audio

Ted-Ed and all that

There’s been a bit of bite-back recently around the ‘Ted-Ed’ concept and the usefulness, relevance or otherwise of the whole shooting match of powerful people spouting powerful ideas. Apparently, they censored a Ted Talk that was critical of the inequity at the heart of American society. That idea sure ain’t going anywhere fast. Gary Stager had a field day. He’s hated the Ted Talk thing from day one. Salon described Ted Talks this way

Strip away the hype and you’re left with a reasonably good video podcast with delusions of grandeur. For most of the millions of people who watch TED videos at the office, it’s a middlebrow diversion and a source of factoids to use on your friends. Except TED thinks it’s changing the world, like if “This American Life” suddenly mistook itself for Doctors Without Borders. (here)

Admission 1 – I was always a bit sceptical about the $1000 a seat, or invite only idea that the Ted Talks seemed to be about in the first place. Yes, I too, smiled and nodded in hearty agreement when Sir Ken Robinson told us all how schools were killing creativity, but not a lot of the videos interested me, and the education ones always seemed a bit ‘off’ somehow. Too American maybe? Or too corporate? Or is that the same thing?

So, I hadn’t paid much attention to them really. I like video, and I think that they are a great resource when used carefully and judiciously. I’ve been actively campaigning for YouTube access at my school, first for teachers and, just this week, for senior students too. So far, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Admission 2 – However, I’m very dubious about the Khan Academy kind of approach to learning. **Maybe** the drill and drill kind of repeat and rewind thing might be useful for a skill based kind of subject (a concept in Maths?) but for Literature? I want to show that part from Olivier’s Hamlet where he finds himself in the graveyard as Ophelia is brought there, or the amazing swordfight at the end of Branagh’s version. I want to show it at the right moment in the teaching, that three to ten minute scene, then talk about it. That’s not anything to do with a chalkboard screencast of factorisation repeated until you can say it too.

But (Admission 3) I have become very interested in the concept of the *flipped classroom* and how that might supplement and enhance the classroom work I’m involved in. What if I could deliver that 20 minute overview of the SAC *success criteria* in a podcast or vidcast, and then gets the students to watch that at home? Wouldn’t that leave that 20 minutes or so free for the class to actually talk, collaborate, seek support, get on with things? That’s tempting. And (Admission 4) the tools for creating and delivering some of these enhancements, these ‘flipping’ tools, are so powerful and accessible and first time ever that they’re almost too good not to use. I can add audio to a PowerPoint with Adobe Connect and put it online so my students can watch it, and listen to the audio. I can set up an online meeting (I’ve talked about this before) with Adobe Connect and have a revision session prior to the exams, everyone in their own homes, meeting together. And that’s not to mention Skype, Slideshare, Edmodo, Class Dojo and good ol’ podcasts themselves to support student learning. So many geat tools, so little time.

Which brings me back to Ted-Ed, and their next innovation, allowing teachers to ‘frame’ a Ted Ed video with some questions: questions for understanding, questions for deeper meaning, deeper questions. And, they promise that it will work with YouTube videos too. Which is pretty exciting. A YouTube video taken away from the hideous comments and un-related playlists and brought into a learning context.

I couldn’t get it to work at first, and of course if that YouTube video goes away, so does your lesson. But it’s a much better way of looking at and framing a YouTube video in the classroom, or set for homework like the example below.

Here’s one I put together for Literature homework on Frankenstein. 

Getting started on thinking about ideas in Mary Shelley’s text: http://ed.ted.com/on/Cd3PnwNz

Or this one for the students I’m working with in Pen Club: http://ed.ted.com/on/US1FygmB

I’m still not receiving invites to Ted Talks, and console myself that any club that would have me as a member I don’t want to join. Andrew Douch said recently that he thought audio was more powerful and effective than video anyway, but here’s another tool for learning which, when combined with thoughtful teaching, might make a difference.

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The power of the voice

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I had one of those, ‘thank goodness that effort wasn’t  totally wasted’, moments a couple of weeks ago when doing some revision work with literature students to do with podcasting.
 
Teaching the poetry of Gwen Harwood earlier this year I was very keen to include as much audio as possible; after all poetry really lives when it’s spoken I feel.
 
So, I organized for each of the poems to have a definitive ‘reading’ by a student who knew the poem well. Hearing the poem is critical so I recorded each student reading in Audacity and saved them out as .mp3s which I put on the class wiki. I also recorded a series of mini-lectures on each poem, about five minutes each just talking through the poem like I would in class. So, each poem had a wiki page with a reading, a mini-lecture and the student contributions and notes.
 
 I didn’t think much about it, although to be truthful I was a bit disappointed that students didn’t see to see the value in the audio. So, in the very last lesson of the year I was pleased and surprised that a student from another class told me that she’d been listening to the audio and that it had been the most powerful thing for her own learning. That made it worthwhile somehow.
 

And justified me buying a new Yeti microphone in the recent Apple sale and putting it under the Christmas tree for a present to myself.
 

So, next year, more audio supplements to the teaching, more attempts to bring these works to life and maybe even a return to some of those rambling Ed-tech style podcasts I did a couple of years ago!
 

Bipartisan Education Policies (they’re both bad!)

When I posted the above quote from the AGE as a  tweet above this morning it was because Mungo MacCallum’s piece in the AGE this morning, ‘Pandering to Prejudice’, struck a chord with me as to just how narrow the election debate has been, both in terms of the issues raised and the constituents it’s appealing to and how exasperating I’ve found it.

MacCallum’s piece begins:

What the punters of Rooty Hill want, they’ll get – no matter how irrational.

There are times when it appears that this election campaign is no more than a contest to win the hearts and minds of a handful of drunks in the front bar of a pub in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott acknowledged as much last night by locating their simultaneous community forums not in the town hall of a major city but in the RSL club of a suburb 42 kilometres west of Sydney’s CBD, Rooty Hill. The name, incidentally, dates to 1802 and refers to the roots of trees, not the other kind.

But whatever the proclivities of its residents, they are considered by the pollsters, spin-doctors, sociologists, astrologers and other necromancers who staff the campaign headquarters of the major parties to be the ultimate swingers – the ones whose votes on August 21 will determine who governs not only Rooty Hill, but the entire continent.

The town is conveniently centred on the electorates of Lindsay, Macquarie, and Greenway (marginal Labor) and Hughes (marginal Liberal) and is also believed to have a psychological and psephological affinity with other Labor marginals such as Robertson and Dobell on the NSW mid-north coast.

Assuming even a small proportion of these voters were listening last night, Gillard and Abbott had a lot to win or lose on their performances. Which makes it all the more perplexing that both leaders have spent most of the past 12 months treating them like mugs.

It is certainly true that the westies, as they are known with a combination of affection and derision to the commentariat, are not exactly political philosophers in the Platonic tradition. They are, in contemporary terms, the battlers – some very successful ones and some still striving to catch up, but driven more by self-interest than idealism.

They tend to get most of their news and views from the tabloidDaily Telegraph and the shock-jocks of commercial radio, neither of which are obsessively committed to intellectual diversity. But this does not mean that they should all be categorised as a sub-class of urban rednecks, incapable of rational thought.

Their battling includes a great desire for education, if not for themselves then certainly for their children. This is particularly so for the migrant communities in the west. It is easy to characterise some of the suburbs as ghettos, but the word implies a level of poverty that is simply not there. The Lebanese, Vietnamese and Chinese communities in the west are thriving and the second generation is rapidly integrating with the mainstream. But they are, or at least some are, protective of their new home ground, and this is where the less scrupulous politicians have scented an opening. John Howard’s notorious slogan, “We will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come”, resonated, not because it made sense, but because it confirmed the legitimacy of some immigrants over that of others.

This morning, Radio National did run two pieces on education, a piece on the ‘evolution of the education revolution‘ and a debate between Crean and Pyne on educational policy. Not a lot of depth, but interesting about the computers in schools program, broadband plans, performance based pay and my least favourite, the offensive ‘fast-tracking’ of teachers.  You can download the audio yourself from the links above.

Podcasting Made Easy

I’m halfway through putting together a series of audio pieces on the poet Gwen Harwood for my Year 12 Literature class; it will be a mix of students reading the poems, to students and teachers discussing the poems: Harwood; the album! I enjoy listening to podcasts, and have tried making them in the past, with limited success.

Maybe I’m a frustrated broadcaster at heart. Okay, I am a frustrated broadcaster. Maybe I just want to justify buying one of those cool retro Snowball Microphones. Okay, that too! But there’s something powerful and intimate and compelling about audio done well, and it matches beautifully with poetry.

This slideshare from Andi Kenuam shows how to get started. There’s more at Free Technology for Teachers

21st Century Learning Discussion

With the annual Curriculum Corporation COnference circus in town last week, there was a lot of talk about national curriculum, at briefings I attended, and on the mainstream radio. Including this discussion on the Radio National program Life Matters.

Australia has a ’21st century economy with a 19th century education system’, Rupert Murdoch’s damning assessment in his Boyer lectures currently being broadcast on ABC Radio National. But is it fair?

Today a forum recorded at the National Curriculum Corporation Conference on what a 21st century education might actually look like.

The panel includes some of the top education reformers and innovators in the world. They discuss the current major reform of curriculum in Australia, skills and knowledge needed in the 21st century, how Hong Kong transformed its education system and the role of technology and innovation.

Michael Stevenson
Vice President of Global Education at Cisco Systems

Guests

Professor Barry McGaw
Head of the National Curriculum Board and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute

Valerie Hannon
Director of Strategy for the UK Innovation Unit

Chris Wardlaw
Former Deputy Secretary of Education in Hong Kong

You can listen to the conversation HERE