Monthly Archives: April 2011

School’s out Friday

How could School’s out Friday be anything else but Kate and William sharing a kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace! What a great wedding. Two people who seem to genuinely love one another- such a refreshing change from the wedding of William’s mother and father.

And just for a bit of fun, here’s the T Mobile version of the Royal nuptials. You know, given the opportunity, I think Wills and Harry would have been up for a bit of fun like this.

Crack open the champers and raise a toast! Have a great weekend. : )

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Keeping expertise in the classroom – the Teacherpreneur

My latest post on the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog is called, ‘The Teacherpreneur. They exist. The trick is to keep them in our classrooms.’ It was inspired from my reading of Teaching 2030, a visionary look at what teaching may look like in our near future. It was written by lead author Barnett Berry and co-authored by the TeacherSolutions 2030 team comprised of 12 teachers.

The role of a Teacherpreneur is described as the following,

“teacher leaders of proven accomplishment who have a deep knowledge of how to teach, a clear understanding of what strategies must be in play to make schools highly successful, and the skills and commitment to spread their expertise to others – all while keeping at least one foot firmly in the classroom.” (Teaching 2030)

While you may find the term ‘Teacherpreneur’ a little difficult to deal with, I think the description of the role such a person would play fits the bill of many teachers I know who give to our profession by sharing their practice and demonstrating a way forward. It took me quite some time to put the post together, so I’d encourage you to visit the site and see how I think a role like this can be realised in our schools. It would be great to see people offer some feedback. I’m keen to know what you think of the idea.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

School’s out Friday

Hello, I Like You from Mixtape Club on Vimeo.

This film was made by Mixtape club, and according to them, it’s an artistic espresso conveying happiness. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they’ve succeeded.

Easter holidays for most of us. That time of the year where chocolate abounds. I’m determined to not let the abundance of chocolate haunt me past Sunday. Well, maybe it will until Tuesday. But after that, no more!!

Hope you’re Easter break treats you well. Enjoy, within limits!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

English teachers rejoice! Vocabulary.com is here

One of the constants that I reiterate in English classrooms year after year is the need for students to actively build their vocabulary. A strong vocabulary can be the making of you, particularly when it comes to writing essays that are marked by assessors. If your writing shows flair, and you choose your words carefully and use them in the right context, your work can rise above the run of the mill.

My students always ask how can they build their vocabulary. I tell them to pay attention. If they are listening to a speaker, notice when a word is used that they aren’t familiar with. Go home and look it up, understand what it means and how you can use it in a sentence. If you’re reading a book or magazine, do the same. Don’t trip over words and assume you understand their intent from the context of the sentence, make a determined effort to understand why the writer made that word choice, and see if it’s something you can use yourself in discussion or in your next essay. Don’t be frightened of words, embrace them and make them work for you.

I’d heard a whisper or two (read twitter references!) to Vocabulary.com, but hadn’t seen it until this evening thanks to a tweet from Lisa Thumann. I signed up, and spent the next 30 minutes or so pitting my knowledge of vocabulary up against ‘The Challenge’. This entails the site presenting you with a series of words and you having to identify their correct meaning from four options. You choose the level you operate at based on your level of education. It is challenging, and I’ve learnt a thing or two already. It charts your progress, and revisits words you had difficulty mastering. Here’s a screenshot of part of their ‘How it works’ page.

I definitely think Vocabulary.com is something worth showing to your students. It’s not a lesson replacement, but could be something you’d use as a lesson starter for 10 minutes, to get your students thinking. I’d also be recommending it for use as some ongoing self directed learning. Don’t phrase it as homework, that’s sure to turn anyone off!

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

School’s out Friday

I love this! Love it, I tell you.

OK, if you’re an American, you probably have seen it already as it was one of those ads played in prime viewing time during your Superbowl. Somehow, it missed my radar until last night when my son showed it to me and suggested it should go on my blog. I’ve been laughing ever since. Maybe I just have one of those quirky sense of humours. That, and the fact that I have a soft spot for anything that evokes my memories of that epic experience of seeing Star Wars when I was thirteen. I’ve said it here before, but that image of the Star Cruiser panning across the screen surpassed any cinematic experience I’d had up to that point in my life. It made Jaws look amatuerish. And that was saying something in 1977.

To make the experience even better, here’s the out-takes and bloopers of the Volkswagon ad. More mirth and merriment!

And for those of you with a sense of black humour, take a look at this parody that inserts a Toyota in place of a Volkswagon.

It’s school holidays here in Victoria, and I’ve just spent an idyllic day at the Melbourne Zoo with my children and my Mother. Days like that make me wish I was always on holidays. I hope you have had a wonderful week, and that there is something special awaiting you this weekend

Enjoy. : )

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

CCAEducause 2011 – The Game has Changed

I returned last week from the CCAEducause conference and have been collecting my thoughts. The conference by line was, ‘The Game has Changed’. It has, but I’m not entirely sure both secondary education and higher education have quite understood just how much has changed. This conference was aimed at higher education, and I went along because I wanted to see what higher education was talking about in relation to technology and its role in the eyes of those running and working in universities in Australia. My idea was that I would be able to assess what we needed to do in Secondary education to prepare our students for the kind of tertiary experience they were heading for.

To say my eyes have been opened is an understatement. I’ve come away from this conference thinking that the situation might need to be reversed. Maybe it should be personnel from universities visiting some secondary education institutions and looking at what is happening there, so that they can prepare themselves for the students heading their way. Note I said ‘some’ secondary institutions. There is no doubt there is huge disparity in the take up of new technologies within our sector.

I suspect the final keynote speaker, Richard Katz, might even describe me as some sort of edupunk, because I write in a public space using web 2.0 technology and influence others with ideas. Heck, I’m not a ‘published’ author, and I have an audience. I’d prefer to think of myself as a public intellectual, as I’ve heard bloggers described by John Seely Brown. I refer to the ‘edupunk’ tag, because Richard described Jenny, the very savvy 27 Yr old creator of ‘60 second recap‘ as an edupunk and one of the perceived threats higher education faces. Jenny offers an informal learning experience. Anyone can tap into her site and watch her creations, as she dissects the plots, characters and themes of classic fiction and plays. I don’t view someone like Jenny as a threat. In fact, our Yr Nine students were watching Jenny’s creations last year as they explored the themes surrounding Romeo and Juliet. In my eyes, Jenny helps augment our curriculum, she’s part of my teaching arsenal and I’ll employ her to assist my students with their understanding. I’ll go one step further even and encourage them to replicate what she does and submit it to her site, so that they can become the creators influencing and helping to lead others to understanding.

Here are other perceived threats. The Khan Academy, iTunesU, MIT Opencourseware, P2PU, any of the burgeoning sites where a student can self direct their own learning. My gut is telling me that none of these things are threats if universities rise to the challenge and embrace new ways of doing things. Shirley Alexander, from University of Technology Sydney, spoke of the need to do things differently, to deliver instruction via a podcast if it could be done that way, so that face to face time could be spent with students dissecting ideas with lecturers. I was under the impression that this was happening already, and I suspect it is in some institutions. Please, fill me in if it is the case. She spoke also of the 20% drop out rate in first year, and the need to address this appropriately, and determine what is causing this.

I suspect a lot of the speakers were directing their thinking to those who are already trying to make a difference. There were many IT support personnel and Librarians present, many of whom who are doing the groundwork in their institutions to bring them up to speed. It seems the people missing from a conference like this, and those who most need to be there, are the lecturers themselves, the people delivering the content. Most of these people are obviously highly accomplished in their fields, but might be lacking the teaching skills that might help them to visualize alternate ways of delivering content.

There were some excellent keynotes. Bryan Alexander was so interesting that I had to stop sending out tweets so that I could concentrate on his fast paced delivery of possible scenarios for higher education in 2016. This was brilliantly mind mapped on Prezi, and I was so captivated I can forgive him for the seasick motion of the zoom that Prezi is noted for. If I could find the presentation on Prezi, I’d embed it here. It is visionary. I have found Bryan’s Slideshare presentation that made up the first part of his talk, and you can get a feel for the way he thinks.

Mal Booth, Librarian from UTS (University of Technology Sydney) gave an inspiring presentation about how their library is responding to change. Mal has shared his presentation and notes on Slideshare, so I can embed it here and you can benefit from his wisdom.

UTS staff delivered another presentation about mobile support for staff and students at their library. Sophie Macdonald, a Librarian, presented with Rajan Davio, the IT Manager who works in the UTS library. It was an excellent example of how librarians and IT staff can work together to find solutions for access to library resources. As we move towards mainstream usage of app driven mobile devices, it is even more apparent that close working relationships are necessary between Library and IT staff. I’m very pleased that our IT staff have moved into the new library building my school has just completed; we recognize the need to work together to ensure as seamless a delivery of services as we can manage.

Maxine Brodie, from Macquarie University, spoke of the new Macquarie Library, a very impressive building with 80% of its collection stored underground, and robotic book retrieval operating for on demand access to resources. Why have they done this? Because acres of shelving prevents patrons from accessing space, and space is what libraries as collaborative learning places and places for quieter reflection need. I’d like to know what they are doing to change up their service model in terms of support for students now that they have a space that can cater for more of the university population.

Mckenzie Wark was fascinating. He’s an Australian working in New York, and some of the work he is doing with a graphic novel looks like it will be very useful as a text explaining different political systems when it is eventually published. He has written a book called ‘Gamer’s Theory’ and used the plugin commentpress in WordPress to encourage co-contribution to the text’s development from gamers and other informed and interested members of the public. What he has done represents new models for authors to consider as they create informative texts.

I tweeted long and often, (well as long as 140 characters each tweet!) and battled with the demons of autocorrect on my iPad. My iPad came into its own. I used it to tweet, search and check the emails streaming in from school. It was great for that. In fact, when I got home my right forearm was aching from holding the iPad all day. Can you claim Workers Comp for an iPad RSI conference injury? ; )

My tweets were my means of notetaking. I’ve done this at the last two conferences I’ve attended, and I can see myself getting better at it. My tweets become a combination of what speakers are saying and my own reflection on their words. If I add my input, I try and separate my thinking from the speakers by adding a ‘J’ at the end of my contribution. It works for me, anyway! I’ve collated my tweets in Storify, and they give a reasonably good run down of my conference experience. If you go and take a look, remember to start from the bottom and scroll up to follow the conference from beginning to end.

The conference has strengthened my belief that in Secondary Schools, we need to be preparing our students to be effective digital citizens. They need to understand how to use new technologies safely and ethically, and they need to know how to manage their digital footprint. I heard no mention of this kind of talk at this conference. If our students don’t understand the importance of managing their digital lives by the end of secondary school, then they seem likely to be entering Universities and their working lives under-prepared.

CCAEducause 2011 has left me thinking. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only representative from the Secondary education field. There is a need for the different streams of education within our country to talk more openly with one another. We need to prepare our students adequately for a system that requires them to take control of their learning, and universities need to be ready for students who are used to employing mobile and social technologies as their means of communication. Some of our secondary schools are going to be sending along students who are well versed with new technologies as a means of communication and creative output. A delegate presenting spoke of the “ever lengthening tale of non engagement” that keeps getting told within his institution, as people refuse to budge from tired methods of instruction. Universities today can ill afford to tell this story. Our next generation is ready for the new edition.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

School’s out Friday

Thanks go to Frances Manning, who pointed me in the direction of this amazing virtual choir, featuring 2052 performances of ‘Sleep’ from 1752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011. Here’s an explanation of how it all began from the Virtual Choir site;

The Virtual Choir began in May 2009 as a simple experiment in social media, when Britlin Losee – a fan of Eric’s music – recorded a video of herself singing “Sleep” and shared it on YouTube.

After watching the video, Eric responded by sending a call out to his online fans to purchase Polyphony’s recording of “Sleep”, record themselves singing along to it, and upload the result…

…Ever ambitious, for this latest Virtual Choir project Eric called for 900 singers to record themselves singing “Sleep”. At the final tally he received 2052 contributions from singers in 58 countries.

Upon previewing the video at TED 2011, Eric (and the choir) received two standing ovations – testimony to the power of the internet to connect people of all backgrounds and abilities and create something beautiful across time and space.

People are interested in coming together to create something special. If only we could harness this kind of energy in fields like medicine or science, where people could come together to share thinking and make concerted efforts to address issues affecting mankind. Collective action always seems to me to be such an altruistic act, benefiting all, but many people can’t get past the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach.

Been a big week. The CCAEducause conference took it out of me, and I’m glad to see the start of school holidays this afternoon. Time to recharge the batteries. I’m even thinking of starting a mosiac project tomorrow. I just need to clear my headspace and do something that will enable me to see something creative emerge.

Enjoy your weekend. Seek sunshine and soak it up. : )

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized