Weakly Post #14

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

I posted this week about a course in Democratic Erosion. The course is taught over 25 universities, with students sharing blog posts about specific cases. This is something I want to do too. For my English and content classes.

Media: One for biting criticism, this guy can’t stand cable news. Of any kind.

Conference: This is one I really want to go to. Designing playful courses. Wow. What an idea. And the two main speakers are people I have been reading for a long time. Stuart Malthrop (author of Victory Garden, my first hypertext novel) and Kris Klimas (creator of Twine).

Music: With Spotify and Shazam, who can both show lyrics line by line, doing music in the classroom has become easy again. So this semester I am going to do a song a week, selected (and researched, and explained, and presented) by my students. Here are 10 new artists to look out for. There is a lot of buzz around Billie Eilish. Her music is depressing but interesting. A sign of the times?

TESOL famous people sniping at each other is a great way to learn where the field is heading these days.

Teaching. Opinion. This is how you kill a profession. Actions, even unintended, have consequences. These seem to be intended. My generation is certainly screwing up the world for the next one.

Open Pedagogy Live

Probably the most remarkable content this week was an interview (45 min) with Rob Blair on his (and many others’) course on Democratic Erosion (syllabus). This was all part of the online course I am taking for #openlearning19 at the Open Learning Hub.

This is team teaching on a whole new level. It is team learning. It is collaboration between students, professors, and institutions. It works because faculty, starting at Brown University, then expanding last year to more than a dozen universities, were all able to work together on a common syllabus, then sharing comments and produced work. This year there are over 25 universities involved.

Do watch the interview. Gardner Campbell covers the issues, starting with the technical, then moves on to design and administration. They get into the nuts and bolts of how the program was set up. It was enlightening. It is revolutionary. It breaks down the classroom walls and tasks students with creating relevant materials for distribution to a real audience. The content is now being collected by graduate researchers who will use it to synthesize into a body of work useful to the outside work. This is a truly relevant audience.

I floated the idea of working together within our department, and it went nowhere. I am now considering how to adapt this framework to my language classes here in Tokyo. There is a lot of potential.

Weakly Post #13

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

Learning: Laura Ritchie writes about making web pages and online courses. Matching the message to the audience is the key. Or maybe finding an audience for your message. Reminds me of the definition of a politician, one who gets in front of a line and makes noise. But this is different.

Language: Research papers often have impenetrable jargon-laden language with obtuse grammatical structures. Read about the movement to write in simpler language. I really like MIT Media Lab because they already make at least a version of much of their research in language comprehensible to the layman. A good example is one I am using next semester in my class, to teach about reading research papers. The ideas are all there, but the language is easier to understand. This one is about children learning from robots.

Tech: Inspiration for when I retire in a few years. An 83-year-old becomes a game developer. Gets well enough known that Tim Cook from Apple met her. Right here in Japan, too. (CNN)

Politics: Sad, sad story from Myanmar and China. Kachin (NE Myanmar) women sold into sexual slavery to Chinese men because there is a shortage of women in China because of the one-child policy years ago. Once the Kachin women have a kid, they can return home, but without the kid. (Guardian)

Research: I just finished an article where I had an embarrassingly rich amount of data, and a great way to analyze it, but could not find any significant relations among groups. Maybe that was not so bad. Researchers are taking a look at what really is statistical significance. (Vox)


Materials for becoming a responsible digital citizen ($40).

Watch a series of videos about how conservatives (and extremists) think in the US. Good balanced approach (BoingBoing). Much like the one from Jennifer Lawrence (YouTube).

A really good list of things to do to increase your privacy online. Get Firefox, install some extensions, use StartPage as your search engine, use DNS Start form the first one and work your way up. But don’t wait.

Weakly Post #12

Open Learning is on the table and in a MOOC for the next three weeks. Perfect timing as we had graduation yesterday and will have Entrance Ceremony in early April.

Economics are much more important than we give them credit for. The interface with politics is especially fraught, especially these days. But the quest for Economic Dignity is something we all need to consider. My father taught economics in high school and a big supporter of unions. I remember his strike as a small child. Now my daughter is considering whether to strike as a grad student. Seems it happens more often than most think. (Democracy Journal)

Neat study on how kids interact with robots for learning. (MIT). Also neat is that the article is in plain English, making it great content for my classes. The author even makes a Spearman’S Correlation understandable. Spoiler: The more the kids related to the robots socially, the more they learned.

We have a new project in my zemi next year, and I am getting cranked. Raspberry Pi (appropriate for just after pi day), is a small computer that costs about $40. Our zemi has book money every year, but last year I spent it on 4 of those, with kits to build lots of different stuff. I have never tried it before with students, but last year the 3D printer was a success, so onward and upward. Sony also uses these little computers to help around the factory. Pretty good recommendation. (Forbes)

Interactive Fiction took a great leap forward with Bandersnatch on Netflix. The multiple-path (Choose-your-own-adventure) story took a few experiments they did with short animations last year, to a whole new level. And now they seem to be doubling down on that commitment. Can’t wait. I will be using a tool for writing IF called Twine, the same tool they used before they developed a new tool that works with video. (Variety)

All you Talking Heads fans out there, this is a must listen from a musician from Benin. Great adaptation of Once in a lifetime, by Kidjo. She does the whole album if you like that one. Check out her rendition of Summertime. (BoingBoing). Speaking of music, I knew that Shazam will find a song playing on the speakers, but I discovered that

As the police killed Eric Garner in Staten Island for selling cigarettes, they did not consider people filming them, as they were the early days of citizen surveillance. But beware. There are consequences. Read about Ramsey Orta. Most whistleblowers end up regretting it, so we have to celebrate their courage. (Watch these movies). Also, being on a jury can have some long-term consequences when the system is screwed up. You can’t fix the conviction, even after the broken law has been turned over. Long read at Slate. Guilty.

My brain goes too fast sometimes. To slow it down I watch some Netflix and play spider solitaire at the same time. I read a lot of Ian Bogost  (pretty much everything with games in the title, starting with his best and most theoretical, Persuasive Games). He created a game called Cow Clicker as a joke. All you do is click on cows. Turns out, it has become popular. Kind of like my solution for a slower brain. Anyway, get the skinny on these kind of worthless attention-sucking games. (AVClub). Do you dare click the cookie?

Beware, the internet knows more about you than your spouse. Take it seriously, this is Scientific American. Here is another one more specifically about Google. (Axios). Check out what happens in 1 minute on the Internet..

A list of tools for “instructional coaches” (I think she means teacher trainers, but with tech thrown in.) Here is some good presentation software that goes beyond powerpoint. The blog is rich with this kind of post; laden with jargon, lots of tools, and connections to sponsored content. Some posts are better than others. (Class Tech Tips).

Google Docs are becoming a standard part of education in the US. Here are 7 ways to use it for writing for bilingual students. The teacher also talks about RSS feeds as sources for writing prompts. On the other hand, I guess Google Docs are becoming popular in grade school classrooms as a way to pass notes. Rock on for all except control freaks.

Over at Moodle I am helping (a little, with feedback) on a new social network for teachers. It is a federated network (kind of like franchising for restaurants) so there is no central computer where all the data is kept. The first I heard of this was a Twitter replacement I have been using for a couple of years, Mastodon. Here is how to get started on Mastodon. I will let you know when Moodle.net is ready.

Any developers out there might be interested in a great tool, recommended by Nik Peachey. Raptivity. Especially good for language teaching as it focuses on interactions.

A look at teaching and using data to make the classroom culture more focused on learning than grades. Two parts.

Another conference this summer, which might combine well with EuroCall in Belgium, is the Conference on Games.

Read about professional development in CALL. Daniel Mills is in there.

Open Learning

I was reading Stephen Downes’ RSS feed (oldaily) when I came across another cMOOC. His last one was so good I cannot pass up the opportunity to try another one. (Even though I have contributed to many, starting with CCK08).

Now that I am on “spring break” with graduation tomorrow and the party on St. Pat’s, I will have time to devote to this curious idea that has become a lot more relevant lately. Namely, Open Pedagogy. Looking forward to it.