Tag Archives: education

My TEDxMelbourne talk: Education Leadership

Well, my TEDxMelbourne talk is up. See, there it is, right above these words.

My husband and I just watched it through and I was doing that involuntary shaking thing while I viewed myself talking. It’s a tad confronting seeing yourself onscreen, exposing your thinking for others to judge. It’s 21 minutes long, so I’ve gone way over my 18 minute time limit. I kind of suspected that was the case, largely because it was more difficult maintaining my train of thought in front of a live audience than it was in my lounge-room. Regardless, I’m happy with the outcome. I said everything I wanted to say, and I think the message I was intending to impart came across quite well.

I’ll let you be the judge of that. That’s the reality of formats like this – you give yourself and your opinions up for others to make of it what they will. And there’s beauty in that. Part of that beauty is what I was trying to convey in this talk – that we have mediums for expression now that can allow us to find our voices and our purpose. We need a teaching profession that understands this and allows for it to happen for students through learning experiences within our education systems. We can’t lose sight of the importance of teachers in this equation. It’s networked teachers who have real world experiences with connected learning that enable them to see possibilities and look beyond the tools, to see how you design learning experiences for students that help them become mindful digital citizens who make the most of what the web can offer them.

Time to let it go and see what’s said about it. That, in itself, will be an interesting experience. Part of my journey as a mindful digital citizen.

 

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The Happiness Advantage – need this in your school?

Over the weekend, I wrote a post on the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog called ‘TED in My Classroom‘, with a focus on TED Ed, their latest initiative. I’m still pondering how I might offer something to the project, but I’ll have to mull over it a little more. What they’re looking for is the following:

TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos.

I don’t know if I’m one of the extraordinary educators they’re looking for, but I do think there might be something in my bag of educational tricks that might be worth sharing!

What’s in Shawn Achor’s bag of tricks is well worth your time. He’s a very engaging speaker, talking about what he calls ‘the happiness advantage‘; the effect of positive psychology on our productivity and attitude to life. Here’s some text from the transcript of his talk;

But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

Just imagine if our focus in schools was on this instead of Naplan tests and My School comparisons? I’d like to see schools value this kind of research and invest time and effort in helping our students understand how their state of mind can effect their performance.

I’m happy and positive after watching this. In my view, 12 minutes well spent in any classroom you teach in. Think about sharing it around.

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Instant feedback with Chatzy

At the AIS ICT Integration Conference, Jeff Utecht had audience members participating in a variety of ways, using Twitter, Google Docs and a chatroom. In the 3 minute discussion breaks, he checked in on what was being posted on these spaces and was able to determine if there was anything that he needed to address further. It got me thinking.

I’ve listened to many speakers talk about feedback this year and I’ve sat through sessions where people are using clicker systems to gauge audience reaction. Personally, I don’t like clickers. I find them impersonal and responding to set questions isn’t my idea of providing quality feedback. I’ve thought quite a bit about how I give feedback in my classroom. I work very hard at creating a classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas and I try to encourage input from everyone. We spend a lot of time discussing concepts and I think I’m pretty good at encouraging participation and making my students feel that their opinions are valued. But you know, you can always do better. Jeff’s session made me contemplate using some new ideas to assist with feedback.

An opportunity presented itself last week. We were watching a video debate about the wearing of the Burqa. I set up a Chatzy room and shared the link via email with my students. They logged in and as we listened to the debate, they typed in what they were thinking. To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to be worthwhile. I thought the kids might not take it seriously and just post silly chit chat. I was very pleasantly surprised when I checked the chat and saw them posting their opinions and questioning one another. It helped guide the discussion after we’d finished listening and provided some students with more of a voice in the classroom. It certainly made me think that this is something I would do again.

Two days later I was home sick and had to leave work for the class. I thought it might be an ideal opportunity to see how I could use Chatzy to provide students with help even though I wasn’t physically there. I set the room up and emailed the students with the link and let them know I’d be in the room during the duration of the lesson. Some of them logged in and asked questions and I was able to provide clarification.

It was worth doing. I kept in touch with what was happening in class and the students knew that I was interested in what they were doing despite me not being physically present. My voice had left me and that’s why I wasn’t there. If I was suffering from something like the flu I wouldn’t be doing something like this, but I was incapacitated in a way that made it possible for me to still participate. I don’t expect to see teachers drop everything for their students when they are sick, but I can see this being really useful if you have to run a virtual school situation due to inclement weather or something like that.

Food for thought. I do think we need to be open to new ideas, to find ways to connect with our students in ways that might encourage those who don’t share so readily to find ways to participate. I need to be open to new ways of providing feedback to make me more effective at what I do.  Teaching isn’t a static profession; it’s dynamic, constantly evolving as we respond to societal change and students who perhaps function differently and are adept at new methods of communication. If you can, give something like this a try. I’m going to be adding it to my repertoire of practice and tap into some thinking on the fly!

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Crowd accelerated innovation – time to step up.

All teachers should watch Chris Anderson (the guy who heads up TED ideas worth spreading) talk about crowd accelerated innovation, and the impact this IS having and WILL HAVE on how people educate themselves through web based mediums like online video. At one point in the video Chris talks of how TED presenters like Jill Bolte Taylor really raised the bar with her TED talk, literally forcing others to step up. Will it be online video education providers like Salman Khan who do the same for education?

Methinks it’s time to step up.

I’m figuring those of you reading this now are a few rungs up the ladder already. It’s time to introduce a few people who are at the bottom of their ladder of understanding to 18.53 minutes of Chris Anderson speaking to them, and we just might see them take the first step.

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Responsibility – Barack’s message for us all.

Barack Obama addressed the students of America yesterday as they returned for the start of their school year. His message was about responsibility. The responsibility students have to their own learning, to themselves.

Today in my Yr 9 English class we watched part of Obama’s speech and looked at some of the text. I asked my students if they thought it should have been required viewing in all American classrooms. Pretty much all of them thought yes. They were very surprised to hear that there were some American schools that did not allow the broadcast to be shown. Take a look at some of the comments posted on the YouTube video from students about that.

Our discussion then moved to why some schools would hold that position. They talked about political influence, party politics and propaganda. We also talked about the effectiveness of Brarack Obama’s delivery and the genuineness some felt was evident in his speech. It was all very appropriate for an English class, but more importantly it was vital for them as citizens of our world. Quite a bit of our discussion focused on the importance of being well informed about world events. Which of course, brought us back to Obama’s speech and his message about responsibility for your own learning.

If you haven’t seen the video, take the time to watch it. Personally, I thought the message was an important one. It was about resilience and making the most of opportunities presented to you. A message that crosses borders and is as valid in this country as it is in the United States.

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SlideRocket for Education

I’ve been using SlideRocket, an online presentation tool, for the past year for presentations I have given at conferences. To start with, I badgered them for an invite to use the product before it’s release. To my surprise, they obliged. I then moved over to the free version when it had general release, but felt it was limited so had to sign up for the premium version. Around that time SlideRocket sent me a survey asking my opinion about pricing for K-12 education. My response was that they needed to make it affordable, under $500.00 for a site licence. To be honest with you I didn’t think  it was anywhere near possible as I’d just had my school sign up for the one user premium package at a price of $240.00 a year.

SlideRocket announces preferred pricing for K-12 education

 

I was surprised last week to get an email from SlideRocket letting me know that they were going to be announcing pricing for education. When I looked at what they were offering I was very pleasantly surprised. Here it is;

Schools with less then one hundred and fifty students will pay $249 per year, schools with less than one thousand students will pay $449 per year and schools with over one thousand students will pay $999 per year. All pricing is per school allowing every member of the school community – teachers and students alike – to create his or her own SlideRocket login and gain access to SlideRocket’s premium features.    

 In my opinion, that pricing is pretty good given the features SlideRocket offers. I found my last couple of presentations pretty easy to put together. I was able to access flickr creative commons attribution only pictures from within the SlideRocket application and load them easily into my presentation.  I could create a library of my slides so that I can use them easily in new presentations should I need them.  My presentations are stored online so I could access them from any computer anywhere provided I had an internet connection.  They also allow you to download an offline player allowing you to cache your presentation should internet access be a problem.

There are other features I’ve yet to explore that hold real potential in educational settings. You can work collaboratively on a presentation and access a shared library of resources with the SlideRocket community. The pricing is wonderful for a school my size (under 1000). $449 US dollars converts to $568 Australian dollars. Less than one dollar each for students and staff for use of a premium package is pretty good value.

Now, to lobby for it to go into next year’s budget…..     

(If you want to see Sliderocket in action visit my wikispaces site where my presentations are embedded.)

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Lurker or Contributor, or maybe Innovator?

I didn’t get to the DEECD‘s Innovation showcase on Friday. I’d sent in a proposal for a session but it was knocked back. The fact that I teach in the Independent system and not the Public system may have had something to do with that, but that’s probably just sour grapes from me!!

Thanks to the very obliging John Pearce, who is truly one genuinely nice guy, I’ve been able to partake in some of the experience by reading through his Cover it Live embeds on his blog. Cover it Live is an application that allows you to ‘live blog’ your observations as you watch someone present. John has embeds on his blog from presentations delievered by Jason Smith, co-founder of TeacherTube and Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

John recounts something Jason referred to that has me intrigued; 

the 99:1 rule 

  • 90% of people in online communities are visitors, (lurkers)
  • 9% are early adopters who add to the commentary and/or content but can’t really be depended on
  • 1% are the givers who continue to maintain the innovation

I don’t know where he got those figures from, but if they’re right, they have implications for the use of social networks in schools. I know that the Ning we are using for Yr 9 has some regular contributors, but it also has a spread across the year level. I know it’s artificial to some extent because we ask the students to make contributions because it relates to curriculum, but I am heartened by the fact that forum topics are being created by students. Of the 34 forum topics posted, 15 have been initiated by the students. That’s a pretty good number posted by a spread of students across the year level.

There’s no denying also, that there are students for whom this forum is just not their thing. And that’s OK; you can never guarantee that any teaching method you employ is going to hit the mark for every kid you teach. But maybe they’re lurking?? It’s something I hadn’t really considered. I think what I need to do is set up a Survey Monkey for the end of this term to attempt to get some feedback and derive some statistics from which I can draw some conclusions.

Lurking is something that I find very interesting. By nature, I’m a participant and not a lurker, so I find it a little hard to understand why some wouldn’t want to enter the conversations. But then again, I’m the ‘E’ personality type who’d prefer to go the party rather than sit by the fire with a book. I think that translates to my online life as well. But those figures Jason referred to are mind boggling for me. I suppose if there are 90% of people out there lurking (a word I really don’t like – the connotations are sinister I think) then that accounts for the small number of comments in proportion to the number of hits on this blog. 

And as for the 1% of innovators, well I guess I can see that in the networks I operate in. When I first started reading educational blogs I had this perception that the base  was huge; I now know that is not the case.  I suppose that translates to our teaching communities as well; if you think about schools you’ve worked in, who is innovative and who sits back and lets others come up with new ideas? What proportion of your school community does this relate to and do the figures translate to the 99:1 rule?

Mmmmnn….interesting things to consider. Thanks John for providing me with a PD experience on my weekend. 

*Update – read this post re research on the 99:1 rule. Makes for interesting reading.

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Why Ning needs an ad free education platform.

I love Ning. I really do.

I’m just not all that happy with them right now.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I started a Ning for our Yr 9 English classes in February this year. It’s been fantastic. A true learning community has formed and it’s become embedded into the fabric of our Yr 9 curriculum. I’m loving the engagement that is possible and the way I can connect with students who aren’t in my actual class. Just tonight I was showing it to parents at our Parent Teacher night. All were impressed and could see the benefits to student learning that this environment promoted. I asked Ning to remove the ads before the students had even joined and they were happy to oblige.

I also help to run Working together 2 make a difference, a Ning site that encourages educators to come together to share their experiences with service learning projects. Once again, I asked Ning to remove the ads and once again, they were happy to oblige.

Last week I had a moment to savour. Yr 9 students who actively engage in our English Ning came to see me to see if I could help them set up a Ning for their Sleepout 4 Schools initiative. They’d figured out that Ning was the best platform for them to engage the wider community in what they are doing.  Sleepout 4 Schools is a school project involving our Yr 9 students; they are holding a fundraiser for our school community on May 22nd in an attempt to raise some money for Daraja Academy and the Bal Ashram in India. The students are working very hard to plan an evening where we will sleepover at school, have fun, skype with Mark Lukach hopefully and raise some money that will help to make a difference.

We set the Ning up. They are working as administrators of the Ning as well and are excited about the possibilities. They are trying to engage other surrounding schools in this service learning and are using the Ning as a tool for connecting. I asked Ning to take the ads off.

They didn’t oblige.   

And so began the email process of me asking (begging really) and them denying.  Our most recent email correspondance saw me ask this;

 Dear Ning team,

Sorry to continue to dispute this, but it is a direct part of our program and is a vital ingredient in the teaching of our students. We are endeavouring to have our students create positive digital footprints for themselves in safe and ethical ways. Having ads that display free video chats for girls is not what I feel is a good advertisement encouraging safe and ethical use. If you look at the domain names of the members they are all students from our school. We are trying to encourage global involvement with other schools to have them participate as well.

Can I please ask you to reconsider once again.

 

Reply from Ning was this;  

 

 

Dear Jenny,

 

 

Thanks for the follow-up. Once again, while we definitely respect what you’re doing, this simply isn’t covered by what our program is offering. You’re still welcome to purchase the Go Ad-Free premium service, and you can find more details here: 

http://help.ning.com/cgi-bin/ning.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=3547&p_created=1233612091 

Best, 

 

The Ning Team 

 

 Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to understand how Sleepout for Schools differs from the intentions of the Yr 9 English Ning and Working together 2 make a difference. It’s a school project, set up by and for students. It’s about EDUCATION.    

Wikispaces and other Wiki creation companies are friendly to K – 12 education. You don’t have to request that ads be removed; they trust that if you tick that box saying it’s for K – 12 use it will be and a Wiki is provided ad free.   

Ning is offering an amazing platform that can be utilised so well in education. Please, those of you making decisions at Ning, think about offering a service for education that will encourage users to explore its potential. We need an ad free service; one that won’t expose students to inappropriate ads that make it hard for us to justify the use of what is an excellent resource in school settings.  

 

 

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The Horizon Report: 2009 K-12 Edition

Educause and the New Media Consortium have just released the K – 12 Edition of The Horizon Report. Horizon Reports always make for interesting reading, as they predict the time to adoption of many of the emerging technologies finding their way into the fabric of our teaching. Horizon reports usually have as their focus higher education institutions. This report has K – 12 education as its focus so their evaluation of likely adoption in Primary and Secondary education is especially interesting.

One of the very interesting observations they make in the findings is that assesment and filtering impact on the degree to which some technologies can be adopted in school settings. It’s the old story of assessment driving curriculum and affecting adoption of new ways of doing things. There is no doubt it is difficult assessing someone’s efforts commenting on blog posts or their participation in ning networks. And yet these are valid pursuits that can lead to real engagement in learning. Filtering is another issue; the unfortunate fact is that impressive tools like Voicethread and Ning are often classified as ‘social networks’ or ‘chatrooms’ and filtering software prevents them loading in some schools. I’ve had to go to my network administrators to have blocks removed and I’ve heard the same story from many other educators.  

So, what are the findings, what are the trends to watch?

Time to adoption – One year or less

  • Collaborative Environments
  • Online Communication Tools

Time to Adoption – Two to three years

Time to Adoption – Four to five years

I don’t know if I totally agree with their findings. I’d find it surprising to see Nings become mainstream in the next year within school settings, given that most of the educators I know stare at you blankly when you mention the word. Unless we some some major investment from Government to support  Professional Development for teachers in the field of new technologies, I just can’t see mainstream adoption in such a short time frame.

Take a read for yourself. It’s well worth downloading and showing to your school administration. Congratulations go to Judy O’Connell who served on the advisory board of the project.  

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Ning – why would you use it?

Image representing Ning as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Why?

Because a ning helps build community amongst your students. And a community that is supportive of one another and where students feel comfortable sharing is one where learning can thrive.

So what does it need to achieve this? It needs motivated and interested leaders who can prompt discussion and help foster it. It needs buy in.

It’s what I’m trying to develop this year with  the Year 9 English students and staff at my school. I posted this comment on our International PLP ning in reference to it;

 I launched a ning this week for our Yr 9 English students- approx 80 students in all. More than half the yr level have already joined and some are posting comments over the weekend. One student even signed up at 10.55pm tonight! When I introduced it I made it clear that at this stage it was for our school community, but explained that we may invite classrooms from beyond our school in or eventually make it open. Right now, I’m interested in seeing how community forms amongst the yr level inside the ning. I’m pretty sure my colleagues will be supportive and will encourage their students to participate.

The sheer fact that kids have been participating without prompting has me excited. Now we have the platform to showcase what they can do. I hope to get them working on some digital tasks that they can upload and share with their peers. Linking our classrooms is the first step. Next step, the world! 

One of the things I think I’ve observed over the past year is that there are many people in our networks who participate but don’t do. I think I ‘do’ or at least try to. We have to start thinking about the tools we can use that are going to extend the thinking of our students and help them make some connection to the idea that they can make use of these tools for their educational benefit. When I launched this with the students I asked them did they belong to any social networks. They didn’t know what I was talking about – the language was unfamiliar to them. When I mentioned myspace and facebook at least 95% raised their hands. I’m hopeful they will start to see the connection between what they are doing socially and what they are going to be doing educationally. Then they may see how it is they can create a very positive digital profile for themselves that will serve them well as they make their way through life.

I’ll keep you posted as to how our community forms and what kind of buy in we have. And I promise I’ll be honest about it. If it’s not succeeding I’ll let you know, and if if it’s thriving, I’ll be doubly sure to let you know!!    

 

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