• 08Apr
    Author: Katherine Pisana Categories: Education, Technology Comments Off on Chalk vs. Tech

    When I graduated from my first degree, I didn’t know that the job I have today even existed. What does that mean about what I chose to study? If the jobs that today’s students will have tomorrow don’t exist yet, how does a student know how to choose the right course of study? What subjects will be relevant to their profession? What tools are going to help them in the workplace after they graduate?

    A business degree was a marketable degree so that’s why I chose to study it, but the closer I got to the fourth and final year of the degree, the further I found myself diverging away from the values and beliefs representative of that community. Perhaps it was a lesson I had to learn for myself, but it made me wonder how my first university experience could have been different if my passion for what I was studying grew with each new thing I learned rather than dissolved into the background of a down turning economy.

    I’m not trying to imply that we need a mechanism that would enable prospective students to see the future before they have to pick their course of study, but I am wondering whether it’s realistic or even practical to expect a higher education institution to be able to equip students with the skills and tools they need to not only function but also flourish once they get into the real world.

    I’m afraid it comes back down to the teachers once again. If the teacher’s talking to the board, and the student is plugged into the technology, where’s the connection?

    Where's the connection?

    Where's the connection?


  • 06Apr
    Author: Katherine Pisana Categories: Educational Technology, Mind Amplifying Tools Comments Off on Wordling through language learning

    picture-1

    Wordle is getting a lot of hype in the educational blogosphere and also within my current study community, but I haven’t added it to my list of recommended techie tools until now because I just wasn’t totally convinced of its value.  It’s basically a tool that allows you to take a chunk of copied text (from an email, a document, etc., from a website url that has an atom feed, or even based on a user’s del.icio.us name) and paste it into a textbox. What comes out on the other end is a word cloud. Here’s an example below of a word cloud I created a second ago by pasting in the text from the ‘About‘ page of Wolfram Mathworld (a comprehensive learning object repository for all things math-related).

    wordle-mathworld

    You can customise how the cloud looks, change colours and fonts and layouts, etc.

    I suppose that it could be interesting to pick out key themes, terms, ideas, etc. out of selected works but how can it be usefully applied in an educational context?

    Well, recently a colleague of mine from Dublin, Karl Duff, shared a really creative example with me of using Wordle within a foreign language context. The teacher creates a word cloud of an article or a short story. Students are then shown the cloud and the teacher explains the premise behind Wordle and the idea behind the bigger vs. the smaller words that are generated. Once students are clear on the concept of Wordle, they are asked to work in groups to create a short story based on what they think the Wordle cloud represents. This is, of course, done in the foreign language they are studying. The students are then asked to share their stories with the rest of the class and to discuss the similarities and differences between each group’s main ideas. Finally, the teacher reads out the article or short story that he/she originally selected to create the word cloud.

    That’s the basic idea of the exercise. You could even go further and have the students create word clouds of their stories and compare with the original cloud. You could also add another level to the exercise and have the students individually write reflective essays about how their group’s story aligned with the key themes and ideas of the piece you selected. It all depends on how in depth you want to get.

    To break down the design of the first part of this activity a bit more, I’ve adapted the Hybrid Learning Model (HLM) created by the Centre for Institutional E-Learning Services at the University of Ulster to outline the learning events that could take place in the example above using their mapping grid (pdf):

    wordle-mapping_grid

    I would be very interested to hear how you’ve used Wordle to support your learning and teaching endeavors.