Monthly Archives: August 2009

The tweet that led to Mirka Mora: Part two.

Last week I wrote about sending out a tweet on twitter asking if anyone had a connection to Mirka Mora, as my daughter and her friends were doing a project about her and would love to get the opportunity to interview her. After some help from Lauren O’Grady,  Gina Milicia very kindly responded and set the wheels in motion. Mirka was happy to be interviewed, and my daughter and her friends conducted a phone interview that was recorded and posted to YouTube and on the wikispace they had created for the project.  At the end of the interview Mirka remarked to me that she was impressed with their astute questions and would like to invite them to afternoon tea.

Well, that very kind invitation was taken up this afternoon. My daughter and her friends, and a colleague and I, spent a very pleasant hour and a half visiting Mirka’s home sharing cheesecake and lemon tea.

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Mirka welcomed us with a loud chorus of classical music and a warm smile. She is such a  generous soul, full of wisdom that she imparted to us over the course of our visit. One of the first things she said was that we should always praise ourselves; in other words, exhibit self belief. The stories she shared demonstrated her ability to take risks and do things that she was not always confident about. This self belief led to great success and opportunities for Mirka. She was friendly with some of the great Australian painters and recounted stories about her great friend Marcel Marceau.

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Mirka’s home is full of memorabilia and artwork. In  her studio she had three art works on the go and she said this is how she paints. She likes to move to where she feels best able to extend her creativity.  It was such a privilege  for all of us to be invited to her private space and be able to see what Mirka is all about. And what is she about? Life, and living it to the full, pure and simple.

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Mirka and her pet snail! Her beloved cat died two years ago.

Mirka shared a story that epitomised what she is about. Her doctor told her a few years ago that she should have a walking frame when out and about. Mirka would have none of that. Instead, she invested in prams and now has 16 or so that she uses when out shopping. One day she was out and saw a woman with four children, one of whom was very young and struggling to keep up. The mother looked harried. Mirka approached her and gave her the pram she was using. She told us how they shared a moment together; they were united in the shared experience of motherhood.  When telling us this Mirka’s eyes were teary and I have to admit, mine were too. 

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This has been a wonderful learning experience for our students (and my daughter!)  I think it safe to say that Mirka found it equally powerful. I think she was genuinely impressed with the students’ questions and with the fact that she is having an impact on our younger generation. It’s an example of Network Literacy; teachers using social media tools to connect our students to the subject of their research. I know that these students will never forget Mirka Mora and they know what led us to her. As we walked away today from from Mirka’s home one of them said,  “That’s it. I’m never dissing Twitter again.”

A great experience for all. Thank you so much Mirka for your graciousness in allowing us into your home and for sharing your life with us. We are all the richer for it.

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School’s out Friday

I love this. It was made by Roving enterprises who produce Rove, a TV talk show made here in Melbourne. The final line says it all;

‘for people who have too much time on their hands….’

Of course, I disagree with this, but it’s funny nonetheless!

Have a great weekend. I’m looking forward to a Saturday morning sleep-in. I need it. : )

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The tweet that led to Mirka Mora.

On Tuesday evening I put out a tweet on Twitter asking if anyone had a connection to Mirka Mora. My daughter was doing a project based on her life and she would have loved to get the opportunity to interview her. Lauren O’Grady saw my tweet and retweeted it to her network . Lauren has extended her network beyond education and it didn’t take long for a response to come my way. Gina Milicia is a professional photographer who knows Mirka and she let me know that she would talk to her and be in touch.

Wednesday morning Gina rang me to tell me she had spoken to Mirka and she would be happy to speak to my daughter and the other girls who are completing the project with her.  Both of us marvelled at the power of the Twitter network to facilitate something like this. We  both agreed that there is something special about the people there; a willingness to help one another out. It’s a bit like my neighbourhood when I was growing up; people would pitch in to support one another. Twitter feels like that to me.

I rang Mirka and set things up for an afternoon phone call interview. The girls were thrilled. They never expected that they would be actually talking to the subject of their research. We decided we would use the loudspeaker function of my phone and a voice tracer device that would record the call and enable it to be downloaded as an MP3 file. I’d informed Mirka of this and she was happy to have this happen.

1.30pm came around and the interview took place. All of the girls asked questions and managed to draw out answers that related to their theme of triumph over adversity. Mirka is a very interesting and generous person. She’s an artist who migrated to Australia as a young bride from France after the Second World War. She is Jewish and related to the girls her experiences avoiding internment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

When the girls had finished with their questions I got back on the phone to thank Mirka. She relayed to me how honoured she was to have them use her as the focus of their project and remarked on how they had asked very astute questions. She then said she would like to invite them to afternoon tea at her place as a way of thanking them! We set a date and the girls will be visiting Mirka next week.

How’s that! Pretty amazing really. A tweet goes out, it gets a response, and our students find themselves having the opportunity to meet with the person they have chosen as their object of study for their inquiry week project. We are fortunate that Mirka is such a generous soul.

I have to say I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s skills over the last couple of days. Her group set up a wiki for the project. They wanted to embed the MP3 file of the phone conversation. We were trying to figure out how to get it uploaded to the wiki when she came up with the idea of uploading to YouTube. She tried that but the file wouldn’t process. She then made a Photo Story and used the file as the audio track. This successfully uploaded to YouTube and she was able to embed it in the wiki. Here it is;

She must be learning a thing or two from her Mum! She’ll be teaching me soon at this rate.

If you’d like to, take a look at their wiki . They’d be thrilled to see some dots on their Clustrmap.

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SlideRocket statistics – lessons our students need to learn?

I’ve been extolling the virtues of SlideRocket for some time now. For the past year and a bit I’ve been using this online presentation tool and I’ve been really impressed with what you can do with it. But I know I’m still no expert. There are plenty of features I haven’t found time to explore yet.

Last week I embedded a presentation I gave about Ning onto a wikispace site I have and this blog. Since then a couple of other people have embedded it into sites they have too. I made the presentation for public viewing and allowed for the code to be embedded should people want to use it. The other day I remembered that you could view the statistics for your presentation. In other words, you could see how many times it had been viewed and by how many people. Here’s a screenshot of what I discovered;

SlideRocket_viewing_statistics

Now that is pretty cool. First up, 386 views by 156 different people demonstrates the reach you can have by sharing what you do. Secondly, I am blown away by the fact that I can pull up details of the location of where those people are who have been viewing the slides. I’d be interested to know who the person is from Newport Beach is California who spent 15 mins with them today!

I used this data today at my school to sway our Tech committee around to the idea of getting a school site subscription to SlideRocket. They are offering schools with under 1000 students a site licence for $449.00 US Dollars. My argument was that we need to be exposing our kids to the kinds of tools they may find when they hit the world of work. They certainly need to understand that the social nature of tools like SlideRocket add to your  understanding of  networking and how this kind of sharing can have positive side effects. The message was well received and I am hopeful that we may see our school population exploring this tool next year.

Fingers crossed!

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Why blogging matters

I often try to articulate why I think blogging has been such a  transformative action for me. Seth Godin and Tom Peters have articulated it brilliantly in 1 minute and 37 seconds.  They are both marketers, but what they say is relevant to anyone who writes a blog. Watch this.

Then start blogging.

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School’s out Friday

Someone tweeted this on Twitter last night. I’d love to give attribution but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten who it was. This is the literal video version of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.  A literal video sings exactly what is happening in the video and in this case, it’s pretty funny. Where did they come up with all of the strange, seemingly disconnected imagery in this video?!

It’s got me thinking though. Wouldn’t this be a fun activity to do with kids? They’d have to be creative trying to find lyrics that represent what is happening, and it would have to fit with the tune and possibly rhyme. If I get a chance to experiment I promise I’ll upload the result here. 

Have a great weekend. I’ve got so much work to do I might as well camp there this weekend. Hope I get it done!

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ELH Reflections

Going to a technology conference in Lorne  (ELH  -Expanding Learning Horizons) is always a nice experience, even if the weather isn’t being as kind as it could be. Lorne is restful, a beautiful seaside town that harks back to another era in some ways. The last time I was there was two years ago, and my experience then was transformative. I went to a five hour session with a guy called Will Richardson who I’d never heard of. He was explaining Web 2.0 tools and I figured I needed to know about them a little more. I’d been doing some work with them, but the penny hadn’t dropped. Five hours with Will changed everything.

That session opened my eyes to possibilities. Within a few months the possibilities had become reality and I started writing this blog. Yesterday, I was a presenter at the conference where I’d been the newcomer to technology only two years before. Remarkable really. In the last year I’ve worked with Will Richardson in our PLP cohort and he’s sat in my kitchen drinking coffee. Even more remarkable!!

Four other teachers and our Network Administrator attended also. All four teachers came out of the conference feeling empowered to use new ideas from the sessions they attended. One of them was putting her new found knowledge into practice yesterday and was teaching others things she had learned. It was wonderful to see her enthusiastically embrace Wordle and Animoto and find ways to make them meaningful for the curriculum.

For me the conference was different this time. I didn’t attend what they call Discovery sessions, I opted instead for the Critical Conversation sessions, opportunities to discuss issues surrounding technology and its impact on learning in our schools today. These sessions extended my thinking; they were artfully managed by Bruce Dixon and he managed to draw out from participants discussion to get us all thinking. Karen Li, Global Education Program Manager from Intel, was interested in finding out what we as educators needed to move us forward. Professional Development for teachers to facilitate meaningful use of technology to support curriculum was a common theme in this discussion. I was taken by an idea Bruce raised; bringing together teachers who are exemplifying good practice and getting them to record three minute videos outlining their experiences. An educational TED conference idea. The videos could be uploaded to a dedicated site (perhaps its own YouTube channel) and could be a Professioanl Development tool for teachers. It’s an idea with merit.

Andrew Douch delivered an excellent opening keynote and extended the conversation in a session exploring appropriate social boundaries. Andrew engages with his students using a variety of means including MSN. He keeps a log of these conversations; a smart idea. His parent body are comfortable with Andrew’s use of this medium and it probably helps that he has established a high profile as an educator exploring social media as a learning tool.  

What struck me at this conference was how few participants were using social media for their own professional development and for student learning. An oversight was not having enough sessions exploring how  you go about doing this. I honestly think there is merit in holding sessions exploring how something like Twitter can be used for professional learning. I offered to run an unconference type session, but I only had two takers. I really don’t think people understood what these kind of sessions were about.

A Ning had been set up to support the conference but got very little use. Why? Because the program had been printed out and provided to conference participants.  There are a number of lessons conference organisers need to learn about running a paperless conference. We all had laptops and free wireless. There really was no reason why the Ning couldn’t have been set up weeks in advance and presenters could have been adding content from an early stage. It would have been a great learning experience for attendees; they would have been forced to use social media if they wanted to find their way to sessions and a community for participants could have been created. It worked that way at Learning 2.008 in Shanghai last year. There were times when bandwith made access a little difficult, but it certainly was used. That Ning is an excellent repository of information about sessions that took place in Shanghai and can still be accessed today. Note to conference organisers; check it out and do it that way in 2010.      

I posted my session’s slides yesterday. You can find them here and on my wiki. Steve Collis recorded the session on Ustream so you can watch it if you like. I’ve yet to see it all the way through. I must try and find the time! Funny how you get back to the reality of school and everything seems to swamp you. When I resurface I’ll get to it. I really did enjoy my time at ELH. I got to meet members of my PLN including Adrian Bruce, Julie Squires, Andrew Jeppeson, Steve Collis, Warrick Wynne and Mark Liddell. My thinking was challenged and I was able to convey my thoughts about learning communities and the merit of participatory learning.

Loved it.    

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