Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children and Tech series - Post # 2

a brief history of tech and noah

Monday, January 17th, 2011

My own experiences with technology began early – when I was little I wanted to be a “scientist”. Not that I actually had a good handle on what a scientist did, but I was informed by cartoons, Star Wars and comic books – where “scientists” used technology to save the world multiple times on a daily basis. I wanted to go into space, meet aliens and fly around with robots.

My dad worked as an aircraft technician for Air Canada for 27 years, and was a carpenter and builder in his spare time. Technology as tools, and as something you work with were present through him throughout my childhood. My mother went back to school and also entered a technological field by the time my sister and I were in middle school. She studied robotics at a local technical college, and became one of Ontario’s first women industrial robotics technicians. They would have conversations at the dinner table that would totally mystify my sister and I.

Computers were a bit different. I was in Grade 5 when the first PCs were introduced to schools – we had two boxy Macintoshes in the school library, that got used for games and “educational purposes” but were mostly ignored. Friends had Atari systems, and we would play with them sometimes. My real introduction to the home computer happened through my grandfather, who gave me his old Commodore 64 when he upgraded to something else, and now I could write things, play arcade games and most awesomely print things out at home. I played a few games for a while, but found that I mostly got overstimulated from them and pretty well stopped playing them.

Even though my parents were technological at work, my sister and I could program the VCR far better than them. We were adolescents and teenagers in the time before cellphones, but we would’ve been ahead of them on that curve as well. It’s funny how the tech generation gap was so present, even in my very technological family.

In middle school, I realized that the more interesting aliens were here on planet earth – namely other people – and became less focused on being a “scientist” and started seeing art as the outlet for my creativity. In high school, I specialized in theatre, and learned a battery of technology specific to that discipline. A lot of what we had in school was dinosaur material (even at that time) and we were well aware that we were learning techniques on machines that were obsolete in the field.

Before I came to Ryerson, I worked as a professional artist for 14 years. Technology was even more important, as a means of documentation through photos, video and audio data; word processing and editing for grant writing, archiving and evaluation; flexible ways to save and present previous work and projects in progress; networking and collaborating with artists in other places – and a gazillion more. Technology just keeps on growing into my life. I bought my first computer (a Mac) and won’t look back.

Children and Tech series - Post # 1

Learning like knitting – blogging, self-reflection and making meaning together

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

In reading Alex Halavais’ (2006) article assigned to us this week, several wonderful things jumped out at me. In clear, readable prose, Halavais outlines the development of online publishing and weblogging, and the potential blogging has to create flexible learning spaces.

Now, this is really exciting. I have maintained blogs for several years – mostly to keep records and to reach out to others about the work that I’d been doing. My latest blog has mostly been a way to document my development as an early childhood educator. It has also become a place of learning as I connected with other early childhood educators blogging all over the world. Not that I’ve actually updated it in a while…What Halavais is talking about in much of his paper is a much more immediate version of this – students expanding and enhancing their learning through the use of open, online publishing as part of coursework they share.

The self-reflective aspect of blogs is I think enhanced by the fact that you’re writing for an audience – you write for yourself, but/and you become part of that audience. That is a really interesting notion – that in your self-reflection you take yourself out of yourself to watch what you’re doing. Now, some may argue that this is a less authentic experience, but I think as long as it’s articulated and conscious (the way it is and is formalized through the structure of blogging) it avoids becoming navel-gazing, especially when open to an audience. That constant integration, back-and-forthing over your ideas, behaviours and practices moves away from the “disposability” of our school-type learning – it’s gone after the exam and no longer relevant to our lives. When that self-reflection gets shared, especially in visually documented formats such as online web publishing, the potential for discussion and self-reflection is even greater and learning is bound to increase exponentially.

The immersive, engaged vision of learning presented by Halavais in using blogging as a collaborative tool is really great. As he states in his paper “…to learn by becoming a member of that community rather than by learning about that community.” (p. 8) reminds me of debates in Research Methodology class about compete participant and participant-as-observer methods of data collection. The difference here is the transparency, and how exciting is it to watch the development of your own mind, growing with others.

Halavais also raises an interesting point about the mentor/apprenticeship form of learning. I really like thinking about learning about anything as learning a craft – coming from my arts background this isn’t so surprising. But the way that we argue about the “dehumanizing” aspects of technology could be reframed using a “crafting” lens. Looking at using technology as a collaborative learning tool as a craft could reintroduce a “done by hand” aspect to our technologically mediated education. Equally interesting would be a reframing of ECE as a craft – how cool would that be?!

lax lax lax!!

I have been so bad at posting - even tho I really wanted to get the bloggyblog up and rolling again.

I took a really interesting course last semester that sucked up some of my blogging juices because we had to post to a class blog. The course was Children and Technology and opened my eyes and brain and was a great, thought-provoking learning. I'm going to transfer those posts on to this one, and that way will transfer some of that thinking into a more public sphere.

My colleague at the EDGE Lab also suggested that I blog about the great books and things that I've been reading - such a great idea so I'm going to try to do that too.

Here goes - back at it.

Nerd out!