2009年12月6日 星期日

Knowledge Hunting

When reading Bauerlein’s argument about “knowledge deficits”, I was attracted because of the situation and the fact described in the arguments. I do not like reading, either. I admire people who can sit quietly but imagine vividly. Contrasting to reading, I like visual images and sounds. But “knowledge deficits” indeed happens even with plenty of time in studying and reading. For me, I agree the point with rote memorization in education. My knowledge about history and geography is so limited because I just threw them away after painfully memorizing all the facts for exams. Is studying the same as learning? Sometimes I doubt it. When I study and read, I will try to find the parts which will be questioned in exams. This way helps me to catch important ideas and points quickly. However, important to whom? Why should I think it is important? Should I know that knowledge? No. Because I do not think what I learned in books related to my life. Something like dates of history events and geographic characteristics of other places will not influence my daily life. When I hang out with friends, these kinds of topics will never occur. But also Yes. This kind of common knowledge is shared by everyone. Through history events, what lessons can I learn to avoid mistakes?

The white paper by Ito et al. shows positive aspect of learning through different media and popular culture. And indeed, people learn from different ways and learning indeed happens. However, the concern is still there. Knowledge about what is true knowledge? What should people know? What should teachers teach in class? Is there a balance? I don’t know.

But I think personal meaningfulness is a key in true knowledge hunting. When we have the need, we try to learn in order to gain knowledge to solve problems. The knowledge of history and geography in textbooks is not such meaningful to me. However, after going abroad and meeting people from all over the world, I regret I forgot what I learned in class, but I start learning geography in a more meaningful way. I know different countries and cultures by watching Discovery, talking to friends, and searching information online. In addition, many people gain knowledge by ways except reading books. My brother knows Greek myth better than me even I took an English literature class. He knows characteristics of each role in Greek myth, abilities of Gods, and black arts of evils by playing the game “God of War” with his PlayStation 2. Moreover, knowledge about world geography and history gained by playing games is important for him to win games. People hunts knowledge in different ways, but with personal meaningfulness, knowledge seems truly be gained.

2009年11月23日 星期一

What is art education actually?

I love art.

I enjoy the world of making, creating, and producing artifacts, even I am not very good at it. But I do like the feeling when I immerse myself into the process of creating. I feel happy and satisfied.

I had art classes in elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. Art in Taiwan is a required subject which every student has to take for aesthetic development. In art classes, students learn how to draw, scratch, paint, carve, and etc. Teachers give guidelines and topics for students to create. Actually, I do not quite aware what I learned in art classes, but I think I learned how to mix colors, functions of different tools, and space arrangement. I just enjoyed the experience of expressing myself into the creation. However, for many parents or teachers, this kind of experience does not count as learning and does not bring benefits on academic performance. Learning art is seen as having fun, not learning. Many private schools sacrifice art classes for course subjects which will be tested. Art wastes time. In addition, what kinds of benefits will art bring for students’ career? Art in Taiwan is seen as a luxury activity with high but also low values. Within big Culture, art such as paintings in museums, dancing and performance in theaters are valued as higher culture. But on the contrary, art students in vocational schools sometimes are labeled with low academic performance. What art education can bring to students?

Regarding the content of art classes, art usually is taught separately and independently. What I learned from art classes sometimes might not relate to my life, just an assignment I had to submit. Could art be integrated into content of other courses? Especially within the age of Web 2.0, how can students learn art though computer games, media art, and interactive media? How can teachers create a space for students to use creativity to brainstorm new forms of art and to learn from the process? What art education actually is? And for what purpose? What do educators expect students to learn from the process? I am not quite familiar with art education, but I think educators and researchers should pay attention on learning and curriculum design in art classes.

2009年11月9日 星期一

Programming is not just for engineers.

“Programming is not just for engineers” (Reas & Fry, 2006).
For me, it is. I am the person who maybe have some computational literacy but without fluency and flexibility. I use software which programmers have already designed for me to use, and I use what I can get from software. When the software cannot do what I want to make, then I will give up my original thoughts if I cannot find solutions to fit my purpose. When reading articles of this week, I felt encouraged even though I still thought that the way to reach flexibility is far away.

By self-reflecting, one reason that I cannot reach fluency and flexibility is the belief that programming is for engineers or computer professionals. Programming for me is like mission impossible because I do not believe myself in building any programs which can benefit anybody. But I think I misunderstand programming or I am too ambitious when thinking creating programs like Microsoft office. Thinking my experience in Scratch and Lilypad, I indeed programmed something! However, this belief really keeps me away programming. Another reason is “programming anxiety” (Gos, 1996). The unfamiliarity and uncertainty in programming language and system increase my rejection to programming. The anxiety and frustration build higher affection filter between me and programming.

After reading articles of this week, I indeed feel encouraged and think that how to transform my view of programming as playing with mud. Program designers try hard to make software or programming easy to adapt and make it available as many people as possible to create and use for personal use. Scratch and Processing seem to have similar characteristics and goals which provide basic formats of programming language for people to create, design and learn from the process. The idea proposed by Resnich (2004) about the integration of the digital and physical worlds is a good beginning, and I will be working on viewing programming from a different point of view as well.

2009年10月26日 星期一

Programming talks different language to me.

Saturday I attended the workshop about computerized textiles. I was amazed by people’s creativity to use special tread and paint to computerize textiles and paper. Seeing Leah’s and her students’ projects made me feel so WOW to them. For my personal project, it was very interesting to use the special thread (which is a wire but looks and touches like a thread) to make a light on the fabric. I made a Christmas tree with the light on the top. However, my light was dim because I used long thread for sawing the pattern of the tree, and this caused just little power could transmit to my light. So far, I felt satisfied except the dim light.

After that, we started working on Lilypad, which surprised but also frustrated me. I worked with my partner, Julie, and we did have a great time in tinkering with Mac system and Arduino, the program we gave codes to the Lilypad. When we uploaded our codes to our Lilypad, and it did respond to us, we had a great achievement. We did it! However, when we were required to do some creativity in giving commands, we were lost! We did not speak the same language with Arduino. I think some basic rules or knowledge about programming was missing such as “int”, “digitalWrite”, etc. Therefore, I did not have clues what I should write and why I should write in that way. I am illiterate in this programming language. Most of the steps, I just copied what my neighbor wrote on her screen. At the end, the motivation was not as high as before. Even though copying what others wrote brought success, I did not learn much in this programming. I think if there are some basic instructions or formats of those command provided, maybe I can have some basic ideas and play with. With some tinkerability, I learned the function of “{ }” and some possible formula. Hannah, one of Leah’s student, helped our group a lot in explaining why our programming did not work out. Through the whole process with Lilypad, I still did not program well and did not know how to apply it much creatively. But I did have some sense about what was going on and possibly what I could play with. This reminds me the notion, “literacy is a set of social practices.” With different literacy events and social interaction with Hannah and my partner, Julie, I started becoming very little understanding about Arduino. Still need more efforts in it if I would like to be literate in that discouse.

2009年10月12日 星期一

Being literate.

What is literacy? I think this question I have been asked thousands of times in my doctoral study. However, I still try hard to figure it out what literacy is. Like most of people, I hold a narrow definition of literacy, which is, the ability of reading and writing. With this operational perspective, literacy means using language system to decode and encode texts and contexts. However, with the ability of decoding and encoding, can we call the person is literate? Many English learners have difficulties of understanding the content of written and spoken English because of the lack of culture background and life experience even each word can be decoded. How about “illiterate”? How can we call a person is illiterate? One of my grandmothers cannot read and write, but she can speak and understand the language and deal with everything in life. If being literate is being able to communicate, then my grandmother is not illiterate. From a cultural perspective, literacy means receiving and making meaning and developing an understanding of content and context. From this broader perspective, literacy is not only decoding the context, but taking and making meaning of the context. Further, critical literacy also emerges to propose a key feature of being literate, which is critiquing and recognizing socially constructed knowledge. Considering these dimensions of literacy, how can we determine a person is literate or not?

From The New London Group (1996), they specifically looked at literacy as a social practice and focus on domains of practice. We make meaning with understanding discourses, life experience, and personal meaningfulness. The language learning and being literacy is through social practice and interaction within Discourses. Cultural and linguistic diversity are resource for speakers and listeners to build their understanding. I think the ideas proposed by the new literacy are related to Constructivism. Even we know and understand the meaning of each word, the meaning and the knowledge differs from person and person. All meaning and knowledge is constructed from personal social interaction and personal experience. And through reflection and critical thinking, knowledge and meaning will become personally and socially constructed.

When talking about literacy and technology, how can we call a person is literate in computers or technology? I think a person knows how to operate the hardwares of technology is not enough for being literate. It is like decoding and encoding languages. Rather, the abilities in critically judging the credibility of online resource, social networking, and receiving and constructing knowledge are important features of being literate in this digital age.

2009年10月2日 星期五

Tinkerability and the role of mistakes

Before this summer, my mom only used Skype and emails to contact and see me. What she did was recalling which “right” bottoms my brother told her to click. She did not click any other things on the screen, and shut down the computer when she was done. She explored limited functions and only tried to click the correct bottom to reach her goal. The main reason my mom did not want to try is the fear of making mistakes which may mess up the machine and cannot be fixed by herself. This makes me think how learning occurs and the role of mistakes. When we make mistakes, we reflect on what we did and learn what should be done or think how to solve problems in order to avoid mistakes again. When facing with unfamiliar situations or new stuffs, I tend to try and error, and I think by analyzing the failure and making changes push my learning. Mistakes or failure indeed plays a key role in learning, but the ability of analyze and solve problems is much more essential.

Recently my mom has played hard in surfing the Internet. She is happy that she found a different world which provides so much information and fun in that 22” LCD box. With her tinkerability, she figured out that the big blue “e” can make computer much interesting for her. In addition, she learned that when the arrow becomes a small hand, it means she can click and get information (it’s a nice try but almost kills the computer by clicking every link). My mom plays around with the links and makes guesses based on the experience she has. Contrasting with previous use of the computer, my mom becomes more creative and uses the tool more meaningful. The transmission with explanation and instruction from others indeed helps her, but this tinkerability helps construction of her knowledge and understanding, which stimulates learning.

Back to my own learning experience in Scratch, tinkerability and mistakes play essential role in learning to use Scratch. I think Scratch is interesting because it is new to me, and I can create anime I like. I am highly motivated, but I also get frustrated. Scratch and I seem to talk with different languages. It just does not follow what I expect. However, I play with it by using skills and understanding I learned from previous experience, try to solve problems with different solutions. For now, I still struggle giving command and setting some actions of my character (Why doesn't it listen to me?!). I will try to figure out by my tinkerability.

2009年9月28日 星期一

What is "new" about new media?

When I was asked this question, I thought "interactivity" immediately. People have more opportunities interact with other people and also with technology. However, don't people interact with others with traditional media? What kinds of interaction with technology can be called "interacitivity"? Is this "new" about new media?

I am thinking some online games, such as mah-jong and poker. When I play mah-jong online, I can choose characers I would like to be, change colors of outfits, decide which rules I would like to follow, and also chat with my friends online. I interact with the computer, and it responds to me what I want. However, what I play and how I play are still as the same as I play with friends face-to-face with traditional ones. Will I play this game with another kind of "new media" in the future?

Time changes. Within different era or generation, how people present information is different with different inventions. Maybe "new" media just means only for people is a specific time, so new media is historicized. People change or invent various formats to reinterpret something which is presented in traditional media. For today, mp3 and digital formats are new media comparing with disc and tape. Youtube is new media for people today to broadcast themselves, but it will become old media when new "new media" is invented.

For today, I think what is new about new media is unicersal access to information, communication, and participation. Information is no longer accessed in one way. People can communicate through accessing the Internet or may different ways. In addtion, with this accessibility, people build up networking, share, and contribute knowledge all together. And I think this is new about new media in our time.

2009年9月7日 星期一

Welcome to my blog!

It's interesting for me to keep a blog in English. I have another one in Chinese, and I usually express myself in Chinese and pictures. It is a great chance for me to practice writing and thinking in English more!

Ok! As I mentioned in class, I am from Taiwan. I am a second-year Ph.D. student in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education. Before coming to IUB, I studied my master degree in TESOL at University of Pennsylvania. I also started my teaching in Philadelphia while working on my study. I was teaching immigrants and refugees English in English in Nationalities Service Center about three years. In addition, I taught high-school immigrant students about one year. With my experience in teaching and learning from immigrants, I was amazed by how people communicate even without a shared language. I am very interested in second language acquisition, how people learn languages and literacies, and how to help them learn. And with this focus, I also minor in Learning Science, which is a brand new but exciting field for me to explore.