Passing the time with Sheryl, Chris, Wes, Kevin and Dean.

I’m frightened I’m going to sound like a braggart in this post but I’m pretty darn chuffed about being a guest panelist for Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s workshop in West New York State on Wednesday night last week (my time 11.00pm to be exact!). Been so busy haven’t had a chance to write about it. Sheryl asked me to join a panel to discuss inquiry and project based learning utilising Web 2.0. The intention was to highlight that Web 2.0 tools are not to be taught in isolation. They need to be integrated into meaningful authentic learning tasks where they can take students to new places with their learning.

When Sheryl sent me the link to the wiki I was amazed to see who else was on the panel. Chris Lehmann, Wes Fryer, Kevin Honeycutt and Australia’s own Dean Groom (an expert in Project based learning using Web 2.0 as the driving force behind creation of tasks). Such illustrious company for little old me to be involved with. The session was for educators from West New York (State) near Buffalo. It was held using elluminate. I could see the names of the participants but couldn’t see or hear them. They could see who was speaking as we enabled our webcams to be accessed. It was a fantastic opportunity to share my experiences with people in the United States and let them know what a transformative experience it has been for me writing this blog. I was able to share with them how making connections has enabled my students to have experiences wider than the classroom walls we habitate.

You could hear the passion for the idea of Learning 2.0 from Chris, Wes, Kevin and Dean. I think it was obvious that all of us were student focused in our belief that it is transformative adopting new technologies to transform learning experiences for the students we have dealings with. I hope the participants got a sense of this and that they reach out like we have done to make connections for their students. Sheryl recorded the session so when I find out where the link is to that I’ll post it.

I’ve been involved in helping to establish the Australian arm of a global cohort for Sheryl and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice. I see it as a means of increasing the capacity of our teachers to move with change and see the potential of Learning 2.0/Web 2.0 for their classroom practice. We’re still seeking a couple of schools so if you’re an Australian educator and want some detail contact me through this blog and I’ll pass on some info.  

Thanks Sheryl for the invite. It made my week.

School’s out Friday

A couple of weeks ago I featured Hamish and Andy and their Team Ghosting effort in the streets of Melbourne. Quite a lot of people commented on it both on and off the blog. I love Hamish and Andy. They have a radio program from 4.00pm -6.00pm on 101.9 Fox FM here in Melbourne, Australia. They’re great listening. I cringe when they play their blast from the past segment. What they do is select a random phone number and ring that person. The task is to convince the person on the end of the phone that they’re a friend from the past and then they have to get them to agree to something, be it looking after their children, lending them money or giving them a psychic reading amongst others. Cringable stuff but very funny nonetheless.

This is them seeing what they can get when they use crying as a method. Funny stuff.

Enjoy your weekend.

Soungle – great for digital storytelling tasks

I’m hoping to get some digital storytelling tasks off the ground again this term at my school. There are a few literature circles taking off for differing year levels so things look hopeful. One of them involves my English class so there’s a definite goer!

I’ve just discovered Soungle. This is a site that enables you to search for royalty free sound effects that you can use for projects. Great for digital stories. One of the best digital stories students of mine made used a telephone ring tone and a bomb blast to great effect. Here’s what they say on their about page;

Soungle is a free site, developed by Southern Codes, for finding all kind of sound FX and musical instruments samples on our mega online library. As different from most of similar sites, Soungle is NOT a Web search engine. It only searches in our growing monster database. Our goals are to keep it simple to use (search, preview and download) and to keep it free.

Keyword searches are performed by entering any word or phrase in a search box. The retrieved results of a keyword search are displayed ten to a page. Clicking on play icon allows you to preview a file. Download button instantly downloads the sound effect or musical instrument sample file. A short description of the sound appears on top of every sound , followed by the frame rate, duration and bit rate. Remember, all of our sound effects and samples are royalty free for downloading.

A great site to share with kids to teach them about using media without breaking copyright conventions. As I venture more heavily into a connected world I’m more interested in getting my students to post content publicly. To do that, they will have to ensure that they are using images, music and sounds that are copyright free. Makes the task more difficult but the wider audience they can attract to their creative efforts should be appealing for them and may provide them with the intrinsic motivation to get the task done right. We shall see, we shall see… 


Kyolo – make your photos interesting

I made this using Kyolo – a very cool and easy application that allows you to put speech bubbles on pictures you upload. Exceptionally easy -will be great for students to use.

This, as some of you might remember, is the beautiful Bella. Bella is my friend’s dog and we are looking after her while she is teaching overseas. She is a real sweetheart and has totally ingratiated herself into our household. This is the dog who started off sleeping in the garage (with a nightlight mind you!) and now enjoys the run of the house and any couch that’s going spare! She absolutely loves food -hence the weight gain, so an exercise plan and restricted diet is in order. So hard when she salivates in the kitchen and drools when you’re making a meal. We all love her to pieces and can’t resist the plaintive expression from those sad puppy dog eyes, BUT, we will have to be strong for her best interests!!

Have a go at Kyolo -lots of fun and I’m sure our students will find uses for it to enhance their project work.

Blogging 101 – 6 months in

Today it’s been exactly six months (and one day I’ve just realised!) since I started writing this blog. What have I learnt??

You can reach out and share knowledge with the world. A surprise to me really – I did think this was going to be a resource for my school but it’s become much more than this.

It can be hard work writing a blog and sourcing ideas for posts. I’m going to go back on my initial declaration that I was aiming to write a post a day. There really is no need to post so frequently. If I find something interesting to share I will do so. but I’m not going to work myself into the ground when there is so much to balance in this life.  What has been interesting is that there is such a body of work in this blog that I’m finding it gets hits even on days when I haven’t posted.

There are amazing educators out there willing to encourage and foster the growth of new voices in the edublogosphere. Thank you to everyone who has read my posts, posted a comment or subscribed to this blog. Your readership has renewed my connection to education and made me realise there are enormous possibilities for the future.

 It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everything about how a blog works before you start writing one. When I started I really had no idea what I was doing. I’ve learnt on the job so to speak. You will too.

I’m lousy at widgets. For some reason I struggle to embed the code properly and nothing works like it should. I’ve tried to put some interesting widgets in my sidebar but it never works. I need help!!

We are a connected world now. I’ve been able to have my students get involved in projects that have happened because I am writing this blog. There are so many possibilities for our students to experience a connection with other students and educators around the world if you bother to make the effort to forge these links. All it takes is effort and a desire to make your classroom more interesting for the students you teach. 

Writing in a hypertext environment brings people to you. I can’t believe some of the people and organisations who have noticed me as a result of linking to them. Amazing what is possible really. Makes me want this for my students too. 

Twitter is a natural extension of blogging. If you’re writing a blog (and even if you’re not) you should be interacting with your network via Twitter. It connects you in ways you never thought possible. I’m indebted to Clay Burell who guided me through Twitter and enabled me to form a network overnight by doing a shout out for me.  

You can establish a voice in the edublogosphere and be heard. It comes from posting and from contributing to the conversations by taking the time to comment on other people’s blogs. Comments matter. They do to me anyway. You can see your stats tick over, but the return you get from reading a comment someone has taken the time to write about a post you wrote is very empowering and keeps you going.

It’s all about having a go – a great Australian phrase that I think sums up my effort thus far. I’ve been having a go and will continue to do so. Let’s see what the next six months brings with it.

Thanks for visiting. I appreciate it.

School’s out Friday

Time for another School’s out Friday post. It’s back to work next Monday for me and many other Victorian teachers. School’s been out for a little while for me now so I’ll have to try and get my groove back!

This is Lucas Cruickshank  acting as Fred, his 6 yr old anger management issues character. He’s made about 17 videos for YouTube featuring Fred and had over 45 million views. 45 MILLION! Mind boggling stuff. This video alone has had 4,096,153 views. He sounds like Spongebob Squarepants to me and is equally annoying, but he obviously holds appeal for an audience of what I assume must be a teen or younger audience. If this is what holds their attention then no wonder some of them aren’t interested in the academic content offered in our schools today!  

Have a great weekend. (Enjoy Monday!)

Debatepedia – a resource worth looking at.

Someone sent the link through for Debatepedia on Twitter last week. I can’t remember who it was and that’s a shame because I would like to give them credit for alerting me to this resource. Debatepedia is like Wikipedia – a wiki based resource for debate topics. This is what is written on their main page:

Debatepedia is a wiki encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotations in important public debates from around the world. It is considered “the Wikipedia of debate”, helping the world centralize arguments and quotations found in millions of different articles, essays, and books into a single encyclopedia, so that citizens can better understand important public debates and make informed choices. Join this cause and community and become an editor of the site. Your efforts will improve your own thinking and have a major impact on the way thousands of other citizens draw conclusions. Debatepedia is endorsed by the United States’ National Forensic League 

It is an interesting resource and one that I think teachers and students in Secondary schools will find useful. A category browser is listed on the main page and you can explore these to see if a topic has been covered. Some topics have received a lot of attention and have quite a bit of detail in the pros and cons but others require more fleshing out. I looked up Environment and Animal welfare and checked out the page for Kangaroo Culling (obviously a topic Australian in nature and something I could look at objectively). I liked the fact that this appeared at the top of the entry;

Editing tasks you can help with:

  • The “costs” section of this article needs development.
  • More articles against culling should be presented in the pro/con resources section and arguments and quotations should be drawn from them.  

  Nice to see some recognition of areas needing improvement. In terms of information presented in the pros and cons you get a good rundown of the subtopics of the debate question but some of the information is a bit simplistic in terms of explanation. I would have liked to see more links included to allow students to follow these to verify information. Nonetheless, it would be a useful starting point for students to help them gain some understanding of a topic and introduce them to ideas they might choose to research further.

Like Wikipedia, this is a resource that will require explanation for our students. When I discuss Wikipedia with students I explain how the pages are created and ask students to cross reference information with other sources to verify what they have read. This to me is good research practise for any research activity. Some of the facts about Debatepedea are outlined on their main page;

Facts about Debatepedia
  • A wiki just like Wikipedia where anyone can edit and document debates, arguments, evidence, quotes, studies and more.
  • 7,134 articles. Debate pages, argument pages (for supporting evidence in the form of quotes, studies, links…), encyclopedia pages, team pages, and organization pages.
  • Over 450 existing, well-developed pro/con debate articles from IDEA’s famous Debatabase, written by expert debaters and professionals over the past 7 years (now you can edit them).
  • A growing community of 2,207 registered users.ain page;

It’s supported by the International Debate Education Association  (another resource I was not aware of!) and there are ample opportunities for people to get involved in helping to create pages. For senior students this could be an interesting exercise in helping them to understand how wikis function and to see how they can become creators of content. I read an article today about a professor from the University of British Columbia who had his students write entries on Wikipedia in the hope that their work would be of such high quality that their article would be granted feature article status on Wikipedia. To me, that represents an authentic learning task and is an idea worth exploring.    

I like Debatepedia and the ideas behind it, just as I like Wikipedia as a resource for our students. Provided our students are educated about how these resources are put together and they cross reference appropriately I see no harm in using them in our classrooms. I find myself using Wikipedia more and more as the quality of the pages improve with time.