Monthly Archives: December 2009

iPhone perils

I posted a little while back about the iPhone and the love affair I’m having with it. That love affair continues, but not without a slight bitter aftertaste at the moment. Last week, the iPhone and I engaged in some heavy duty handling while I was in Sydney, and now I’m faced with, horror of horrors, restriction of service due to exceeding my credit cap.

(‘Colors’, by incase designs. Accessed from Flickr.)

I feel a bit stupid really. You hear about kids who get a phone and run up exhorbitant bills and here I am, a seemingly responsible adult, doing just that!

So, the upshot of all this is that I’ll be reviewing my plan and upgrading so that I can continue to check email, update Twitter, browse webpages, download and use apps, and maybe, just maybe, find some time to call a friend or two on the phone. It really is an amazing device. Take a look at Josh Catone’s post, ‘Back to School: Top 10 iPhone Apps for Students’. Some great Apps are featured and I think you’ll see why we should be embracing these devices and allowing use of them in classrooms. My son and daughter received iTouch’s for Christmas; to my way of thinking, they should be permitted to access school networks and use these devices in school for educational purposes. Now, just need to convince them to download a few of these Apps rather than Bubblewrap or Papertoss!

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School’s out Friday

Some Christmas lights for Christmas Day. Another person out there who’s put The Black Eyed Pea’s, ‘I’ve gotta feeling’, to good use.

I’ve sat through two Christmas dinners today, one of which I cooked. I think you can probably guess from this that I’m full to pussy’s bow. That’s something my Mother often says, and yes, those words were uttered today!

I hope all of you who read this blog have a wonderful Christmas and New Year with family and friends. : )

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What does free mean?

Free, in terms of this blog, means giving away knowledge. I’m quite comfortable with that, because I think the return I get is worth it. The return is not monetary, it’s a return measured by connections and personal growth. But I have to admit to thinking thoughts that are monetary in nature. I’ve realised I have accumulated a considerable amount of knowledge, and that knowledge is now probably worth something in the world beyond teaching.

Over the course of the year I’ve found myself in conversation with people outside the field of education and many of them are fascinated by the skills I’ve acquired. They can see how they are applicable to the business world they inhabit. I’ve shown parents the ning environment we’ve created for Year 9 and you can see the lights switching on in the heads of some parents associated with business. One man quizzed me at length and was going to home to check it out to see how he could apply it to his work situation. I have a relation who can’t believe I’m not exploiting this environment and incorporating ads and the like on this blog.

I’m not doing that because credibility means something to me. Monetising this blog seems to me to be a corruption of the intentions behind it. I suppose it’s because being a teacher is one of those jobs where you are putting others before you; your intentions are to disemminate information and help others. Chris Betcher has written a post recently about the requests he’s been receiving from authors, online companies etc. to promote their wares by linking to them or discussing what they do in a post. I get those requests too; I just ignore them and don’t reply.

Right now, I think it’s vitally important that we as teachers prepare the students we teach adequately for the world of work they will be inhabiting. This world of work is starting to use the tools we are exploring in classrooms. I want my own kids prepared and I want the teachers who have them in their care to be on top of new ways of doing things. So I’ll keep sharing my knowlege and hope it makes a dent in the thinking of others.

But that doesn’t mean monetising my knowledge hasn’t crossed my mind and will no doubt continue to do so. It’s a given that investing time learning, in the time you spend away from work, has it’s costs. Just ask any family member living with a hyper connected blogger. Free means time away from loved ones, and maybe they are costs worthy of reimbursement.

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School’s out Friday

I’ve just spent the most enjoyable week I’ve had for a long time with my two favourite people; my children. We visited Sydney and explored its sights and sounds. If I find some time this weekend I’ll post some pictures about our time there, that’s if they allow me to use some of the pictures that include visuals of them!

While I was there, Dennis Harter sent me a tweet directing me to this very entertaining young man and his ukelele version of Jason Mraz’s song, “I’m yours”. (You might remember I featured that song as a School’s out Friday earlier in the year). It raised a chuckle for all of us; my son watched it over and over and marvelled at his skills with the ukulele, but not so much his singing. I quite like his interpretation; reminds me of some of my efforts as I try to decipher just what it is artists are singing when I tune in to the radio!

I hope your weekend treats you well; Christmas shopping and a mighty big clean up of the house are coming my way. Sounds exhausting just typing it!

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Edublogs awards- congratulations Bright Ideas

Today the Edublogs awards were announced. I’m thrilled to let you all know that SLAV’s Bright Ideas blog received 1st runner up in the Librarian/Library category. They were trumped by the equally deserving Joyce Valenza, who really pushes our thinking in terms of the role of Teacher-Librarians and the response needed to adapt to our changing world.

It’s so wonderful to see Bright Ideas right up there. Judith Way does a fantastic job sourcing new ideas and showcasing the work of Victorian schools and the Teacher-Librarians in them. Congratulations- a high honour indeed.

Be sure to check out all of the winners on the Edublogs site when the names of the recipients are posted.

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Edublogs awards -time to get voting

Look to your right and you’ll see a badge in my sidebar indicating that this blog has been nominated for ‘Best Librarian/Library blog’ in the 2009 Edublogs awards. This is a wonderful honour to be bestowed upon me and I am very happy to have been nominated. I know who nominated me; Tomaz Lasic, a teacher from Perth who writes a very insightful blog called ‘Human‘.

Tomaz is someone I hold in very high esteem. He is a very passionate educator who is working in the Government system in Perth. He teaches kids who aren’t always that thrilled to be at school, but he puts everything he’s got into it. I know this, not because I’ve visited his school or seen him teach, but because I follow Tomaz on Twitter and read his excellent blog. It’s through his interactions via these mediums that I’ve been able to ascertain the type of teacher Tomaz is; involved, interested, concerned, caring and funny to boot. To be nominated for an edublogs award by someone like Tomaz is high praise indeed and something that I will remember always.

The list of blogs in the Librarian/Library category is a very impressive one. I’m thrilled to see SLAV’s Bright Ideas blog nominated and would encourage Australian librarians to get behind Judith Way’s efforts and vote for them. The Edublogs awards process is a great way to discover blogs you might never have come across otherwise. I’d encourage all of you to check out the nominations and use it as an opportunity to find a new voice deserving of a greater audience. Voting closes on Wednesday the 16th of December and the winners are announced at a ceremony relayed via Elluminate on Friday the 18th of December.

Go to it. Explore, read and vote!

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School’s out Friday

School is officially out for me today. Yep, the year is at an end and the long summer break beckons. So much has happened this year; when I take a moment to reflect I realise just how busy it has all been. Next year we’re going to be occupying our temporary library and making the best we can of that while the new one is under construction. It will be interesting, but challenging. Nothing like a challenge to make life interesting. The only way to look at things I’m guessing! I thought I’d recognise the end of the school year with a video created by some of the students at my school. Micro wave.mov is a great example of the humour and creativity we see from the students at Toorak College all the time.

I found out this week that a presentation proposal I submitted  for ISTE 2010 has been accepted. So, not only will I be heading to the States in January for Educon 2.2 in Philadelphia, but I’ll also be in Denver, Colorado in June for ISTE. Wow, big year ahead!

I’m heading to Sydney next week with my two gorgeous kids.  Off to show them some of the cultural heritage of the country we live in. I’ll post some pics! Enjoy your weekend.

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Real time search – Google launch today

Just last night I wrote about why a company like Google would be interested in the real time search offered by services like Twitter. Today they launched just that. Now when you receive search results, at the top of your results will appear real time feeds from Twitter, friendfeedand Yahoo answers. Apparently they are planning to incorporate updates from public Facebook and myspace pages too.

Fascinating. The world is moving pretty fast folks. Is education responding fast enough? How many teachers out there are aware of impending change and its impact on the way we do things?

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The Tweet, the search, the hashtag and the backchannel

My relationship with Twitter is evolving. It’s maturing into an incredible networking and search tool. (Or maybe it’s always been that, and I am the one maturing!) I suspect the majority of the population know nothing of the potential it holds, let alone are able to work out what words like hashtag and backchannel mean. Working with social media is like negotiating a new language; when you are fluent in it you walk confidently through the new landscape. When you are learning, your steps are tentative and you look for those who can lead you in the right direction. Thankfully, that is part of the appeal of social media; there are plenty of guides out there ready to help.

Twitter – Real time search

The use of Twitter as real time search is something that I’m sure most of the population would have no clue about. It’s called real time search because people are sending out tweets relevant to what is happening right now. I know that when I go to Twitter I have a network of people who are willing to share what they know. I can guarantee if there is something new on the horizon I will find out about it first from this network. The point of Twitter for me is that I have a network.  But even if you don’t have a network you can use Twitter for real time search. There is a search box on the front page of the Twitter home page. Just type into that box what it is you are interested in and you will receive a lists of tweets that contain the words you were looking for. Below is a screenshot of a Twitter search I did for Danah Boyd.

Notice how many links you can see in the results I received. This is the real beauty of Twitter. Links take you places, they expand your thinking and introduce you to new voices and opinions. We need to be teaching our students the value of using tools like Twitter and Diigo and Delicious for search purposes. They act as a filter; human intervention has played a part in the results you receive. Someone has made a conscious decision to note this link as important.  A search engine may not find a web page that has been loaded to the web for a day or two or maybe even longer. That’s the reason why search engine companies like Google are interested in companies like Twitter and integrating their results into their search results. It’s the human filter at work; our consciousness making results relevant.  Note also that you can click on the trending topics links in the right sidebar to take you to tweets about what people are interested in now, in real time.

The Hashtag

Twitter hashtags are really interesting. They came about as a creation of the Twitter community, as a means of organising information around a topic, idea or conference. It’s the conference hashtags that I am finding most relevant to me at the moment.  Last week there was a really interesting conference taking place in the United States (San Francisco I think) called Supernova 09. Developers of content and leading thinkers were talking about business and the rise of social media and new ways of doing things. Great speakers like Chris Anderson and Jonathan Zittrain were speaking. The hashtag for this conference was #sn09. Someone sent out a tweet with this hashtag as part of it. When you are using twitter, a hashtag becomes a link to a results page that collects any tweets using that hashtag. When I visited #sn09 I discovered a ustream link to the conference that was streaming the entire thing live. I was able to dip in and out of this conference in some of my spare moments (not too many of those unfortunately!) and hear what some of the leading thinkers out there had to say about how business is responding to the rise of social media. Conference organisers are now setting up Twitter hashtags before conferences start to try and generate interest in upcoming events. #acec2010 is already being used for next April’s ACEC Digital Diversity conference. Read this Mashable guide to hashtags for more detailed information on how to use hashtags well.

The Backchannel

Hashtags being used at conferences are providing what is being called a backchannel to events taking place in real time. What they enable is for people to use their computers or networked devices to provide commentary about what is happening at events they are attending. Now this can be illuminating when it is done well. People often provide a blow by blow description of what presenters are relaying and you can feel like you are part of the conference. If you’re not there physically you have the ability to send out tweets asking the people there to relay your questions or probe for more detail. This is the ‘using backchannel for good’ approach.

‘Using backchannel for bad’ is something I’ve seen happening for some time. There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism or questioning someone’s thinking about a topic, but I do see something wrong with attacking a presenter’s skills at delivery. I’ve sat through conferences of late when I’ve felt the presenter is giving a less than stellar performance, but I’m not going to send out tweets bemoaning this to a public audience. It’s rude and bad form in my opinion. I’ve seen it happen when people are ustreaming presentations and viewers are criticising the stream and asking people to do a better job. The reality is that the people going to the effort of doing this don’t have to. They are going out of their way to ensure that others can participate. There are times when I’ve been embarrassed by the behaviour of people who really should have better manners.

Danah Boyd, a researcher with Microsoft, suffered from a nasty backchannel incident at the Web 2.0 Expo recently. She’s been transparent enough to write about it in depth and let people know the effect it had on her. I admire her for doing so. It seems that some people take the 140 character tweet as an opportunity to send out some pretty hurtful commentary. Unfortunately, incidents like this will see the backchannel suffer in conferences with event organisers potentially shying away from its use.  Joe McCarthy has written a very detailed assessment of the dark side of the backchannel that is more than worth reading. Visit his post for a deep insight into the use of backchannels at conferences as far back as 2004.

In all, Twitter, you continue to amaze me with you useful application to my learning. You are my most crucial network; you lead me in directions I might never have discovered any other way. It’s quite often serendipitous. I find myself  led to new thinkers I have never read before and my mind is expanded. Our relationship will continue; I’m certainly not ready to give you up.

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School’s out Friday

They’ve done it again. Another very funny video from the improveverywhere crew. This is ‘Where’s Rob‘, and it demonstrates how people can band together to get behind a common cause. Rob was the cause in question. It was improveverywhere’s cause to get people to notice that Rob couldn’t find his seat, and it became the crowds’ cause to get Rob back to his seat. Very funny stuff.

My exciting news is that I am going to be in New York in late January and then head to Philadelphia to Educon 2.2, thanks to SLAV and the money that came with the John Ward Award! I’ve actually left a comment on the improveverywhere blog asking if they can do a mission during the time I am there so that I can participate. I’ve even offered to be the subject of the prank! People who know me, know that it is a dream of mine to get to New York. Well, I’m going to fulfill that dream and would be so thrilled if I could fulfill another dream and participate in an improveverywhere mission. So, Charlie Todd, if you’re listening, I’m more than game!

Correction’s all done, reports are finished, might even get time to write a few long overdue blog posts.  Or maybe the house will finally get some much needed attention!

Whatever comes your way this weekend, make the most of it. : )

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