School’s out Friday

I dare you not to smile while watching this. Bet you’ll find it impossible not to.

This is the brainchild of Volkswagen, who’ve developed a site called The Fun . Here’s what they say on their site about their motivation;

This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.

I think we all know this to be true. Think of the best PD’s you’ve been to, the best lessons you’ve taught, the best classrooms you were ever a part of. Was humour an element of the experience? Most of those that have stuck in my memory have an element of fun/humour attached to it. For me, humour is a vital ingredient that I use in my interactions with students; it makes the course of the day far more enjoyable for both me and them. It’s important for connective purposes. I think most of us would agree that relationship forming is a key ingredient for creating environments where our students have a desire to learn.

You have the opportunity to enter a competition on The Fun Thoery site. The Fun Theory award carries with it a 2,500 (euro) monetary incentive. The competition has been extended to December 15th, 2009. Here’s what you need to do if you’re interested;

Find your own evidence for the theory that fun is best way to change behaviour for the better. For yourself, for the environment or something entirely different. Your entries should be presented with a written explanation plus a visualisation of the idea itself. It could be a simple sketch, photos or a film of a prototype. You decide what will do your entry justice.

For inspiration, here’s another example from The Fun Theory of how you can change peoples’ behaviour for the better by adding an element of fun.

Love the idea.

Long weekend for me coming up. Very happy about that too! Enjoy whatever comes your way.

New Millenium Learners

Now here’s a conference I wish I could have attended, and not just because it was in Brussels and I could really do with a relaxing break right now!

The OECD’s  Centre for Educational Research and Innovation launched the New Millenium Learners Project in 2007 and they have just held a conference where they explored the first phase of their project. On their site, they detail their aims;

…the global aim of investigating the effects of digital technologies on school-age learners and providing recommendations on the most appropriate institutional and policy responses from the education sector. The project comprises two phases: the first phase explores the demand side, i.e., the changes, if any, experienced by learners. This phase is now coming to an end. In the second phase, current and emerging educational responses will be reviewed. The first NML conference aims at showcasing the results of the first phase and linking them to the next.

Tom March was lucky enough to be invited to the conference to participate in  a panel discussion,  The New Millennium Learners – Needs, Opportunities and Responses.

Tom has written a very thorough summary of his take on the conference, full of links to audio and PDF’s of keynote presentations.  I’ve read through Tom’s debrief, but haven’t had time to follow links to read more deeply. A good long weekend activity I’m thinking. Tom was also interviewed by the EdTech crew and that makes for an interesting 50 minutes or so of listening.

Thanks Tom, almost as good as being there. Did that sound convincing??

(and yes, I know things changed to italics, but wordpress wouldn’t let me change font and I’m too tired to keep working at it!)

Global Poetry Project

Recently I wrote about Working together 2 make a difference, the Ning I help to run along with Angela Stockman and Mike Poluk. One of our new members, Rob Currin, from Alden, New York, has started a group called The Global Poetry Project. Here’s what Rob has written to explain the project and its motivations;

The Global Poetry Project aims to provide a space for members to expand upon their cultural views through the writing and reading of poetry. Members should feel free to submit poems and share thoughts and feedback with fellow poets. The project aims to provide a positive and open atmosphere for all visitors and contributors alike.

Each month a new theme will be presented. Feel free to address this theme and share some original poetry that relates. Contributors are not to be judged on their poetry. This is simply a place to share and grow through original poetry.

As this space begins to grow, we are hoping to receive poetry and feedback from writers all over the world. We will self-publish an anthology of this work with the permission of each writer included. This will eventually be sold, and all proceeds from this sale will be donated to a cause identified by the collective membership of Working Together to Make a Difference. We’re grateful to Angela Stockman for this suggestion and for her assistance in making this happen. We are excited to align our work within this group to the incredible mission of the Working Together to Make a Difference community! I’m looking forward to collaborating with Angela face-to-face and within this space as we take this project to press.

I’m so pleased to see a writing project that links to service learning. Angela Stockman has been instrumental in guiding Rob and helping the project connect to the purpose of Working together 2 make a difference. Hopefully teachers and students will find their way to the site and begin the process of creating, sharing and forging global links. If their writing can then work to contribute to worthy causes it makes it all the more meaningful.

The Northern Hemisphere school year is moving into full swing while we in the Southern Hemisphere are heading towards the end of our school year. It would be wonderful to see contributions come from all corners of our globe. I know that I will be promoting it in my school, but I also know that we are about to embark on our Beyond Boundaries camp program and on our return we head into serious exams and wind down. It may well be that we’ll have to gear up for involvement in our 2010 school year. Whatever transpires, it’s a project that holds promise and one that I encourage you to get involved in.

School’s out Friday

Now this is special.

This video is just a little something the students at my school put together to celebrate the fact that it was their last official school day on Wednesday of this week.

Milly Davison and Elly Dixon were the brains behind it all, inspired by a video shown to them by Media/Art  teacher Emma Cleine. Here are Milly’s words about how it was achieved;

We were inspired by a video on youtube that we saw, and decided to try to recreate our own version. The planning process was a little bit tricky in working out how best to get everyone to be in the right places at the right time, as well as how we would be able to film it steadily. We filmed at 7am on a cold rainy morning before school, with a set of iPod speakers duct taped to the top of the camera playing the song through at full blast. After a single practice run through we started filming, and on the third take we had a near perfect shot!

Aren’t they just brilliant. You have to know that staff and students from Yr 5 – 11 were all in the school hall watching this at the start of their last assembly. The final shot in the video ends in the foyer of that hall with a picture of the door. As soon as it finished they all came charging in to thunderous applause. Schools really are special places aren’t they? Such community exists within its walls.

They really are a very special group of girls. It was this group who helped me begin my Web 2.0 journey really. They were in Year 9 and I worked with them on the creation of digital stories in reponse to the Literature Circle books they were studying. They produced wonderful work back then, and you can see how they have evolved into inspiring film makers today. Who knows what will lay in store for this special group of very talented (and incredibly fun to be around!) girls. We will definitely be missing them. Good luck to the Toorak College Yr 12 students of 2009!!

Here’s the video that inspired them. It was produced by students from the University of Quebec.

Below is a QR code from Kaywa QR code generator. Now, how to read it? Next part of the puzzle!!



Google Wave – initial impressions

I’ve been playing around with Google Wave for a few days now,  trying to work out what it can offer us as a new vehicle for communication. My initial impression is that it is real time email. If you are online at the same time as participants in a Wave you can use it like an instant messaging service. To improve your functionality you really need to install Google Gears. (thanks Richard for enlightening me about this!)  I didn’t have this installed and found that I wasn’t able to embed Youtube videos or drag and drop pictures into the Wave. Once Google Gears was installed I was able to do a lot more.

It really only makes sense if you are using it with someone else. Trying it out by yourself is pretty unexciting. You need to be able to see what can happen when there are others working with you. Collaboration is what Google Wave is going to be useful for and I can see a use for it for students and staff. The Gravity gadget that has been developed by SAP Research in Queensland offers some insight into how business will use this tool. You can easily apply this type of scenario to school based staff and student collaborative use.

I’m by no means an expert on Google Wave, but there are some features about it that I like. Embedding videos and dragging and dropping pictures is easy and they are going to enable you to do the same with Google Docs. I’m keen to have a go at using Rosy, the translation feature, but first I have to figure out how to get it added to my contacts so I can drag it into a conversation when it is needed. (I think that’s how it works anyway!!) Then I have to find a non English speaking Wave user to see if Rosy translates conversations as effectively as it promises to do. If it did, it would be a huge breakthrough for communication with classrooms that previously had been inaccessable due to language constraints.

Take a look at the video I made to show you what it’s like. It’s not brilliant, and you’ll probably need headphones to hear the commentary, but it will give you some idea of what a Wave is like. (I made it in a hurry last night!)

Daniel Tenner has written a good post; What problems does Google Wave solve? Worth a read.

School’s out Friday

Twelve million people or so have viewed this on YouTube, so I’m probably showing you something that you’ve already seen. I am part of the rest of the worlds’ population who has not seen this 3 year old explain the finer points of the plot of Star Wars until today. I’m pleased to let you know that I enjoyed every second of it!

There is something so endearing about young children and their attempts to describe their experiences. I remember very well my son when he was 3 yrs old. He  would act out the opening scene of Toy Story 2 in our loungeroom, commando rolls and all,  while it was playing on our TV set. I only wish that I had captured it on video for posterity’s sake. I would have been able to embed it here for you all to enjoy.

This weekend I intend to familiarise myself with Google Wave. I got an invite on Wednesday but haven’t had a lot of time to fiddle due to Speech Night commitments at school. Now that it’s over, I can dedicate a bit of time to learning the finer points of this new approach to communication. I’ll write a post letting you know my thoughts once I feel more adept.

Weather looks to be sunny here in Melbourne for the weekend so hopefully I’ll get a nice injection of Vitamin D. Hope you have a good one!

VHS forever!

Timely post on the ninemsn website considering the content of my last post.

Want to remember the good old days of VHS, floppy disks, cassette tapes and recorders, corded telephones with a dial and not a keypad, cameras with film and typewriters.

Well, here’s the solution!


Pretty drastic as far as I’m concerned, but 13 photos on the ninemsn site suggest that others feel pretty strongly about the loss of old technologies and have opted for the tattooed varieties.

Won’t be happening on my bicep or forearm anytime soon!

Yes, we deleted the VHS collection.

Discussion in my office last week.

“Jenny, did I hear you correctly when you said that you had deleted the entire VHS collection? ”

“Yes, you did.”

“Does this mean that the Maria Callas version of Medea isn’t there?”

“Yep, that’s right. It’s gone.”

“Oh dear. You know it’s just what I need for the students……….”

“How about we take a look at YouTube and see what’s there?”

“I’ve never used YouTube. Do you think it might be there?”

So we took a look. And guess what? It’s there. Uploaded in 10 minute parts. Perfect for this teacher who only needed a 10 minute segment that spanned part one and two. Even though YouTube streams really fast at my school I downloaded these parts to ensure that the teacher would have no trouble when using it in class this week.  Result: Happy teacher who now can see the positive use of YouTube for instructional purposes. 

Deleting the VHS collection has been the cause of some angst for members of staff, but the final nail in the VHS coffin had to be hammered in. You can’t sustain a dead technology. VHS players aren’t available anymore and we can’t keep pretending we can rely on old resources. I know some of them were good and probably worth keeping, but we’re just going to have to try and source them via other means. Conversion is a time consuming labour intensive exercise and I could not justify the work involved to facilitate this. YouTube and TeacherTube are amazing; the content that is there is pretty mind boggling really.  Australian Screen and resources available from The Learning Federation are other fabulous source points for video that teachers could be using with their classes.

Don’t get me wrong. VHS tapes still lurk in offices around the school. But they are not in the library and not part of our catalogued resources. They’ll die a natural death when the players that support them curl up and die.

We’re at that point in Libraries where decisions need to be made about what stays and what goes. Non fiction purchasing is the other area where we as a library staff have questioned purchases. We are waiting to see what happens in the e book market and how the handling of that is going to equate with Library delivery of services. There are huge question marks around all of that right now and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with an answer just yet. It’s been announced that the Amazon Kindle will be available internationally in the near future. Right now, my money’s on the predicted Apple tablet as being the frontrunner to take the lead with e book delivery. It seems only natural to integrate the book publishing market with their iTunes library.  

Interesting times and huge ideas for Libraries to grapple with. It is hard trying to predict where things are going and what the best course of action is to take. What is clear to me is that you can’t sit on the fence forever. At some point tough decisons need to be made, even if it does cause some angst.  

You know, I’ve been thinking. I think all teachers should be provided with a copy of Who moved my cheese?” and it should become mandatory reading. If you haven’t read it, get to your local library and check out a copy. Well worth it.

School’s out Friday

I just turned on my computer, opened Twhirl (my twitter desktop client) and saw a tweet from Breaking News announcing Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

When he was elected into office I felt hopeful. He is such a marvellous orator. Someone who makes you stop and listen carefully to his words. It’s interesting discussing his influence with the students in my class. They too feel hopeful about world politics with Barack leading the United States. The Nobel committee said this about him;

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future”

and this;

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

When the committee was asked why they awarded the prize only 8 months after Barack had taken office, the reply of committee head Thorbjoern Jagland was;

“It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve. It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done”

‘The values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population’. Yes, we are more similar than we are different. People everywhere love their families and friends and want the best for them.  Here’s hoping this message sent by the Nobel committee will help diplomatic relations between countries and engender a new form of leadership.

Have a good weekend. Do something with friends and family.