I hate learning from failure…

Shoot! Technologically –  a failed lecture on Digital Portfolios. My old computer conked out and I was left with a chalkboard and a borrowed lap top (thanks Marco). I had wanted to introduce my students to the Digital Portfolio template and had put together for the Skills for a Changing World Programme and get them inspired with an evocative set of Portfolio Metaphors.

Never great when the Ed tech guy can’t get his computer working. Note to self – ensure that you have a backup on your memory stick! I hate learning from my mistakes.

Starting with the end

I’ve always found it useful to start a course with the end product in mind. I also wanted to communicate that the Ed Tech course that I was introducing would be hands on (both behind the computer and at the desks). So I spent a good few hours groveling around the web, looking for a nice introduction. Stumbled across Life Hacker’s post on making a DIY paper pop up CD case which had a Chung Da Lam teaching how to fold a CD case. Neat – but too advanced for me. But the comments had some useful suggestions and with help from Wake1080 I created a template for students to store their portfolio CDs in.

The template also divided the class into groups and allowed them to store important information about their accounts. Take a look and tell me if it works for you.

Teaching for tomorrow

I’m quite excited. I’ve been given an opportunity to influence, affect, direct and maybe even change the way that teachers will practice their teaching and learning in the classroom. From next week I’ll be working with student and practicing teachers discovering, demonstrating and developing new ways of learning about ICT, learning with ICT and learning through the use of ICT. The School of Education and Development have hired me to take over the AV course.

I’ve decided to move away from Audio Visual and focus more on Education Technology. Over the next six month we are going to be

  • Learning about ICT
  • Learning with ICT
  • Learning through the use of ICT

Different thinking

Kevin Durheim, Professor at the School of Psychology, and his student conference team have put the 2008 student conference online, and  it has a few differences.

The Team

From left: Jared Forbes, Thembelihle Zuma, Janine Upton & Farina Karim.

As we planned this web site, the team and I decided (as one of the conference goals), to try and get 15 conversations started. With Kevin’s support, we set up two data projectors in each room (one for the speaker, and one for the “conversations”) and asked conference delegates to “comment”. By the end of the conference, we had 151 comments for the 31 conference papers that were presented. Highest number of posts – 20 for a presentation. Almost 5 comments per paper. I think that we achieved our aim. Hopefully the thoughts that were stimulated at the conference might continue – independently on the blogs.

Different Planning

It’s energising to work with people that are

  1. Willing to try new ideas in front of their peers
  2. Want to explore better methods of working
  3. Unafraid of looking silly

The psych masters conference team hadn’t published anything online before. Yet after a day and a half of work shopping, we had decided that we were going to look at different ways of hosting a conference. We were going to attempt to create a conversation. Together, the conference team put together a programme site with a Blog, Social Bookmarks and Photosharing capacity.  Farina and Janine where quite willing to explore different ways of putting themselves into the media.

Thembi, who ran the blog, had never touched Blogging software, yet she ran the account like a pro.  Jarred, who was introduced to some new tools, in the orientation workshops, has now decided to incorporate them in his research next year.

We really have to thank Prof Kevin Durheim,  for making the School of Psychology Presentations archieve happen and for his positive attitude to our little experiments in this project. We are all looking forward to some interesting learning.

My early learning tech & ed memories

I still vividly remember the excitement of hearing my name read out on the radio, a dedication arranged by my parents for my third birthday. Turning the wireless dial, mistaking it for the volume, I discovered that there was more to radio than the “English Service Station”. Springbok radio, with its 15 minute story slot, was my favourite “audio book”.

The cool kids in standard 4 and 5 had a Casio MG 880 calculator. We all took turns at the with the mini space invaders game. In standard 6, we still had slide rulers and trigonometry books, but scientific calculators were introduced from standard 7 onwards and the rulers and books thankfully binned.

In primary school, we watched our weekly fix of educational films, played from the raised projector room in the back of the hall. In my final year of primary school, I was appointed film monitor with the very responsible tasks of ordering, showing and rewinding many film reels reel. The noisy projector and talkative monitors, insulated by two small glass plated oblong windows.

We were the first family on the block to have a 386 computer (with yellow coloured monitor screen). But my dad’s secretary typed out my matric history project and most of my history 1 to 3  essays were hand written.

Medium and short-wave radio were the primary route for accessing alternative sources of news in the apartheid era and many an evening was spent switching between the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Moscow. Much of my free time at university was spent in NUTS studio, playing records across university landlines…we were not allowed to broadcast on the airways.

Images from Pixabay under a CC 0 Pixabay License.
Thanks to Clker-Free-Vector-Images, OpenClipart-Vectors & mohamed_hassan

It’s not a PICNIC

Problem In Chair, Not In Computer Problem In Chair, Not In Computer

PICNIC  (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) is a term used by computer techies to describe people who are having problems with their technologies. The assumption behind the term is that the computer is right, and the user is wrong. Perhaps geeks feel that computers needs defending. I don’t. I think users need to be looked after better.

The automatic assumption that people struggling with their computer are stupid, untrained, illiterate etc is an arrogant conceit. The user experience (UX)  and the user interface (UI) is determined by the techies, geeks and coders responsible for putting the interface together. Blaming users for not understanding their design is misplaced.

I’d argue that we need to be looking at PICNIC the other way around. Computers should develop and evolve so that the needs of the person in the chair, the user are put first before the technology. A great user experience on a computer’s depends on the usability, accessibility and  pleasure between the user and their device. That’s user interface determines how long that positive experience remains.

As a teacher, and an ed techie, I’m interested in how teachers and students can make better use of their computers. But you’ll never here me use the term PICNIC. Don’t assume that technology is right and your teachers or students are at fault. This is mistake. Although I spend lots of my time coding behind a computer, and lots of my night churning over the problems I encountered while designing or coding, my interest really lies in understanding peoples learning interactions with ICT.

I’ve noticed that in educational circles, the learning is usually focused around the content, or the teacher, but vary rarely around learner him / herself and understanding their particular needs. Defining the particular problem that the learner faces is half of the battle won. Then you can move forward and collect relevant resources that address this need and design and develop an appropriate learning experience.

This process can be both messy and recursive, and certainly is no PICNIC. But if we really want our students to understand what they are learning, then we need to understand our students.

Finding my voice


What should I do with my life?
What should I do with my life?

I was up at 1 am this morning reading Po Bronson’s Book –  What should I do with my life – with questions about the future running around my brain and robbing me of sleep.

Po has a well known quote “There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Nothing seemed more brave to me than facing up to one’s own identity, and filtering out the chatter that tells us to be someone we’re not.

The idea of learning to recognize your own voice and identity in a noisy and loud world is a compelling idea. This blog is my small attempt to find and share my voice, thoughts and digital identity amidst the chatter.