Stories and Art in 3D: Wander the Watercolours

Artists and writers have new media opportunities to explore with digital tools.  For example, artist CK (Creakay Ballyhoo in the virtual world of Second Life) created watercolour (spelled that way in her part of the world!) paintings in 3D to illustrate a story presented in a virtual world.  Read the story of a little girl on a watercolour wander.

A group of educators, the Virtual Pioneers, take virtual field trips to simulations in Second Life.  A recent trip allowed the pioneers to wander through CK’s story paintings.  This machinima shows the educators inside A Watercolour Wander.

The Virtual Pioneers  are an open group, welcoming others to come along on virtual adventures.  Through collaboration with groups like this, the Community Virtual Library strives to connect virtual communities with high quality simulations.  This machinima illustrates how the future of libraries and the future of education may include mixed reality and amazing new ways to enter art, history, and all subjects for all learners.  Learning will never be the same.

Revisiting Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: a Tribute to Marc Prensky

Many of my colleagues and I have cited Marc Prensky and his “digital natives and digital immigrants” for over a decade. After spending years striving diligently to keep up with innovative technology trends, I have never felt like younger people knew more or were more adept at technology than myself. I admit, of course, I am a “digital immigrant” when one defines the term to mean someone born before the Internet and digital life became commonplace.

Today, I saw something that re-opened my eyes to the difference between the two– the natives and the immigrants. I had been struggling (between classes , paperwork, and other tasks) to conquer the server issues to start a MinecraftEDU club in my school library. After several attempts and a few emails to the company, I still was unable to get into the MinecraftEDU world. Lacking time, I delegated a 5th grade boy as sidekick to start the club. He eagerly entered the library after school, where we sat down and were able to get it up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Of course, I have experienced the “two heads are better than one” method of troubleshooting technology countless times before. Often two of us can solve an issue simply by tackling it from two different perspectives. So, I am not saying that I am not smarter than a 5th grader! However, I underestimated a 5th grader’s ability to navigate server issues and ip addresses. I stood there in awe as I watched him effortlessly click numerous settings at the speed of light.

I write this post as a tribute to Marc Prensky because it was only today that I fully understood my personal immigration status and that simple moment reminded me that we have only begun to understand the toppled hierarchy of information (and learning) due to digital culture.

This global information community in which we live, continues to inspire, alarm, challenge, and intrigue me each day. Last week, I got a message that Marc Prensky was following me on twitter and I felt honored! It is a small (yet huge) world we live in….a world full of opposites: oxymorons and formulas, scientific facts and wild imagination. Today, I am honored to be followed by the guy who introduced us all to digital natives and digital immigrants and also honored to be leading a digital native who is helping me realize that I am but an immigrant to a new land. I am both teacher and learner. Sometimes we can know something for a long time before we actually comprehend it.

Embedding Content within Content, Hyperlinked to Content to be Curated

Today is Digital Learning Day and I am whirling through tecnology tools and formats (alongside physical resources) in my school library as I seek best practices for teaching digital literacy in what has become “participatory culture”.

My 4th graders are studying poetry and I am teaching them to share through our library blog. I want them to understand the importance of striving for meaningful content, not just posting and tweeting nonstop. Digital citizenship requires us to be responsible for both our consumption and production of information. I sometimes think that because we are so excited about all the cool “Web 2.0” applications that allow us to produce and share online, we forget to emphasize revision and reflection.

Buried deep beneath the clutter, four or five hyperlinked clicks away, is there some really important meaningful content of high quality or aesthetic appeal? For years, I have empasized process over product in education because all learning, like life, is a process. Now, in the digital age (as content floods my screens nonstop), I am realizing there has to be balance between process and product. At some point, the author or the artist must say “here is what I have done.” The goal is to say something worthwhile.

Hey Webmaster, Tie Your Shoes

Emerging technology trends (often called Web 2.0 for educators) can sometimes be overwhelming to teachers. For example, my Assistant Principal has been working with me in the library to share new tech tools with teachers at a “lunch and learn” session. Teachers bring lunch to the library and my Principal covers recess duty. That shows commitment to teachers learning technology!

MOOCs & Intimidating New Trends
Last week, I shared my recent exploration of a MOOC (massively open online course) with a group of kindergarten teachers. MOOCs are mostly used for higher education, but the Anne Frank MOOC, which takes place online as well is in a virtual world, is designed for middle school learners and is a great example of how education is changing. I felt kindergarten teachers should be aware of where students are headed. When one kindergarten teacher saw the virtual world avatars, she became overwhelmed and stated in exasperation, “WHO has time for that?”

She paused, looking as though she might cry, and then said, “We need to be teaching our kids the basics.”

Then she said something that really made me stop in my tracks. She asked, “Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?”
I completely understood her frustration with keeping up with technology. I was reminded of the popular essay “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulgham. For the rest of the day, this idea and the overwhelmed expression of the kindergarten teacher, whose face usually appears patient and calm, kept coming to mind. I felt a need to answer her question, not directly to her because the session had other technology tips that were useful and applicable to kindergarten and she left feeling a sense of accomplishment. I needed to answer her questions for my own peace of mind.

1. WHO has time for that?
Who has time to keep up with all of the educational technology trends, applications, upgrades, and online tools as they rapidly change? After several years of trying, I often say that nobody could keep up with them all. The only way we can utilize them is through personal and professional networks. I could stay up all night every night and never conquer all the new apps, online sites, user-generated content tools, and sharing sites. But that does not mean that I don’t need to be aware of them. I think it is important to make time for the networking with the goal of awareness of education on the other side of the digital revolution. Building a “go-to” network of other educators has become crucial.

2.Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?

Have you watched a kindergartener lately? Any 5 year old can pick up an iPad and use it and I see toddlers every day in the mall, at a restaurant, or with parents after school, using digital devices. The world has changed since the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” essay. What has changed our world? Everyone’s world? A kindergartener’s world?

digital life

In Praise of My Teacher Colleagues as They “Change”

Quit bashing teachers! Quit saying “it is time for a change in education.”

My teachers are awesome…..Enough said!

If it is time for change– Go ahead and change. I already have. So have my students. So has our world.

I work with an amazing group of educators. Every day I see how much they care for students. They go above and beyond expectations by listening to each student, providing materials and projects, laughing with them and crying with them. As a school librarian, I am fortunate to see everyone and I can say firmly, from personal observation, my school has amazing, outstanding teachers. Yet, we hear in the news “we need better teachers” and “education needs to change”.

Education has always been full of change. But now there is something even more radical than changing pedagogies.

What’s the big change?

The change is us. All of us. Society is now driven by user-generated content instead of content created by experts in various fields. We now create our own content. We now are prosumers (both producers and consumers of content).

What do I mean by that?

We can be journalists by blogging (blogs are more popular today than newspapers). We can be film-makers (upload it to YouTube). We can be content curators (Scoop-it). We can be artists and musicians (there’s an app for that! Have you tried garage band or Voiceband?). We can each be a librarian (Pinterest? or tons of other curation sites?) But wait– is intellectual property still relevant? Is there a problem when we all think what we create is simply wonderful? Is there a problem when we follow those with similar interests and beliefs and never challenge our opinions by bouncing them off the perspectives of others?

If you are still reading along, and the odds are you are not because most blog posts are short (average of 12 seconds on each page hit by a user), you may be confused when I call this radical change “the toppling of the information hierarchy”. We are witnessing a moment in time that is as important as the invention of the Gutenberg press. This toppled hierarchy of information means we can no longer teach the students skills for learning in the old hierarchy. How do we teach them survival skills in (what I refer to as) the sea of online chaos?
Having considered this topic for a few years, perhaps I can share a few tips for teachers.

1. Care for your students. Wow! That is still top priority and that is what I am fortunate to see every day. This genuine love for students and love of learning is more important than the following points. Yet, I encourage you to read on for survival of the online tsunami.

2. Strive to promote 21st century information literacy. What you learned in your academic career no longer applies. The new literacy (transliteracy- if you want to think in a new way) includes physical, virtual, and augmented content. Information literacy is now an ongoing personal responsibility instead of a skills-based checklist. YOU must decide who to learn from (who to follow online in the new hierarchy) as an educator and as a digital citizen living through the digital revolution. As a teacher, you must also instill that personal responsibility in your students. Digital citizenship is as important as physical manners, some may argue even more so as it impacts a much greater community.

3. Balance the pendulum. What is that? Balance has always been important, since education began. But now we must balance the physical with the virtual– tradition with innovation– teamwork with individuality — privacy with free speech –personal voice with crowd-sourcing — and the list goes on.

4. Do not be afraid. Some will cry, “What is this world coming to?” and some will say, “I wish we could go back to the way it was.” Don’t listen. Go back to point 2 and seek out those people who can help you learn 21st century information literacy skills, whether in person or across the globe (I have learned from many virtual colleagues). Then, reread point 3 and take a deep breath as you balance your steps on this amazing journey we call human life. Each one of us breathing, growing, and learning. Rather than fear the future, I choose to be hopeful and joyful. Dare I mention what gives me hope and joy? Dare I risk someone reading this to the final last word that nullifies all fear and all bullet points in any educator’s presentation on the latest Web 2.0 platform?