School’s out Friday

This is sorta, dunno, nothing. It’s a fun video on YouTube that was first shown to me by a member of staff. A student recommended it today as a School’s out Friday post. If you’re not Australian, pay close attention to the table and the array of food items on display. There are some iconic items symbolic of Australian cuisine. Despite the strong Australian accents evident throughout, I’m sure this video will be easy to relate to by people from other countries – teenagers worldwide display attributes like this at times!

Have a great weekend!

Text 2 Mind Map – works for me

I don’t know about you, but I always find making mind maps a bit difficult. I like how they look and I think they’re a wonderful way to plot ideas, but I’m a listmaker, and I don’t always find it easy to start with the idea in the middle and work outwards.

I think this is why Text 2 Mind Map holds such appeal for me. What you do is write your list in a box on the page and then press convert it. Your text will then be interpreted as a mind map. You can move the boxes around to the configuration you want.  I haven’t yet worked out how to link them with arrows, but that will come with a bit more fiddling!

I like it!

Thanks once again to the inimitable Jane Hart for directing me to this site.

Laura Stockman – inspiring others across the waves.

Sunday morning I was grazing through my Google reader, kicking back and hoping I’d find something that would inspire me to write. I found something better than that, I found something that inspired me to act. 

I checked out Will Richardson’s latest post and discovered Laura Stockman, an 11yr old from New York who has been writing a blog called Twenty five days to make a difference.  Laura’s mother Angela was involved with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLP cohort and Laura was inspired to write a blog as a result of this. Her blog was written in honour of her grandfather and Laura has set about performing good deeds with the resulting donations going toward charity.  Laura’s blog has moved beyond the initial 25 day target, largely because Laura has felt empowered by what this experience has meant for her.

Angela has written a very moving post about Laura’s presentation to the PLP cohort last week. Here’s what she said about her discussion with Laura when she decided to continue beyond 25 days;

You know, when Laura decided her blog was going to be more than a twenty five day experience, I questioned her decision.

“There are all sorts of things that we haven’t thought about. This is going to require a ton of effort on your part. It’s going to require a huge commitment,” I said. “It might not work.”

“Oh, it’ll work fine,” she told me. “It’ll work because I want it to work. “

Laura gets it. She already knows that it’s self motivation and belief that can drive you forward. Some of us don’t get this until we’ve had a fair bit of life experience, if we ever get it at all. Here’s an 11 yr old teaching us how to navigate life.

I went to Laura’s blog and read through quite a bit of it. I was so impressed by the essential good in what she was doing. She wasn’t raising millions, but she was performing simple, honest tasks that were contributing to the greater good. She’d recently Skyped into a classroom in Florida and was disappointed that the kids couldn’t see her as she didn’t have a webcam.  In a blog post that followed she recounted how Skype had sent her a webcam so that others would be able to see her when she made calls. She posed this question in her post;

Is anyone else out there interested in doing this? I really enjoy blogging and Skyping about blogging and ways that kids can make a difference. This is really cool. 

This was my answer;

Hi Laura,
The students at my school in Melbourne, Australia would love to have you Skype into our classroom. Time differences between our countries is a bit of a problem. It may well be you would have to Skype in in the evening. If you are interested you can email me at We raise money for local and international charities at the end of our school year and your story would be inspirational for them.

Laura replied with enthusism;

Hi Ms. Luca!

I would LOVE to do a skype chat with you! My dad and mom are really excited about this too! I’ve never met anyone from Australia before! I can definitely do this in the evening. Please just let me know what works for you and your class. Thank you so much for this invitation!!!!

My class is responding with just as much enthusiasm as Laura. They’re posting comments on her blog and already we’ve been discussing what we can do to help Laura and her charitable efforts. She is going to Skype into our classroom next Wednesday morning our time (evening her time) and my class can hardly wait. Already Laura ia extending her reach globally and her 25 days project looks set to ignite action all the way to Australia.

I’ve been in email contact with Angela and we both feel that this has potential to become a global project. Will’s post has drawn people to Laura’s blog, and other educators from differing countries are keen to learn from Laura. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to work together to make an impact for a global cause. What a potential learning experience for our students this could be. Angela’s words from her post are important here;

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s been precisely that: when we are truly committed to making something happen, it happens. It doesn’t matter who or what might be standing in our way. If the goal means something to us in the end, we don’t let our fear or our lack of resources or the politics of a situation or our bruised egos stand in the way. We just make things work. Because it matters, this work that we do, and it’s bigger than the credit that anyone could receive or the mistakes that might be made along the way.

What an amazing affirmation for a young girl with a desire to make a difference in honour of her grandfather.   

Thanks Laura. You are an inspiration. 

Make your maths class fun.

Think I’m having a YouTube week. Flicked into Twitter very briefly today and saw a tweet from Jeff Utecht with the link to this video. Here’s a way to start your next maths lesson – ‘I will derive’ is the name of the YouTube video. It’s all about calculus and uses impetus from Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’ to make a maths concept more interesting. Who said maths was boring!

Cyberbullying – videos help convey message.

I used the above video, Cyberbullying – Talent Show,  from the Ad Council with my Yr 7 students today. What began as a bemused audience settled into uncomfortable silence as the 50 sec video panned out. It’s a really useful video to show – the  message is delivered convincingly and with real impact. It sparked a lot of interesting discussion about the damage done to individuals from cyberbullying.

DK from Mediasnackers switched me on to the video below also about cyberbullying. This one, Let’s fight it together, was produced by Childnet (a non-profit organisation working with others to “help make the Internet a great and safe place for children”) for the Department for children, schools and families in England (DCSF). It highlights the different ways that Cyberbullying can happen and the how the victim is affected by the bullying. The target is male and my students made some interesting observations about how differently boys react to victimisation compared to girls. Good discussion. Once again, it managed to pack a punch, far more than any information I could relay by simply talking about the issue. Make sure you watch both and think about using them in your classrooms. These are messages that need relaying.


Snackr – a new way to read RSS feeds

I read about Snackr while browsing through Download Squad  via my Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs you’ll know that you have to have a means of managing the plethora of information you want (need!) to consume. My reader is invaluable – I subscribe to sites by pasting the url into the add subscription box within the reader and any new feeds from the blogs I subscribe to come to me directly. I don’t have to open a new tab and open the site each time I want to see what people in my educational network are writing about.

What I’ve found recently is a lack of time to get to all the reading done. Now that I’m active on Twitter coupled with the demands of my job (not to mention my family obligations!) I’m finding I’m time poor in relation to my reader. Although I’m finding the connections I’m making via Twitter incredibly valuable, I’m lamenting the fact that I’m missing some of the deeper thinking that is evident when you read what people are posting in their blogs.  

Snackr is going to help me manage my reading. Download Squad have explained it really well so I’ll block quote from them rather than try to paraphrase their thinking!

Snackr is an Adobe AIR-based RSS ticker that pulls random headlines from your RSS feeds and scrolls them along the bottom or the side of your screen, letting you click through to read anything that looks interesting. It’s not a replacement for your regular RSS reader, but it makes a great supplement. Snackr’s well worth checking out if you’re an information addict who has to have the fire hydrant open at all times.

  I suppose I am turning into an information addict. I downloaded Snackr (you have to make sure you have downloaded Adobe AIR first – easy to do) and now it’s running along the base of my screen. I’ve added feeds to the basic set that came when I downloaded the application. You can easily add or delete feeds. The scrolling was moving too quickly for me so I slowed it down – less likely to have an epileptic seizure now! Already I can see the benefits. I’m not finding the scrolling too obtrusive and I can easily click on an item that might be of interest. When I do up pops a box with part of the post visible. A quick read indicates whether or not I want to view the post in its entirity. Again, easy to do. Just click ‘view post’ and you’re redirected to the source.  If it becomes obstrusive you can collapse the ticker (I think that’s what it’s called!) so that you can concentrate on a task at hand.

I’m liking it so far! Thanks Jay Hathaway from Download Squad for giving me the heads up.

School’s out Friday

Here’s a great way to learn about chemical reactions. What’s the bet students would remember how elements react a whole lot better from watching this rather than listening to a lecture from their teacher!!  

Have a great weekend.

Brain Rules – look at this and apply it to education

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Garr Reynolds has posted this on Slideshare – it’s his response to the new book Brain Rules by John Medina. He considers it a must read and after watching this slide presentation I’ll be getting myself a copy asap. Watch it and apply what you learn to your classrooms. I’ve been doing brain gym exercises with my Yr 7 class over the last two days as a result of a session from one of our classroom assistants who also practices Kinesiology. The kids are looking at me a bit strangely, but anything that can assist them with learning and staying motivated in class is worth a go as far as I’m concerned.

Coincidently, I attended the Hawker Brownlow thinking conference in Melbourne last week and attended sessions run by Rich Allen. He’d agree with the ideas presented by  John Medina. He had us moving all day, switching tasks and used music to engage us in activities. It was very effective and made me rethink my approach to classroom teaching. In the days that followed I had my students moving around, high fiving one another and telling their classmates how great they were whenever we’d been sedentary for too long. It certainly added a new dynamic to the classroom and not a bad one at that.

I truly believe you’re on a continual learning journey as a teacher and you need to be open to new ideas. I’ve always felt that I am learning and growing as a teacher and never perfect my craft – there are always new ideas that can be applied -you need to be responsive and give things a go. Our kids deserve no less.

Check out this YouTube video with John Medina talking about the power of visual images in relation to learning. Makes sense – another lesson we need to apply to our classrooms. Take note.

Learning to change – watch it and make up your mind.

There’s a bit of debate flying around the edublogosphere regarding this video. It’s healthy debate, because it’s questioning the motivations of the group that put this video together. I always think it’s healthy when people look beyond the surface and delve for deep understanding. These are the very skills we are hoping we will impart to our students to ensure that they become well rounded citizens of the world. Good modelling all round.

Most of the debate stems from Chris Lehmann’s blog post  Pearson presents: Learning to Change.

Chris has problems with the video for a number of reasons, and you’d probably be best served by following the link and reading what he has to say. One of the points he made that rang true for me was this;

And I don’t know… perhaps under it all, I have a sense that these folks think, “If we just change it all up, the kids will all suddenly just start learning like crazy” when that misses several points — 1) we still have an insanely anti-intellectual culture that is so much more powerful than schools. 2) Deep learning is still hard, and our culture is moving away from valuing things that are hard to do. 3) We still need teachers to teach kids thoughtfulness, wisdom, care, compassion, and there’s an anti-teacher rhetoric that, to me, undermines that video’s message.

It’s point three that resonates deep with me. What underpins all good teaching and learning (IMHO) is the formation of relationships. I firmly believe that no child will learn anything from me until I’ve shown them that I’m interested in them and what they have to say. Without passionate teachers, who realise that teaching the whole person is vital, no Web 2.0 tool is going to make any huge difference to learning outcomes. The tools can make the learning more interesting and can provide them with useful skills, but they still need guidance and purpose to direct the learning that needs to take place. There’s my sermon from the mount for today!

Chris questions the motivation of the creators of the video,  Pearson Learning, a company that has a web based formative assessment testing system and reporting tool. He asks us to consider if we should be paying attention to a message from a company with a vested interest in us using the web for learning. It’s a must read post – make sure you read the comment thread that follows for more interesting discussion. Here’s what I posted in response;

Great post. I’ve seen this video at numerous blog sites over the past week and none had made mention of the production company behind it. I still like it, because I think it makes people think about the shifts that need to happen if we are going to enable our students to become fully digital literate and make the most of what the web can offer. I do think you highlight an important point – this shift is not going to be easy and we do need to focus on the learning as our most important motivation rather than communication for communications sake. I’m going to watch your keynote – interested in what you have to say.
Thanks Chris for prompting me to think and probe deeper. It’s vitally important that we remember to not always take things at face value but to question and explore. These are digital literacy skills we all need to have; both we as educators and our students. I stand by what I said in my comment – I still like this video and the things it is saying to us. I think it will assist in making people think and help to make the shift happen. I just won’t be looking at it through the same rose coloured glasses that I was wearing last week when I first saw it.

Taking Stock

Yesterday I wrote about the night sky, and how I often muse about what purpose we hold in this world as I lose myself in the vastness of it. I wondered why we get ourselves caught up in the minutiae of the everyday complications we face as we grapple with jobs, expectations, pressure and the juggle we face blending this with family.  

Today that all came home to me.

My husband coaches our son’s under 9 soccer team, the Tigers. His assistant is a great guy who teaches at a nearby school. He’s a great bloke who has a passion for sport and he’s involved in his son’s life. Much like my own husband. We’ve compared notes and had a laugh as we compare our respective workplaces and reflect on the all consuming job that teaching can be.  

Today I got to our staff briefing to discover them announcing that he had died last night of a suspected heart attack. He was 41.

I grieved today for a family who has lost a father and husband. For a soccer team that has lost a vital ingredient. For a school that has lost some of the glue that holds it together. For students who have lost a leader, a friend and mentor.  

Hold your family close to you tonight. Remember what is important. Take stock.