes use it differently or if it needs to be left as a curation tool for other classes to add to. Having all the information already existing could be a positive for the new class, but also may be hindering new ways of thinking because they may rely on pre-existing ways of using the space.

A number of years ago I remember walking through our learning commons at lunch to see what the students were up to. On almost every computer that was being used I saw students playing a very pixilated online game. It looked like a very crude, early 80’s nintendo game and I wondered why it was so appealing. Having little time to put into finding out, I dismissed it as “just a game” at that point. Little did I know it was such a creative, educational and process based game called Minecraft.

Fast forward to my current masters cohort. Minecraft is discussed with great regularity and enthusiasm by many of the group members. At first I was somewhat dismissive, but as more time lapsed I became more intrigued with the idea of understanding the platform more. I currently teach a computers 8 class in our school and have focused on increasing the students’ capability to search google effectively using search operators, effective use of documents in google drive and microsoft suite, and introducing them to creative aspects of computing using garage band and video editing software. Although this is providing them with useful tools to aid in many other courses in their schooling, I was interested in learning more about how Minecraft works in order to see if I could integrate this into our learning.

I have a student in class that has shown a waining interest in what we are currently doing and one day in the hall I asked if he “played” Minecraft. “Like, yeah. Um, all the time” was his reply. I though I was going to get that response and asked if he would show me some basics about the platform in class next day. “Wow, a teacher wants me to play Minecraft in class?” he said. “No” I replied, “I want you to teach me how it works.” The following is a breakdown of what he presented to me in class. It is a very basic introduction to the program and I hope that with this beginner knowledge I can at least understand how to use it in class in a way that provides meaning to the students who all have much more knowledge than me.

Although Minecraft is an online world that can be interactive, you first begin by downloading the program onto your computer (www.minecraft.net). Once you have installed the program, you create an online profile. This takes very little time and you are now up and running. The start screen (shown Below) allows you to choose Single Player or Multi Player. I began using this in single user to adjust to a new game.

Minecraft Start Screen

The next screen allows you to create a new world. I kept my Game Mode:Creative (although there are more options) and clicked on More World Options… to create a world that was superflat (see image below) as it was in keeping with the town of Hope that I was going to build.

Create New World Screen

Once the world is created it is now time to build. Movement around the world is easy, with a(left), s(backwards), d(right), and w(forward) keys that are pretty generic to many first person type games. The e key accesses your inventory in order to create different blocks. You have a multitude of options here to create semi-realistic renditions of our world. The spacebar allows you to move upwards and a double-tap returns you to earth. Important for building tall objects.

I began to work on creating our town the next class and asked that any other student who was interested begin to help. I sat back and watched a number of interesting things happen:

  1. Students who had more knowledge of the game and building started to bark out ideas across the room to other students.
  2. Some students began to work in multi-player mode to work on buildings together.
  3. A number of students were struggling to get started. My tutorial student walked around the class to help out and log everyone in who was interested in participating. This was very unusual for this student as he is not generally interested in helping others much, but felt comfortable in his aptitude for the game that he was displaying much more confidence in himself than I had seen previously.
  4. Students who had rushed through projects or put less than ideal effort into them were suddenly working hard on this project. One student had, by the end of class, completed the skate park we have in town and the surrounding parking lot.

This was great! In just one class I had witnessed interactions between students that I was struggling to achieve during many other projects and even on a greater level than the video project we had done last term.

The next class continued like the first, with more students working on building our town. Bridges were constructed, roads emerged, and students had even completed components of our town at home. I have much to learn about the power of the game as an educational tool, but am so glad I took the time to be introduced to it by a student. A tutorial site by paulsoaresjr (https://www.youtube.com/user/paulsoaresjr) was introduced to me as well by my tutor and is a great resource as well.

I hope this helps any other newbie realize that the game is very useful, easy to use, and as complex and creative as the user can imagine.

During my last 8 years in the education industry the number of students that have been actively engaged in outdoor activities has declined. It is also a concern that time spent on sedentary activities have risen, leading to health problems in the population (Lou, D. 2014). Not only is sedentary behaviour affecting our health, but our country’s economic well being and the financial sustainability of our health care system (Bounajm, Dinh, & Theriault, 2014). While improved physical health is a very tangible and seemingly obvious benefit of outdoor activities, psychological health including stress reduction, improved concentration, and a more creative individual are also evident in children who spend more time in the outdoors (Novotney, A., 2008). With the growing urgency to improve youth activity levels and the percentage of time schools demand of students’ daily waking hours an important question arises: How do school systems increase student engagement in the outdoor environment?

A study by Sandra Hofferth (as cited in Novotney, 2008) showed that children ages 9-12 participated 50% less in outdoor activities from 1997-2003. Students are definitely moving in the opposite direction. A starting point for schools might be in the area of Adventure Learning. This are of education exposes students to individuals or groups actively engaging with the outdoors, coupled with interesting curriculum activities that support learning in the classroom. Can this educational technique actually increase student interest in outdoor activities? It may be a good first step in a continuum of learning experiences which in combination may begin a students’ excitement over the environment. What would this continuum look like? Here is a working example:

Get Outside FrameworkClick for larger image.

 

I will begin to look at each of these areas in more detail to develop a more detailed model based in research that teachers can easily implement at any stage where they find students in class.

Lou, D. (2014) Sedentary Behaviors and Youth: Current Trends and the Impact on Health. San Diego, CA: Active Living Research. http://activelivingresearch.org/sites/default/files/ALR_Brief_SedentaryBehaviors_Jan2014_0.pdf

Novotney, A. (2008) Getting back to the great outdoors. Monitor on Psychology. 39(3) pg52.

Bounajm, F., Dinh, T., & Theriault, L. (2014) Moving ahead: The economic impact of reducing physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour. The Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care. http://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/14-10-23/moving_a_little_more_goes_a_long_way_report_finds.aspx