“Is that a witch’?


Possibly one of the most overlooked benefits of attending professional conferences is the simple clarity distances that these disruptions (in the Walter Benjamin sense) provide.  They allow us to step away from the daily drivel and remember why we went into the profession in the first place.  Or they just give a moment to reframe some of the instances of our daily professional life with a researcher’s eye. Yesterday while on the DC Metro subway to the Amtrak station to Philly, I was offered one of these clarity moments.  

The DC Metro during weekday rush-hour ranks quite possibly as the Most Literate Place on Earth.   Cultural norms dictate that riders remain silently reading during the entire duration of their rides.  People politely move to accommodate more fellow readers in the wall-to-wall swaying mass of bodies staring down into their reading materials.  Social graces of a nod and a smile as a new reader joins the pack are protocol, but after the brief acknowledgement, heads simultaneously drop back into their own literary worlds.  But not yesterday…..  there was an outlier.  A three year old boy was sitting near the door playing a game on an iPhone.  The game was silent, but the little guy was clearly using his emergent language acquisition to process each new character he met in the game ‘Mommy is that a witch?”  “Yes, it is a witch.”  The literati were mesmerized.  They peered over the tops of their books, magazines, newspapers, and Kindles to watch the game-based learning the young rider was engaged grinning at his amusement and the sheer speed of his vocabulary development.  A true Montessori moment.    I can only hope that there was at least a handful of policy makers on the train who realized where our education plan should be going.


Game-based learning is one of my main research areas, so I really devoured this week’s readings.   Masie’s (2010) “Gesture-base learning” provided me a great excuse to purchase four new XBox 360 games.  TPR (Total Physical Response) has been a very popular technique for beginning a new language.  It seems like a matter of time before Microsoft will capture this “freebie” and make a multilingual game for the Kinect.   Li’s (2010) article on Smartphones and augmented reality also got my wheels turning as a possible language and literacy tool. 

I have been pondering the uses of Second Life in language learning for over a year and so Young’s (2010) “After frustrations in Second Life” article was a must read.  This article spurred me into further research about the use of Second Life for language learners who also have disabilities that may make the normal communicative experience necessary for full acquisition more difficult.  Second Life really does seem to have mitigated many of these accessibility hurdles, so I am even more committed to exploring how it can be used as a community enhancing tool in a distributed learning environment. 

And for my $260 conference fee, I learned of the Dept. of State’s English Language   3D game Trace Effects  scheduled for summer roll-out.   

Here is my Gaming Blog started last semester.  Elearning and mLearning in ESP

I’ll be blogging about the newest Xbox games here. 


How’d I miss that?

While I was up in my second floor office eking out the final points on my Midterm Strategic Analysis Michelle Obama was in the next building.

Michelle Obama at American University 

That should be worth some bonus points, eh? 

Breaking into spring

I look through my 4 weeks’ worth of “draft” postings and wonder if my musings remain relevant.  As the daffodils peek through and I have a week free from answering the barrage of “where are the…..?”,  “who has the…..?”  “has……called out sick?” ” what time do we…….”, and “how long does the paragraph have to be?” questions I hope to revisit and reponder some of these drafts.  These five weeks have made me better understand the resistance that many teachers have towards incorporation of technology.  When day-to-day is such a multitude of minutae, technology just does really seem to be “one more thing I gotta deal with.”   Rather than viewing it as a tool for simplifing the tedious and mundane, it becomes one more hurdle towards getting to the weekend. 

Of course, this could be easily solved with a solid development plan.  Although I can’t find it again now, I read a tweeted blog entitled “Bad technology leadership is just bad leadership.”  Effective leadership involves planning for the unplanned.  Technology tools can be an excellent way to make that planning lasting, sustainable and collaboratory. 

refuse to call it “distance” learning

As I sit here in tears after saying “goodbye” in my final IDPP Skills Institute for the year, I vow to never again call it “distance” learning.  The students may be in Southeast Asia, but the community and culture that we have created could not be closer in my mind and heart. 

I will only use the term “distributed” learning to describe how we can infinitely open the world.


My millenial day

This morning in a vocab lesson on Latin derivative English roots dealing with numbers.
I: What do you think a decapod is?
S:  10 iPods?

I told him that was so good that I need to tweet it.  When I didn’t get it on my Twitterfeed right away (dead laptop battery and power supply loaned to another studend) he said “hey, where’s my tweet?” 

Who would have thought that tweets were the newest reward system? 

I love global millenials.


economics of productive ADD

This past Thursday, I was Skyping in to an introductory course spending our requisite time plodding through Saussure’s semiotic basics.  Having studied this ad nauseum in a Cultural Theory course last semester, I felt my attention waning more than usual.  So while still listening to the course lecture, I traveled over to Twitter to see what was happening in this century.  After scanning my favorite #edtech, I began retweeting items that I thought would be useful to my meager audience of 76 followers.  Then it hit me.  Oh no…..the prof is one of those 76 followers!!!   Surely she would see the time stamps and realize that I was busy tweeting away right in the middle of class.  How to save face?  Do a specific “tweet out” to her with the pithy “what would Saussure tweet.”   Instead of a nasty-gram, I got an equally pithy reply.  Whew……..

Gordon and Bogen (2009) write of  “the economy of attention” and I find this an interesting paradigm.  Since I am up to my elbows in semiotics, I could not help but do a discourse analysis of the terms we use to describe the inequitable allocation of attention.  As I was reading, I was reminding of Freire’s (   )  banking theory  as well.  Why do we see a cognitive function in terms of a material commodity?  It that is the case, can I “borrow attention” or “loan attention”?   Can I charge interest on it?  (Now that could really supplement a teaching salary.) 

I know that I can’t save it up for a rainy day or tuck it away for retirment.  So why do we look at it in the present as such?  

In the Cultural Theory course we discussed Walter Benjamin’s (1936) belief in the value of distraction with regard to mass consciousness in the age of film.  What about online learning? Significant contemplation goes into the creation of distractions by the masses for the masses.

I have always had what people referred to as a “short attention span” in the 1980s.  If I were in school today, I might indeed be riddled with Ritalin.  Fortunately, I had understanding parents and a fairly good filtering system to know when to keep my mouth shut and just check out into my own world.  Even in my mid-40s,  I find it difficult to do just one thing at a time.  I just get too bored.  The distractions provide the momentary detachment that allows me to gain a glimmer of objectivity to evaluate my own cognitive processing. 

I have always been amazed by educators who try to fight against the “distraction” of technology in the classroom.  So what if they are on Facebook? 

I have a FB account just for students to friend me. So when I was forced to monitor a computer lab at a language school (basic equivalent of study hall monitor) and was threatened that I need to enforce the “use our really boring overpriced ‘drill and kill’ software” rule, I would merely go onto FB and IM the offending student that if s/he didn’t pretend to be using the software, I would post a warning on the status update and the parents/DHS/FBI/CIA/INTERPOL would know they they are messing up. 

You can’t beat ’em, so you had just better join ’em.

Back at it soon

The trainers are trained and the trainees arrive Monday. 

Back to the blogging fun soon.

More trainees:  http://bit.ly/wXzwTJ

This one has sparked a huge discussion about issuing badges for  AU online library digital literacy training.  Been fanning those emails for 2 days now.  Next step is working on the Vice-Provost who is very tech-friendly. http://chronicle.com/blogs/planet/2012/01/24/a-global-take-on-the-badge-debate/

Going native

Today’s digital natives and generationality discussions really helped to provide data for some of my intuitive observations regarding online learning. Boring is boring whether analogue or digital. Dr. Bonk’s decision/whim (doesn’t really matter) to go through the prepared slide presentation in reverse reiterates a key difference in the pedagogical uses of technology. Technology for technology’s sake is not at all an advancement. One speaker at CyberLearning2012 mentioned that (loosely paraphrased) technology can just allow you to bore even more people through greater geographic and time dimensions.

If an instructor is not comfortable with interactivity and chaos in a non-wired learning setting, the electronic dimension really changes nothing. As I was practicing my “continuous partial attention” during the more linear parts of the presentations, I realized that more than anything, the effective use of technology is still premised in the effective use of rather basic communication strategies.

I read Peter Elbow’s Writing Without Teachers in the early 1990s when Web 1.0 was still gopher-ing and ftp-ing at double digit bauds. That has been what has framed how I see the use of learning technologies. In many ways, this isn’t a revolution in any way greater than the ballpoint pen’s liberation from drippy fountains. Effective teachers have always known how to teach digitally and to supplement with relevant enhancements. Technology is just reducing the lag time in the delivery of these various artifacts.