Monthly Archives: February 2010

School’s out Friday

*Having trouble embedding the video for some unknown reason. Follow the links in the post.

Tony Hollingsworth sent me the link to this video and I just had to share it with you for School’s out Friday this week. I loved Avatar, but this is a whole new level of enjoyment.I’d say the Na’vi People of Hometree Wisconsin are having a bit of fun with all of us!!

Enjoy your weekend. Kid’s birthdays are headed my way. Movies, pizza, sleepovers – think of me!!

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The thin red line….

We walk a fine line in our schools today.

To block or not to block, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outraged parents,
Or to take arms against a sea of misinformation
And, by unblocking, free them.

OK. My apologies to William Shakespeare, who’s probably rolling over in his grave right now!

But the issue of blocking vs unblocking is a vexed one in schools. At my school, we are trying to be as open as possible. We want our students to learn how to navigate the Web responsibly. For many of them, there are no filters when they use the net at home. I think I’m right in saying that the philosophy we’ve adopted is that school should be a place where students can make the most of the resources the Web offers, with the help of responsible adults guiding them in their learning.

I’ve said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating. Sites like YouTube are at the core of my teaching now; I really don’t know how I’d function without them. I was speaking with a public school teacher today who was telling me how the Department blocks this wonderful site. It bothers me greatly that my counterparts in the public system are forced to download videos at home if they want to use them. Some of my best teaching over the past year has sprung from moments when we’ve been able to jump into sites like YouTube to enhance discussion and extend our thinking. Because we have a 20mg pipe, the videos load quickly and we are streaming just as quickly as our ideas are forming.

But sometimes, you just have to block. Sites like Omegle and ChatRoulette, where you are encouraged to talk to strangers, are just not appropriate in any school setting. ChatRoulette has upped the ante, using WebCams as the basis of their communication. I found out about ChatRoulette via Twitter last week, and immediately notified our Network Administrator to put a block on it. I was surprised this morning to see The Today Show, here in Australia, feature it as the site for discussion for their technology segment. Their pitch was that they were helping parents out there, and to some extent they were. But they were also giving national exposure to a site that may not have hit some teen’s radars yet. Plenty of families would have had television sets on this morning, and if the teenagers today are anything like I was when I was young, a segment like that would have been the Pandora’s Box I just had to open. I know, it’s probably spreading like wildfire through sites like Facebook and Myspace and old media like television is probably not where the kids are. But still, I wonder where the thinking comes from sometimes with the media; do they want to fire up a debate for ratings purposes or genuinely help out the unsuspecting public?

Danah Boyd has written an interesting post about ChatRoulette. I’d encourage you to read it to gain her perspective. She makes this interesting observation;

What I like most about the site is the fact that there’s only so much you can hide. This isn’t a place where police officers can pretend to be teen girls. This isn’t a place where you feel forced to stick around; you can move on and no one will know the difference. If someone doesn’t strike your fancy, move on. And on. And on.

The problem as I see it, is that our young people are not always blessed with enough maturity to make wise decisions like ‘move on’, particularly if they are with their peers while engaging with a site like this. The thin red line that is our ability to block is a defence needed in schools for sites that put our young people in situations that many do not have the maturity to handle.

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VALA 2010 – I wasn’t there, but I learnt from you

I followed the Twitter hashtag from the VALA 2010 conference that happened here in Melbourne a week or two ago, but somehow I missed this gem of a video about what libraries need in today’s world. Thanks to Chris Betcher for posting it on his blog. We are in the process of reinvention with a new building due for construction this year. These are exactly the kind of things we need to be ingraining into our practice to make us the institution we need to be.

Despite what this young lady would have you believe, many of our students are not up with what augmented reality is, or geospatial and semantic tagging. But they just might be after we get stuck into their heads with the new space we are soon to create! That will require learning on our end too; time to get into it!

For those of you interested in a good summation of the ideas explored at the VALA Conference, take a read of Mal Booth’s post. Worth reading. Then take a look at the Library of the Future in Plain English video that he created with Sophie McDonald and Belinda Tiffen from UTS Library (University of Technology Sydney).

Another of the UTS videos I enjoyed was ‘The Library… OF THE FUTURE! With Mr. Hank and his good friend Chad…’

I’m impressed, UTS Library. Think I need to tap into your thinking a little more. I like what you have to say.

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School’s out Friday

I’m sure quite a few of you who live with a dog can relate to the above video. And if you’re like me, and share your home with a Labrador Cross, then you’re bound to be able to relate.

Bella brings much joy to our life. She’s loving and loyal, but she’s never not hungry. If there’s food in the vicinity, then Bella’s eagle eyes are tuned in that direction, and we’re faced with a steady stream of saliva that seemingly emanates from a well secretly hidden within. We must love her to put up with that!

Hot weekend for Melbourne coming up. Pool weather. Looking forward to relaxing on the deck with a good friends and a glass or two of wine. Hope you enjoy whatever comes your way. : )

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Wallwisher for collective intelligence

I’m trying this year to make a concerted effort to shift more of my teaching into collaborative sites to make the most of collective intelligence. I’m really pleased that the Year 9 English team I work with has once again enthusiastically embraced the use of Ning across the year level to support our learning. What’s even better is that the Yr 10 teachers have decided to use a Ning platform across their English classrooms as well. I’m especially pleased about this because the students who enjoyed writing in the Ning last year have some continuity and input into their learning.

I’ve known about Wallwisher for awhile but didn’t see a use for it with the work I was doing with my students. I don’t like to use applications like this gratuitously; it has to be meaningful to what we are doing in class. This week we were doing character analysis and it came to me that Wallwisher might be useful to track our thinking. Our task has been to find quotes from the novel we are reading (Bye, Beautiful by Julia Lawrinson) that help us with our understanding of the characters. We’ve created walls for Sandy, Frank, Billy and Marianne and the links to these have been pasted into a text box on the Ning so that everyone has easy access to them. Here’s an example of the wall with quotes applicable to Sandy;

What we are doing is leveraging our collective intelligence for the good of the group. Eventually, we’ll be writing an essay related to this text and the students will be able to access these walls to see if there may be quotes there that are useful to use as supporting evidence for the points they are making.

I can see Wordle would be useful to create a word bank of descriptive terms related to the novel and specific characters. If you’ve got ideas for other sites I could be using I’d appreciate leveraging the collective intelligence of my readers!

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TED 2010

TED 2010 (Technology, Entertainment, Design – ideas worth spreading) took place over the last four days in Long Beach and Palm Springs. Thanks to the magic of the Twitter hashtag #TED, I’ve been able to keep track of some of the talks that have sparked enthusiasm and discussion.

Jamie Oliver was the recipient of the TED prize. It’s awarded to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and ‘One Wish to Change the World’.  Jamie’s wish was this;

Jamie Oliver

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

He delivered a talk entitled, ‘Teach every child about food‘, and in true Jamie Oliver style, he delivers his message passionately.

The other TED talk that’s been released is Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ demo of augmented-reality maps, Microsoft’s development available through their Bing search engine. It’s very cool; definitely worth watching.

Sir Ken Robinson delivered a talk about education that received much praise in the Twitter stream. A quote from his talk came through from an attendee;

“Our education system is impoverishing our spirits as much as fast food is depleting our bodies.”

His talk not yet been released; one to watch out for on the site.

TED would be a wonderful experience, I’ve no doubt. It’s invite only with 1000 or so people attending. Talks are released on the site every week. Bookmark the page – it’s worth visiting for inspiring talks to show to the students you teach and the colleagues you work with.

A TEDX event is being organised for New York  (TEDxNYED) on March 6th. TEDX events are independently organised and Alex Ragone from Collegiate School is one of the organisers. The line up is brilliant and they will be streaming the event live. Worth staying up for I think. One for the calendar.

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School’s out Friday

Did I tell you I’m now a Mac user? Not only have I become a devotee of the iPhone, but I’m also loving the MacBook Pro my school have provided me with. We’ve gone dual platform, largely because we see the need to respond to the changing conditions of the world our students will be entering when they leave school. Take a look around when you’re next at an airport terminal. I took note of the large numbers of Mac users I saw recently when spending layover time at Sydney and Tokyo.

How have Apple gained such a stronghold in the market? They certainly have the aesthetics right, and the students I teach who don’t have Macs enviously covet what’s in my possession. No doubt the clever advertising campaigns they ran over the last four years have helped go someway towards their popularity. You can now view all 66 Get a Mac’ ads in the one place at Adfreak.com. Handy for an afternoon of mirth!

Been a busy week so I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Enjoy whatever comes your way. : )

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School today VS Pew Internet advice

Sometimes I feel disconnected from other teachers. I think this happens when you envision a different future, away from pen and paper teaching and exams.

A recent conversation brought this home to me. I was advocating for an eportfolio contributed to by the students themselves, and the argument against me was for paper copies evidencing student achievement. The point being made was that the final exams students will face are pen and paper driven, so these were the examples teachers wanted to use for reference purposes. A comment was made to the effect of, “You come from a different world Jenny”.

Maybe I do. Maybe what I advocate is off the mark. It’s just that I don’t think that it is. I think I’m forward thinking and I think I’m advocating for the kind of world and workforce our graduating students will encounter. Regardless of whether or not they complete a pen and paper end of year exam.

I came across slides from Lee Rainie today, who was supposed to keynote at the VALA conference here in Melbourne, but was detained by inclement weather conditions in the United States. Lee is Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and his presentation was for a public library audience. There is much in the presentation that can be applied to school libraries; it goes someway to addressing the skills we need to be imparting to our students. Lee’s slides and accompanying speech (linked to in this post) discussed the democratization of media and the rise of user-generated content. Take a look at the slides and see if you make the connection.

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The Philadelphia experiment – Educon 2.2

Educon 2.2. I’d flown halfway around the world to attend this conference. The merging of minds from across the United States. The conference to go to according to all in the edublogosphere. Now, how do you analyse the experience?

If my intention was to go there to meet the people I network with, then my experience was above my expections. I met wonderful people; the people who share knowledge with me, support me and my thinking, read my ponderings and co-exist in online spaces. People like Susan Carter Morgan, Carey Pohanka, Debra Garcia, Melanie Hutchinson, Silvia Tolisano, Lisa Parisi, Dianne Cordell, Beth Still, Nancy Caramanico, Mark Carls, Paul Wood, Paula White, Ben Hazzard, Rodd Lucier, Michael Wacker, the list goes on and on. From that perspective, the experience was wonderful. It does make a difference when you meet people face to face. Sometimes it’s awkward, but this experience for me was pretty positive. Friendly, interested, involved and caring teachers who are obviously all doing their level best to effect change in their learning environments and beyond.

I attended some interesting sessions where we created content and discussed how we teach and what we can do to make it more interesting for our students and maybe for us too. Ben Hazzard and Rodd Lucier led a session where we created an ebook called ‘Field Guide for Change Agents‘. A lot of fun and a good way to push people into using some tools they may not have been familiar with.

Michael Wacker led an interesting discussion about the place for direct instruction supported by screencasts, podcasts, web conferencing etc in our classrooms. Direct instruction gets a bad rap at times, but I think some educators are kidding themselves if they think there is no place for it in classrooms. Michael created a really useful Google site supporting the session that you should visit.

Sharon Peters and Cheri Toledo led a session about the potential uses of backchannel discussions in classrooms. The backchannel was working hard throughout the session and it was great interacting with people participating in the conference from outside locations.

My intention when signing up for  Educon was to be challenged intellectually; to be exposed to new thinking or ways of looking at things so that I would come back with more to share. The talk surrounding Educon is that it’s all about the conversations. I enjoyed the conversations I participated in, but I did  feel that there was room for some deeper analysis.  I really feel there’s a need to reference relevant research that’s taking place, to have discussions about how we go about systemic change, not just change in our individual classrooms or schools. I felt the the world view was lacking.  Yes, it’s an American conference , but these challenges are being faced in all corners of the world and maybe the solution lies in banding our resources together. After all, that’s what this technology is about; the ability to connect us as one. That is exactly what is happening at the research end of the spectrum. Grassroots educators need to be getting involved in those discussions. Maybe I just wasn’t talking to the right people or sitting in the right sessions. Conversations that took place at ELH here in Lorne were posed as critical conversations and really cut to the chase of how education might respond to a connected world. I felt more of this would have been worth exploring at Educon considering the quality educators a conference like this attracts.

The experience has confirmed what I was already thinking. What is happening in Australia is good. Really good. Our Government and education system is recognizing the need for action and is implementing change from the top down. Sure, we may criticize some of the methods, but at least it’s happening. We have some pretty sharp minds in our sphere who are thinking outside the box and pushing the edges. I’m so pleased to be part of a Reference Group informing ACER, because I think that’s what this push needs; the validation from a legitimate research base that education needs to look at new ways of integrating the connective tools that pervade our lives into the education of our children, enabling them to know how to use these tools to their advantage and how to do it safely and ethically. We need to look outwards, but much of what is happening internally in this country is forward thinking.

Science Leadership Academy, SLA, is a good school. Is it an outstanding school? I’d have to spend quality time in classrooms to work that out. It had the feel of schools I’ve been in where you know there’s a healthy mutual respect between staff and students. There’s common purpose and a feeling of connectedness in their school community. You can tell that from your interactions with their student population; the sheer fact that the conference was supported at a logistical level all weekend by students and parents is testament to that. Obviously leadership plays a large part in that and Chris Lehmann deserves recognition for all he is doing to bring that community together.

One of the great things about Educon 2.2 was that it was supported by Elluminate (with the help of Steve Hargadon) and all of the sessions were recorded and archived in the site. One of the realities of attending any conference is that you can’t be everywhere; invariably, you miss some of the good stuff. I’d encourage you to visit the site and look to some of the archives to see what was happening.

I’m glad I decided to attend Educon 2.2. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet members of my online network and gain some perspective of the US education system. I’m worried that a National Curriculum and the MySchool site are going to push us here in Australia into the testing regimen that pervades the public system in the US. That would be a huge mistake. The flexibility we have to develop curriculum is the thing we have, and need to hold onto, that will aid our students to become the creative individuals we need in our world.

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School’s out Friday

Yes, it’s late. Why?

Because I’ve travelled thousands of miles in the last few days. Over 30 hours in transit on three planes takes it out of you really. I thought I was doing pretty well until yesterday afternoon when I was replenishing the family’s pantry at a local supermarket. I was overcome by this feeling of intense malaise. Jetlag, hence the video above. I stumbled through the afternoon but by 5.30pm I had to admit defeat and head to bed for what I thought would be an hour or two. Fifteen hours later I woke up, hence this late posting!

I’m still in the throes of getting a post together about my experiences at Educon 2.2. I put a post together pretty quickly afterwards, but thought it needed a bit more considered reflection. I’ll get something up over this weekend for those of you interested in my time spent in Philadelphia.

Hope your weekend treats you well. I’m thinking more sleep is the order of the day for me!

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