Brain Rules – look at this and apply it to education

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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.  

World Wide Telescope – ready for launch to a desktop near you.

I’ve just downloaded World Wide Telescope, Microsoft’s latest offering to the world. It’s free and here’s why(according to their What is World Wide Telescope page);

Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before. 

That’s very nice of Microsoft, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s not a response to the open source revolution that is taking place. Regardless, it looks like an amazing tool that is going to be a truly wonderful resource for Science teachers and anyone with an interest in checking out the universe.

I’ma bit of a night sky lover. A few years ago a friend and I spent some nights getting up at 2am and drove to a sports field so that we could check out meteor showers that were visible. We saw some incredible meteors; the most spectaculor one blazed across the sky and was a true aha moment. It sounds cliche, but losing yourself in the night sky does make you question our purpose here – why is it that we push ourselves so hard and get caught up in the minutiae of life?

Enough philosophising! I lost myself in World Wide Telescope for 45 mins and didn’t notice time passing. Still don’t know how to navigate it properly. Best remedy for this is to introduce it to a class and let them work it out for me! Or alternately, take this advice from Microsoft;

Click the top of the Guided Tours tab and then click the Welcome thumbnail to watch a guided tour showing you how to navigate in WWT.

It’s a big file to download (20MB) but it’s pretty impressive. Give it a try.


AUPs – Acceptable Use Policies. Here’s help from David.

David Warlick writes a blog called 2cents worth. If you’re not reading it, you should be. He seems to be a man with a remarkable capacity to do so much. I envy people like this – he certainly uses his cognitive surplus to best effect.

He’s put together a wiki to assist all of us grappling with the formation of Acceptable Use Policies in our schools. This is what he has to say on the home page of the wiki;

Welcome to School AUP 2.0

This is a dynamic document designed to support teachers, school media specialists, and education leaders in developing, maintaining, and enforcing policies designed to:

  1. Promote the most effective, productive, and instructionally sound uses of digital, networked, and abundant information environments.
  2. Provide safe digital environments for learners and to instill safe practices and habits among the learning community.

This wiki site will serve as a launchpad to other documents and communities seeking to provide guidance in acceptable use policy development and also as an incubator for ideas related to issues, document structures, new problems and opportunities, and maintenance.



What is going to be useful within the wiki are the following pages:

Resource pages with RSS feeds from David’s Diigo account and sites tagged by anyone.

AUP Guiding Documents (tagged “aup” & “guide”)

Sample AUPs (tagged “aup” & “sample”)

AUP Examples (tagged “aup” & “example”)

Cell Phone Policies (tagged “aup” & “cellphone”)

Running down the right sidebar is an RSS feed listing for blog entries that include school and AUP.

I know that I’m going to be making use of this site as will other educators worldwide. The formation of these policies in this ever changing digital landscape is essential if we are to proceed confidently with our students interacting in a read/write environment. Just ask Al Upton. I know that when our school launched ourselves into Project Global Cooling I spent a considerable amount of time trying to put together a permission form for parents to sign so that students could contribute to the ning site supporting the project. At that time I relied heavily on a document put together by Clay Burell that is accessible on his website.

Thanks David for sharing your thinking and providing a space for educators from all corners of the world. Another great example of the sharing nature of this network.   

* Good luck to Clay Burell and his students from Korea International School for their Project Global Cooling concert that starts shortly. He’s not ustreaming so I can’t provide a link.  I hope everything goes well. Clay has been an amazing support person for me and I want everyone to know this!!

School’s out Friday

Before I begin the weekly School’s out Friday post, I want to alert you to a new blogger on the scene. Keyta is a student at the school I work at. She’s an amazing young woman with a passion for almost everything. She has only been at our school a short while, but she has made her mark by taking on positons of leadership and exemplifying qualities we would like to see young women in our school and society live up to. She is a young woman with much to say  -I hope you all follow the link and encourage her as she begins her blogging journey.

So, to this weeks School’s out Friday. Again inspired by a student from my school. My Yr 7 class were roaring with laughter this afternoon watching this. The student who showed it did so because her oral presentation was about The Chasers – a comedy group who have a television program on the ABC network. The first part has a swear word  -please ignore it – I’ve tried very hard to keep this blog clear of profanity! Unavoidable this time as the second part of the video is the part I want you to watch. It’s a take off of a Riva coffee commercial and it is very funny – enjoy your weekend. 

Time to reflect

Funny, isn’t it? 

You build up to something pretty big in your life and the adrenalin runs high. Event happens – all goes well and you have no need to feel bad about anything BUT…… you feel flat and wasted afterwards.

That’s how I feel.

I shouldn’t, but I do. I’ve been reflecting on the last four months and the incredible shifts that have happened in my life and the amazing things that have happened, and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. So, what has happened?

I’ve discovered a new community of teachers (and some students) and I’m learning from them.

I (and my students most importantly) have been involved in a global project that has extended us in ways we never thought possible.

I’ve learnt how to use Skype and found the world a very small place indeed.

This thing called Twitter has changed the way I find out about new ‘stuff’.

Writing this blog has taught me more about myself than I ever thought posssible.

I’m writing! Pretty amazing in itself – can knock off a thousand words in no time flat now. Would have scoffed had someone told me I’d be writing my own personal thesis six months ago.

My school sees me as a technology leader and innovator – cool!

I’ve presented at a major conference about why I think schools need to make the shift.

I average 6 hrs sleep a night (if I’m lucky)

And therein lies the rub. What I’m doing is charging my mental processes but it’s draining my physical state and is leaving me a bit vunerable at the moment. As I learn more and more the demands on me grow and I’m finding it hard to balance everything that is expected of me. I know this feeling will pass – I think what is needed is 12 hrs solid sleep to rejuvenate the weary bones.

This energised me earlier in the week. I tweeted Garr Reynolds about how my presentation was modelled on tips he provided at an authors at Google talk. Amazing traffic on my blog overnight led back to a tweet Garr himself put out about my post and what I had written about SlideRocket. Then when I checked junk email I discovered that Garr Reynolds was following me on Twitter.

WHAT! ME! Humble little blogger from Melbourne, Australia. I just had to capture the page with his followers for posterity’s sake.   Look real close – that’s me – right under Guy Kawasaki. There’s my fifteen minutes – might as well stop right now! 


*Lovely dinner last night in Melbourne with fellow bloggers Jo McLeay, Sue Tapp, Lauren O’Grady, Tony Richards, Al Upton, Howard Errey, Pam (from Sue’s school) and Helen Otway. Great to meet f2f and discover we can talk offline equally as well as we can online. Tony recorded a podcast for edtech crew. I think it’s being posted this Sunday – listen for my psychic story!