March 31, 2006


Gami is a young Japanese university student, who wants to be an English teacher. Right now, tho, she's in the States, learning and having fun. Here's a recent blog post which reminded me of the importance of offering/setting challenges to young people; to try something new, to believe that what they can't do today, they might be able to do tomorrow :
These days she asked me to do babysitting in her friend’s house. At first I hesitated because I cannot speak English well and I had never done it before. But she recommended it me because she thought that babysitting would be a nice experience for me and I can learn about American family life. The children were 3 and 8 years old girls. I made dinner for them, played with toys, and read stories before they went to bed. It was a nice experiment for me. Like this babysitting experience, after I met her I could do many things that I cannot do only staying on campus and hanging out with my friends.

And speaking of challenges, here's a tip for some simple challenges for my students: getting basic info about their own country.
When I take part in Japanese table I am asked about Japanese culture every time. They asked me why Japanese people say we do not have religion. They asked me the population and area of Iwate, Morioka, and Japan. They asked me the origin of Japanese traditional events like Setsubun, and Hinamatsuri. Every time I cannot give exact answers. When I asked about the population of Chicago or the origin of St. Patrick’s Day, etc to my friends almost all of students can answer. I realized how I do not know about my own country and culture.

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Blogging as an intellectual exercise

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom : Blogging as Learning (Con't)
Nice quote here, and a neat list that could be useful for presentations or talking to other educators.

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Web2.0 presentation turned down but...

A friend and I had a proposal to present on Web2.0 applications for teachers, turned down as a paper, but we have been offered the chance to make it as a poster presentation. Inspired by Bud's intriguing example, I feel like giving it a go, seriously. Waddayall think?

Education Sector: Analysis and Perspectives: "Education Should Be a Rich Symphony"

From Borderland to Miguel Guhlin, to an interview with Ted Sizer. Gotta get some sleep, but I'll be back here. Education Sector: Analysis and Perspectives: "Education Should Be a Rich Symphony"

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A Difference: Resonance and Dissonance

A Difference: Resonance and Dissonance
Derek Kuropatwa asks, "Is blogging for everyone?"
and also blogs about various conversations on the subject of how to obtain excellent and inspiring work from students, and about being honest about the failures.
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A Difference: A idea ... (reprise)

Planning my classes now for the new academic year, I'm trying to get a handle on how much time I will need to introduce my students to various Web2.0 tools. Mr Kuropatwa says it took him 15 minutes to demonstrate setting up a delicious account.
A Difference: A idea ... (reprise):
I started having my students sign up for accounts last semester. I also installed something I call a box on all the class blogs.

We discussed it in all my classes on Thursday. I did a little demo in class. Using a projector I guided one of the students through the process of signing up for an account, installing a browser button and saving a link in It took about 15 minutes to explain the idea and do the demo.
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Alsoomse: Knowing our students.

Alsoomse � Knowing our students.
Alsoomse has a couple of thought-provoking posts, this is one. Then read the previous one about the ski trip. Alsoomse also questions his writing style and wishes he could write better, but I have no problem with it: it's to the point, never flowery, and has a gritty honesty that I find appealing as well as informative. Reading Alsoomse's posts, I learn about life.

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Knowing our students: difficulties and importance

Alsoomse has a couple of thought-provoking posts, this is one. Then read the previous one about the ski trip. Alsoomse also questions his writing style and wishes he could write better, but I have no problem with it: it's to the point, never flowery, and has a gritty honesty that I find appealing as well as informative. Reading Alsoomse's posts, I learn about life.

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March 30, 2006

Autonomy/strategy training texts in Japanese

I'm now preparing for classes which start the second week of April here in Japan, and having to face up to the students' low English abilities, am looking for texts and/or materials in Japanese that I might use. I have Rebecca Oxford's "Language Learning Strategies" and its Japanese translation, but am looking for worksheets in Japanese to give students practice or thinking exercises on the various strategies. Do you know any good ones? Anyone out there using Japanese-language materials for teaching autonomy or strategy training?

March 21, 2006

First-Class Citizens

First-Class Citizens
Again, via Anne Davis:
For the students and staff of Hudson High School, in Hudson, Massachusetts, civics isn't just a class. It's part and parcel to everyday life at this New England high school, which has become a laboratory of democracy, challenging widely held assumptions about how schools can and should operate.

Several years ago, when the district set out to build a new high school facility, Superintendent Sheldon Berman, longtime principal John Stapelfeld, and the entire Hudson High community embarked on a journey that would take them to uncharted waters.
Sounds great, but there's an interesting twist: the school and some students are (were?) in court over a decision by the principal to ban access to a certain website (it was one that showed beheadings of hostages in Iraq). So, does democracy have a limit?

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Discovering relevance and making connections by Anne Davis on Learning

Another fine post by Anne Davis which has slipped down the memory hole. The bold part is what I highlighted. I'm blogging the whole post as the original link seems to be broken. Marco's Blogstudent - Powered By Bloglines.

Personally, I think "meaningfullness" is more important than relevance. Or perhaps I think that if something is meaningful at the time, it is therefore relevant. I don't think relevance has to be limited to meaning "will put cash in my pocket at some future date".
Students need time to make connections to what they are learning. When we finish teaching a topic, our students need time to think about the pros and cons, discuss the relevance, and make connections to other things in their life. We talk about having them engaged in their learning. Many times doing my teaching I have found that what we are teaching to our students lacks the personal relevance necessary for any meaning. It may be relevant to us as educators and we believe it should be relevant to the students but we have to give them time to talk with others, explore and enjoy the learning. We have to lead them to the relevance. This is why classroom discussions are so important.
I'd like to suggest that conversations on weblogs are ideal to help students discover relevance and make connections to what they are learning. Weblogs can be used to explain what they have learned in their own words. Then students have the opportunity to learn from comments from others. It gives the discussion a much wider circle. Too often our classroom discussions end up being dominated by the teacher and one or two verbal students.

I started this post the other day and discovered two great posts this morning that relate to this topic. Dean posted My Theory of Relativity. Be sure to read his entire post - good thinking and good conversations always emerge from Dean's blog. Then Darren responds with Habit of Mind. He talks about how each discipline facilitates a different habit of mind. The value is in the habit of mind that the learning facilitates.
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Aaron Campbell writes about learning ecologies and their relevance to teaching and learning, and particularly to language learning. The use of such learning ecologies seems to run counter to traditional classroom teaching, but Aaron points out how the two styles can be mutualy beneficial.
When we apply the ecology metaphor to learning, we get the concept of learning ecologies, about which both John Seely Brown and George Siemens have written. Technology, as Siemens explains, creates fluidity between knowledge and people, resulting in a learning ecology with the following characteristics:

* A collection of overlapping communities of interest
* Cross pollinating with each other
* Constantly evolving
* Largely self organizing

The role of technology is that of enabler, while that of the teacher is facilitator or gardener of the ecology, “releasing learners into this environment.” When it comes to language learning, our role is to induct our students into these ecologies, while making sure they understand how to best use the technology to make connections and communicate.

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EduBlog Insights -Why I blog with students

EduBlog Insights - Why I blog with students

Anne Davis has switched from Manila to Wordpress which perhaps explains why I can no longer find this post on the subject of why teachers have students blog (I've saved a copy here):
My thoughts on blogs
Hi my name is Sammey. My thoughts on blogs is that it help me to spell much better. Because I did not know how to spell that good. And I use to hate to write but now I kind of love to write. And I like to write more because people write me back. And it helps me to get my thoughts out about all the things that I need to say.
However, she does have another more recent post on the same subject. She quotes Nancy McKeand request for why teachers blog with students (this was for a presentation on blogging that Nancy did recently). There are 20 replies in the comments.

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March 20, 2006

ICT - an outdated model

Trying to get a handle on what people's concepts of ICT are in this country (Japan), I was interested to read this from a link on the Scottish MFLE page:

For many years there was almost tacit agreement that what people needed where computers were involved was 'training up'. This usually involved organisations offering a set menu of courses, starting with basic user skills and hardware familiarisation then advancing through word processing, spreadsheets, databases and so on in a progression of knowledge and skills which seemed to follow an almost predictable path. At each stage you attempted to learn all there was to know about your chosen application or you undertook beginners, intermediate or advanced courses - a fine example of the mastery learning model. For some people this proved to be a reasonable way of doing things - provided they had the time available to dedicate to their training.

The problem is that life just isn't like that for most of us. Teachers are required to make use of ICT but have limited time to spare to absorb the required knowledge and skills.

A friend emailed me his impressions recently:
teachers [here] are keen to technology in
their teaching. However, most seem to believe that TEL (Technology
Enhanced Learning) requires buying into extravagant computer systems
and software packages. That said, many people are beginning to discover
the virtues of Open Source and 'HiTech DIY' TEL, for example, blogging
and podcasting. tells me there are 173 Moodle sites registered in Japan, of which slightly less than 30 are in Japanese.

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Jimmy Carter is a smart man

A former businesswoman-turned-teacher took some students to attend a talk given by former US President Jimmy Carter:

When he wanted to write a book on poetry, he found some professors at Arkansas State University to help him. He called them "his professors."

He is the first American president to write a work of fiction, "The Hornet's Nest." When we decided to write a novel, he found out the best professors at Emory and UGA and others and invited them to the Carter Center
for a private session on how to write a novel. They gave him reading
assignments and checked out over 50 books from Emory University to
write what some historians claim as the most accurate depiction of the
Revolutionary War in a novel.

He said that when he struggled with writing:"I took the things my professors told me and put them on sticky notes around my computer."OK,
here is a former US president, Nobel Peace laureate, former state
senator, former Governor, Naval Officer, nuclear physicist, and author
of many books and he needs teachers!
...That wasn't even the message he was giving! But if HE needs teachers, I do too!

Surround yourself with the best "professors" / "professionals"

Now, he can call the best professors at his whim and trust me, they'll come!

I can too!
Using my bloglines accounts, I tap into the wisdom of some great
professors who have also changed my life. I read them. I listen to
them. I search their blogs!

I forgot to mention the mouse-tip to Anne Davis, as that's where I read it first.

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Peter Ford on blogging

Peter Ford's talk to teachers in Graz, Austria, about the joys and benefits of blogging, is worth a listen. The links are here, separated into 3 mp3 files (mp4 versions also available).

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Why are social technologies such a Big Deal?

Ewan Macintosh asks.

After pointing out that
there are only 23.6 million public blogs, the same again in private ones and a tiny proportion of internet users have a Flickr account. But many more are reading them and looking at the pictures

Ewan goes on,

Suw Charman started off the Socialising in the year 2055 panel (not Social Work panel) of Les Blogs 2.0 with what appears a simple statement: the reason these social technologies work is because they are social. But they are also changing the way that we socialise.

He then quotes from Anne Davis' blog Edublogs Insights, in which she refers to research on effective instruction. As Ewan's done something to his blog (or something's wrong with Firefox), I can't copy and paste anthing from his post, but here's the link to Anne Davis' post.
The paper Anne is referring to is (PDF file warning) Developing the Digital Mind: Challenges and Solutions in Teaching and Learning
by Marshall Jones, Stephen Harmon and Mary O'Grady-Jones.

The paper refers to Marc Prenky's coined term "digital native" and digital immigrant". It also refers to Generation X, and provides a table of Generation X-ers are different from others (altho some of these differences reminded me of the differences which supposedly exist between traditional and non-traditional viz. older, students. (This reminded me of a reference in a Nutshell Note by Ed Nuhfer on the book Generation X Goes to College, a 1996 book by Peter Sacks that was discussed as part of a professional development program. The link is to the entry for this book. The reviews are pretty entertaining.)

The article Developing the Digital Mind combines ideas from a paper by B.L Brown (1997) entitled "New Learning Strategies for generation X (see the Digital Minds article for the complete reference; it's not available online) and from a paper by M.P. Driscoll ("How People Learn (and what technology might have to do with it.)" 2002. The ideas are combined to form an 8-point list of strategies or suggestions for "teaching the digital mind". You can read the original list on page 8 of the Digital Minds article. I'm just going to comment on one.

#1 - Focus on outcomes. This makes pedagogical sense, and indeed more and more educators are focusing on this. Ted Sizer, for instance, has been advocating "exhibitions" as a form of student assessment. Reality-based learning, hands-on learning, problem-based learning. Just the other day, at the Kyoto Faculty Development Forum for higher education, one of the symposium speakers mentioned the example of a science teacher having his students do a holiday assignment where, while they were back in their home towns, they were to walk around, keep their eyes open and spot some kind of environmental issue or problem that needed solving. His point was (and isn't it really astonishing that this point needs to be made) that knowledge should not just be remembered, but learned for the purpose of solving some real-life problem or of being applied to a real-life situation.

What do you think of this list? Ewan Macintosh's responses are well worth reading.

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WordPress tutorial on video

James Farmer now has a video tutorial of the basics of Wordpress: a breathless rush through the fundamentals! Can't wait for the sequels. Video is definitely the way to explain things like this, rather than all text or all audio.

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March 17, 2006

What Is Web 2.0? - Robin Good's Latest News

If, like me, you're wondering, "Web Two? What was Web One?", then this is the article for you. Actually, it's a Robin Good blog post which quotes from and refers to the article in question.

You might want to check out Ewan Macintosh's excellent webcast (link is in this blog-post) on Web2.0 in education, or "What happened to Web1.0?"What Is Web 2.0? - Robin Good's Latest News:
"In Web 1.0, a small number of writers created Web pages for a large number of readers. As a result, people could get information by going directly to the source: for graphic design issues, for Windows issues, and for news.
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CUE Webcast Page

Just blogging this for future reference. I need to get some sleep! On the same page I see there's also
Ed Tech Trends
(Hall Davidson, Peter H. Reynolds, David Thornburg )
1:30-2:00pm Podcasting in Education
(Steve Dembo, Kathy Shirley)CUE Webcast Page

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Dave Winer says he'll quit blogging | | CNET

Dave Winer says he'll quit blogging | | CNET
Dave Winer says he'll quit blogging

Blog pioneer Dave Winer, author of the "Scripting News," has indicated that he plans to stop blogging by the end of the year to free up time and become less of a public figure--temporarily. "I want some privacy, I want to matter less, so I can retool, and matter more, in different ways," he wrote at the end of a blog entry Monday.
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March 15, 2006

Dramatic Design - Effortless Language Acquisition

Some good ideas here for our "English Lounge" and for our Self-Access Centre, which doesn't exist yet...
Dramatic Design

Teaching to Get Your Desired Outcomes

Are your students memorizing and not learning to think? Then this article might have some answers for you:
Most of us want our students to achieve higher level thinking, but often we don't teach so as to produce the outcomes we most want. Our students may then spend more time in memorizing than in learning to think. Last semester we introduced a concept called "alignment,? which revealed the need to avoid pedagogy that is mismatched to our desired outcomes. In 1989, Eric Mazur of Harvard University encountered this mismatch in his introductory physics classes. Below is a memo he wrote (Science Teaching Reconsidered - A Handbook, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1997, p. 22) describing his adjustments.

From a Nutshell Note, by Ed Nuhfer: An Example - Teaching to Get Your Desired Outcomes

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Bloom not so appropriate for today's adults

Am slowly going through messages on the EVO06 JiTT session, and finding some real nuggets. Ed Nuhfer is a quiet master both of his subject and of teaching. For my reference, am blogging here this quote from an email (#386) on the use of Bloom's taxonomy.
The 1956 model was hierachical. The later revised edition realizes
that this is not altogether true. In addition, the Bloom model is teacher-centered as it is used mostly today. We ask the questions--we choose the levels. If we choose high level challenges, it doesn't mean that students will be them with high level responses. If we want to get at how students think, we can't go to Bloom. For adults, we should go to the Perry Model or the Reflective Judgment Model. For those who want a fast view of Perry levels of thinking, go to and look down at about volume 7 or 8--I've forgotten which but you'll find them in that index.

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March 14, 2006

Knowledge Surveys, a superb Tool for teaching, learning and asessment

Here's Ed Nuhfer's Powerpoint presentation on the subject of KS, or Knowledge Surveys, which I mentioned here on the subject of JiTT.

To get the audio, or rather, to listen to the interactive presentation based on these slides you'll have to be logged into Learning Times (free, and well worth it), then follow this link. It's a long presentation, but I found it highly informative, and Ed Nuhfer is an excellent teacher.

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March 13, 2006

whiplash - A fast paced introduction to several ...

And here's the wiki for Darren's actual workshop.

whiplash - A fast paced introduction to several ...:
(This might hurt.)

This will be a lightening fast introduction to a selection of powerful online tools that teachers and students can use in and out of the classroom.

I will discuss some powerful uses of one tool in 10 minutes. When the alarm goes off I'll stop and move on to the next tool. When we're all done you'll probably have Whiplash! You'll have the next hour to recover with some self-directed and guided exploration into the tool(s) that most interests you.

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Whiplash! A workshop with a Difference

Sounds painful! But worth a look...
A Difference

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Research Shows a Blend of Classroom and Online Teaching to Be Most Effective Learning

Potentially useful. There's also a PDF version available. I point out that this refers not to schools but to employee training in organizations.
Research Shows a Blend of Classroom and Online Teaching to Be Most Effective Learning:
Seattle, WA (PR WEB) December 13, 2005 -- The debate about which is more effective, instructor-led classroom training or self-paced e-learning, has been debated for years. Recent research has concluded that a blended approach of both appears to be the most effective way to generate sustained learning and skills improvement. In a recent issue of Chief Learning Officer Magazine, it published results from one research study which concluded a combination of blended learning techniques can improve performance by 45% or more.

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New Learning Technologies Buffet - A quick sampling of some of the lates...

Alan Levine's wiki for a workshop on new learning technologies for Maricopa Community College library staff. (This must be the Maricopa Community College referred to in George Siemens's classic article on Connectivism.)
Lots of great resources, plus the idea of using a wiki which participants can access before and during the workshop is just so cool.
New Learning Technologies Buffet - A quick sampling of some of the latest learning technologies

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OLE! Online Learning Ecologies

Darren Kuropatwa's website for workshops/presentations he gives on learning ecologies. Lots of good quotes, and references and resources.

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Course vision, sound pedagogy: XplanaZine

Bob Reynolds recalls a bike race as he plans a workshop on online learning for educators. This is an important point. After reading the blurb here, I realized that nowhere was there any reference to pedagogy or learning theory. So what is the basis for making this switch from "1-way teaching" to "2-way teaching"? Moreover, 2 of the symposium speakers on Saturday frequently repeated their conviction that the most important factor in successful school reform is the vision, the mission statement of the school.
Now, imagine my surprise at the end of the race when they gave me my time splits and I discovered that, with my sleek racing machine, I had actually finished the bike portion of the race at a slower place that the previous year when I had been riding my old Huffy. In fact, from the time I bought my new bike, I had consistently ridden slower. It was lighter, easier to ride, and definitely more streamlined. And, for some reason, I didn't race as fast using it.

As my colleagues and I shared ideas and talked about technological solutions for our concept, I found myself musing privately that our success was not nearly as dependent on the technology as it was on the philosophy, vision, and narrative of the project. In other words, "It's the legs that do the work."

our temptation is to become preoccupied with LMS platforms, media decisions, and newfangled ways to get students to talk to each other. The truth is that none of these things matter at all without a clear course vision, sound pedagogy, and a great content story. If you have those things, they will play in any learning theater regardless of the technology available.

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Rip, Mix, Learn

This looks like a blog/website for a workshop that Darren Kuopatwa gives on blogging, and could be useful for if/when I do something similar.
Rip, Mix, Learn

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Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

Push vs Pull Education is a concept connected to Web2.0 and part of a rationale for using emerging communications technology in education. Here's one reference I came across today:
Pull vs Push Education

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Siemens on learning communities

Still have lots to read on George Siemens' excellent site.
elearnspace. everything elearning.:
To remain relevant, education needs to align with the needs of learners and the changing climate of work. Courses are not effective when the field of knowledge they represent is changing rapidly. We need to respond to these changes in a way that meets learner's needs and that reflects the reality of knowledge required in the work force.

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MFLE - information about Communicate.06, Scottish CILT's national ICT conference

Ewan Macintosh and Peter Ford are 2 British teacher/bloggers presenting at this edtech conference held March 18th, 2006. The reason I'm posting about this Scottish conference held at the University of Stirling is that you can participate online (you need to join MFLE first, and there's a link on the page where you can do that). There's also a link to the conference program (it offers a text version and a PDF version, but only the PDF one was working when I accessed it today).
MFLE - information about Communicate.06, Scottish CILT's national ICT conference

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March 12, 2006

Japanese prof's example of blended learning

Today I spent half a day in Kyoto, attending the 11th FD Kyoto Forum, which is sponsored by the Consortium of Universities in Kyoto, the city and prefecture of Kyoto, and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

I really want to attend tomorrow as well, but can't. If you read this and you attend, I'd love to hear from you. The session #1 is the one I'd like to attend, but there are other promising ones, too, such as #2 "When universities must give places to all who apply", and #8 "Unique examples of good practice in inter-university education: Open Courseware" (maybe Moodle?).

Today was the opening ceremony and plenary speakers and a symposium. Tomorrow will be the breakout sessions, including one I would dearly love to attend: conducted by Prof. Kino of Ritsumeikan University. He will present on a blended learning class which he taught over several years starting in 2002 (this class was held at Osaka City University). The session is called "2-way communication class: a practical example" (双方向型授業の実践)

If you can read Japanese, you can read what I read about it today in the handbook, over here. Even if you can't read Japanese, that page contains 3 short QuickTime movies that give you some idea of the class. The first shows students signing in as they enter the room (at this time, they also mark their votes for the best comment; see below) and collecting that day's handout. The 2nd movie shows a Thalidomide victim Kino invited to class, and she shows a video of how she cooks... with no hands. The third movie shows little prizes being awarded to the student who wrote the most popular comment to the documentary shown the previous week (as voted on by students).

For those who can't read Japanese, here's the gist.

Prof. Kino's class was called "Documentaries: Environment and Life":
  • A key purpose of the class was to try to create a 2-way dialogue and avoid "1-way traffic"-style teaching/lecturing. While this is relatively easy to do in a seminar (usually 15-25 students), it is much harder to realize in a content-based lecture-type class, and is therefore hardly ever attempted.

  • Another purpose was to create a course that is easy to understand and interesting to take part in.

  • He decided to avoid lecturing by using 50-minute TV documentaries each class. The documentaries were intended to make students think, and were on the topic of "the environment and life" (i.e. pollution!). He used TV documentaries, not only to facilitate students' understanding by using a graphic medium, but to stimulate discussion and get them talking.

  • He produced handouts to accompany each documentary, in order to avoid lecturing and allow as much time as possible for watching and then discussing it aftewards.

  • He created a mailing list for the course. Everyone had to sign up (it was a condition of registering for the course). Students wrote opinions and reactions immediately after watching the documentary and sent them to the list. They were required to read all the other students' reactions/responses and to pick the best one. (Voting took place in class). [In previous years, prior to trying the email list, Prof. Kino had used "response cards" which he handed out in class and on which students could write anything they liked about that week's topic - a comment, a question, a response, anything. He called them 何でもカード]

  • He made a homepage for the course which acted as a record. On the page he wrote a short introduction to each documentary, the "best 5" student summaries of that week's documentary (submitted by email), the most popular opinions/responses sent to the mailing list that week (according to students' votes), a selection of student opinions/responses chosen by Prof. Kino, and anything else that Prof. Kino wanted to share with the class and did not want to take up valuable classtime with.

  • Weekly post-viewing group discussions

Student evaluations of the class (held in 2002 and 2003) show a satisfaction rate of over 80% (measured on a 5-point Likert scale item).

The documentaries were picked as the best element of the course, followed by the handouts (4 A4 pages), the mailing list, the homepage, the voting, and finally the in-class discussions. The results from both years were almost identical.

Prof. Kino writes in his handout for this FD Kyoto Forum workshop, that the reason he started the mailing list was to allow students to read each other's opinions and comments. He quotes one student's feedback as the thing that decided him to go with this, despite the heavy workload involved (he had over 80 students in the course in 2002, and over 60 in 2003; he needed, and got, technical assistance with managing the mailing list):
The mailing list, and being able to read other people's comments, was fascinating. Instead of being kind of locked up in my own world, I read other's opinions and greatly broadened my thinking.
I obtained this information from the write-up in the FD conference handbook which I got today. Unfortunately, I cannot attend tomorrow, when Prof. Kino's session takes place. (If anyone reading this attends, please send me your notes).

Below are some links to the homepages for the courses referred to above, as well as to Prof. Kino's research page. (All in Japanese).

Prof. Kino's course and the source for all above info, as stored on the website of the Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education, in Kyoto University

Homepage for the 2002 course "Documentaries - the environment and life"
Homepage for the 2003 course
Prof. Kino's research page
Homepage for the 2005 course

The reference to "2-way communication" was what caught my attention. The Japan Universities Association for Computer Education (JUCE) conducted a survey in 2004, asking a total of 60, 845 teachers at private universities and junior colleages around Japan, what they were doing in terms of improving their teaching, what difficulties they faced, and if (and if so, how) they were using IT in their teaching.

The summary of the report (in Japanese, of course) is here, and includes a link to the actual (PDF) report. I haven't read the report itself yet, just the summary, in which I read the following:
Teachers' ideal includes, being able to motivate students, having a clear idea of students' level of understanding and teaching in a way which focuses on dialogue: teachers seemed to be conscious of the need to move away from "classes where teaching takes place" to "classes where learning takes place"
, which seems to indicate an awareness that teaching does not necessarily automatically result in learning. (It reminded me of EFL and teacher trainer Dick Allwright's famous 1994 article entitled "Why don't learners learn what teachers teach?"

I've been educating myself about the Socratic method, and have long felt hampered by the difficulty of entering into meaningful dialogue with students, particularly about their learning. For that reason I created a couple of blogs for classes last year. Prof. Kino's syllabus has given me ideas for how I might make the blogs more effective, and what other tools I could usefully try. It was great to have this chance to meet other Japanese teachers doing interesting pedagogical stuff (and you can read between the lines there if you want).

March 11, 2006

Critical pedagogy and negotiated syllabus

Those staff members who push for
greater student participation in learning have one important
argument: most students learn much more when they are actively
involved in controlling their own learning rather than being passive
recipients of material provided by teachers. Yet this argument wins
the day only in a tiny minority of cases. There are two sources of

This quotation is relevant to the debate that surfaced here recently between the "traditionalists vs progressives", "teacher-centred" supporters vs "student-centred" supporters.

Green Squiggly Lines: Giving Up

I'm trying to learn more about negotiated syllabus, and as one of the things my colleague and I do in our "autonomy class" is negotiated grades, I found this of interest.Green Squiggly Lines: Giving Up

March 10, 2006

Traditionalist or progressive? Facts or feelings? Wrong question!

Cleve of English360 has a bold stab at tackling this highly complex and emotionally charged yet fascinating issue. One of the fascinating aspects to me is the way so many people on both sides of the argument see it in black and white terms: are we for a traditionalist approach, or a progressive one? The two, it is assumed naively and often unthinkingly, being mutually exclusive, like oil and water. A colleague recently raised this issue with me recently, and spoke of preferring a conservative approach and of not being enamored of flakiness. So non-traditional = flaky??!!? It seems my colleague, and he is not alone of course, equates traditional (or conservative) with academic rigour and high standards, and "progressive" or non-traditional with slackness and low standards. Really, it's such a ridiculously prejudiced view it would be hilarious, if it weren't the fact that so many people believe it so sincerely.

I absolutely agree with Cleve that "Clare's points need to be addressed" and can be addressed, and of course that was what was disappointing about Downe's initial response. Cleve continues,
I don't feel the frustration the edutech community feels, because I don't have ridiculous tests rammed down my students' throats by a clueless admin weenie.
I think this is one issue, certainly: the administration pressures that may mean well initially, but result in people mindlessly teaching to the test and throwing such valuable affective factors out as curiosity and imagination (and the engineer needs these as much as the artist).
I don’t see any way that anyone learns without good feedback and good assessment.
Absolutely. No argument there (at least not from me!)
James Nelson is right on emphasizing that we have to truly engage in the learners work, not just write “comma-splice” in red pen
Agree, but I think it is why James Nelson is right that is important to be aware of: it is because the affective factor is so powerful and vital in learning. Not supremely important, as many critics try to make out; it doesn't mean, as some suggest, that this means that everyone must be made to feel good all the time and no-one should be corrected because it might upset them! How ridiculous! I really don't know anyone who believes that nonsense, yet this criticism is levelled time and time again at those who refuse to accept that "traditional" necessarily equals "rigour". But the fact of the matter is, whether people like it or not, we human beings are emotional creatures, and learning has a deep, emotional basis, and the affective factor plays a huge role in any human relationship, and the teacher-student relationship is no exception.
Kids suffer because of the lack of connection, not because of the red pens and grades
They need and deserve honest feedback. They must know that the comma-splice is wrong.
Yes, but they don't need to be made to feel that getting the comma-splice is more important than anything else. It's when people think something else is more important than the human being that problems start popping up.
if the engineering student who takes that math test then goes on to build the bridge that my family drives over, then whether or not that student can express their feelings is not all that important to me.
Maybe not, but it's not "either/or". A bridge builder is also a human being who needs to express, appropriately. And because expression and language are important parts of learning, if you accept that Socrates had hit on something true about human beings, or if you accept that Vygotsky, Bruner, and the constructivists and interactionists have hit on a human truth. It's not that "feelings are more important than facts" or vice versa. That's the mistake so many make. We need emotionally stable bridge builders just as badly as we need musicians who can count! Real learning evolves out of curiosity and play, not because someone says you have to because there's a test on it. And by ignoring this fact it is quite possible to crush curiosity and play, and thereby stifle learning and lower standards. In fact, it happens every day. Is all I'm saying. And of course that doesn't mean we don't need tests, for crying out loud, as if that needed saying!

I don't think Cleve wrote too much; on the contrary, I feel there are still many unaddressed issues in this controversy, and it will come up again, I'm sure.

Naace Conference Blog � Computers in Education: An alternative view

An interesting debate going on across several blogs. I joined the trail at English360, which made me ponder, is this the same debate/controversy as in this critical AmazonUK review? (scroll down to the second review).
Which is itself a return to the debate raised in such books as All Must Have Prizes. The debate was also broached in a recent conference on IT in the UK: Naace Conference Blog - Computers in Education: An alternative view

The Stephen Downes post which so riles English360 is here, and it's not hard to see why: Downes' post is short and bad-tempered and easy to take issue with. Terry Freedman responds here, and does a good job of disentangling some of the many threads that are wrapped up in this fascinating and necessary debate.

Aaron Nelson picks up English360's thread here,
and from there I went to Palimpsest Redux, and thence to Blog of Proximal Development.

On balance I think Freedman's piece the best in that he seems to understand a) the value in both sides of the argument, and b) the value of the argument itself. As someone who attended the NAACE conference and listened to John Clare commented:
I found this a really good session, not at all depressing. I think it is vital that we be challenged about the impact that the huge investment has made. And some of John's points about technology for technology's sake may be valid.

There are so many issues involved in this that it would take me several hours to pick them apart, hours which I don't have, so I'll just mention a couple of quick points that occur to me. Terry Freedman writes:
Although I didn't mention tests in my original post, we have to acknowledge that we do live in the real world. People at large judge students, teachers and schools by their test results. It's all very well for us seasoned educators with nice jobs to be all touchy-feely about this, but in the meantime young people have to jump through all the hoops.

First, let's unpack "touch-feely". I understand the dangers that Freedman is referring to (I think), but at the same time, teachers are the ones who spend the most time involved in and reflecting on teaching and learning, and the more we do so, the more involved and complex a matter we see it to be. "Touchy-feely" may well be a gross short-hand for a realization that there is a lot more to education than schooling, there is a lot more potential in the human spirit than is measured by tests. Going back through John Gatto, John Holt, to Maria Montessori and perhaps further back even, dedicated, observant, investigative teachers have discovered that most schools ask too little of children, not too much.

Second, let's examine "jumping through hoops". A big problem with this is that, as Yoram Harpaz points out,
the gap between goals declared by the approaches ... and goals displayed in their patterns of instruction.... Charles Silberman noted in his once popular book Crisis in the Classroom that the decisive mistake of teachers is that they think students learn what they teach [Silberman, 1971, p. 181]. The analysis proposed here adds another decisive error: that teachers think they are teaching what they teach. Teachers teach content; but the students learn primarily from the pattern of instruction the teachers use and from the messages inherent in it.
(My emphasis). In other words, students learn that "education" means jumping through hoops... not learning anything of value. I see this year in, year out in my own classes: students who, from the outset, don't expect to learn anything of value (they seem to have given that hope up long ago) but only aim to pass the course; indeed, they are just "doing the time". "How many classes can I miss without failing? Have I missed too many classes yet?" These are the vital issues, not whether they've mastered the content or the target skills.

Poor teaching is poor teaching, whether it hides behind the veil of "progessive" or "traditional". To say "traditional" does not imply "better" by definition. One could say, for instance, that Japanese school education is "traditional": rows of students all facing one way, one-way-type teaching in the transmission model (or what Illich called the "banking model"), a high-stakes testing culture. The result I see every day: apathetic students who not only have little curiosity or academic initiative, but also who don't seem to have really digested much of the knowledge they are supposed to have "acquired". In the interests of "teaching to the test", teachers have rushed through transmission of knowledge and given students isolated, fragments of information, not knowledge or understanding, and have moreover convinced their charges that all that matters is remembering enough of these fragments accurately enough to pass tests. Many students are disillusioned and some are disgusted and angry: "It's not education, it's just memorizing" complained one. "We never had to think about 'why', just memorize stuff." They display a rather vague, shell-shocked hold on factual knowledge, and certainly very poorly developed critical thinking skills and evaluation skills (how to distinguish between fact and opinion, how to evaluate the accuracy of information by cross-checking and validating sources, for instance). Is this the value of a traditional education? I'm not in the slightest bit impressed, and neither are my students.

March 09, 2006

Part1: 1.1 Schools and the changing Curriculum

Following links on Stephen Heppel's sprawling site(s!), I came across this 1995 paper he was involved in for the British government which discusses educational trends and how schools should adapt. I'm collecting quotes and sources on personalized learning.
Part1: 1.1 Schools and the changing Curriculum:
Schools are being encouraged to develop more flexible curriculum pathways, particularly from the age of 14, to provide an education that matches the talents and aspirations of individuals.

Heppell writes:
As part of an interesting bit of early work with the DfES we put a whole building bulletin onto the web, but then asked people to comment on bits of it by texting (SMS) from their phones onto the margins of the web pages. That functionality is now used for other things, but the on-line Building Bulletin is still here.
This sounds interesting. Does anyone know how it's done? It sounds like text messaging to a wiki. Does anyone know if that's possible, and if so thru what engine(s)?

The paper has some interesting things to say about architecture and the design of learning spaces, a subject Heppell writes about also here. I particularly liked this creative idea:
Finally, we all know that a simple of model of learning includes the impact of a sense of audience. One very easy way to attain that audience is to beam and focus a projector onto a large external window at night (every night...) and to use that "screen" to show moments from the learning day. Giving someone the chance, weekly, to collect "great moments" from the learning week is easy, but hugely motivating and at night the screen looks like a million dollars!. Try it!

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Play button for audio file

A while ago I started experimenting with uploading audio files on a WordPress edublog, and was looking for a cool play button. Well, a friend suggested this, which looks exactly what I was looking for. Thanks, Aaron.

Bud the Teacher: A Great Find

I've got hay fever so my brain is even fuzzier than usual, so I am very interested in posts like this by Bud the Teacher, which help me understand how Suprglu might work in action.
Bud the Teacher: A Great Find:
this Suprglu page is a great example of how you can aggregate several voices into one location for the purpose of having both a shared and an individual blog space for a course. After the course is over, the individual blogs can still exist, independent of a course, until the next need for aggregation comes along. Tools like Suprglu are going to be the essentials when students enter a new course with their own personal learning space.
For example, when a student creates a school blog for her language arts class, the teacher can aggregate all of those blogs into a Suprglu page. Then, when that student is done with language arts, and is now blogging in math class, she can keep her same blog, with all of her old posts, and the math teacher can aggregate the class blogs together in a similar fashion, so that students need only add one more feed into their aggregators.

Can ITV solve the vanishing cash riddle?

Major British television station is losing younger viewers to ... the Internet.
Can ITV solve the vanishing cash riddle?:
While ITV1, the flagship terrestrial channel, still commands huge viewing figures, that audience is beginning to fracture. Home viewers now gravitate increasingly to Freeview, cable TV or BSkyB (LSE: BSY.L - news) , while younger viewers are starting to switch off - possibly tempted by the now almost-universal availability of broadband internet and the emerging world of multimedia services offered by mobile phone companies.
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It doesn't come pre-packaged anymore...

Nice quote here: Connectivism Blog:
Tomorrow's courses and learning experiences will be structured with different tools (bye-bye LMS' as we know them today)...and learning itself will be perceived more as an activity that occurs in networks and ecologies, not hierarchical, pre-organized structures. The central filtering agent is no longer the teacher or institution. It’s the learner. Think about what that means to our education system as we know it today. It changes everything.

March 08, 2006

社団法人 私立大学情報教育協会 - JUCE

社団法人 私立大学情報教育協会 - JUCE
Just discovered this potentially useful and interesting site/organization, the Japan private Universities' Assocation for Computer Education (IT).
It has links to various surveys conducted amongst Japanese higher-education teaching staff, examples of materials and courses using IT in various university departments around the country, and announcement of forthcoming events, etc. All in Japanese, folks.

March 07, 2006

Class blogs and moodles - a request for suggestions

OK here's my wish list. This is what I'm thinking of doing starting a month from now, and I'm posting here hoping readers with more experience can give me the benefit of their wisdom.

Basically, I want server space where I can host
a) moodles for the (up to 12) classes I'll be teaching from April.
1) These classes will be blended learning, i.e. the bulk of the classwork will be in class (with no computers), and I'll have them access the Moodle out of class for homework (because I'm not entirely sure that ALL students have access to computers at school or at home, and while I MAY be able to book ONE class period in the computer room from time to time - like once a semester - I also may not).

2) I also do NOT want on the Moodle front page things like "Click here for University A students, Click here for University B students, etc", ie. advertising to all comers exactly which other universities I work at (perhaps this will require separate domains for them?) Is it possible for my students to just type their password and get sent directly to their moodle module?

3) I plan to put pretty much the same stuff into each Moodle module for each class, at least initially till I get a better idea of what their various levels and needs are. What I plan on putting there are:
i) a forum for announcements from me (assignments, etc) and where they can discuss and read each others' responses to the assignments (individual blogs may be better for this part, tho).
ii) Assignments/quizzes which will include short sound files (possibly hosted on my domain if enough space, otherwise links to the outside), graphics, photos

b) I also would like a community blog for my department. I've started it one on edublogs.
The idea is to celebrate the achievements and work of the department members, and to have all members able to write posts and upload files, etc. Is edublogs the right medium? I notice, for instance, that I can invite only people who are already edublog account holders, so that means each staff member will first need to create their own edublog then tell me their user name then I invite them, right? Trouble is, only a couple know what a "blog" is at the moment, and the others have I don't know what level of computer skills so I'd like to make this as easy as possible for them.
I may want at some stage to move this blog over to my own domain, if/when I get one, and I hope this is not hugely impossible.

c) I also want to have, separate from the Moodle, a blog of my own which will be a general "my blog for my students" blog, general info for all my students, such as stories, profiles of students doing interesting things, upcoming events of potential interest, internet resources. Due to the fact that all my students are (false) beginners in English, I'll need to be able to post stuff in their native language sometimes (Japanese).

Last year I made 4 separate blogs for 4 different classes, but I found that a lot (but not all) of what I was writing on there was relevant and of potential interest to all the students, so I started wishing I'd made, or had separately, a main blog for such general stuff. One thing I did, for instance, was to post to the blog student responses to homework assingments (after removing all their names) so that they could read each others' homework and my comments to them, and hopefully respond/comment on those (only a small minority commented, tho rather more did read the posts).

As it seems that student use of computers is going DOWN (a purely subjective impression at the moment), while every student has a cell-phone, I'm thinking of using a Japanese-based blog host which allows cell-phone access to the blog (you can read it on your cell-phone, also post to it, send photos to it) via something called the QR-code (don't know if this exists outside Japan). Go here and scroll right down to the bottom and you'll see a little black square with squiggles in it in the LH sidebar. That's the QR-code. Anywhere else using this?

d) Finally (?) I would like to get an informal dialogue going with my students by having either a class blog or them making their own individual blogs, linked by RSS. I'm assuming an outside host would be better for this than using the Moodles (can you have blogs in Moodle?). I haven't made up my mind whether I want something completely public like eslblogs/uniblogs/elgg or something like Blogmeister (which I haven't played with at all) or Drupal?. Is there something halfway between the completely open and public and the "walled garden" of Moodle? Something like My Space (but not MySpace) where you can't SEE the blog unless you're a member of the community? My reasoning is that some of my students may be intimidated (at least at first) by the completely public nature of an "open" blog, which may prevent them from participating in this part of my program.

Oh, and the Moodle AND the class blogs will need to have Japanese language capability.

Whew! That's it (for the moment). Any suggestions? Comments? Words of wisdom or warning... etc.

March 06, 2006

Learning Theories

Still blogging links from the excellent Elluminate session on podagogy, one that Allan Carrington put up was to this page on learning modalities,
but there's lots of other excellent stuff there too, including this page on theories of learning.

Learning Theories:
# Cognition Theory
# Habit
# Humanistic Theory
# Instinct
# Physiological Learning
# Psychomotor Skills

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DUBLIN IRELAND: Talking with Prof. Stephen Heppell. Episode 2 - Not School! Seducing Kids back into Learning |

Another fascinating nugget, from following links in the Elluminate session on the subject of podcasting in education (see previous blog posts). Last year, Allan Carrington took part in Educause 2005. I think he was the "official" podcaster of the event. Coming all the way from Australia, tho, he realized that it was quite possible, even desirable, to break his journey en route and talk to some people in the field of education and particularly online learning and/or edtech. Being the hi-tech guy he is, he created a blog for his journey, and podcast his interviews and meetings.

Here's one, a gem right off the top of the pile: an interview with Stephen Heppell of the UK (tho recorded in Dublin, Ireland, for reasons we can only guess at), on Stephen's brainchild, "Not School", an online learning program designed to help kids who can't or won't go to school (kids who've been expelled,for instance, or kids who are bullied and refuse to go), to obtain some kind of equivalent qualifications, and it has succeeded, apparently. The blog post also contains a link to a short excerpt from a documentary on the subject of edtech and why it's important for the future of schools, a subject that I find particularly fascinating. Don't miss this short QuickTime movie.
The podcast that goes with Alan Carrington's blogpost is linked to as an attachment at the very bottom of the blog-post. Click on "attachments" and the entire blog-post will open up in the window, and the audio will start. DUBLIN IRELAND: Talking with Prof. Stephen Heppell. Episode 2 - Not School! Seducing Kids back into Learning |

Podagogy�Blog Archive � Visual versus Audio Messages

Following a few links from the previously mentioned Elluminate session, I found this on Randy Meredith's blog (at least he calls it a blog, but Bloglines picked up no feeds from it).

Podagogy�Blog Archive � Visual versus Audio Messages

This journal article, reviewed here by Randy, interestingly suggests that the current prevailing (?) wisdom that visual messages are more powerful than audio ones, and that learners these days are becoming more visual (and less print-literate) and less audio-verbal may not be correct:
This article provided very informative and helpful background on studies conducted to assess the effects of audio and video. In summarizing the findings of a number of studies, the article indicated no one medium (print, audio, and audiovisual) has a clear advantage in its ability to persuade, inform, or create emotional responses. Rather, a large body of research indicates “the effectiveness of the medium depended in complex and conflicting ways on the characteristics of the communicator, the message, the situation, and the audience member” (Crigler, Just, & Neuman, 2004). The variation in medium effectiveness is demonstrated in Table 1, which gives an overview of the findings by McGuire’s (1969, 1985) studies on the persuasive effects of identical messages in different media....
Their findings clearly demonstrated the audio channel carries the bulk of the information in an audiovisual study. Further, results indicated the amount of learning was essentially the same for the audio only messages and the audiovisual messages....
These findings support many earlier studies indicating recorded audio narrative is an effective medium for communicating information....
Audio leads video. That is, the video track must logically follow the audio track to be most effective...
If audio does communicate the majority of information in a recorded story, it may be less important in some contexts (and therefore less expensive) to produce effective educational podcasts and audio recordings.

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Podagogy - Where Podcasting meets Teaching and Learning

Am trying to work while listening to an excellent webinar organized by the EVO 2006 podcasting group. I wasn't able to participate in it live, so I'm very grateful to Learning Times for putting this Elluminate session in the archives.

The session was entitled "Learncasting & Podogogy in Language Teaching" and was presented by EFL-teacher, blogger and podcaster Graham Stanley, Instructional Designer at the University of Adelaide's Centre for Learning and Professional Development Allan Carrington and Director of eLearning at Spring Arbor University Randy Meredith in conjunction with the Webheads group of foreign language professionals within

This is a link mentioned in the session, to a site by Randy Meredith. This particular page is a list of links related to academic podcasting and online pedagogy. Even though Randy is not in the EFL/ESL field, I'm sure I can learn a lot from this, as I educate myself about scientific, pedagogical bases for using blogs, wikis, and podcasts in EFL teaching/learning. I'm looking forward to browsing through this. Randy Meredith is apparently the person who coined the portmanteau word "podagogy".
Podagogy - Where Podcasting meets Teaching and Learning