Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Inspiring Posts, Podcasts and Voicethreads

Just wanted to link to some inspiring posts from my aggregator. From Ryan Bretag who makes a deeply felt plea for students to read as well as write. I just had a conversation with a student today where I realised she was under a misapprehension that there was nothing in it for her. She was completing posts as if I required them, rather than seeing them as prompts or springboards for an exploration of her own interests. The reading part of it is not taken seriously by these students who are “playing school”, figuring, I suppose, that only a visible product that she can tick off as having been done counts. The resistance shows up in some of the posts that students do. I guess it really is a learning experience for both me and the students. Anyway here is what Ryan says:

Students need to read blogs! I cannot overstate this fact enough. If you really want blogging to be transformative and you want it to sustain itself as a powerful piece of the classroom environment, it starts with reading blogs and learning about the philosophy of this genre: critical reading, connecting and synthesizing ideas, communicating publicly, creating, contributing, community linking and building, and moving cyclically. Without this step, students are more likely to see it merely as an online equivalent to a journal (an expensive notebook) or even worse, word processing.”
How true.

And, on another matter but equally relevant for me is a post from Stephen Downes:

If people want more right-wing teachers, there’s a really simple way to do it: pay them more. That way, you’ll get teachers who are motivated by the money passing on capitalist values rather than people who are motivated by social service talking about cooperating and sharing, about rights and diversity.
I recommend that you read both posts in full.

Then today, while listening to a Seedlings podcast by Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oaks, and Alice Barr (go team) I heard that Voicethread is giving free pro accounts to educators. This means that you can record audio comments, make text comments, Doodling, (not sure about this yet) sharing, full screen presentations, Flickr and Facebook importing, embedding, zooming, identities, simple and secure privacy control, moderation and an unlimited number of VoiceThreads, storage and Image, doc and video file size limit. Sounds good to me.
I thought about using it for my Year 7 class by having them record the findings they made from researching the First World War in the course of studying the novel by Jennie Walters, Standing in the Shadows. I am starting to try it out myself before getting the students to try it. I did show the class the beautiful Voicethread narrated by three year old Rachel Fryer about her new haircut. They loved it. Go and have a look yourself.

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  1. Stephen said, "If people want more right-wing teachers, there’s a really simple way to do it: pay them more. That way, you’ll get teachers who are motivated by the money passing on capitalist values rather than people who are motivated by social service talking about cooperating and sharing, about rights and diversity."


    I enjoyed talking with you on Skype about this. I look forward to more conversations.

    Here is my take about what Stephen said.
    1. As someone who is motivated by social services and talking about cooperating and sharing, about rights and diversity-- I would appreciate teachers earning a decent competitive wage which they could in turn use to help those projects with which they are involved.
    2. Most of my right wing friends, both those who teach and those who do not teach, volunteer and serve for reasons other than money.
    3. Stereotypical statements like the one above by Stephen only further polarize individuals/groups and does nothing to support the community he says should exists.

    A community with only one type of thought represented isn't really a community at all. Real strength comes in diversity of thought.

    As someone who grew up marginalized most of her childhood and has spent much of her adult life trying to make the world better for children of poverty, I am cautious when I read anything that seems to marginalize anyone based on their thoughts or beliefs.

    Thanks for allowing me the chance to share a different view.

  2. I was struck by this too Jo.

    I think that it applies equally in our own situation here in Oz.... only it perhaps more subtle here.

    This will stay in my mind as I go forward thinking about my teaching and role in a conservative society.

  3. Jo,
    I have read those posts in my RSS and you just point at the paragraphs that left a trace in my mind.

    Vocation and the happiness you get from doing your teaching job well simply cannot be paid.

    I consider myself happy when I get a student's mail after the course has ended saying he is thinking of a blog project of his own. An autonomous project that springs from those seeds watered in class.

    Steven is sharp with his words. I think he is mocking political recipes and not trying to build a new wall. If we want diversity, teachers should be paid better and bring all kinds of thinking into the profession.

    At least in Argentina, a man who wants to have a family with two kids would be less than encouraged to make a living as a teacher. Unless you make it to a management position, you'll struggle making ends meet.

    There are great people in the profession. There are also school managers who know that true teachers will do their job exceedingly well even if underpaid.

    I often wonder to what extent diversity of thought in the profession could change things for better.

  4. Thanks for pointing me towards Ryan Bretag's post on blogging and reading. My students really started to enjoy blogging about 2 weeks ago when I made them read each others' blogs and comment on them (made = marks attached :) ). Since then, I no longer have to 'make' them. They are constantly reading each others' blogs and commenting. They ask each other questions and critique each others' writing (constructively, of course ;)

    I work with a group of students in a learning centre, with cognitive and learning disabilities. So I am seeking another similar classroom with whom to share our blogging experiences. I'm sure they'll love the exchange!

  5. Jo,
    Just so good to hear your voice in this blog post! Yes, we love voicethread, please share your class thread when you are done. Be sure to have your students email the VoiceThread guys. They love to hear from those in the field!
    see you online!

  6. I am a student and I enjoy the blogging, podcasts, and the voicethreads. Although our class had not worded that much with voicethreads I have watched some and I have learned a lot. Depending on what way a student uses these sources they could befit from them.