Category Archives: Uncategorized

Upcoming conferences in Tokyo

For the EFL teachers in Japan, there are a couple of conferences coming up in Tokyo that I am interested in. I don’t think I can attend both, unfortunately.

1) ECAP 2007. I’ve heard Charles Browne present on vocab acquisition. He knows his stuff and is an engaging and relaxed presenter to boot. He helped created VCHECK.

2) Jaltcall 2007, in Waseda Uni, Tokyo. Scrolling thru the list of abstracts, I came across this one, to which my response was “been there, got the T-shirt.”

Too early to Moodle?

Since April 2006, the presenter has used Moodle for six courses, mostly as a redundant resource rather than as a required CMS program. He did not force his students to use Moodle—except on the rare occasions when he made them take quizzes—but simply encouraged them to use it by creating forums and chat rooms, posting information, making available images, articles, audio-visual clips, RSS feeds, and various data files. Overall, the participation of students in Moodle activities was far less forthcoming than the presenter had expected. In brief, not many logged in, and even those who did, only did the most basic or required activities.
In this presentation, the presenter hopes to examine this issue of students’ lack of interest in Moodle, and to identify the causes and possible solutions—based on his interviews with students and their Moodle activities. In brief, the causes seem to relate to the Japanese curriculum, student’s PC-incompetence, student’s attitudes, etc.; the solutions may lie in initiating students in Moodle, making more Moodle activities compulsory, etc. Some solutions, however, raise difficult questions like, “Should CALL/Moodle be forcibly integrated into the syllabus/curriculum?” and “Is voluntary use of CALL/Moodle too much to expect from Japanese students?”

more than 99% of our learning is nonconscious? Brain-based learning

Jay Cross, online champion of Informal Learning, quotes Clive Shepherd who quotes research by Dr Donchin at the U of Illinois, from 1986. This is not new news. The question is, are teachers wasting their time?  Not a bad question to ask, and not just once, either, but what about assessment? If 99% of learning is unconscious, and if that means that most of what’s learned in your class is not in your lesson plan then (assuming the teacher makes a valid assessment tool) that would show up in the assessment result.

“Most of what’s learned in your class is not in your lesson plan; in other words, there’s a documented, enormous and profound differential between teaching and learning.” [from Brain-based Learning by Eric Jensen] …if the majority of what we learn in the formal context of the classroom is nonconscious, i.e. not necessarily what the teacher planned for, then it puts a whole new slant on the debate about how much work-based learning is formal and how much informal. Now the usual figures quoted are 20% formal to 80% informal (Jay Cross’s book Informal Learning has a chapter devoted to the accumulated evidence on this), but it would seem that most of the 20% is informal as well!

So, are our efforts at controlling what people learn doomed? Are those hours spent preparing learning objectives wasted?

Only if a teacher just makes objectives but doesn’t bother to check if those objectives are attained or not.

I followed Clive’s link to Eric Jensen’s website, and read some more about brain-based learning. Here are a couple of resources on this subject I’ve found useful. It’s an area I found myself growing increasingly interested in.

  1. Ed Nuhfer’s excellent Nutshell Notes


    1. Engaging more of the brain in more of the students

    2. Education! So, What’s the Brain Got to Do With It?

    3. Brain-based Learning 1 – Optimal Environments?

  2. Thinking About Teaching and Learning: Developing Habits of Learning With First Year College and University Students by Robert Leamnson

Yet another reason to use Firefox

or anything other than IE, really. According to the BBC,

Animated cursors could prove risky for Windows users, Microsoft has warned.

The software giant is investigating reports that the way Windows handles alternatives to the traditional arrow cursor can leave PCs open to attack.

By booby-trapping a website or e-mail attachment with code that exploits the flaw, malicious hackers could hijack a Windows PC.

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Global Information Technology Report

The Global Information Technology Report (via Harold Jarche):

Since it was first launched in 2001, The Global Information Technology Report has become a valuable and unique benchmarking tool to determine national ICT strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate progress. It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and development for economic growth.

The Report uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) to measure the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments. The NRI is composed of three component indexes which assess:
– environment for ICT offered by a country or community
– readiness of the community’s key stakeholders (individuals, business and governments)
– usage of ICT among these stakeholders.

Denmark tops the list, with the UK 9th, and Japan 14th. Now I need to read the report to find out what this ranking means.

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iMacs + iSight + Skype = classroom international video conferencing

Via NextGenTeachers blog –
Kimberly Cofino, who teaches in Kuala Lumpur, linked up her IT class with students in NZ, and everyone was very excited about it.

Thanks to our lovely new iMacs (with iSight built in), and Skype, we were able to video conference with our new partner class in NZ this morning.

For many of our students this was the first time they had ever participated in a video conference – and certainly the first time they have ever done so as part of a school project.

This group will be collaborating together to create a multimedia presentation – here in KL we will be using iMovie, the students in NZ will be using Movie Maker. Part of their responsibility will be to teach each other how to use the software they are learning about. I love the idea that students in an all Mac school can learn how to use Movie Maker, and vice versa!

I can’t recall how I found NextGenTeachers (probably it found me), but I’m subscribed via Google Reader. When I click on the “show original item” link, I always get taken, not to the NextGenTeachers blog site which is what I expect, but straight to the contributor’s blog where the original entry was written. For a while, I had the odd sensation that the NextGenTeachers blog site doesn’t actually exist, but is merely the name of the RSS feed. (NextGenTeachers does exist here). Still…

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Homeschool carnival

David St Lawrence, ex-Silicon Valley “riches to rags” story, author of Danger Quicksand Have a Nice Day, has an entry about homeschooling:

We have a lot of home schooled students in Floyd County and I am always impressed with their maturity and creativity.

In my opinion, one of the absolute killer benefits of homeschooling is that children can easily get more education in a couple of hours of homeschooling than they can get from a full day of public school.

No two and a half hour commute, no endless waiting between moments of real activity.

Home schooled kids probably get 4 to 5 extra hours a day to be creative and to help out around the home or participate in the family business. That can be a serious advantage to them and their parents in today’s high-pressure world.

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Teens face £50 fines for not attending class

The [UK] government wants to introduce “education Asbos” and fixed penalty fines for teenagers who refuse to stay in education or training until the age of 18, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today.

Sometimes I think there are two fundamental attitudes towards human nature: 1 says, humans are basically weak and evil and need to be whipped or otherwise forced to do what is right; the other says humans are basically good and need to be allowed to act in accordance with their own integrity and inner clocks. I’m more or less a believer in the latter philosophy, thought sometimes I think it would make life simpler if I just forced people to do what I think to be right.

Those who believe people need to be herded and forced tend to be in favour of policies and behaviours that control others. My big problem with this is that not with the philosophy per se but rather with its vulnerability to subversion. What’s the difference between insisting that those in your charge meet the goals you have set for them, and putting surveillance cameras everywhere so you can “catch the bastards”?

Which side of the line is this new British government policy? Is it really for the young people’s own good? Or is it to ensure that government pays its dues to industry and guarantee a certain number of trained potential employees?

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Informal learning and PKM

Aaron Campbell blogged about From Courses to Learning Streams. The idea sounds ripe,

allowing students the freedom to assemble the pieces of their (own) course

but I feel there are more issues involved. One is the problem of information overload. So I was intrigued to read Harold Jarche’s blog entry on precisely this aspect. Quoting Jon Husband referring to Constellation W,

This next era will create a society of knowledge; its principal tool will be the Internet 2 while its principal handicap will be too-large amounts of information that is not in context.

Harold has developed his own PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) system to deal with this. Check out the diagram, and the comment from Stephen Downes. (More on his PKM here). In another entry (I just added Jarche to my Google Reader, so these entries are coming like British busses – all at once), Harold quotes Downes asking ‘what’s the underlying theory of informal learning?’ The post includes a link to the Informal Learning Blog, and a post by Jay Cross which likens learning to a sound mixer:

Imagine, if you will, a learning mixer. You could slide the switches to
give the learners a little more control here while shaving development
time there…The Delivery slider moves from courses and push (formal) to
conversations and pull (informal). The Duration slider goes from hours
(formal) to minutes (informal). The Subject matter ranges from
curriculum (what the organization says, formal) to discovery (what the
individual needs, informal) Timing goes from outside of work to during
work. Development time ranges from months (events, formal) to minutes
(connections, informal).

Harold has a more recent entry on informal learning or what some have dubbed free range learning. Perhaps this is close to what Aaron was blogging about.

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