Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

Of Facebook, debating and being inspired!

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

FACEBOOK is one word that needs no introduction. Ask students to group past and present tense verbs and you are likely to get blank stares but mention “Facebook” and they are all ears. That’s the power of Facebook.

The story I am about to tell however, is not about using Facebook in the classroom, but how it helped me to connect, gain inspiration and be proud… so proud in fact, that it moved me to tears.

This is how it all began. Every year, my school students will take part in the district level English Language Debate Competition.

Now, it is quite a daunting task to get teenagers to speak in front of a crowd let alone sacrifice their time for training sessions after school hours. They would rather use the time to chat online, watch the latest music video or attend tuition (the most popular excuse).

From arguing on the advantages of being on a debate team and the importance of learning to articulate arguments, I managed to get some students to join the school’s debate team.

Challenging steps

After the selection process and a few short debate sessions, the biggest challenge was getting all five of them to research, prepare their arguments before the training sessions and attend the training itself!

During the first session, I was shocked at the level of preparation this group of students had done, despite telling them what was needed.

I was hyperventilating and could have literally pulled off every strand of hair on my scalp. As this was their first debate, I guess I could not blame them entirely. So I showed them some debate videos and asked them to watch a few more at home.

A debate requires commitment, perseverance, diligence and time as one needs to do thorough research on the motion.

Extra hands were needed to prepare these students so that they will have what it takes when they get on stage. This heavy responsibility rested on both myself and my fellow colleague’s shoulders.

Sitting alone in the language lab after the team had left, I thought: “how was I to get them ready in three weeks?”

Saved by social media

Then, my mind and thoughts travelled back in time… reminiscing about this particular batch of students; how we almost won against a prestigious school and the determination and maturity that they had demonstrated.

I realised that I was still in touch with them through Facebook. Three of them are currently pursuing law.

So I went home and posted a message via Facebook; requesting them to find some time to help me coach these five newbies.

I didn’t get my hopes up though as I thought they would be busy with their university life.

To my pleasant surprise, all three were happy to help coach the team and do their bit for their alma mater. With dictionaries and laptops, we cracked our heads while working on their arguments.

As I watched these four teenagers: Puteri Eleni Megat Osman, Roeshan Celestine Gomez, Jeremy Lim and Siti Raihan Rosli, I felt so proud that these students were from my school.

I was even more delighted to see how they had grown intellectually and matured. They were also more committed and prepared. I was moved to tears.

Not only did they come to school for the training sessions but we also communicated via Facebook and the telephone.

You will be amazed at how high a teacher’s phone bill can be and it is not just mindless chatting but calls discussing school events, performances, listening to their arguments at 11pm or giving them tips or any fresh arguments that may have popped into my head at odd hours.

Puteri Eleni also set up our school debate team’s Facebook account and attended all the debate competitions to show her support.

Those former students of mine not only inspired this debate team but they also inspired me to continue this challenging journey of training and teaching others.

by Thanbeer Kaur Sekhon.

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Using Student Clickers to Foster In-Class Debate

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Integrating technology with appropriate teaching strategies can help stimulate participation and create a student-centered atmosphere conducive to learning. One technology shown particularly successful in boosting student engagement is clickers (Martyn, 2007). In fact, a research study found that student test scores were significantly higher when clickers were used as part of an in-class lecture as compared to a different section of the same class that didn’t use clickers (Mayer, Stull, DeLeeuw, Ameroth, Bimber, Chun, et al. 2009).

The purpose of this article is to explain how a relatively new technology, like clickers, can be paired with an age-old teaching technique, like in-class debates, to help students develop a deeper understanding of course material and achieve higher exam scores.

Pairing clickers with debate
Our baccalaureate senior level adult health courses meet twice weekly after 18-hours spent in clinical rotations. Each class session lasts two hours and fifty minutes. By the second class, instructors noticed that students were minimally engaged in the discussions. In an effort to enhance student engagement, we began using clickers to promote student debate with a goal of facilitating learning through questioning, critical reflection and discussion.

Here’s how it works. The typical class always begins with an overview of the student learning outcomes for that class session. It was within that context that we introduced students to the clicker/debate strategy, including the rules of behaviors. The primary rule is respect, which we define as a group to include things such as not interrupting others when they are speaking, refraining from side conversations, using professional voice and body language at all times, maintaining appropriate tone of voice, and keeping responses to two minutes or less. For the purpose of building self-confidence and enhancing communication skills, the students are encouraged to stand while speaking, however standing was not required.

Once the class agrees to the rules, the instructor begins the lesson with a PowerPoint guided lecture. Within the first 10-15 minutes, the first debate question is presented. The question stem is displayed for all to view and students are instructed to silently consider all possible and plausible answers. The instructor chooses one student from anyone willing to answer the questions with a rationale. Then any student with a differing view is invited to offer their answer and rationale, and why they believe the opposing student’s response was fallible. To help facilitate critical thinking, the instructor asks follow-up questions to deepen understanding. This debate portion of the class lasts one-to-three minutes depending on the complexity of the topic being discussed.

Once the debate period closes, four possible answers are displayed and the class uses their clickers to anonymously select what they believed to be the correct option. When all responses are tabulated, a bar graph of the collective responses is displayed for everyone to view and discuss further. The student debater who had the correct answer receives a small prize, such as a full-size candy bar, while the opposing student receives a consolation type prize, such as a pencil or a kid’s toy typically found in a fast food meal. If neither were correct the entire class gets a mini-size candy bar. We found that this little incentive helps motivate students to participate, and makes the experience fun for everyone.

Reaction from faculty and students
Nurse educators have a responsibility to ensure students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to transition from student to nurse successfully. Classroom experiences set the tone for learning in the clinical setting; therefore, lesson plans should be inclusive of strategies that not only focus on disease management but other essential skill-sets such as effective communication, conflict resolution, and a healthy self-confidence. One way to accomplish this is by incorporating clicker questions, complemented by student debate in the classroom.

by Leslee Shepard, Ed.D

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New Education Blueprint: 4G Internet access and a virtual learning platform for national schools.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: All 10,000 national schools nationwide will be equipped with 4G Internet access and a virtual learning platform.

This can be can be used by teachers, students, and parents through the 1BestariNet programme as well as training all teachers to embed ICT in teaching and learning in order to support student learning, said the Education Blueprint unveiled today.
In addition, the number of ICT devices will be increased until the student-to device ratio reaches 10:1.
The ratio may be lowered further, by being subjected to an impact assessment and availability of funds.
The move  is not to ensure students  learn how to use  ICT but are able to leverage it effectively to enhance their learning, the blueprint said.
This move  will further strengthen  the foundation of  ICT-enabled  schools while introducing proven ICT solutions into the education system, it added.
The ministry will also be piloting ICT innovations for delivery such as distance-learning and self-paced learning before scaling up nationwide.
Malaysia has long recognised the transformative potential of ICT in education.
The UNESCO review noted that Malaysia was among the first few countries in the world to have pioneered a strategic ICT plan for its education system.
From 1999 to 2010, the ministry has invested approximately RM6 billion on ICT in education initiatives. The bulk of these funds went towards additional computer labs to support PPSMI (RM2.6 billion) and the building of a computer lab in every school (RM2.5 billion).
A study conducted by the Ministry in 2010 found, however, that ICT usage was relatively limited. Approximately 80 per cent of teachers spend less than one hour a week using ICT. Only a third of students perceive their teachers to be using ICT regularly.
The roadmap for leveraging ICT for learning will see the ministry adopting a sequenced approach to ICT.
Critical elements for ICT usage such as devices, network and applications, ICT competencies in teachers, and curriculum and assessment will be in place prior to shifting to more intense, innovative usage of ICT.
by Yiswaree Palensamy.

Use new tools of the trade

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Traditions die hard in the teaching profession, but educators must face up to the fact that 21st century tools are needed to teach digital learners.

AS AN educator myself, I have many friends who are teachers and they often seem happy and comfortable teaching the way they have been taught when they were in school.

I often hear that teachers are reluctant to use technology to teach because they see it as a waste of time.

Are you one of those teachers?

If you are, then dip your toe into the 21st century; it may be cold at first, but it will warm up very quickly.

You’ll find that technology is a tool that not only engages and challenges the student, but the teacher as well.

This is the 21st century and our students are 21st century digital learners!

We may not always have all the resources, but we can still find a way to not only educate but to engage our students, digitally.

What is digital learning?

According to the Digital Learning Day webpage:

Digital learning is any instructional practice that is effectively using technology to strengthen the student learning experience.

Digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practice, including using online and formative assessment, increasing focus and quality of teaching resources and time, online content and courses, applications of technology in the classroom and school building, adaptive software for students with special needs, learning platforms, participating in professional communities of practice, providing access to high level and challenging content and instruction, and many other advancements technology provides to teaching and learning. In particular, blended learning is any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path and pace.

Embracing change: New methods of technology should be used to strengthen the learning experience in class.

Embracing change: New methods of technology should be used to strengthen the learning experience in class.

Now, that’s a mouthful! To me, digital learning means:

·Allowing students to take control of their learning using technology as a guide;

·Creating comic strips to depict a situation in learning;

·Having discussions about shared books with students across the world;

·Completing research projects through chat or discussion groups online, using an Interactive Whiteboard (I have a Smartboard) to make your lessons interactive; or,

·Skyping with a student in another state to bring a story to life.

It means so many things; most of all, it means using technology as a tool to engage and challenge our 21st century learners.

But we teachers don’t need yet another “new and shiny tool” for our profession unless it does something powerful and relevant to the learning potential. Any new technology must first be couched in powerful and relevant learning potential.

by Dr. Termitkaur Ranjit Singh.

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What Did We Learn about PowerPoint and Student Learning?

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The recent post on PowerPoint use generated a healthy response. That’s encouraging, but blog exchanges can seem like conversations without conclusions. There is no summary, no distillation, and no set of next questions. And when there are many comments, I worry that those who respond first don’t return to read what follows and those who check in later don’t have time to read all the comments. So for my benefit and yours (hopefully), here’s how I would summarize our exchange on using PowerPoint.

One of the points made in the post was affirmed in the commentary. PowerPoint is a tool and that means how it affects learning depends on how it’s used. Tim H. said it clearly and succinctly, “Any statement you can make about PowerPoint, good or bad, can also be made about any other presentation method—chalkboard, overhead projector, etc. PowerPoint is only a tool.”

Most folks who commented use PowerPoint and they do for a number of different reasons. A Guest pointed out that it’s “crucial” in making information “accessible” for students with learning challenges or for whom English is not their first language. Jana M. elaborates in a different direction: “PowerPoint is excellent for the introverted, visual and to some degree auditory learner. However, the tactile, extroverted, verbal learners will quickly become bored and lose the desire to learn.” J. Hardy noted what is repeated in a number of comments, “PowerPoint is an effective tool for showcasing schematic models or diagrams or presenting pictures of key features. . . .” Laurel writes, “Lecturers can often forget to emphasize the ‘four most important points’ as they teach, and all of us learners want to know what those are and why. Creating a good PowerPoint reinforces that information for everyone.” LAB offers a particularly pithy summary. He/she uses PowerPoint “to show my students pictures of places and processes they’ve never encountered.”

Some commented that using PowerPoint benefits the teacher. I hadn’t thought of that before. Dave P. explains. “Preparing PowerPoint slides may be a useful exercise for faculty members because it forces them to think about, organize, and prioritize the material to be covered in a particular lesson.” Dave T said, “Some of the best teaching ideas come as one is preparing a PowerPoint presentation.” Follow-up question: How do we balance these teacher benefits against giving students the opportunity to learn how to organize material on their own? And how do we avoid Bernd S.’s concern that using slides can increase “presentation speed to unacceptable levels”?

A number of comments correctly noted that my post omitted discussing the many other PowerPoint enhancements beyond bulleted points and other forms of texts—enhancements like video clips, websites, blogs, polls, clickers, hot links and various forms of animation used by teachers. Dave L. writes “PowerPoint. . . used as more than a projector for ‘words’ or ‘organization’ promotes interest and should assist learning.” 45Doc70 notes that PowerPoint “gives faculty an incredible amount of creativity.”

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD.

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Techno wizardry enlivens classes

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

The clever use of technology in the classroom is a sure-fire way to increase interest in learning among today’s tech-savvy students.

AS an educator, I have always been a great believer in John Dewey’s famous quote: If we teach today as we taught yesterday, then we rob our children of tomorrow.

So it is our duty to teach our students in such a way that we prepare them for a better tomorrow.

Our students have already beaten us when it comes to technology.

My teenage son has taught me loads about technology and is still my biggest and quickest source of information when it comes to technology; what’s new, what works best, installation, and all about the social media out there. Now, we teachers need to catch up with our students on technology.

It is crucial to acknowledge the importance of technology integration in classrooms these days. Let’s look at the benefits of technology integration in the classroom, the technological content knowledge teachers should have, and most importantly the implication for teachers.

Classroom technology

Technology integration in the classroom brings about a more student-centred approach. When teachers use technology in the classroom, their approaches seem to be more student-centred.

Students tend to work together more while using technology; for example, to search the web and create multimedia presentations.

Hypermedia and hypertext increase their understanding. Hypermedia environments are dynamic and interactive and create a non-linear collection of information.

by Dr. Termit Kaur Ranjit Singh.

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Does PowerPoint Help or Hinder Learning?

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

I’ve had some nagging concerns about PowerPoint for some time now. I should be upfront and admit to not using it; when I taught or currently in my presentations. Perhaps that clouds my objectivity. But my worries resurfaced after reading an article in the current issue of Teaching Sociology. I’ll use this post to raise some questions and concerns about the role of PowerPoint both in the classroom and in student learning experiences.

Too often we forget how significantly teaching practices shape learning experiences and PowerPoint is a perfect example. It has redefined “what a lecture looks like, consists of, and how it’s experienced,” according to one source quoted in the article (p. 254). Add to that how regularly PowerPoint is used these days. Sixty-seven percent of the 384 students surveyed in this study reported that all or most of their instructors used PowerPoint, another 23% said that at least half their instructors used it and 95% said that their instructors who used PowerPoint did so in all or most class sessions.

The article reviews studies that have looked at the influence of PowerPoint on performance in the course and course grades. Most studies find that PowerPoint has “no measurable influence on course performance and minimal effect on grades.” (p. 243) Yet students often report a favorable view of PowerPoint, saying it helps them with learning, content organization and note taking. The students in this cohort confirmed these positive effects.

What students in this study said they liked about PowerPoint is part of my concern. When asked to identify those features of PowerPoint they found most helpful, about 80% said the software organized lecture content and indicated which points were most important. Eighty-two percent said they “always,” “almost always, or “usually” copy the information on the slides. Does copying down content word-for-word develop the skills needed to organize material on your own? Does it expedite understanding the relationships between ideas? Does it set students up to master the material or to simply memorize it?

And then there’s the potential of PowerPoint to oversimplify the material. What students need to know is reduced to a bulleted list of five items described in five words or less. (I know, not always.) That does make complicated material more manageable for students and perhaps that’s beneficial, but does it fairly and accurately represent the nature of the material we are asking students to learn? Do the lists convey any sense of context? Do they hint at the complex relationships that exist between and among items on the list?

I also worry that using PowerPoint encourages passivity. Well-designed PowerPoint presentations can be graphically impressive. They do add a great deal of interest and without question make it easier to listen and follow along. But do they encourage interaction? Do they promote critical thinking? Possibly, but often they make having discussions more difficult. The lights are partially dimmed and the seats arranged so that everyone focuses on the screen. Those aren’t features that foster the vibrant exchange of ideas.

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD

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A ringing problem

Monday, July 30th, 2012

ANY move to allow children to take handphones to school was bound to be controversial. Even though the handphone has become mainstream in the last decade, the fact is unlimited access, even in the hands of adults, is controversial.

Admittedly, there are very few places to which adults cannot take their handphones (some government offices and foreign embassies are among them), but there are many places where the use of handphones is prohibited;  hospital wards, cinemas, airplanes, petrol stations and university examination halls, to name a few.

But, of course, just because there are large signs, announcements and even laws specifically stating that handphones are not to be used does not mean that adults, who should know better and be more disciplined, abide by them. So, it would be reasonable to assume that enforcing similar rules on children in schools would be about as difficult, if not more, given that school is where children are just learning about rules, and obeying or breaking them. So, when it was proposed that handphones be permitted in school starting from next year, teachers were right to be concerned about how to regulate its use. Teachers have enough difficulty getting students to concentrate on lessons, without the added communicational avenue the handphone provides. The deputy education minister says the move is to “provide a virtual learning environment so that students can use their gadgets to learn”. But it would be naive to assume that that is all the students will be using their phones for. In any case, in the cyberworld, learning cannot be limited to what is in the school syllabus. So, the ministry must realise to what it is consenting, and the burden it is placing on schools.

But still, the move is not without support. In a society where schoolchildren are out of their parents’ supervision from morning until early evening, the handphone may be the only way for parents to check on their children outside of school hours. But if this is the purpose of allowing handphones in school, then the rules for this privilege must be tailored for it. Students should only be allowed to have basic handphones, whose only function is to make calls and to send and receive SMSes. The phones should not have any camera, video or voice-recording capabilities, or Internet access.

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Use Of Mobile Phone In School Has More Negative Effects On Students – Perbit

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Mobile Phone Owners Association (Perbit) is not in favour of allowing students to use mobile phones in schools because it has more negative than positive effects.

Its president, Ali Ibrahim, said besides disrupting their studies, there was a possibility of students having telephone with Internet access abusing it to watch pornographic materials in school and this could encourage unhealthy activities, as well as bring negative effects on the society.

He said students would feel that they were free to surf the Internet and to contact anyone they want to.

“It gives a negative impact on students as there is a tendency that they will be carried away by the various forms of entertainment which can be found in the telephone.

“This may result in the students neglecting their studies,” he told Bernama here Friday.


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Safer technology in schools

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

IT IS important that we implement safe school policies and practices, in order to safeguard the health and development of children and help boost their interest in learning.

More scientists and medical doctors, many of whom work on the biological effects of wireless technologies, have voiced their concerns about the safety of wireless devices for schools.

The Austrian Medical Association, for example, recommended WiFi-free school environments.

Based on a report – Safe Schools - published in June, Dr Gerd Oberfeld, from the association, said WiFi environments would lead to high microwave exposure for students and teachers.

He added that it could also increase the burden of oxidative stress which in turn could slow down the energy production especially in brain cells. This could lead to concentration difficulties and memory problems in certain individuals.

Dr Igor Belyaev, the head research scientist, Cancer Research Institute, Slovak Academy of Science, Slovak Republic, said that the usage of WiFi and mobile phones in the classroom should be either forbidden or reduced as much as possible.

Several authorities have already advised limiting the usage of mobile communication by children and have called for their protection from wireless technologies.

In an appeal in 2002, medical doctors in Germany requested that a ban be imposed on mobile telephone and digital cordless telephone use in both preschools and schools.

This included a ban on mobile telephone use by children and restrictions on use by adolescents. They also called for education of the public, regarding the health risks of electromagnetic fields.

Prof Dr Alvaro Augusto A. de Salles of the Electrical Engineering Department at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil, said that responsible governments should act firmly to avoid the use of mobile phones and WiFi in schools.

The reasons he said were due to the scientific evidence already available in various publications like the Bioinitiative report, Pathophysiology 2009, Interphone report, showing health risks even at low-level exposure to the non-ionizing radiation.

Instead of a wireless connection, he recommended other fixed connections such as twisted pairs, coaxial cables and optical fibres that should be made available for each student.

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