Education is no rocket science!!

Education is no Rocket Science!!!

A couple of years ago, a friend who is a doctor and have to say a bit up himself, asked me what I did for a living. We schooled together and there was a bit of a history between us. Anyway back to the question, what I did for a living – I answered, I am in education. My friend who shall remain unnamed answered back, It’s not rocket science is it? You work in, stand in front, talk and your job is done!

Well my reaction to his first question :-# – education is no rocket science – Damn right, it is Not Rocket Science, in fact it is harder than that and I went on to explain:

Every component in a rocket has a predictable behaviour and you know as a scientist exactly what you can expect from it – the exact outcome. It remains the same every time. Thus assembling a rocket is a simple matter of putting the components together carefully, making sure that the output from one component feeds into the the next that is attached to it the right information. However in education, each component (student) is uniquely different, they can not be controlled, as a matter of fact, they should not be controlled and the outcome from each is absolutely unpredictable! If I were to assemble a rocket using these components, it will be a damn hard task, don’t you think?

My friend – speechless! He it seemed had just landed from the land of arrogance and full of ego!

In my 8 or so years in education, I have to say that teaching is probably one of the most difficult job, if it is done right. Each student in the class is uniquely different, they have their strengths and weaknesses and each will react differently to a certain task. In my experience, just as a scientist has to build a link or relationship between each component he/she assembles, we as teachers have to do the same every time and everyday. A rocket scientists job is done when he/she knows exactly what the relationship is, however, a teachers job is never finished! He/she has to keep building and working on this relationship every given time. That is of course, the teacher is not just standing in front of the class talking as my friend perceived it to be.

The reason why I have written about this experience now and not when it happened is because earlier this week, I attended my institutes annual teaching and learning symposium and the keynote reminded me of the importance of ‘RELATIONSHIP’ in education. I don’t see the differences between the students as a weakness and that I as a teacher have to bring it to uniformity rather I see it as a strength that if nurtured in class could enable us to learn from each others experiences and knowledge and this action enables the relationships to be established. If these conversations were to happen frequently, you are assured that the links between the components will start to form and this will enable you to build a spaceship that is UNIQUELY different. Where each component is not programmed rather act on their own accord and regularly improve their own performance as they continue learning.

TPACK 2.0 – The framework for learning and teaching with Web 2.0 tools

TPACK 2.0 – The framework for learning and teaching with Web 2.0 tools

Competitive Social Learning (Competitive socio-constructivism)

A blog I started last year during Xmas, forgot to publish 😦

Over the Christmas holiday, while playing Xbox with my nephew and with my thesis at the back of my head, the concept of what I decided to call competitive social learning dawned on me.

Competitive social learning: creating, collaborating and communicating in groups, a community or in a network but with competition as a self-motivator. It is not to replace anything but to add to what we are already doing in social constructivism. Lets take a few social media currently being used: Flickr, it shows you how many times your photo(s) have been viewed or the number of times people have made it their favourite. Youtube, again the rating given by people who view your video, the comments left behind and the number of followers. Blogging, the number of hits your site is receiving and the number of people following you. Twitter, the number of posts you make, how many times has it been retweeted, the number of followers, the number of lists you appear in, and number of times it has been marked by someone as favourite.

The success to some of these tools, the uptake and retention can to some extend be credited to how good the platforms are at generating a competitive environment. Competitive social learning is using social media as a learning platform to nurture healthy competition using the ‘invisible’ competitive features already available. The same competitive concept can be used in LMS’s like Moodle, some great work has been done by Lewis Carr who has designed a Moodle meter ( and a Moodle Dashboard ( that promotes the invisible competitive capabilities.

A social media can be compared against a classroom, where the people using it are the students and social media itself is the classroom with no walls hence some of the challenges social media faces are the same as what a teacher would face in a classroom: retention and engagement. How does social media platforms manage to hold on to the users? Could one of the reasons be the “invisible” competitive nature of the systems that makes us come back to see what has transpired? No doubt the social connectivity and the potential that comes with it is a major draw card but is it as simple as that or is there more to it? Amongst all the reasons given for why games are so addictive, being challenged or competing against something or someone probably stands out or is well implemented. Could it be that a hybrid of competitiveness and social constructivism be a more effective approach?

A carefully controlled competitive environment could potentially be the best self-motivator and this could very easily be achieved on most social media. I have used the words ‘carefully control competitive environment’ because competition could also have a negative effect on students.

Knowing the vast hold video games have on the younger generation, could competitive social learning be the way forward. Competition is hardwired by the time kids reach high school (from playing games). It could be said that gamers and mostly the younger generation are well equipped to deal with and manage a virtual competitive environment. Could the transition from virtual to a real environment yield meaningful learning?

Emerging themes from student blogs.

Project I am involved in this semester.

The students create an eportfolio using Blogger. These are some of the themes I have identified so far emerging from the use of blog in learning and teaching.

Things that make your day!

I started a Web 2.0 project with Marine Technology students last week and had only spent 1 hour with the students explaining why we were doing things the new way. Got the students setup on Blogger, Gmail and gave them a quick overview of GDocs and Youtube. 

Picture: Student’s in the Marine Technology course doing a presentation this morning.

After the session last week and few days later, a student commented:


I’ve just started the 2011 semester 1 studies and something very diferrent is changing the “old fashion way” of teaching students at Unitec, I am saying that because I already been at Unitec on semester 2 2010, and we were tired of listening to our tutor talking for two hours every day doing the theory side, seeing my colleagues falling asleep, anyway to my and the others surprise Unitec had implemented a new tool called “ILearning” I have to admit I was a bit worried how would it end up, but now I really like the idea and I need to say since wed 16/03 when we had our first day of “ILearning” I am really impressed how the theory side became much more interesting, and we(students) are more involved as a team, I hope my classmates are enjoying as much as I am and together we will learn how to build our blogs. (Marine Technology Student, 2011)

What more can I say! They are willing to make the change, but it is how we take it to the student’s that makes a difference (no digital native assumptions!!). Also the acceptance of the teacher, he/she plays a huge role. I have to admit the staff I am working with is a STAR!

Creative Commons License this blog post by Vickel Narayan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand License.

>Curatr Review

>Curatr – Review

I have had sometime (maybe 1 hour) to play with much talked about Curatr ….. first impressions:

1. The so called Gaming Aspect of Curatr. 

It works by collating scores whenever you view a resource and either you like or dislike it (Yes, it’s mandatory, you can’t move to the next lesson unless you have done this!). I was quite disappointed to find out how scoring worked (I could be wrong).

2. No place for feed on an activity

I have been through a few resources on the account I was given and I couldn’t see any place to leave a feedback or to comment on existing content.

3. Content driven – driven both by the teacher and students

Curatr is unfortunately content driven and is limited to Websites, Youtube, Text box (it didn’t work for me), Pictures and Audio. This of course assumes that you have created the content before hand and uploaded it to appropriate platform for use. Curatr however allows peers to create or lets say collate contents to help others in class.

4. Difficult user interface

I initially found the user interface difficult to use. I couldn’t make out where I was going and what I was meant to be doing or looking at first.

Where’s the Pedagogy?

The burning question, what was the pedagogical underpinning for Curatr? You couldn’t really say social constructivist …. maybe a beginnings of something bigger to come? The only bit I would say that would very least be called social was creating or collating resources that you found useful for others in class to use. Curatr allows you to create a profile but again it is very basic and you can’t see the profiles of others in class. There is very little opportunity to network with other learners in class to discuss collectively and create new meaning and knowledge.

I was left asking …. it is a portal? Is it a basic social bookmarking tool …. I am still a bit confused. It seems the only thing you can do is create a portable (works on iPhone) collection of different digital artifacts that may help you in your learning or peers in some way.

Mobile Front – Comparing to Evernote

Yes Curatr has an iPhone app, so does Evernote. If I was to compare these two applications and it’s suitability in learning and teaching, I’d say Evernote would be my choice. The difference I am talking about is huge.

  1. Teacher vs Student content (Curatr allows students to collect content not necessarily their own)
  2. Networking opportunities between the two apps is again a problem. Curatr – hardly any evidence. Evernote – and online profile viewable by others.
  3. mLearning – even though Curatr has an iPhone app, it hardly uses the powerful features the iPhone is equipped with. Evernote on the other hand allows – on spot – audio capture, picture, video and text. Evernote empowers the students, enables them to create content and hence their own meaning from it. It enables students to share with each other what they have done and build collective understanding at the same time supporting each other.
I was expecting more from Curatr. The promotion video and hype that surrounded Curatr before launch of beta painted a totally different picture in my head to what was delivered. The claims around game based learning and the inclusion of what makes games so appealing didn’t really work for me. It is not still about scores when playing a game but the challenge that comes your way, constant feedback and helpful hints that pop-up every now and then, creating that safe competitive environment where you can do a single player or a team play, having the ability to choose the level of difficulty to begin playing, the audio, visuals and constant connectedness with your team members (audio and chat if playing multiplayer online game), strategising, immersive environment and finally clever scoring.

>Ah ha moment ….

>I spent almost all of last week prepping the members in my CoP on social learning where I introduced Moodle and Google App concept. I have been blogging about the journey for a while, in my last blog post “I can feel the Buzz” I reported that social learning suddenly dawned upon the members early last week so I took the opportunity to take it further.

To roll out the Moodle Google Apps concept, I borrowed 2 Netbooks for the staff members who didn’t have a laptop. A night before I developed a scenario for the staff members to look at the following day. I had intentionally made some mistakes and automotive not being my area of expertise there were bound to be some anyway. You can find a copy of the scenario here. I borrowed the Netbooks to give the staff members a feel of what the students will bring to class and how it can help in facilitating a social learning space.

Once I had all the staff logged onto staff wifi and Google, I gave them a quick tour of Google docs. This is when I shared the scenario with all the members and asked them to correct any mistake and add anything they thought was important. The group spent about 15 minutes doing this. I had some staff members who were already using Google hence I asked them to help the others out. After this 15 minutes I asked the members to reflect on what had just happened. Few things came up:

  1. the room setting, as the desks were arranged in rows, members found it difficult to communicate and help each other (refer to figure 1.1)
  2. since we had some expertise in the room, the job for the teacher became easy
  3. more time with the facilitator (one-on-one)
  4. the process was lot engaging then just watching or listening

Figure 1.1 – default classroom setting, this the members found difficult to work with, hence it will now be moved to fit the social learning requirements

I also got the members to reflect on the scenario, here are some comments:

  1. I can see lots of conversations happening
  2. students would be very active in the task
  3. teacher is not doing anything apart from being there as a guide
  4. students would probably come up with the content
  5. engaging
  6. good use of e-tools to bring together learning and social dimensions

After this I showed the staff how they can compare the original and other versions on Google doc. How Google doc is able to break it down to individual participation, also the ‘real time’ factor (multiple users editing the document at the same time).

Moving on from docs, it was time for blogging. If the students are expected to blog, the teachers should be leading the way. I got all the members to create a blogger account, this is easy if you already have a Google account. Blogger as an eportfolio. A requirement to becoming a senior lecturer here at Unitec, staff are to submit a portfolio of activities done in class. I used this to talk about the importance of blogging along with modeling the practice to students, PLN, reflection and it’s importance on improving your teaching (reflection is the lowest common denominator, if you don’t reflect you’ll probably never find what you are doing wrong). I gave them a task, some members in this CoP have been involved for the past year and we have some members who only started few weeks ago. The task was to reflect on the past few weeks/year being in the CoP, the key highlights for them and what impact it may have on their teaching. Some members were uncomfortable with making their blog open hence for now they have kept it private ….. small steps at a time ….. when they are confident and comfortable with making themselves visible to the world, they’ll make the blog public. This transition is something that has to come from within and it can’t be forced.

We closed the session discussing other possible elearning tools and Second Life was mentioned. I was asked to talk further on it hence I showed them a video from Youtube, one closer to home, the SLENZ Birthing Unit and another random video simulating how a jet engine works.

After this session the feedback from all the members was, we could have been doing this all this time. I guess it’s not a bad comment knowing none or most of them didn’t want to get involved in the project. This week is student orientation week, week 2 will give the members an opportunity to practice some of the skills.

My involvement will continue as a technology steward for both staff and students, looking forward to it and the challengers.

The Automotive department has made some changes that will allow students to buy a Netbook or any other machine they prefer. The course previously required the students to buy the mechanical tools needed in the course. The school is now buying a common set for all students and will be used as needed, this saves student money with which they are to buy a computer. By week 2-3 we should have a good indication of how many students have bought a laptop. The mandatory requirements for the computer were set as: webcam and wifi.