Monthly Archives: June 2011

Justice is served for Social Media

What would you prefer? Read the lengthy Social Media Policy document, or watch this video?

I know what I’d rather, and I know which method delivers the sticky message.  Thumbs up to Victoria’s Department of Justice for making a video that has relevance to so many industries and can be effectively used in them. It can, because it has a Creative Commons license attached to it (CC-BY-NC-SA – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms).

Teachers take note – the messages here apply to our work situations. Might be a good way to start the discussion about social media use at your next staff meeting.

 

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Explaining Evernote

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve had an Evernote account for some time now, and really think it is one of the best organisational tools available. I love that it exists as an account I can access from any computer, anywhere. I love the desktop version that sits on my Mac. I love the web clipper add on that I use with my Firefox browser. I especially love the Evernote apps I have downloaded to my iPhone and iPad that enable me to get access to what is stored on Evernote and also enable me to add to the account easily. I love that everything syncs so quickly, and that I can use it without an internet connection knowing that it will sync once an internet connection has been established.

I created this screencast recently about Evernote and thought some of you who know nothing about it might benefit from watching it. It is by no means an exhaustive account of what it can do, because truly, I know I haven’t explored everything it is capable of doing. I ran a Staff PD about Evernote and Dropbox after school last week, and people who came were very impressed with the potential it has for education, and their own personal management of data. I would love to see us introduce Evernote to all of our students, and start them really thinking about how they can use it to manage class projects, or save data from whiteboards or even their handwritten notes. It is part of my plan to try and get this happening at my school, and staff members who attended tonight’s session seemed to be in agreement that this would be a positive thing.

One thing that people are wary of is storing their data in the cloud (on an organisation’s servers). There has to be a certain comfort level you have with releasing your data to someone else to store it for you, and people do get concerned that other people (hackers) might be able to access their documents or notes. Dropbox has been under fire in the past week, for a bug in their system that caused a security glitch that allowed people to log into any Dropbox account by typing in any password at all for a period of four hours. Even prior to this unfortunate ‘glitch’ Dropbox have been criticised about their levels of data security.

I think we all have to be mindful that when you host your data elsewhere, and for free, you have to accept that with convenience comes some cost. That cost may be that companies hosting your data could give some of it to Government agencies if it’s requested. It may be that you leave yourself open to hackers who seem intent of late to usurp the claims made by cloud storage companies that data is safe. I certainly love the convenience of being able to access data across multiple devices, but I’m certainly not going to be storing any sensitive documentation there that I wouldn’t want anyone else accessing.

This is part of the game that is the World Wide Web now. Know the rules before you start playing is as good advice as any I’m guessing.

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School’s out Friday

I love this University Professor’s Halloween joke with his class, and I agree with the comment appearing under this video on YouTube,

“…if every teacher was like you there will be better students. Continue like that, maybe that will inspire other teacher’s. And im sure students also learn better with fun.”

I think humour plays such an important part in teaching. Sure, we’ve all got important messages and information to impart to our students, but sharing a laugh and teaching them how important this ingredient is to a healthy life should be part of that too. I shared plenty of laughs with our Year 7 students this week as they worked on their inquiry project. Together, we tackled the joys of using technology as we converted files and sought out ways to fix problems we were encountering. Laughing along the way, and not getting disgruntled as we hit roadblocks, made the learning so much more enjoyable.

I had to laugh to myself when I sent out a tweet asking for help about a filetype I was attempting to convert. Alec Couras replied informing me that a WMPL file was a project file and not a rendered movie file. There lay the solution to our problem, and there I was looking foolish on Twitter! I figure you just have to accept that no question is a dumb question, so I dutifully thanked Alec for his help. What’s truly wonderful about this is that I could have tried sorting that issue for a lengthy period of time, but instead, I went to my network for help. It came within a minute or two from Canada. As Alec pointed out after I’d thanked him,

So there you have it, republicans, reason to retain the monarchy!!

I’m the subject of John Larkin’s Friday Follow interview this week. If you feel so inclined, take a visit to John’s site and see what I have to say about social media and education. I’d like to thank John for inviting me to participate. He is one of the gentleman on Twitter. Someone I’ve never met face to face, but whose online demeanor makes me feel like we would get on.

I don’t have much planned for the weekend ahead, but I’m figuring that’s a good thing. Just happy right now to go where the flow takes me.

Enjoy whatever comes your way.  : )

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When will the sonic boom of comprehension be heard?

“Opening with sinking spirits

Text-books whose right answers loom

Like jet ‘planes so far above them,

Waiting for the sonic boom

Of comprehension …”

Genesis – Bruce Dawe

I used to love teaching this poem with Year 8 students. Bruce Dawe captures so beautifully the essence of an Australian school at the start of a new year. The words that have always stuck with me are, “the sonic boom of comprehension”.  I know so well the feeling that comes when something finally clicks and you feel like a light has switched on within you.

When I began to understand the communicative potential of the Internet around four years ago, I had one of those sonic boom of comprehension moments. I knew my life was forever changed, but I also knew that this represented more than just a shift in the way I thought and responded. It represented a huge societal shift, a change in the way everything would work. I knew I had to get involved and develop an understanding of these shifts. I thought at the time that I was late to the party; it seemed there were so many already with an invitation and their party clothes on. I realise now I wasn’t lagging too far behind at a party that is still inviting guests along.

I’m getting a little worried right now about the guests who haven’t yet shown up. There are plenty of them out there. People who don’t quite fathom how the Internet is changing so much of what we do and how we conduct every part of our lives. Evidence of this seems to be mounting on a daily basis, but I’m not sure people are making the connections.

In Australia, we’ve recently seen the demise of Borders and Angus and Robertson Bookstores. While people seem to genuinely mourn their passing, it seems the growth of online booksellers like the Book Depository are hitting booksellers hard. We’ve even had Senator Nick Sherry, our federal Small Business Minister weigh into the discussion with this comment that has inflamed bricks and mortar booksellers,

”I think in five years, other than a few specialist booksellers in capital cities we will not see a bookstore; they will cease to exist,”

It seems to me that Booksellers, like Libraries, are experiencing what the music industry has had to contend with for quite a few years now. The model is changing, and we need to morph to fit the new, because an inflexible die cast approach just isn’t going to cut it in a world that does things differently now.

But it’s not just Bookstores that are feeling the pinch. We are seeing change feed to other industries too. Retail outlets like clothing stores and small goods suppliers are seeing consumers move to online shopping where the middleman disappears and direct buying means cheaper prices. My father in law recounted a story to me recently where he said a shoe store had resorted to charging customers when they asked to try on shoes, because they were sick and tired of being the ‘try before you buy from an online source’ store. I don’t know if this story holds true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

What truly worries me is this. What happens when the take up for online shopping really starts to take hold here in Australia? I saw statistics recently that said Australia has not yet hit anywhere near the stride countries like the USA have when it comes to adoption of online shopping. What impact will this have on our retail industries and the job market these industries support? It worries me that our desire to get product at the cheapest possible price may ignore the fact that this places the livelihood of people in peril. I know this goes hand in hand with change, and new businesses will arise as a result of the shifts taking place, but I’m not entirely confident what will emerge will meet our employment needs.

Whatever the outcome, there is little doubt there is a need to understand the rise of participatory culture and the way it will change the industrial age business model still operating for many out there. Once again, the need for understanding does not just exist within the business community. Our education system needs an understanding too if we are to prepare our students well.

A good place to start to understand what business is thinking is Slideshare. I’ve taken to viewing the home page on a regular basis and looking at the top presentations of the day. You can learn an awful lot from what people are posting. One such presentation caught my eye just the other day. Take a look at ‘Invasion of the Participatory Culture‘, and see if you take something from it.

View more presentations from Jeff Hurt
I really don’t know what the next few years will bring, but I know I’m better informed than most people who’ve yet to feel the sonic boom of comprehension. There’s little doubt we’re in the midst of a pretty large rave party that’s attracting attendees by the minute. Best we start understanding how we need to dress so we don’t get refused entry.

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School’s out Friday

Those of you who are die hard Harry Potter fans will be champing at the bit waiting for July 15th to unveil the final installment of the saga. Judging by this trailer, it’ll be a tad more steeped in action than the first part of the final installment that was released last year.

And just when we thought we could put the whole Harry Potter saga behind us, then what should JK Rowling do? None other than tease all those die hard fans with this!


Hmmmnnn… just what is JK Rowling up to? I have to say, reading the final pages of the saga made me think we were definitely going to see more of Harry Potter, only this time I’m figuring it will focus on one of his children rather than Harry. Here’s what appears at the bottom of the Pottermore webpage;

Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights © J.K. Rowling

Of course, the fan pages and blogs are abuzz with the news. Apparently JK Rowling will make an announcement 5 days from now, enlightening us all as to what is in store. Expect to see it reach the headlines! Embedded within the Pottermore webpage is a link to a hidden video from JK Rowling with a countdown clock and a message saying, “The owls are gathering… Find out why soon

It’s all very intriguing. Can’t wait to see what it’s all about.

Try and contain your excitement and enjoy the weekend ahead. I’m definitely going to make a go of doing so. ; )

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Prescribed viewing – Daniel Kraft on Medicine’s future

Watch this, and tell me that doctors will resist these changes to their profession.

They won’t. They’ll embrace them, because health matters to all of us, and we will demand uptake. We lay people will be involved in it too, as we use our mobile devices to access apps that measure, control and advise us how to best manage our health.

So why such resistance in education to change? Why, when we see the communicative potential of the web to connect with expert voices, to learn beyond our classroom walls, why do we see teachers cling onto textbooks and churn out assignments that Google can answer in 10 minutes?

Maybe Daniel Kraft’s Ted talk should be prescribed viewing for our profession. Maybe it’s the dose of reality we need.

 

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School’s out Friday

Here’s improveverywhere’s lastest mission, The Mute Button. 23 actors and 2 dogs assembled to go ‘mute’ at coordinated intervals in Brooklyn’s Battery park. This mission was filmed to support the Guggenheim Museum’s Stillspotting exhibition. Stillspotting is a response to the pace of life in New York City.

“The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce; the struggle for mental and physical space; and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. One wonders how locals and visitors can escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in this “city that never sleeps.” “

The Guggenheim Museum takes their Stillspotting exhibitions out to the five burroughs of NYC, to places where they identify a need for ‘stillspots’. I’d never heard of this idea until now, but it makes sense to do something like this in New York. Having spent just a week there, you do notice the ‘always on’ pace of life. I would love to live in New York for a period of time at some stage in my life, but I do wonder if I would get to a stage where I craved for a quieter existence.

I’m craving a good night’s sleep and a decent lie in right now. Thank goodness it’s a long weekend here in Australia. Three wonderful work free days ahead. With any luck, I’ll get some time to devote to the HTML and CSS course that I am failing miserably at right now. If not, it might be time to graciously admit defeat!

If a long weekend awaits you, enjoy. If it’s a regular weekend for you, enjoy that too. They’re always good. : )

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New at Voices from the Learning Revolution – Evolution of an Information Junkie

My latest post over at the PLP Voices from the Learning Revolution blog is, ‘Evolution of an Information Junkie‘.

It’s a bit of a reworking of a post originally written here under the title of ‘Divided Attention Disorder – I think I’ve always had it.’ I’m really pleased the piece is getting another airing in the Voices space. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I write pieces I am particularly proud of. I like a turn of phrase I’ve used, the flavor of the writing, the message it conveys. This piece was one of those. I’d always hoped it had received more attention than it got initially, because I think it deserved it.

How things have changed. Three years ago I would never have had the courage to be so bold as to write the paragraph you’ve just read. I didn’t think I was a writer really.

I do now.

How powerful this tiny blog, this vehicle for communication, has been for me. I’m so glad I had the guts to give it a go.

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School’s out Friday

I’ve seen some Facebook in real life videos before, but this one tickles my funny bone. (Excuse some of the language within it – I try to steer away from videos that contain course language, but a couple of words are contained within this one). It makes you think a bit, doesn’t it? Why are some people comfortable sharing some pretty personal details with an audience of hundreds (sometimes thousands or more!) in an online space like Facebook, but baulk at the idea of revealing any details to people in face to face settings? Interesting facet of human nature, and no doubt one we’ll be analysing more as we see social media become mainstream.

I had a lovely day today at Ringwood Secondary College. They hosted the Vitta Mobile Technologies conference, and it was an opportunity to catch up with Clare Rafferty, Tania Sheko, Jo McLeay, Jenny Ashby and John Pearce. I even got to meet Roland Gesthuizen for the first time, although I’ve ‘known’ him on twitter for quite some time. Lots of talk today about iPads and their use as 1:1 devices, something I’m not sure that I’m sold on. I think that should form the basis of a blog post, given the feedback generated through twitter when I posted that thought this morning.

Time to trundle off to long awaited sleep now. I’m finding the weekends are just too short at the moment. No sooner has it been Friday night and then I find myself confronted with Monday morning!

I hope your weekend lasts an age. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it.

(And just to make sure you do, take a read of this post, written by a woman who worked in palliative care situations. I bet it makes you think.)

 

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Helping students with current issues research

One of the things I really do appreciate in my school is the willingness of our English teachers to recognise the skill set of Teacher-Librarians. Over the last few weeks my staff and I have worked closely with Year 11 and 12 teachers and students, and have shared information about how best to utilise Library online resources and the internet to help them with research on a current issue for VCE Oral Presentations.

Today I ran a session with our Yr 10 students to help them begin a persuasive essay task. We covered similar ground to that run through with the Year 11 and 12 students in recent weeks, and I’m hoping it will hold them in good stead as they tackle the research needed to formulate a strong argument for a persuasive essay. I thought I’d run through some of the things I covered, and hope some of you out there might find it useful.

1. Echo online - newspaper indexes and media issues outlines.
This is a truly invaluable resource for Victorian students. A Victorian school subscription to the Echo Education Services site is $355.00. In my opinion, it’s the best $355.00 we spend all year. I’m not sure if other States use it too, but the work done here in the media issues outlines part of the database is extraordinary. The lady who does the work is a VCE English teacher, and she trawls the daily newspapers looking for what might be the current issues that a VCE English student would want to explore for their oral presentation or language analysis task. When she’s identified an issue, she puts together an outline that includes background information, arguments for, arguments against and further implications. She also provides pages of web links and documents and links to the newspaper articles she has used to provide her outlines of whatever the issue in question is. It’s incredibly helpful, particularly for those students who just can’t figure out how you would go about analysing an issue. It gives them an entry point and the confidence they need to explore the source material to form conclusions for themselves.

The other part of this database is the newspaper index. Students can enter their search term and results are provided for relevant articles published in our daily papers. These results aren’t hyperlinked; the students would either have to source the original print copy or search a newspaper database to find the article. I point my students to Newsbank.

2. Newsbank This is a database where students can search Australian newspapers. They have to be conscious of the search terms they use, and often need to refine their search to pull in the content they need. One of the disadvantages of the site is that it provides the text of the articles only. None of the pictorial detail that often accompanies a newspaper article is available, and the text can look pretty dry to a 15 year old. We made a decision this year to stop archiving 6 months of back issues of newspapers, largely because we have noticed a decline in the demand for use, the fact that it involves a large amount of dedicated staff time doing this work, and the understanding that our move into a new building meant we were looking towards the future of collection development rather than what we could see as a process from the past. For this reason, we have subscribed to digital archives (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper) of daily newspapers.

3. Digital subscriptions to newspapers (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper). We have a 5 user concurrent subscription to ‘The Age’ archive and a license for 50 users to access the ‘Herald-Sun‘ and ‘The Australian‘. They come at considerable cost, and it’s not easy for students to get access. We have to share the common user name and password to all staff and students for the 5 user concurrent license to ‘The Age’. This means 5 users at a time can access the site and another user will have to wait until someone logs out to get access. With the 50 user license for the Herald Sun, we have to register individual emails to each license. This means we have had to use staff emails, and we share these with students with the common password so they can get access. It isn’t ideal. I don’t think our newspaper industry has really got their act together at this stage to accomodate the needs of schools. As more schools take up options like this I’m hoping they will come up with a more user friendly method to gain access.

4. The Age Education Resource Centre  Every week, in its Monday edition, The Age publishes ‘Issues in the News‘. They analyse a current issue and write their copy for a secondary school audience. It’s a great resource, and contains links to source material used to compile their summation. You can access their archive of issues they have covered

5. Google News – One of the reasons many of our students are not accessing print newspapers is because they are searching for newspaper content online through Google. I always find it interesting that students are surprised to realise a search engine like Google has many parts, and they need to look to the toolbar at the top of the screen to find these options. They seem to have eyes only for the search box in the centre of the screen! We’ve been introducing our students to Google News and showing them that they can search for newspaper articles from other countries to assist them in gaining perspectives from other cultures. We’ve also focused on the advanced search function and showing students how they can narrow a search using some of the parameters there.

6. Google Realtime search I suspect many people are unaware of Google’s Realtime search option. You can use Realtime search to do exactly what it says – search in real time. What you are accessing are Twitter feeds about the search term you’ve entered. The great thing about Twitter is that many people are sharing links about topics that are issues in the news. It’s there where you will find up to date (real time!) coverage of an event. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it can be the most invaluable source of information. If you don’t have an account and a network of fabulous contacts, then this is a good option for trying to find out what people are saying and sharing about topics of interest to you. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.

 

7. TED: ideas worth spreading Many of our students are required to put together oral presentations for their English course of study. I’ve read many times that speaking in public is one of the highest ranked fears of many people. You can often tell that as you watch some students sweat it out beforehand and stumble through oral presentations. They need to see people speaking in front of audiences and take note of effective techniques that can hold the interest of a group of people. The TED site is the perfect vehicle for getting students to analyse what makes for an effective presentation. The bonus is, the talks are so interesting and inspiring, they are bound to learn many other things in the process. I used the start of Eli Pariser’s talk about the ‘filter bubble’ and it certainly sparked a lot of interest. Students are concerned about what big corporations like Google are doing with their data, and many students asked how his name was spelt so they could watch this presentation in full after class.

I’m happy to report, this presentation was met with a round of applause from the students, on more than one occasion. Issues research can be daunting for many a student, and they value being shown a way forward. If you have other resources you use that you find helpful for student use, please leave a comment and extend the learning for all of us. : )

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