School’s out Friday

I know half the world has probably seen this, but the fact that my entire family stops and watches when the Cadbury Eyebrows ad appears on television, has got to mean something about its appeal factor. Last night I went to my son’s school concert. Two of the students replicated this ad; it was a standout highlight.

Plenty of others on YouTube have had the same idea. Here’s a selection of examples.

Here’s Lily Allen on Channel 4 (not a patch on the kids);

And another;

And finally,  to demystify the whole thing, here’s a tutorial showing you how to make a replica of the ad without having to have your actors move their eyebrows;

No reports to do this weekend so sleeping in will be the priority! Enjoy whatever it is you are doing.

SlideRocket for Education

I’ve been using SlideRocket, an online presentation tool, for the past year for presentations I have given at conferences. To start with, I badgered them for an invite to use the product before it’s release. To my surprise, they obliged. I then moved over to the free version when it had general release, but felt it was limited so had to sign up for the premium version. Around that time SlideRocket sent me a survey asking my opinion about pricing for K-12 education. My response was that they needed to make it affordable, under $500.00 for a site licence. To be honest with you I didn’t think  it was anywhere near possible as I’d just had my school sign up for the one user premium package at a price of $240.00 a year.

SlideRocket announces preferred pricing for K-12 education


I was surprised last week to get an email from SlideRocket letting me know that they were going to be announcing pricing for education. When I looked at what they were offering I was very pleasantly surprised. Here it is;

Schools with less then one hundred and fifty students will pay $249 per year, schools with less than one thousand students will pay $449 per year and schools with over one thousand students will pay $999 per year. All pricing is per school allowing every member of the school community – teachers and students alike – to create his or her own SlideRocket login and gain access to SlideRocket’s premium features.    

 In my opinion, that pricing is pretty good given the features SlideRocket offers. I found my last couple of presentations pretty easy to put together. I was able to access flickr creative commons attribution only pictures from within the SlideRocket application and load them easily into my presentation.  I could create a library of my slides so that I can use them easily in new presentations should I need them.  My presentations are stored online so I could access them from any computer anywhere provided I had an internet connection.  They also allow you to download an offline player allowing you to cache your presentation should internet access be a problem.

There are other features I’ve yet to explore that hold real potential in educational settings. You can work collaboratively on a presentation and access a shared library of resources with the SlideRocket community. The pricing is wonderful for a school my size (under 1000). $449 US dollars converts to $568 Australian dollars. Less than one dollar each for students and staff for use of a premium package is pretty good value.

Now, to lobby for it to go into next year’s budget…..     

(If you want to see Sliderocket in action visit my wikispaces site where my presentations are embedded.)

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Friending your students – a researcher’s perspective

When I was in Form 6 (today’s Yr 12) I had a teacher who gave us his phone number so that we could contact him if we needed clarification about the work we were doing out of school hours. We knew that on certain nights he had umpire training and wouldn’t be home until after 10.30pm.

Did I ever call him? You betcha I did, and so did the other students from our class. Even after 10.30pm on some occasions. He was an extraordinary teacher; a real father figure who guided us and believed in us. Did we ever abuse the privilege and hassle him? Never. We respected him and would do anything he asked. I still hold him in high esteem and hope that I am modeling the kind of good teaching practice he lived and breathed.

Danah Boyd, Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society , has recently posted on her blog this post, ‘When teachers and students connect outside school ‘.   It’s a common sense post in my opinion. Refreshing really. There is so much she says that I see as valid when it comes to this discussion. She makes these important points;

The fear about teacher-student interactions also worries me at a broader societal level. A caring teacher (a genuinely well-intended, thoughtful, concerned adult) can often turn a lost teen into a teen with a mission. Many of us are lucky to have parents who helped us at every turn, but this is by no means universal. There are countless youth out there whose parents are absent, distrustful, or otherwise sources of frustration rather than support and encouragement. Teens need to have adults on their side. When I interview teens who have tough family lives (and I’m not talking about abuse here) but are doing OK themselves, I often find that it’s a teacher or pastor that they turn to for advice. All too often, the truly troubled kids that I meet have no adults that they can turn to for support.

I worked in a tough Govt. school for many years. (The same school I attended as a teenager as a matter of fact!) Many of the students there needed supportive and well intentioned adults around them who were looking out for their best interests. In quite a few cases, the only people in their lives who met that criteria were their teachers. These were the kids who’d turn up at school on pupil free days even if they’d been suspended the day before.  School was the structure lacking in their lives. There were kids there who I gave my phone number to, kids who needed a supportive adult who would be there for them to listen when life was tough. Not a whole lot of those kids rang me, but I know they appreciated me showing them I cared. 

One of my former students is my hairdresser now. She convinced me awhile ago to join Facebook and become a member of the school’s alumni group. So many of my former students have added me as a friend and left kind messages. Quite a number of them are the kids who would put you through the wringer in class. These are the kids who say, ‘Hey, great to see my fave teacher here.’ It’s amazing really. You see how much influence you have had, influence you may have never realised without a forum like Facebook.  

Danah offers this when discussing whether or not teachers should be adding students in social networking sites;

Teachers do not have to be a student’s friend to be helpful, but being a Friend (on social network sites) is not automatically problematic or equivalent to trying to be a kids’ friend. When it comes to social network sites, teachers should not invade a student’s space. But if a student invites a teacher to be present, they should enter in as a teacher, as a mentor, as a guide. This isn’t a place to chat up students, but if a student asks a question of a teacher, it’s a great place to answer the student. The key to student-teacher interactions in networked publics is for the teacher to understand the Web2.0 environment and to enter into student space as the mentor (and only when invited to do so). (Translation: teachers should NEVER ask a student to be their Friend on Facebook/MySpace but should accept Friend requests and proceed to interact in the same way as would be appropriate if the student approached the teacher after school.) Of course, if a teacher wants to keep their social network site profile separate from their students, they should feel free to deny student requests. But if they feel as though they can help students in that space, they should be welcome to do so.

I have had current students request that I be their friend on Facebook and I’ve hesitated. I haven’t added them, but I’m not sure it would be problematic if I did. I’m highly conscious of my online behaviour and enter these spaces as a teacher, first and foremost. One of my students is on Twitter and I follow her. I do so to support her in that online environment and we often speak at school about something that may have popped up on Twitter. It is a mentoring role and because I use Twitter as a professional tool for learning I feel very comfortable about this.  

It’s a debate that will continue I have no doubt. I encourage you to read Danah’s post and reflect about what you feel is appropriate. Danah leaves her post with these questions;

What do you think is the best advice for other teachers when it comes to interacting with students on social network sites? When should teachers interact with students outside of the classroom? What are appropriate protocols for doing so? How can teachers best protect themselves legally when interacting with students? How would you feel if you were told never to interact with a student outside of the classroom?  

I wonder what your answers would be. I’d love to hear them if you care to leave a comment.

The comment thread on Danah’s post is interesting to read. John Heffernan shares this (and I’m sorry John, there is no link to a blog that you may be writing. Are you,  I wonder, the John Heffernan who writes children’s books in Australia?) ; 

I wonder if Socrates was walking in the Agora, would he stop and talk to his pupils outside of teaching time?

Teenager’s Agora is now predominantly online.

If Socrates was alive today, where would he sit and would he still be charged as “corruptor of youth”?


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School’s out Friday

Anyone else experience this. Usually happens at about in my house. My cat doesn’t annoy me in bed, instead she flicks the wooden blinds or kneads anything that makes a sound until I rise to let her out. I’m past worrying about the native animal population she may be decimating in the hours before dawn. If I don’t let her out there’s no sleep to be had. She’s in again when I take the dog for a walk and settles down to sleep for the next few hours – after a feed that is! Interestingly enough, she seems to know when it’s raining and then there’s no budging her from the bed. I think it’s true – cats own you, not the other way round.

A student shared this video with me this week; I really like it when they seek you out to show you something they enjoy. It led to a really pleasant exchange where we shared our cat stories.  They’re the kind of small ‘balloon’ moments I love about teaching. They’re the moments that lift me and make me really grateful to be sharing my days with young people who appreciate life.    

I’m settling down to a pleasant weekend of correction and reports. What fun! Hope your weekend plans sound more promising.

National Curriculum – where are we headed?

I went to a briefing last night regarding the National Curriculum and progress that is being made in relation to the major curriculum changes that will be changing the face of education in Australia. It was delivered by Tony Mackay, who is the Deputy Chair of the National Curriculum Board. I’d read the recent ‘Shape of the  Australian Curriculum’ report and felt quite positive about the direction it was taking.

I’m OK with the idea of a National Curriculum. I think the idea of it reflects the kind of country we are. We occupy a vast landscape, but I feel that most people are unified and take pride in calling themselves Australians. (That, of course, is my take and my take only.)  I, for one, don’t mind the fact that they are proposing quite a bit of focus on understanding the history of our country and our Asian counterparts. I do think it important to have a grounding in the history of our country and the region we inhabit.

What was troublesome for me after last night’s meeting was the apparent increase in testing, similar to Naplan testing that exists now,  that is going to result from a shift to a National Curriculum. The message I was receiving suggests that our students are going to be tested in quite a few areas, possibly four, on a regular basis. As a mother of a 10 year old,  who was quite stressed about the recent round of  Naplan testing, I’m not relishing the idea of putting our kids through more of it. Nor am I liking the idea from a teacher’s perspective. The suggestion made by Tony Mackay was that the tests would be cyclical. My reading of that was that we would test kids on differing subjects every second year, effectively meaning that our kids are going to face rounds of Naplan tests every year of their school lives from at least Grade three up. Maybe I’m wrong about that and I’m happy to stand corrected.  

My other concern is just what is going to be done with the data. Will schools be compared regardless of their socioeconomic locale? Will funding be tied to making sure the testing is done? Will schools be economically disadvantaged if they aren’t performing? Will our curriculum lack innovation if we find schools teaching to the tests because they are fearful of underperforming and having the data used against them? 

I used my Livescribe pen last night to record the session. I am seriously impressed with the pen. You need to use special paper to write your notes on and the pen records the audio. You then upload the data from the pen to your computer, both notes and audio. You can then pinpoint any part of the text and the audio will replay from that part of the session. You can do this just using the pen and notebook too. If you upload your recording to Livescribe online you can share the session with friends or share the link. I’m going to link to it below so you can get a feel for what it is. Excuse my messy handwriting and packed page of notes. I wasn’t sure if you needed to stop recording when you started a new page so I stuck to the one. I’ve since found out you don’t have to. (You can get one from IT made simple if you’re interested. And no, I’m not taking commission for that plug!)  

The session was being videoed for upload to a website, so I’m not concerned about linking to it here. If I were at a PD where it wasn’t already being recorded I would think it only fitting that you seek the permission of the speaker before you did so.

Take a listen and see what you think.

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