Tag Archives: change

The little things…

Neglected.

I believe that’s the word you’d use to describe this blog of late. Aside from the regular School’s out Friday posts (my saving grace, really), it’s been a barren wasteland for the last month or so. I shouldn’t beat myself up, because starting in a new position, even when it’s at the school you’ve taught at for years, is fraught with finding your feet and trying to establish credibility for yourself amongst your peers.

Me, I’m my own greatest critic. If I’m not moving mountains then I think I’m falling short. I’d love to say I’ve single handedly transformed peoples’ approaches to using technology in their classrooms within weeks, but you’d know I was lying. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up or place undue pressure on myself, but it’s proving difficult. What I have to do is tackle things in a systemised way, make some things a priority, and take heart from the fact that I’m doing what I can with the hours there are in a day.

A little thing I’ve done that I think might be a good start to building a learning community is to create a hashtag for our school and start curating Tweets in a Paper.li (it’s like a online newspaper). The hashtag is #tcplc (Toorak College Professional Learning Community) and the Paper.li created I send out in an email daily to staff. To help them determine if there’s anything there of import, I provide a brief summary of some of the posts/articles that have been curated. I’m very lucky to have a couple of other teachers at my school who are Twitter users, and they are helping with the curation. Hopefully we’ll start to see more teachers become aware of the wonderful professional learning opportunities available from the Twitter community and maybe, just maybe, some will sign up and become part of the curation process to benefit all of us.

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It’s a little thing, but it does take time and effort to curate those links. I’m an avid Twitter user (all my best learning happens or begins from there)  so it’s a great way to make that learning transfer to others who aren’t Twitter users.

Little things go on to become big things. I’ll try and keep this Chinese proverb in mind as the year unfolds,

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

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Kony 2012 – you must watch this and pass it on.

There are good people in this world. People who are trying to make a difference.

Watch Kony 2012. Visit Kony2012 and find out why Joseph Kony should be famous.

Brilliantly, this was sent to me from one of my Yr 10 students who made the link between this and what we are studying in class. I bet we’ll be talking about it next time I see them. You will be too if you invest 30 minutes of your day to watch it.

Do so.

 

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Is community the new business model? – Comview presentation

Earlier this week,  I presented at the Comview conference here in Victoria. It’s run by the VCTA, (the Victorian Commercial Teacher’s Association) and my presentation was about the impact of social media on business today. The presentation is the culmination of a lot of what has been occupying my thinking this year about the changing nature of our world and our pressing need to respond as educators. In my view, we need to prepare our students for the here and now, and future scenarios awaiting them when they enter the world of work.

I’ve had educators push back at me in tweets when I’ve expressed this kind of thinking, suggesting that we are preparing students for many things, not just the workforce. While that’s obviously true, when I look at the amount of time I spend at my workplace, and then the time I devote to it out of school hours, I’m pretty convinced that a large part of our role does connect with preparedness for places where you spend a large proportion of your time. And that, my friends, would be your place of work.

Of course, quite a bit of this presentation was discussing the scenarios of the workplaces of the future. The distinct possibility that many of our students today will be remote workers, people working in a flexible arrangement from home, where the lines are blurred between what is working hours and what is downtime. What was also discussed was the challenge this places on employers, who will need to ensure a sense of workplace community even though their workplace may be distributed to places far and wide.

Leveraging social media for your own good was another feature of my presentation. I so admire Jesse Desjardins and the way he has utilised social media to propel his career. You must visit Jesse’s Slideshare page to see how his creative presentations and advice have helped to secure him a position as the Social Media & Advocacy Manager at Tourism Australia. (and he’s not an Australian- fancy that!)

Very frustratingly, once again, I am unable to embed my presentation on this WordPress blog. Something to do with Flash not being supported by WordPress according to a forum discussion I found. You can find the presentation by visiting http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/Presentations, or by clicking this link. Like I said, It’s the culmination of a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, and a lot of hours putting it together. I did use a few slides from a presentation available on Sliderocket that is free for users to use. It just happened to fit nicely with my subject matter. The majority of the slides are my own creation, using screenshots of sites and CC pictures from Flickr. Some feedback would be nice, so feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think.

 

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Connected, and conflicted

Last night, I went to a free screening of Connected, An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology. Thanks Hamish Curry for organising the event. The film’s creator is Tiffany Shlaine, and she is someone well versed in the workings of the web. Tiffany founded the Webby awards fifteen years ago, but today concentrates her efforts on film-making. Interestingly, for me anyway, her film echoed a lot of my thinking about the nature of being connected.

I’ve mentioned, more than a few times here, the transformational effect being connected has had on my life. There is little doubt in my mind that I am richer for it, in a soulful sense, certainly not monetary! I feel energised when I’m learning new things from all the network nodes I’m connected to. I know how easy it is to lose yourself in the Twitter stream, but also how enriched you can feel when your brain is firing and possibilities are stretching out before you. What comes with this is the desire to stay on top of things, to be ahead of change. You quickly realise this is impossible, that you would need to be looking at a device 24/7 and even then you wouldn’t have a hope of covering everything that is happening.

Tiffany begins the film with an anecdote, featured at the beginning of this trailer.

Hey, I’ve been there. Some would stay I’ve never left that state. But I know better. In my early days of immersion, I’d sit amongst friends in conversation and find my mind wandering. The desire to switch on my phone and check my networks was intense, almost like a primal need. I found myself connected to the network, and disconnected from long term friends, even family. It seemed that they didn’t understand, they weren’t part of what was in my immediate field of interest. None of them grasped the magnitude of my new discovery.

In that state, I longed for opportunities to find real time face to face meet ups with the people in my network, and I thought I would find myself content in their presence. While that was true with some people, what I also discovered was that many of the people I met were distant, introspective, or even people who just weren’t all that friendly face to face. What is obvious to me now but wasn’t then is that my network mirrored real life. It is a human network, populated with all variants of the human condition.

This year, I have been conflicted. I made a conscious decision to back off with my immersion. I still truly value my network, and continue to find it the place where I am energised and excited about possibilities. But what I have found is that I have reconnected with those in my immediate sphere, my close friends and family. I value the time I spend with them, and remain present for longer periods than I did in the past. The sky hasn’t fallen, my connection with an already established network is still strong, and I feel more at peace with my world.

Like Tiffany’s tale, it was a watershed moment that led to me resetting priorities. When you face adversity, true friends and connections come to the fore, and some leave you hanging. I am so grateful to my immediate close friends and family who rallied and made sure my family and I were OK. The same can be said of true friends in my network, people who have taken time to look beneath the surface and see what lies there.

Although I can say I am more at peace with myself, I remain conflicted to some degree about backing off the network. I haven’t put my hand up this year to present at conferences, and I have to admit to feeling a degree of performance anxiety when I see others pushing themselves out there. It is my dream to live this work, to find a way to do it all the time, not just part of my time.

So, I will remain connected, and to some extent, conflicted. But I will do so knowing that it is not at the expense of the relationships that matter most.

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A Shoe Story

I’m fussy about the shoes I wear. I don’t like shoes that make me feel masculine; I like a feminine cut and something that’s stylish. That doesn’t mean I’m teetering around on stiletto heels or anything like that. Far from it in fact, but I will sacrifice comfort if it means I’m wearing a shoe that I really like.

Which brings me to this week’s tale.

While visiting our close friends this past weekend, I noticed the shoes my God-daughter was wearing. Here, take a look.

Nice shoe, huh? I thought so too. Exactly what I’ve been looking for to help me trek through Italy next term with a group of students. (Lucky me – that’s another tale I’ll be telling soon!) My God-daughter informed me they were Tony Bianco shoes that cost her $190. She had tried to get them from an online site called Styletread for $142, but no stock was available in her size so she’d had to venture to a retail store to make the purchase.

On my return home, I began the search. I found Styletread, located the shoe and saw my size was available. I then thought there might be an even better deal available, so I did a bit more hunting. I discovered a site offering a $10 discount if I input the code on the Styletread site. By 10.30pm Sunday night, I’d placed the order paying $132, and saved myself $58 by doing it this way rather than the traditional retail store method of purchase.

I received an email with details that helped me track the order. I checked around 10.30am this morning (Tuesday), and noted my order had been dispatched from Sydney, had arrived in Melbourne and was with a courier on its way to my address. When I arrived home at 2.30pm this was what greeted me.

Less than 48 hours since I’d placed the order, and the shoes were in my hands. On my feet, actually, and I’m pleased to say they fit perfectly, have a feminine cut and are really comfortable!

So, what’s the lesson here?

The lesson is this. Business models are changing. If I, as a consumer, can save myself $58 on a purchase, not have to leave my home, and have an item on my doorstep in less than 48 hours, then this is something I’m going to do. I’m going to bypass the traditional method of purchasing, and I’m figuring plenty of other people are going to be doing this too. This IS going to have ramifications for society as we know it. I’ve written about this already this year, and I’m starting to wonder what we in schools today are doing to prepare our students for a different way ahead. Are we still fostering ideas of employment in industries that will find themselves in serious decline? Are we thinking about industries that will thrive in new conditions and promise employment opportunities? Are we teaching our students enough about how they might use the Web for interaction and how they create sites that can support new business models?

My shoe purchase tells a story. There are lessons here that need learning.

 

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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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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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Where does learning come from today?

Well, according to my son, it’s from the Internet.

Here’s what he told me tonight about his day.

“She gave us a tub of books, random choices off the shelves of books they thought we would like.

My library teacher has no idea of where learning is coming from today.”

I work in a library and I see our non fiction collection losing relevance by the day. Not because the content within the books isn’t worthy, some of it is incredible. But to students with a vast array of online resources available at their fingertips in a 1:1 school, it’s hard to convince them to visit the shelves. In recent times, with some assigned tasks, I’ve recommended the students head to the Internet to find more detail than that available in our books on the shelves. Two paragraphs in  book is sometimes all there is on a topic, and yet they can source web pages with enormous detail. Any wonder they are attracted what is available online.

As Teacher-Librarians, we don’t want to go the way of some books and lose relevance to our students. My son’s comment is something I fear is echoed in the living rooms of countries everywhere. Subscribing to authoritative databases or looking at an ebook platform are important considerations for Teacher-Librarians today. Resources need to be accessible for multitudes of students simultaneously rather than the ‘borrow the book, make it unattainable for others’ model of libraries of the past. To that end, providing school libraries with adequate funding to ensure they can do just that is necessary too. Database providers need to lift their game as well, and make their sites more appealing and user friendly so that our students want to use them.

While I don’t think my son is totally right in his estimation, I do think there are plenty of teenagers out there who’d share his sentiments. In schools’ today, we need to stay relevant and know how to make the most of all the online resources at our disposal.

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CPL workshop – all systems go!

A couple of years ago, I would speak at staff meetings and I could see eyes raising and people looking at one another with that, ‘here she goes again’, body language happening. Experiences like that have made me wary of staff presentations. In fact, I’m more comfortable presenting to a room of 200 strangers than I am with the people I work with on a day to day basis.

Yesterday I ran a whole day workshop at my school for Toorak College’s Continuous Professional Learning Seminar series, and the majority of participants were people I work with. I was more than a little anxious I have to admit. Firstly, it was a whole day, and that’s a whole lot more daunting than a one hour presentation, and secondly, I was putting my ideas out there to people who I found my most difficult audience.

Well, I’m pleased to say, my fears were unfounded. It was a really great day. I had plenty of content to keep the day humming along nicely; too much in fact. We were racing a bit towards the end! I’m pretty chuffed to know I can single-handedly lead a successful workshop, and hope I get the opportunity to do it again. Best of all, my audience was responsive and open. Open to ideas, open to thinking about social media as something that we need to explore in our classrooms. It was affirming for me. I feel so much more positive about enacting change in our classrooms and working cooperatively with staff who want to see how they can reinvent their practice to suit the times we are living in.

And that’s what’s made the change I think. The time we are living in. Social media is far more pervasive in our lives than it was three years ago. I joined Twitter three years ago; I was making connections and could see then the powerful communication device it was for sharing and learning. I’d speak about it in glowing (evangelical?) terms to people I worked with, and I could see they just didn’t understand. To them, it was a time waster, a place where people told one another what they’d eaten for breakfast.

Today, Twitter is mainstream. It’s referenced on news bulletins, popular morning TV news programs share reporters’ Twitter user names and they use hashtags to encourage online conversations around a topic. Yesterday, we talked at length about Twitter, and visited hashtag results pages for Libya and Christchurch, where we could see aggregated tweets giving us real time information. Some participants joined up, and I hope they make efforts to follow people and make connections that will inform their teaching practice. I know that every day Twitter takes me to places that extend my learning and I would never have located those places without its help.

It’s this pervasiveness of new media in our lives that made all the difference yesterday. Now it’s important to understand new technologies and people are ready to listen. To those of you reading this who have been immersed for some time and have felt discouraged in your schools, I think we are seeing the tide turning.  Social media is mainstream, and our skills are necessary. We can lead others and we need to do so.

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Lord David Puttnam delivers a message everyone needs to hear

I’m delivering a whole day workshop at my school tomorrow, and I’m starting the day with the words of Lord David Puttnam, delivered at Learning without Frontiers in late January. David is a former independent film producer with many award winning films including Chariots of Fire, Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and the Memphis Belle. Since 1998, he has focused his work on education and the environment. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to show the entire video, but I hope participants will take the time to watch it for themselves later. David delivers, in 24 minutes, a message that all educators and education administrators should hear. We can’t afford to ignore the technological shifts happening around us; we must find ways to professionally develop our teaching workforce, and reward teachers who are leading the way.

Sometimes it’s hard leading change. Especially when others around you don’t see things in the same way. Watching this has renewed my energy levels, and made my resolve stronger. Watch it with my highest recommendation.

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