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I created this image quote in 2015 after reading a variant of the words attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

But with every axiom comes exceptions.


Video source

According to the research cited in this video, age is a factor at the highest levels of video gaming.

However, this does not invalidate the principle that we do not have to outgrow curiosity, a sense of fun, or risk-taking. Older gamers also learn to metagame — they devise strategies to compensate for split second slowness.

I was glad to note that the conversion of old to new Google Sites is now automated.

I have been waiting a long time for this. It has been almost a year since I started using the new version after years of using the original Google Sites for courses, workshops, events, etc.

Last year, I had to manually create new versions of old Sites. Now I can automate the process.

New look
Converted (new) site

Old look
Old Google Site.

I have tried the conversion process in four old Sites and here are some observations:

  1. I had the option of retaining the original URL. This is useful for users who have bookmarked the URL and wish to return to the old site with the new look.
  2. Only a few old Sites were available for conversion. I have a very long list of Google Sites and only those going back to 2014 could be converted.
  3. The conversion was not seamless. One obvious wrinkle was how pages were rearranged in alphabetical order in the navigation bar. I had to manually rearrange them.

I hope that more of my old Sites become available for conversion before Google sunsets the old versions. It would also be helpful if the conversion tool is more intelligent in that it learns to retain the page order and navigation.

This semester I am doing something I did not think I would have to do. I am advising my adult learners on what to do when they show up for their performative evaluations.

Amongst other things, I am telling them to:

  1. Come prepared
  2. Arrive early
  3. Be properly attired

These sound so basic that you might think they need not be said. But “golden rules” do not get their shine without polish.

What is socially acceptable or expected does not always come naturally. These behaviours need to be taught and modelled.

The three rules that I mentioned are not just for creating a good impression, they also reveal the mindset and attitudes of my learners. If they practice them, they show me and others that they can see themselves from another person’s perspective. They respect the time and effort everyone makes to participate at an event.

Those three rules are not limited to their performative evaluations. They also transfer to other contexts, e.g., interviews, meetings, classes.

I do not have to defend these rules. But I am concerned that I have to be so explicit about them at this late stage of my learners’ development. My interactions with some of them tell me that their previous teachers and mentors might not have insisted and persisted with these values.

It is that or I am becoming an old fart. Is curmudgeon.com available?
 

I avoided manually converting two old Google Sites to new ones in the hope that Google would offer an import-export or conversion tool. After all, the new Sites have been available for several months [early adopters announcement] [open for general use]. But such a tool does not yet exist.

Moving to a new Site requires a fair bit of work and is not a simple three-step process described in the help page.

The problem lies in the “copy and paste” step. If all I had was text, then I would have less of a problem. But since I have images, videos, and other embeds, I face an ordeal.

I need to have the images and videos in Google Photos, Google Drive, or YouTube first. Then I need to embed them again.

This could mean downloading these files from other sources and putting them in my Drive and folders. This might contravene usage guidelines of the original source and I have to find some other sources.

An even bigger problem is not being able to embed anything outside the Google tools ecosystem. For example, I like using Padlet and AnswerGarden. Both appear immediately and are usable on old Google Site pages thanks to scripting add-ons. However, in new Sites, my learners need to visit them in separate tabs or windows.

While I can create links to these resources that open in new windows or tabs, Sites is fanatical about warning me and my learners that we are going elsewhere. How very Facebook of Google to do this!

The experience from a learner’s point of view is potentially jarring because new instances and resources need to pop up or draw them away from the page. The experience is no longer as seamless, logical, or convenient.

All that said, the editing and creating interface is simpler and more modern. That is a good thing. However, the point of producing a Google Site is to share, teach, showcase, or otherwise let someone else interact with it.

It is not just my experience that needs to be good. Being learner-centred also means taking their experiences into account. I feel good about using the new Google Sites. I would like my learners to feel the same way too.


Video source

You are never too old to learn from the past, and to invent and inspire the future.


Video source

You are never to old to learn from what is current and to create based on what you have now.

After reading a press release and two articles about five Singapore schools experimenting with virtual reality (VR) excursions, I had one question: Remember the mistakes people made with Second Life?

This IMDA press release revealed the five Primary schools involved in the VR trial. An STonline article provided three videos and one photo of one such trial.

While I applaud the effort to incorporate technology into lessons, I worry about the short or non-existent memory of those involved in developing VR for schools.

When Second Life rose to prominence, the bold claim then was that you could create any world and do anything in it. While that was true, many people recreated what they could already see and do in real life. Some of the VR efforts are making the same mistake, i.e., recreating field trips that you can take in reality.

To be fair, another article pointed out a benefit of VR.

The solution allows students in a classroom setting to go through an on-site visit experience. Sites which might not be easily accessible to students due to their remote locations or due to students’ health or safety reasons can be explored.

Sites of interest could include landmarks such as the Central Sikh Temple, Chinese Garden and Geylang Serai market for teaching students about the early settlers in Singapore or it could be an offshore fish farm or an organic vegetable farm for learning about agricultural activities in Singapore.

The VR developers can and have heeded a lesson from Second Life mistakes. Both virtual experiences were valuable when they focused on what was very difficult, costly, or impossible to do in real life. For example:

  • Travelling to the same place set at a different time.
  • Embarking on trips that would be very difficult, dangerous, or impossible, e.g., outer space.
  • Enjoying rare experiences, e.g., endangered locations where foot traffic might damage the ecosystem.

Some might argue that a VR field trip saves on time and effort. This is a poor excuse because if something is really worth experiencing, it is worth physically visiting.

While VR might save on time, it does not necessarily save on effort or money. According to the STonline article:

The VR headset’s retail price is about $150, and the price of the accompanying smartphones used with the headsets can cost between $500 and $1,200.

There was no information about bandwidth, platform and content development, and maintenance costs. Those add up.

As with most technologies, the cost of hardware will invariably go down, thus lowering that cost. However, there is still the cost of software development, content updates, teacher professional development, and swopping the virtual for the real.

Other than various costs, other insidious factors are the consumption-based design of current VR experiences and the show-and-tell approach.

This article described the virtual field trips as:

…lesson packages to ensure that it was aligned to the curriculum and the learning outcomes of the Social Studies primary school syllabus

We need to read in between the lines of this statement. While VR companies might work with experts and teachers on content, it is the companies that keep and control the content. (BTW, this is true with just about any paid published work; the rights transfer to the publisher.)

The control of the rights to the content as well as to its revisions and releases helps companies create consumer dependence in order to make money. They are the source of the hardware, software, stories, and experiences, and they want customers to keep coming back for those things.

The same article also described the lessons.

During each one-hour lesson, students experienced 4-5 VR experiences, lasting no more than 5 minutes each.

There is a dashboard through which teachers can control (play, pause and stop) and guide students through the VR experience. Teachers know what the students are looking at through indicators on the teacher’s screen and point out interesting spots in the video.

The message is that students are not free to explore. The system is designed for teacher control only. The pedagogy relies on the show-and-tell model.

If the rhetoric is to have more self-directed learners and nurture independent thinkers, where is the design for exploration, uncovering, analysis, and evaluation? Surely not in worksheets!

Besides using VR headsets, the pupils also completed worksheets and discussed in groups to reinforce what they learnt.

Oh, joy… worksheets!

So I return to the premise of my argument: This VR “initiative” is a new way of making old mistakes.

  1. Some of the experiences may not be necessary if they replicate what is readily experienced in real life more conveniently or meaningfully.
  2. The costs are not just financial. There are also mindset and pedagogical costs (teach the same way, show-and-tell).

If I sound like a squeaky wheel, I remind you of this observation distilled from wry wisdom.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

Sometimes I think I no longer need to repeat some messages because they sound old. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot be complacent.

The messages are diverse. They range from “Singapore does NOT cane you for chewing gum” to “gamification is not the same as game-based learning” or “flipping the classroom is not the same as flipping the learning”.

The cane comment surface just a few days ago. Strangely enough, it stemmed from a tongue-in-cheek remark on Singapore’s Schooling being Number One (the swimmer and our PISA results).

Someone else wanted to know if caning had anything to do with our results.

My reply, tongue firmly in cheek, was this:

We had a short conversation thereafter:

This reminded me of my stay in the US over 15 years ago when I had to remind people that Singapore was not in China and that we did not cane people for chewing gum.

While the conversation was not about caning and gum, I had to inform someone on Twitter that we do not cane boys as easily as we would flick a switch.

In the teaching and learning front, the runaway trains are gamification and the flipped classroom. Both vendors and ill-informed individuals push these without first knowing or caring about their histories, research, or critical practice.

I laud their enthusiasm, but when it is misguided, I make my stand: Gamification is not game-based learning and it is not enough to just flip the classroom.
 

 
Sometimes I wonder if harping on these messages makes me the squeaky wheel or the proverbial voice in the desert. Then I remember this Jon Stewart quote: If you smell something, say something.

As a watchdog, I have to be vigilant. As an educator, I remind myself that the old messages are new to someone else.


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