Mar 182015

Lit Reviews, no one told me about these things before I started on this little journey. People only told me about the Thesis or the Project, but never the Lit Review. I think there must be some sort of ritualistic secret pledge you must make, along the lines of the Free Masons or Illuminati, before you get your degree.  “Thou shall not speak of the Literature Review to any of the unwashed and unlearned masses!”

I am actually starting to enjoy the silly thing, but it is taking on a life of its own. I just wish I had more time to read and write. I am starting to understand why some people take a year or two off to do their masters.

What I am starting to like most about the whole process, is how the Literature Review is evolving. It took me a great deal of time, energy and thought to get started but things are moving along quite nicely now. The only concern now is that I honestly think it could go on forever. There is just so much out there to read and write about.

To start, the greatest struggle was creating a research question to work with. Then the reading began and that was a bit like sludging though waist deep snow to start but as you read you see new avenues to follow and key words to search. The path to the answer you are looking for, becomes a dendritic maze of possibilities.

As the journal articles stack up and your head becomes cloudy with more information you can possibly summarize, the answers to your research question begin to stack up. Then you begin to realize that you might want to rethink your research question. Is it adequate? did I ask the right question? Are there new questions I should be asking? Did I find answers to questions I should be asking? Fortunately I haven’t had to go back the drawing board, but I have had to tweak my research question.

To start I was doing this work flying by the seat of my pants, but as I continue I am finding myself leaning on the guidance of our text-book Educational Research – Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research by John W. Creswell. In the beginning I was dreading having to wade through this 600 page behemoth, but it has become very handy in trying to figure out what it is I should be doing.

Moving ahead I will need to start enlisting more help from my faculty advisor and all the other people available to help me. It has become abundantly clear that am not a 21 Century Learner and I am not much of a collaborator. I enjoy discussing things with the people in my cohort, but when it comes down to putting word to blog, I like working on my own. I have a feeling that this wont work for too much longer as I enter my last two terms of this degree.



Mar 152015

JavaScriptWhat an embarrassment! My online learning project is a shambles and I have resorted to a book. A real honest to god paper book on learning Java Script. Oh the shame, oh the horror, oh the heresy… Will I , can I ever live this one down? Meh… Who cares. This project is about learning isn’t it and I wanted to use a book so be it.

I have a little secret however, this book comes with a companion website that gives me the files and scripts, which I can use as I go through the book chapter by chapter.

What find useful about this format, is that I can (as I have in the past) use the information in this book to help me build a course of my own.  This is a common trait in teachers I find. You can give them a Course in a Can, all ready to go and they end up tweaking it suit their needs or teaching style.

This is the problem with all packaged curriculum whether in be online or hard copy. Teachers will always dissect it, modify it and repackage for delivery in their classroom and it will not look anything like it did when it came out of the government approved curriculum factory.

I think this trait of compulsive re jigging of curriculum comes from a teacher’s preservice days, when doing a B.Ed., you would swap unit plans amongst the members of your cohort and adapt them to suit your student teaching assignment. This ultimately saved an immense amount of time and energy because you didn’t have to hunt down resources, write out the curriculum word for word and then present it. More time could be spent on the craft of teaching, coming up with creative ways of presenting the materials. With the odd tweak here and there to make the unit plan your own, you were ready to go in a day or two instead of weeks.

Today, I still find hard copy materials useful in planning my units or lessons but with the use of the internet there is a plethora of digital resources I can call on to add to the framework that hard copy materials give you. This book is actually just one of a number of resources I have been gathering to learn Java Script and will use to cobble together my own course.

So far these resources include:

What this means, is that my learning project has moved on from trying to learn Java Script for the sake of learning Java Script to learning Java Script for the purpose of having a serviceable course to deliver to my students. Don’t worry, I have no delusions about becoming a Java Script Guru through this process. What I suspect or perhaps I should say hope, is that by going through the process of building this course, I will acquire the skills needed to support my students through a beginning level course rather than leaving their learning up to Khan Academy.





Feb 082015

Unity 3d

Well that didn’t take long. My ADD has kicked in and I am looking for something else to do for my learning project. This is not unusual for me. My interest wains very quickly with things and I am off looking for something else to peak my interest.

I will continue with the Khan Academy Java Script tutorials but I have also added another learn to code platform into the mix called Unity3D. But first, lets look at some of the reasons why I lost interest in the Khan Academy tutorials so quickly. Other than the fact I have the attention span of a gnat.

I mentioned in last weeks post, that one of the significant drawbacks I found about the Khan Academy Java Script tutorials was the lack of community. I had no social reason to be there. I suspect that if my #tiegrad cohort were all required to participate in this Java Script short course, I would still be there eagerly plugging away. The funny thing is, I not a very social person in the “real world” , but in the online world I seem to be far more social. I need people to connect with or I quickly lose interest and move on.

The other thing I think is missing from the Khan Academy tutorials is that it lacks an element of creating something. Although I am learning, I have nothing to show for it. What I mean by that is, I have nothing to take away to show off to others and say “See what I did today!” Some would say that is the problem with the digital world, you don’t get anything concrete out of working in that medium.

What hope to gain from jumping to Unity 3D as a part of my learning project is that I will have something to show from my learning in the form of actual working programs that I can distribute in virtually any platform I want. What I am also hoping to find is a community of adults with which to interact with so that I have a social reason to return and continue to learn.

So wish me luck, as I try to find an online learning project that captures my att… Oh look a squirrel!

Jan 242015

Web design infographicBefore I start, I need to explain what is going on here, so my irregular readers understand why they are not reading one of my regular curmudgeonly posts.

I have been tasked with learning something online as part of a project for my masters program. I could pick whatever I wanted as long as most of my learning came from the pretty soft glow generated my some sort of digital device. I have to say it was a struggle figuring out what to do. I contemplated learning Banjo, Piano, 3D digital sculpting, Korean, basket weaving… But I settled on learning some Java Script.

The reason I chose Java Script is that I need to get a better handle on coding languages and Java Script is a great place to start. My current knowledge in this dark art is limited to HTML, CSS and some PHP but even at that, it isn’t all that good. It has all come from mucking about with my websites over the years and there isn’t much rhyme or reason to any of it. My understanding is much like a moth-eaten garment. Full of holes and prone to falling apart at any moment.

I have chosen to use Khan Academy for this little learning project for a three reasons. It is free, the site is well done AND it has a teacher admin panel that I can use to create a classroom for my ICT students later on this year. If I should deem it worthy.

Now for Day 1… An exciting thrill ride into the mysteries of Java Script. I got to Draw Rectangles, Ellipses and Lines all within the first 10 minutes of sitting down. The interface is easy to use and perhaps more importantly easy to follow.

The order of instruction so far follows Video – Practice – Challenge. Three things I like right off the bat is that the instructional videos were short, practice allowed you to see immediate results and the challenge was difficult enough to make you think but didn’t make things so difficult that you got frustrated.

The only thing I struggled with was that the voice in the video sounded like the instructor was about 4 years old. I guess the humiliation of being bested by a four-year-old is part and parcel of the new digital world order.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.17.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-24 at 1.25.09 PM
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Screen Shots from Khan Academy learning Interface

Jan 232014

iStock_000033215132SmallWelcome to this weeks instalment of Questions to Ponder for Learning Design #EDCI 335

This weeks question is:  Are our current schools / teachers / curriculum preparing students for the 21st century?

I am going to start off by saying that the problem with this question is that it is a tad misleading. It would suggest that the role of grade school is to prepare our children for the world but it isn’t. Grade school is designed to prepare kids for further education once they graduate from high school. Preparing kids for the real world is no longer part of our mandate.

Personally I think kids should be able to walk out of high school and become gainfully employed right out of the gate. When I say gainfully employed, I am not talking having a 100K a year job, driving a Porsche and living like a Gangsta. I am talking a good job that provides a living wage and an opportunity to improve their lot in life with hard work and further education. If this was the case then asking: Are our current schools/teachers/curriculum preparing students for the 21st century? My answer would be an emphatic NO!

Unfortunately, over the past 30+ years, under the guise of the tired old mantra, “You need a good education to get a good job”. Society has chosen to warehouse young adults in post secondary institutions, rather than employ them. So ingrained is this “Must go to school” mentality, post secondary education has become a multi billion dollar industry unto itself. At times it would seem that the primary purpose of education is to extract money from parents back accounts, rather than create employees of the future.

In reality kids graduating from high school today don’t need to be ready for the 21st Century, they need to be prepared to spend another 4+ years in a post secondary institution doing exactly what they were doing in high school. So if this is the inevitable plight of our children, my answer to this weeks question is YES! The existing school system does exactly what is required to prepare our children for their continued academic incarceration in the 21st Century.

Unrealistically, I would like to not lecture at all; not as the result of being shown the door by my employer, as will happen soon enough, but because lectures are a terrible way to teach. Since I am scheduled to give them, and can’t see how to provide one-on-one instruction to the nearly 200 students enrolled on the course, I know that I shall in fact stand up and talk for 50 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks – Alan Ryan, 2014.

The problem is that grade school is designed to keep kids from engaging with the real world, not to go out and be embraced by it. Even if we did make kids work ready by the time graduation rolls around, the only thing waiting for them is starvation wages and poverty. The reality is that what we have here is an 21st Century employment problem, not a 21st Century school problem.

I work with kids on a daily basis that are bright, capable and phenomenally talented and need nothing more than to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They could be and should be in the work world making themselves useful to society. Instead they are trapped in a system that insists on “educating them” indefinitely before deeming them worthy of a living wage.

The thought I frequently bandy about in my mind is this.  What if the solution is not to look for a 21st century solution but backwards to the 19th century. Instead of marginalizing our youth in a world of never-ending academia, why don’t we turn them loose to participate in the adult world sooner? The role of school / teachers / curriculum would be to provide “in progress” academic support for kids who are engaged with the real world. We already do this to a small degree with Apprenticeships and Co-ops but why are these programs not the norm rather than the exception?

The question posed is far bigger than any single school, teacher or curriculum. It is a question that needs to be answered by students, parents, teachers, business people and politicians. 

  • If you want work ready kids by grade the end of grade 12, the business world needs to provide living wages for them when they get out.
  • If you want to change what schools / teachers / curriculum teach, then you have to change what qualifies for graduation.
  • If you want to change what constitutes high school graduation, you need post secondary to institutions to change entry requirements.
  • If you want grade school teachers to support each child’s specific interests or “passion”, then provide the resources and the time to make it happen.
  • If you want us to change our teaching practice, then provide us with the time, resources and professional development to do it.
  • If critical thinking, innovation, resilience, adaptability and effort are what is most important in school, then stop placing so much emphasis on grades and value what really counts.

Our schools and teachers are more than capable of delivering a 21st Century education, it is the outside world that needs to do a better job in helping the new age of learning to come to fruition.

Some facts and figures

Registered apprenticeship completions, Canada, 1995 to 2007

Post Secondary Enrolment Trends to 2031

Unemployment Dynamics of Canada’s  Youth

University Tuition Rising to Record Levels in Canada