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.   

SlideRocket – coming soon – take a look

Was looking through feeds on my Google Reader and came across a link to SlideRocket which is due for release soon (I know not when!) according to their website. (Can’t remember whose blog I was reading when I saw the link – sorry – I do like to attribute my sources, only fair, but I can’t find it at the moment!) According to their website this is what SlideRocket can do;

“SlideRocket is a web application that provides everything you need to design professional quality presentations, manage and share libraries of slides and assets, and to deliver presentations in person or remotely over the web.”

You can take a tour of SlideRocket via their homepage – I think it looks fantastic. Some of their transitions are really effective. I hope it’s available soon. I have to prepare a couple of major presentations over this holiday break and I’d love to do them using this tool. They recently won three out of a possible four awards at the Under the Radar conference – read about it on their blog page. Make sure you sign up for an invite to try it out when it approaches release. 

School’s out Friday

Yes, school’s out today and it’s Good Friday. Time for a feel good video. Easter is nigh and Victorian schools have broken up for the first term holidays. My husband sent me this video during the week and my kids and I have enjoyed watching the special moment that occurs between John Rendall and Ace Berg, two men, who, in the late 1960’s brought a lion named Christian from Harrod’s Department store for 250 Guineas. They reared him for a year in their London Apartment and then enlisted the help of George Adamson, of Born Free fame, to introduce him to the wild at Kora reserve in Africa. He was integrated into a pride and John and Ace returned to their life in London. After a year, they decided to return to see Christian. George Adamson reported that he had not been sighted for nine months and the chances of Christian recognising them would be slim. When they arrived, George told them that Christian had returned the previous night and could be found on his favourite rock in the park. Watch the video and judge for yourself whether or not a wild animal has any recall of their early life. It’s a feel good video and one my children and I have returned to again and again. Enjoy Easter with your families and share feel good vibes this video brings with it.

  

Back from camp – time to tell you about Google Notebook

Returned from camp today. Had a great time with fantastic Year 7 students willing to give everything a go. I’m a huge supporter of Outdoor Education camps since I left on my first one two years ago. On that one, we paddled 60kms down Australia’s Murray River and camped on river beaches nightly for five days. HUGE learning curve for me – had to adapt very quickly and stay motivated even though I found it really difficult. At the end of the week I’d felt a shift in me – a sense of achievement and a bonding with a group unlike camp experiences I’d had before. Happens every time I do an Outdoor Ed camp – everyone grows in some way. Last night’s debrief session was wonderful – every student could articulate how they had learnt something and what they were going to take away from the experience – powerful stuff!

Something else that I think is pretty powerful and transformational for both teachers and their students is Google Notebook. At the moment I’ve got two Google Notebooks running. One I call blog ideas. What I do is open my notebook when I’m reading feeds from my Google Reader – it’s absolutely essential to get yourself a Google Reader (or other RSS feed service) if you want to subscribe to websites and receive updates that come directly to you rather than you having to go to the effort of finding the website every time you log on. My Google Reader has literally changed my life (and I’m not kidding!) Back to the point of the discussion – I open the Google Notebook called ‘blog ideas’ and what I can do is cut and paste things I’ve read into my notebook that I think might be a good idea for a blog post. It’s helping me to make sense of what I think is important and is also helping me to write posts on a frequent basis. If you remember, I’ve set myself the ridiculous target of attempting to write a blog post a day. Call me stupid -I’m already saying it to myself!

My other notebook is one that I’m using to collate ideas for a presentation I have to make with a colleague. Because we are going to have to work on this together, I have chosen the ‘Share this notebook’ option that is available to you when you use Google Notebook. This sends an invite to people you want to have access to the notebook so that you can both make contributions. It’s this collaborative potential that I think is transformational for staff and students. Teachers could use Google Notebook (or Google Docs) to work on developing ideas for units of work and students could use them for group projects. As individuals, teachers and students would find the Google Notebook valuable for collecting information from the Web for projects. I showed my notebooks to a researcher from a university in Melbourne and she could immediately see the potential this offered for the work she does.

If you haven’t seen it yet, get yourself a google account and check it out – I’m sure you’ll see ways to use this fantastic free resource immediately. Getting a google account is easy too – just register with an email address, user name and password. Dead simple and the benefits are huge.

I’m really comfortable  with my Google Reader and aren’t fussed about opening the notebook at the same time. Download Squad have just posted about a combined feed reader and blog client in one called YeahReader. Here’s how they describe how it works;

“In addition to the usual feed reader tools that let you mark items as read or unread, you can also click a “blog this” button to copy feed items into the blog client. “

They also point out this very valid point which is why I think bloggers should proceed with caution;

“Just be careful to use this power for good and not evil. In other words, if you’re going to say, write about an article you found on Download Squad, please don’t copy the whole article and pass it off as your own work. That’s what we like to call copyright infringement.”

They’re absolutely right – their article is worth a read – I’d encourage you to follow the link.

Connections everywhere – even at camp!

Thanks to my intrepid OEG guide, here I am at camp being able to write a post. It’s been excrutiatingly hot, we’ve hiked to a camp away from the main site, cooked outdoors (remarkably good chicken pasta!), erected tents, hiked back to base camp, completed a high ropes course and are going to experience canoeing, raft construction and a talent night tomorrow. Kids have been great and all are up to having a go at new things. I have to say, having no internet connection was causing me a bit of angst, but having a chat with our group leader from OEG led to him suggesting that I log on and keep up with what’s happening on the blog. He gets what I’m doing. He’s young and uses this medium to Skype with friends overseas and uses facebook to stay in touch with friends everywhere. His partner is a primary school teacher and is using interactive whiteboards to great effect in her grade 3/4 classroom in country Victoria. 

My learning hasn’t entirely halted while at camp. Any down time (read tent at night with headtorch for light!) has been spent reading Thomas Freidman’s ‘The World is Flat’. Although I’ve read plenty about it, I’ve never actually read the book so I’m forging my way ahead now. The early part reminds me a lot of a documentary I watched quite a few years ago called ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ about computers and the origins of the Internet. It’s quietly affirming to read this book. It’s helping to consolidate thinking I have had for some time that all this blogging and learning about new ways of doing things is essential if we are going to be the people leading our students in the right direction fo the future they are going to encounter. The challenge will continue to be moving those around us forward with the change.

My challenge for tonight is to get some sleep in a tent with a sleeping mat and clothing stuffed into a sleeping bag cover as poor substitute for a pillow. 

For those of you who can’t be bothered with Freidman’s lengthy tome, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach recommended looking a the Wikipedia entry in a keynote speech she delivered last week!