Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Landscapes and Lifestyles

The links to future architectural designs, personal goods and software were quite entertaining. I was most impressed with the ultramodern community buildings and residential concepts that were rendered. One the one hand it brings about a feeling of optimism in what humanity may do to respond to the global changes in energy needs and climate. On the other, it is disturbing to consider that humanity will respond to such devastating events as the oceans rising by simply building floating cities. Of course, the pessimist in me is skeptical that such cities will support all of the citizens of the world who are displaced by natural disasters. Something tells me that only a privileged few will get to occupy these spaces.

As I dwell further into my fantasy about the perimeters and borders of these futuristic dwellings, I envision a really hungry, really desperate population of people that really would not have much to lose trying get what the elite have. I see the technology being an awesome asset to the lifestyles of the rich and famous and being used as deadly deterrents to unwanted people. In short, I am cynical to say the least. I want to be an optimist but have yet to develop that kind of faith in the intentions of my fellow man. There is hope. I am not giving up. I just have my fears.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's No Game

The use of simulations and games just logically fits into what learning is about. By practicing in unreal or staged situations an individual or group can repeatedly work on perfection of skill sets and understanding. The use of technology combined with gaming and simulation in the classroom setting has wonderful potential. The use of a medium that is preferred by millions of young learners should not be overlooked. There is nothing wrong with the term edutainment. There is nothing wrong with education being entertaining. If a lesson can be packaged into an exciting and gratifying multimedia experience then we are using technology appropriately.

As the realism of computer interfaces advances then maybe the spatial-visual experience will indeed add to the measurement of IQs worldwide. The realistic nature of what simulations portray would seem to better prepare humans to interact in the real world. The real world is becoming more interfaced with the multimodal environments of technology so it's a win-win situation. There are undoubtedly drawbacks however. There is no opportunity in real life to start a new game if things don't go well. Combat sometimes results in real death. Reality can not always be imitated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Animal Cruelty

I was trying to think of a way to inspire children to write. To loosen up and feel at ease about putting their words onto paper. I looked at my dog for inspiration. What would Smokey write about? What events in his life would be interesting to read about? Of course, the idea of seeing the world through an animal's eyes is not unique, but what could be done with Digital Media Arts that a kid could do? This was my shot at integrating a writing project with DMA. The references to writing only exist at the beginning and end and somehow seem out of place. Oh well, it was still fun.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It Should Feel Good

All of the discussion about being emotional beings in a social setting leaves me feeling a bit blue at times. How an environment feels in any classroom is dependent on how everyone else is doing at any given time. The ability of the teacher, or facilitator, to pull the different emotions into a positive and comfortable place is a skill that not all have an equal capacity to perform. Will a technologically advanced and enhanced future classroom provide the tools to bring people closer together in their emotional states of existence? Will they ever all feel safe, welcome and comfortable around one another? Will the realities of life that students face outside of the classroom be something that the classroom environment, no matter how positive and well intentioned, can override? Hopefully, the classroom of the future will be able to pull any individual up from whatever hold them down, at least while participating in the process of learning and socializing within the classroom environment. Hopefully the role of technology will act to pull people closer together and not isolate them even more, which is an effect that technology sometimes has in the here and now.

There is a tendency for the instant electronic gratification that we have at our fingertips to be accepted as the only form of communication that is necessary. After reading many of the blogs, I would have to join many other member of my cohort as remaining a bit hesitant to put too much faith into technology, at least as we know it at this point in time. The leap of faith that I have taken by investing in, signing up for and attempting to utilize fully the technology at hand is evidence that I wholeheartedly believe in its potential.

The brainstorming that we have been doing in our teleconferences about the projects we are working on is following me throughout the day, every day. I am concerned about the projects of course, but have an immediate need to articulate what is going on in my present task of getting clearance from the UCSB Human Subjects Committee for research in a 6th Grade classroom in Santa Barbara County. The process is tedious and confusing but must be done. Getting permissions for student images, student work, online access, web posting, etc. creates many risks and liabilities. There is much more to the use of technology to be concerned with than whether it simply has something good to offer or not. There are many dangers that lurk in the presence of technological use for education. It is no simple matter to prepare for and implement a program that has fully taken into consideration all of the legal and confidentiality concerns that are out there.

Along with this posting I am including some more Digital Media Arts productions from last year. There are good examples of what students of all ages can accomplish, in varying degrees, with very easy to use and readily available software. These projects all were done in groups of 4 or 5 students, using 6 computers during 2 hour intervals.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comfort Zone

When does the IT world become the actual world for everyone. I'm posting an interesting video where music, the international language, is shared via the Internet and is created as well as shared using the tools of technology.

I found the last class session to be most useful in preparation for our group project for a classroom of the future. The environment discussion gave me a better feeling for how my group may want things to feel. I got a sensation of having a foundation although nothing at all has really been addressed by my group for what we're doing. The interesting part of this project is the requirement that we all be located at different sites and work with what we know to bring a viable presentation together. It is exciting because I'm certain the members of my group have so much to offer. However we manage to bring it to the table, I'm sure it will end up a quality product. I'm looking forward to a time (hopefully soon) that we can all meet and begin planning. I know we are all extremely busy.

The validation of people's feelings really strikes a chord in me. In my line of work that is an important consideration to always keep in mind. Besides just doing drug and alcohol counseling, I am also responsible for preparing lessons and delivering classroom presentations to varioius groups. Everything I learn in the JDP is transferable to what I am doing. Besides my "day" job there is the continuing push to work with educational technology in K-12 settings where the next wave of techies is being groomed. The question of how we validate the outcome of student work and maintain a high level of engagement is always at the forefront of any assessment of what is happening in the classroom.

I am fascinated by the constant questioning of why we need to do anything the way that it has been done for so long. Being creatures of habit, it just seems natural to do it "that way". It really is not that far of a stretch for the imagination to envision a world working to a different tune, at a different pace, in a different and more free thinking way. The present mindset is well entrenched however, and like other entities involving tradition and routine, will take time to change.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aha!!! Moment

Gotta publish this. I just had an Aha! moment that was more than a year in the making. I finally found a file converter for the Mac that dealt with an .mpg file. Now I can share some of the digital media projects from my last year as the Digital Media Arts coordinator for Teach Elementary School in San Luis Obispo. The program is freeware and is called Prism. My first try at converting an .mpg file to an .avi format left me wanting. The .avi file would not play. I then converted the .avi file that would not work into a .mov that worked. I couldn't get an .mov file directly from the .mpg file however. Alternative detour but I got there.

The class tonight provided many descriptions of what I feel was accomplished in the Digital Media Arts (DMA) classes I taught last year. The students were responsible for learning the software, creating sets, doing online research, working collaboratively and editing the majority of their product. Multiple mediums were used and a constructivist, project based lesson was employed. There was some resistance to the process by regular teaching staff, but the students were excited and pushed it through. The culminating activities of viewing their creations at both the Downtown Cinemas and Palm Theater during the SLO International Film Festival created a great incentive for the school district, parents and Teach Elementary to continue with the DMA program. Unfortunately it has been less fruitful this year due to lack of support by the school district, poor communications with Cal Poly and renewed resistance by some of the teachers.

I enjoyed the last class of Ed 400 with Dr. Faverty but still have some confusion about what the objective of the first exercise was. I also got ahead of myself and read ahead of schedule. I found it interesting in the ECAR report that most students over-rated themselves in technological capability, especially males. I was pleased to see that my age group also did not fall behind the younger crowd on the use of the most recent devices.

The article about Toffler was inspiring. I feel that he described the situation perfectly in regards to our system being a remnant of the Industrial Revolution. We have not kept up with the real world we live in. Schools are not as user friendly as shopping malls, convenient stores and gas stations... which probably make better use of technology on hand.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mass Quantities

The Horizon Reports are like my backup drives; great examples of history that provide flashbacks of back when when I was awestruck by whatever was happening at that time. And like the Time Capsule program on my new Mac operating system, full of data that I find necessary to keep, if for nothing else, than to compare with what's going on today. That's the beauty of the Horizon Reports. The efforts and progress towards guiding future events is amazing. Some things are ahead of schedule and some have shifted direction entirely. Just when I get my hopes for something, everything changes. Maybe I’m nostalgic, but I would never have foreseen the coming of text messaging as a favored form of communication. If, however, I rewind to when I was an adolescent, it becomes easy to imagine the excitement of “passing notes” between friends, across time and space. I’m still stuck on “future” visions of space station rotating to create artificial gravity. I was heartbroken to learn that NASA does not favor that concept presently.

The video we viewed during class on the Yugma site was interesting also. I still have not found a clean copy or access to it. The idea that folders are not the optimal means for organizing files still confounds me. This has been a way of life on my PCs for as long as I can remember. In my transition to Mac, I’ve found myself creating more and more folders to help me organize. Unfortunately, the more folders I create, the more I lose information. I have not come to accept that this operating system (the Mac) does not want me to interfere so much. I fear it is too late for me sometimes. I keep doing what I’ve done despite the confusion it creates.

Another problem I’m having with all the digital playthings and tools being offered is that now my toolbox is too full. How many different online forms of communication do I need? Which will I actually use and check with any frequency? The time consumed just surfing through cyberspace to view the sites that I alone have created is massive. Mass quantities of things and mass quantities places to put them take a lot of time to keep in order and keep track of. I know it’s all about just becoming familiar with the digital environment and trying to become “literate”… so I need to relax and just go for the ride

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Actual Research

It does not seem that long ago that a Social Studies professor at CSU Bakersfield scolded me for not having a keyboard hooked to something with a hard drive. I was writing my papers with an electric typewriter that had about enough memory for 8 pages of text. As I typed, the text ran across a tiny screen on the typewriter and I was thrilled with how, at the push of a button, 8 entire pages of printed material could be printed. Of course, I had to load each piece of paper individually and replace ink cartridges as necessary, but I thought I was up to speed. Wrong!

The concerned professor approached me and suggested that my writing might improve if I were to utilize even more modern tools that were out there. I was puzzled. I had used computers before but never owned one, and I could not imagine how such a device could really change how I wrote. I was accustomed to long, painful editing sessions and retyping entire pages when I changed my mind about something. It was difficult to imagine how something could be with no reference point to work from. Today, I would be at a complete loss if attempting to create any worthwhile document without a computer.

Being aware of what one might be lacking if one has never known better requires a combination of some serious imagination and willingness to change. Personally, I never felt strong urges to change unless serious consequences for not changing existed. This impasse is once again presenting itself in the form of becoming digitally literate. At least literate beyond the use of a word processor. Now there is a much wider and richer digital vocabulary to work with. The language that can be spoken through technology is multi-dimensional and not limited to any of the single senses. Multimedia capabilities are allowing communication to exist for most people where entire studios were once necessary. The challenge now is to devote the time needed to learn the language; or in reality, learn the software.

I am excited to have the opportunity to be in a graduate program that embraces technology as ours does. This is becoming even more personally rewarding for me since I continue to find opportunities to work with the digital arts in elementary classroom settings. This year promises to be very rewarding as I begin research towards my degree studying how elementary students adapt to, discover and learn with digital technology being made available to them. I'm looking forward to each new day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Patrick's vision of the future had me recalling scenes of THX 1138. A totally computerized society where decisions about the fate of humanity were made with cold, hard logic. Patrick's essay did not describe this scenario so much as my fears being that anything being so efficient and functional would quickly be tainted by misuse of governmental entities and special interests that hold power. There was a sense of how the individual would be classified and funneled through a machine that quickly and automatically recognized what each and every member of society most needed in order to become an educated and productive member of the society.

My immediate response to the thoughts of future use of technology is probably a bit grim because of my exposure to science fiction films and literature. I am not so dismal in my actual views however. The concept of remaining open-minded and forward thinking is one I try to embrace and apply. The constructivist approach to learning combined with digital tools in the classroom offer a wide variety of avenues to explore information and learn problem solving skills from. The teacher acting as a "guide on the side" allows students to own their discoveries and formulate more meaningful experiences in the classroom.

Many teachers are unfamiliar with digital media and unwilling to adapt to the changes necessary to facilitate a constructivist-learning environment. The school district I worked with last year had voluntary teacher training to enhance digital literacy in the classroom and turnout was quite low. Will it require policy changes to force teachers into training and acceptance of new and unfamiliar ideas? How can the transition to a digitally literate and constructivist-based classroom be implemented smoothly? Teacher “buy-in” is the preferred approach but I am skeptical from my experiences in elementary schools that this will occur. It seems more likely that specialized classrooms designed specifically for digital media will need to exist prior to acceptance throughout individual classrooms in the school.

I am also concerned about the availability of equipment and the needs for maintenance of equipment once it is available. Without an efficient and supportive tech staff to back up implementation of technological applications, it is unlikely any digital education will go far.