Steven Pinker's new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, is now out for pre-order and looks like a great addition to these essential books on writing…

Steven Pinker's new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, is now out for pre-order and looks like a great addition to these essential books on writing

Open Source Beehives

Make your own printable, smart beehive to track colony health and promote international bee recovery.

The best free office software for your Mac

Dia

The open source equivalent of Microsoft’s Visio is ready to make flowcharts, organisational charts, diagrams, and more – all of which can be saved out to multiple formats.

Evernote

Evernote lets you capture anything you see on your screen, save it to the app, and automatically sync it with online and mobile versions. You can save notes everywhere, access them anywhere, and make them as public or private as you want.FocusWriter

Distraction-free writing tools are in vogue, but some hide too much. FocusWriter keeps things you need (like tabs and tools) when you take your hands off the keyboard, but hides them again when the writing starts.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentations, and apps for maths and drawing. For the full details on this one.

Pencil Project

Pencil is a unique open source diagramming tool that can be used as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Firefox. Either way, the results are the same. It offers built-in stencils, or you can make your own, with easy links between pages.

Scribus

Looking for the open source equivalent of Adobe InDesign for designing publications? Scribus comes as close as possible, with all of the professional tools, including built-in colour separation and colour management.

Tomboy

It’s smaller than OneNote and not web-reliant, like Evernote, SpringPad or Simplenote. This little note taker is better than relying on wayward text files because it links your notes together, as needed, for easy access.

Wunderlist

Create a task in Wunderlist’s excellent interface and you’ll instantly be able to share it on all your mobile devices and computers. Wunderlist will help you get things done, and you can invite others to join you in your tasks.

yEd

Cross-platform yEd (pronounced “why-Ed”) is a “diagrammer” or “graph editor” that will import your spreadsheets for data and let you create diagrams and charts with drag-and-drop ease. You can then export them to several graphics formats.

Psychologist Jerome Bruner on the art of “effective surprise” and the 6 conditions of creativity…

Virtual reality explained

Constructivism

Constructivism says that people learn by making sense out of the world – they make meaning out of what they encounter” - Reiser & Dempsey

The theory that resonates the best with my teaching practices and philosophy of learning would be the constructivist model. Supporters of constructivism understand that learners make meaning and are able to learn only when they are allowed to apply that new knowledge to what they already understand. That knew knowledge must be connected to their external world. This means that the learning process is an active process, it’s one that must be authentic, collaborative and reflective. What I love about this theory is that the learners need to take a primary responsibility over their learning. This “ownership of learning” is something I strive to show to every one of my students.

Benefits of the Constructivist Learning Theory

  1. The method behind constructivism (being active and having a real connection to the world) is a theory currently supported by the scientific community:

The brain innately seeks meaning through seeking patterns. The patterns give context to information that may otherwise be discarded as meaningless (Coward 1990). Freeman (1995) suggests that it is the making of familiar connections (relevance) and the locating of conforming neural networks (pattern making) that are critical to the formation of meaning. For younger children, learning that is hands-on, experiential and relevant enables patterns to develop. Relevance helps children to make personal connections between what they already know and the work they do in class. Relevance can be created through linking with prior learning and experiences, and context and pattern making may result from the use of universal concepts and core organizing principles (Jensen 1998). [LINK]

  1. Current research behind how we learn is showing us that we must be active and we must link new knowledge to already existing knowledge.Constructivist teaching focuses on problem solving and critical thinking, placing it high up on Blooms taxonomy. This also helps to prepare students for success in the real-world, since they will face situations where they need to synthesize, evaluate and solve problems.

But it’s important to remember that constructivism, like all the other learning theories, is not without drawbacks or flaws.

Downside of the Constructivist Learning Theory

In order for students to take charge of their own learning they must be mature and prepared to handle that level of responsibility. Before I assign any form of student-led assignment or project, I always ask “Are my students prepared to take on this form of work/responsibility?” Unmotivated or immature students would fail under a constructivist approach to teaching.

Constructivist Learning Theory & eLearning

Constructivist learning can be applied to the development of multimedia materials by making sure the content creator is creating activities that require full student participation, and that have a firm grounding in real-world applications. In her essay “A Constructivist Approach to Online Teaching and Learning”, Julie Carwell focuses on the importance of collaboration between students in the online setting:

Constructivist learning also incorporates collaborative elements. This can easily be accomplished by the discussion board, but I try not to lean too heavily on any one mode of delivery. While group projects are not always favored by students, they have great value in many classrooms, including those on the Internet. There are many things that can go wrong in a group project, which I need not elaborate on here. As with any element of online instruction, much advanced planning should be done to diminish any negative effects of group work on students who favor online learning. The instructor should build in as many collaborative opportunities for group work, including but not limited to face-to-face meetings, private discussion forums for groups (even giving points for everyone making an initial post in their forum), and encouraging the use of virtual chat components such as instant messaging and the component in content management systems like Blackboard. This instructor attends the first such chat for each group. Other group management and grading tools used may be identical or similar to those used in a traditional classroom.

Hemingway on how to become a good writer…
The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. That’s your job as a storyteller is to hide the fact that you’re making them work for their meal. We’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and to deduct because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well-organized absence of information that draws us in.
Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton