Wednesday, September 29, 2010

updates on multiliterate and other ESL chaos

 I created a Multiliteracies PLN (or facsimile thereof) tab on my public NetVibes page, and then posted a screen shot of the page + brief note with link to my Multiliteracies blog on Ning.
This evening, one of my almost students in Blogging English emailed me privately with a question about starting a PLN. I replied but directly to the blog (sorry the blog is private - just for the class). Then I found the student had not yet joined the class, so I did have to write the student privately to explain that he was not a member of the class until he joined the blog. I can't imagine why he thought he could be part of the class without joining it. That's a new one - and something to address in future letters to new students.

Now I need to find a few "PLN for newbies" links and decide how to organize hosting student PLNs on the blog. I can add pages, but we don't have an unlimited number available. I think each student can put PLN in a post and then edit as needed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

more literacies, networks, knowledge, etc

I'm doubling up on PLN related open / online courses. Too tired to come up with a name both right and clever. Do enough and I may even get a handle on them - if only on the acronyms. 

Platforms are another issue. I remember D2L from when it was a study skills and how to learn site. LMS (Learning Management Systems) are becoming increasingly complex and admin oriented, more about micromanagement and surveillance. I first used WebCT (if memory serves) around 2001 or 2002, creating and loading most of my own course materials, all of which went into the belly of the beast. Course back-ups only opened in WebCT through the university account. You leave, your course material stays. 

Now the trend is for colleges and universities to subscribe to WebCT pre-loaded with course materials as well as automatically upgraded, adding (imo fake) "social media" features. Why would an informed student want to keep a private personal blog shared with not just instructor and classmates but sysadmin to boot?

LMS can be seriously clunky, some more than others. The more intrusive, the clunkier. UC Davis' course listserv did everything I needed, and the Tech in Teaching program was developing a nimble LMS DTA or Distance Teaching Assistant, designed for flexibility and customization. Now they've gone to one of the commercial systems.

I still think online and hybrid classes could run just fine on a collection of free applications, e.g. a blog, a web based/archived email group, microblogging for short notices, document sharing, chat for office hours. That opinion also has more than a little to do with edu punk leanings, which is why I'm giving all this a spin, including the PLN/PLE. Forget e-portfolios though. No more evaluations, which is what that particular artifact is for. I prefer the network approach because it can allow weaving in community, academic advocacy, learning materials (whether for local or global users).

My current, sort of related project (obsession) is filling gaps - teaching materials, course pages - as best I can. Portfolio but as memoir and biography.  An electronic CV for someone no longer on or in the market, which means I am free to do it my way. If it the self-paced study group works, I'll think about putting up something self-paced (that I already have material for) for community use.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PLE as subset of PLN

PLE as subset of PLN, originally uploaded by catspyjamasnz.

I've been mulling over the difference between ePortfolios, PLE's and PLN's. This clarifies the distinction - for now at any rate. Maybe I'd add that ePortfolios (which somehow seem less open-ended) are another subset, an artifact representing the network or demonstrating learning outcomes (an arbitrary fixed end-point).

#PLENK2010, #evomlit

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Language learning methods

Here's an interesting article titled "On the mortality of language learning methods" that discusses how methods for learning foreign languages appear, prosper, disappear, and then reappear.

Over the past century many different methods or approaches have been applied to the teaching and learning of foreign languages. Since the 1960s, for example there has been a shift from approaches that concentrate on learning grammar, vocabulary and on translation, to approaches the emphasise communication, especially speaking. The same thing also happened in the second half of the 19th century.

Much research has been undertaken into language learning and teaching, but as far as I can discover, no single approach or method has been found to work significantly better than any other, in spite of claims to the contrary by the inventors, founders and promoters of particular methods and approaches. 

Moreover, each new development in technology, whether it be the phonograph, radio, television, computer or internet, is expected to transform the way people learn languages. However this doesn't necessarily happen.

le plus ça change, plus ce la même chose!

Study Habits

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits is the title of a very useful article that has just appeared in The New York Times. It's worth a full-read, but here are some points that struck me in particular:

Vary What You Study

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

Don't Just Study In One Place:

Students should study in multiple locations because:

The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time, the authors say, regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious. It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.

Use "Tests" To Help Students Learn

…cognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.

In one of his own experiments, Dr. Roediger and Jeffrey Karpicke, also of Washington University, had college students study science passages from a reading comprehension test, in short study periods. When students studied the same material twice, in back-to-back sessions, they did very well on a test given immediately afterward, then began to forget the material.

But if they studied the passage just once and did a practice test in the second session, they did very well on one test two days later, and another given a week later.

"Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test," Dr. Roediger said. "Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have."

I'm not a huge fan of tests, but I do often ask students to take a minute to write down what they remember about a topic we have discussed at an earlier time and that will apply to what we will be doing that day.  Then I'll have students share with partner.  Perhaps I should do this sort of activity more often?

I'd be very interested in hearing your reactions to the article….

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