Reflections On 2014 – Counting My Blessings


hourglass webThe sands of time have slipped through from 2014 to 2015. Another year has passed and a new year has begun. As I sit back and reflect upon the events of the past year, I start thinking of the events that took place during the year 2014, and my initial thoughts are that it has been an eventful year in every respect, and certainly not the best period of my life…

But wait a minute, I tell myself. This is negative thinking – something that I am trying very hard to avoid. And it is at this moment that the words of Zig Ziglar come back to me – make a list of things that you are grateful for. In other words, count your blessings. And that is exactly what I sit down to do – to contemplate on the events and to connect the dots, because, as Steve Jobs said, the meaning of events becomes clearer when you think back to the past, and it is often in hindsight that one is able to connect the dots and see a pattern emerge, and this is exactly what I did. I sat down to make a list of things that happened in 2014, for which I am grateful, and I find that the more I look for it, the more I find reasons to be grateful for. It is only a matter of making an honest assessment, and reflecting on the past does give one a vantage point – a clearer view, so to speak. Things that were not clear when they happened seem to suddenly become clearer and leap into focus, and I see a pattern of blessings emerging, as I list them all down one by one. I will not bore you with the details, but here are some things that I am grateful for…

I am grateful to God for letting me wake up on each day of 2014 and to have been able to lead a healthy life.

I am grateful to God for giving me the strength not only to go about my daily routines, but also to be able to discharge my duties and responsibilities.

I am grateful to God for a wonderful family, and for their support to me. I am grateful to God for making them my pillars of strength.

I am grateful to God for some wonderful friends and well-wishers, who have stood by me in times of need and who have constantly encouraged me to do well in whatever I have attempted. I am grateful for their moral support in bad times as well as good times. They have proven time and time again that they are not just fair-weather friends, and can be relied upon in any season.

I am grateful to God also for my detractors AND also my fair-weather friends, for they are the ones who made me realize who my true friends and supporters are.

I am grateful to God not only for the mistakes that I have made, but also for the wisdom to learn from those mistakes.

I am grateful to God for all the things that could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t, simply because God was watching over me.

I am grateful to God for all that I did achieve in the past year, and also for the fact that I am alive in yet another new year, for that will give me another opportunity to work on what I could not achieve.

I am grateful to God for all the failures that came my way, for they will now become my stepping stones to success some time in the future.

And with so many things to be grateful for, I can now focus on facing the challenges of the coming year with a lot more confidence. I humbly Thank God for that too. I am ready to face 2015.

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Humanity Vs Technology – A “Quote-Unquote” Debate #edcmooc


Humanity vs Technology

This is my digital artefact submission for the E-Learning & Digital Cultures MOOC (EDCMOOC 3 : Nov-Dec14). No, I’m not referring to the image above – that’s just a visualization. I am referring to the presentation below.

I was initially planning to prepare a powerpoint-based video on The Internet Of Things – a subject that fascinates me, but while searching for material to use there in the content, I stumbled upon some powerful quotes on technology. When I dug deeper, I found a wealth of quotes related to differing views on the impact of technology. The quotes bring out beautifully the debate on technology vs humanity and utopia vs dystopia – a debate that is as old as recorded history itself, and eventually, I have ended up building building my artefact on this theme – it is called a “Quote-Unquote” Debate.

And why a presentation featuring quotes ? Well, there is no simple answer to this. However, what I would like to say is that as mankind has evolved, so has technology. From the day and age of the wheel to the age of space travel, we certainly have come a long way. Yet, the viewpoints on technology differ. The dystopian view would be that technology tends to make slaves of us humans, rather than being masters of the technology created by us. The opposite view would perhaps be that we owe our very progress and existence to technology. Are either of the views wrong ?

Not in my view. Both are equally valid. Too much of a good thing can be bad. But then, when we speak of humanity falling prey to technology, we really cannot generalise. In my view, technology is there to make life simpler and more advanced. It all depends on how we use it. Becoming a slave to technology is also a choice, as is using it judiciously. That’s my view, and you, the reader, are welcome to yours. Neither of us would be wrong. The debates on Humanity vs technology have always been there and will continue to rage long after you and I are gone. These quotes, however, bring out the essence of the debate, and I will let the slides speak for themselves.

To view the artefact presentation you have three choices below. Choose the method that suits you best.

Authorstream Embedded Presentation Version

View the presentation while enjoying the audio track. You have full control over navigation through the slides. The slides will advance on clicking, and you have the ability to go backward or forward.

Slideshare Embedded Presentation Version

View it as a simple, no-frills powerpoint presentation, without any audio or animation. You have full control over navigation through the slides. The slides will advance  on clicking, and you have the ability to go forward or backward.

YouTube Embedded Video Version
View the presentation as a video. However, the video will progress as per the preset slide timings and you will have no control over the transition of slides, and depending on your reading speed, you may need to pause the video on some slides in order to read the text fully.

 

Hope you have enjoyed the presentation. Please feel free to leave your valuable comments, suggestions and feedback using the Reply option below.

Thank You !

When Not to Use Technology: 15 Things That Should Stay Simple In Education


An Article By Saga Briggs

Most of us know better than to use technology for technology’s sake. The Shiny New Tech Syndrome is taking the world by storm, and with the added pressure of finding new ways to improve educational outcomes, we try our best not to be tempted. But there are some things–certain methods, activities, and tools–we still assume can be enhanced with a little computational flair, when really, if we stopped to question ourselves, we’d find them best delivered the old-fashioned way.

The benefits of integrating technology into learning are extremely well-supported, and range from increased motivation to enhanced cognition. Experts and non-experts alike have seen blended learning enhance students’ communication skills, digital fluency, engagement, independence, critical thinking, and comprehension in general. You’ll find extensive scientific support for blended learning with a simple Google search.

One study, conducted at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK, provides an example of this kind of support. Over a two-year period, researchers collected over 300 student opinions on blended learning based on its use in audio lecures, seminars, discussion boards, and wikis. Students found the blended learning approach very flexible and, in many cases, preferable to traditional face-to-face instruction.

They cited flexibility and support, motivation and idea-sharing, interaction and explanation of ideas, communication and teamwork, and project leadership skills as benefits.

In another study, researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder measured the impact of multimedia technology on project-based learning. In completing the projects, which were built around real-world problems, some students used a variety of technological tools, including video cameras, digital editing, and Web authoring tools. Students who used the tools were found to be more collaborative and vocal within their project groups. They also scored higher on communication and audience awareness, presentation and design, and content comprehension. Teachers, meanwhile, found themselves more likely to serve as a facilitator or coach, rather than a lecturer, when their students used the technology.

There are countless studies confirming the educational benefits of technology in learning, and they represent student bodies across the world in a variety of disciplines. But what happens when technology is mis-used in education?

Learning From Computers vs Learning With Technology

If we’re going to integrate technology into education successfully, we need to understand the difference between learning “from computers” and learning “with technology.” When students learn “from computers,” the computers essentially serve as information delivery systems. In this capacity, technology simply presents a student with basic knowledge. Learning “with technology,” by contrast, means using technology as a tool that can be applied to a variety of goals in the learning process. The point is, educational technology has advanced far beyond what can easily be measured by standardised tests, and if we do not take advantage of this fact, then we are doing our students a disservice.

But there are barriers to adopting this kind of attitude. Typical issues include conservative teaching practices, lack of teacher training, not enough instructional preparation time, and inadequate access to educational software and hardware in general.

A study surveyed 60 Australian teachers and found that, even when teachers had technical skills, they were reluctant to implement technology into their lessons. Teachers were not convinced of the benefits of computers in education, and supported very limited roles of technology in learning.

Much of this appears to lead back to the “learning from” versus “learning with” distinction.

In a survey 2,170 U.S. school teachers, two groups of teachers emerged. The first group believed that computers are “tools that students use in collecting, analysing, and presenting information,” while the second group believed computers are “teaching machines that can be used to present information, give immediate reinforcement, and track student progress.” The beliefs and instructional practices of a further 4,083 middle and high schools teachers were examined, with the finding that teachers who viewed computers as tools rather than teaching machines were more likely to use technology in their lessons.

The sooner we all realise how valuable technology can be as learning tool, the sooner we will see a positive return on our investment.

“Technology must be used for a practical purpose,” says Ben McNeely, a student at North Carolina State University. “That is, taking the fundamentals and technology learned over a semester and applying it to a final project, where creativity and uniqueness is required and rewarded.”

Using technology for practical purpose, and not for the sake of using technology, must be the clear objective. Mastering the functions of the latest apps and gadgets is not an educational achievement in and of itself. What matters is not how many tools a student knows to operate, but how well she uses them to enhance her understanding of the world.

When Not to Use Technology

  1. When it creates harmful shortcuts.

Some math teachers ban calculators, thinking students will use them to solve basic problems they should be able to solve on their own. Some English teachers don’t allow Spell Check. Edtech presents us with a similar challenge: If we give every student an iPad from the age of 5, will they ever learn to use an actual library? Will they develop healthy imaginations? Exercise all five senses on a regular basis? This is something to watch out for.

  1. When it undermines deep learning.

Experts have found that educational technology is most powerful when used as a tool for problem solving, conceptual development, and critical thinking. But if integrated inappropriately, it can backfire in a way that undermines all three skills. Be sure you are using technology to enhance the way students think, not just the way they memorise facts.

  1. When it undermines basic learning.

Technology may in fact be quite intuitive for today’s younger generations, but it shouldn’t replace the basic skills our society values. Take the calculator example again, for instance. Even in our technologically advanced age, it’s not socially acceptable to have to whip our your iPhone to calculate a time zone difference of, say, five hours. We still need those basic skills.

  1. When it decreases interaction.

At its best, technology is an incredible social tool, connecting people around the world. But it can also reduce the chances of interaction and the learning experiences that come with it. When you can look up the right answer on Google, you don’t get to benefit from hearing a friend suggest the wrong answer, or hearing a teacher discuss why it’s the wrong answer. Humans should learn from one another, not just from computers.

  1. When it reduces the chance of failure.

This is a big one. Mistakes create learning experiences. Without a struggle, we oftentimes end up with shallow learning and false confidence. Don’t use technology to create perfect students.

  1. When the appeal is purely aesthetic.

Don’t fall into the trap of the Shiny New Tech Syndrome. Just remember: If it looks better, it doesn’t necessarily promise more effective learning, and it doesn’t necessarily align with your curriculum goals.

  1. When it contributes to information overload.

Part of technology’s educational appeal is that it allows students to learn more, faster. But it’s worth stopping to ask ourselves whether or not this is true. Information overload will always limit learning, no matter how much information we are exposed to and how many tools we have to process it. Do not assume your students will be able to take longer tests just because they are encountering a greater volume of information.

  1. When you don’t have the time to integrate it.

If you’re not going to integrate it correctly and fully, don’t integrate it at all. Believe it or not, the way you implement technology into your lessons is just as important as the decision to do so.

  1. When it doesn’t support connecting and sharing.

Don’t have your students blog if you’re not going to let them publish what they write. If they can’t share it, it’s not blogging–it’s learning to type.

  1. When it doesn’t teach students about technology.

I remember playing Number Munchers in primary school. It was a stimulating relief from worksheet-style multiplication tables, but it didn’t teach me a thing about computers. There’s so much to learn nowadays in the form of coding, design tools, and advanced gamification–why wouldn’t you kill two birds with one stone?

  1. When students have already mastered the task.

Multi-modal learning is undoubtedly one of the strongest types of learning, but avoid scenarios in which you’re not adding anything to the experience by incorporating technology. Does your French class really need to be studying the vocab they’ve already learned with virtual flashcards? Sounds like a waste of time to me.

  1. When it hampers communication.

Don’t get me wrong–studies have shown that technology seriously enhances communication. Anonymous discussion boards do wonders for shy students. What I’m getting at is the fact that

  1. When it limits self-expression.

Sounds impossible considering all the creative possibilities technology affords, right? Well, think again. Some of the world’s best writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers produce their finest work with the simplest tools. Don’t let technological inspiration replace real world inspiration.

  1. When it can’t illustrate a concept.

Sometimes it’s just more effective to illustrate a concept using the raw materials around you. Plus, environment is important: students remember where they learned something, which helps them remember the thing itself. A computer screen is not a memorable environment.

  1. When technology isn’t relevant.

What! Technology not relevant? How can it be possible? It’s very possible. Don’t make your students present projects using Power Point if they can illustrate their topic more creatively (and accurately) with a mini-field trip on school grounds, or a scientific experiment, or an old-fashioned Sharpie sketch. Let them use whatever method of presentation is most effective, and save the technology lesson for when it counts.

“The fact is that education has already been automated,” says Temple University educator Jordan Shapiro. “Tests, quizzes, textbooks, and Powerpoints are all products of a technological way of knowing the world. They are all ways of objectifying knowledge. My enthusiasm for edtech stems from a hope that it will teach us to handle technological ways of knowing more efficiently and interactively, using gadgets and devices.

However, this is only an advantage if it means that teachers can get back to what they do best: educating instead of disseminating and assessing.”

About The Author

Saga BriggsSaga has built her writing and editing career at Tin House Books (Portland, OR), Night Owls Press (San Francisco), and Dancing Moon Press (Newport, OR). Along the way, writing education and education reform have become two of her primary interests.

Saga has taught and tutored writing at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, and has researched and written extensively about cognitive models of writing pedagogy. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and lives in Portland, OR.

You can find her on Google+ or @sagamilena.

This featured article is originally published by the author on informED and is reproduced here with the express permission of the author. I would like to express my gratitude to both, Saga and informED for allowing me to share this wonderfully insightful article on Rajiv’s Motivation Zone.

Interesting Statistics for #edcmooc Round 3 #edcmoocrocks


Curiosity killed the cat, but as far as the EDCMOOC is concerned, it need not kill you. So if you have, like me, been curious to know the statistics related to the E-Learning & Digital Cultures Course, the wait is over. Thanks to the instructors, we are now able to share them with you. Below are some of the vital stats about the participants.

EDCMOOC stats – 19 November 2014

10,145 learners have joined. 4396 have visited. This week 1,817.Total Participants EDCMOOC

Distribution Across The Globe

153 different countries. 3504 (35%) from emerging economies.

Europe – 38%

North America – 26%

Asia – 21%

South America – 8%

Oceania – 4%

Africa – 3%

Geographical Distribution

Breakup By Country

Break-up By Country

Sorry, the list of countries was too long to fit into the graph, so I have included all such countries, where individual country representation is below 1% under Others. I will, at the end of the post, give you a full list of countries with their respective percentages.

Other Demographics

Now I would like to share with you some interesting breakups of the types of participants, the levels of education of the participation, gender mix etc. As usual, the ladies dominate ! 🙂

Following statistics are based on responses to Coursera’s questionnaire (983 people, not all replied to each question)

DemographicsAnd given below is the full countries list with their respective percentages.

United States 19% New Zealand 0.60%
United Kingdom 8% Japan 0.60%
India 6% Hungary 0.60%
Brazil 4% Peru 0.50%
Spain 4% Belgium 0.50%
Australia 4% Switzerland 0.50%
Canada 3% Israel 0.50%
Russian Federation 3% Serbia 0.50%
China 3% Czech Republic 0.50%
Mexico 3% United Arab Emirates 0.50%
Greece 2% Nigeria 0.40%
Germany 2% Iran, Islamic Republic of 0.40%
France 2% Bulgaria 0.40%
Netherlands 2% Finland 0.40%
Italy 2% Croatia 0.40%
Colombia 1% Chile 0.40%
Ukraine 1% Austria 0.30%
Turkey 1% Norway 0.30%
Poland 1% Morocco 0.30%
Singapore 1% Kazakhstan 0.30%
Philippines 1% Venezuela 0.20%
Indonesia 0.90% Ecuador 0.20%
South Africa 0.90% Bangladesh 0.20%
Ireland 0.90% Armenia 0.20%
Romania 0.80% Lithuania 0.20%
Malaysia 0.80% Georgia 0.20%
Sweden 0.70% Belarus 0.20%
Portugal 0.70% Uruguay 0.20%
Pakistan 0.70% Puerto Rico 0.20%
Hong Kong 0.70% Ghana 0.20%
Egypt 0.70% Cyprus 0.20%
Korea, Republic of 0.70% Costa Rica 0.20%
Vietnam 0.70% Oman 0.20%
Thailand 0.60% Malta 0.20%
Saudi Arabia 0.60% Guatemala 0.20%
Argentina 0.60% Qatar 0.10%
Denmark 0.60% Kenya 0.10%
Taiwan 0.60% Jamaica 0.10%
Iceland 0.10% Asia/Pacific Region <0.1%
El Salvador 0.10% Aruba <0.1%
Slovakia 0.10% Albania <0.1%
Macedonia 0.10% Zambia <0.1%
Latvia 0.10% Uganda <0.1%
Jordan 0.10% Timor-Leste <0.1%
Sri Lanka 0.10% Suriname <0.1%
Slovenia 0.10% Sudan <0.1%
Tunisia <0.1% Senegal <0.1%
Honduras <0.1% Saint Vincent and the Grenadines <0.1%
Dominican Republic <0.1% Nicaragua <0.1%
Cambodia <0.1% Macao <0.1%
Estonia <0.1% Libyan Arab Jamahiriya <0.1%
Bolivia <0.1% Guyana <0.1%
Palestinian Territory <0.1% Djibouti <0.1%
Lebanon <0.1% Cameroon <0.1%
Azerbaijan <0.1% Bermuda <0.1%
Trinidad and Tobago <0.1% Zimbabwe <0.1%
Paraguay <0.1% Virgin Islands, U.S. <0.1%
Nepal <0.1% Somalia <0.1%
Moldova, Republic of <0.1% Reunion <0.1%
Mauritius <0.1% Northern Mariana Islands <0.1%
Tanzania, United Republic of <0.1% New Caledonia <0.1%
Panama <0.1% Martinique <0.1%
Namibia <0.1% Maldives <0.1%
Montenegro <0.1% Madagascar <0.1%
Kyrgyzstan <0.1% Luxembourg <0.1%
Kuwait <0.1% Liberia <0.1%
Bahamas <0.1% Lao People’s Democratic Republic <0.1%
Myanmar <0.1% Ethiopia <0.1%
Algeria <0.1% Cote d’Ivoire <0.1%
Uzbekistan <0.1% Congo, The Democratic Republic of the <0.1%
Syrian Arab Republic <0.1% Congo <0.1%
Papua New Guinea <0.1% Burundi <0.1%
Mongolia <0.1% Brunei Darussalam <0.1%
Ira <0.1% Botswana <0.1%
Haiti <0.1% Bhutan <0.1%
Bosnia and Herzegovina <0.1% Bahrain <0.1%
Afghanistan <0.1%

A Stranger Goes Out Of His Way To Help ! #edcmooc


Thank You

Thank you, Brice !

A few days ago, I had added the blog feeds of several participants to the UNOFFICIAL Blog feed on edcmooc.rocks, and was pretty happy with the results, considering the fact that I am not a techie, and happily went about tweeting it to the world. However, the tweet below from a fellow EDCMOOCer brought me back to reality.

Here was someone who had noticed a major flaw with what I had done. He had spotted the one detail that I should have paid attention to, but didn’t. I had used a plug-in to pull the RSS feed by blog-name, not realizing that it would pull in any post, whether it was related to EDCMOOC or not. Thanks, Winslie Gomez for having brought this to my attention !

Since I am not a techie, I was totally at a loss as to how this issue should be resolved. I use WordPress to create my sites, and to get the desired functionality, I use plug-ins made freely available by seasoned developers who know that there are many WordPress users like me depending on them to share their work with the world with no strings attached.

So back I went to the website of Brice Capobianco, who is the developer of this particular plug-in, and sent him a message outlining my problem to him, with a request for solution. I was not even sure whether I would get a response, leave alone a solution, because in the past too, it has been my experience that a response to an individual’s issues is rare. However, I was pleasantly surprised when, less than 24 hours later, I got a mail from Brice Capobianco, who responded despite being on vacation that he would be able to give me a solution and would get back to me after he was back and had better access to the net.

Sure enough, the very next evening I had another mail from Brice, enclosing the solution. He had not only written a code for specific keyword search, he had also updated the plug-in and made a newer version available for everyone, which included this updated parameter that pulls in RSS posts with specific keywords. This morning, I updated the previously installed plug-in, and used the new shortcode send by Brice,and sure enough, it worked ! I immediately updated all the FEED pages with the new shortcode and am happy to inform everyone that his plug-in is working flawlessly.

By now, you, the reader, might be wondering why I am sharing a post which is not related to EDCMOOC. The reason is simple. We are all studying about technology and its uses in education and also how it impacts our daily lives.There was no reason for Brice to go out of his way to respond to me, leave alone help me, and that too while he was on vacation. After all, I am a complete stranger to him. We have never met and he does not know me from Adam. And yet, he went out of his way to help.

This just illustrates one very important fact – No matter how many advances technology makes, it still needs selfless and good individuals like Brice to propagate and to be available for others to use. No amount of technology can ever replace humanity and human generosity.

Thank you, Brice… you ROCK !