Attending an Online Conference (Thing 13)

I listened to a K12 Online Conference presentation from 2009 by Chris Betcher called Ways of Working.  The presentation highlighted online research tools using Australia’s Sculptures by the Sea annual art exhibition as an example.  Betcher dealt briefly with many of the tools that we have explored in this course: blogsearching, RSS, Voicethread, Animoto, etc.  He also brought up similar resources that we haven’t tried yet: Google News, Google Maps, Twitter feeds, ComicLife (makes comic pages out of your images), AutoStitch (combines photos to make a panorama), and Google Forms.  There was about a 2-second lag between the sound and video, which significantly distracted from the experience of “attending” the conference online, but the convenience of participating remotely shouldn’t be underestimated.

At this point in our online course, this presentation was not especially revelatory.  By far the most interesting element for my purposes was the discussion of Google forms.  While this tool seems intended more for surveys, it offers a wide variety of questions types, summary graphs, and conditional branching.  I am very interested in learning more about giving quizzes online, not so much for assessment as for for kids to test their understanding.  I was a bit distressed, however, with the presenter’s vision of student “research.”  I’m hoping that comes from differences in the subjects or grade-level that we teach, but it could reflect a more fundamental divergence in our view of education.  For Betcher, teaching students to do in-depth research meant moving from a simple Google search to feeding as RSS reader.  This process prioritizes new information, which is often not preferable when doing history.  My goal is to help students to find the most trustworthy academic resources, not to see what average people are saying on their blogs or read recent the latest newspaper articles.  I also don’t see digital storytelling as a goal in itself.  Is Betcher’s primary educational goal to teach these technological skills, which are so valued in today’s world, or to push kids to think critically and analyze what they read?  His presentation left me wondering whether high-tech, feel-good opinion-sharing is replacing academic research in today’s schools.

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