Jane’s 25 tools – now a professional development opportunity

A couple of week’s ago I posted about Jane Hart and an excellent article she had written about 25 Tools every Learning Professional should have in their Toolbox – and all for FREE! which is due to be published in elearning age magazine in April. Jane’s post generated much interest so she decided to take things further and has now offered a Professional Development program;

 “intended for those working in education, workplace learning or professional development who want to broaden their horizons in terms of the wide range of technologies and tools available for learning and performance support in a very practical way by getting to grips with 25 key tools. “

All of the tools that Jane has included are free and she has provided activities to help with an understanding of each tool. They include Skype, Jing, Delicious, Voicethread, Google Docs, Twitter, Slideshare and many others. You need to have a user name and password to access these activities and can sign in at Jane’s site. This is a great opportunity for educators to introduce this to their workplaces to help bring along staff who have little knowledge of Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to support learning. I’ve applied for a user name and password as there are a couple of tools there that I haven’t used before. Jane has also set up a 25tools community where, “users can share thoughts, experiences and resources well as get help and advice from other Community members.” A great idea – one of the stumbling blocks I think people have when trying new things is not having someone to help them out when they need it. If you want to get a number of staff involved and have your own secure discussion area for your staff to use this can be done for a small fee (not disclosed at this stage). 

Jane Hart is doing wonderful things to support the introduction of Web 2.0 tools to the wider community. She is currently collating a list of the 100 top tools for learning. To do this she has asked educators to submit their top 10 lists with some explanation as to why they they find these tools useful. I’ve contributed my Top 10, as have 146 others.  Take a read of people’s top 10 tools – I’ve scanned quite a few and have discovered new and useful tools as a result. 

How Do Ya? Thanks Phil.

Phil Bradley is a Librarian and he writes a really useful blog that highlights many new applications that Librarians should be aware of. I have him to thank for my interest in the Web. When I returned to Teacher-Librarianship in 2002 (after many years working as a classroom teacher, holding various positions of responsibility and having two children!) I was instantly mesmorised by the new landscape of information. I had to figure out how to get around it and a book about internet search techniques written by Phil helped me to do this. I learnt how search engines retrieve results and techniques for exploring the Web in greater depth. He made me realise that I was skilled and should remain working as a TL. People can have enormous influence on you without them even realising it. Phil has been poorly of late – he wasn’t posting as frequently which was unusual. I posted a comment inquiring about his health as I was concerned – I think it’s important to express humanity even in a digital environment. To my way of thinking, life is all about relationships and our interconnectedness with others. Phil sent me an email thanking me and then posted on his blog about the kind expressions of interest he had received from readers. Pleased to know you are feeling better Phil – your blog is a must read.


That brings me to the point of this post. Phil has pointed out a new search engine called How Do Ya? The search box has ‘How do you…’ already inserted, and you then put in whatever it is you want to know how to do.  Some of the examples appearing on the front page include plan a wedding, write like Kurt Vonneget, paint like Pablo Picasso and fly a plane. Phil tells us that;

“The engine goes off and finds pages that give you that sort of information, and it also provides various ways of narrowing the search down, such as ‘what do you need, who can help, why do it and where should you go’. ” 

It is powered by Exalead, a new search engine that Phil recommends in another post. I had a look at Exalead and it looks pretty good. I like the fact that your search results page provides you with thumbshots of sites and allows you to load a preview. Phil points out numerous other features so make sure you read his post. I have to admit to being overeliant on Google – it’s habit and I do like my iGoogle page. I do think it’s important to explore and be aware of other search engines, particularly when you are teaching students to be discerning users of the Web. Give Exalead a go. 

(Picture – accessed from howdoya.com)

SlideRocket – offline feature

Last week I posted about SlideRocket, an amazing looking presentation tool that is going to have Microsoft shaking in their boots. PowerPoint is going to look like the poor relation – make sure you take the product tour on the site to see what I mean. Jim Gates at his Tipline site has just written about it (can’t believe I was onto something before Jim Gates!!) and has highlighted a great feature that I missed when I was reading about it. One of my concerns was that it was reliant on an internet connection to retrieve your presentation. Jim has pointed out that they have an offline client that will allow you to play your presetation without the internet connection. Brilliant. I’m even more impressed. Can’t wait until it’s available for use. It seems that individual users will be able to use it for free and other costs will be revealed when it comes out for public release. Sign up at the site to get an invite now – it’s my bet that they’re being inundated with requests.  

School’s out Friday

This week’s School’s out Friday post is for my son. It’s school holidays here in Victoria and my son has been listening to this song by Flo Rida and T-pain for the last few days. It’s called “Low” and I have to admit to it being my fave song at the moment as well. If it’s on the radio when we are in the car we all break out into song and we dance as well as we can in our car seats – we’re enjoying the moment together despite what other drivers on the road might think of us! Enjoy your weekend and dance in your cars – it’s my only venue now seeing as I don’t frequent the nightclub scene anymore.

Timelines TV – great new free resource for the teaching of history

Thanks to Doug Belshaw who alerted me to this great site via Twitter. Timelines TV looks like a fantastic FREE resource for teachers of history, and anyone with an interest in learning about the past. It’s been put together by Andrew Chater and has British history as its focus from 1066 to the present day. Our students study Medieval history so I can see uses for it at our school. I’ve been watching parts of the video about the Black Death and it seems pretty engaging.


You can search for content according to a timeline that you scroll along. As you scroll, titles of videos on offer pop up. When you click on them they load and are available to view in chapters. You can also download a transcript of each documentary. If you don’t like the scrolling to find titles approach, you can click on the tab ‘index’ and a list of contents appears on a new page. Videos are organised into three categories; Changing lives (social), Rulers and Ruled (political) and Nations and Empire (imperial).  The series was commissioned by the BBC and originally transmitted in the BBC Learning Zone.

Another example of excellent free content available for teacher and student use. Remember the days of purchasing videos and the exhorbitant cost of these resources. The times they are a changin’ and I say more power to providers of free content – I hope teachers find these resources – especially those teachers in poorly resourced schools. All students deserve access to good teaching resources.

Trendrr -Would maths teachers find this useful?

I’m not a maths teacher, but when I saw this I immediately thought of how it could be applied to teaching. Been looking at Download Squad (a fave site of mine) and noticed a post about Trendrr – a  graphing tool that lets you compare and graph social data from popular websites such as YouTube, ebay and myspace. According to Jay Hathaway;

Trendrr makes graphing simple by including a drag-and-drop scratchpad that lets you edit and compare graphs with a minumum of effort. “

It may well be that many of these social network sites are blocked in schools which may limit its effectiveness as a Web 2.0 tool in classrooms. I couldn’t help but think, however, that this would be a great site to be using to get your students interested in comparing data from sites that they use in their everyday lives – a bit of real life maths! Perhaps  teachers could create some graphs before class and have them ready so students can draw conclusions from the data. We all know how much more attention we pay to things when they have relevance in our lives. Thinking about it,  could be a great tool for Humanities teachers looking at the human condition and social trends.

(Graph – from Download Squad)

Flock – giving the new social web browser a go

I’m trying out the new social web browser, Flock. I noticed a few tweets on Twitter from people saying that they have moved over so I thought I’d give it a go. I’m writing this post from within the browser which is one of the features they offer. It will be very interesting to see if it works! Here is some of what they say in their release notes;

Flock 1.1 delivers a more personal experience of the web, where its users are in control and more connected to what’s important to them. By automatically managing updates and media from popular social services such as Facebook, Flickr, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, YouTube, and Twitter, Flock makes sharing with friends and services drag-and-drop easy.
A ‘my world page’ is available that can contain your Favourite Feeds, Friend Activity, Favourite Media and Favourite Sites. Pages are updating but I’m yet to figure out if this is happening because I’m moving between pages within the browser – from my observations it doesn’t appear that updates from Twitter are coming through automatically. One of the good things about the favourite feeds page is that you can see a linked list of comments that have appeared on your blog. It seems like a good way to keep everything you are linking to in one place. I’d be interested in hearing what others think. Here goes – about to press the ‘Publish’ button – let’s see if it works!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Clay’s been working hard (and so have my students).

Clay Burell has posted;

Podcast: Three Schools Discover the 21st Century!

the podcast he recorded a couple of weeks ago now that involved participants from Korea, the USA and Australia. Of course, the Australian component was me, my Principal, Noel Thomas and Lara, a student from our school. It was a very exciting podcast to be a part of and I’d like to thank Clay for the effort involved in putting it together. Go to Clay’s blog ‘Beyond School’ and follow the links to download it or listen to it from his site. He gives a very good precis of what it is all about;

Creative Destruction Abundant

What walls don’t come down in this hour-long talk? Bye-bye edu-caste system, bye-bye geographic and temporal barriers. My guests are from three continents and four levels of school hierarchy:

  • High School Principal Noel Thomas, Toorak College, Melbourne, Australia
  • High School Principal (and next year’s Director) Rich Boerner, Korea International School, Seoul, South Korea (my employer)
  • Librarian Jenny Luca, Toorak College, Melbourne
  • Lara H., high school student, Toorak College
  • Lindsea Kemp-Wilber, Punahou High School student (and Students 2.o staff writer), Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
  • and me, high school teacher and tool-guy, Korea International School

I’d also like to publicly thank Clay for the support he has given to me over the past month. He is very generous with his time and has been more than willing to guide and mentor. I’ve seen him via a webcam and I can read that expression on his face when he sees me fumbling with technology – I’m the first to admit that I don’t know everything and need quite a bit of support when trying out new things, but I am learning! That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?   

My students have also been working very hard on getting Project Global Cooling (the project that led to my links with Clay) off the ground here in Melbourne, Australia. Over 30 Yr 9 girls have taken up the challenge and we have a concert organised for April 19th, to coincide with concerts in Seoul and Honululu. Mark Seymour (from Hunters and Collectors) will be appearing, as will bands White Summer and Modern Radio. The girls have been busy organising fundraisers at school to help pay for concert running costs and have been exploring publicity and ways to make the concert run in an energy efficient manner, in keeping with our aim of raising awareness about issues concerning sustainability of our planet. A local newspaper came to the school while I was on camp last week to interview the girls about what they are doing- according to a staff member who was present they were incredibly articulate in explaining the motivation behind our planned concert. This should appear in the paper next week – I’ll make sure I post about it. They have also been investigating ways in which our school can make changes to reduce our carbon footprint. I’m incredibly proud of these girls and all they are doing. None of this is part of the actual school curriculum as such – everything is being done in their own time and they are proving to be incredible networkers – they’re on a steep learning curve and some amazing learning is taking place. We’re on a school holiday break at the moment – they have committed to coming into school over the break to keep momentum going – they are inspiring.

We need some support!

 Anne Mirtschin, a teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, in country western Victoria, Australia, has just posted about another Australian Blog closure. It seems that an early childhood centre blog has been asked to close due to photographic content being in the public domain. This comes a week or so after Al Upton’s mini-legends were shut down in Adelaide. Anne makes some very apt comments re our responsibities as educators to have our students learn to become effective digital citizens;

“will we continue to ’see the world through the eyes of predators and other minority unsavoury characters’ and force our students to learn independently the traps that may be out there waiting for them, or will we stand up and fight for our children and students, and teach them how to live in a rich and rewarding global world giving, them the knowlegde and ‘know-how’  for avoiding, protecting from and dealing with such ill-characters, should the need arise. Many of our students are already using these web2.0 tools at home and we must prepare and instruct them for this world that they live in and for future digital citizenship that they will all experience in the future.”

I agree with your sentiments entirely Anne. I teach in the secondary sector and there is no doubt that our students are actively engaged and already have an online presence. Isn’t it better that we guide our students and help them learn to navigate this digital climate in a safe and responsible manner? I can, however, understand concerns parents and teaching bodies have about the use of student images and full names online, particularly in the pre-teen years.

This is why I think it would be great to be supported by our State Governments and teaching associations. Perhaps it is now obvious that the need has arisen for policy statements that schools could have access to to support them in their endeavours to create these type of rich learning experiences for our students. I think that’s what’s needed – support from higher bodies that would then give schools and individual teachers the confidence to move forward with teaching strategies reflective of our 21st century world.

What’s really interesting is how international schools address blogging. I’ve been in talks with a teacher from Shanghai – at their school no parent permission forms for blogging exist. According to the teacher I’ve been talking to, the parents see the value of blogging from how their children interact with their blogs and they enjoy being able to have access and insight into what their children are doing. This was a recent discussion point on SOS podcast with Jeff Utecht who works at the Shanghai school I’ve referred to. Hopefully here in Australia we will start to hear more of the success stories with no more closures. 

Server’s down so a student finds another way!

The server’s down at our school over this Easter break which is causing me no end of problems as I have some important emails coming through and many that I want to respond to. One of my students was obviously feeling the frustration as well. I opened this blog during the afternoon and saw there was a comment awating moderation. It was from one of my students who opened the dialogue with, “Mrs. Luca, please don’t publish this….” She had been trying to email me through the school email but the server problems restricted access. What was her next port of call? Write a comment on my blog knowing full well that I’d be looking at it and she would be able to make the contact she needed.  

My students know of my online presence and are supportive of what I am doing. I love the fact that she did what is natural for kids of today – do what you can to make the connections you need! I wonder if my friends (of my age) would think of using this medium to contact me -maybe.