Monthly Archives: February 2009

School’s out Friday

I’ve been really busy this week and hardly had time to post anything. And I should have because some great things happened this week. I’ll get to it tomorrow, I promise.

My husband sent me this video during the week to brighten my day at school. It’s a great study in human reaction to the unknown. Enjoy.

I hope your weekend treats you well. Children’s birthday week for me here – Double digits for one and teenager for the other. Two in the one week. I know, what was I thinking!

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Special things happening….

A little while ago I was encouraging educators to join us on Working together 2 make a difference and support the bushfire relief effort. I am so pleased to let you know that some very special things are happening on that site. Our membership has grown and we have seen the service learning efforts of educators and students from many different parts of the world.

I just had to highlight a couple of special moments from the last couple of days. Bill Ferriter from North Carolina (I hope I’m right there Bill!) has quietly been working away with his grade six students and posted this;

One of the things that I’m proud of is that my sixth grade students are really aware of the world around them. With the help of my buddy, Mike Hutchinson, I’ve developed a daily current event lesson that ties together our social studies and language arts curriculum nicely.

Better yet, it’s a lesson that my kids embrace completely because they love knowing more about the world around them. Every year when I survey my students, current events is what they like the best about my class because it makes them feel important and knowledgeable when they’re sitting at the kitchen table with their parents.

So when the Austrailian brush fires started, my students were consumed by the news. Watching video of fire streaming through neighborhoods and destroying cars was heartbreaking for them. We talked about how similar the devastation was to the scenes after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans—and we talked about how we might be able to help from a thousand miles away.

Our solution was simple: We decided to try to earn $5.00 a piece to donate to the Red Cross disaster relief fund. We picked $5.00 because it represented one good paperback book—-something that we value greatly. The thought that we might be able to help replace destroyed classroom libraries was really quite cool to our kids.

Over the course of two weeks, we ended up raising $245—-$110 of which came from an impromptu rose sale on Valentines Day that started when one of our students showed up with 150 roses to sell.

But more importantly, we ended up feeling good because we knew that we’d helped out!

Now, on to our next project—Do Something Funny for Money Day:

http://snipurl.com/funny4money     

My reply was this;

Bill, please convey to your students how touched we are by their generosity. It warms my heart and I’m sure the hearts of others to know that students from so far away can sympathise and relate to a tragedy many miles from them. Today was our National Day of Mourning for what has come to be known as Black Saturday here in Australia. Healing has begun, but we are still a long way from recovery. Knowing Grade 6 students from the United States have reached out to us is one of the steps to aid in the healing process.

Then tonight when I visited I discovered a new member, Carolyn Wojtera  (from Virginia) and a photostory her Grade 1 students had made in response to the crisis;

I feel so good about Working together 2 make a difference and I know Angela and Laura do too. Our community is definitely forming  – we would love to see you there too.

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Virtually there – Learning 2.0, a Colorado conversation.

This morning, at 3.30 am, I got up to attend Karl Fisch and Bud Hunt’s  Learning 2.0 – A Colorado Conversation. Was I in Colorado? No, I was sitting in my lounge chair at home,  but able to participate because Karl and his organising committee had crafted a detailed wiki outlining session details and had organised elluminate rooms for people who wanted to participate virtually.

When I started exploring this networked world a year ago I stumbled on this conference and expressed an interest in attending in a virtual capacity. This year they were extremely well organised and had everything organised well before the start date. I wanted to hear  Anne Smith and Kristin Leclaire’s presentation, ‘Shifting literacies, a learning conversation’, but the ustream accompanying the elluminate room was patchy. On Karl’s blog, The Fischbowl, he often speaks of Anne and the work she is involoved in at Arapahoe High School. Instead I attended Scott Elias’ ’21st Century School Leadership’ session. The ustream was clear and it was great catching up with some familiar names and ‘friends’ from my online world.

The second session I attended was ‘How to teach a remix generation’ led by Alison Saylor, Dan Watkins and Janni Black. This session looked at the issues related to student use of music and images and their abilty to create  new understandings – their transformative use. Once again, discussion in the backchannel was engaging and I was able to form connections to educators I previously did not know.

It was well worth the early start and I’d like to thank Karl and Bud for providing opportunities for virtual participation.  This is the changing face of professional development. I didn’t have to get on a plane and fly halfway around the world. I just had to work out time zones and ensure that I got up at the right time to turn my computer on. How cool is that!

Now, how do I convince the Victorian Institute of Education to recognise my attendance and have it count towards the professional development requirements I must meet to ensure accreditation?? These are new developments I’m sure our professional organsiations have not even contemplated. I know that I am engaged in my own professional learning every day just interacting in my PLN. Effectively, my school needn’t fork out a cent on my professional development. This term alone, I am attending three conferences but am presenting at every one of them. Only one of them requires the school to make payment of some kind because it extends over three days.  The biggest outlay is the personal one- the time I invest outside of school hours to keep myself informed.

I so admire Karl Fisch, an educator who created ‘Did you know’ for an after school meeting for his staff. He would have had no idea at the time of the viral nature of this presentation once it was taken from his original
PowerPoint presentation and set to music and uploaded to YouTube. If you haven’t seen it take a look at its latest incarnation below.  

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School’s out Friday

Back to my faves this week. Charlie Todd’s improveverywhere crew has been up to their improvising best with this effort.  High Five Escalator,  involves Agent Lathan giving out 2,000 high fives by standing next to a subway escalator during the morning rush. I just love watching peoples’ faces transform from impassive to animated as they embrace the fun on offer.

It’s a pretty simple task to make people feel good as they go about their day. Try something out next week – smile at your co-workers and say something that makes them feel good. If you wish to remain anonymous, try a random act of kindness. Go on, I dare you. Bet you’ll feel better in the process too.

Even better still, try it out this weekend.  Enjoy.

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Lovely charts – now this looks good

lovely_notes

Lovely Charts is a new free online diagramming application that lets you create some pretty professional looking charts that would be great for use in class projects. Even better, they’d be great for use in any professional organisation; the quality is outstanding.   

I’ve been having a bit of a play with the people diagrams. They look like wii characters without the faces. I have to say, if someone presented a chart to me using these figures I’d be far more likely to remain engaged with their presentation.  There is a screencast on the site taking you through some of the features -well worth a look.

Jay Hathaway from Download Squad is impressed. Here’s what he had to say; 

Lovely Charts is a slick new web-based tool for creating flowcharts and wireframes. Features you’d expect from a similar desktop app come standard: copy-paste, undo up to 20 steps, and pan/zoom all work the way you’re used to. Objects snap into place, and the basic drawing tools are all there. The only drawback? You can only save one chart at a time until you upgrade to the pro version. Depending on your needs, though, the 18 euro for 6 months might be worth it to you.

Looks like it will prove useful. Think about giving Lovely Charts a try.

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Connections……

Toorak College, Mt Eliza
Image via Wikipedia

Today we had a planning afternoon for our PLP group at Toorak College. It was just what we needed. Time to talk things over, show one another what we have done, teach one another some new skills and contemplate what all this means for teaching and learning. It was great. By the end of the session there was a sense that we have purpose and direction.

Seeing people excited about possibilities enthuses me. One of our teachers has set up Artrak, a blog to showcase the talented students we have and to provide our girls with links and updates about happenings in the creative world that will interest them. Sue, who works with me, is excited about developing the libray blog, 2rak info 4 u. I was able to show people the dynamic environment our Yr 9 ning has become as four classrooms work together.  Amanda has created a wiki supporting Business Studies and has introduced them to Working together 2 make a difference where the students are creating pages and building their digital footprints. There are other projects starting and our group is working towards supporting the efforts of one another. We are forming connections across our subject areas and classrooms.

My experience with Powerful Learning Practice has seen me benefit from the connections I have made with like  minded educators who are active in our ning environment. People like our community leader, Darren Kuropatwa, Tania Sheko, Susan Carter Morgan, Carey Pohanka, Frances Manning, Alex Ragone, Jennifer Clark Evans, Amanda Ritter,  Hiram Cuevas, Melanie Hutchinson, Adrian Camm, Rhonda Powling and others who value the sharing nature of the ning. It’s had a huge impact on my understanding of  virtual learning communities and the power of the connections you make. Yes, it does take time but the rewards come in the form of support, encouragement and professional learning.

Our journey continues with PLP and we will see the impact it has on teacher adoption of new ideas as they are embedded into practice. Today was a good day. I’m hopeful of more to come.

 

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Theory into practice – making it meaningful in the school library.

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

This year, we’re trying to make Web 2.0 more meaningful in our School Library. Last year we moved most of our pathfinders over to wiki format to encourage collaboration and input into the development of  resources to support subject areas and projects. The take up was pretty good and most people know what a wiki is now, but you run the risk of getting ‘wikiied out’. Sometimes you could hear the collective groan of ‘not another wiki’ and that is something you want to avoid at all costs.

We’re not giving up on Wikis, but we are trying something new. We used to put out a monthly newsletter with interesting websites, news and book reviews, but it went to staff only. It was very good, but not frequent enough and got lost in the barrage of emails that hits the computers at my school. We wanted to do something that delivers information, but more frequently and something that encourages the two way exchange of ideas that Web.2.0 typifies. So we’ve started a Library blog that’s open, not one that’s operating within our Sharepoint Scholaris platform.

Last year when I attended Learning 2.008, I had the pleasure of meeting Ann Krembs.  She talked of her Dear Librarian blog that she runs at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. I’ve been inspired by Ann’s efforts and have set up 2rak info 4 u to serve our school’s information needs, and perhaps the information needs of others.  

tc_lib_blog

We launched it just over a week ago and although it hasn’t set the world on fire, it has had quite a few hits. We need to find ways to have it become part of the culture of the school and something that staff and students use as a ‘go to’ place for information.  We are trying to set up an RSS feed to it within our Scholaris platform so that posts will be visible, updated and in the face of  our staff and students. This have proven to be problematic but we’re working on it.  

All of the library staff have been set up as authors and all of them have been uploading posts. This is learning curve stuff for most of them but they are rising to the challenge and are pretty chuffed when they see their efforts. It’s proving to be excellent professional development; they are ‘doing’, not just reading about what can be done. The clustr map has certainly generated some interest; it really does have an impact when you realise that people from far and wide are viewing your work.

Hopefully we’ll see it become part of the fabric of our school. Take a visit and see what you think. I’d appreciate your feedback if you feel so inclined to offer your thoughts.   

       

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School’s out Friday

This is ‘Facebook Song’  by Rhett and Link. Our school psychologist had me help her download it from Youtube this week for use with a Yr 11 class. (We used kickyoutube – it continues to impress everyone) They were looking at the idea of personal empires for their Art class.  As well as being pretty amusing it’s quite good for developing class discussion about identity and behaviour online.

A cooler weekend here in Australia. Very welcome after last weekend and its devastating consequences. Hope yours is a good one.

*Just got this message on Twitter from Bill Ferriter.

bushfire_appeal_kindness

Such kindness being expressed for our country from the international community of educators is overwhelming. Jen Wagner has let me know that donations are coming in for the bushfire appeal we are running through Working together 2 make a difference. Thank you all.

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Math in the Movies -where was this when I needed it!

Maths has never been one of my strong points. I coped just fine until I hit year 9 and they started introducing letters into Maths problems. My brain couldn’t cope with this and my burgeoning career as a Astrophysicist went out the window. I had to settle for a career based on where I felt letters belonged – between the pages of books!

Now, had I had a Maths teacher who introduced new concepts with a snippet from a movie and who could have shown me how I could apply that concept to a real life situation, then my story could have been completely different. I often read Dan Meyer’s blog and contemplate how I think I would be engaged in his lessons. He thinks of novel ways to use new technology to relate concepts to students. I remember those discussions with teachers which always started with me asking, ‘When am I ever going to use this in life?

The other day, Carey Pohanka posted a link on Twitter about Mathematics in Movies, a page on a site run by Oliver Knill, who is from the Dept. of Mathematics at Harvard University. He’s teaching Linear algebra  and applications this semester, but he’s also providing assistance to Maths teachers everywhere by doing this;

This is a collection of movie clips in which Mathematics appears. I’m collecting DVDs and VHS tapes of such movies. This is a working document to be extended over time. I started this page during spring break 2006. See also the page “Begin of lectures in college teaching” and “End of lectures in college teaching”. To see the movies larger, watch the quicktime ipod version, which are files with .m4v extension. 

mathematics_in_movies

I just love ‘hooks’. The little bit of the unusual or different that get me thinking about things in a different light. If a speaker begins with something engaging I’m usually there with them for the long haul. It must be the same for the kids we teach. I like to use quotes to engage students and set the tone for a lesson. I taught for a semester at a school and thought those quotes were going over student’s heads, until one day I discovered a student diary left in a classroom. I flicked through it to find out who it belonged to, and discovered every one of those quotes carefully written out  in the pages of what was one of my student’s diaries.  Sometimes you just don’t even know the effect you are having. 

I like the thought of these Math in the Movies ‘hooks’ for students. I think they’d be able to relate to the visual medium to make a concept more relevant. Perhaps if you used them there would be less of those, ‘When am I ever going to use this in my life?’ questions that I’m guessing must rear their ugly head in many people’s Math’s lessons.

For another look at making maths relevant, take a look at Tania Sheko’s post, ‘I’m not good at maths but I could be’.  Excellent explanation of the site Real World Math and how to use Google Earth’s satellite imagery to add placemarks, annotations, photos and models, as well as measure distances and draw paths.

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Collective action help from our network

Our bushfire appeal on Working together 2 make a difference  has received some help from unexpected quarters. Clarence Fisher and Jen Wagner, who coordinated an online effort in response to the Californian bushfires, have provided some sound advice about how to go about coordinating such an effort. Thanks go to Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach for directing them to me.

In fact,  Jen has gone one step further.  She  has helped me set up a paypal button on the Working together 2 make a difference site and has offered to tally donations and keep track of contributors. Such generosity of spirit overwhelms me. It’s yet another example of the sharing nature of this network that makes it so special.

If  you are so inclined, visit the site and make a donation through the paypal account set up by Jen. The money you donate will be redirected to the Red Cross appeal to aid those affected by this disaster. ALL the money will go there, be sure of that.  

 

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