Sunday, November 09, 2014

MITx 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology. Week 1: Ed Tech Then and Now

 “Stories you read when you're the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you'll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” 
Neil Gaiman, M Is for Magic
It took a while to select a current and past technology, as there is a range of educational technologies that have excited and engaged me, as a learner. I decided to focus on one of my passions, which is stories. As an educator today, I believe that one of the most challenging processes taught in the classroom is writing and that successful writers have spent much more time reading books than those who struggle with writing, or those that are labelled ‘reluctant writers’.
As a child, I vividly remember time spent with vinyl read-alongs, such as Masters of the Universe recorded on a 33 1/3 vinyl record.
When I got a little older, about 5 years old, my mother started ordering a fortnightly installment of the Marshall Cavendish Storyteller collection. I devoured the stories and eagerly awaited the next installment.
Marshall Cavendish Storyteller is intended for primary aged children to be read alone, followed along when the cassette tapes are played, or read by parents. Each volume contains at least 2 poems, a classic story and 2-3 other stories (that may or may not continue in the next installment). The magazine format is designed to be collated in a binder that holds 15 volumes. The key goal is to share classic stories in an engaging format for children – to expose them to stories and to get them excited about the world of books.
I believe that the technology met its key goal. There is a strong community online today of those who grew up with these stories.
I am unsure if the related goal of interesting children in writing was unintentional or not, but, as a teacher today, I am passionate about stories: reading and writing stories for the joy of telling the story and sharing it with an audience.
I started teaching as a young parent, who followed my daughter into the classroom. She learned in a rūmaki reo Māori classroom (an immersion Māori language class) and there were two large challenges in meeting my goal of exciting children about reading and writing:
1.   According to Te Taura Whiri (The Māori Language Commission -, there are about 50,000 fluent speakers of Māori and about 100,000 more people that understand the language, with 10,000 less fluent speakers than 10 years ago and a large base of older speakers, aged 55 and over. With such a niche language, I found it difficult to utilise online technologies successfully for writing. How do you build a community for your writing blog for example, when there are so few potential readers for your blog?
2.   There have been historic struggles with regards to the revitalisation of Māori language, but this is before the time of today’s students, most of whom reach the end of their primary school years and are starting to make the choice to speak English. All of the games and stories that these students are passionate about are in English and there is no bait that would make them want to choose Māori as a language they want to speak.
I have used a range of tools to meet these challenges:
- – I made a video and discussed the magic of stories – emailing the link to colleagues, but, with only 92 views, no dialogue has been started as a result.
- - I started a blog for my students (9-12 year olds). Once they moved on, I tried to keep it alive by starting to share some of the translation and some of the writing that I have done over the years, but, again, there has been minimal conversations started.

-      In class, we have used a range of tools, from authoring our own animations and stories, like the Story of Kaipara (Paki Kaipara) at and the Story of the First Woman at (both done with a mixed-level class of 5-7 year olds).

For the purposes of this assignment, I will focus on the blog.
The goal of this technology is to build a sense of audience, as you are writing for an audience and (hopefully) starting to enter into a dialogue with your readers.
Blogging is not a new technology now, with the first blog (called a personal webpage then) appearing in 1994 at and the term being coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger (see for more information). But it was one of the key technologies that I identified as being potentially able to address particularly the second of the two challenges I had identified.
The Blogger platform was developed in 1999 and was well established by the time we started using the tool as part of our SSW (Sustained Silent Writing or Tuhi Māhorahora) programme in 2009.
I tried to have a rotation so that everyone in class was blogging at least once a week, preferably 2-3 times weekly. Even with emails to parents and other schools with immersion classes didn’t work – I tried to get us reading each other’s work as part of the SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) component of the day, leaving comments and feedback for our classmates.
Being a blogging platform, the technology is open-ended and the product depends on the individual student. I wanted it to be more than just publishing, so tried to build a sense of drafting and revising, with students re-visiting pieces, or incorporating media such as flipnotes, that was relevant to that child.
I believe that because we were unable to build an audience, that this technology did not meet it’s key goal, that of building a sense of audience for the students using the platform. The blog has started to be used in the last couple of years (the stats for slideshare embedded downloads has shown that, even if there is no dialogue yet, there are people visiting and using the site).
The technologies are similar, in that they both involve sharing stories and divergent, in that the user of the blog is producing content, while the Storyteller user is consuming content.
I would love to find out from you what experience you have: especially in regards to niche languages and writing in the classroom.