February 2007 Archives

The power of the iPhone is its portability and connectivity. The way I imagine this working to support teacher education is prospective teachers are in a classroom to do observations in order to understand inquiry science pedagogy. The teacher is doing a lab with students working in groups. Prospective teachers with an iphone would be asked to follow different student groups and collect videotape of how those students were engaged in the activity. When class is over, all students can then transfer their video to the instructors' laptop. Then the class can analyze the lesson looking not just at the teacher or one group, but at any group in the class. You could, for example, ask prospective teachers to make hypothesis about student learning based on the video of one group and then "test" those hypotheses with video of other groups.
Just a quick thought. This morning it struck me that teaching is an activity that naturally generates theory (little t). To be able to explain something to someone else (how to make oatmeal) naturally leads to questions about why and therefore naturally leads to theory building. In terms of science, teaching may be the ultimate creative act.

My Dream App

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Here is what I want: I want a tool that would be the equivalent of track changes / comments type of feedback features, but for a video and audio platform. I want to be able to watch video, tag a section, and attach a comment there in text, graphic, audio or video file type. We (here at PSU, including Carla Zembal-Saul who thought this up first) have been talking about this since we first started using the iPod as a voice recorder for video analysis. We wanted to be able to listen to an audio file and insert audio comments directly into the original file which would allow a sort of branching at that point. A student listening to the file could skip to the comments (the way you would with chapters) and listen to what I have to say about their work. The next stage in this, that I would find considerably more valuable is a system where I can code a section of video (a la Studiocode) draw students attention to a particular part of the screen (a la Diver) and then add these annotation to the original video like the director's comments are added to a DVD. A student collects video of themselves, marks up their own video (the way I just described) as part of a reflection on their own practice then gives me the video. I can watch just the marked sections, or the whole thing. I can mark up the original with text, audio comments, or even attach small sections of video of another teacher (student or otherwise) as an exemplar. All this gets stored as different tracks that allow commentary to be turned on and off. The video becomes a dynamic tool for reflection and dialogue between faculty and students as well as student/student and student teacher / mentor teacher. Imagine being able to watch a section of video with a student's comment on their own teaching, their faculty instructors and their mentor teacher all in one file. That is a pretty killer app from my point of view.
We here at PSU are engaged in developing a one-to-one initiative with our undergrad teacher education students. The Commonwealth of PA has committed to having a laptop for every student in every core content course (English, Math, Science, Social Studies) in high schools by 2009. This means our teachers need to be prepared for this environment, and therefore we need to have ubiquitous computing in teacher education programs to prepare teachers to enter ubiquitous computing environments in K-12 schools. As part of this process I get to think about how technology can transform teacher education.  This is something that has been on my mind and I thought would make a good post (or hopefully set of posts). Today I am thinking about the iPhone (I actually can't seem to stop thinking about it).  In my courses I emphasize students developing their ability to see a classroom like an expert teacher (theoretically the concept is professional vision).  Obviously I use a lot of video in this process.  The primary tool my students and I use for analysis is Studiocode, which is a Mac only tool, but does amazing things to allow you to code videotape on the fly and display short sections for discussion and analysis.  So, when I saw the iPhone I was immediately struck by how this powerful tool could be used to enhance what I am already doing with the teacher I work with.  Here is one dream scenario (with the caveat that I am making guesses about the iPhone's capabilities): I am in a student teacher's classroom.  They are teaching a lesson on mitosis and get into an interesting discussion with the class about the relationship between mitosis and cancer.  I pull the iPhone from my pocket and using the digital camera capture a short video of about 5 minutes of class (assumption #1: iPhone camera can capture video).  As the video comes in I can code it using Studiocode (assumption #2: iPhone will run third party apps) to mark sections I would like to talk to the student teacher about.  As the student teacher finishes their lesson I output the sections to a quicktime movie file and either email the file to the student with the iPhone or transfer it to a shared file space over the WiFi.  When the student teacher and I sit down to talk she already has the key piece of video on her laptop (or can get them quickly).  We can discuss it in the moment while looking at the video and she has a file to keep for later reflection.  The key is that I did all this with one device in a seamless way.  I can do some of this now, but it requires me to have a laptop and a digital video camera and significantly more setup time. The end goal for me with regard to technology in education is transparency.  When we get to the point that we can do what we want to do pedagogically without having to think about the tools, we have arrived.  This seems like one more (baby) step in this direction, but it is a powerful one.

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