Monthly Archives: September 2009

John Seely Brown – educator as orchestrator

Today I had the opportunity to listen to John Seely Brown discuss his thoughts on the future of education. This was all thanks to the great work being done by Steve Hardagon. Steve runs Classroom 2.0, The Future of Education and Conversations.net. He organises prominant thinkers to share their ideas in Elluminate sessions that run on a regular basis. I find it difficult to get to the sessions because most of them occur in our school day and I’m often way too busy to tune in. Today, being school holidays, the opportunity presented itself.

JSB talked about the changing role of the educator. He referred to the role as being that of orchestrator or Reference Librarian. Teachers having an understanding of networked learning and being able to transfer this understanding in project based learning opportunities to the students we teach. One of the messages he imparted was ‘Teach less – learn more’. According to John, right now we have a perfect storm of opportunity to make change. He said that if we taking new approaches to learning we should continue to do this on the edge and get the core to take notice. The students will make sure they do. For some of the core, they are going to have to unlearn in order to learn. JSB said that tunnel vision prevents many teachers from seeing what is happening that can have an impact on student learning.

Why he feels this way is because he has seen what social media has been able to do; he discussed how he has seen serious change occur from the actions of very small groups of people. This is why he finds it interesting and why he feels it is important to impart knowledge of how to leverage learning opportunities like this. JSB referred to the first wave of disruption; how innovation is changing the way we do things. He made reference to how start up businesses are making use of the cloud to get going. They don’t have to own the infrastructure; it exists in the cloud and if they have something good the potential is there for something to go viral.

Probably one of the most interesting things he said was at the very end of the interview. Steve asked him how did he see schools operating in 20 years from now. JSB said he didn’t see schools as being the dominant form of learning 20 years from now. He followed this up saying that he doesn’t see schools as the dominant form of learning now.    

I hope I’ve reported JSB’s message correctly. You can make your own mind up by visiting The Future of Education or Conversations.net where all of the elluminate sessions Steve records are archived.

Thanks Steve for providing free professional development for the global teaching community.

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School’s out Friday

You have to watch this.

This is a TED Talk from Jonathon Zittrain, a social theorist who proposes in his talk that the world is not becoming less friendly. In fact, we are seeing the opposite, and this is demonstrated through the way people have made use of the internet . The way we readily share and distribute information, the way we act as nodes in a network, the way we  support others through this medium means that we are seeing morality and humanity come to the fore in our interactions with one another.

He uses some great examples. Wikipedia gets a mention. Jonathon states that we are always 45 minutes away from chaos on Wikipedia with spambots trying to embed ads and people trying to deliberately mess with pages. What saves Wikipedia are the Wikipedians; the thin geeky line who ensure it remains useable for the rest of us.  He refers to the Star Wars kid and the page on Wikipedia devoted to that ongoing episode. Wikipedians debated whether or not they should include the young boy’s name on the page and ultimately decided not to. This was due to the fact that the boy in question suffered psychologically from the exposure that video drew to him. Here is the information on the page indicating to contributors the conditions for any additions;

This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful. (January 2009)

This will be a great video to use in media literacy classes. In fact, any class where you are discussing the impact of new media on our lives.

Have a great weekend. My pick for the Grand Final here in Melbourne tomorrow. St.Kilda all the way!!

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Connections take time

So, it’s school holidays. You’d think I’d be posting like a mad woman wouldn’t you -making up for all of the time I couldn’t post because work was getting in the way.

Well. I haven’t been. I’ve been busy making connections.

Working together 2 make a difference has attracted a reasonable size community of educators but we would like to see some connective activity happen between the members. Mike Poluk has agreed to take on some of the administrative role in the Ning to support Angela Stockman and myself.  Right now the space has had a bit of a revamp and Angela has added some groups to see if we can get more connections happening. Laura Stockman has added a 25 days to make a difference group; setting us all the challenge to see what we can achieve in 25 days with random acts of kindness. Nice.  Take a visit and see if you can join us. It’s a very positive space and the people who are active there are very genuine about what it is they are doing.

I’ve also been connecting with the gym again! This is twofold; it’s also a means of connecting with my daughter as we have joined together. Both of us were in agony yesterday after a Pump class, but we headed out to do battle with the treadmills and bikes. I figure my headspace needs the benefits that physical activity can bring, and my body space could do with the paring down that physical activity can bring!

I’ve also been commenting on a few posts. Take a look at Dennis Harter’s post on U Tech Tips about “Is the term 21st Century out of date?” Dennis talks about ‘buy -in’ and the need for it to happen if we are to see real change occur in teacher’s adopting new techologies for learning purposes.  Interesting post and comment feed -worth reading.

By far the post that has taken up quite a bit of time is Wes Fryer’s post about the NSW deployment of Netbooks. I left a comment that made a bit of a sweeping generalisation in the first line about the lack of professional development supporting the rollout. Yes, it was a sweeping generalisation, I admit it, and Ben Jones picked me up on it.  I’ll paste our thread in here rather than reinvent the wheel trying to explain it all. Best to get you to follow Ben’s links and make your mind up about where it’s all heading.

Me:

Unfortunately, little to no thought has gone into the professional development necessary to ensure that the teachers of NSW (and other States of Australia that are seeing netbooks rolled out into classrooms)are adequately prepared to use them to their full potential in classrooms. Hardware is part of the solution, but ensuring our teachers feel confident in the effective and meaningful use of the hardware is the vital key to the success of this rollout. No keys apparent as yet!

Ben:

Jim/Jenny
Yes on the limited information you have read you would be correct the focus is on the technology however please read the full information:
- Curriculum Support & Professional Learning Materials: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/index.htm
- Professional Learning support for Leaders: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html
- Digital Learning objects custom for the laptops: http://www.tale.edu.au/tale/live/global/DERNSW/laptops.jsp? (there is 1000’s of other digital learning objects in TaLe but you need to be a DETNSW teacher to log in)
- 6m Direct to schools for action learning projects, relief and professional learning specific to DERNSW (this is in addition to existing PL budgets) for the 09/10 year
- 2.3m to Regions to support schools for the 09/10 year
- First roll out of teacher laptops was as far away from students laptops as we could possibly make it (without federal political imperative would have been longer) with a another teacher roll out this year.

The program delivering this is lead by a School Educational Director and comprised of Principals, Head Teachers and Teachers working very closely with IT. It goes without saying we have a very strong focus on teaching and learning.

For an educational perspective watch this: http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Cli/Download.aspx?resID=9186&v=1&preview=true

Ben

Me:

@Ben Thanks for posting the links to the work being done by the NSW Govt. I’ve taken a look and can see that a lot of time and effort has gone into this. My concern is that teachers aren’t learning how to develop Personal Learning Networks for themselves and making the connections with other educators who are on the same learning curve. To me, understanding the full potential of learning with laptops is understanding the connective environment that is enabled with this tool. It’s the people behind the screens who make learning interesting, and connecting with other educators and students can lead to very powerful learning opportunities. I may not have stumbled on it, but I didn’t see any reference or link to networks of educators like ‘The Future of Education Ning’ ‘Classroom 2.0 Ning’ The English Companion Ning’ etc or reference to Australian classroom practitioners who are writing about what they are doing in their classrooms to make experiences like this happen. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) We need our teachers to be able to find people they can talk to. They can do this by engaging in discussion threads on nings or leaving comments on blogs. They can experience the effectiveness of learning this way first hand if they realise these networks exist. It may well be they will have to be led to them. If they begin to understand they can learn this way then we will see teachers begin to understand how they can make opportunities like this possible for the students they teach.

Ben:

Jenny/Jim
You both raise similar issues, the PLNs both virtually and physically are being setup by the regions (we are 540+ schools across 801600sq/km this is not easily done centrally). The 10 regions are setting up networks and online collaboration spaces (mostly using Sharepoint or similar). The regions are running a variety of programs including KLA workshops, action learning projects, light house schools, technology leaders, etc. As in other big education systems around the world teachers use the tools available to them to develop their networks as they see fit.

An internal Blog tool is under trial now and will be rolled to all teachers and students that includes a media library and is integrated with our active directories so students and teachers can be added with ease. Following this roll out (a lot quicker as all the hardwork will be done) is a Wiki tool and an online collaboration tool similar to Google Docs called eBackpack giving students cloud based storage. (more info: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/strat_direction/schools/ccp/index.htm)

For more detail on specific laptop pedagogy (the https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html is more focused at the school leadership level) this http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/leading_my_faculty/index.htm is a really powerful resource that focuses on the needs of key learning areas at the Teacher and Head Teacher Level.

Me:

@Ben Based on my experiences with Sharepoint, I’m figuring that hosting blogs and wikis in there will mean they are of a walled garden variety; locked to members only? This approach (if that is how it is going to work, and please, correct me if I am mistaken)goes against the kind of thinking displayed by thinkers like Stephen Heppell and Mark Pesce, both who feature as links for teachers to listen to in the NSWDET links you have posted. Where’s the opportunity for a global audience?

Ben hasn’t had the opportunity to reply as yet so I may find myself better informed tomorrow. If so, I will update this post. It’s an interesting discussion, and there are other comments in the thread on Wes Fryer’s post that you should take a look at.

So, that’s what’s been occupying my time. Connecting does take time, but the learning that happens fires those brain neurons.

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School’s out Friday

Hey everyone. Have you seen this? Our local guys have done good!

It’s Hamish and Andy, fellow Melbournians,  appearing last night on ‘The Jay Leno Show‘. They demonstrated World Championship Ghosting  to a US audience. You’ve just got to appreciate Hamish’s sandman move. Classic ghosting technique at its finest.

If you missed an earlier School’s out Friday post that highlighted Team Ghosting, don’t fret. I’ve embedded it here. Watch and learn.

Finally, school holidays have arrived here in Australia. Sleeping in, sitting out in the sun, reconnecting with my network. Aaahh….sounds like bliss….

Enjoy your weekend. Live life to the fullest. Go ghosting.

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Did you know 4.0 – Convergence

The latest update,  in the tradition of Did You Know, from Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, XPLANE, The Economist and Laura Bestler. This video takes things one step further, looking at our changing reading habits and the shift occuring with advertising and where we go to find information. It was created to support The Media Convergence Forum in New York City in October. Somebody buy me a ticket and send me there!!

If you haven’t read Karl Fisch’s post detailing the origins of Did You Know, then you must. You can find an explanation on a wiki devoted to Shift Happens here.   Then you need to send it to your staff and direct them to this video.

In his recent post about this new video, Karl harks back to the original powerpoint presentation he created, and makes some important points we in education all need to consider;  

I think the fact that a simple little PowerPoint (some folks would say simplistic and they would be right – it was meant to be the start of a conversation, not the entire conversation) can be viewed by so many folks and start so many conversations means that we live in a fundamentally different world than the one I (and most of you reading this) grew up in.

I know some folks would dispute that, and that’s an interesting conversation in and of itself, but if you buy that – if you buy that on so many levels the world is a fundamentally different place – then it just begs us to ask the question of whether schools have similarly transformed from when we grew up. If your answer to that question is no, as I think it probably is for a large majority of you, and if you see a problem with that, then what should we do? What is my responsibility, and your responsibility, for making the changes we believe are necessary? What are you willing to step up and do?

Questions we all need to consider. We owe it to our students.

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Intrinsic motivation – the new killer app in all of us

For quite some time I’ve been marvelling at the ability of intrinsic motivation to produce great results.  I watched my students last year make a concert happen in six weeks when we joined Project Global Cooling and we had a set time frame to work towards. It wasn’t part of the curriculum, it wasn’t assessed, and yet they worked themselves into the ground to pull it off  because they believed in what they were doing. I saw a similar thing happen this year with the Sleepout 4 Schools initiative our Yr 9 students ran.

I’ve experienced it first hand. Writing this blog is fuelled by intrinsic motivation. I don’t get paid for it, I don’t even know who is reading it half the time, and yet I plough on because there is personal satisfaction in doing it. I’m intrinsically motivated and there is no doubt my workplace is at an advantage because of this. I take what I learn back there.  

Dan Pink presented a TED talk in July talking about the results that businesses can achieve when workers are intrinsically motivated. It’s fascinating and will form the basis of a new book he is releasing in December this year.  Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. Garr Reynolds has written a post about this  – it led me to Dan’s TED talk.

Unfortunately the ROWE (results only work environment) idea that Dan refers to isn’t going to apply to teaching anytime soon. I’d love to see Google’s approach applied though in school settings. Right now I need the 20% ‘Google time’ to discover new ideas that can be applied to education.  If I were still paid my wage, but given the equivalent of a day to mine my personal learning network for ideas applicable to teaching and learning, then I think that’s a good investment made. This constant working 24/7 approach is wearing thin but intrinsic motivation keeps me going!

Watch. Learn. Find your intrinsic motivation.

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School’s out Friday

No funny video today. Too many memories surround this date and I’d rather pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy by looking at something that recognises the remarkable people who calmly made their way to safety on the day.

This is Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Rozelle. She assisted Michael to make his way down from the 78th floor of one of the World Trade Centre buildings on September 11th, 2001. It’s a moving tale of survival.

I can never forget that day 8 years ago and I’m sure it is the same for all of you. I watched the events of that day late at night on television here in Australia. I happened to be watching the late news and saw the events unfold. I stayed up until after 3.00am because I couldn’t leave the broadcast. It was so awful and compelling; I remember waking numb.

A while after the events of that day I remember reading an article that described the calm and ordered manner the people of New York employed to find their ways home when faced with no regular means of transport. It was described in that article as being on par with the evacuation of Dunkirk in WWII. Rick Spilman has written a post today on The Old Salt Blog, that discusses this very thing.  In it, he recounts his wife’s experiences on the day. She was in a lower floor of one World Trade when the first plane hit. She eventually made her way to Wall Street on the East River where a makeshift ferry service had begun. No fares were accepted on the day.

Rick makes this important observation about the day;

One of the lessons of 9/11 that seems to have been lost was that there was relatively little chaos or panic, on the water or ashore.   Those operating the makeshift rescue fleet worked together - improvising, adapting and doing what was necessary to get the job done.  Likewise, their passengers were overwhelmingly cooperative and calm.   No one was “in control” and there was no single plan, just hundreds of captains, deck hands and engineers who did what they thought they needed to do, under horrible conditions.   If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, the terrorists  failed in the waters around New York on 9/11.    

I encourage you to read Rick’s post. This is an important story to relay to our students. Many don’t know how to feel about threats to our safety. If we help our students to realise that people are really quite remarkable in the face of tragedy and extreme conditions, we may be able to help allay fears they have.  Rick makes reference to some research done by Dr. Enrico Quarantelli and Kendra, T. Wachtendorf at Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. Their report, entitled, ‘Who was in charge of the massive evacuation of Lower Manhattan by water transport on 9/11? No one was, yet it was an extremely successful operation.’ , is something you should consider using in your classrooms.

To those of you affected personally by this tragedy, my heart goes out to you.

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Responsibility – Barack’s message for us all.

Barack Obama addressed the students of America yesterday as they returned for the start of their school year. His message was about responsibility. The responsibility students have to their own learning, to themselves.

Today in my Yr 9 English class we watched part of Obama’s speech and looked at some of the text. I asked my students if they thought it should have been required viewing in all American classrooms. Pretty much all of them thought yes. They were very surprised to hear that there were some American schools that did not allow the broadcast to be shown. Take a look at some of the comments posted on the YouTube video from students about that.

Our discussion then moved to why some schools would hold that position. They talked about political influence, party politics and propaganda. We also talked about the effectiveness of Brarack Obama’s delivery and the genuineness some felt was evident in his speech. It was all very appropriate for an English class, but more importantly it was vital for them as citizens of our world. Quite a bit of our discussion focused on the importance of being well informed about world events. Which of course, brought us back to Obama’s speech and his message about responsibility for your own learning.

If you haven’t seen the video, take the time to watch it. Personally, I thought the message was an important one. It was about resilience and making the most of opportunities presented to you. A message that crosses borders and is as valid in this country as it is in the United States.

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Guest post: Liana’s making Wikis (with the help of Year 7)

You know that feeling when you think things aren’t happening, but then all of a sudden you realise that your efforts are starting to pay dividends? Well, that’s what’s happening at my school (Toorak College) now. I feel like we are making inroads. Kids are using Nings and Wikis and it’s becoming the norm. There isn’t the questioning that used to come with the introduction of new ideas. Teachers are starting to take on board what I’ve been rabbiting on about and they are seeing how effective the learning can be using collaborative tools.

Liana Gooch teaches at my school and was part of our PLP group. Here is her guest post. Take it away Liana!

Coming from a country in which bush fires do not feature as a significant hazard as they do in Australia, the events of February 7th 2009 have left an indelible mark on the memories of myself and my students.  It was extremely heart breaking to view the images of destruction and loss experienced by those people involved in the Victorian Bushfires. As well as the human cost, it is also essential to consider the havoc wrecked upon nature. A lot of creatures were helpless to escape the fury of the flames and many that did manage to survive have suffered immense injury. 

When it came to consider a unit of study related to endangered species with my year 7 Humanities class, I was determined to create a research unit that was not only compelling but also relevant. Students would usually choose to explore overseas endangered species but coverage of the Victorian Bushfires’ impact upon many already endangered species alerted me to taking a more local focus. In the back of my mind I also was concerned about the potential lack of knowledge regarding their own state’s endangered species. My suspicions were confirmed when I surveyed the class about identifying the state’s animal symbol, the highly endangered Leadbeater Possum – only one student was able to identify it. Thus, the inquiry ‘ How can we protect our backyard?’ emerged. 

Another focus of this inquiry project would be to expose students to a range of technological tools that would be easily transferrable across their range of subjects. Working with Jenny Luca and Megan Davies, we decided that a wikispace would be an ideal medium for students to post and convey their research to the rest of the world. While the students knew I would be assessing their page, they knew that this inquiry was going to have to be authentic due to the wikispace being open to the public. Students were taught how to manipulate many of the tools available on the wikispace and a lot was learnt through the process by trial and error. As students were working collaboratively it made sense to use Google Docs which allowed students to simultaneously work and edit a written piece together on different computers. It also eliminated the age old problem of when students are absent and have the written piece with them thus hindering a group’s progress. This tool proved invaluable and it has been exciting to observe students use this tool for other projects since this inquiry.  Jenny also taught the students about a range of websites where students would be able to use copyright free images for their pages. Another skill gained was the ability to write comments using the pins of Google Maps. One student produced her own clip of a journey through the affected Kingslake area and used voice thread to create her own commentary.  Students found the application of technology to be an effective tool which made the learning process a lot more interesting. ‘It is a lot of fun and instead of being boring the work was challenging and interesting so it made it a lot easier to work. It is a great way to become more familiar with internet tools and skills.’ (Hayley) 

 I wanted students to actively engage with concepts we had explored earlier in the unit related to sustainability. Students were initially exposed to Dr Seuss tale of The Lorax’ which made many of the complex components of sustainability easily attainable. A reflective component of their inquiry which would test their understanding of some of the big ideas would require them to reflect upon how the Lorax would perceive and comment upon the causes and effects of the Bushfires as well as  the ensuing actions to reduce their impact.  Following through the list of aspects to be explored students would be able to explore a range of both primary and secondary resources ranging from newspaper clips, you tube videos, podcasts from experts and contact with applicable organisations. Students constructed questions to inquire about the actions taken by their selected organisation’s actions to assist with affected animals. Many students were extremely excited about receiving information directly from organisations especially when a lot of the information could not be directly found in the range of resources available online or otherwise. 

The inquiry took about three weeks in total during which time students were completed engaged and engrossed in their research. There were several occasions when it was actually difficult to get the students to stop working! It took considerable time to do my initial research and creation of the inquiry assignment. I also had to learn some of the new technological tools before I could launch the project, however the benefits of undertaking a project with which many of the students were so connected were immense. Their understanding of endangered species in their own backyard and the critical role that humans play has been significant. ‘it shows that we have to be aware of sustainable development and reducing our resources for the future. The Victorian Bushfires has decreased the amount of trees, land, homes and animals, and that reduces many resources for the future.’ ‘This project has made me think about animals in a completely different way then I had before.’ Rather than just producing an assignment which would only be viewed by the teacher, themselves and family, Students were courageous as they gallantly rose to the challenge of creating commentary which was up to scrutiny by the public.  It was also extremely encouraging to hear students comment about taking social action as a result of this project. One student has become involved in adopting a koala and to date, our class are considering fund raising to either help adopt an endangered animal or contribute to a wildlife fund. Another student is starting to consider a career path related to the care of injured animals. To me, this is what learning that is inspiring should be all about – making authentic, meaningful and relevant links to the world around us.

Well done Liana and well done Year 7. You’ve created a rich resource for others to use and you’ve learnt some new skills in the process. Make sure you visit their wiki.

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School’s out Friday

In case you missed it, it was Michael Jackson’s birthday on the 29th of August, and the flash mobs were out to celebrate the occasion. This mob was in Seattle at Pioneer Square and the Pike Place Market. Same routine at different times of the day. If you haven’t noticed, I just love a good flash mob occasion. Must get involved in one myself one day!

Have a great weekend.  Happy Father’s Day to you all you Dads celebrating here in Australia this Sunday.

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