Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Happens when Reality Meets Virtual

I just had to share this video with you.  Here we have a real frog trying to get lunch off of the screen of a smart phone.
What do you think? Do you see any metaphors for life? Z

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Characteristics Make 4th Graders Better Keyboarders?

Keyboard (Photo credit: Shane Pope)
Recently, Amy Lockhart and I had an article published in the Journal for Computing Teachers. It was the result of our research with her 4th graders into what characteristics affected their success in keyboarding. We investigated gender, age, hand size, music experience and athletic experience. Beyond the characteristics, we explored using the Almena Method for Keyboarding. 

The Almena Method is quite different than your typical instructional model for teaching keyboarding. Almena King developed a series of mnemonic jingles to assist in remembering the key locations. Once you learn these jingles, you can recite them to yourself to assist in remembering the location of the keys.

 Here is a brief overview of the study we completed:
This study evaluated the effectiveness of using the Almena Method keyboarding program to teach keyboarding to 4th grade students. Student characteristics were evaluated to measure their effect upon keyboarding success. Seventeen Midwestern fourth grade students of a mixed sex, ethnic, and racial orientation were involved. Students participated in daily 30-minute keyboarding lessons for four weeks. Students tended to increase their keyboarding speed by 33%. Age affected success inversely. Younger students improved more than older students. Music Experience had a positive effect. Larger-handed students improved the most. Gender and athletic background didn’t have any effect upon keyboarding improvement. Specific student characteristics can make a significant difference in student success.

Here is a link to the complete article:

What do you think?  Does it fit your experience in student keyboarding?


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tools for Educators to Collect Their Own Resources
Textbooks are resources that have been collected by publishers to fulfill curricular needs. Printed textbooks are provided in a "one size fits all" format. The two largest states, California and Texas, usually identify what they want in their textbooks and then the rest of the country uses these texts. Some of the publishers are providing the opportunity of states, school districts and educators to customize their textbooks. Publishers provide a collection of information and then the educational organizations create their texts from the material offered. The problem is that they are still printed texts and they are stuck with them until they print the next edition.

Readings, Watchings, Listenings and Doings
As a professor of at the University of Northern Iowa, I don't use textbooks. I have a great deal of resources that my students must master, but they are collected in a textbook. I make my resources available through the Web. Millennials or Generation Y students are not readers of books. They read a great deal but it is from screens for the most part. This group of learners (ages 11 - 28) work best with multimedia. This means that they want to read, but they also want to learn information and build knowledge through video, audio and activity. They want to learn through interactive learning opportunities even as they encounter new information.  

Readings: This is where we refer the students to online articles and readings in books (printed and digital). Just because we don't use textbooks, it doesn't mean that we don't use books. There is a plethora of information contained in the tombs of knowledge.
Watchings: Our students are visual learners. Pew Internet estimates that Millennials spend as much as 8 hours on the screen per day (watching TV, viewing YouTube, interacting with Facebook, etc.) This is the medium that is best for their learning. I find many videos on YouTube, Edutopia, and other subject-specific sites. Sometimes I create my own videos to address specific needs.
Listenings: Our students are multi-taskers. Many of them are audio learners. I have found a wealth of resources in podcasts. The beauty of using podcasts is that they can listen to them on their iPods/phones while they are walking or working out. Learning while jogging may seem blasphemous, but we are learning all the time. Why not include coursework in the informal learning that we do.
Doings: Learning by doing is the key to meaningful learning. This is where you ask your students to complete surveys, research information, collaborate in problem solving, or ????  Your actual assignments will probably be described on a different online page, but these are usually the activities that lead to the final assignments.

Here are some examples of my RWLDs:
iBook Author
While using a blog is a simple way to organize resources for class, Apple has released the iBooks Author.  This is a much more sophisticated but simple way to create your multimedia RWLDs or Digital textbook.  The best thing is that as we create these books for our courses we can share them with other educators.

Apple has not only created a tool that enables us to create our own digital textbooks, they have also developed/uncovered a market in digital books. They are using their iTunes store to distribute their interactive books for $15 each.

How does this fit our quest into using digital books in your class?  What do you see as how you can make your resources more interactive and instructional for your students?
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