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! 

Spreading the good word!

Home now after a long drive home from Melbourne after presenting at the Telstra Dome today.

How do I feel? 

Relieved for one. Glad that SlideRocket came through and worked without the slightest problem. Hopeful that what I said struck a chord with some people. Hopeful that people didn’t leave feeling like it is all too hard to make this shift. Hopeful that some in the audience were inspired by Will Richardson who delivers the message so well.   

Thrilled to have met some of my Twitter friends. Jo McLeay was wonderful – she participated in the chat room on Ustream and helped people understand the context of slides when they couldn’t hear audio. She’s just tweeted with a link to my presentation that she recorded on ustream – how incredibly kind of her to do this – my recording didn’t work. Anne MirschtinJess McCulloch and John Pearce were there and it was  wonderful to make contact.

Equally thrilled to have some of my O/S twitter buddies participate in the ustream chat. A special thank you to Dennis Richards who emailed me with the transcript of the chat so that I could see the reactions of the watchers to what I was presenting. Some of the others in the room were Carolyn Foote, Mark Spahr, Dean Groom (I think?) Peggy George and connected geek (don’t know their real name!) Carolyn Foote tuned in just as I was showing the slide with her blog post on it. Freaky huh! Mark Spahr was great trying to help me out before the presentation began with the video camera I was using – it was operating in demo mode. He had the instruction book open at his house in Maine and was trying to figure out how to fix it. How cool is that! Help from Maine USA to Melbourne Australia. The audience could see the tweets coming through – a brilliant visual example of how this network operates and the supportive environment that it is.

I’m very tired -the result of the six hours I spent last night fixing up the SlideRocket presentation. Worth it. The effective transitions you can use made an impact. All that effort with the slides was also worth it – quite a few people have requested that I upload them to Slideshare. Not sure if I can upload from SlideRocket – may have to upload the PowerPoint – same slides. I’ll get it done tomorrow – way too tired right now!! 

Presentation tomorrow!

For those of you who’ve been reading, you’ll be aware that tomorrow I will be presenting at the SLAV conference in Melbourne. Susan Bentley, the Elibrarian who I work with, is presenting with me. It’s a big deal for me, largely because I am charged with the task of switching on a group of teachers and teacher-librarians to the idea that adopting a Web 2.0 approach to their teaching and school library practice is a vital thing to be doing. It’s also an opportunity to be inspired once again by the words of Will Richardson and see the effect his words can have on the participants. I’ve said many times before, one of the turning points in my adoption (transformation!?) came when I attended a 5 hour workshop run by Will at the Expanding Learning Horizons conference in August last year. Hopefully we’ll see him have that same effect tomorrow.

I made a PowerPoint for the presentation and have spent a considerable amount of time putting it together. I’ve been inspired by the words of Garr Reynolds in his presentation to Google staff and will be interested to see if his philosophy plays out for the audience I’m addressing. Susan and I presented this to our staff on Thursday and got a good reception so all should be well. The other exciting, but complicating thing, has been that I scored an invite to SlideRocket after I posted a plea on their blog when I realised they had sent out 500 invites and I didn’t get one. This is a presentation tool that allows you to do some pretty cool things with your slides and your presentations are stored online. When I imported the PowerPoint into SlideRocket I had problems with text overlays on my slides – it ‘s taken me ages to figure out how to address this and I’ve still got problems with my text not transferring over when I cache the presentation. Looks like I’ll be hard at it tonight trying to sort this one out. The great thing is that you can cache your presentation to your hard drive in an offline feature they offer. I’m doing this to avoid loading problems I may have tomorrow if the bandwith is not so good. Of course, you can’t expect things to go smoothly.   Ever.   I’d really like to use it as it’s a great example of the new tools becoming available, and how you can get things happening for yourself in this world if you are active and ask questions. If need be I’ll just revert to the original Powerpoint – no need worrying – just gotta go with the flow!    

My other charge is to ustream the presentation. I have a channel and am taking a video camera and tripod so that I can get it out to the world. Another great example of how to use these tools to best effect.  You can watch it on ustream at 11.30 tomorrow here. I, of course, will be delivering the presentation so won’t be able to participate in the chat room but I hope some of you do. I’d be interested in getting some feedback so please post a comment to let me know what you thought- I’m tough, can handle criticism, so let fly! (doesn’t mean I won’t be curling up in a foetal position tomorrow night if all goes wrong – you may never hear from me again!!)

I’ll be uploading the presentation to Slideshare and will post a link to it once I’ve got the thing sorted – hope it doesn’t take all night.

Dean Groom has written a good post today in response to the Web 2.0 conference that took place this week in Sydney. Read it. He articulates well the frustration felt by many who have made the shift and are trying to convince others of the need for change. We can’t give up  -we need to be the evangelists leading the flock!! 

School’s out Friday

This post is dedicated to Lindsea. In a presentation I am making on Monday I’m using Lindsea as an example of the kind of learning that is possible now that the walls are down and we can reach out and make contact. She has been an inspiration to me and my students – I hope you read this Lindsea and realise the difference you have made. This is Lindsea’s favourite video on YouTube – she posted a link to it on Twitter last night. I was watching and noticing Lindsea as I always do when I see your name. Thanks.

Cognitive surplus – that’s what I had (until I started writing this blog!)

Clay Shirky, author of ‘Here comes everybody’ recently presented at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. It’s a presentation to watch and absorb and think about.  So much of what he had to say resonated for me. He talked of cognitive surplus; the idea of utilising free time productively rather than masking the cognitive surplus to engage in tasks like watching television. I feel like I am using my cognitive surplus to the max right now. Television hardly factors into my day anymore – I’m much more interested in expanding my learning via this online environment.

Clay makes reference to his childhood and the countless times he watched re-runs of Gilligan’s island – he muses how this time could have been utilised differently.  I can only concur. I’d have to add The Brady Bunch to the mix as well. The hours spent in childhood dedicated to re-runs was time wasting at its best.

He recounts a discussion with a TV producer about the cognitive surplas required to amass the pages;

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads.  

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Just what are we capable of achieving, if we can channel some of that time into the generation of new ideas rather than the passive pursuit of television watching? Watch the video or read the transcript from Clay’s blog – you won’t be passively watching – your mind will be ticking over with the ideas he presents and I’ll bet he’ll be dinner conversation in quite a few households. (maybe even a few staffrooms!) 

Thanks to Dean Shareski for pointing me to Clay’s blog via Twitter.

Ergo – State Library of Victoria helping us out

The State Library of Victoria has recently released Ergo, a site designed to assist students with skills needed for research, essay writing and study skills. This is what they say on their front page;

When it comes to assignments and exams, it’s good to know how to make your work stand out from the crowd. That’s where ergo can help. This practical guide to research, essay writing and studying shows you how to find resources, write great essays and prepare for exams. It also has a huge range of original documents and images you can use. ergo helps you make your work the best it can be.

There are some wonderful resources for students studying bushrangers, exploration, Aboriginal, women’s and worker’s rights as well as colonial Melbourne. I’m going to find the essay writing and study skills information very handy with my classes. Great to see our State Library connecting with students and teachers in such a useful way. Well worth bookmarking.