A little on Technology, a lot on Pedagogy (part 2 of 3)

This post is a reflection (part 2 of 3) on my participation in the course entitled ‘Transforming education for the 21st century’ .
The course has been going on for three days already. I will first sum up all the applications we have used during  this course (this is the technology review) in order to get that out of my internal hard drive (brains) 😀

With professor Tito Melendez; Transforming Education for the 21st century

We started by creating concept maps with bubbl.us ; This application is very user-friendly and in my experience it can capture the inituitive aspect of our brains very well, when our brains start their spectacular reasoning and creative thinking process. I myself, are accustumed with mindmapping applications such as mindjet (not free) and mindmeister (free) and once I tried freemind (free) but found it not really user-friendly. But since mindmapping starts with a central concept as departure, bubbl.us gives you freedom to start with several concepts and relations emerge in their own pace. So I loved that, my mind is always a myrad of associations. So what then do I experience as user-friendlieness?  I experience user-friendlieness as the degree to which technology can mirror natural human behaviour. In other words what you would do inituively can be manifested without technological barierrs of the application (in other words, the application doesn’t interupt the natural flow of natural human behaviour).

We learned to work with a leaning management system (LMS). The course was focussed on edu20.org. Edu 2.0 is an open-source LMS, compabarable to moodle.com and blackboard (commercial). edu 2.0 rocks! I love the rubrics you can make as a teacher to grade your assignments etc. The University of Aruba (UA) is contemplating the LMS issue for a while already, we are still in the progress of deciding which type of LMS will suit the UA better, since we are a small university. As a student I have experienced the workings of Blackboard during my whole student carreer. I have so say all the open-source versions you have available do the ‘magic’, even better than blackboard. The whole concept of open-source appeals to me. Open-source is the future! It is based on reciprocity, collaboration and open access to learning for everybody. The fact that ‘we’ all are responsible for the workings of the system, makes the system one that is in ongoing progress (constant flow of feedback and self-organization based on a non-profit aim).

We learned to translate other Web 2.0 tools in the classroom setting (blogs, wikis, digital conference, video-making,  etc). For me the added-value was when Tito taught us how to use these in a pedagogical way. I really enjoyed the dynamic collision between technology and course content. I’m looking forward to implement more tools in the classroom.

I’m used at building wikis to support my classes (e.g.  Critical Literacies and Caribbean Sociology), but I’ve always had the impression that my students didn’t really understand the ‘collaboration’ opportunities that the wiki platform had to offer. As a teacher you need to explain the added-value of the technological application to the students and let them experience this. Next time I will  incorporate this opportunity and skill more explicitly in my courses.

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Welcome to the liquid 21st century (part 1 of 3)

This post is a reflection (part 1 of 3) on my participation in the course entitled ‘Transforming education for the 21st century’ .

Light shades in the Aula of the University of Aruba: All that is solid melts into air, or becomes liquid

Most of the teachers at the University of Aruba were invited to participate in the above mentioned course. We are honored to have dr. Juan Melendez, who is a full professor at the Department of Art, Technology and Innovation at the College of Education in the Rio Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. What an excitement, this time I get to be the student. (okay in a formal way. that’s the beauty of being a teacher, you are always a lifelong student 😀 with major responsibilities).

I have to say, I was a bit skeptical in the beginning (now I feel what my students feel at the beginning of each course). I had mixed expectations, I hoped this course was not meant for people who are new to the discovery of the so-called wonders of technology. I hoped deep in my heart that this course would be on education, more than on the wonders technology can bring in the classroom. And I was blessed,  the first thing  Tito (Juan told us to call him Tito) told us was that this course is about education , and to be more concrete: on the transition of education as a practice of the 20th century reality to the 21st century realities. And that is not a typo, as a child of post-modernism, I want to underline that: ‘realities’. I was relieved 😀  (first lesson: aligning expectations at the beginning of a course, gives peace to the student’s heart and makes room in their mind for openness to the new, teacher and student clear together assumptions out of the air!) Tito cleared all the assumptions and readjusted all the expectations at the beginning of the class.

The first half of the first day was a philosophical dialogue on the practice of education and its role in the 21st century. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I’ve been contemplating this subject for a while already as a teacher of new literacies, but what really deepened the experience is having this conversation with my colleagues for the first time. (second lesson: we as teachers have to keep coming together to have conversations about things that matter). I learned so much of the way my peers view this transition. I want to share this video by Sir Ken Robinson. He talks about changing paradigms in education. He has really inspire me in seeing education not as one-size fits it all practice:

In my opinion the education system has to be a place that provides space for learning. Unique individuals have unique ways of learning. Technology as a tool provides diversity as a platform for learning, the teacher as facilitator navigates together with the students, the real explorers. New skills required for the 21st century are: attention (this has become a commodity), authentic participation and collaboration. Learning is no longer an individual process, but a social process catalyzed by reciprocity.  The education system of the 21st century is fluid, not solid. It has to be adaptable for and emerging from the needs of the students and the 21st century. I chose the above picture I took once in the Aula of the University of Aruba because of its symbolism. The solid glass window becomes fluid when struck by sunbeams. The fluid light-shades symbolizes the emerging natural process of learning.

Click on the concept map to view how I played with the concepts of education, learning and technology.

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A sweet brainscattered daydreamer

A world full of ideas…

not all yet nicely structured.
Ideas are energy,
they vibrate and all of them have their unique vibrating feeling.
All pieces of possibilities, someday maybe’s, wishes, high purpose dreams,
other times more materialistic caprices,
often forgetting that everything is decay,
except for that ultimate everprocreating feeling: love.
All kinds of flowing potential creating energies…
all waiting there…
in the keepsake of my soul,
in those two always integrated rooms;
The brain and the heart,
sometimes I can find the corridor that connects those rooms to each other,
other times I just forget their always interconnected to one another.

The sun is slowly rising at Seroe Colorado


A poem on Dialogue

One day I asked myself, what is the most magical form of communication?

I searched deep into my soul

for an answer,

And this is what I found:

“The Dialogue”

I tried to put this magical communicative energy into words:

In order to experience genuine dialogue;
We have to be honest to our deepest self;
Release the energy the ego incarcerates;
Accept diversity as the essence of life;
Open op to the communication of the heart;
Acknowledge rationality as a helpful instrument,
but also as a limited and sometimes fragmented domain of perception;
Start hearing the silent intuitive voice,
Recognize the breath of life as the unifying energy
that connects us all to everything;
And then…
The co-creation of meaning can take place;
The interplay between listening and speaking;
An emerging dance of healing;
At the end of process,
we will speak with
the same voice…

(November 2, 2009: 11:34 pm)

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The red pill, the humanization process and critical literacy

Morpheus explains in the movie ” The Matrix” (1999) to Neo by means of the analogy of the blue & the red pill what it means to be critical literate. He says to Neo:

“You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes”

take the red or the blue pill?

In a way ‘Morpheus’ (in Greek mythology: the God of dreams, he who shapes, the molder, the fashioner) plays an archetypal prophetic role, he starts explaining to ‘Neo’ (meaning: the new, a new form or a revival of  an old one, but also to spin, to interweave) what it means to ‘awaken’  from the dream, the illusion or what he refers to in the film as the enslavery of the Matrix.
To me, this scene describes in a fictional way the start of the process Paulo Freire calls the humanization process. Freire describes this process in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (first published in 1970) as one where “men and women develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality but as a reality in the process of transformation“.
What makes us humans, is our essence to give meaning to our existence in the broadest sense of the word. We are meaning makers and meaning generators. When we forget, or are not conscious of this fundamental notion of being an active agent in giving meaning to our reality, we ‘dehumanize’, in terms of Freire. We become enslaved by the Matrix, in terms of above mentioned fiction, The Matrix, would then be in terms of Freire the dehumanization process. Freire explains what this is and how this contrasts with the above explained humanization process by using the metaphor of the banking concept. Meaning is being here deposit to us in our minds, we are in this process passive consumers of ideas of others, we don’t question, we just accept. In a way Morpheus is reminding Neo of his ability to shape his reality, to be the creator of his own transformation. This awakenings-process Neo goes through is what transforms the old form in the new form (the symbolic meaning of his name).
Freire says that in order to humanize, we have to be conscious of how ideologies are reproduced in society, how power is played and maintained by means of the ‘word’ . One essential element of his pedagogy of liberation is that we have to be aware that we “read the world by reading the word”. When we become aware of this we enter the realm of critical literacy. This is an ongoing  state and an important way to put our humanization process in practice. We begin to embrace our human capabilities. We approach the ‘word’ as vessel where meaning has been deposit into. We take a critical approach to the ‘how’, the ‘why’ and the more discursive ‘what’ that words carry. No wonder Morpheus and morphology (the study of the word) have a common etymological origin. “The one who shapes”, the meaning generating power of words. The mediation of experience happens in the conscious act of choosing the right words. For ages, we have been enslaved (using the terminology of Morpheus) by this Matrix: Ongoing critical literacy as a human empowering  process sets us free.
I invite you to join me in my journey through the rabbit hole, it feels like taking a plunge into the unknown, but it’s safe: I carry a flashlight with me!
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