School’s out Friday

This is ‘Lost Generation’, and it was second place getter in the ARRP U@50 competition. According to its creator, it is based on the Argentinian Political Advertisement “The Truth” by RECREAR.     

My friend Nina discovered it a couple of weeks ago and uploaded it to Working together 2 make a difference. (Which, by the way, is starting to take off. I am really excited by the activity and service learning projects that are forming there. Please take a look and get involved if you think it might be good for your students.)

This week my husband dicovered it and suggested it for School’s out Friday. It’s very clever, and excellent for class discussion I think. I’ve uploaded it to our Yr 9 ning  and am hoping to use it in class next week. Those of you who teach young people will know, like I do, that they majority of them reflect the representation depicted in the second stage of the video. 

While you’re at it, check out Nina’s blog. She’s two months in, has received a swag of hits and is making connections for her prep students. All really good stuff.

 Hope the weekend treats you well.

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Using Social Media to effect change

 I presented  today at a conference for students that was held at my school. My presentation was ‘Using Social Media to effect change’. I’ve been trying to embed it here but the code is not cooperating. I used SlideRocket to create the presentation and was once again impressed with this tool. Being able to search within the application for creative commons pictures from flickr made it easy to find the pictures I needed to create impact. (at least I hope I achieved that anyway)  The theme for the gathering was ‘Global issues and women’ and students from Yr 11 were in attendance from my school and other schools in our vicinity.

I think it went well. I know the teachers accompanying the students were impressed. Probably the most powerful part of the session was being able to demonstrate the Twitter network. I presented twice and on both occasions put out a Tweet asking people to say hi and tell us where they were from. We received over 20 replies on each occasion and the students were able to see the array of locations where the tweets were coming from. They were really amazed that people in Beijing, Montana, Ho Chi Minh city, Bangkok, Maine, Nottingham, Sydney, New York, etc etc were replying to them. It certainly demonstrated what it means to be globally connected.

The other part that had impact related to building your digital footprint. Many of them had not considered the possibilities of being googled by employers with their only web presence being a myspace or facebook page. I think they left the day considering what it is they need to do to create a positive digital profile for themselves.

During the day they were presented with information about various causes they could get involved with and do something to support. I’m hopeful that some of them will join Working together 2 make a difference and chart their progress there. In doing so they’ll be helping to generate that positive digital profile!

(I’ll persevere with trying to get it embedded -think I need to try to post it with vodpod but I’ll have to reinstall the button again. So annoying to have your computer reimaged!) 

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The Horizon Report: 2009 K-12 Edition

Educause and the New Media Consortium have just released the K – 12 Edition of The Horizon Report. Horizon Reports always make for interesting reading, as they predict the time to adoption of many of the emerging technologies finding their way into the fabric of our teaching. Horizon reports usually have as their focus higher education institutions. This report has K – 12 education as its focus so their evaluation of likely adoption in Primary and Secondary education is especially interesting.

One of the very interesting observations they make in the findings is that assesment and filtering impact on the degree to which some technologies can be adopted in school settings. It’s the old story of assessment driving curriculum and affecting adoption of new ways of doing things. There is no doubt it is difficult assessing someone’s efforts commenting on blog posts or their participation in ning networks. And yet these are valid pursuits that can lead to real engagement in learning. Filtering is another issue; the unfortunate fact is that impressive tools like Voicethread and Ning are often classified as ‘social networks’ or ‘chatrooms’ and filtering software prevents them loading in some schools. I’ve had to go to my network administrators to have blocks removed and I’ve heard the same story from many other educators.  

So, what are the findings, what are the trends to watch?

Time to adoption – One year or less

  • Collaborative Environments
  • Online Communication Tools

Time to Adoption – Two to three years

Time to Adoption – Four to five years

I don’t know if I totally agree with their findings. I’d find it surprising to see Nings become mainstream in the next year within school settings, given that most of the educators I know stare at you blankly when you mention the word. Unless we some some major investment from Government to support  Professional Development for teachers in the field of new technologies, I just can’t see mainstream adoption in such a short time frame.

Take a read for yourself. It’s well worth downloading and showing to your school administration. Congratulations go to Judy O’Connell who served on the advisory board of the project.  

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So, how’s that ning going?

Some of you who have been reading here would be aware that I started a ning for the Year 9 English students at my school. When I started I told you I’d be checking in every now and then with a progress report.

So, here goes.

All told I’m pretty happy with the progress. Very nearly the entire year level is signed up; we’ve had hiccups with one class but they should be resolved next week. The students don’t all contribute, but we have some active users and some of them have continued to start forum topics with no prompting from staff members. 

One of the most popular forum topics relates to the novel Twilight. One of our teachers started it and it’s been popular with a wide range of students. It’s certainly been a means of forming the community. I like the fact that the students can see that we as staff can relate to their reading interests.

Certainly the staff involved have adopted it and are embedding it into their practice. When we meet as a team we discuss how we can use the ning to support our learning outcomes. In the coming weeks we intend to upload our issues topics as forum discussions and will encourage our students to post their opinions. We can see that this will offer students access to opposing points of view and will probably assist those students who are struggling with ideas.

Having YouTube videos easily accessible in the ning has been wonderful for just in time teaching moments. When we were discussing teenage pregnancy (a feature of our novel study of Bye, Beautiful)  I was able to flick into the videos page in the ning and show relevant videos that demonstrated the thinking of 1960’s Australia. I’ve been locating some music video clips that relate to Romeo and Juliet in preparation for our text study next term. You can see how many views each video has had which is useful in tracking student use of the ning. It’s clear that students have accessed these videos out of class time which is really pleasing.

The students like the fact that they have their own pages and can change their profiles. Latest activity in the ning often indicates they are leaving one another messages or updating their profile. I like the fact that you can open a student’s page and see where they have made input into the ning. I’m figuring this is going to be useful to use in parent conferences.

Just having an opportunity to read some of their reflections from across classrooms is very powerful. The fact that I can comment of the reflection of a student I don’t teach is wonderful I think. I’m able to support my colleagues and that student to understand that teaching can be available to you from others in spaces like this; you aren’t restricted to the one classroom, one teacher notion that pervades most school systems.

Certainly the flurry of activity that was evident in the early stages has slowed down. You have to work a ning. You need to be adding new content all the time to keep it fresh. But I think we’ve seen adoption. In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard the word ning used at a school assembly and the Principal referred to it in his newsletter item for our school community. How many schools out there would be using this term – not a whole lot I’m betting.

I presented our Yr 9 ning to our English faculty this week and was excited today to hear today that our Yr 12 teachers have started a ning for their English students. A staff member told me how impressed they were with what was happening at Yr 9 and how they thought the discussions that can be generated in  ning would be helpful for the students. I was thrilled -this was exactly the message I was hoping to convey in my presentation. The fact that adoption is spreading is testament to our involvement in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). I truly believe we would not be making the leaps that we are without the impetus this program provides.

I’m hopeful that we are going to have one of our PLP cohort schools involved in our ning. The school is a boy’s school from the United States and we have invited them to join our ning to engage in forum discussions with our girls. This is a means of bringing male voice into our school – we are an all girl’s school, and while I believe there are advantages to single sex education, I do think exposure to  a male viewpoint is important.  Having them join the ning will be a means of addressing this issue for both of our schools. The girls are certainly excited about this possibility so I hope it pans out for us.      

Do I think it’s been worth implementing?

Absolutely. No question. And I think my students would agree. I do feel a real sense of community, a feeling that we are in this together and we are there to help to one another out. There’s no doubt it’s not the forum for everyone, but it certainly is a powerful tool and one that I feel is worth the investment of time.

Twitter’s going mainstream

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

It seems like I keep hearing about Twitter in the mainstream media all the time of late. Celebrities are using Twitter, radio personalities like Dave Hughes here in Australia are talking about it and journalists like Mia Freedman are joining and writing about their experiences. My friends, who have been perplexed by my use of Twitter over the last year, are now interested and fill others in about what it’s used for, based on the ear bashing they’ve been exposed to from me!    

I’ve seen my followers grow considerably since December last year. Quite a number of them came to me from a post written by Richard Byrne (from Maine in the USA), recommending people to follow on Twitter.  But what I’ve also noticed is the amount of people following me who are using Twitter for their financial gain. I can understand this. I use it as a means of connecting to like minded educators whose ideas and recommendations lead me to new learning, but I’ve no doubt there’s money to be made by promoting a service to others and publicising what you can do.

Today, my list of new followers appeared in my email with a couple of surprises. My cousin’s wife has started following me; they are using Twitter to promote a business they run. But the really interesting one was a new follower who I suspected might be a student from my school. When I checked out her profile I discovered I was right. She was in the audience last Friday when we skyped in Mark Lukach from San Francisco who talked to our students about Daraja Academy, a free girl’s school in Kenya that opened its doors last week. We are thinking about trying to support Daraja Academy in some way and the focus group for this is our Year 9 group of students. Her first tweet said, ‘I am researching the Daraja academy’. The second tweet was;

I was apart of the year nine students you talked to the other day via skype on wekbcam at TC. i want to be more involved. how can i be?           

and her third looked like this;moniques_tweet

I just love the evolution in her thought processes that you can see from these three tweets. First she’s researching, then she tries to make contact but hasn’t directed her message to anyone in particular. By the third tweet she’s discovered Mark Lukach is on Twitter and has realised you need to put the @ symbol at the front of his Twitter name in order for the message to reach him. Fantastic stuff, and amazingly proactive. Can’t wait to catch up with her at school tomorrow to see what she wants to do because I suspect she could be a powerhouse to get support for Daraja going.

I wonder how other professionals are using Twitter. I’m sure it’s very similar to the way educators (particularly those interested in Educational Technology and how it’s utilised in school systems) have adopted it. It’s a means of disseminating information quickly and forming reciprocal connections that prove beneficial. It’s certainly much more than the trifling treatment it received in the article by Mia Freedman, ‘Tweet Tweet nothings’  that appeared in last weekend’s ‘The Age’ here in Melbourne. I think you can see that in the above example. It’s not all mindless drivel; it can be an incredibly powerful means of communication, and all in 140 characters at a time. 

By the way, I’m jennyluca on Twitter if you’re not there yet and wanted to find someone to follow!

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School’s out Friday

You know, sometimes you plan to get things done and then life just gets in the way.

It did last night as I was thinking about posting School’s out Friday. My Mum had an ‘episode’ and after calling an ambulance and spending the night at the hospital we found out she’d had a mild stroke. She’s OK, and needs to have some follow up tests, but she has no permanent damage.  

Moments like those are wake up calls; I have been so busy and haven’t given Mum the time she needs of late. Facing the mortality of your parents is confronting and makes you reassess things. I’m thankful we’ve had this chance to realise there’s a problem and hopefully something can be done to ensure we avoid further problems.   

So, time for listening to a song that makes me feel good about things. Love the music, love the lyrics, love everything about it.  It’s Jason Mraz singing ‘I’m yours’. ( and thanks go to Carolyn Wojtera on Twitter who helped me out when I couldn’t remember the artist or name of the song!)  

Enjoy.  Hope the weekend treats you well.