Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Social Networking Lab Post

Social networks seem to me to be an as yet untapped resource for me.  I have steadfastly avoided joining twitter so far, checked into facebook just to see what it was all about and didn't find it all that interesting and mostly time consuming if I was too keep it up properly.  Since that time, most of my family have made facebook pages and lately I have been thinking I should make one again if only to help me keep up to date with my relatives and let them hear from me without having to send each one an email.  I also see how it might be a way to connect with students, though it doesn 't seem to have nearly the following here in Japan as in the USA.  On the other hand, to some extent I still worry about privacy issues, and about mixing work/teaching me with family me.  I think I would actually have to maintain two different accounts, one oriented to friends and family and one to professional stuff.  I am actually not sure that the latter gives me significant enough benefit to warrant the time involved.

On the other hand, being part of a more specific online community like the MACUL space seems to have more merit.  It seems like it is a huge multiplier of people I can turn to with questions, for advice, and as I get more proficient myself, to give help to.  Interestingly, I was trying to figure out how to join a group on that space and couldn't.  I waffled between asking on the CEP Q&A forum (I checked and no one else had posted the same question) and on MACUL.  I looked for "help" or "FAQ" on the MACUL site, but finding neither and exhausting all the trial-and-error options I could think of, I decided to start a discussion in the group I wanted to join by asking the question of how to join.  Well, as it turns out, by requesting to start a discussion I was told I had to join first and prompted to join.  Viola, task accomplished.  Though there has to be some more direct way, I would think.

Also, the idea of building my own networks for classes seems fantastic.  It is basically what I have wanted to be able to do for a while, have the facebook-like and/or twitter-like model but with a closed, specific group.  Students can manage their own profiles, work on building the network, use it for class-oriented stuff, and then keep it/stay in it if they want even after the class ends.  I'll really be looking to use this kind of thing as I move forward.  I see it as helping manage communication between me and students outside of class time, a way to accept assignments and have them share projects with each other, and to increase the amount of time they have to interact using English.  I wish I had been aware of this three or four years ago, as it would have been absolutely great for the "homeroom" kind of class I have had for the past few years but will no longer have once I leave this position.  Still, I can envision using it in other types of classes as well.

I think that for my peers (age-wise) that use some of these tools, it is probably mostly for things like I mentioned about using facebook for feeling more in touch with family, especially since many of us English-language educators live so far from where our families are.  I think more of the younger educators, 10 to 20 years younger than me especially, probably are more comfortable and familiar with this kind of networking and therefore more likely to adapt it for their classrooms as well as their own learning and professional development.  That certainly seems to be the case from anecdotal experience.

Next up, being busy and getting things done.

A fear for the older learner

While I am at it with the BBC, this article I read yesterday about "trendfear" describes one of my ongoing worries:
"The nagging anxiety at the back of the mind that you are missing out might be called "trendfear". "

I also particularly liked this bit he related:

"In an interview about the internet with the Sunday Times in 1999, Douglas Adams memorably satirised a common attitude towards new technology and trends.
Everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal, suggested Adams. Anything created between birth and the age of 30 is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it.
But whatever is invented after you've turned 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it -until it's been around for about 10 years, when it gradually turns out to be all right really."
 From: Trendfear: Do you ever feel you're being left behind?, ,

For me, I think I probably stretched the second phase closer to 40, but I've also had a healthy dose of skepticism blended in since well before my 30s.

Blended Reading

"Blended Learning" is something of a catchphrase for people in my professional circle these days.  If you are not familiar with the term, they are referring to blending platforms for providing language learning opportunities.  In other words, combining traditional classroom instruction with online learning. 

In my own daily life I have been noticing how my reading has been changing.  Not only that I can read books electronically, or have printed versions delivered to my doorstep by ordering them online, but also the changing options for what I read and why I read.  I also enjoy relaxing in front of the television, including watching informative programs on Discovery, The History Channel, Animal Planet, and so on.  While it used to be that I would make a choice to read or watch TV, or maybe have the TV on as "background noise" while focusing on reading, lately watching TV with my iPod at hand seems to prompt me to read things.  Something comes up in a program, even a drama, and I decide I want to know more about it.  I do a Google search right then and there and read more about it while watching, during commercials, or right after the program.  Sometimes it is a simple "fact check" and other times it is to learn something more in depth.  Sometimes it takes me off on other tangents.  Sometimes I end up ordering a related book.  Sometimes it is the other way around, where reading leads me to other media.  For example, the video that is sometimes embedded in the reading for the CEP class I am taking now.  Or how reading about the history of a band in preparing a lesson leads me to download a song or even a video and enjoy it.

I have been wondering how this kind of blending of media might be incorporated into my language teaching, and specifically into motivating my students to read more and give them more autonomy in their learning.  Today I came across an interesting video article, Fiction gets technology makeover, on the BBC website that presents something called "transmedia" which is sort of the kind of potential I was vaguely imagining, though in this case purely as entertainment.  For both readers and reading educators, you may find this article interesting.  To avoid copyright infringement, I will merely link to the article.  Should the BBC remove it before you see it or you not be able to access it, I am sorry.

BBC Click: Fiction gets technology makeover

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Here is a screenshot of my RSS feeds from Google Reader when I made it:

I have already added some things, as well.  Not as much time as I'd like to go through the content.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Web Page vs. Blog Post

I think the main differences between a traditional web page and a blog are the potential for a high level of interactivity in blogs and also that content in a blog should constantly be being added while a traditional web site has set content that is only revised when some specific information noted there (e.g. opening times of a business) is changed.  A blog is typically more interactive in that has frequent additions and it allows followers to comment on things others have posted.  I think you could draw a rough analogy to a web site being like a broadcast lecture which goes out one-way to listeners while a blog could be more like a radio call-in show with listeners able to join in with questions and comments.
Well, let my first post be about frustration.  I spent the last couple of hours creating a site in Google Sites via my MSU account, thinking I could do my blog there.  I can, but I can't.  Certainly I can do posts and links and what not.  However, it seems to allow you to allow comments or not, but not to moderate comments if you allow them.  Also, I cannot set up a blogger account using my MSU-based account, which is another frustration.  Once I get this set up, I guess my next step will be to see if I can make this a link on that page.  Hopefully so!  Oh, and in just previewing this, blogger seems to decide that since my location is Japan, my site will have all the navigation buttons in Japanese in spite of me choosing English.  We'll see what I can do about that, too.