We’ve been discussing PDF documents at school recently and the difficulties manipulating information contained within. Download Squad have posted about a free download that converts PDF documents to Word format. I tried it out tonight. It was easy to download and the conversion was quick. In less than 20sec a large PDF file was available as a Word document that could be edited. Our interactive whiteboards save data as a PDF – this could be a very helpful free tool for teachers who want their students to be able to edit documents.
I’m loving delicious. Sometimes I think I’m slow on the uptake of new ideas. I’ve known about del.icio.us for probably well over a year, and I made an account in July 2007. Then it languished in my toolbar while I continued to add to my favourites on my computer. It’s really started to come into it’s own since I began writing this blog. Now I see the relevance because it’s become useful to me. When I tag a website I want to know why I was interested in it – I love the fact that you have the ability to write a line or two that makes sense to you about the site and why it may be useful. I don’t often go anywhere without my laptop, but I’m really happy about the fact that I can access this account from any desktop anywhere I happen to be provided there is an internet connection. Great stuff – it never ceases to amaze me what’s possible these days.
The reason I’m highlighting del.icio.us is because I am introducing it to a group of Yr 7 and 8 students this afternoon. I figure this post can be part of my teaching toolbox. Once again however, I have to call on the magnificent work of the Lefevers. Nothing beats their made simple explanations, which in turn, help to make my teaching moments easier.
If you’re not yet switched on to del.icio.us it’s time you gave it a go. One of the great things about social bookmarking is that you can check out other people’s del.icio.us bookmarks. You can’t tamper with their account, but you can view them. This is fantastic if you want to see what other people are adding to their del.icio.us accounts. It’s particularly good if you are researching a subject area and an expert in the field has a del.icio.us account – you can see websites they have tagged that might be suitable for your purposes.
I went to a few conferences last year and kept hearing the same message from quite a few keynote presenters about the characteristics of the Millenials, or nextgen, or whatever other catchy name you want to call the current crop of students we are teaching. I kept hearing reference to the me me me generation, the kids who are self centred and want it all now. At a conference I presented at I actually showed a digital story our students had created and asked the audience to consider what I view as the skewed impression people are generating about kids today. The work these students had created was considered, empathic and brought some of the audience to tears. Not the work of students focused on themselves only.
What’s brought me to this is an event I attended tonight. Our school has links with the Oak Tree Foundation, founded by a young man by the name of Hugh Evans. He’s a pretty amazing guy and a gifted speaker. The following is from the Oak Tree site;
“Hugh’s passion for helping others began when he was 12 and became involved in World Vision’s 40-Hour Famine. At age 14, a sponsored trip to the Philippines to see World Vision’s work first hand impacted Hugh’s life immensely. Sleeping in a slum, Hugh witnessed an entire community built around a garbage dump and saw children scavenging and dying around him. It was a turning point in his life. A year in South Africa in 2003 inspired him to found The Oak Tree Foundation. As a result of his outstanding work and dedication, Hugh was awarded Young Australian of the Year 2004. He has also been awarded one of twelve Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) for 2004.”
Tonight, students from our school hosted ‘Hands Together: A Comedy Gala’, at our local Arts Centre. It was an event orgainised entirely by students to raise what they hoped would be $10,000 to support the Kwabazothini school of South Africa, part of Oak Tree’s Schools for Schools program. By the crowd turn up I’d say they have come close to the mark. It was an inspiring evening that reinforces my belief that we have outstanding young people in our schools today who have a social conscience and the ability to make change in the world. I felt proud to be a member of our school community and applaud the students who worked tirelessly over the last few months with a focus on the greater good.
Thanks to Clay Burrell at Beyond School for the alert to this video. Just as ‘Did you know?’ became a viral video with an enormous viewing audience, the hope is that ‘Did you ever wonder?’ will reach similar viral proportions. The video was created by Bill Warren from ed4wb.org (education for well-being). On his about page Bill says, “Education For Well-being was started as a response to what is happening (and not happening) in schools today. There needs to be a rethinking of the purpose of education–one that moves away from students as support systems for economies–to one that moves toward education as an instrument of well-being…………Ed4Wb seeks to foster, through the collaborative nature of the Web, the notion that education should help improve our ability to live well, not degrade it.”
The video highlights the notion that we need to be conscious of our responsibility to educate our students that the focus shouldn’t be on economic growth to the detriment of sustainability of earth’s resources; resources being people and the environment. It’s a good message and one that would compliment studies of Globalisation and Global Warming in our schools today.
Thanks Bill for creating another useful tool that can be used as the springboard for lively discussions in our classrooms.
In my last post I highlighted the great work being done by Justin Medved and Dennis Harter at the International School of Bangkok. One of the proactive things they are doing for their staff and the wider world is an initiative called Wired Wednesdays. In their words, Wired Wednesday is, “a discussion based session around the philosophy and direction of education, technology, and learning. Usually inspired by a video (think mwesch), we then just talk and then hopefully redirect the conversation into the blogosphere and classrooms.” The wider world can participate as they broadcast on Ustream. Wired Wednesdays broadcast from 2.15pm Bangkok time. If you can’t tune in you can catch up with the rerun on their Ustream channel.
We are currently investigating how best we videotape lectures that occur in the school. Perhaps Ustream is worth a look.
With Ustream you can create your own show. Here’s how you do it (from the Ustream site);
Create your own broadcast! It takes just minutes…
Dennis Harter and Justin Medved are doing some fantastic work at the International School of Bangkok and are sharing their thinking with the world. Justin created the Curriculum 2.0 video that began this entry, and their thinking is helping me to clarify my own thinking about learning and where technology fits in the teaching happening in our schools today. It’s the learning that is important and that’s what needs to be the focus of any discussion about the use of technology to support learning. Their school uses Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design to develop their units so they approached their planning with the idea that they needed to formulate essential questions identifying Information Literacy for a 21st Century Learner. Below are their questions represented as a diagram.
They then developed a new literacy wiki that became the discussion forum for these five essential questions and what they termed Curriculum 2.0. Out of this they fine tuned their five essential questions into what they termed, ‘three focused roles of technology in 21st century learning.’
They then evolved to the following understandings and the development of three new questions. What follows is directly from their fifth blog post on this subject – I hope they don’t mind me inserting it here but it is best understood by reading their words.
“From this starting point and as a result of much discussion and collaboration, we all agreed that our ideas and five essential questions could be refined further down to three new questions.
- How do I responsibly use information and communication to positively contribute to my world?
- How do I effectively communicate?
- How do I find and use information to construct meaning and solve problems?
With these questions we then proceeded to flesh out the enduring understandings that went with them. It was our feeling that these should always be evolving to address the changing face of communication, collaboration and information. The curriculum frameworkwould be in constant beta. A testament to the ever expanding nature of the skills it was attempting to map.”
They’ve blown me away with the scope of their discussions and the framework they have provided. I can now see a way forward to implement discussion and change in my school. My best advice to anyone reading this is to visit either Dennis or Justin’s blogs or visit Dangerously Irrelevant where they were guest bloggers this week. Great work guys and thanks for sharing your thinking with the world. It’s a brilliant example of what is possible for our kids if we give them the scope to write for a global audience.
Time for the weekly dose of School’s out Friday. Here’s David Lee King singing his Web 2.0 song, ‘Are you blogging this?’ I think my friends who don’t get blogging are getting sick of me mentioning my blog! Perhaps I’ll annoy them further by singing this loudly around them. Enjoy your weekend – make the most of it – Monday seems to arrive way too soon!