Monthly Archives: March 2011

Why I want to study HTML & CSS from the beginning

A graphical despiction of a very simple html d...

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OK. Part two of my quest to be a person who understands code.

For those of you unfamiliar with what code is, it’s the parade of letters and brackets and delimiters that makes the pages on the Web look the way they do. Without code, we’d be looking at computer screens full of boring reams of text and numbers. There would be no fancy buttons to click, no aesthetically appealing anything much to hold our interest. That’s what it was like in my College days, when I’d walk into the bowels of a primitive computer lab in what must have been 1986, and look at guys (because everyone in there was male!) staring at green screens typing in letters and symbols. Ahhh…the folly of my ways. If only I’d been paying a little more attention? If I had, I’m pretty sure my bank balance would be looking a lot healthier than it is right now!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become a whole lot more interested in what is the backbone of the web: code. Because I’ve been using tools in my classrooms that sometimes require me to embed code to make things appear, I’ve begun to realise there are gaps in my knowledge base that need filling. I’m pretty sure I could continue on and function perfectly well without knowing the ins and outs of code, but there’s something in me telling me it’s important that I make some effort to have an understanding of how things work.

I’ve also begun to look closely at what we do in the school I teach at. We don’t offer formal ICT classes. We are a 1:1 school, and we expect that our teachers use technology in a meaningful way in their classrooms. But that leaves a pretty big gap when it comes to student understanding about the workings of the web. I don’t want the kids I teach to miss out on opportunities. I figure if I gain understanding, I can find a way to transfer my knowledge to them, and I think that’s important.

I’m hoping to learn how to have a working understanding of how HTML and CSS work. I’d like to be confident enough to construct a webpage myself; to be able to tweak pre-existing code to do something that can change the look and feel of a page. I’d like to be able to participate in discussions where I felt like a participant rather than an observer.

My previous post contained questions that I had to give myself a score on. I tried to be brutally honest, but I do have to admit that I’ve never really been able to bend a spoon using the powers of my mind, despite the hours of practice I gave to the task after seeing Uri Geller do it on The Done Lane Show when I was eleven. I think I was pretty straight up on the other answers though, and my series of ‘0’ responses attests to this. I know what it is, but I have limited knowledge of how to do it!

What I do know is that you can change the look of a page by tweaking code. Occasionally I play with the sizing of objects by changing the numbers in the code, but that’s about as far as I go. I’d love to feel confident enough  to just inherently know what it is I need to do to significantly change something.

Jamie has asked participants to tell him what makes them happy. Plenty of things.

My son still holding my hand when we are walking in public places.

A student who appreciates what you’ve done for them and tells you with a smile.

My dog who greets me effusively every time I walk in the door.

My daughter sharing stories with me as we drive to and from school.

My husband telling me he loves me.

My parents being proud of me still, and supporting me in everything I do.

My close friends sharing laughs, and sometimes tears, over a glass of the good stuff.

Writing this blog.

Sharing my thinking with others and feeling like I’m making a dent in the universe.

Jamie also asked us to tell him what we’re passionate about.

Easy answer. All of the above.

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HTML & CSS from the beginning – week 0

I’ve expressed interest in a Peer 2 Peer University course, and Jamie Curle, the guy running the course, has asked potential participants to write two blog posts as a pre-requisite task that will help him to identify suitable candidates. This is necessary, because there are 20 places in this course, but around 60 people have expressed interest.

So, these next two posts are make or break moments for me. Will I have what it takes? What exactly will it take? I have no clue really – I’ll just do my best to be honest and try and inject a bit of me into my writing. The course is, as the title of this post suggests, about HTML and CSS coding -something I’ve become increasingly interested in over the past couple of years. My first task is to do as follows:

I want you to rate yourself on a scale of 0-10 where 0 is ‘none at all’ and 10 is ‘lots and lots’ on the following questions.

  • I understand html – 5
  • I understand the concepts behind HTML – 5
  • I understand how to view the source of web pages – 3
  • I understand how to structure a HTML document correctly -2
  • I understand the anatomy of a html tag – 2
  • I understand how to use the right tag for the right purpose – 2
  • I understand the difference between classes and id’s – 0
  • I understand what makes a good class name and a good id – 0
  • I can ‘think in html’ – 0
  • I understand css – 0
  • I understand the concepts behind CSS – 0
  • I understand how to view the source of CSS documents – 0
  • I understand the best method to attach CSS to a HTML document in any given context – 0
  • I understand how to apply style rules to a HTML document – 0
  • I understand the general syntax of CSS – 0
  • I understand the basic CSS selectors – 0
  • I understand the advanced CSS selectors – 0
  • I understand how different browsers interpret CSS – 0
  • I can ‘think’ in CSS – 0
  • I am able to bend spoons with my mind – Can’t everyone?
  • I understand the quirkiness of browsers – 4
  • I am motivated to learn – 10
  • I am enjoying myself – 10

Now, in our current education system, I’m pretty sure my responses would equate to a ‘you are not a suitable candidate’. But in the Peer 2 Peer University system, I’m hedging my bets that my final two responses hold a fair bit of weight. I’m hoping so anyway.

So, Jamie, part one completed. While I’m on a roll, I just may leap into part two.

Stay tuned…

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Want to get inspired – listen to Erica McWilliam

(This post exists on Storify, but it seems impossible to embed it here on this WordPress blog, so I’ve copied most of it here. To see it on Storify, follow the link.)

Below is my Twitter stream while I was listening to keynote speaker, Erica McWilliam, present at the SLAV conference here in Melbourne last Friday. The theme of the conference was ‘Creating collaborative learning spaces: Future school library scenarios’. Erica’s talk was entitled, The e-shift: What does it mean for 21st century literacy and learning?
Erica is a woman worth listening to – if you ever get the opportunity, leap at it.

So refreshing to hear a learned woman speak at a conference, given the fact that so many keynotes are delivered by men.

Lyn Hay, from Charles Sturt University, also presented a thought provoking presentation about the role of Teacher-Librarians and libraries as physical spaces as we move into an increasingly digital world. Lyn’s presentation has been uploaded to Slideshare and I’d encourage you to take a look at it.

On the day, there were very few of us using Twitter to push the ideas out to the wider world. In fact, most were taking notes using the pen and paper model. Hardly a laptop or iPad in sight. Maybe people were using their phones, but I didn’t see much of anything like that happening around me. In 2011, I’d expect a Teacher-Librarian audience to be wired up and sharing ideas in collaborative spaces. If we are to respond to the ideas presented by Erica, then we better see our profession rise to the challenges of our age. We need more networked Teacher-Librarians to model for our staff and students how we self direct our own learning, and how we can seek out opportunities to make the learning experiences in our schools today reflective of the connected era we are living in.

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School’s out Friday

The improveverywhere crew are at it again, this time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This time, Agent Elliot, who bears a striking resemblance to King Philip the IV of Spain (from the 17th Century), spent time dressed as the King standing in front of his portrait. The scenario this time was that Agent Eliot was the actual King, and was there to sign autographs. It never ceases to amaze me how many people out there take what’s being presented to them as the gospel truth, or maybe they were all just going along for the ride.

As is often the case, the story behind the story is the most interesting one. In this case, Charlie Todd tells on their site how he asked their user base for any ‘special skills’ people had that they could build a mission around. This was the response he got from Agent Elliot;

“The mission I would like to propose is to cause a scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the museum there is a painting of King Philip the IV of Spain and I look identical to him.”

He does too!

I spent today at the SLAV conference here in Melbourne and might try and write about it ove the weekend. Right now, I’m looking forward to laying my head on my pillow and drifting off to a sound night’s sleep.

Have a good weekend everyone. I hope good times find you. : )

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Google Search Stories for classroom use

I worked with my school’s Humanities faculty this afternoon showing them some Web tools that they may like to use in their classes. They’ve had a lot of success with Glogster, and now feel like they need to look into different tools to help with demonstrating students’ understanding of the subject areas they are teaching. I’ve created a page on the wiki I use as a resource base and I shared that with them. We explored quite a few things they’d not seen such as Capzles Voicethread, timetoast, and Google Search Stories.

I’d never made a Google Search Story until this afternoon, and I found the experience incredibly easy, but enlightening too. While it’s no doubt a bit of marketing for the Google juggernaut, it could very well have a place in classrooms. The search story above deals with the recent crisis in Japan. All I had to do was go to the search story creator, type in the search terms I thought were applicable and select what kind of search I wanted for each search inquiry eg: web search, maps, news etc. It’s a way of highlighting that there are different kinds of searches you can do on Google- you aren’t limited to the home page search box. There’s the first lesson for our Google addicted students!

It got me, and the others in the group this afternoon, thinking about how it could be used in classrooms. Our International Studies teacher could see immediate application for current world events, as either something she created to hook the students in at the start of a lesson, or something they created to demonstrate their understanding of the timeline or complexity of an issue. We thought about books they’d read, and how they could tell a character’s journey via a search story. They are certainly fun to create and can be done easily within a lesson, even within ten minutes really.

The difficulty comes with uploading them to YouTube. I have an account so the process was very easy for me. All I needed to so was sign into my account from the search story creator and the video was uploaded for me. It was a very quick process. Both of my children have YouTube accounts, so if they were sitting in your classrooms you’d have no worries with them, but it’s not going to be the norm for the majority of our students. I also think we’d have a fair few parents who probably don’t want their children having an account. We were trying to work out how we’d overcome this and be able to use this in our classrooms. We thought we could create a school account on YouTube, and when it came to upload time, the teacher could input the school email and password for the account. We weren’t keen on sharing this with the students, just in case someone thought it ‘funny’ to upload something inappropriate under the school’s name. I’m not sure how we’ll proceed just yet, but I do think it’s worth following through with. If anyone reading this has any other ideas, please leave a comment and enlighten us!

It’s worth taking a look at the search stories site and looking at some of the videos there. Some are very clever, even touching, and all in 30 seconds or so. Take a look below and you’ll see what I mean.

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Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

On Friday, I attended the launch of a final report from the Learning with New Media research group who are from Monash University’s Faculty of Education. Their report is the title of this post, and it includes some important recommendations that should be heeded in school communities today. I have replicated their key findings and recommendations below, and hope the authors feel that this is appropriate dissemination of their work. I am particularly pleased that they have identified the need for schools to “equip(ping) children and young people with the skills required to be effective digital citizens, and not focus(sed) on rare or hypothetical fears.” For too long, many of us have been trying to do just this using new media tools like Ning networks in our curriculum, and now we have some solid research based recommendations supporting their use.

I have not yet finished reading the report in its entirety, but intend to do so. I encourage you to download it from the following link;

Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

The authors (Melissa de Zwart, David Lindsay, Michael Henderson and Michael Phillips) have also produced an educational resource for teachers and parents that can also be downloaded. Access it at the following link;

Will u friend me? Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

What follows are the key findings and recommendations from research conducted, using data collected from seventeen Victorian Secondary Schools from State, Catholic and Independent systems in both rural and metropolitan locations.

Key findings:

The findings confirm that SNS usage has become integrated into the everyday social lives of most Victorian middle school students. The findings also indicate that there is a general awareness of risks in using SNS by middle school students, although concerns about risks differ markedly between parents and teachers, on the one hand, and students, on the other. However, there is very little clear understanding by students, parents and teachers alike, of the precise nature of the legal risks that may arise from everyday SNS use.
1.    The overwhelming majority (94.9%) of middle school students (years 7 to 10) have used SNS.

2.    Facebook is the most popular SNS, with 93.4% of students using it, followed by MySpace, with 26.6% of surveyed students using it. Many students use more than one SNS.
3.    The majority of surveyed students update information on their SNS at least every day, and over a quarter update their SNS profile several times a day.
4.    The surveyed students use SNS primarily to maintain current social networks, while making new friends and flirting were relatively low in students’ reported practices.
5.    The majority of parents (80.4%) indicated that they had seen their child’s SNS profile at least once.
6.    The most common content reported as posted to SNS by surveyed students is photographs of themselves (60.9%), closely followed by photographs of their friends (52.6%). Nevertheless, posting of third party content, including music, video and photos of celebrities, is still significant. The proportion of students posting videos to SNS increases with age.
7.    A significant proportion of students (45.6%) reported that their photos had been posted on their friends’ SNS. The majority of students were not concerned with this practice.
8.    The most highly valued feature of SNS was the ability to stay in touch with friends and family. SNS are also perceived to be less expensive than other forms of communication.
9.    Surveyed students felt that SNS were safer than did their teachers and parents. Thus, while 48.8% of students recognised that there was some element of risk in using SNS, more than one quarter (28.3%) thought that SNS were safe. Moreover, 19.6% of students were ambivalent about risk, essentially reporting that the degree of risk was irrelevant to them as it is “just what everyone does”.
10.    Students from years 7 to 10 are increasingly more selective in who can see their profile. The survey results suggest that year 7 students not only have more visible profiles, but are more likely to perceive SNS as safe or only a little bit risky.
11.    A majority of surveyed students (72.4%) indicated that they had had unwanted or unpleasant contact by strangers via their social networking profile.
12.    A minority of students (13.8%) were concerned about security risks, such as identity theft. A small group of student respondents (3.2%) identified concerns relating to privacy or unwelcome disclosure of data.
13.    Parents and teachers were particularly concerned with issues of cyber-bullying, and grooming or stalking, with a lesser number expressing concerns about identity theft and disclosure.
14.    Despite the acknowledged risks of students using SNS, there is surprisingly little ongoing conversation about SNS use between parents and their children, on the one hand, or teachers and their students, on the other. In this respect, almost half of the surveyed students (46.1%) reported that they did not talk with their parents about SNS use, while almost three quarters of the students (74.6%) reported that they did not talk with their teachers about SNS use.
15.    Surveyed students reported an awareness of a variety of strategies for avoiding risks or problems associated with SNS use, including ignoring ‘friendship’ requests from strangers, blocking or deleting unpleasant or unwanted friends, setting their profile to ‘private’, not disclosing personal details, frequently changing their password, threatening people who wished to be added to the student’s SNS and self-censorship. Only 1% of respondents reported asking for guidance or help from adults as a viable strategy.
16.    The majority of teachers have not used SNS in an educational context. However, a significant minority (36.1%) of the teachers who were asked this question indicated that they had used SNS for educational purposes, including communicating with their students about schoolwork.
17.    The majority of teachers who were surveyed on the issue indicated that they were generally aware of risks, including legal risks, of teachers using SNS. However it is also clear that teachers had a variety of understandings about the specific nature of this risk.

…the key recommendations arising from this project are as follows:
1.    In order to enhance the benefits of SNS use, and minimise the disadvantages, it is important for children and young people to be equipped with the necessary information to empower them to effectively manage risks associated with the everyday use of SNS. The best way to do this is through specifically tailored educational activities. As children and young people must be primarily responsible for managing their own risks, it is essential that educational activities focus on providing clear and accurate information about all risks associated with SNS use, including legal risks. These educational activities should be aimed primarily at equipping children and young people with the skills required to be effective digital citizens, and not focussed on rare or hypothetical fears.

2.    Education about the full range of legal risks potentially encountered by the use of SNS should be part of a fully integrated cybersafety school curricula. This means that attention that is properly given to more dramatic issues, such as cyber-bullying and ‘sexting’, should be balanced with attention to other potential areas of legal liability. This strategy should also assist in promoting awareness of, and debates about, the Australian legal system as it applies to online activities. While acknowledging the crowded nature of school curricula, the importance of SNS in the lives of students, and the potential significance of social media for future digital citizenship, suggests that room should be found for these issues to be directly addressed.
3.    The best way to approach the teaching of legal literacy in the digital environment, is by the use of practical examples drawn from real life case studies. With this objective in view, one of the outcomes of this project is the Education Resource Book, which includes a series of classroom exercises aimed at promoting understanding and discussion of specific legal issues. The researchers for this project encourage the production and use of this and similar resource material for the use of teachers of middle school students.
4.    The reported prevalence of posting of photographs of students to SNS, suggests that the legal and ethical issues involved with the posting of photographs – which include privacy, confidentiality, defamation and copyright – merit specific attention in any cybersafety curriculum. The significance of understanding these issues is emphasised by the incidents involving a Melbourne teenager posting naked photos of AFL footballers to her Facebook site.
5.    The potential disparities in the approaches to, and understandings of, legal risks associated with SNS use between parents, teachers and students, as well as the reported paucity of communication on SNS use between students and parents and teachers, suggests that there is some need for education and training of teachers and parents, as well as students. Much can be gained by the community from greater informed discussion of the implications of SNS use, including legal implications, among parents, teachers and students.
6.    Consideration should be given by Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities to encourage and guide SNS service providers operating in Australia to enter into a self- regulatory agreement similar to the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. This would provide baseline commitments against which practices of SNS service providers in their dealings with young people could be periodically assessed.
7.    Given the concerns expressed by teachers interviewed for this project, there appears to be an identified need for further guidance to be provided to teachers about the use of SNS, especially in the pedagogical context. In particular, there is a pressing need for research and policy work to be undertaken in determining the extent of the ‘duty of care’ owed by teachers in any interactions with students via SNS. In this respect, it is important that the salient differences between interactions via SNS, and interactions offline, including the different legal implications, are fully taken into account.
8.    There is a need to promote holistic policy responses to the full range of risks associated with the use of SNS by young people. Any responses should be coordinated so as to minimize the risk of fragmented, inconsistent, and potentially contradictory, policy initiatives at the Commonwealth, State and Territory levels. If, following the forthcoming report by the Commonwealth Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, it is decided to establish an Online Ombudsman, the Ombudsman’s portfolio should extend to promoting education about the full range of legal risks associated with the use of SNS. In doing so, the Ombudsman should coordinate with Commonwealth, State and Territory Privacy Commissioners.
As the discussion of the project above indicates, this was a preliminary study, which, as well as highlighting the issues analysed above, also indicated the need for further work to be done in this area. There is a need for further research directed at understanding young people’s use of SNS and how they can better be empowered to be confident and safer digital citizens. There is also a significant need to further work to be done to assist teachers to be better equipped to understand their rights and responsibilities in the digital communication environment.

Research findings like these will support our use of new technologies in classrooms. What is evident from their recommendations is that further teacher professional development is required to ensure that we have teachers with the skill set to produce the ‘effective digital citizens’ we need in society today. The authors acknowledged on Friday that further research into how schools effectively do this is required. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later.

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School’s out Friday

My family and I were roaming YouTube on our television last night, when we stumbled on this video from Key of Awesome.  (You have to watch an ad at the start – a way to monetise what they do I figure) They’re a group who create a weekly musical comedy show on YouTube spoofing celebrities, pop-culture and the latest internet memes. We all really like Bruno Mars, and found this one particularly funny. Compare it to the original video and it gets even funnier. (IMO anyway!)

Something else we stumbled onto while on the Bruno Mars trail, was footage of him as a four year old impersonating Elvis Presley in the movie, “Honeymoon in Vegas”.

I feel a little guilty highlighting mirth and merriment, while we see Japan and its people struggling with the devastation of the Tsunami and the nuclear crisis unfolding at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Brian Farrell, a Teacher-Librarian who works in Japan has written a post eloquently describing the reaction of the Japanese people to their situation. I encourage you to visit his post. Here’s an excerpt;

Amidst this chaos, the Japanese people have shown me just how incredibly disciplined, calm, and selfless they are. There is no panic in the air, just a saddened calmness and resolve as people try to go about their lives. There have been shortages of food, but there’s been no pushing or shouting in the shops as people try to buy what little they can. After the earthquake, people walked for hours on end to get home, but would never have considered stealing a bicycle (many of which can always be found sitting unlocked) to shorten their journey. There have been lineups at gas stations (those that have managed to stay open) with several hundred cars in them, all waiting to get even a few litres of fuel, but no one is honking their horn, no one is demanding that they somehow be treated differently from everyone else.

My thoughts continue to be with the people of Japan. Let’s hope the nuclear situation doesn’t get any worse.

I hope the weekend treats you well. I’m off to see Chris Isaak tomorrow, with Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows as the support act. Should be a good night! : )

 

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