Monthly Archives: February 2008

School’s out Friday

A couple of week’s ago I featured Frozen Grand Central because I loved how it used the power of the mob to create something joyous. This was the work  of improveverywhere, whose mission in life is to create chaos and joy. That video has now had over 6.8 million views and they’ve garnered the attention of  the media worldwide.  They created Improv Everywhere Global and put out the call to agents everywhere to create their own scenes of chaos and joy. Since Frozen Grand Central was posted on YouTube there have been 26 freeze missions conducted in 11 countries. What follows is the mission in Trafalgar Square, London, where over 1000 people (recruited via Facebook) assembled to freeze for 5 mins. No music accompanies this video, and you can feel the eerie quiet that descends.

Have an inspirational weekend – it’s my son’s birthday – turning 9 – party tomorrow! 

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SOS Podcast – make sure you tune in next week.

SOS 

I’ve just finished listening to Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcast. You can access it Thursday nights at 7.00pm Shanghai time. (10.00pm Australian time) It’s kind of nice to hear the voices to the names you’ve been reading. I came in late but gained something out of their conversation about shifting teachers with new technology. It’s a great vehicle for transferring knowledge. Next week’s topic of discussion is ‘How to Connect’ and Kim Cofino is going to be joining Jeff.

Some good things happened today. We made a start in our planning to join Project Global Cooling and are hoping to have Lindsea join us via Skype for our launch. It’s going to be a bit of work but what great work it will be – the kind of empowering work that energises you and doesn’t deflate you.  Remind me I wrote this in a few weeks time!

 The other good thing was that I introduced a group of students to VoiceThread today. I’ve been hearing about it a lot and thought I better check it out. According to the VoiceThread site, this is what a VoiceThread is;

“A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways – using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.”

This is a class I take just once a week where I introduce them to new web tools. We looked at some examples and they then had a go at creating one. They really liked the idea that you can draw in the image you are talking about and they could suggest classroom uses for Voicethread. It was the kind of conversation you wish other teachers were listening to. Here was a group of students who could see uses for it in Science, Art, Humanities etc. I’m going to use it with my Year 7 class – I’m going to get them to upload a photo of themself as a young child and have their family members record their memories of that moment. Should be a good test of how it works.  VoiceThread have just launched a new web-based collaborative network called Ed.VoiceThread. They promote it as being simple, powerful and safe. Check out the blog on their site and watch their explanatory VoiceThread – it looks good. This community is specifically designed for K-12 educators and students. I’m going to talk to the Elibrarian I work with about subscribing our school tomorrow. This should help our teachers feel comfortable about using it as a learning tool. 

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Students showing us the way – that means you Lindsea!

The past couple of days have been pretty overwhelming for a humble little blogger like me! Thanks to a Twitter post by Vicki Davis my blog has seen unprecedented traffic. (Thank you Vicki - I didn’t understand the power of Twitter until now – I still don’t quite get it but I’m working on it!) It’s minor on the scale of bloggers who have big followings, but it’s a major deal in my world. People who have left comments have been really encouraging - one person reached this blog via David Warlick’s 2 cents worth! I’m stoked!

Probably one of the most exciting responses I got was from Lindsea. Just yesterday I was sitting in the staff PD session reading from Jabiz Raisdana ‘s Intrepid Teacher blog about his experience with his students and a Sykpe conversation with a student from Hawaii. Here’s what he had to say;

“If you were walking by room 3208 today at about 3:25, this is what you would have seen:

A group of eighth graders (and one especially brilliant seventh grader), a few high school students, and their teacher preparing for a Global Issues Conference in Düsseldorf; they  are discussing the meaning of sustainability and what that means in a 21st century global economy based on over consumption and the profit motive. On the screen they are watching and listening to Lindsea, a sixteen-year-old student/writer/blogger/ who is talking about her ideas on sustainability and her experiencing using web 2.0 to make connections with people like Clay Burrell and his  Project Global Cooling and Bill Farren, who happens to be the creator of Did You Ever Wonder, the video they had just watched as a group, before their talk with Lindsea.  Did I mention that Lindsea lives in Hawaii and that it was 2:30 am her time?”

Yep, you guessed it. The Lindsea who commented on my blog is the same Lindsea who Skyped with Jabiz’s class in Qatar two days ago. What an amazing young woman. This is a girl who knows the power of this network and is using it to its best effect. I contacted Lindsea this afternoon and we’re going to try and set up a Skype conversation with my students here in Australia. Lindsea told me she’s excited. I’ve got to tell you Lindsea, so am I and my students will be too when they find out about it. Students like Lindsea are helping to make this flat world a reality and how much more powerful is it when it is the students themselves who are generating the discussion. My hope is that we can really get things going at my school – I know we have students with the fire in their belly like Lindsea – they just need to know what’s possible and how to get there.

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Network power

I was exhausted last night when I finished writing yesterday’s post. Had about six hours sleep then had to get up early to take one of my kids to an early morning swim session. Arrived very early at work and logged on to check out the blog traffic. Wasn’t expecting much; who would be interested in reading about why I decided to start writing a blog and why I think it’s important to get our students learning in this environment.

Well, one look at my blog stats suggested otherwise! Last night’s post generated more traffic than I’ve ever had before. John Connell was kind enough to leave a comment and in a subsequent email said that he thinks a post like that resonates as it reminds bloggers about why they do what they do. Vicki Davis gave me some analogies she uses to describe the differences between wikis and blogs;

“I like to think of wikis as the collection and the blog as the album. Wikis as a chorus and a blog as a solo. Wikis for fact and blogs for opinion and voice. I think that both are needed as we try to teach both collaborators and individualistic thinker/inventors.”

Thanks Vicki. I used this in the afternoon PD session with my fellow staff – one participant read this and said, “That’s perfect, now I understand the difference. I was too embarrassed to ask before.” I think this is something we need to be very mindful of. During the session I was referring to plugins and widgets and had to clarify with the staff that this terminology has become familiar to me because I work with it now. It’s become relevant to me  – another example of how we learn best – when something has meaning for us we take it in, understand it and apply it to our needs.

My colleagues seemed interested and I got a round of applause at the end so that must mean something. One of our Heads of Year is keen to get involved in the Global Cooling project and sent me an email during the presentation so hopefully we’ll be able to get on board and have our students feeling empowered and making a difference.

Thanks network - being able to show my staff the huge spike in my blog stats and the cluster map locations were two of the most effective moments in the presentation. I think people could see that the world really is becoming flatter and we could be exploring possibilities for our students to operate in and learn from this collaborative network. I’ll wait and see if the seed planted today bears fruit.

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Blogs for classroom use

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to run a staff professional development session on the use of blogs and wikis for learning. It’s pretty crucial that I get my act together so that I can help to sway some of my colleagues as to the potential of these Web 2.0 tools for classroom use. Wikis I think are easy to sell. I think most people, once they realise what they are, can see how they offer potential to create a rich catalogue of resources, be they student comments, links to other resources or visual material that can include pictures and video. We’ve already had a good uptake with our Wikis and have seen them used across year levels as learning tools for classroom use.

Blogs are harder to sell. I have to admit to only a year ago dismissing the idea of blogs and wondering why anyone would want to write one. I think they come with a preconceived notion that they’re the ramblings of someone who might have something to say but doesn’t really have the authority to say it, so why bother reading them. It was only when I attended some professional development last year and actually listened to keynote speakers who were bloggers that my thinking changed. These people actually had something interesting to say so I thought I’d better check out their blogs. This is how I discovered the writings of Will Richardson, Stephen Abrams and John Connell. Late last year I set up my Google Reader and started subscribing to these blogs, and quite quickly, the blogs of others.  What follows is Blogs in Plain English, by Lee and Sachi Leefever of Commoncraft , who attempt to explain new technologies in a simple fashion. 

It wasn’t long before I started to feel that what I was onto was a great thing that was developing me professionally at an exponential rate. What these bloggers were doing was to filter information from the Web. I started to toy with the idea that maybe I could be part of this filtering process and offer comment about the things I was learning about. I figured it would be a vehicle through which I could track my professional reading and development and if I were lucky I might get a few readers along the way. So I started writing a blog. I used WordPress to set it up because I’d had a little bit of experience with it last year and it seemed pretty intuitive. My husband came up with the name after I’d told him that I wanted to intercept information that was on the Web so that others could use it. I think it was January 12th when I started writing and I expected that I’d be writing away and no-one would ever read it except for a few friends who would do so to give me a bit of encouragement.

One of the things I did when setting up the blog was to establish a blogroll. In my blogroll I added links to other people who wrote blogs that I was reading.  Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that by adding these links I was pinging the sites of these bloggers – they were getting notification that I had added them to my blogroll. I was amazed the next morning to receive notification via my email that I had a comment on my blog.  Alec Couras, a blogger from the University of Regina in Canada had sent me a comment to encourage me in my endeavours. I thought that would be it but I was further surprised to receive more comments in the following days from other bloggers offering encouragement. One of these bloggers, Vicki Davis, alerted me to the fact that I could check out my blog stats. This was a revelation and meant that I could now see on a daily basis whether or not the blog was being read. Today I have had over 1500 hits after writing for six weeks or so. Another exciting find was working out how to embed a cluster map in my blog – this indicates who is reading my blog according to their location in the world. This has been unbelievably empowering. To think that people in Europe, China, the United States, New Zealand and a myriad of other locations are reading my humble little blog is something that is helping me to forge along. You realise that someone out there is reading and you aren’t writing for nobody. I’m setting myself a target of writing a post a night which may be a bit ambitious as the pace of work heats up.   

Now, you may ask, how does this relate to blogs for classroom use? Well,  the connections I am making through this blog have made me realise that we do now have the ability to offer our students the experience of connecting with others in different parts of the world. I see the kick my own students are getting out of seeing my cluster map grow and wonder why can’t we offer them the same experience. It’s possible now to have our students act as true global citizens and have a voice in this world. If I can do it in the space of six weeks why can’t they. Many of our students already have an online presence in the form of a myspace or facebook page and  are aware of how to use technology as a social tool. We now need to harness this same technology for educational purposes.  There are other teachers out there who have projects that our students can become involved with and learn from. Clay Burell and Bill Warren have a Global Cooling Project and are interested in our students becoming involved. Vicki Davis has a Flat Classroom project and asks for other schools to get involved. We have a little way to go in terms of setting up protocols for student use of these blogs but it can be done and I think the experience will be empowering.  We could be part of what has only just begun in terms of global collaboration between students and we could definitely be a frontrunner in terms of Australian school involvement. Let’s see how we go!

  

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Worldometers – interesting site but who are they?

I looked at Worldometers the other day. It’s a really interesting site and one that I think could be fascinating for students to look at. It gives world statistics updated in real time.  You can find out how many births and deaths there are in a day,  the population growth of the world and heaps of environmental facts that would be very useful in a variety of classroom applications. I wondered if I could rely on the authenticity of this information and who was the organisation behind the website so checked out their about page and their contact page. I couldn’t find anything that could tell me who was behind the website. I decided to use Whois Domain registration   to find out who they were. This is a great site from a company called Network Solutions that enables you to search the domain name eg: worldometers.org, to find out who registered the domain name. In this case, looking through the results led me to Moniker privacy services. When I looked up this name on Google I discovered this about Moniker privacy services  ;

How Does Domain Whois Privacy Work?

Moniker offers domain whois privacy to protect your personal information. Our domain privacy services acts as an iron curtain between you and the outside world. Instead of your information being available in the public whois lookup, these prying eyes will be directed to Moniker Privacy Services to protect your identity and your privacy.

While I can understand why some organisation may want to keep their domain registration private, it beats me as to why Worldometers would want to be so worried about people knowing who they are. If anyone knows why fill me in – I’d be very interested. This is a great exercise to take your students through for their information literacy skills - it shows them how to examine a website to check for its authenticity and whether or not you can trust the information they provide. In my mind the jury is still out on Worldometers.

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School’s out Friday

Here we are again. Another School’s out Friday post. Time for a chuckle to lighten our mood for the weekend. This time it’s home grown product from ‘The Chaser’s War on Everything’, a comedy program produced on the Australian Government run ABC network. They got themselves in trouble last year when they got through security at the APEC conference in a car pretending to be from the Canadian Embassy and with an occupant dressed like Osama Bin Laden. A student in my Yr 7 class is a huge fan of the Chasers and sent me the link to their videos on YouTube as potential material for School’s out Friday. It’s great when your students are engaged with what you are doing and get what your intentions are.

This is the Chasers at a Bunnings Warehouse, living life as if it were a musical. Very funny stuff!

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