Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post 7 - The Social Impact

This task has the ability to emphasise social issues both the audience of the film and to those working on creating the artefact. My group's film, Little Blue Riding Hood, a twisted take on the story of little red riding hood, has a girl meet a guy in a bar, and he then spikes her drink. While she is aware of this and switches the drinks, leading to the wolf's demise, the inclusion of this does alert viewers to the dangers of drink spiking. It is only when Blue leaves her drink with the stranger that he has a chance to drop the tablet in, and although she turns the tables on him, the danger she is in and his intentions are clearly shown. As an aside, I must say I really enjoyed the audience's sharp intake of breath at the shot of the knife during the screening; this was very much what we were going for. So, hopefully the film was able to convey this perhaps somewhat unsophisticated message about the dangers of drink spiking.

The second major social impact I’ve mentioned previously, that is the change in the group dynamics, and that despite differences of opinion we all managed to come together and get on with it. I can see that with regards to Civics and Citizenship education, that group work can go long way to introducing students to group situations, and in this safe way those more used to working alone, or to getting their way, can develop an appreciation for the dynamics of a team. This is vitally important as teamwork is a ubiquitous fixture in almost all careers, and indeed to develop into the Melbourne Declaration's (2008) Active and Informed Citizen, it is necessary to be able to work with others, to tolerate differing opinions and to appreciate other points of view.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this course. I entered it with a fair bit of trepidation, recalling with horror my experiences in SCIM101 - Computing for Scientists which I undertook way back in 2000, a course which was all databases, spreadsheets and Powerpoints. I feel like I have developed a good understanding of the major theories, and almost more importantly, have had experience applying them and then analysing the results.

Post 6 - Multiliteracies and TPCK

Ok, so it's quite a mouthful. But both these concepts really are essential to understanding how to use technology effectively in a classroom. I'm going to start with Multiliteracies. In the pre-digital generations, literacy education focused upon the infamous 'Three R's' of 'Readin, 'Ritin, and 'Rithmatic. Basically the concept of Multiliteracies is based on the idea that in a post-digital, rapidly globalising world these are no longer sufficient. Three R's may have been good enough for Jimmy living in 1948, where he could expect to live and work with people from the same background and country as him. But in a post-digital world, where another Jimmy living in 2010 will regularly torrent or stream TV from the US, listen to podcasts from the UK and stream radio from Chicago, comment on friends Facebook statuses and photos posted from Europe and Asia, and 'headshotting' other players from across the globe in Modern Warfare 2, these are obviously insufficient. And that's before he leaves for the workforce!

The term multiliteracies was first coined by the New London Group, a team of ten academics who met first in 1996 to discuss the future of literacy. In their 2000 paper, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies, they argue that emphasis needs to be placed upon students becoming part of a global world. Indeed, they claim that through exposure to mass media, the internet and a multiplicity of communication channels, they are already a part of that world (Cope and Kalanstzis, 2000). Correspondingly the New London Group argues that in order to create meaning for students, there are six design elements, different and new literacies, which must be satisfied.

Linguistic Meaning - language, but with cultural context

Visual Meaning - seeing and viewing

Audio Meaning - hearing and sound

Gestural Meaning - movement

Spatial Meaning - space and place

Multimodal Meaning - Incorporating all of the above

(Breakdown taken from

It is clear just how radically the theory of Multiliteracies diverges from the traditional Three Rs. In order for education to remain relevant in contemporary society, it is vital that it focus on the teaching of not only the traditional literacies, but also those set forth above. The way I see it is that the NLG are proposing multiliteracies as a new Lingua Franca, the universal 'language' necessary for understanding and engaging with a rapidly changing and globalising world.

Through the filmmaking task, we were made to engage with the first five elements, considering the films visual style, the narrative and titles, the soundtrack and sound effects, the actors' gestures and the shot locations. Finally, in the film itself we produced an artifact which united all these as a multimodal work. For me at least, this has helped me to engage with the concept of multiliteracies, and realise that behind the metalanguage is a vital concept which needs to be understood.

Speaking of metalanguage, now I’ll look at Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, which for the sake of the word count I’ll refer to hereafter as TPCK. TPCK is the intersection of three forms of knowledge required by an effective teacher.

1. Content Knowledge, concerned with the content specific to the discipline, in my case History.

2. Pedagogical Knowledge, being knowledge of the pedagogical methods common to all disciplines.

3. Technological knowledge, pretty self-explanatory really but knowledge of technology - computer software, etc...

TPCK is where these all overlap, where all three are integrated into one tool for the teacher to use. Mishra & Koehler (2006) put this far more eloquently than I; "TPCK is the basis of good teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones" (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p.1028-1029).

So, my definition of TPCK is that it forms the foundation for good teaching with technology, and it is the integration of pedagogical, content and technological knowledge. It takes into account student knowledge, and is a constantly reflective and adaptive system, looking always to develop, strengthen and if required adapt knowledge.

Wow, that was a big one. Next up is my last post, a lot less theoretical look at the social impact of the assessment

Post 5 - Oh Yeah, But what did PBL Give Me?

This assessment was my first real exposure a task founded on Project Based Learning. As I’ve said before, it was also my first experience working in a group in a tertiary environment. Overall I found the task very rewarding, and really appreciated the scaffolded structure. I enjoy learning through discovery rather than instruction, and this task really encouraged that - all the while providing support and guidance as required. It initially took me a while to find my place in the group, but once the personnel logistics were sorted, it was most enjoyable to be able to group self-manage with Dave, Sara and Kate.

Regarding the technical aspects, although I had had some experience with Macs, it was mostly in an overseeing role or for very specific tasks, so working on a Mac was in fact my first task. Asking help from group members, and if they were at a loss also, from Andrew, I managed to resolve these issues and now feel confident working on this platform. Regarding the use of technology, Facebook provided an excellent platform for group communication, although it did on occasion have to be augmented by texting.

I've already spoken of the difficulties encountered with the video camera itself, and so there’s a definite lesson learned there. Always do some test shots!

I found the editing particularly rewarding. While I have had a fair amount of experience cutting promos and what not, I had always been assisted by a fully trained editor and acted in more of a producer role. Working with Final Cut Pro was at the same time exciting and terrifying. Kind of like going into Photoshop for the first time, there are so many options, filters and plugins etc, so much power to work with that it was a little overwhelming. It ended up taking me the better part of 12 hours to cut a 4min short film, and even then I would have liked a lot more time. Many initial ideas, such as applying the 'Sin City' effect would have been so time consuming that it really wasn’t an option. I have a much greater appreciation now of why post-production takes months and even years. Despite this, I really did pick up the basics of final Cut, as well as some of its nifty little tricks. Despite all the processing and editing power however, I was annoyingly unable to do anything about the ghosting on the image.

So, overall my first PBL experience was very positive. I find that it really suits my learning style, and it is something I can definitely see myself using in a History context in my classroom. IMHO it is superbly suited to the inquiry based approach required in the study of history, and I’ve actually (rather poorly I’m sure) utilised it for a WebQuest as part of another subject, if you're really bored you can check it out at

Next time, the thrillingly titled Multiliteracies and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. It's not as terrible as it sounds, really!

Post 4 - Key Learning Moments

This task was my assessment involving group work of my university career. It provided some ups and downs, but overall I found it a very rewarding and even occasionally enlightening experience.

Personally, two major key learning moments stand out, one positive and another not so positive. Firstly, and perhaps surprisingly considering the sometimes rocky road my group traveled, it is the experience of group work which I found particularly rewarding. Despite a breakdown in communication when attempting to arrange a time to shoot, the group managed to overcome personal issues and work together for the completion of a task. Talk about real world relevance, this is one thing which I’ve experienced time and again in my professional working career, and I’ve often seen projects stall due to personal disagreements. I recall when a disagreement between the head of TV scheduling and the CEO of a major TV station had a disagreement which quickly spiraled and threw many spanners into many works. But I digress... In my view it is fundamental for the success of teamwork that all members rise above issues of not getting along, and that responsibility is shared out to get the job done. This is one area where I think my group came through in spades. Despite a few personal disagreements, these were all put aside and the task was completed on time and to, in my opinion, a very high standard. Personally, I have in the past sat on the sideline during such debates, but I’m actually quite proud of myself for stepping in and at least trying to calm the situation, even with a significant amount of assistance from the lecturer.

Now, for the negative experience, one for which I take more than part of the blame. We did all of the shooting in one go, and while we had spent some tutorial time messing about with camera settings, events have shown that this wasn’t really enough. We failed to do any night shots before the big shoot, and consequently were unaware of the 'ghosting' issue which was very noticeable even on the finished product. Whether this was a setting or not, we really should have done some test shots, then seen how they port into iMovie or Final Cut before proceeding to the main shoot. This is one mistake which I will not be repeating, and a fair number of hours spent on Final Cut trying and failing to remove ghosting from each and every movement have reinforced the need to 'test, test and test again' before shooting.

While I’ve taken many lessons from this task, these two key learning moments are perhaps most pertinent. It's interesting that both have real world significance, in addition to being specific to university study.

Post 3 - Engage and Extend

While it is all very good to speak (or indeed type) of Quality Teaching, Project Based Learning and Authentic Tasks, it is student engagement which is vital to the success of any of these strategies. So, it would now be pertinent to investigate the research into the ways in which students from the 'digital native' generation are engaged, challenged and extended, and in so doing assess the ways in which the task seeks to engage digital natives.

OK, so who are these 'digital natives?' Prensky (2001) claims that exponential increase in the use of digital technologies in our daily lives has had a fundamental influence on our cognitive processes (p. 02-4). While all those exposed to this increasing digitalisation, it is those who have grown up with the internet, mobile phones and computer games that he refers to as digital natives. The ingraining of digital technology on the psyche of this generation means that their cognitive processes are fundamentally altered from the non-digital native generations. This has, ad you would imagine, had a huge impact on the way digital natives need to be taught. Indeed, as Moore (in Prensky, 2001, p.02-8) states, linear education, which may have worked for the older generations, is not only ineffective but may actually retard learning in students who learn by gaming and surfing the web. Prensky suggests that these students benefit from an educational approach which allows a high level of self-direction, opportunities for creative outlet and varied activities. However, while these are the activities digital native prefer, it is important to also supply them with activities they need, namely lots of F2F interaction, and a continued emphasis on critical thinking. Granted, the theory of cognitive rewiring by video game is an emergent one and the hard psychological research required is still some way off, but the plasticity of the brain is now commonly accepted knowledge. In any case, it is of paramount importance for educators to be aware of these developments, as they deal with the most fundamental issue to teachers - how do their students learn?

The use of PBL and Authentic Activities can go some way to engage digital natives while also giving them the F2F contact that they require. The filmmaking task engages digital natives by requiring creativity, by providing a variety of tasks, by utilising digital technologies across all three assessments, and by having them work on a task which has real-world significance. It also challenges them by using a group structure, teaching them to interact F2F with peers, and also to think critically about the task through the writing of a critical blog, just like this 'un. Importantly, it caters for all levels of learner, and the challenges are achievable - i.e. hard but possible - this places the assessment firmly within the Vygostkian Zone of Proximal Development.

So, next up some key learning moments from my experiences of the task. Stay tuned.